Premier Darrell Dexter stood by his government’s decision to temporarily withhold documents from the province’s auditor general Thursday.
Dexter told reporters the government made the right decision by withholding documents required by auditor general Jacques Lapointe to complete his review on Nova Scotia Business Inc. and the Industrial Expansion Fund.
“I think the position is the right one,” he said. “We have said we think you’re entitled to these documents, we believe that there are safeguards that need to be put in place, and we are going to … bring forward legislation in order to protect the government and then release the documents.”
The NDP was the target of harsh rebukes from Lapointe after they withheld 281 documents relating to NSBI and the IEF, citing solicitor-client privilege or the confidentiality of cabinet documents.
On Oct. 30, Lapointe wrote the premier directly to ask for aid in getting the documents. Some time later, Lapointe was informed by the clerk of the executive council — the province’s top bureaucrat — that he would not turn over the information.
Finance Minister Graham Steele said Wednesday there was no instruction from cabinet to withhold the documents.
But Dexter admitted Thursday the clerk was given instruction to withhold the documents — in keeping with government policy.
“When I handed off the letter, it was to say there’s a process already underway, complete the process,” he said. “That’s an instruction.”
While in opposition, the NDP railed against government secrecy and withholding documents from the auditor general’s office.
Dexter denied charges of hypocrisy, saying the government is not so much withholding documents, as it is delaying their release.
“We are, in fact, providing an avenue for these documents to be produced,” he said.
“There are necessary safeguards that need to be put in place … and in my view, this is a process where we and the auditor general get to the same place.”