The Minister of Economic and Rural Development says he’s hesitant to release the details of $304 million in government loans to Irving Shipbuilding Inc. for fear of jeopardizing relations with the company – but local political observers aren’t buying that argument.
“The last thing we would want to do for the future of Nova Scotians is be jeopardizing a relationship we’ve established with the corporate society,” said Minister Percy Paris Monday.
The Canadian Taxpayers Federation’s freedom of information request for the detailed terms and conditions of the loans that helped Irving secure a $25 billion federal shipbuilding contract was rejected.___
Atlantic director Kevin Lacey said he’s filed an appeal, but it could take more than two years to be decided.
“That’s unacceptable,” said Lacey. “It doesn’t tell taxpayers what the terms and conditions are of this deal. The minister and premier say this is a great deal. What are the details? What are the interest rates, repayment terms? How many local jobs are they protecting?”
Charles Cirtwill, president of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, says the province has an obligation to disclose the interest rates and repayment terms of the deal.
“I’m a little unclear how interest rates or repayment terms of a loan would be detrimental to the company,” said Cirtwill. “Essentially what that would do is create an expectation that those terms would be offered by the province to everyone else.
“Unless the terms are remarkably generous, I’m not entirely sure how the terms would harm the province either.”
The opposition parties have both said the information should be released.
Paris says the contract will generate more than 1,000 new jobs and bring billions of dollars of tax revenue to the province. He doesn’t understand why the federation would be critical of the deal.
“You’d think that people would be jumping up and down and clicking their heels together,” he said.