Fight for PNP list cost taxpayers over $256K

Teresa Wright
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The CBC won an appealed of a decision of P.E.I.'s freedom of information and protection of privacy commissioner that would have kept secret the names of those who received money through the Provincial Nominee Program, also known as PNP

The P.E.I. government spent over $256,000 in legal fees trying to keep the list of companies that received PNP immigrant investor payments private.

The Guardian filed an access to information request asking for this figure last month after the list of Provincial Nominee Program recipient companies was finally released.

The Innovation Department released the information to The Guardian this week via routine disclosure. It shows costs incurred from 2008 to the present associated with Freedom of Information requests asking for the list of PNP companies — including lawyer, court, consultant and administrative fees — totals $256,203.

Opposition innovation critic Hal Perry said he believes spending this amount to keep the list of PNP recipients private was a misuse of taxpayers’ money.

“We want to know what did the government have to hide in going to the extent of hiding the information from the Island public?” he said.

“Islanders wanted to know and we were really concerned that this government was not upfront about their mismanagement of the Provincial Nominee Program, and those issues continue to arise.”

The list was first requested through Freedom of Information requests filed by several parties back in 2009.

The department at that time received legal advice saying it should notify the recipient companies, asking whether they would give their permission to have their names included in a list for release.

No one was made available for an interview from Innovation Tuesday, but an emailed statement from the department said the decision was made to withhold the list after receiving feedback from the PNP companies.

“Following consultation with hundreds of third parties, government upheld its statutory responsibility outlined in section 15.1 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act which states, ‘The head of a public body shall refuse to disclose personal information to an applicant if the disclosure would be an unreasonable invasion of a third party’s personal privacy.’”

This was appealed to the privacy commissioner of the day, Judy Haldemann. In 2010, she upheld government’s decision to withhold the names of PNP businesses.

But the CBC appealed this ruling via a judicial review, arguing Haldemann erred on several points in her decision including the assumption harm would be incurred by the PNP businesses in being identified as beneficiaries of the program.

Supreme Court Justice Wayne Cheverie agreed with CBC.

“I find (Haldemann’s) decision to uphold IIDI’s refusal to disclose the corporate names indefensible upon the facts of law and therefore not reasonable,” Cheverie wrote in his decision.

The fact government’s arguments were ultimately were struck down by Canada’s highest court shows that the money spent fighting requests for the PNP list could have been put to better use, Perry said.

“Two-hundred and fifty-six thousand dollars is a huge amount of money,” he said.

“That money could have gone a long way in supporting the small and medium sized businesses here in P.E.I.”

Nonetheless, the department argues it had an obligation to follow the processes laid out in the Freedom of Information Act.

“The decision (to withhold the list of PNP companies) was appealed first to the FOIPP Commissioner, and then to the courts. These processes were followed as prescribed by law,” the department email stated.

twright@theguardian.pe.ca

Organizations: Innovation Department, CBC, Supreme Court

Geographic location: P.E.I., Iceland, Canada

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Recent comments

  • James Petrie
    December 17, 2012 - 14:17

    Take it from an experienced Professional Investigator who competes with the world’s best. The list is worthless without knowing how much money each company received, how long the companies existed before the money was handed out and if the money went into personal bank accounts. Did the businesses have employees and actually do business with anyone, but the PNP? Did they have an office? A business license is for a business not just for the collection of government handouts: That, amounts to a criminal offence. Did members of the R.C.M.P. get units of PNP money? If they did they cannot be the investigators. If PEI lets this one go, each one of you will suffer many more like it. Each unconnected citizen of PEI has lost their future when there is no fair competition because all the benefits go to people with corrupt connections. How will your business compete if your competition gets several free units as its doors open, for the first, on the other side of Water Street? If it's a Pizza business, they could give their pizzas away for free until your business goes bankrupt.

  • Time For Change
    December 12, 2012 - 16:52

    I cannot believe what I'm reading. How long can we go on with these crooks ruining the Island? The next election should be six months earlier not later. We cannot live through more of this nonsense.

    • Twiggy
      December 13, 2012 - 11:52

      Vote NDP!!!!

  • Chet
    December 12, 2012 - 16:26

    I am stil stuck back with the RCMP statement suggesting that rules can be broken with no charges laid. This blown quarter mil should be a crime but what is a crime when the rules do not matter. Cheverie's ruling means they never had acase to hold the list back in the first place.

  • I.P.Nightly
    December 12, 2012 - 14:38

    Hello, what in the h@ll is wrong with this picture, we, the taxpayer is on the hook for $250,000. , just to find out what we should know, what will happen when these immigrants want their deposit back, so that is back on us again. I think it is time to purge this gov't, they are costing me way, way too much.

  • SG
    December 12, 2012 - 12:42

    Maybe instead of moving our Provincial Election forward by six months we should have an Election Now ? Thank you Supreme Court Justice Wayne Cheverie and CBC.

  • Blatant, calculated lies . . .
    December 12, 2012 - 11:10

    That, "the department argues it had an obligation to follow the processes laid out in the Freedom of Information Act." is a blatant lie. The FOIPP Act is crystal clear that the department could have released the data as routine disclosure. Since the original records may have had to sever some information, there may have been small cost. However, it should have cost the tax-payer no more than $1000.00. In this, as with so many things, this government has planb'd Islanders once again.

  • Lbh
    December 12, 2012 - 10:57

    How is there spin on spending quarter million on lawyers?

  • Islanders deserve that, don't we?
    December 12, 2012 - 10:52

    Since re-elected to represent Islanders, the Liberals have been accountable, transparent, fair and balanced. This government has identified, prioritized and addressed our most pressing problems. Also, to meet the requirements of Islanders most in need, our elected officials have placed corporate and even their own personal interests aside. Finally, this government has provided Islanders with a model of inclusive democracy, a model that consistently teaches our children what civility and positive social interaction looks like. We should be thankful, we should be proud. We should be. Islanders deserve that, don't we?

  • Star
    December 12, 2012 - 10:45

    And Ghiz is still leading in the polls! All you winers on here, tell me WHY??

  • Marie
    December 12, 2012 - 10:35

    The choosen few lied and stole, not only from Islanders, but from the people it was offering our Island to. ALL in the name of our government which is in place to serve the people. Yet those same people can't get an answer from these elected officials unless we take them to court using more money and the same crew of lawyers we're fighting about. Keep racking up the bills for these lies ghiz. My name's not Harper, but I don't want to talk to you either. STOP DESTOYING THE ISLAND ECONOMY WITH THIS INSANE COVER-UP. Tell the truth, the whole truth, and stop punishing the little guy trying to pay for tonights' dinner while you're eating steaks suppied by....well damn it...the little guys!!!

  • don
    December 12, 2012 - 10:29

    i wonder how many out of canada bank accounts are they?

  • don
    December 12, 2012 - 10:26

    i can see the next election with the NDP 1st, PC 2nd, green party 3rd, lib 4th.

  • NDP is the way forward
    December 12, 2012 - 10:08

    Haldemann was wrong in the original decision and one did not have to be a lawyer or judge to see that. All you had to be able to do was read. People on this site provided the info and the Opposition folk were just as welcome to read it as they are today. Haldemann used an irrelevant part of the legislation- third parties- that had nothing to do with PNP payment recipients. The " prescribed by law" reference by government in this story is bogus. No wonder these guys run up such legal costs. They are paying for bad legal advice. They had no legal obligation to anybody except the public. That was the case then as it is now. They could have released the list in contradiction to her flawed ruiling. What she or CBC had to say did not matter. The government simply could have released the list and saved all of these wasted thousands of bucks. Resistance appears to have been politically motivated and we all paid for it, with our taxes. Justice Cheverie did what he had to do as required by law and that is what the government should have done in the first place.

  • thefullstoryplease
    December 12, 2012 - 09:34

    I have a very strong opinion about this whole PNP thing however what I do not appreciate is unbalanced news reports. Ms. Wright has been covering this story for too long and her alliances are showing. Talk aout spin!

    • PNP Follower
      December 12, 2012 - 13:49

      @thefullstoryplease...are you commenting from your glass house that PNP built? It would seem so! TW is doing a masterfull job at peeling back the layers of deceipt laid on by those that want this story buried. Trust me, the story is NOT going away, and the mighty will fall...along with their glass houses.

  • What has happened to our Island
    December 12, 2012 - 09:29

    There was a time when I felt so good about being an Islander. We had a unique way of life, which I loved. We chose to raise our kids here so that they could experience it too. We were able to make a comfortable life here. Lately, though, I feel sad about what this place is coming too. Greed seems to motivate all decisions, and our premier has an elitist attitude where he doesn't care about the commoners. I am sickened by the fact that my children and grandchildren are burdened by a heavy provincial debt. Things have to change or the province will go bankrupt. It is too bad that it has come to this point because of governments spending like drunken sailors, and the people who benefit from this spending encouraging them to do so. Sadly, it is seldom the average person who benefits from such spending. The rich keep getting richer. That's my rant for the day.

    • Voter
      December 12, 2012 - 21:36

      I do not know who 'what has happend to our island' is, but I would vote for this person in a heartbeat. Obviously this person loves our Island and the kind of people we were proud to be. I too feel terrible about the growing debt created by this administration. Shame on them, particularly since most of it is not needed or wanted.

  • Chris Columbus
    December 12, 2012 - 08:45

    Wait now folks, all these government mistakes, cover-ups, deceit ,lies and tom-foolery will be fixed whenever the "premier" shuffles his "cabinet".

  • PLEASE CLARIFY
    December 12, 2012 - 08:26

    to ISLAND VOTER - yes, the whole story would be AWESOME... like how the PNP money was spent and did the recipients honour their contract of use of PNP funds... how did the intermediaries, accountants, lawyers justify their costs... and BTW - THE COURTS determined YOU and I had the RIGHT to know who received PNP units! Thank goodness the CBC fought for our RIGHTS! This is the price the public has been FORCED to pay when their government is evasive and lacks transparency and accountability... SHAME on them!!

  • ATV
    December 12, 2012 - 08:13

    Isn't CBC funded by tax dollars? So tax dollars fighing tax dollars in court which is payed with tax dollars.......wise, real wise the whole damn bunch.....CBC is a farce

  • Enough
    December 12, 2012 - 08:07

    Show us the numbered companies - Ghiz and his cronies should all be in jail. Steal a toonie out of a parked car or steal millions from immigrants - fellow stealing the toonie is in jail but 'Premier Ghiz' walks around like he's something! Absolutely unbelievable!

  • Pete
    December 12, 2012 - 08:07

    "The fact government’s arguments were ultimately were struck down by Canada’s highest court shows that the money spent fighting requests for the PNP list could have been put to better use, Perry said" ......... Mr. Perry believes that the Supreme Court of PEI is Canada's highest court? Really?

  • Island voter
    December 12, 2012 - 07:53

    This is not the whole story. How much did the CBC pay to lose this ruling, then appeal to the courts. I think we are also entitled to know these costs as it's taxpayers money that suppliments the CBC. Common Guardian, if, the story is about money spent, lets get the whole story.

  • ST.
    December 12, 2012 - 07:48

    Yes I agree with freedom of information and the right to privacy- however, when ones actions and morals are in question then being upfront and cooperative is the best means to the issue. This just looks like guilt - even though some cases may not be as guilty as others- it looks like a coverup at the expense of many others in PEI. The womans shelter closing, the parks schools hospital...etc People involved need to start coming forward and talking to the RCMP and if they have nothing to hide then fine and if they do, it just may be easier on them criminally

  • THE SCAM
    December 12, 2012 - 07:26

    When are the names going to be released for the numbered companies. the people of pei should toss these clowns out of office.GHIZ HAS TO GO

    • Onlooker
      December 12, 2012 - 13:42

      If it is really a big deal to you the numbered companies can be easily searched on the government website for Environment, Labour & Justice under the Corporate/Business Names Registry search, if you're that concerned over it you may want to spend some time looking around there...

  • hmatthewl
    December 12, 2012 - 07:26

    So sad, and we wonder why we have a deficit, but the Minister's drive nice cars !!

  • Adolphus
    December 12, 2012 - 07:15

    $256,000 is a drop in the bucket compared to the $16,000,000 our generous government gave the Homburg Hotel.

  • PNP FOLLOWER
    December 12, 2012 - 07:10

    I question the timing of this legal mess, why was this not exposed in the house recently. Again we see our legal profession is driving the bus so to speak, stall, stall, stall and of course some lawyer making a bundle. Can one just imagine over $250000 dollars for that little bit of cover up. Where was Innovation Minister Roach on this cover up? and why other than to hide the truth and protect more Lawyers and Accountants. There will be an end to all of you soon

  • Bill o'Reilly
    December 12, 2012 - 07:02

    That's about right isn't it. I can't believe that this government got re-elected.

  • ATV
    December 12, 2012 - 06:43

    And here is CBC a Federally Sponsored Organization wasting more taxpayers money.......What business does a federally sponsored agency have to stick their nose in a private business. Maybe Harper is right and the CBC should be allowed to die a very quick death. The the federal debt would be fixed.........

  • Garth Staples
    December 12, 2012 - 06:34

    Thank you Hal for your comments and thank you Guardian for the evolving story. Seems like taxpayers just keep on giving. What a blight on a Govts record.

  • sad indeed
    December 12, 2012 - 06:14

    money well spent.........not

  • John W.A.Curtis
    December 12, 2012 - 06:13

    The minister gets a new car, PNP misuse 256,000 in legal fees and we the taxpayer get rippedoff ,tell the minister to walk.

  • Karl Proude
    December 12, 2012 - 05:59

    Thus as taxpayers monies,should we not be able to see also where and to whom this money was paid, and for what.Maybe a detailed list of costs..Need we say more?

  • grampie
    December 12, 2012 - 04:58

    When will Governments realize that taxpayers have the right to know to who and where tax money is being spent? Trying to hide this is a complete waste of money, only lawyers benefits.

  • ten hours of court time for how much
    December 11, 2012 - 23:38

    256,000.00 dollars for ten hours in court????????WTF?

  • math clairity
    December 11, 2012 - 23:29

    I'm not a math expert but I have a fact I created that I hope someone clarify. PEI has roughly 146,000 ppl, roughly 113,000 are over 19 therefore significant tax payers. So with our province spending about $256,000 in legal fees, each tax payer spends about $2,25 per person on this legal bill. This seems unfair. Is my math inaccurate? am I missing something here?

  • Wow
    December 11, 2012 - 22:14

    You mean to tell me that 1 of the law firms that made millions on the PNP couldn't do this pro-bono? Common Billy, how much money can 1 lawyer spend?

  • Please Clarify
    December 11, 2012 - 22:04

    SHAME SHAME SHAME on the government and anyone of any party for trying to hide this information - there can be no price on knowing the truth, however.

  • IF
    December 11, 2012 - 21:49

    If this government was open and shared public knowledge why should it cost us taxpayers this kind of money-I am a hard working single parent trying to put food on our table and this is how the government spends our money-horrible

  • James Macgoo Lakeside
    December 11, 2012 - 21:41

    I think it may be more interesting to learn the names of attorneys and consultants who received the $256,203.

  • Stewart McKelvey advised argued and lost badly
    December 11, 2012 - 21:22

    Is that how much Stewart McKelvey got for losing. There are many lawsuits underway right now because of Ghiz and his friends firms are scalping the province. Parasites and Patronage costs with Ghiz are high and Harper never talks to him since this PNP rip off.

  • the list offered defies court order
    December 11, 2012 - 21:18

    The companies in question were during 2008 bonanza, but the list provided in response to court order includes companies from years previous. During the bonanza identified by the Auditor about 300 companies received 120 million in grants which cost 140 million in fees to handpicked intermediaries. Since this betrayal of Canada by PEI Ghiz team; PEI has endured increased Federal job cuts on a per capita basis, no financing for cable and Harper does not talk to Ghiz.....The costs of the PNP stealing is an emasculated Premier hiding the excessive fees and denying the innumerable Conflicts of Interest and Breach of Trust. The extra costs are just beginning and will be hundreds of millions. PNP was about stealing and selling phoney investments which do not meet the definition of investment. All the accountants and lawyers hope its over soon but it is just beginning. thanks eh?

  • don
    December 11, 2012 - 20:15

    Supreme Court Justice Wayne Cheverie. right now i want to thank you for a good job letting the tax payers know who was on the PNP list.at least you had the back bone to be honest.