Province must turn over e-gaming documents about loan

Teresa Wright
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Karen Rose

The P.E.I. government has been ordered to release a document that outlines details of a $950,000 government loan that funded the province's controversial e-gaming scheme.

P.E.I. Privacy Commissioner Karen Rose delivered this ruling as a result of a freedom of information request by The Guardian requesting details of this e-gaming loan.

The province refused to disclose a one-page document that provides a breakdown of where and how the money from the e-gaming loan was to be spent.

The Guardian did obtain a copy of the $950,000 loan contract signed between the Mi'kmaq Confederacy of P.E.I. and Innovation P.E.I. through the same freedom of information request and published details of this agreement last November.

But government withheld one page of the agreement, entitled “Proposed Budget.” This page outlines the financial details of the e-gaming initiative. Government argued this information is commercial and financial information belonging to a third party – the Mi’kmaq Confederacy – and that disclosing it would harm the confederacy’s business interests.

The Guardian applied to the privacy commissioner for a review, arguing the information should be released because it falls within the public interest.

In her decision, Rose states the document in question “includes deliverables, time line dates and dollar amounts” for the loan, which was used to finance work done in 2011-2012 to attempt to make Prince Edward Island an Internet gambling regulator for the whole country.

This e-gaming proposal was estimated to be worth upwards of $85 million a year in new tax and licensing revenues for the P.E.I. government.

Members of a confidential gaming committee, made up of lawyers from the private law firm McInnes Cooper and the Mi'kmaq Confederacy of P.E.I., held meetings on the proposal in secret.

Government funded this committee's work through this $950,000 loan, but exactly how this money was spent remains a mystery. 

The document the province has now been ordered to release would finally shed light on where the money was dispersed.

Government scrapped the e-gaming proposal in February 2012, and Premier Wade MacLauchlan has since stated P.E.I. taxpayers will likely be on the hook for repayment of this loan.

The e-gaming file has become infamous in P.E.I., with local and national media attention revealing the secret plan and how this proposed financial windfall for the province was linked to several key insiders who stood to profit handsomely if the plan had gone ahead.

The province’s auditor general is now investigating the e-gaming scheme, at the request of MacLauchlan, and a $25-million lawsuit against the province linked to e-gaming is snaking its way through the P.E.I. Supreme Court. 

In her decision, Rose states the financial e-gaming document is not information that belongs to the Mi’kmaq Confederacy and is thus a public document. She also determined the information within this record was not supplied in confidence nor was there sufficient evidence provided that disclosing the information would significantly harm the confederacy’s competitive or negotiating position.

However, she rejected The Guardian’s assertion the information falls within the public interest, citing an interpretation that this argument can only be used if it is matter of “compelling public interest,” applying mainly to matters of health or safety and not to political issues.

Nonetheless, because the province did not satisfy all three exceptions under the FOIPP Act required to refuse a request for information, Rose has ordered the “proposed budget” for the e-gaming loan be disclosed to The Guardian “in its entirety.”

Rose also chastised Innovation P.E.I. for the extensive time taken to deal with this request, noting extensions that were unwarranted. The Guardian submitted its original FOIPP request 15months ago, on Nov. 27, 2014.

Innovation P.E.I. can apply for a judicial review of this decision, but must do so within 30 days.

 

Organizations: The Guardian, P.E.I. Supreme Court

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island

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Recent comments

  • Kim P.
    February 25, 2016 - 01:47

    That is great news. It will help to show where the million dollars was spent by McInnes Cooper. It is also a timely decision along with the report on the Bill that has died and Jane MacAdam's lack of support of it. Can't wait to see what comes next. I guess the AG report. But, I think that regardless of the hard-fought release for the one sheet budget, the public also needs to see the names of the investors, and the plan for the ultimate division of profits. I guess The Guardian already knows their names, along with the Globe, but are under wraps in releasing them by the authority of, Katharine Tummins, the now retired Superintendent of Securities. CMT has applied for release of the names and has said that their names will explain everything. And, I know you all know all of this, I just hope that you continue to report on surrounding issues. We also need to know what happened in London, UK in late January, 2012. They allegedly called off the project on their own accords (at the Grand Holman meeting) on February 5th, 2012. That is highly coincidental to an expensive, likely business class :>, business trip... According to the Simplex report of September 2011, they were supposed to launch the e-gaming site on that trip, at the ICE conference at the end of January.

  • Red as mad.
    February 24, 2016 - 17:39

    Now we need to see how the 29 million was spent on the 2014 event. Long time coming. I think that would be very interesting to see.

  • Simple Islander
    February 24, 2016 - 15:11

    Hmm, lawyers from McInnes Cooper. That's the same law firm that recently moved into the newly renovated Dawson Hardware Store building at Kent & Great George, isn't it? A building that was renovated at great expense by the Tweel family, using taxpayer financing. Good to see the private sector (cough cough) so hard at work these days.

  • Angus
    February 24, 2016 - 09:00

    Should be interesting, especially if they try to delay the release even longer. Folks already suspect their motives and a further delay will only further confirm them.

  • Squirrel
    February 24, 2016 - 08:18

    This is really disgusting, the fact we the people of this wonderful Province have to go, basically to Court, to obtain information about OUR government. This it will come to us all BLACKED OUT. TOTAL DISGUSTING !!!!

  • Ilaander
    February 24, 2016 - 07:42

    Well done Karen Rose , yuo have shown honesty and intigrity. Premier Wade did not want the world "May" in Leegislation and now it has cam back to haunt him. The word " Shall" was meant to be Legislated when information was saught through the Information of Freedom Act.. this sneaky move by the Premier and Roach in the last session to prevent information being released, is no making them look lkie the mistruths they really are. Both should be man enough to reisign. Their initgrity, honesty and openess are gone forever. All them lawyers from McInnes Cooper should be exposed as well the Law Society should do their duty to see what all the secrecy was abbout and is that ethical. Sounds pretty shading to me

  • Islander
    February 24, 2016 - 07:23

    Congratulation to Privicy Commissioner Karen Ross. You have done your duty with honesty and intigrity. This delay in releasing information would have involved Mr Roach, this certainly explains his memory loss in session. The Premier was willing to forget the issue and move on. Well, like the saying goes if a person has nothing to hide that he/she they dont need to lie. There will be more to this egaming scandal now and rightfully so. Any shady deals by the secret bunch of lawyer from MacInnis Cooper and others should all be made public. Everyone should be named The Law Society should also do their duty to see if these secretive meeting were ethical under their rules. Someone weas hiding something, why? This one page, that as not disclosed, if the straw that just may break this wide open For the taxpayers we Uyre hope so. Mr Jamie FOX had better get in the band wagon, do his research and get this all exposed. I would thing Mr Premier and Mr Roche would be meeting behind closed door today on this one to refresh their memories

    • To islander
      February 24, 2016 - 19:17

      You really really need to get a life.

  • Quiet Observer
    February 24, 2016 - 06:47

    Fully expect Wade to apply for Judicial Review of this decision - gotta protect all his buddies.