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Aylward demands transparency for 'secretive board' that handles $400 million of provincial assets

Opposition Leader James Aylward and Kensington-Malpeque MLA Matthew MacKay get ready for Thursday’s question period. The session started with both Aylward and MacKay calling for more accountability on government loans and the province’s Crown lending agency.  ©THE GUARDIAN
Opposition Leader James Aylward and Kensington-Malpeque MLA Matthew MacKay get ready for Thursday’s question period. The session started with both Aylward and MacKay calling for more accountability on government loans and the province’s Crown lending agency. ©THE GUARDIAN - Mitch MacDonald

Opposition leader James Aylward is calling for more transparency of a “secretive” board which oversees about $400 million in provincial assets but doesn’t hold public meetings.

Aylward took aim during Thursday’s question period at what he described as a lack of accountability for the Crown lending agency Island Investment Development Inc. (IIDI), which he said had a lending portfolio of about $150 million in 2016 and 2017.

The Crown lending agency also owns a number of provincial assets such as Slemon Park and is the administrator of P.E.I.’s provincial nominee program.

However, Aylward said there is little public scrutiny of the IIDI board, which he said is comprised of five “handpicked” deputy ministers that hold “secretive meetings” not open to the public.
“What’s particularly troubling to me is there was over 13 million in loan write-offs (in 2016-2017)… and there is no public scrutiny, no disclosure around them,” Aylward said during an interview with The Guardian. “It’s very troubling when we’re talking about 400 million worth of provincial government assets … and there’s no disclosure, no transparency and no public scrutiny around it.”

MLA Steven Myers previously tabled Bill 108, an act to amend the Island Investment Development Act, in which he proposes IIDI board meetings become open to the public.

Aylward said it would bring the board more in line with other boards.

Currently, an Engage P.E.I. program advertises vacant positions on boards such as Health P.E.I. and allows members of the public to apply.

Economic Development Minister Chris Palmer defended the IIDI board and said the loans it distributes and manages help grow businesses in P.E.I.

Palmer said the IIDI’s loan portfolio generates about 15 million in revenue annually, with the province seeing a net profit of about $5 million.

“So, we’re happy to support businesses and make a buck while we’re doing it,” said Palmer.

Palmer also described the IIDI’s lending portfolio as “self-sustaining.”

“The revenues that come from the small businesses we support come back in to help fund that,” he said.

Aylward said the IIDI’s activity is not included in the provincial budget, which puts it outside the scrutiny of the legislature.
“An annual report is the only window the public has into this powerful and secretive board. However… quite often this annual report is as late as two years,” Aylward said during question period. “Would you be satisfied with just an annual report, that is years behind in being published, if that was your personal money?”

Mitch.MacDonald@TheGuardian.pe.ca

Twitter - Mitch_PEI

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