POLITICS

Irving Shipbuilding loan details withheld

05/23/2012 08:23 EDT | Updated 07/23/2012 05:12 EDT

Nova Scotia is investing $304 million in Irving Shipyard as part of a federal shipbuilding procurement, but the government refuses to release more information about the deal.

The NDP government said that might harm the province's economy and releasing information would violate the privacy of a third party.

The loan is the biggest single financial investment in the history of the Nova Scotia government. A total of $260 million is a forgivable loan and the remaining $44 million is repayable.

Shortly after the government announced the historic loan to Irving, the Canadian Taxpayers Federation asked the province to release the terms and conditions of the deal.

"Our request was rejected," spokesman Kevin Lacey said Wednesday.

He said the privacy argument did not make sense, because the deal is done. "That is silly, given that the company has already won the contact. Taxpayers are never going to get getting the money — it's spent," he said.

Protecting privacy and freedom

A government spokeswoman said the $25-billion contract would generate thousands of jobs and huge tax revenues. Heather Deighan of the Department of Economic Development said a third party objected to the release of information.

It is not known who that third part was, but the taxpayers' federation suspects it was Irving.

"We have to protect the folks' privacy and freedom," Deighan answered when pressed on why the information was not being released.

Irving said it does not have a finalized contract with Ottawa to build the ships and that it has not yet drawn down any provincial funding.

"Irving Shipbuilding will be accountable through annual reports on activities and employment generation over which the Province of Nova Scotia has audit rights," spokeswoman Mary Keith said.

The Progressive Conservative party backed the deal when it was announced, but now questions the secrecy.

"Because the competition is over, this information should become public," said MLA Allan MacMaster. "We believe the premier should explain why the terms were as they were."

Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil called the decision to withhold information "unacceptable and unethical."