POLITICS

Info on Nova Scotia government loans to private sector would be made public

12/03/2013 11:45 EST | Updated 02/02/2014 05:59 EST
HALIFAX - The public would be able to access information online beginning April 1 on Nova Scotia government loans to businesses under legislation introduced Tuesday by the province's economic development minister.

The measure is part of legislation intended to tighten rules and increase transparency on public loans to the private sector.

Economic Development Minister Michel Samson said the legislation would require the government to post details of all agreements from jobs and strategic investment funds as well as report twice a year on progress on job targets and timelines.

Samson said the legislation, which also applies to Nova Scotia Business Inc., would cover all deals signed after the Liberal government took power on Oct. 22.

He said the intent is to provide the public with as much information as possible without contravening privacy concerns. A section of the proposed bill allows the government to exempt some financial arrangements if it's deemed a company's proprietary interests would be compromised.

"We are exploring what is the best way to be transparent while at the same time not compromising either our investment or the company we have made that investment in," said Samson. "I would suspect it would be a limited amount of instances where that would apply."

He also said an independent review would be carried out of loans, grants, payroll rebates and other government business supports in order to determine which are the most effective.

"We felt it was an appropriate time to undertake a third party review to see exactly what tools we are using and whether it's time to look at new ways," said Samson.

He said the review, expected to take three months, would make recommendations on which programs work and on those that either need to be changed or discontinued.

Samson said the government expects to announce soon who would head the review.