POLITICS

New Brunswick lodge guest list report issues warning about changing records

07/02/2015 02:21 EDT | Updated 07/02/2016 05:59 EDT
FREDERICTON - Senior government officials in New Brunswick altered the guest list of a provincially-owned fishing lodge with the intention of concealing information, an independent review has found.

The report by Anne Bertrand, the province's access to information and privacy commissioner, says two officials altered the 2013 guest list for Larry's Gulch lodge after a request from a newspaper editor.

The 39-page report does not recommend any charges be laid and does not name the officials, who it says were both deputy ministers at the time.

But the report says future alteration or destruction of government records will not be tolerated.

"The results of our investigation and our findings and this Report we believe will be sufficient notice to everyone that such actions are unacceptable and may have serious repercussions under the law," the report says.

Bertrand launched her review in February following a column by the ombudswoman for the chain of papers owned by Brunswick News Inc.

In the column, Patricia Graham alleged that an editor visited Larry's Gulch in 2013 and then, along with another editor, tried to get his name removed from the guest list before it became public.

Graham said an investigation alleged Murray Guy went to the lodge as a guest of Danny Allain, then-president and CEO of NB Liquor.

She said Guy, assistant managing editor at the Times and Transcript in Moncton, had resigned and Al Hogan, the paper's managing editor, was no longer employed by Brunswick News.

The report says the government officials responsible for altering the guest list at the time were the deputy minister of tourism, heritage and culture and the deputy minister for communications in the premier's office.

The report says the communications official "wanted to do a favour for an editor friend," while the tourism official "took it upon himself to protect the interests of NB Liquor on the basis it was paying more money than others to attend the lodge."

The officials' actions "were surprising given all the solid advice that surrounded them in not proceeding with their plan," the report says.

"Nonetheless, they point to a certain level of arrogance in believing it was permissible to alter a government record to conceal some of its information, without fear of repercussions, rather than an intention to commit an offence."

In a statement released Thursday afternoon, the provincial tourism department says it will review the report. The department says changes were made earlier this year to operations at Larry's Gulch.

"Government also announced that applications for provincial employees and departments use must show the trips to the lodge will lead to job creation, improve the economy or foster partnerships with other governments," the statement says.

The provincially-owned fishing lodge is located on the Restigouche River in northwestern New Brunswick.