10/08/2014 10:14 EDT | Updated 12/08/2014 05:59 EST

Communications Nova Scotia considering making some polling info public

HALIFAX - The communications arm of the Nova Scotia government is considering whether to make some information it obtains through polling and research available to the public, a deputy minister said Wednesday.

"We have been having a conversation around should we be making some of this information available through our government website," Tracey Taweel, the associate deputy minister for Communications Nova Scotia, told the legislature's public accounts committee.

Taweel said the information is currently only available through freedom of information requests. She said there could be instances where propriety information about private companies prevents the release of that information.

She was unable to say how much the government spends on polling each year, adding that it will be easier to do once all polling is centralized within her agency, a project that is ongoing.

A spokeswoman for Communications Nova Scotia later said $120,000 had been spent on public polling as of mid-September for this fiscal year, including $13,995 on a recent telephone poll on issues arising from excessive emissions at the Northern Pulp Mill in Pictou, N.S.

Taweel said under legislation brought in last fall, her department will have to release an accountability report at the end of the fiscal year that includes where advertising dollars were spent.

"So it would seem to make sense that in other areas like research and evaluation we would also apply a level of openness and transparency," she said.

NDP committee member Dave Wilson said taxpayers should have access to polling information if they fund it.

"If the government is going to put a tender out to do some polling, they should own that information," Wilson said.

Communications Nova Scotia said its overall marketing budget is $2,179,500 this year, down $600,000 from the previous year.