Hebron showcased before tow-out
A few weeks before the Hebron offshore oil platform is pulled away from the Newfoundland coast and towed about 350 kilometres offshore, schedules were lined up Tuesday, with politicians and company reps gathered.
Canada Fluorspar Inc. made four contributions to the Newfoundland and Labrador Liberal Party in 2016 totalling $15,000, just before the Liberal government gave the company a $17-million loan to reopen the fluorspar mine on the Burin Peninsula.
And in 2015 — an election year — Canada Fluorspar Inc. gave money to both the Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives, totalling $15,950.
But don’t look to find any of this information on the Elections N.L. website; despite the fact that the government agency received some of this financial information more than a year ago, none of it has been posted online yet due to bureaucratic delays.
In Newfoundland and Labrador there are no limits on the size of political donations.
Canada Fluorspar Inc. started making political donations in 2010, with an $800 contribution to the Progressive Conservative party.
At the time, the Tories were in power, and a year later, in 2011, then-premier Kathy Dunderdale, just before she called a general election, announced a different $17-million loan for Canada Fluorspar Inc. to reopen its St. Lawrence mine — but because the project ran into troubles, it got only $637,332.26, and that money was repaid earlier this year.
From there, the Tories got $1,250 in 2011, $1,000 in 2012 and $9,450 in 2013.
Then things changed in 2014.
Canada Fluorspar Inc. gave $2,600 in donations to the Liberals in 2014, and no money to the Tories. This was shortly after the Liberals pulled ahead of the Tories in public opinion.
On the Elections N.L. website, 2014 is where the trail ends.
Political parties were supposed to file their 2015 financial statements by April 1 of last year, and they had to file their 2016 financial statements by April 1 of this year.
Despite the fact that these documents have been sitting in the Elections N.L. office — in some cases for more than a year — nothing for 2015 or 2016 has been posted online because Chief Electoral Officer Bruce Chaulk hasn’t finalized his report on the topic.
People can go into the office and ask to see the parties’ filings, but if you’re not within easy driving distance of St. John’s, you’re out of luck.
Sifting through the Liberal party’s 2016 donation receipts, plenty of interesting corporate names jump out, such as Provincial Aerospace donating $5,000 or CIBC donating $7,000.
Canada Fluorspar Inc., in the 2015 election year, gave $6,500 to the Liberals and $9,450 to the Tories. Two years later, this information still hasn’t been posted online.
The $15,000 donation to the Liberals in 2016 came just before the new government announced it would give Canada Fluorspar Inc. a $17-million loan.
It’s possible Canada Fluorspar Inc. also gave money to the Tories last year, but the public doesn’t know what’s happening with that yet because the PC party missed the April 1 deadline and hasn’t filed its finance reports yet.
Party president Graydon Pelley said they plan to get it in pretty soon.
In a statement to The Telegram, Canada Fluorspar CEO Lindsay Gorrill said the government loan had initially been approved in the late 1990s, and then was approved by subsequent governments as the project moved along.
“As a company that does business in Newfoundland and Labrador, we support many varying initiatives in the province, which includes donations to political parties,” Gorrill said.
In an emailed statement, Industry Minister Christopher Mitchelmore stressed the “vigorous due diligence process spanning more than one year” to approve the loan.
The loan has an interest rate of three per cent and the terms of repayment state the government will get its money back by Dec. 31, 2021.
Elections NL is a statutory office of the House of Assembly, but it functions as an independent entity. While it’s technically the dominion of Speaker Tom Osborne, he doesn’t actually provide any oversight over its operations.
Osborne said it’s a problem that political donation information takes so long to be posted online, but the only real way to force Elections NL to post information online faster is by changing the Elections Act to put in mandatory timelines.
Osborne said he would refer the issue to an advisory committee on the Electoral Act made up of party officials. He also said he will recommend a legislative change to Government House Leader Andrew Parsons.
“I am going to recommend that there are statutory timelines in place for the information to be available online,” Osborne said.
“You have my commitment. I will follow through on this.”