May 10, 2001

Newfoundland withholds drinking water report

The opposition in Newfoundland is angry that the government is keeping a report on the province's water supply submerged in cabinet secrecy.
Conservative leader Danny Williams says the Liberals are abusing the Access to Information Act by refusing to release a five-year-old report on Newfoundland's drinking water.
Williams says the government should release the 1996 report—the last wide-ranging survey of Newfoundland's water supply—and let people see for themselves what it says about what they're drinking.
"That document should be available," he said. "If it's not being made available, then obviously there's some good reason why they're hiding it."
Nearly half of all the boil water orders in Canada are issued in Newfoundland. Today, people in 240 communities have to boil their drinking water due to safety concerns.
Brian Tobin, premier at the time the report was completed, said the water report is a private cabinet document and exempt from access to information laws.
Premier Roger Grimes said Wednesday that the report never even made it to cabinet.
"The only reason it was ever written was because the cabinet was looking for information on the state of the water supply," Grimes said.
Even if the report were to be released, Grimes said its findings are useless. After keeping the document secret for the past five years, he says the information is now outdated.
Williams still wants to see the information in the report. "If they're saying it hasn't been substantiated from a scientific perspective, then let's prove that to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. But we have a right to know."

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