Nova Scotia yet to see Bluenose books
UPDATED 5:21 a.m. Wednesday
The Nova Scotia government has not seen the books of the Bluenose II Preservation Trust Society and concedes it has no way of knowing if it has recouped all the money meant for the Bluenose.
The government announced this week the trust society had transferred almost all of its assets to the province after seven years of negotiations. The society lost the contract to operate the Bluenose in 2005.
But the society’s books were not opened up to the province and now will likely never be reviewed publicly.
There is a difference of about $200,000 between what the province has received and the society’s last filing of its assets. Communities, Culture and Heritage Minister Leonard Preyra was asked how the province could know it received all the money in the society’s bank account.
“We don’t know,” he said.
“You’re right, it’s up to the trust to disclose what money it received and how it disbursed that money when it had responsibility for the fund.”
The trust is a registered charity and the province cannot compel it to open its books. Trust chairman Sen. Wilfred Moore has refused to do just that.
“They don’t have to see the books. All they have to do is get a cheque from us,” he told The Chronicle Herald in June.
The province has received about $540,000 in cash from the trust society, as well as intellectual property rights, a building in downtown Lunenburg that holds the Bluenose II Company Store, and inventory from the store, which closed June 14.
The society is holding back $125,000 to cover the costs of winding down its affairs and will hand over any money that’s left over.
It comes to about $1.2 million in total value received by the province. The society last reported its assets at $1.44 million at the end of fiscal 2010-11.
Including the money held back, the society says it has about $675,000. It last reported cash and short-term investments of $734,962. The difference of $60,000 is not necessarily a discrepancy as the society’s last public filings are now a year out of date.
But the society also reported $130,000 in “other assets.” Moore could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Asked about the amount in an interview last month, Moore said he did not know off the top of his head what the line item referred to.
He said the society’s books are audited every year. Statements are filed with the Canada Revenue Agency but only top-level summaries are available to the public.
Preyra said he did not know what the “other assets” entailed.
Progressive Conservative critic Eddie Orrell said the NDP government needs to fight to see the books before closing the file.
“We’re wiping our hands clean of it if we accept the cheque,” he said.
Orrell said the lack of transparency raises questions. He said taxpayers should be able to see past years’ revenues and expenses so the government knows what it is getting into before it takes control of the assets.
In the early half of the last decade, the trust society became wrapped up in the federal sponsorship scandal. The Liberal government allocated $2.3 million for the Bluenose through a private consulting firm, but Moore said the society only received a few hundred thousand dollars of that money.
The society’s assets are going to the Schooner Bluenose Foundation, an arm’s-length government group that will take over operation of the sailing vessel. The process of getting the money returned spanned seven tourism ministers since 2005.
The NDP government and the society first announced an agreement in principle for the transfer in December 2010, but there have been several false starts since then.
The Chronicle Herald is seeking further information on the transfer through access to information laws.