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Northern Development fund released report afternoon before election

The Northern Development Initiative Trust released its late annual report yesterday afternoon revealing its investment portfolio lost more value than the Tyee predicted.

“The overall portfolio value declined on paper by -$27.3 million,” the report for 2008 said. “Returns in a balanced portfolio are generally positive however, there are periods in the economic cycle where returns can be negative; 2008 was one such period.”

The Tyee reported on May 4 that the NDIT—an agency that's received $185 million in taxpayer money to fund development projects in the Northern Interior—had missed its April 30 legal deadline for releasing its financial information. Columnist Will McMartin calculated the trust likely lost roughly $25 million.

Simon Fraser University business ethics professor Mark Wexler questioned the report's delay saying "Without a good explanation, the public is led to believe the Liberals have something to hide by putting it off until either just before the election when nothing can be put into the press or after."

He added, "If they do deliver it one day before the election, that seems awfully convenient."

The NDIT posted the report to its website on May 11. CEO Janine North sent the Tyee an e-mail shortly after 5 p.m. saying it was available.

Polls for general voting are open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. today, May 12.

North told the Tyee last week that the annual report required the compilation of 300 project reports and was a lot of work. The NDIT is free of political interference, she said, adding she believed the criticism was unfair. "It's tough when you're doing your best."

The annual report argues, as North did in an interview, that the loss in portfolio value is temporary. The NDIT has the money it needs to operate for three years. “There is no requirement or pressure to sell any equities with low valuations and crystallize losses.”

In the first few months of 2009 the NDIT's investments gained $4.5 million, the report said.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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