MHA considers job “a rare privilege” to help make a difference
“If you talk to the councils, recreation committees and constituents, I know they’ll give Crystal and this office glowing ...,” Johnson said.
The MHA meets with her assistant “every day on every call that comes in, because when I go out on the weekends I want to know who called and what their issue is.”
Large rural district
One of the province’s largest rural districts, Trinity-bay de Verde is made up of some 36 communities, including incorporated towns, local service districts and totally unincorporated areas stretching from New Harbour on the Trinity South shore around the peninsula to Salmon Cove in Conception Bay.
With about 14 municipal councils in the district, Johnson said, “I try and hit every council (meeting) at least twice a year.”
As minister of the Department of Child, Youth and Family Services, she has to juggle her cabinet duties with her responsibilities to constituents.
Cabinet committee meetings take up a lot of her time Tuesdays through Thursdays. But every day she takes time to go over the call log and issues with her assistant.
“I’m one who likes to work faceto-face with my constituency assistant. If it wasn’t working I’d have to look at changing it.”
Where to put an office
When she was a rookie MHA about seven years ago, Johnson recalled experimenting with what she calls “roaming clinics.”
For example, she would make herself available to constituents in places like the Society of United Fishermen (SUF) lodge in Dildo and the Heart’s Delight-islington town hall. “We would advertise we would be there a certain day of the month. But not a lot of people came to the clinics.”
The MHA saud, “it’s something we’re going to look at again, and maybe advertise it a bit more.”
As for hanging out a shingle in the district, the MHA said, “I’m not saying I wouldn’t go there, but to be realistic, if I did do it, I’d have to give some serious thought as to where I’d put it.
“As you know, if I put it on the North Shore, people from Trinity Bay don’t often come over to the North Shore, and people on the shore don’t often go to Trinity Bay. In reality, they’re in St. John’s more than on the other side of the bay.”
Having given the best location for a constituency office some thought, Johnson observes, “everyone goes to Carbonear — that would make sense, but then that’s still not in my district. It’s not about what works for me, it’s about what works for the constituents.”
In terms of representation and attending events, Johnson states: “I guess the best ones to answer that would be groups who invite me. But I think it’s fair to say they would give me a passing grade in that area. We’re steady on the go.
“It’s a juggle when you’re a minister, too. It’s a rare privilege to be a minister in government and to be able to make a difference. I love both being MHA and minister, especially in this department. It plays at the heartstrings a lot, and there are a lot of challenges in the department, but every challenge is an opportunity to make it better in childrens’ lives. I really enjoy being here,” Johnson said.