Opposition struggles for answers in the era of ‘Open Government’
In the House of Assembly Thursday, the Liberals decided to put the ‘Open Government Initiative’ to the test. It didn’t go so well for the government.
Again and again, Liberal MHAs used Question Period to ask for specific information they’ve been trying to get for months, or even years.
In response to multiple specific requests for concrete information, cabinet ministers were largely unable to come up with concrete answers.
In the case of Justice Minister Darin King (Grand Bank MHA), he promised to release two government reports, only to be contradicted two hours later by an official in his department.
Liberal justice critic Jim Bennett asked Mr. King about two studies done about sheriff ’s offi- cers and legal aid in the province.
“Now that the government claims to be open, will the minister immediately release these reports he’s been sitting on for the past month?.”
Mr. King responded “Yes, Mr. Speaker.”
But a couple of hours later, when The Telegram contacted the Department of Justice, the minister’s promise wasn’t enough to allow release of the reports.
A spokesman said, “I’m not going to provide them to you right now.”
Liberal House leader Andrew Parsons asked for specific information about autism wait times and treatment for children. He did not get a firm answer from the minister.
A few hours later, though, a spokeswoman for the Department of Health answered the questions Mr. Parsons said the Liberals couldn’t get an answer on.
The spokeswoman said 393 children are on the wait list for pediatric assessment of autism. There were 60 pediatricians practicing in the province as of Mar. 31 of last year and no children have been sent out of the province for autism assessment.
Liberal MHA Christopher Mitchelmore asked for specific information about which government buildings are not covered by the government broadband initia- tive, and which communities do not have broadband Internet.
Innovation, Business and Rural Development Minister Terry French responded by explaining how much the government has spent on broadband Internet in the past few years, but did not directly answer Mr. Mitchelmore’s questions.
The Telegram followed up on the issue after Question Period. On the government broadband Initiative, no response was received by deadline, and as far as which communities don’t have broadband, The Telegram was told that information came from the telecom carriers, and it could not be released because it’s commercially sensitive.
Again and again, Liberal MHAs prefaced their questions by asking the Tory cabinet ministers to live up to their ‘ open government’ ethos.
They did get one firm answer, shortly after Question Period ended.
Liberal leader Dwight Ball asked repeatedly about the cost associated with an event held in the lobby of Confederation Building that morning to launch the Open Government Initiative.
Public Engagement minister Steve Kent told the Legislature the event cost $4,566.
St. John’s Telegram