Op­po­si­tion ques­tions Par­sons’ lack of brief­ing doc­u­ments

The Western Star - - Close To Home - BY JAMES MCLEOD SALTWIRE NET­WORK

Jus­tice Min­is­ter An­drew Par­sons says there’s noth­ing weird about the fact that he re­ceived only a sin­gle brief­ing doc­u­ment in the en­tire month of May.

May was a month when Par­sons an­nounced a new pi­lot project for a drug treat­ment court. He went to Her Majesty’s Pen­i­ten­tiary to work for a day as a cor­rec­tional of­fi­cer. The House of As­sem­bly was sit­ting for 15 days in May, so Par­sons was li­able to be asked at least a few ques­tions in the leg­is­la­ture. And on April 30, clerk of the ex­ec­u­tive coun­cil Bern Cof­fey re­signed amid con­tro­versy and ques­tions about con­flict of in­ter­est, so the gov­ern­ment was han­dling fall­out from that for a big chunk of May, too.

But ac­cord­ing to a pub­licly dis­closed re­sponse to an ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion re­quest, filed by CBC re­porter Peter Cowan, Par­sons got only one brief­ing doc­u­ment in the whole month. And the de­tails of that one brief­ing doc­u­ment are be­ing held in se­cret, be­cause they’re cov­ered by cab­i­net con­fi­den­tial­ity.

Par­sons told SaltWire Net­work that when it comes to prepa­ra­tions for ques­tion pe­riod and me­dia ap­pear­ances, he mostly just talks with the ex­ec­u­tives in his depart­ment, as op­posed to get­ting writ­ten brief­ing doc­u­ments.

“Given that I can’t re­fer to sheets, I try my best to, we talk through the is­sue, we pre­pare, we look at dif­fer­ent pos­si­bil­i­ties,” he said.

“Now, there would be com­mu­ni­ca­tions ma­te­ri­als, don’t get me wrong. But whether they are in that dis­clo­sure or not is not my de­ci­sion.”

Par­sons said com­mu­ni­ca­tions prep doc­u­ments that pre­pare him might not be con­sid­ered brief­ing doc­u­ments, but ei­ther way, that’s a de­ci­sion for the de­part­men­tal staff who ac­tu­ally fill the re­quests.

Op­po­si­tion Leader Paul Davis said all this is nuts; when he was a min­is­ter and when he was pre­mier, brief­ing doc­u­ments were a daily oc­cur­rence.

“I would re­ceive up­dated notes, es­sen­tially ev­ery day, go­ing into the House,” Davis said.

Even for some­thing as triv­ial as the photo-op at the prison, Davis said there should be some sort of doc­u­men­ta­tion — when to show up, what sort of clothes to wear, what to ex­pect.

Par­sons shrugged that off. “No, why would I need it? Why would I need a brief­ing?” he said, of the visit to Her Majesty’s Pen­i­ten­tiary.

On the ques­tion of Cof­fey’s res­ig­na­tion, Par­sons said he might have re­ceived some brief­ing on it, but since Cof­fey was em­ployed by Ex­ec­u­tive Coun­cil, a per­son would have to file an ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion re­quest to the pre­mier’s of­fice, in­stead of the Depart­ment of Jus­tice, be­cause the depart­ment wouldn’t have those doc­u­ments.

More broadly, Davis said that since win­ning gov­ern­ment, the Lib­er­als have been un­will­ing to an­swer sim­ple ques­tions and pro­vide pub­lic in­for­ma­tion, de­spite the fact that they cam­paigned on a prom­ise of greater trans­parency.

Par­sons didn’t have much time for that crit­i­cism.

“He doesn’t have a clue what he’s talk­ing about,” Par­sons said.

“The minute he knows what he’s talk­ing about I’ll re­spond to him, but I’ve got noth­ing to say to one of the au­thors of Bill 29.”


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