Today, the province's children and youth representative criticized the government for not doing enough to implement the Hughes Review's recommendations. But, in response, Children and Family Development Minister Tom Christensen said the Campbell administration isn't taking an approach "where - to the letter of each recommendation - we must be able to satisfy it completely." Instead, "what we've said is we want to address those recommendations in the context in which they were offered and within our own Strong, Safe and Supported plan which we have offered to the public."
In the representative's second Hughes Review progress report, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond stated "budgeting, planning and implementation" of that plan - which was prepared "without collaboration or input" from her office - hasn't been completed. Nor is it "clear what targets or performance measures will indicate realization of that plan."
For his own part, though, Minister Christensen stated he is "very proud" of the Strong, Safe and Supported, which is "really the result of about two years of work by the ministry in developing how it was we are going to move forward to improve outcomes for children and families across the province."
"I am confident this ministry is on the right path," he continued. "I can tell you that, over the past number of months, as I've been out talking to frontline workers, to families that are served by the ministry, to a number of our stakeholders that are contracted service providers, that they are confident that Strong, Safe and Supported provides a strong road map to the future for this ministry and we are moving down the right path."
As part of that journey, Minister Christen said the ministry will "get to the date" where a Hughes Review recommendation - such as the establishment of the representative's office - will be completed. "But there many others that are actually ongoing process-type recommendations that are going to require continual effort to ensure we continue to improve what we're doing so it impacts children and families in the way we want it."
At least one recommendation, however, won't be followed. "In respect to the process of establishing regional authorities - that is not a road the ministry is moving down at this point," said Minister Christensen. "Mr. Hughes made that recommendation at a time where the ministry had committed to establishing distinct regional authorities. A decision has been made, over the last couple years, that that is not a path we want to do in terms of setting up independent authorities."
Although, "we do continue, certainly, to regionalize decision-making in terms of the ministry's five regions and, with aboriginal peoples, continue to work very closely with them in terms of trying to identify what are the structures that will enable First Nations and other aboriginal people to have very direct input to improving services to First Nations children and families in communities across the province."
And what about Ms. Turpel-Lafond's complaint that her office isn't "consulted regularly when major shifts in policy or changes" are contemplated or conducted? "The representative is an independent officer of the legislature," Minister Christensen responded. "Government is still going to develop policy. Government is still going to set the direction that any ministry of government goes. And certainly we welcome the representative's input and reflection on that."
"But, at the end of the day, government is still going to be making decisions about how it is this ministry should work, how it is other ministries should work, where additional investments should be made, how it is we want to be interacting with First Nations. And I don't think that should surprise anyone. I can't think of another independent officer that is in a position to sort of direct how government should operate."
Although Minister Christensen added the ministry and the representative have "talked about the opportunity to try to work on joint reports. That's going to require considerable collaboration. We're exploring the opportunity to do that. But we haven't come to any agreement as to how you could actually effectively prepare a joint report while still respecting her office's independence. So I think there's still work to do on that."