Last month, Mary Polak said she was "perplexed" about an accusation that her ministry has stopped responding to recommendations made by the government's independent child protection watchdog. But, according to records exclusively obtained by Public Eye via a freedom of information request, the watchdog privately raised that issue with the children and family development minister's top bureaucrat two months before going public with it.
In a letter sent to the bureaucrat on November 26, 2009, children and youth representative Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond wrote, "I have yet to receive a formal ministry response and summary of actions regarding the recommendations in RCY reports since 2007."
The representative then advised Minister Polak's deputy she would be publicly reporting on that issue when she next met with MLAs belonging to the legislature's select standing committee on children and youth.
Nine days later, the deputy - Lesley du Toit - sent this response: "I am pleased to know that you will be reporting to the Standing Committee. This is indeed the group to whom you are meant to report and I am uncertain as to why you would need to notify me of your intent."
So why was Minister Polak "perplexed" when the representative did just that on January 27, 2010?
Speaking with Public Eye, the minister said she knew about Mses. du Toit and Turpel-Lafond's letters.
But, after having a breakfast meeting with the representative on November 23, 2009, Minister Polak said she came away with the impression Ms. Turpel-Lafond "felt things had significantly improved in terms of sharing information since I had become minister."
"She left me no reason to believe that that reporting of hers (to the committee) would be as negative or that she would be saying what she did. She left me no reason to be believe that," added Minister Polak.
As for whether her ministry hasn't been responding to recommendations in the representative's reports, Minister Polak said she would need to look into the issue.
Although she added there "tends to be a splitting of hairs over what is a formal report or response and what isn't. And, secondly, there are times when - quite frankly - (Ms. Turpel-Lafond's) been wrong."
A government spokesperson later emailed Public Eye to say the ministry has formally responded to all but three of the representative's reports.
And, according to Minister Polak, the ministry will be responding to two of those reports now that Ms. Turpel-Lafond has presented them to the standing committee.
Ms. Turpel-Lafond's office declined to directly respond to the government's version of events.
But, in a prepared statement, the representative said, "People told me this job wouldn't be easy, but bringing public accountability and improved performance to the ministry is the purpose of my office."
"If I take 'no' for an answer, how will that help British Columbians understand if the system is working right for kids?"
The following is a complete copy of the aforementioned correspondence between Mses. du Toit and Turpel-Lafond, which also includes the deputy's refusal to give the representative any further personal briefings about a poorly understood effort to massively overhaul the way British Columbia's children are protected. Ms. Turpel-Lafond has challenged that refusal.