A "waste of scarce resources" - that's how Children and Family Development Minister Mary Polak has described the children and youth representative's legal bid to force the government to give her access to confidential cabinet documents. The Campbell administration had wanted the representative to sign a protocol agreement prior to that happening, placing restrictions on the public release of the information in those documents. Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond refused, asserting she has a legal right to the records. Government disagreed, introducing an amendment to make sure its opinion prevailed. And now the matter is before the courts.
Reacting to that news, the minister also downplayed the representative's need to access cabinet documents - which Ms. Turpel-Lafond has said essential to completing an audit of the government's child in the home of a relative program.
"In spite of the perception that she utilizes cabinet documents on a regular and ongoing basis, that's just not the case. Since 2006, she has only ever made one request to MCFD for cabinet-related materials."
The minister said that material was "provided to her. It was based on a historical initiative that was no longer relevant. But that cabinet material hasn't been utilized in any published reports."
That conflicts with what Attorney General Mike de Jong said last week, telling the media none of the representative's requests for such documents had been filled.
Meanwhile, the representative isn't responding to interview requests about her court action. Instead, her office distributed the following email.
May 4th, 2010
The Representative for Children and Youth today applied to the Court for an order directing the Government to comply with a request for Cabinet submissions related to the Children in the Home of a Relative Program.
The Representative will not be speaking publicly on the matter as it is before the Court for decision, but provides the following statement:
"I have applied to the Court for an order to compel Government compliance with their obligations under the Representative for Children and Youth Act. I remain open to discussions to resolve the issue, but have exhausted all other options to get the material necessary to complete an audit and review of a vital program that impacts close to 5,000 children and youth in B.C."
(Statement from Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, Representative for Children and Youth).