Wasted experience

Earlier this week, Mary Polak called the children and youth representative's court action to get confidential cabinet documents a "waste of scarce resources." But it should also be noted the minister of children and family development was also involved in what some would call a was a "waste of scarce resources." Back when she was a Surrey school trustee, Ms. Polak and her colleagues passed a resolution declining to approve three books depicting same-sex parented families for use as teaching materials. The reason: the board felt those books might create controversy among parents who had a religious objection to the morality of same-sex relationships. That resolution resulted in a legal fight that went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada and cost the district $1.2 million. So which is more of a waste: an effort to get confidential cabinet documents or an effort to, in effect, ban three books from being used as teaching materials?

10 Comments

Good point Sean!

Over to you, Josef (as the primary - possibly only - defender of Precious Princess Polak).

As the kids would say 'Buuuuuurn!'

...and, not to nit pick, but aren't there resources and budgets in place right now to facilitate the release of government documents? *slaps forehead* Oh right. What WAS I thinking.

Third time, this time w/o hyperlinks. You're just going to have to Google for the quotes, I suppose.

Here's the problem: The community of Surrey demanded that its trustees (such as then-trustee Mary Polak) fight the imposition of same-sex books. Being a democracy, they did just that. But being sane and responsible, it was Mary Polak who after the Supreme Court ruling and after the previous BCNDP and the current BCLib government made little to no effort whatsoever to provide guidance decided to do two things:

1) Quash the original books on decent grounds to give herself maneuvering room to...

2) Form a committee to find replacements one that included the plaintiff Mr. Chamberlain because in the words of Polak “There’s no sense dragging it out”. In the end, to quote Mary Polak herself, “Surrey became the first school district in the province to approve curriculum materials for primary grades dealing with same-sex families. That’s a fact.” In fact, Mary Polak said, “I am quite confident that anyone who wants to review my record on the matter of the three books will find that I have never been known to hold antigay or homophobic sentiments. I would be one of the first to decry those. ... I have a very libertarian view when it comes to how public education and the state ought to operate. In my view, the state always has to be very careful not to stray into areas of private morality. Whether or not it is the topic of same-sex families or schools talking about religion, it is that same kind of determination.”

I know that's long-winded, but the truth is rarely binary code. Trust me, being a Polak booster very much requires doing something I love doing - namely studying history.

Problem is, the current situation w/ Judge Turpel-Lafond is quite different. It'd be like then-Trustee Polak had some guidance (like Judge Turpel-Lafond got a deal for her first batch), then went back on it when it mattered in the million$ of taxdollars.

I'm sure a long-overdue debate on cabinet confidentiality and its limits will be had. But just remember... you're playing with somebody who knows how to hold a great debate and come out on the winning side in Mary Polak :-). Cheers!

Sorry for the problems replying. I seem to have caught the flu.

Well said, Sean. The adversarial relationship between the ministry and the Representative is nothing new, and it's not a working relationship that should be too collegial, in my view. But Minister Polak has taken it to a new low. By deliberately witholding material the Representative needs to do her job, all she achieves is to strengthen Ms. Turpel-Lafond's resolve and to make herself look bad.

Of course, the good minister is no doubt taking her orders from on high. And the Premier's office's approach to the Basi-Virk case, to uncwelcome FOI requests and anything else they don't like shows the same asinine, you-can't-come-into-our-tree-fort attitude.

It's ironic, and maddening, when you recall how this administration trumpeted itself as "open, accountable and transparent" when it first came into office.

The court case the Representative has had to launch in order to get information that should be hers as a matter of course is a "waste of scarce resources," if you take the view that Mary Polak is allowing the public purse to fund a political defense.

And since "the matter is before the courts" shouldn't she be keeping Kash Heed company on the back benches until it's resolved? Just a thought.

I see you don't believe in the centuries of cabinet confidentiality traditions and logic, very valid point. Sure, the Premier tried Open Cabinet meetings - and they flopped. No debate, no real fireworks - just PR messaging. Perhaps, just as w/ the gay books, MCFD Min Polak and her libertarianism plus shrewd political mind (on par w/ Jean Chrietien (sp?), Gordon Campbell and Stephen Harper) has decided a masterstroke of seeking judicial guidance that will end in a most responsible, centrist and mavericky result before the courts. We for open government just may be toasting Mary Polak this time next year... :-).

But MCFD Min Mary Polak, MLA a suspect in a criminal investigation instead of a document dispute? I've always considered you more sane than me around these parts.

Gosh I thought Josef was going on holidays for awhile but it seems he is doing the usual theme of trying to convince the world that Polak is right, which we all seem to agree( except Josef) that is not always the case. But in a democratic society he can and no doubt will keep trying. wonder what he thinks of question period for the last two days as DeJong was arguing he is right and everyone else is wrong/ But I guess that's another subject.

Hi, Josef. I don't think I'm quite ready to credit the minister with a masterstroke. But fair point about my Kash Heed cheap shot. I was just being deliberately provocative because, well, I don't like the woman. And my kids are driving me crazy today.

I agree with you about the Open Cabinet show - it was pretty silly.

Thanks ace :-). Time will tell if Mary Polak is going for gold... or being a party-line toer for the Premier.

Re: AVoter | May 6, 2010 3:49 PM | Reply

Oh and QP, I was only happy when de Jong apologized for the whole mess re: Heed. Frankly, I'm all for a new election in that riding and expelling the staffers from the party.

Thinking it over, I can't say I'm axiomatically opposed to protocol agreements around Cabinet documents. Such agreements exist for a reason and they have their place. I'm just not certain that underpinning information given to an independent office of the Legislature is an appropriate place.

I don't think the public interest is served when a putatively independent office, created specifically as a watchdog, has terms dictated to it by the government it's meant to scrutinize.

Presumably the government had enough confidence in Ms. Turpel-Lafond's judgement and discretion to appoint her to the job in the first place. So why hamper her work, and in so doing create the impression of secrecy? If anything is wasting public resources, it's all these delaying and avoidance tactics.

Uh-folks remember practice change? Dutoit must be in her office laughing cause even with her 200k+ salary and 2k monthly 'homeless' allowance she couldn't pay someone to create so much distraction especially with Polak set to take the fall. What's gonna cause more problems for kids in trouble-some beurocrat (yes-Turpel lafont is one)not getting some document to make a point in some report that goes nowhere or having some already overworked social worker not being abel to help him because of this practice change?

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