30 March 2011

The New Dave Denine

His name is Harry Harding.

Kathy Dunderdale made him a cabinet minister.

Minister of Government Services is his official title.  Minister of permits and licenses is how he is sometimes known.  It is not an especially demanding portfolio.

On Tuesday, Harry wound up caught like a deer in the headlights.

The opposition leader asked him a simple question about his departmental responsibilities.

She did it during Question Period.

She asked about a major issue within his department:

Mr. Speaker, the Workers’ Compensation Commission has completed an audit on the Department of Government Services’ compliance with their own health and safety legislation. Shockingly, Mr. Speaker, what that audit found is that the Department of Government Services and the Department of Human Resources are only compliant with 50 per cent of their own rules.

I ask the Minister of Government Services today: Why is your department only following 50 per cent of your own rules, and is that the level of compliance that is expected or acceptable to you?

Harry had an answer. 

Here it is, in its entirety:

Certainly, our department welcomes any comments and recommendations by the Auditor General. Our department has fulfilled most of these recommendations throughout the years.

With respect to the question that she has asked today, I would like to check further with my officials and bring back an answer for her tomorrow.

Thank very much, Mr. Speaker.

Auditor general?

Okay.  So he was thinking on his feet.  Maybe it was a slip of the tongue.

Check further with officials and get back to her.


Then it got better.  Opposition Leader Yvonne Jones went further:

Mr. Speaker, not only is the department failing to meet their own rules, we have also learned on Thursday that they are getting rid of three co-ordinators who are responsible for safety within the social sector. They include HRLE, Government Services, Health and Community Services, Municipal Affairs, Education, Labour Relations, Government Purchasing Agency, Fire and Emergency Services.  So, Minister, maybe you will know the answer to this question [:]

Given that your department is clearly not compliant with your own rules, how do you justify getting rid of staff who are working on bringing up the level of compliance in your particular department?

Harry didn’t know anything about it.

So he went back to the line that he would check into it and get back to Jones on Wednesday.

Maybe Jones is wrong.

That’s a favourite line of the government benches.

They might be right this time.  But if Harding was on top of his department he’d have been able to bat that one out of the park easily.

Obviously he just didn’t know.

So he had to check.

And incidentally, that idea that the Opposition  has its facts wrong is a shop-worn one the Gang that Couldn’t Shoot Straight like to use. 

They have used it even  when - as in the Abitibi expropriation – the opposition has all the facts right and the government is caught flatfooted day after embarrassing day.

This one is looking interesting.

It could be that cabinet now has a brand new Dave Denine to go along with the one they already have.

- srbp -