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Jul 292013
 
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Province appoints a brand new deputy minister of — wait a minute…

by Stephen Kimber

The historic news arrived in a press release from the Executive Council Office at 1:58 pm on Tuesday, July 23, landing in my email inbox without trumpets or the Glory-to-our-Glorious-Leader hosannas I would have expected on such a momentous occasion.

“Associate Deputy Minister Appointed to Chief Information Office,” the headline declared.

I was so overcome I couldn’t continue.

Finally, I thought, the Dexter government had seen the light. They’d decided to acknowledge the critical importance of free and open information to a functioning democracy by not only creating a new Chief Information Office —  “chief” making clear the government’s priority —  but also appointing someone at the associate deputy minister level…not quite a real deputy, but — to oversee dissemination of publicly paid-for government information to that public.

Now that Dexter has tamed the budget deficit beast, he finally has the chance to do what he had so clearly wanted to accomplish since the day he took office: let the sun shine in on government decision-making.

I admit I may have assumed this was a Saul/Darrell-like conversion on the road to Damascus/provincial election.  But still…

Their hearts were once in the right place.

You may recall the 2001 case of O’Connor v Nova Scotia, in which Dan O’Connor — now the premier’s powerful chief of staff — went to court seeking “detailed information related to a revision of certain government programs.” When the then-Tory government claimed key parts of those files were protected from prying eyes by cabinet confidentiality, O’Connor took his challenge to the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia.

He lost.

But now that Dexter has tamed the budget deficit beast — can you say balanced budget/four more years? — he finally has the chance to do what he had so clearly wanted to accomplish since the day he took office: let the sun shine in on government decision-making.

Consultant’s reports, cabinet briefings… all available for public scrutiny. A meaningful, searchable database disclosing who gave how much to which political party… a website click away. Government departments like Community Services facing real consequences for spending a year or more not answering freedom of information requests…

Enough of such reverie. I wanted to know more about the government’s detailed plan. Back to the press release.

“A new associate deputy minister has been appointed to lead the Chief Information Office as it continues to oversee the province's information technology systems and data network.”

Uh… someone to oversee IT. Really?

It must have been the heat. Or the rain. As you were.

About Stephen Kimber


Stephen Kimber is the Rogers Communications Chair in Journalism at the University of King's College in Halifax. He is an award-winning writer, editor and broadcaster.

His writing has appeared in almost all major Canadian publications including Canadian Geographic, Financial Post Magazine, Maclean's, En Route, Chatelaine, Financial Times, the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star and the National Post. He has written one novel — Reparations — and six non-fiction books. Website: http://www.stephenkimber.com.

© Copyright 2013 Stephen Kimber, All rights Reserved. Written For: StraightGoods.ca
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