Rogers still waiting for written AES Policy

St. John's Centre MHA Gerry Rogers

NDP MHA Gerry Rogers (St. John’s Centre) says she has yet to see a written policy from the Minister of Advanced Education and Skills; the policy was strongly recommended by the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner in a letter dated Jan. 22.

For more than a year, Rogers has been trying to get a straight answer from AES Minister Joan Shea as to why her constituency assistant has to direct constituent inquiries to Shea’s executive assistant, rather than the public servants who formerly dealt with such questions. AES staff have been instructed not to speak to Opposition MHAs, and Shea has given Rogers no acceptable reasons for this. The NDP MHA says the practice is spreading to other departments.

“This political interference is a highly unusual practice. It prevents MHAs from doing the job they were elected to do, advocating for their constituents,” said Rogers.

“My constituency assistant sends these questions, from the most vulnerable people, in the most desperate of circumstances, to the minister’s executive assistant. When the EA finds time in what I imagine is an already busy schedule, she contacts the public servants, and then when she finds time again, she gets back to my CA,” said Rogers. “This is an absolutely and completely unacceptable way to treat people who are desperate for answers, and I am outraged that they do not seem to be taking it seriously.”

When Rogers questioned this time-consuming and privacy-infringing process, Shea’s office told her it was policy. Rogers then asked for a copy of the policy. Eventually, the department admitted there was no formal and written policy.

Rogers took her concerns to the Privacy Office last year. In a letter dated Jan. 22, that office advised Shea that “if the Department wishes to continue using this practice, a formal policy should be drafted.” The OIPC letter also says, “We ask that you respond to this letter and recommendation within 30 days.”

“The 30-day time period ended yesterday,” said Rogers. “I have heard no indication that the policy is being drafted and written, and certainly I have seen no finished product.

“AES is a huge department, dealing with everything from universities to people with disabilities. I want to know that somebody, preferably the minister, is taking the concerns of the privacy commissioner seriously.”

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