Liberal Leader Dwight Ball had to ask the same question seven times to get a straight answer out of Child, Youth and Family Services Minister Paul Davis Wednesday.
Child, Youth and Family Services Minister Paul Davis answers a barrage of questions in the legislature Wednesday about the child and youth advocate’s report. — Screen capture from the N.L House of Assembly website
For the second day in a row, the Liberals spent their entire time during question period asking about a report released this week by the child and youth advocate.
The scathing report details systemic failures on the part of the government which ultimately led to a troubled 16-year-old setting a building on fire, which killed another resident.
The 2011 Springdale Street fire was investigated by the child and youth advocate, who found a string of problems with the social services, police and health-care providers who were supposed to help the youth.
Davis has said he won’t commit to acting on any of the report’s 30 recommendations until he’s had a chance to digest the report and sit down to meet with child and youth advocate Carol Chafe.
During question period in the House of Assembly, Ball wanted to know if Davis got a copy of the report on Tuesday, the same as everyone else, or if he got an advance copy.
“I ask the minister: when did you first receive a copy of this report?” Ball asked.
Davis didn’t answer the question.
“My intention is to have a meeting with the child and youth advocate so we can have a full, frank, fair discussion about all the recommendations that are contained within that report,” Davis said, “so we can both have a full understanding of what her vision and view is.”
Ball tried again.
“The question was not answered,” he said. “The question is clear: when did you first receive a copy of the report?”
Again, Davis didn’t answer the question.
“Mr. Speaker, the final report was released (Tuesday) by the child and youth advocate,” Davis said. “She released it publicly yesterday morning. It was a public event.”
By the fifth time Ball asked essentially the same question, he pointed out Davis had already said publicly that he received an advance copy of the report.
“Well, in media reports it is saying there was a copy in advance given to the minister,” he said. “I ask the minister: when did you get the advance copy?”
Davis didn’t answer the question for a fifth time, instead referring to a meeting he had a couple months earlier with the child and youth advocate.
Davis said in that meeting, the upcoming report was discussed in passing.
“Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned, the final report was released (Tuesday),” Davis said. “The meeting I had with the child and youth advocate was a get-to-know-each-other opportunity so we could have a discussion about our roles and we could meet each other.”
It wasn’t until the seventh time that Ball asked essentially the exact same question that he got an answer.
“In the time frame between that meeting and the final copy being released, did you get an advance copy of this report?” Ball asked.
Davis said yes.
“There was a draft of the report that was provided by the child and youth advocate and I cannot give you the exact date, Mr. Speaker, offhand,” he said. “I cannot give you an exact date. It was within a week before this release occurred this week, is my recollection, and it was about that time. So, it was some time last week, but I cannot give you an exact date.”
Davis said he hasn’t yet had his meeting with the child and youth advocate, and won’t commit to accepting the recommendations of the report.