Liberal House Leader Andrew Parsons says it defies belief that the health minister’s executive assistant was meddling in opposition business without her boss knowing about it.
The Liberals set up a meeting about radiation oncology within Eastern Health, but last week the meeting was cancelled after a call from Health Minister Susan Sullivan’s executive assistant.
When Parsons brought the issue up in the legislature Monday, Sullivan seemed to be blindsided by it.
“I will certainly investigate. As I have stated twice now, I had no idea that any meeting with an outside organization — for example, Eastern Health — was either scheduled or cancelled,” she said. “I have no knowledge of that.”
A few days later, after she had a chance to investigate, her director of communications told The Telegram that Sullivan had nothing to do with stepping in to cancel the opposition’s meeting.
“The minister had nothing to do with the rescheduling of this meeting,” director of communications Jennifer Tulk wrote in an email.
“When the size and scope of the meeting changed, the department wanted to ensure the opposition had access to whoever was needed to make sure they got all the information required. This is a role the department regularly plays to ensure all parties receive briefings regarding policy issues. The opposition was not interested in having other relevant departmental officials present at the meeting and as a result the meeting has been re-scheduled with Eastern Health.”
Parsons tells a different version of things.
He said he was looking to talk to the medical professionals about radiation oncology issues, and that never changed.
“It’s the minister’s office that said the meeting changed in size and scope even though Eastern Health and the official Opposition had known for at least a week who was going to be there, where it was going to be and the topic of discussion,” he said.
Parsons said that when the minister’s executive assistant got in touch with him, she wanted a complete list of the Liberals’ questions before they would schedule a meeting.
“It’s blatant political interference,” he said. “It’s our job as policy-makers and legislators and people that deal with, I guess, public policy, to get as informed as possible. We do that by meeting with the professionals.”
The whole thing seems to have blown over, because Sullivan’s office has stepped aside, and the original meeting has been rescheduled.
But Parsons said the notion that Sullivan wasn’t in the loop is hard to believe.
“If the minister wasn’t aware, then what the hell is going on in her department?” he said. “If the minister doesn’t know that her executive assistant is doing this, then that is a troubling, troubling issue. That’s very concerning.”