foster care fiasco.

For many reasons, so much about politics in Alberta’s Legislative Assembly reminds me of the above scene from The West Wing.

I used to believe that the toughest job in the Alberta cabinet was held by Health & Wellness Gene Zwozdesky, but lately I am starting to believe that it is actually held by Children and Youth Services Minister Yvonne Fritz. Following this week’s shenanigans and resignation over foster care funding, it is clear that something is not functioning properly in our government.

On Monday morning, NDP leader Rachel Notley held a media conference leaking a public document that outlined changes to foster care funding in the Edmonton region. Ms. Notley claimed that the plan was to cut foster funding, and called on Minister Fritz to rescuing the new funding formula. She did and insisted that she told department officials not to cut support. Paula Simons raised the issue in her Tuesday column: Was Minister Fritz sabotaged? Does the Minister actually have a handle on the decisions being made inside the Minister of Children & Youth Services?

Minister Fritz was appointed to the portfolio in January 2010, replacing Banff-Cochrane MLA Janis Tarchuk, who had not excelled when faced with challenges in that Department.

Yesterday, Premier Ed Stelmach undoubtably breathed new life into the foster care issue by accusing the NDP of playing politics with the issue. While he may have been trying to save face, his point is somewhat well taken. Should Ms. Notley have brought the issue directly to Minister Fritz? Ms. Notley claims that if she had brought the issue directly to the Minister, it would have been buried (not an unjust assumption). At what point does this kind of political gamesmanship become irresponsible? Like so many issues raised in the Assembly, what was really accomplished when they devolve into this kind of weekly round-robin?

29 thoughts on “foster care fiasco.

  1. Tim Osborne

    I'm afraid that, once again, the public has been distracted from the real issue, which is that Children and Youth Services don't have the resources they need to effectively serve Children, Youth and Families in this province.

    Reply
  2. Art

    It's not Notley's job to hide the government's dirty little secrets.

    It's her job to let us know what the government is up to, and to hold the Tories accountable.

    And she's doing a fantastic job of it.

    Reply
  3. Richard M.

    If Notley truly cared about the children and families she would have brought the issue up to the Minister immediately, just like every other responsible MLA does. What she did was at best disgraceful, and at worst a huge embarassment to herself as an MLA, and as a person.

    Shameful all around. You can't play politics with children, it sickens me. Notley should resign.

    Reply
  4. Cliff

    What Art said. Stelmach's suggestion that his political opposition's responsibility was to quietly and politely tell the governemnt in private what they had discovered was utterly absurd and clueless.

    Reply
  5. Cliff

    So Notley should resign because she publicly pointed out that the government was saying one thing and doing another?

    Are you high?

    Reply
  6. Don

    If Notley had risked the funding by playing political games with it, that would be one thing. But her strategy of cornering the Minister served to restore the funding AND embarrass the government. I'm pretty sure that's about all you can ask of an opposition member.

    Reply
  7. Art

    Richard M.

    So Notley should have known that something done so blatently, and out in the open, was being done without the Minister's knowledge???? Give your head a shake.

    On the other hand, given the record of the Tories on this file, perhaps Notley shouldn't have given Fritz the benefit of the doubt.

    Incompetence or deception. I see the PAB has chosen it's line of defense.

    Reply
  8. Anonymous

    I don't think the point is well taken. Notley brought it up in a committee meeting with assurances that there would be no cuts and then cuts were announced to foster parents. How could she take it to the minister after that? She made it public. That seems reasonable to me given, as Paula Simons points out, the cut seemed petty and the government seemed to want it buried given their about-face on the issue.

    Reply
  9. Oliver Pete

    It's important to remember that Stelmach didn't just blame Rachel for failing to alert the minister to what was happening under her nose – he also blamed foster parents themselves:

    "had anyone notice of this, either a foster parent, or the member of the opposition, come directly to the minister and raised this issue, we would have been able to deal with it immediately rather than having some foster parents live through agony strictly for political purpose."

    Were foster parents supposed to assume that Fritz didn't know what was going on?

    Reply
  10. hatrock

    "At what point does this kind of political gamesmanship become irresponsible? Like so many issues raised in the Assembly, what was really accomplished when they devolve into this kind of weekly round-robin?"

    She should have still filed it with the minister, yet the point of government's irresponsibility began a long time ago.

    Reply
  11. Anonymous

    Notley herself admitted that she held onto the information for 3 and a half days after receiving it. I don't know about any of you, but if I held information like this for 3.5 days only for political purposes i would feel pretty bad about myself.

    I guess this shows alot about the character of the NDP. Politics first, welfare of children last. It's a wonder they get anyone to vote for them.

    Reply
  12. The Tone

    To quote Graham Thomson's column today, "So, the NDP held a secret from government about what was happening inside government?"

    Stelmach and Fritz owe Albertans an explanation and/or apologies over this debacle.

    Reply
  13. Anonymous

    I'm sorry, they are suggesting that passing along information that had been presented to a meeting of foster parents is somehow keeping and then leaking government secrets?

    So foster parents are privy to secrets?

    And the only way for the Minister to know what her department is saying to them is for foster parents to tell her?

    Really? No kidding, picking incompetence.

    Wow.

    Reply
  14. jerrymacgp

    I think Rachel did an awesome job with this. She cornered the government on a bad decision and got it reversed. As for the three and a half days: that's greased lightning in government.

    This is what an effective opposition can accomplish: hold the government of the day to account.

    Reply
  15. Zeno

    I must say, I can't fathom how going public with cuts that had already been presented to foster parents can fairly be construed as "playing politics" or "gamesmanship."

    Reply
  16. Anonymous

    I guess this shows alot about the character of the NDP.

    Would you agree with the Premier that it also says a lot about the character of foster parents who 'held onto' this info?

    Reply
  17. Anonymous

    Would you agree with the Premier that it also says a lot about the character of foster parents who 'held onto' this info?

    If only the foster parents (and Notley) told us what we were doing to them, it would have saved a lot of anxiety among MLAs. For shame!

    Reply
  18. calgary clipper

    Does it really matter who the Minister is? It is probably the bureaucrats who have been/still are and are likely to continue running the show.

    Reply
  19. Anonymous

    I don't understand why some think that Notley should have provided the contradictory information on foster care funding to the Minister directly, when the same Minister refused to answer in writing other questions posed by Mr. Chase. Go read the transcripts of estimates it's online.

    Budget documents are clear that Region 6 had their foster care funding cut back, so how were they supposed to manage that without impacting front line services ?

    Another curious issue that was pointed out to me was in the GOA own survey of its staff one question "The senior leadership of your ministry or department provides clear direction" of which only 54% agreed with this statement. If indeed this is the case it makes me wonder about the capacity issues in the public service. Perhaps not a big surprise considering the P.C. think everything should be privatized.

    You can view results by department by going to: http://www.chr.alberta.ca/corporate/eesurvey

    Reply
  20. Alvin

    Contrary to what Calgary Clipper says, the bureaucrats are NOT, in any meaningful way, running the show. They are being told to divvy up the money in a reduced budget and almost anything they come up with is going to come a cropper.

    The problem is that we have a government that refuses to tax either companies or individuals at the level that other provinces do (the average provincial tax bite for Albertans is less than half of what it is in other provinces though user fees reduce that gap considerably for most people). That leaves them and their underlings with few options other than to cheap out on essential programs.

    With the Right divided between two indistinguishable parties for the next election and perhaps the next election only, there is a once in a lifetime chance for the centre-left to devise a strategy to win the next election. They probably won't and bloggers can spend another generation complaining about the mistreatment of every group of disadvantaged Albertans. But there's always a window of hope.

    Alvin Finkel,
    Democratic Renewal Project (drp.ca)

    Reply
  21. Lou Arab

    The problem is that we have a government that refuses to tax either companies or individuals at the level that other provinces do (the average provincial tax bite for Albertans is less than half of what it is in other provinces though user fees reduce that gap considerably for most people). That leaves them and their underlings with few options other than to cheap out on essential programs.

    Well said Alvin, which is why your usual insistence that there is little difference between the NDP and the Liberals – who support Stelmach's latest royalty giveaway – so mind boggling.

    Reply
  22. Anonymous

    Can't believe people are still thinking that Notley had any obligation to take this directly to the minister when it was announced to parents by people who report to the minister and who, presumably, take directions from the minister. When you ask a direct question in committee and are given an answer, despite the troubling issue of the regional budget being reduced, and then you hear of regional cuts the minister said weren't going to happen, you still think the opposition MLA is playing political games to then take it to the media? You people are absolutely nuts.

    And Dave, why is this political gamesmanship? There's not even a whiff of irresponsibility here. Why are you saying this devolved into a weekly round-robin – whatever that means? This is good competitive democracy at it's best. Your antipathy to political competition is bordering on the insane.

    Reply
  23. Zita

    Oh Dave…there is so much more to this story…and I don’t even know the half of it…

    Speaking as the daughter of the new acting CEO of Region 6, I hope that Ms. Notley, the media and the rest of the province will remember that the CEOs and other individuals who hold these devastatingly stressful and difficult positions are regular human beings like the rest of us who are fully dedicated to the betterment of the province and the world (arguably more than any politician). They are often placed in lose-lose situations. Remember: Cabinet ministers shuffle often and aren’t always given the opportunity to transition into their new roles. Realistically, it is often the civil servant who has the most information, knowledge and experience- sadly, it is also the civil servant who gets crucified when things slip through the cracks of political bureaucracy.

    Rick Semel served Region 6 with dedication and enthusiasm- this region is one of the most difficult when it comes to CFSA, in large part because- by virtue of being the ‘capital region’- it often comes under heat (and misrepresentation) by politicians and the media.

    The world would be a better place if it had more individuals like Rick. He will be missed by our region.

    Reply

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