Blurring facts not a solution

Stikine MLA Doug Donaldson calls out the B.C. government for misleading people on social worker staffing levels.

I fully understand when a government has a different perspective on an issue from the opposition and decides to promote it through a media campaign.

But when they knowingly mislead it demeans parliamentary institutions and decreases public trust.

Such was the case exposed last week and it didn’t have anything to do with LNG, Site C, job numbers or the economy.

Unfortunately it was about services to vulnerable kids in the province.

The government began the fall sitting of the legislature with a news release Sept. 28 from Minister of Children and Family Development (MCFD) Stephanie Cadieux trumpeting the hiring of 110 new social workers.

They knew after a series of horrible human tragedies in the last six months that some good news was needed.

And it appeared to be good news indeed.

We have an under-resourced and overstretched child welfare system. Almost half the social workers at MCFD are carrying more than 30 cases a month when experts say best practices is 16-17.  So 110 new hires would help kids right at the front line.

Repeatedly in the legislature when we questioned the premier and minister during the last two weeks on the Sept. 18 death of Alex Gervais while in care, and other recent cases, their response would include the 110 new social workers hired. And, of course, the media reported this fact straight up.

Last Thursday the independent children’s representative Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond released a well-researched report on staffing levels in the ministry. She pointed out that we have 200 fewer social workers in MCFD than we did in 2002.

The government shot back that the report was dated since it only went to January 2015 and the 110 new hires were put in place this year.

Then the bombshell from the children’s representative.  Sure 110 were hired but the Ministry lost 91 social workers during the same period meaning a net gain of only 19.

The premier and minister must have known this was the case when they kept bringing the 110 number up in the legislature, yet said nothing.

That is unbecoming of a minister and it demeans the office of the premier.

Attempting to blur the fact that the front line is overstretched does nothing to help families, children and youth who need our support.