KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – We have written a lot on these pages about the so called Community Services Transformation, a multi-year project initiated by former Community Services Minister Joanne Bernard, and now overseen by Kelly Regan, the current minister of the department.
The initiative is mostly justified as a way to streamline delivery of the income assistance and employment support programs to the benefit of its clients.
However, during public meetings departmental bureaucrats also suggested that a second driver for the transformation is that delivery costs of the complex programs are becoming untenable. As well, departmental savings can obviously be realized if clients find work.
I wanted to know what those anticipated cost savings amounted to, so I submitted a Freedom of Information request:
From the directors level and above any emails, reports, spreadsheets, etc. pertaining to estimated future cost savings as a result of the Community Services Transformation Project. Time frame: from August 15, 2016 to August 15, 2018.
What I received is a PDF of what looks like three indistinguishable versions of the same Powerpoint presentation, with anything even remotely informative greyed out.
“The severed information is exempt from disclosure under the Act for the following reason(s): Section 14(1): advice by or for a public body,” a form letter tells me.
Just because the Act allows the department to withhold information doesn’t mean it must do so.
If a government initiative potentially will save money, possibly at the detriment of service levels, shouldn’t we be allowed to know how so, and how much?