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Stonewalled: a story with legs

by Robert Devet

Zach Churchill, the minister responsible for Communications Nova Scotia, has asked for a review after the Halifax Media Co-op was stonewalled. Sometimes it is much easier to just be honest...
Zach Churchill, the minister responsible for Communications Nova Scotia, has asked for a review after the Halifax Media Co-op was stonewalled. Sometimes it is much easier to just be honest...

KJIPUKTUK (HALIFAX) –  A failed attempt by the Halifax Media Co-op to get a clear response from the Department of Community Services has triggered a review by Communications Nova Scotia (CNS).

Earlier we reported how a Freedom of Information request showed that it took 20 civil servants at the department 15 days to respond to our questions. The response consisted of a couple of paragraphs devoid of meaning.

Last week the Chronicle Herald reported that Zach Churchill, the minister responsible for CNS, has asked for a review.

“The minister said the Halifax Media Co-Op example makes a review timely. But after recently taking over the portfolio, Churchill said, he wanted to look at the process anyway to make sure it is working,” the Chronicle Herald writes.

But whether the review will get to the heart of the matter remains to be seen.

Emails suggest that the final decision to ignore the questions came from a senior bureaucrat rather than the departmental spokesperson employed by CNS.

In fact, it appears that a full draft response was nearly completed when a decision was made to change direction.

“I am going to speak to Nancy. Thank you, but no further work on this response is necessary,” writes CNS spokesperson Lori Errington in an internal email to civil servants who worked on a response.

The Nancy in question is Nancy MacLellan, Associate Deputy Minister of Community Services.

Shortly after that exchange a response was sent to the Halifax Media Co-op.

The results of the informal review will not necessarily be made public, says CNS spokesperson Brian Taylor.

“If there are procedural changes to communications protocol or with regards to media relations, those changes will be shared with the media,” writes Taylor in an email to the Halifax Media Co-op.

Taylor doesn't commit to discussions with media representatives to inform the review.

We already talk with reporters on a regular basis, he writes, in particular with members of the Press Gallery.

Follow Robert Devet on Twitter @DevetRobert


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