Things have been quiet for a very long time with regards to FOIPOP. The province’s approach of “ignore it until it goes away” almost worked.
I’ve been meaning to write this for a while now, and have simply been too busy. I have some time off this week and the Liberal party reminded me. Thanks, Kevin.
You can see the current status of the province’s response to FOIPOP. There’s still a lot of unfinished work, 18 months later.
I attended the Liberal AGM on the May 24 weekend in Antigonish, thanks largely to an email to Young Liberals regarding a lunch meeting with the Premier.
… Why not join our Young Liberal crew and the Premier for a bite and a chat in Antigonishfirstname.lastname@example.org; 22/05/2019
That’s right – our Young Liberal delegation is having a private lunch with Premier Stephen McNeil this Saturday, May 25th at AGM 2019.
I attended and participated in a few sessions. One talk by Darren Fisher about innovation in Nova Scotia was particularly interesting if a bit out of touch with my experience in the private sector. That lead to a very productive (no sarcasm at all; it really was) conversation about the public sector preception of industry vs the boots on the ground, which I should write about some other time. I also learned a ton of information about riding association processes, and that political party AGM’s are about one step removed from a cult.
The primary reason for going was to have a chance to ask McNeil some rather pointed questions (mp3) about the safeguards in place when a deputy minister relays information that isn’t true. Or more bluntly, lies. No one said they had to be politically convenient questions.
The Premier’s chief of staff,
Mrs. Ray Ivany Laurie Graham (she was promoted early this year), can be heard trying to shut down this conversation halfway through. Once everyone left for lunch I moved over to the Premier’s table to talk about the issue a bit less publicly, and his assistant tried to shut that down too. I sadly don’t have a recording of when Graham cornered me afterwards and told me off for not showing enough respect.
It was at this point that, in my mind, it was confirmed the Premier was relying solely on other-than-factual briefings and, between his chief of staff and the deputy ministers, someone had shielded him from the truth.
I then followed up via email. There was a provincial round table, I sat behind Graham, and could see the Premier in the back row. It was a perfect time to email them both, so I could watch their reactions.
Hi Laurie,Email sent to Laurie Graham and Premier McNeil 25/05/2019
We met today. You didn’t have a card, so taking a best guess at your email.
As Chief of Staff for the Premier, I hope its not unreasonable to assume you will consider what I’m saying.
There was a breakdown of process within internal services that allowed the FOIPOP issue to occur as it did. I can show very clearly where that happened if given the oppurtunity. As can many others.
I have no doubt the Premier truly believed what he said about the young man, because that’s what came up the chain of command. What happens when the information is untrue? There are no checks and balances; unemployment only works if the Premier knows he’s been lied to.
It is my opinion, and that of the local and international tech communities including the EFF, that what happened was wrong. To this day, no one has been held accountable and all attempts to do so by other parties have been stonewalled.
I was at the news briefing when Michael Pickup presented his findings. Minister Arab’s position at that time, and by extension that of the cabinet, is that so many people dropped the ball, that no one person can be held accountable.
There are in fact two people who can and should be held accountable. They misled the cabinet, the police, and the public. Deputy Minister Jeff Conrad, and CIO Sandra Cascadden are directly responsible for the issue, and the subsequent coverup. I don’t use that term lightly.
They were appointed by a Conservative government, and later served Dexter. These are career bureaucrats.
I choose to believe the Premier simply doesn’t know he was misled. I’d also argue that’s not an excuse anymore.
Please take this seriously. We can’t have bureaucrats without accountability.
The Premier looked upset, and I could see him surreptitiously texting someone from the stage, Graham’s phone then lit up and she turned around and saw me sitting behind her. I’d argue this is the precise moment where ignorance stopped being an excuse.
I didn’t hear anything back, so I sent another salvo a few days later. This time I explained that I was there as a Liberal (technically true) and name-dropped a few important people (I’ve removed their names here)
Laurie,Email sent to Laurie Graham and Premier McNeil 28/05/2019
You made the comment that part of democracy is agreeing to disagree.
It dawned on me we never agreed what we were disagreeing about. I do know this; We are a representative democracy which is not congruent with unelected bureaucrats holding effectively zero accountability.
Raiding a teenagers home for downloading public documents was not an outcome anyone who understood the situation supported. Nor is the continued lack of accountability.
Ian Burke’s information to police was taken at face value. I’ve read the warrant. It was also missing key information such as how the province posted protected information to an unprotected public portal.
The search was granted under the pretense the province was “hacked” when, in fact, Cascadden and Deputy Minister Conrad had already been briefed otherwise. C-51’s relief for those with ‘colour of right’ was usurped. Chief Blais even said police were misled as keynote at Atlseccon ’19.
You asked for proof the Infosec team lost people. Start with Robert Samuel who publicly left his job as CISO in Janurary, right before the Auditor General’s report was released. You also lost a CSO4, and a Cyber Security manager. From my understanding there were a few early retirements as well.
We can agree to disagree. That doesn’t change reality. I’m happy to continue this conversation.
I’m not asking you to revisit past decisions. I’m asking you to ensure you’re making them based on truth going forward. As you said, the only accountability for public servants who serve at your leisure is unemployment.
I was not there as a protestor. I was there as a Liberal. My grandfather Mr. X was honoured at the awards dinner. My family are Liberals.
I am however disappointed that the process failed and that the Cabinet continues to let it slide. I can’t support what happened. Or stand by while unelected officials, appointed by Rodney Macdonald, cost the Liberal party support in the next election.
Sometimes people disagree because what has happened is wrong. Staff betrayed the public trust. All we can do is prevent it from happening again.
I tried to head this whole thing off from the beginning before it became politicized. Mr Y‘s son did as well. You’re a very hard man to reach.
2 Days Later
It’s hard to say with certainty whether this is just an amazing coincidence, or whether all hell rained down after my stunt at the AGM.
I don’t believe in coincidences, but I also don’t believe the government can move this quickly. The Premier took steps to verify (apologies to Mr. Y as I’ve been told I’m responsible for a very uncomfortable phone call), so I’m leaning towards the latter.
Service Nova Scotia and Internal Services will merge… Current Internal Services Minister Patricia Arab will be the minister of this merged department in addition to her role as Minister of Communications Nova Scotia.https://novascotia.ca/news/release/?id=20190530001
It turns out Deputy Ministers can be fired. I’m reminded of a scene from the movie 300; that shows gods can bleed. King Leonidas easily could have killed the god-king. Instead, he disfigured him, proving to everyone, forevermore, that he was no god.
I don’t believe for a second his retirement was planned, or mutual. I spoke with people in the department who indicated it came as a surprise. There was no selection process for a replacement, there was no continuity planning, they literally merged away what was left of internal services.
There’s a culture in Nova Scotia where public officials can do no wrong. They’re either protected by public sector unions, are responsible for investigating themselves, or sometimes even both. Anyone who complains is a “shit-disturber” and blacklisted. The only reason I was in the news regarding FOIPOP, to begin with, is I don’t directly depend on government contracts for work. Anyone they’d normally use refused to speak up.
It seems that we, the people, can hold them accountable, as long as you ignore everyone telling you it’s impossible.
I trust Cascadden will remember this as she takes on her new role managing the “One Person, One Record” project. I also know the history of that project and of her personal involvement, so I’m terrified health care will now literally end up tied to a Hotmail account instead of something sane. Long story.
In closing, Conrad’s retirement should serve as a warning to public sector officials who think they can get away with this shit.