Question Period: Dr. Eilish Cleary – December 10, 2015

The following is the preliminary Hansard transcript of the Question Period on December 10, 2015 recorded in the language it was originally spoken.

Mr. Coon: The Minister of Health said that he would provide information to this House about why our Chief Medical Officer of Health was unceremoniously dumped from her post if she gave her consent to do so. Yet, as I said in the House last week, Dr. Cleary has no more understanding of why she was targeted than the rest of us. Has the minister directed or have any of his colleagues actually directed anyone to seek Dr. Cleary’s consent to release the information that the minister claims to have? Yes or no?

Hon. Mr. Boudreau: I know that the member opposite was away . .

Hon. Mr. Boudreau: Sorry, I will retract that statement.
Mr. Speaker: Order.
Hon. Mr. Boudreau: The member opposite should know that this is an HR matter that falls under the responsibility of the deputy head and the Civil Service Act. That is why we cannot talk about HR matters on the floor of this Legislature. I know that the member is new, but he should know that. We have said that, if given consent, maybe we can provide more information within the scope of the Act. To date, we have not received that consent. Therefore, I cannot comment on the specifics of the situation other than to say, as I have said repeatedly in this House and outside this House, that it has nothing to do with the independence of the office. It has nothing to do with the work being conducted by the office.

Mr. Coon: In that case, let’s talk about the position. We are told that Dr. Cleary’s particular skill set no longer meets the needs of her employer. If Dr. Cleary’s skill set—for which she has won awards and is highly respected by her colleagues in the medical community and with which she guided New Brunswickers through the scary swine flu outbreak in our province and helped Sierra Leone and Liberia fight Ebola, one of the most odious infectious diseases on the planet—does not meet the needs of this government, can the minister please tell this House what kind of skill set his department will be seeking in its search for a new Chief Medical Officer of Health?

L’hon. M. Boudreau : Encore une fois, le député d’en face prend une partie de l’histoire et la présente comme s’il s’agissait de faits. Toutefois, parce que c’est une question de ressources humaines, nous ne pouvons pas commenter. Je ne sais pas à combien de reprises et de combien de différentes manières je devrai le dire, mais je ne peux pas commenter sur une question qui concerne les ressources humaines. J’ai déjà dit que, si nous obtenions le consentement de la personne touchée, je serais prêt à considérer ce qui pourrait être partagé tout en respectant les limites imposées par la loi. Jusqu’à maintenant, nous n’avons pas obtenu ce consentement, alors je ne peux rien dire, parce que c’est une question qui concerne les ressources humaines. Il y a maintenant plusieurs jours que nous répondons aux mêmes questions posées de différentes manières par différents parlementaires du côté de l’opposition.

Mr. Coon: Maybe I can go to the level of the public service. Kevin Lynch, a former Clerk of the Privy Council of Canada, wrote in the Globe and Mail last Saturday that “Restoring respect and trust in our public institutions is one of the primary challenges” facing us as politicians. He said that “signalling respect for the public service” is the very first step.

Suspending public servants without explanation and then firing them hardly signals respect. In fact, it spreads fear. It kills innovation and suffocates initiative within our public service. It is no way to treat our public service. Will the Minister of Health acknowledge whether he was made aware of a coordinated effort to construct a human resources case against Dr. Cleary to justify her removal?

Hon. Mr. Boudreau: I find it very interesting that the member opposite decided to use those quotes because that is exactly what we are trying to do here, which is to let the civil service do its job in this matter. This is a matter that falls under the Civil Service Act, and it is the department head that is responsible for this. The civil service is following the process. We have said very clearly that this is not politically motivated. The deputy head, in a very unprecedented way, put out a statement to say that this was not politically motivated. This does not affect the independence of the office. This does not affect the work being conducted by the office. This is a personnel matter that is being driven by the Civil Service Act and being handled accordingly. Because of that, we cannot comment on it on the floor of the Legislature.