CRAIG RICHENBACK, CJCD: The Minister of Education, Culture and Employment on a bit of a hot seat this afternoon at the Legislative Assembly. CJCD Mix 100 News Director John McFadden is there and explains why.
MCFADDEN: ECE Minister Jackson Lafferty was asked by Weledeh MLA Bob Bromley just exactly what he's doing to rectify problems revealed in a report by the Auditor General of Canada last week. It found systemic problems with the way the department doles out social assistance. Bromley says he's heard that trying to apply for welfare can be a rude, demeaning experience for those in need of assistance. The Member cites one case in particular where the paperwork for a disabled person applying for assistance was lost. He says that left her without food and literally shivering in the cold. As he said last week, Minister Lafferty says the department is aware of the problems, takes them seriously and is doing what it can to remedy the situation. He could not tell Bromley whether ECE had med a January 2013 deadline to initiate what's known as an audit tool in response to the scathing report. Covering the Legislative Assembly, John McFadden, CJCD Mix 100 News.
CJCD Radio, Wednesday, March 13, 2013, 6:00 a.m.
JOHN MCFADDEN, CJCD: Just what kind of people work for the GNWT's income assistance department and who, if anyone, is overseeing them? That question front and centre in the Legislative Assembly yesterday. Weledeh MLA Bob Bromley read a poem written by one of his constituents detailing her struggles to get income assistance. Miranda Curry suffered a serious brain injury two winters ago while kite skiing on Great Slave Lake. Her poem details the rude and demeaning treatment she received from a government employee. Miranda was asked if that worker should be fired.
CURRY: I'd like to think that I have compassion. I think if that person looked back at that moment, I'd like to think that they would feel a little bit bad about the way they acted, but they had, you know, a bad day or maybe someone else yelled at them just before I came in or whatever, but I think that they should be supported.
CJCD: For his part Bromley says he has no faith that the Minister responsible, Jackson Lafferty, is doing anything to rectify the situation.
BROMLEY: Well I have not heard any common sense answer, anything that tells me the Minister is on top of this, the Minister is going to go after this. I have very little confidence. This is not a new situation. Even this person that wrote the poem acknowledges that there are people that mistreat the system. That's a reality too, but that's no reason to treat people the way she obviously was treated.
CJCD: This all follows a scathing audit last week that indicated incompetence and mismanagement are commonplace in the entire GNWT social assistance department.
CJCD Radio, Wednesday, March 13, 2013, 8:00 a.m.
JOHN MCFADDEN, CJCD: Rude and demeaning, just two of the words used by Weledeh MLA Bob Bromley to describe the treatment one woman received when she tried to get on social assistance. Bromley told the Legislative Assembly yesterday that it wasn't Miranda Curry's fault that her payments were delayed. He says staff at the income assistance department run by the GNWT lost her paperwork not once, but several times. Bromley says the department has had time to get its act together, but hasn't done so.
BROMLEY: And this department is failing both in what they should be doing and what they say they're going to do. Their response was made some months ago. So there was lots of time to get that audit tool in place according to the commitment for January of 2013. So, yeah, I'm disappointed.
CJCD: Ms. Curry was emotional as Bromley read a poem written by her in the Assembly. It outlines her struggles to get assistance.
CURRY: I'm on this side of the story now. I never thought I would be there and that's the thing. Anyone could be there and everyone pays taxes and they deserve to be treated well and to have some safety and security in that time so that they can use their energy to get better as opposed to just worrying about basic needs.
CJCD: Miranda suffered a serious brain injury on Great Slave Lake while kite skiing two winters ago. Her story follows an audit last week that shows serious mismanagement and incompetence in the GNWT social assistance department.
CKLB Radio, Wednesday, March 13, 2013, 8:30 a.m.
JOSH CAMPBELL, CKLB: Income assistance needs work and the Weledeh MLA says it's not getting done. There was some reaction yesterday to the recent Auditor General's report claiming issues with the Department of ECE. Josh Long has more.
LONG: Miranda Curry used to be self-employed until she got a head injury in November 2011. The way she sees it, more than plexi glass separates her and the public servants charged to help her. MLA Bob Bromley recounts a poem Curry wrote detailing her experience walking into a government office three months after she took steps to get income assistance.
BROMLEY: March 2012, still no supportive income and I wonder why I am sitting at your desk with a tear in my eye. You look up from that folder of papers, you notice and say "Don't you start to cry, crying won't get you anywhere with me."
LONG: The most recent verse of Curry's poem was from February 2013 in which she braved sub-zero temperatures in her home because she didn't get her home heating subsidy on time. The poem's writer says it has been tough and that income assistance isn't working for her.
CURRY: I wanted to have this poem read today because I want to have a voice for people, all of the people who don't have a voice to say that the way that it's currently operating, it's not acceptable.
Read Miranda Curry's poem here:
(The poem starts on p.3.)
LONG: Bromley asked the Minister responsible for the service if he'd followed through on one of the recommendations from the Auditor General's report released last week. Minister Jackson Lafferty says he takes the recommendations his department agreed to seriously, but didn't directly answer the question. Bromley took that to mean it hadn't been done.
BROMLEY: Again, this department is failing both to what they should be doing and what they say they're going to do. So, yeah, I'm disappointed.
LONG: After Bromley read Curry's poem, Lafferty walked out to see the author in the great hall. He hugged Curry and spoke with her. The Education, Culture and Employment Minister didn't speak directly to reporters, but in the exchange you can hear him thanking her for sharing her story. We apologize for the audio quality.
CURRY: Thanks, I really appreciate that.
LAFFERTY: Sharing with us
CURRY: That you know that I'm a person too, thank you.
LONG: Lafferty told her this would be taken care of. Bromley responded with some hopeful remarks in a CKLB interview.
BROMLEY: Well I think that's a great indication. I really wish he'd said that in the House, publicly, but if he did that, and I believe you, that's good news and I will be trying to make sure that I follow up and make sure that happens.
LONG: The Auditor General's recommendation Bromley referred to in question period dealt with an auditor's tool that was supposed to be in place by January 2013. Josh Long, CKLB News, Yellowknife.
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