airing dirty laundry

For some reason, Dennis Fentie and his cabinet believe they are in the laundry business. Take, for example, Victoria, BC-based Hold Fast Consultant…

For some reason, Dennis Fentie and his cabinet believe they are in the laundry business.

Take, for example, Victoria, BC-based Hold Fast Consultant Ltd.’s recent School Feasibility Study: Final Report.

The sole-sourced contract cost the Yukon $79,360.

The government commissioned the report after one of its candidates promised a school in Copper Ridge during a by-election.

The issue of whether there will be a new school, what grades it will accommodate and where will it be built, if at all, is an issue of substantial public interest.

The consultant — presumably an expert in the field with no vested interest in the local school issue — examined the numbers, held public meetings and then compiled the information in an easy-to-digest report along with a recommendation or two.

That report, paid for with public funds, should be released.

And then, sometime later, the government can accept or reject its findings for whatever reasons it deems relevant.

That’s a healthy, open process.

All the cards are on the table.

But that doesn’t happen anymore.

The Fentie government loves to commission reports to put off decisions.

And then, once the report is received, if it doesn’t say what the government wants, it monkeys with the document (launders it) to advance its pre-set agenda.

“The fact is that the final report has not been received,” Education Minister Patrick Rouble told the house this week.

But, curiously, Hold Fast’s finished document was delivered to school superintendent Lee Kubica on May 23.

It is finished, said Hold Fast’s Bruce McAskill.

The company is doing no other work for the department and it has been fully paid for its report.

The department hasn’t signed off on Hold Fast’s work yet, said Rouble.

The document is being checked for accuracy and completeness, Rouble told reporters on Wednesday. (Remember, he told the house, “The final report has not been received.”)

The consultant was asked to do revisions, said Rouble.

Reminded that McAskill considers the document complete, Rouble was asked when, precisely, the tweaks were requested.

He didn’t know. And he wouldn’t commit to having his department officials provide the date to reporters.

Pressed, he said the revisions were requested in the last couple of months.

Reminded that the document was delivered three weeks ago, Rouble grew flustered.

“We’re looking to make sure the statistics we have are accurate. We’re looking to make sure that the indicators we have are accurate and that’s why we’re working with Outside consultants.”

And so he was asked why his government paid the contractor when it’s not clear the work has been satisfactorily completed.

“The answer is, the final report has not hit my desk.”

Then he excused himself, turned and fled for the safety of the Executive Council Offices, which are shielded behind locked electronic glass doors eerily reminiscent of something from a biohazard facility.

It took cabinet communications spokesman Albert Peterson several frantic door-handle grabs before the lock released, allowing Rouble to scramble into home-free territory.

All of which suggests that there’s something in the Hold Fast document that Fentie’s government doesn’t like.

It looks as if Education officials are now working furiously to launder the document it paid a Victoria company $79,360 to produce.

Which begs the question: why bother? (RM)

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