Government cloaks kindergarten costs in cabinet secrecy
NDP Education Critic Dale Kirby (MHA, St. John’s North) is calling on the Minister of Education to release government’s cost estimates for a full-day kindergarten program which have been classified as a cabinet secret in order to keep the cost estimates hidden.
Introducing full-day kindergarten, which has well-documented educational benefits for children as well as undeniable advantages for families, is a key NDP commitment. The party committed to a one-year pilot project, and full costing, in its 2011 election platform, and Kirby has been outspoken on the subject in the House of Assembly.
On May 16, 2012, during an annual budget estimates meeting, the Minister of Education advised the House of Assembly Social Services Committee that his department was conducting research on the costs of a full-day kindergarten program. Kirby subsequently asked the Department of Education to provide its estimated staffing and capital costs for the program. The response from the department was that, according to the definition of “Cabinet confidences” in Bill 29, the information was classified as an official cabinet record, and thus off-limits to public scrutiny.
“Whenever I have inquired about his department’s progress on this file, the Minister of Education provided non-answers and condescension,” Kirby said. “The fact that I cannot get this relatively straightforward information through filing a Freedom of Information request is not acceptable.
“How are people in this province supposed to evaluate their government’s performance if even the simplest of facts are kept hidden from them?”