While I agree with the point made in the July 27 editorial, that ease of access to government information is a positive step, your inference of secrecy in government and a lack of transparency of government exists owing to the lack of accessibility to government information is misleading. The expenditures of the province have always been available and published in the annual Public Accounts. The salaries of politicians and public servants, including their travel expenditures were published. They also list the amount paid in grants and to suppliers. As reporters, you certainly must be aware of the existence of such public documents, so why are you inferring secrecy and lack of transparency in government?
I was a public servant for 31 years with the province of British Columbia. While always mindful of public perception with respect to expenditures and the need to be accountable to the public whose tax dollars are being used, you are only reporting one side of the story: the expenditure side. You fail to balance the reporting with what is achieved and accomplished as a result of the travel. Cabinet ministers and staff do not travel simply for travel sake; there must be legitimate government business to be conducted.
Not everyone can afford the cost of a trip to Victoria to meet with elected officials or Cabinet ministers. You fail to acknowledge that the role of a Cabinet minister extends to the entire province, not just the constituency of the MLA. It is important that Cabinet ministers and officials go into constituents’ “home courts,” particularly to rural British Columbia.
This means travel.
The province depends on federal transfer payments to fund important and valuable services in the province. These transfers do not just happen without interaction between the two levels of government. For example, the agriculture and food sector in British Columbia benefits from federal transfer payments, which provide greater funding than contributed by the provincial Ministry of Agriculture for services and programs to farmers and the food industry. Those transfer payments would not materialize without Ministers and staff travelling to Ottawa to meet federal officials to secure the best possible agreements for the province.
In the future, I would like to see responsible journalism, with the report presenting the two sides of the story, not simply, a sensational statement intended to incite negative reaction. Do your homework as reporters to demonstrate the hard work that is involved in being a public official. You too have a role to play in building trust in government.