New Brunswick's ombudsman says the public needs to give politicians some room to flipflop on unpopular decisions or it could prevent governments from fixing future policy mistakes.
Charles Murray said in an interview on Maritime Noon on Wednesday his office requires government departments and agencies to change policies and he said he's often frustrated by the resistance to admit problems.
When a government does reverse course on a policy, Murray said it is often lambasted in the media and among citizens. And that reaction is why politicians often refuse to admit mistakes.
"What we are doing is we are creating a marketplace in which we are telling government that the cost of changing your mind is that it is going to cost you support, so probably what you should do is stick with the old wrong decision and not change to the new decision," Murray said in the interview.
'By taking that attitude, we are encouraging them to cover up mistakes or to refuse to admit mistakes' - Ombudsman Charles Murray
"You should stay close-minded whatever you have decided for whatever ideological basis or whatever basis you should stick with that, no matter what the evidence is."
The ombudsman pointed to the Gallant government's decision in September to halt its controversial nursing home fee changes, which had been announced in the provincial budget.
The decision came after months of public criticism over the decision that would have increased how much some seniors would have paid for their care.
The ombudsman said he believes citizens should become more "thoughtful in how we criticize" governments.
When the public opts to focus on the flipflop instead of the new policy, Murray said they are creating an incentive for future governments to ignore fixing policy problems.
"We need to stop expecting them to bat .1000, that is not realistic," Murray said.
"By taking that attitude, we are encouraging them to cover up mistakes or to refuse to admit mistakes or to just say, 'You know what, I've made my mind up about this, this lines up with our ideology and I'm not going to be concerned with how it works in the real world.'"
As ombudsman, Murray is one of New Brunswick's eight independent legislative officers.
The Gallant government has raised the possibility of combining some of the offices to reduce costs.