I doubt it's a potboiler or a late-night page-turner, a la Stephen King, but it's something I'd very much like to read. I don't know if it's available in book format, nor how long it would take to read.

The core mandate review is the process the governing Tories launched last year, around the same time as the 2011 budget — the one that had been expected to have hefty job losses, but somehow avoided them all.

The review was the basis for THIS year's budget, which had job losses by the score. We know what the results of the review were; the cabinet has been leaning on it to justify spending decisions that it knew would be unpopular.


Premier Kathy Dunderdale says the core mandate review took more than a year to complete. (CBC )

Here's the catch: we can't read the review ourselves.

I'm hardly the only one curious to read the core mandate review, which has also been described as a core mandate analysis.

"I and other members of our caucus continue to receive questions from people about the way in which decisions were made regarding the cuts and layoffs in departments and government agencies," NDP Leader Lorraine Michael told the legislature on Wednesday.

"People are finding it hard to understand how permanent positions such as environmental scientists and wildlife officers could all of a sudden become redundant."

Michael then asked if Premier Kathy Dunderdale would "table in this house the details of the core mandate review that was done to aid the decision making that has led to the massive cuts and layoffs."

The premier didn't comply.

'Very straightforward'

It seems to be that the government doesn't see much of a need to release the review that guided some of the most serious public policy decisions in a generation.

"In terms of the cuts that were done, explanations have been given. It has been a process that took long over a year," Dunderdale replied. "Much of it, Mr. Speaker, is very straightforward."

Dunderdale went on to give one of the more glaring examples of a great deal of money being spent on arguably little. "We had over 100 staff looking after nine young people," she said while describing the staffing situation at the Whitbourne Youth Detention Centre.

Well, that example does make one think ... but it does not answer many questions, or illuminate the environment in which government made its choices.

What, for instance, was the research that was done before those notorious cuts in the justice system were made? If the government researched widely, it evidently did not go very far. Some of the cuts were reversed after pretty much everyone in the justice system — the three top judges, the high sheriff, the Canadian Bar Association and the professional organization representing Crown attorneys — had the opportunity to complain.

They were the lucky ones. Few groups have had the ability to bend the government's ear at all, and no one is quite sure who told what to whom before the budget was finalized.

Libraries without librarians

How, exactly, did the government come to the conclusion that the library system would work better by taking librarians out of it? The government is removing five of the only 14 librarians who run the provincial library service, a decision that has been labelled as lacking sense. (The government has said it would rather make that cut than close down some of its libraries.)

The question from Michael cited above highlighted how much smaller the provincial wildlife service will be. The more robust service of days of yore might arguably have been overstaffed, but it will soon be a fraction of itself. Small wonder that wildlife groups (and, yes, unions) have been predicting that poaching is certain to rise. 

To date, the governing Tories have been loath to reveal the details of the core mandate review.

Indeed, they've been nothing less than cranky — right crooked, even — when asked any questions at all. Day after day, the Opposition has been hammering away at the government in Question Period, with the effect that fatigue has been setting in. You can see in the eye rolling and exasperated non-sequiturs that come out of ministers' mouths.

Or, sometimes, the tone says it all.

Earlier this week, Michael asked Finance Minister Jerome Kennedy to update the figures of job losses by department.

"If she would stop pontificating and do some reading then she would perhaps find the information right under her nose," said Kennedy, who is grumpy frequently enough in the legislature to be in a class by himself. (Last week, during a routine debate, Kennedy called out the word "liar" while the NDP's Gerry Rogers was speaking. That's one of the best-known prohibited words in parliamentary language, and while Kennedy may have wanted to make a point, it's telling that he went ahead and did it anyway ... and had to be asked twice to make the apology he knew he would have to.)

Kennedy had a point, of course, about the original budget news releases containing departmental breakdowns, but he must have known that Michael was looking for more than that.

Surely, Kennedy and the other ministers know that news releases do not constitute the text of the touted core mandate review. They're manifestations of the process, not the document itself.

That is, if there is such a document at all.

If there is, I really would like to read it.