Nova Scotia

Dulcie McCallum calls her removal 'a lack of respect'

Nova Scotia's privacy and information watchdog says the government is replacing her rather than reappointing her.

Nova Scotia's freedom of information officer not re-hired after 7 years

Nova Scotia's privacy and information watchdog says she was shocked to learn the government is replacing her.

Dulcie McCallum has been Nova Scotia's freedom of information and protection of privacy officer for seven years and said she expected a reappointment. Instead, she was given two weeks' notice.

McCallum said she's been working "night and day" in the post.

"For me personally and for the public, it just kind of shows a lack of respect for me and the office and our work. If you don't get reasons, somehow it tends to impugn the character of the person. [It] is unfair to not provide reasons," she said.

"If you are tenacious as an independent office, then often people don't want that who are the governing party. They don't want to have that kind of independent, impartial, non-partisan oversight in place."

Last week McCallum came under attack from the minister of community services who questioned a report into foster care. Joanne Bernard said the report was inaccurate and misleading.

But McCallum said she doesn't think her non-renewal has anything to do with that tussle. 

She said her office director Carmen Stuart will be appointed as acting review officer until a replacement is found.

Independent officer of the legislature?

Jamie Baillie, leader of the Progressive Conservatives, said the decision sent a disturbing message about the Liberal government's commitment to transparency. 

Baillie said it appears the Liberal government is interfering with what is supposed to be an independent office.

For a governing party to dismiss her is a very disturbing development.- Jamie Baillie, Progressive Conservative leader

"The Liberals have decided to take control of that office," he said in an interview. "For a governing party to dismiss her is a very disturbing development."

Both McCallum and Baillie said the position should be transformed into an independent officer of the legislature, like the auditor general and provincial ombudsman.

"As long as the government is picking them and starving them of resources we will not have an open and transparent process," Baillie said. "The Liberals promised to be transparent. This is a step backwards."

In 1977, Nova Scotia became the first province in Canada to enact a Freedom of Information Act. Since then, all other provinces have followed suit.

Baillie said every other province except Quebec has made their freedom of information commissioners officers of the legislature.

Time to end patronage

NDP Leader Maureen MacDonald said the Liberal government must break its "pattern of patronage" in the selection of key government oversight jobs. 

"I have to say I was concerned when I read Ms. McCallum was told the Liberals wanted to make their own selection," said MacDonald.

"This is a person responsible for overseeing the actions of government. It's imperative their office is free of political interference."

A government spokesman said it was a personnel issue and so they would not comment on the reasons for the decision. 

"Ms. McCallum achieved much in her term and the province is grateful for her excellent service," said Chad Lucas. 

With files from The Canadian Press