While the Progressive Conservatives appear stuck in endless mayhem, Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government has been laying low and presumably enjoying the spectacle despite the PCs soaring even higher in the polls.
But a recently leaked third-party report of dysfunctionality in Yasir Naqvi’s Ministry of the Attorney General is a good reminder of the rotting turmoil in Wynne’s government. Naqvi’s carefully nurtured and cultivated public image is one of selfless devotion to the public interest. All of which is rounded out by ear-to-ear smiles and endless Naqvi photo ops. He’s the kind of politician who’d call a press conference for opening an envelope.
You’d think given his lust for media coverage, he’d be out there bravely facing the report’s findings. Not a chance. The report’s been kept secret and Naqvi’s issued a platitudinous boiler plate statement that “Everyone has a right to feel safe and respected in their workplace…all employees are respected.”
He was last seen hiding under his desk.
According to a report concluded in the summer of 2017 called “Turning the Ship Around,” Naqvi’s ministry is a bloody mess. It doesn’t surprise me that the AG’s office is in such a disarray. Over the last few years, I’ve had many Crowns approach me about how bad things had become. Some grin and bear it. Others have taken early retirement.
Although staff from across the province have been mistreated but ground zero is the AG’s headquarter at 720 Bay Street where Naqvi has his office on the 13th floor.
The 115-page report was written by lawyer and former bureaucrat Leslie Macleod after she interviewed 250 lawyers and administrative staff. It contains a litany of acts of misconducts (see sidebar). She writes “The descriptions of inappropriate conduct that I heard through consultations were alarming and the fact that it continued unabated for so long makes it doubly so.”
To me the most damning allegation is that government lawyers are at times forced to redact their own opinions by senior managers on whether or not to charge individuals or companies to protect the special interests of other provincial bodies. That, in itself, could constitute an obstruction of justice. Instead of keeping the report top secret and threatening leakers that they would be fired, Naqvi should have called in the OPP to investigate.
And what about the top bureaucrats who were at the helm at the time? Didn’t they see fit to intervene? Au contraire, Macleod concludes. They were part of the problem. Both attorney general senior management and deputies at other ministries “knew that the situation was a festering sore” but allowed it to persist.
Former deputy attorney general Patrick Monahan flew the coop to become a judge last summer just as the report was concluded.
What’s happened since then to rectify the problems identified? Apparently not much.
The role of the AG has traditionally been viewed by the courts as one above other ministers.
Naqvi should read his own website and learn more about his job. It correctly states: “The Attorney General is the chief law officer of the Executive Council. The responsibilities stemming from this role are unlike those of any other Cabinet member. The role has been referred to as “judicial-like” and as the “guardian of the public interest.”
Naqvi should get from under his desk and fix his ministry.
Among the report’s findings:
• A senior government official was described as “a classic bully drunk on her own power”
• “Many employees work in an atmosphere of constant fear and retribution and a culture of silence prevails”
• Naqvi’s ministry has “a deeply embedded dysfunctional culture”
• “Allegations made during the consultations included various forms of belittling, gossip-mongering, bullying and a tendency to unduly to unduly punish employees”
• “Deputy ministers (at other ministries) knew that the situation was a festering sore”