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Delaying welfare stats part of larger trend: James

VICTORIA – The suppression of welfare caseload statistics during the election campaign is part of a wider pattern of the government keeping secrets, said New Democratic Party leader Carole James.

“It's disturbing,” said James. “It's one more example of where the government kept information from the public.”

James said she could understand delaying a large report or major announcement, but welfare statistics are routinely released at the end of each month. “No reason this information should have been withheld during the election,” she said.

This morning the NDP released documents obtained through a freedom of information request showing officials working in the public affairs bureau told housing and social development ministry employees to delay releasing the report until after the May 12 election.

“It appeared they didn't want any information to go out during the election campaign,” said James. Premier Gordon Campbell didn't want the statistics publicly available, she said.

The rising welfare caseload means either the provincial deficit for 2009-2010 will be larger than the $495 million budgeted, or there will have to be more cuts, James said. A full discussion should have taken place during the election, she said.

“I think the public has a right to know what the government had planned,” she said. “The public should have all the information.”

The housing and social development ministry did not have anyone prepared to comment by posting time.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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