Nothing in the past prevented premiers from making their marching orders to ministers known to the public. But Wynne has demonstrated a willingness to be open with the directions she as premier gives to the chieftains of her newly minted majority Liberal government.
Unheralded in the flurry of publicity over the mandate letters was any hint of a downside to all this. But let me tell you, having worked inside the grand legislative palace, it’s not what the mandate letters say, but what they do not say.
The truth for activists and lobbyists is their causes will be ignored if the matters are not part of the minister’s mandated bundle. I know this too well. While at Queen’s Park, I saw the former premier Dalton McGuinty and the Liberals drag their heels on introducing legislation that automatically enabled workers’ compensation for fire fighters who developed diseases as a result of fighting fires.
The issue of “presumptive legislation” had not made it into the Minister of Labour’s mandate letter. Only after considerable pressure over the course of years did that important legislation come to pass. And I take great heart in knowing that the final three life-threatening illnesses that the Liberals chose not to include the first time around will, in fact, be part of the mandate going forward.
If an issue found its way into Wynne’s election platform in June, then there will be a directive about it tucked into a ministerial mandate letter somewhere.
The trouble with mandate letters rests in what they do not include and how a government will use them to justify ignoring other important issues, ideas and points of view.