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Justice minister says he's a B+

Mike W. Bryant
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Mar 09/05) - Justice Minister Charles Dent says, on a scale of one to 10, he rates about a "7.5 or 8" as a cabinet minister.

"Most people would like to be a ten but that's not always possible," he added.

His self-evaluation came after Hay River South MLA Jane Groenewegen tore into him at the legislative assembly last week, saying she wants to "revisit Mr. Dent's participation in cabinet."

She cited his handling of the South Mackenzie remand centre closure and other apparent blunders during the year he has been on cabinet.

Groenewegen told Yellowknifer she didn't think Dent was any better at being a cabinet minister now than during his first try eight years ago, when he was made minister of Education, Culture and Employment during the 13th legislative assembly.

Currently, he holds the same portfolio, with the added responsibilities of the minister of Justice.

"He just doesn't seem to care," said Groenewegen.

"He doesn't have the answers, he doesn't offer to get the answers. He just sits there thinking he's somehow entitled to that job."

Groenewegen said Dent appears to prefer delegating authority to his deputy ministers and the various boards and agencies that fall under his ministerial portfolios, rather than take charge himself.

While Groenewegen would like to see him removed from cabinet, she said she hasn't talked to any other MLAs about it.

Asked whether she thought she could do a better job herself, Groenewegen said she didn't want the position.

"I like what I'm doing on behalf of my constituents," said Groenewegen.

Groenewegen served as Health and Social Services minister during the 14th assembly, but was forced to resign after she was caught making secret phone recordings of former conflict-of-interest commissioner Carol Roberts.

Dent said he doesn't know where Groenewegen is coming from with her attacks on his performance, other than sour grapes over his department's decision to close corrections facilities in Hay River.

He said when he started at Justice last year, his department was faced with many difficult budgetary decisions, including the Dene K'onia young offender facility closure.

"Of course I care," said Dent. "I wouldn't be in cabinet if I didn't care. I wasn't put on cabinet to be a deputy minister," said Dent.

"I'm not a manager, I'm a politician. My job is to bring people's concerns to the table."