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Health minister clarifies media policy

Chris Windeyer
Northern News Services

Iqaluit (Dec 11/06) - A new media policy in the Department of Health and Social Services may have some bureaucrats feeling anxious about answering the phone.

"Are you taking notes?" asked one health department staffer based in the Kivalliq who was contacted by Nunavut News/North regarding another story before referring the request to the department's communications staff.

Some health staff say Minister Leona Aglukkaq now requires all requests for media interviews of department staff to have her approval.

In an interview, Aglukkaq said the directive was misinterpreted by some members of the department.

The minister insists the policy applies only to interviews with her.

"My concern was my staff don't make decisions on whether I will be interviewed or not. I do that," Aglukkaq said. "I've cleared that up and there are a couple of staff who have totally stretched that."

A department worker based in the Baffin said no written directive ever came from the minister and its interpretation "varies" among staff.

But Aglukkaq insists she has to decide if she has time to grant interviews or if she's qualified to speak on a given subject.

"If you made a request to me about how an X-ray machine is made, obviously I would say that's not an appropriate subject (for me to) respond to," Aglukkaq said.

It's not the first time questions about Aglukkaq's management style have surfaced. In June's legislative session, Iqaluit Centre MLA Hunter Tootoo floated a non-confidence motion over Aglukkaq's leadership, though it died without support from other members.

Tootoo said the whole thing sounds like "micro-management."

"(Aglukkaq) should know what's going on, but the employees should know what things...they can comment on," he said.