It took a bit of prodding, but Glen Abernethy has filled in many of the blanks left by the government’s rules on what ministers disclose about their meetings with potential lobbyists.
The ad hoc system implemented earlier this year by Premier Bob McLeod has been criticized for limiting disclosure to dates and names, without revealing what was discussed.
“I am a big believer in government openness and accessibility and the many meetings listed for me in the report demonstrate my commitment to this,” Abernethy wrote in response to questions from EDGE.
The meeting in question took place on May 26, with Rick Trimp, a former NWT health ministry executive who might be a potential candidate for a senior level post in Abernethy’s health and social services ministry.
In an email, Abernethy said Trimp requested the meeting, which came two months before Brenda Fitzgerald left her post as CEO of Stanton Territorial Hospital after less than a year on the job, sparking rumours that she was pushed out.
Trimp, who worked for GNWT Health and Social Services before moving to Saskatchewan almost a decade ago, was abruptly removed from his job as a senior vice-president and interim CEO of Alberta Health Services last October.
“Generally, I meet with almost anybody who asks to meet with me as long as there isn’t a legal reason to not meet with them,” Abernethy wrote.
In his email to EDGE, Abernethy said that he told Trimp about “the exciting changes that are being planned as part of the ongoing system reform” as the territorial government established a regional board to manage health care in the territories.
“Mr. Trimp asked about potential job opportunities during our meeting and indicated an interest in returning to the North. I did mention that a new Territorial CEO position would be established as part of system reform,” Abernethy wrote.
“I encouraged him to submit an application if and when the CEO position comes open and suggested his questions about employment would be better directed to officials with the department or authorities.”
There is evidence that at least one other minister in the current government has been directly involved in the career of a senior public servant, but Abernethy wrote that “I did not, and cannot, offer Mr. Trimp a position in the NWT public service.”
Sources have told EDGE that since meeting with Abernethy, Trimp has met with senior government officials. Abernethy said he hasn’t met with or talked with Trimp since May and stressed that he has “no involvement whatsoever in staffing decisions.”
“When it comes to recruitment, I am confident that officials at HR, HSS and the authorities do their due diligence in any and all staffing decisions,” Abernethy wrote.