NewSpiritOfCooperationWatch: Great moments in ministerial/stakeholder relations

Note to newly ascended junior cabinet minister Gary Goodyear and staff: it’s rarely a good sign when a Globe and Mail story about a recent meeting with representatives of one of your core client constituencies begins with the words “the screaming erupted” and ends with you “storming out” as they flee your office without even pausing to retrieve their coats:

The screaming erupted last Wednesday afternoon, just down the street from Parliament Hill, in the offices of a Conservative cabinet minister.

Two officials with Canadian Association of University Teachers sat on one side of a boardroom table and on the other sat Gary Goodyear, Minister of Science and Technology, his policy adviser Wesley Moore and a civil servant ready to take notes.

CAUT, a lobby group that represents 65,000 staff at 121 colleges and universities, had planned to raise concerns over the government’s handling of research funding. But within moments, it became clear they wouldn’t get very far.

“The minister was very angry,” said David Robinson, associate executive director of CAUT. “He was raising his voice and pointing his finger … He said everyone loves their [federal budget] and we said, ‘A lot of our members don’t love it’… and he said, ‘That’s because you’re lying to them, misleading them.’”

The talks, Mr. Robinson said, went from bad to worse. In 15 years on the job, he “never had a meeting like that.”

Mr. Goodyear agrees. “I, too, have never had a meeting like that. It was a unique experience and one I don’t care to repeat.” […]

They had barely begun to state their case, Mr. Robinson said, when the minister accused them of twisting facts.

When CAUT staff said the Conservatives have a spotty record on science and noted they abolished the office of the national science adviser, Mr. Robinson said, the minister’s assistant screamed at them to shut up.

“Then the minister said, ‘You’ve burned all your bridges with us!’ and they stormed out.

“In all the meetings I’ve been in like this, I’ve never been shouted at and told to shut up,” Mr. Robinson said. The civil servant who escorted them to the elevator suggested it would not even be a good idea to return to the minister’s office to collect their coats, he said. Instead, she retrieved them.