The headline should have read:
“ Liberal Government Suggests Colonel Sanders Investigate Missing Chickens Scandal.”
That’s how ridiculous the government’s suggestion that Ombudsperson, Jay Chalke, is just the person to unravel the scandal surrounding the Liberal’s Reaganesque firing of eight medical researchers in 2012.
Even though Mr. Chalke likely oozes integrity from every pore, this inquiry would be impossible for him to complete with any credibility.
Mr.Chalke is an ex Liberal Assistant Deputy Minister who led the Justice Service Branch from 2011 until 2015. The medical firings were in 2012, during his tenure. Mr. Chalke could hardly have been unaware of the action, even if he only heard about it over cocktails at the Bengal Lounge.
Mr. Chalke was appointed Ombudsperson scant weeks ago – May 26th, 2015. In other words, this scandal was already percolating when he was appointed provincial watchdog.
Skeptics might accuse Mr. Chalke of being a Liberal homer. They might suspect that the ensconcing of a Liberal team member as ombudsperson might have been a strategy in anticipation of the burgeoning public outcry surrounding this festering scandal.
Because an Ombudsperson’s investigation is the government’s last chance to keep control of the situation.
Other government attempts to quell the outrage over the medical firings have only served to inflame public sentiment.
They tried to choke it off with a full investigation by the public service agency. This turned out to be a bit of a frost, as Victoria lawyer Marcia McNeil’s mandate was neither to place blame nor determine whether or not the firings were warranted.
“Although many mistakes were made, no disciplinary action is recommended or considered.”
This did not satisfy anyone.
The Government tried settling with those fired, reinstating some and giving cash settlements to others.
Premier Christy Clark personally apologized to the families of those fired.
This still did not satisfy the public. A person had died because of these firings.
The public and the media demanded specifics. They wanted names named.
The government tried the B.C. Rail strategy:
“We’d love to talk about the medical firings but we wouldn’t want to compromise the ongoing R.C.M.P. investigation into the matter”
Oops, turns out there never was a police investigation.Strike that gambit.
They publicly admitted that “mistakes were made” and insisted “we’re taking steps to make sure this kind of thing will never happen again.”
Not good enough. No details, no documentation. No attempt to discuss the who, why, when, and how the firings took place.
Demands for a full public inquiry came from all quarters. The Vancouver Sun did a front-page editorial, insisting a full public inquiry was the only way to clarify what happened and to discover those responsible.
Columnists, pundits, talk radio hosts, and the Twittersphere joined the chorus crying for a public inquiry.
The government tried empathy. Minister Terry Lake insisted that they were just as tortured as was the public about this incident. He maintained they wanted to get out as much information as possible to the public, but they were just so concerned about protecting the reputations of those involved that they couldn’t decide on an efficacious process to do so. So difficult, so upsetting, we’re all suffering, they said.
They tried explaining how expensive, slow, and inconclusive public inquiries could be. They gave examples.
But even this was seen as subterfuge by an un-mollified, angry public.
The hordes are now at the gate. The rabble is screaming for answers. A full public inquiry seems inevitable.
Ah, but enter the solution – an Ombudsperson’s investigation.
The Ombudsperson’s Investigation is the government’s last chance to diffuse hysteria over what appears to the layman to be the petulant sacking of eight people the government didn’t like much.
An Ombudsperson’s investigation would give the government breathing room and control that a public inquiry wouldn’t afford.
An Ombudsperson’s Investigation would take months, even years.
It would be a private process until a report is filed, and while the investigation was going on we certainly wouldn’t want to compromise it by discussing anything at all about the firings, would we?
It would buy the government time to find other shiny objects with which to distract the media and the public.
It would give people time to forget the whole thing, as they did B.C. Rail.
And it would give the government time to develop a scapegoat or two.
The government knows an Ombudsperson’s investigation isn’t good enough for the public and they have to be cagey as they proceed towards commissioning one.
The newly appointed Ombudsperson is demanding more powers if he is to undertake this investigation. The government seems to be balking at the suggestion. They aren’t sure it’s appropriate to change the Ombudsperson’s mandate. They appear resistant.
This dance of reticence has already been accepted by columnists as proof of the Ombudsperson’s independence, but it’s all show, feigning tough negotiation only to enhance the credibility of the exercise. The government wants to be dragged kicking and screaming into what they wanted all along – an Ombudsperson’s investigation. They’ll reluctantly accept the idea and blame its non result on those who pushed for it.
It’s Brer Rabbit psychology:
“Oh please, Brer Bear, do whatever you must just please, please don’t throw me into the briar patch…”
Ombudsperson Chalke is in an untenable position in regard to this proposed investigation.
He knows the whitewash the government wishes him to apply. He knows what will be said by the public if he applies it and what his future career might look if he doesn’t apply it. Look what happened to the last Ombudsperson the government didn’t like.
Yes man or hatchet man, he can’t win.
Even if Colonel Sanders is honest and forthcoming, any report he submits concerning the missing chickens will not be accepted by an angry public, a suspicious public, a public demanding answers, a public that has a sinking feeling they’ve been bamboozled once too often by this government’s prestidigitation.