Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Health Care Worker Investigation (ctd)...The Publicly Inquiring Irony In The Ombudsman's Letter.


I noted, with interest, that once again the good Mr. Palmer of the VSun was telling us, just last night, that the independent public inquiry route could turn out to be a stinker in terms of getting to the bottom of the health worker firing business, especially in comparison  to a fast and efficient look-see by the Ombudsman:

...Taking aim at one of the leading conspiracy theories surrounding the case, (Former Health Ministry worker and whistleblower Alana) James denied the fired workers were targeted for retribution because of their involvement in the therapeutics initiative, the provincially funded drug-vetting program. “A red herring,” she called the notion that Big Pharma was behind the concerns she raised.

James pledged cooperation “if it were a proper inquiry,” suggesting something “similar to the Charbonneau Commission” — Quebec’s ongoing inquiry into corruption in the construction industry.

In that regard, I note that the Charbonneau Commission, appointed in late 2011, has yet to deliver a final report. Lately it has been meeting under a publication ban, amid a legal imbroglio over whether the commissioner can name and blame various individuals. The Montreal Gazette recently estimated the tab for the commission at $50 million and counting.

Against that prospect, there’s the possibility, being aired Wednesday by a legislature committee, of calling on the ombudsperson. The office has the necessary powers to summon witnesses, obtain documents and take testimony under oath and to do so behind closed doors, avoiding many of the costs and delays associated with public inquiries...

And then, this morning the new Ombudsman, Mr. Chalke, released a letter explaining why, at least under the current rules  (see, for example, section 18 of the Ombudsman's Act, scroll down), he and his office members might not be the best guys and gals for job, as noted by the VSun's Rob Shaw:

B.C.’s Ombudsperson says he doesn’t want to probe the botched firings of eight government health researchers unless government changes the law to give him more power.

Jay Chalke told MLAs in a letter released Wednesday that he has serious concerns about taking the case, including:

- Limitations that prevent him from compelling testimony from people who have previously signed confidentiality agreements.

- Possible limited access to cabinet documents.

- A desire by the fired researchers that the government instead pursue a full public inquiry, which Chalke said MLAs should give serious consideration...

Which is all well and good and has certainly raised my level of respect for Mr. Chalke.

But then things got really interesting in Mr. Shaw's piece:

...Chalke’s biggest concern centered on how he’s unable to compel evidence from anyone who has been bound to maintain confidentiality, according to powers under his legislation.

That’s a “serious impediment to any referred investigation,” wrote Chalke, in a case that involves confidentiality clauses for health researchers who have settled court cases with the government, as well as confidentiality related to public health data.

Chalke said his powers should mirror those of other legislative officers, such as the Representative of Children and Youth, who don’t have the same problems as his office.

“My concern about this issue is so significant that I would formally ask that the Committee not refer this matter to my office unless it is accompanied by a recommendation to government for an urgent legislative amendment,” Chalke wrote.

Either the Ombudsperson should get the same powers as the Representative for Children and Youth, or any referral from MLAs should be clear that any person is required to provide information despite confidentiality or solicitor client privilege, wrote Chalk (sic)...

Why interesting?

Well, because....

If not for an independent inquiry run by a fellow named Mr. Ted Hughes we, the public, would NOT even HAVE a 'Representative for Children and Youth' position with the power to do what Mr. Chalke wants to get to the bottom of things.

If you get my drift.

Mr. Chalke's letter to the Finance Committee can be read, in full....Here.
I remind readers that the whole 'Ombudsman Solution' to the messy/expensive/icky Public Inquiry 'problem' seems to have been pretty much simultaneously breech-birthed by the good Mr. Palmer and the current Clarklandian Health Minister, Mr. Lake a couple of weeks ago....Seriously.
Merv Adey has more, including comments on developments stemming from Linda Kayfish's letter to the Premier....Here.



Anonymous said...

So while the experts in the media are following their masters lead by suggesting the Ombudsperson is the best route..... Seems he doesn't agree with them. Can those media types be wrong ? God forbid.

Guy in Victoria

Anonymous said...

Of course the need for spending one nickel for the partial or full Inquiry, would be moot if the person/persons that did the firings, misled the R.C.M.P. and the citizens of B.C. came forward in an exclusive interview and stated the truth regarding his/her actions.
An honorable person would stand by their convictions and do just that.
an individual/individuals have made threats against them if they did.
So here is an appeal for the honourable person to step forward.

Gary L.

Lew said...

Vaughn Palmer and Terry Lake want the Ombudsperson on the case for the same reason. They’ll both be able to point to the ongoing investigation as precluding any necessity to do any poking around of their own (i.e. their jobs), secure in the knowledge nothing of any consequence will result. Meanwhile Mike de Jong will have his Abbotsford sheep farm working overtime on more wool for our eyes.

I still recall Vaughn Palmer throwing his hands in the air and declaring with faux woe that we would now never get the truth in the Boss Power debacle when the government settled in the courthouse snack bar for between two or three times what their own inside and outside experts said would be the likely damages. Any self-respecting journalist would have taken that action by the government as a challenge to reload and redouble efforts to determine why. None did. Either they fear to tread where Vaughn won’t, or there aren’t any.

RossK said...


In the current situation my money's on the former.

Recall, if you will, how the good Mr. Smyth was trumpeting the 'Ombudsman Solution' as conventional wisdom just three days after the Dean first floated it.


North Van's Grumps said...

Could it be that the Employees who have settled out of Court with the bent BC Liberals part of the real problem? Has anyone sought out a commitment from them and the Minister(s) responsible? If the only stumbling block is the BC Liberal Government, then why.

Don F. said...

This is so offensive for so many reasons…
First we are paying for a totally incapable minister, Mr. Lake, who has to be led to act only when coached by a government payed for media shill Vaughn Palmer.
Secondly we are paying for the RCMP who should be bound to investigate these matters on our behalf to establish whether criminal activities such as obstruction of justice were used by this government or any other laws broken by them.
Third we are paying for government staff who refuse to provide information about what took place and who is responsible. Someone took his own life because of these peoples actions. The government then had the coroner delete his suicide note from his computer to try and remove evidence.
We should not have to beg for an inquiry, the RCMP should investigate these matters, simple as that.
Enough with the ridiculous input from Palmer or anyone else.

RossK said...


Unfortunately things have been so clouded by how the government has acted, as Don points out, over and over and over and over again, on this file (including how they are trying to ramrod the Ombudsman Solution business through now) that I think it is impossible to find out anything of substance without a broad inquiry with real teeth and a real mandate to really investigate widely. It seems to me that that is what Mr. Chalke was asking for.

Let's see how the government responds (or doesn't).


Unknown said...

Unfortunately, the RCMP are not our saviours in regard to uncovering truth and justice for the people of British Columbia. Recall that it was the RCMP who investigated the BC Rail scandal where their lead investigator, Sgt. Kevin Bruyckere (now Superintendent) was the brother-in-law of Kelly Reichert, a Liberal operative and potential target in the investigation. In this latest scandal,they allowed themselves to be left on the hook for over two years waiting for info, when they could have easily demanded some answers sooner. I think Chalke realizes that he could be made a scapegoat if this so-called investigation goes sideways, so he is wisely trying mightily to bail out now.

Anonymous said...

the truth is a 3 card monte in BC.

RossK said...

Point taken Mark M.

Anon-Above....Would you agree that the truth is 'hidden' by 3CM in BC?



Does anybody have a copy of Ms. Anton's written response to Mr. Chalke's letter? (AMacleod mentioned it in his Tyee piece today)



Ray Blessin said...

As an aside: I wonder why this bullshit government hasn't found a way to fire Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond. Talk about trouble.

North Van's Grumps said...

Chalk one up for Chalke on his first day on the job; we can keep track of his travel expenses just like his predecessor Kim Carter's.

RossK - email???

Anonymous said...

Mark Mounce mentions Kevin DeBruyckere above. Note that he appears in the RCMP correspondence published by Rob Shaw in the Vancouver Sun, asking to be kept directly in the loop on anything the government forwards to the RCMP in the health ministry firings.

Lew said...

Oops; not trying to hide at 10:05 RossK. Just forgot to sign in:)

Anonymous said...

Lew: "I still recall Vaughn Palmer throwing his hands in the air and declaring with faux woe that we would now never get the truth in the Boss Power debacle when the government settled in the courthouse snack bar for between two or three times what their own inside and outside experts said would be the likely damages. Any self-respecting journalist would have taken that action by the government as a challenge to reload and redouble efforts to determine why. None did. Either they fear to tread where Vaughn won’t, or there aren’t any."

Hey Lew, here's a tasty refresher for those of us who have forgotten what journalistic integrity looks like: "The National Post's Paul Watson announced his resignation on his blog

“Resigning is the only way I can resume that reporting, complete the work and fulfill my responsibilities as a journalist,” Watson wrote.

The article Watson says he couldn’t publish at the Star centres on the search for the lost ships of the 1845 Franklin expedition, an initiative led by Parks Canada that had significant input and personal investment by Prime Minister Stephen Harper...
Watson says experts and civil servants who worked on the 2014 Victoria Strait Expedition that found the wreck of the Erebus are outraged at what they see as “distorted and inaccurate accounts” of that discovery, which allegedly originated with a person close to the Prime Minister’s Office who also has influence within the Star."

Compare and contrast that stance, with that of the CBC's "Chief Correspondent" and Franklin Expedition fan boy : "Last night, Canada’s most overrated journalist and underrated politician, Peter Mansbridge, performed his Yuletide foot massage on Prime Minister Stephen Harper."(

Anonymous said...

TC column with a link to Anton's letter to the committee.

RossK said...

Thanks Anon-Above!