THE BLOG

Three of the B.C. Government's Favourite Words: Out Of Scope

07/08/2015 06:59 EDT | Updated 07/08/2016 05:59 EDT
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Health Minister Terry Lake may not have clued into it yet, but that idea to ask the Office of the B.C. Ombudsperson to investigate the 2012 health ministry firings isn't flying so well.

Might have flown eons ago -- had it been the very first inquiry -- but not when it risks simply being the latest inquiry.

It's a political bind of the government's own making. Whatever moral authority they thought they had to set the investigatory framework on their own again was lost three or four investigations back.

Simply put: the public doesn't buy the idea that the government actually wants to get to the bottom of this scandal.

Likely a bit to do with three of the government's favourite words when it comes to investigating itself: out of scope.

Consider Marcia McNeil's 2014 terms of reference into the human resources aspect of the health ministry firings.

Out of scope?

"Ministry of Health policies and practices related to research, contracting and data-management at the time the allegations were made; any changes that have been made to those policies and practices in response; the circumstances of any privacy breach or inappropriate data access related to the allegations; and decisions made following the terminations in the context of settlement of grievances and legal claims."

Which pretty much covers anything of significance related to the scandal.

There was the 2013 review of the multicultural outreach plan headed up by deputy minister to the premier, John Dyble.

Out of scope? "The review does not include external partisan activities or activities that relate to the use of caucus resources." Kind of a critical part to the outreach plan.

Even still -- despite conducting 27 interviews, gathering 10,000 pages of documents and directing a forensic analysis of electronic data - Dyble and his team of three deputy ministers didn't stumble across whatever it was that led to the appointment of a special prosecutor into the outreach plan only seven months later.

Which is telling, given how eager the government was a few months before to claim they had made a make-believe call to the RCMP and provided the police force with make-believe results of an internal investigation into make-believe crimes in the health ministry.

Weird, particularly given that two of the four deputy ministers were also part of the health ministry investigation.

Out of scope isn't limited to investigations, it creeps into other government reviews as well. Sometimes bizarrely so.

In 2012, the B.C. government appointed three individuals to lead an independent review of BC Transit.

They were tasked with examining the efficiency and effectiveness of transit services; the existing structure, processes and policies; funding relationships between BC Transit and local governments; and communications and consultation between BC Transit and local governments.

Despite their mandate, the following issues were out of scope:

  • increases of provincial or local government funding to BC Transit
  • changes to the funding formulae and/or consideration of new or extended sources of funding for transit
  • the status of BC Transit as a provincial Crown corporation
  • and the creation of regional transportation authorities.

There went a good chunk of the meat to that review.

So the government shouldn't really fall over backwards when they learn that the public doesn't have much confidence in this latest investigatory salvo, particularly when it will fall on the B.C. Liberal-dominated finance and government services committee to set the terms of reference for the ombudsperson.

Oh, and a bit of a game changer was thrown into the mix last week when Alana James claimed in an interview with the Vancouver Sun that her concerns were not limited to the health ministry, but were "systemic throughout government and public agencies and involved many people, some of them high up and in charge of making the decisions."

James worked in the ministry during the 2012 firings and later outed herself as the original whistleblower.

In light of what the public already knows, her claims that "current and former government employees worked as contractors while helping to draft contracts that gave their colleagues or family special treatment in terms of funding, access to data research and intellectual property rights" can't be dismissed out of hand.

It just got messy. Independent public inquiry kind of messy.