Last Thursday we noticed that Mr. Palmer of the VSun and the current Clarklandian Minister pretty much simultaneously came up with the 'idea' of taking the health care researcher firing mess to the Ombudsperson instead of setting up a public inquiry.
And then Mr. Horgan weighed in, as noted by Cindy Harnett of the VTC:
...B.C. NDP Leader John Horgan argued the province’s new ombudsperson, Jay Chalke, a former assistant deputy minister of justice who starts on July 2, would be in the position of investigating his former staff.
“I think that’s a pretty difficult start to a new job,” Horgan said. “It’s not fair to the individuals or the office.”...
And how did the 'Dean' of the Lotuslandian Legislative gallery respond, almost immediately, in his next column the following day (i.e. Friday)?
...The ombudsman, as noted here Thursday, has all the powers needed to get to the bottom things: summon witnesses, take testimony under oath, seek documents and so forth. The office is independent of government and reports directly to the legislature. And if past practice is any guide, an independent officer of the legislature can get the answers in a matter of months if not weeks, unlike public inquiries, which can drag on for years.
But the office is in transition, with outgoing ombudsman Kim Carter preparing to step down and her successor, Jay Chalke, not scheduled to take up a six-year term until July 1.
He comes highly recommended by both parties in the legislature. The New Democrats and the B.C. Liberals on the selection committee last month signed off unanimously on a report that said he has “an extensive background in … the conduct of fair and independent investigations.”
Sounds like an ironclad testimonial. But as the New Democrats among others pointed out, Chalke has served for the past few years as an assistant deputy in the Ministry of Justice and Attorney General.
The ministry would likely be drawn into any inquiry because of the outstanding question of who decided to put that business into the press release about the fired health workers being under police investigation.
In light of that concern, Chalke could chose to delegate the investigation to the deputy ombudsman or another official, as is permitted under the legislation for his office.
Before getting to that point, he would first have to agree that the office should take on the matter, and he can’t be asked to do that until he takes up his duties later next week. He could refuse, after concluding that this mess was the last thing he needs as the new watchdog on the block.
The Ombudsperson Act does say that the “the legislative assembly or any of its committees may at any time refer a matter to the ombudsperson for investigation and report.”
In that event, the ombudsman must 1) investigate and 2) report back. So if the government really wanted to engage the office, it could proceed by bringing in a motion when the house sits July 13...
Notice how that wee little matter of a potential conflict of interest was deftly swept under the rug by the good Mr. Palmer.
By Sunday that noted deep thinker and all around deep sea 'both-sides-do-it' diver, Mr. Smyth of The Province, went out of his way to try and turn the three-day-old 'Ombuddy Solution' into conventional wisdom:
...Watch for the government to appoint provincial ombudsman Jay Chalke to investigate and produce a public report. It’s not the full public inquiry critics are demanding, but Chalke has the power to subpoena documents and witnesses.
The announcement of such an inquiry may come soon — before the legislature resumes sitting for a rare summer session starting July 13...
Sure Mr. Chalke has the 'power'.
But here's the thing...
Would the Clarklandians, and more specifically, Attorney General Ms. Suzanne Anton, actually let him wield it, especially if his preliminary investigations led him to the 'Executive Council' (i.e. the Clarklandian inner sanctum)?
Reader GWest sent us to the heart of that matter's darkness in the actual Ombudsperson's Act.
Section 18 to be exact:
Attorney General may restrict investigative powers
18 (1) The Ombudsperson must not enter any premises and must not require any information or answer to be given or any document or thing to be produced if the Attorney General certifies that entering the premises, giving the information, answering the question or producing the document or thing might
(a) interfere with or impede the investigation or detection of an offence,
(b) result in or involve the disclosure of deliberations of the Executive Council, or
(c) result in or involve the disclosure of proceedings of the Executive Council or a committee of it, relating to matters of a secret or confidential nature and that the disclosure would be contrary or prejudicial to the public interest.
(2) The Ombudsperson must report each certificate of the Attorney General to the Legislative Assembly not later than in the Ombudsperson's next annual report.
Do you see what's really going on here now?
There's a Club?....You bet there is.
Up next...The public inquiries that Mr. Palmer did NOT tell you about when he wrote the original 'Ombuddy Solution' column...Stay tuned...