From here to there and back again

Earlier, we reported on the hiring of international contractor of mystery (Public Eye passim) Lesley du Toit as the new deputy minister of children and family development. But some bureaucrats are still scratching their heads as to how someone from South Africa gets named to one of the most senior and sensitive civil service postings in the province. Well, at least part of the answer has to do with Jim Anglin, the University of Victoria's vice-president of academic and student affairs and former director of the institution's school of child and youth care.

In an interview with your humble organ, Dr. Anglin said he became first became aquainted with Ms. du Toit over 15 years ago when they were both members of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization's International Federation of Educative Communities. That relationship continued when he was hired in 1995 as a consultant to the South African government's inter-ministerial committee on young people at risk - a position that involved him travelling to the country twice a year. And, coincidentally, that was the same committee Ms. du Toit's was responsible for managing.

As the manager of that committee, Dr. Anglin says Ms. du Toit visited British Columbia. And, during one of those visits, he "took her around to meet all the key people in B.C. because we were involved in all the same kinds of issues she was looking at." According to Dr. Anglin, those key people included the then deputy minister of children and families Bob Plecas and future children's commissioner Cynthia Morton. And "I think it was at that point that she impressed people with her knowledge and her ability" - eventually culminating in her appointment in 2001 to an international panel to advise children and family development. Since then, an information bulletin from the premier's office notes she has " different consulting capacities in British Columbia."


I've always thought that included in the mix of reasons for the appointment of South African Lesley du Toit is the Premier's wish to be associated in people's minds with a truly great man: Nelson Mandela. Mandela brought Ms du Toit into a process in South Africa, the mandate for which was to "fix" child welfare issues in that country, a country very different to Canada.

I understand, however, that the process with which Ms du Toit was involved at a very senior level in her own country is still ongoing after all these years.

The question that I have is why is she here when the problems in her own country haven't been "fixed". What am I missing?

It's very simple, anon.

If one keeps the system in a state of permanent change, that keeps the focus on this ideal vision, on change itself and the system itself, vs. actual outcomes and hard reality. It diverts attention from the failure to actually improve capacity to serve users.

In the last four years, everything discussed publicly about MCFD revolved around system change--restructuring & budget cuts. Unless a case comes along like Sherry Charley's that is so compelling it can't be ignored, no one talks about how the system is functioning here and now and what the change process actually means for children and families. The change process provides an excuse to dismiss most concerns and problems-- i.e. all will be well when the vision is realized. Except we never actually get there...

So MCFD and CLBC will continue in a state of "endless bureaucratic restructuring". It provides the ideal excuse for current failures, shifting the focus to something far more positive--i.e. the pursuit of the wondrous, mythical *vision*.

CLBC's performance measures, for example, virtually all define success in terms of accomplishing change vs. objective improvement from users' perspective.

And we're already hearing here that the *new* approach will be more of the same: The vision is the message; change is the constant; and anyone who dares to rain on the parade to the rosy future with complaints about the dismal present will be shown the way to the door.

It's evident that you are quite right, Dawn, according to the reports of others who have met LduT recently. What a huge pity!

The two imortant thigs to remember.
1 Blame the opposition no matter what
2. Say or do whatever is needed to stay elected
All else is of less significance even is kids die in the meantime

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