The reference that wasn't there

Last April, former conflict of interest commissioner Ted Hughes released 62 recommendations to repair British Columbia child protection system - recommendations the Campbell administration has committed to act on. So it seems somewhat curious children and family development deputy minister Lesley du Toit doesn't reference his British Columbia Children and Youth Review in any correspondence she sent between May 1, 2006 and December 8, 2006. This, according to a New Democrat freedom of information request response released today.

Asked for comment, Children and Family Development Minister Tom Christensen told reporters, "What I'm interested in is not the words that are used by the work that is being done. And, if we reflect on the work that the deputy minister is doing with the aboriginal community, the work that's going on around transformation and how we're engaging communities and regions and how we make decisions, that's all very consistent with a number of the recommendations Mr. Hughes has made. So I'm comfortable in terms of the work my deputy is doing that is relevant to Hughes. I'm committed - and the government remains very committed - to implement the recommendations." The following is are edited selections from that scrum.

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Media Maybe you can explain to us why there aren't any emails from Lesley du Toit referencing the Hughes report within this time frame?

Minister Christensen Well, as I said in the house, we very much appreciate the work Mr. Hughes did and the recommendations that he's made. And the government's commitment to implementing those recommendations. We established a transition team at the time we received Mr. Hughes's report so that we'd have a strong team in place to ensure implementation ocurred. That team is led by the deputy attorney general. So that's where the leadership at the public service level is coming from. That work is ongoing. We've made significant progress in terms of the recommendations that are specific to the ministry of children and family development. I think it's worth recalling that Mr. Hughes actually was encouraged by a number of the shifts the ministry was making. And he encouraged us in that work in terms of how we're working with aboriginal communities. That work has continued throughout the course of the last year and will continue. The deputy minister - my deputy minister - is key to that work. We've implemented the recommendation to establish the independent officer of the legislature. That legislation was passed within days of when Mr. Hughes's recommendations came down. Government acted very quickly. We're happy the representative is now in place. We're looking forward to working with her and getting her input in terms of some of the recommendations going forward. And we've added staff within the ministry. We've focused on quality assurance. So that work is being done.

Media But Tom, doesn't it seem odd to you that, given how much Lesley communicates via email - and goodness knows I've received more than a few of them - that she wouldn't at some point in time, as the deputy minister responsible for MCFD, reference the Hughes report in her emails?

Minister Christensen Again, what I'm interested in is not the words that are used by the work that is being done. And, if we reflect on the work that the deputy minister is doing with the aboriginal community, the work that's going on around transformation and how we're engaging communities and regions and how we make decisions, that's all very consistent with a number of the recommendations Mr. Hughes has made. So I'm comfortable in terms of the work my deputy is doing that is relevant to Hughes. I'm committed - and the government remains very committed - to implement the recommendations.

Media Do you have a timeline in mind for covering all these 62 recommendations?

Minister Christensen I think it would be irresponsible of me to give you a specific timeline. But we're going to continue working on them. Some of them we believe would be helped by some input from the representative. So, once she's firmly established in her office, I think that will help on that front. And we'll continue this work. What I will add is that if the leader of the Opposition has concerns about specific recommendations, I'm more than happy to hear those concerns from her and to follow-up on those. Mr. Hughes made one recommendation that the Opposition is key to assisting in implementing that. And that is to try to take some of the partisan politics out of issues to deal with children and youth. I've seen no indication that the government wants to do that.

Media Can you explain the difference between transformation at the ministry and the recommendations in the Hughes report? Because I know that might be a relevant question for a lot of people.

Minister Christensen Well, the ministry is undergoing a process of transformation that I believe Mr. Hughes reflected on in his report where we're doing much more to engage aboriginal communities in defining the direction that government should be going and delivering services to those communities. So that's a key element of transformation. It's a key direction that Mr. Hughes was encouraging in. And Mr. Hughes made a number of other recommendations that supported that around the need to hire more aboriginal social workers. We've implemented steps forward around that. One is a new program at UNBC where we've just - I believe - graduated the first ten people that will be specialized in child protection that are aboriginal students. That's a big step forward. That's going to make a big difference in the north. That's consistent with Hughes. So we're very much on the right path. And I believe we'll continue on this path.

12 Comments

The minister's answers aren't reassuring. It's hard to conclude anything except the Hughes report has been forgotten or the deputy is making an effort not to commit any comments on it to writing.
We're about eight months into the "transformation process" with no real idea what's been accomplished or where its going and we're three months past the date the ministry promised a proper progress report.
Anyone who has managed in even medium-sized organizations would recognize those as warning signs.

Thank you, Sean, for keeping MCFD in the public eye. Judge Hughes included accountability to the public in his report and it is our right to know what is going on with our tax dollars.

I was also not reassured by the Minister's statements which were vague. About all he did was express support for his DM. The modus operandi appears to be Management by Secrecy. What are they hiding?

When the DM arrived in early 2006 the wagons were circled after she asserted that she had her own "Plan". We have yet to see it in any cogent form and we have seen no reports on it in the press. All of you journalists out there: dig deeper.

I have listened to the DM many times. I've listened and listened and listened. I've listened to her say the same thing over and over again. I travel to her meetings, leaving my job and my family hoping that after all this time and all those meetings that she will say something that I have not heard from her before. The Minister was at the last meeting for a short time. If he had stayed for the meeting he would have heard the same thing that he heard the last time too. I had hoped that we would move forward. I am disappointed and angry about being called to meetings that accomplish nothing but the DM listening to her own voice.

The BC Liberals and DM Lesley Du Toit assert that this is all supposed to be a well-planned, transparent, inclusive, open & accountable process - the devolution of the child welfare system. Yet, the leadership of the Ministry of Tears and Misery seems to be ever more insular, secretive and paranoid about plans leaking out about the "transformation." That kind of arrogance is unacceptable. As taxpayers we must be very, very concerned about the actions, or lack thereof of these so-called leaders. An additional question raised by this article is has DM Du Toit, or Minister Christensen actually met with Ted Hughes to discuss his report & recommendations?

There must be a renewed call for a forensic audit of MCFD going back to 2001. The shell games, corruption and hidden pots of money are there, waiting to be found, or not. Money spent on renovating offices, lunches & events for managers, cutbacks to services to the public. But one also has to ask, where is the NDP opposition in this? Nothing has changed with MCFD and in fact, things are getting worse around the province. Why does the opposition support this devolution? Where are their questions for the DM, or Minister?

The need to "review" CLBC is case in point. There is little accountability, no real stats and only the very real pain, confusion & betrayal of the children, adults and families that desperately need services only to be denied by the BC government, while every day, the local media outlets provide advertising for the "Road to the Olympics."

As we get closer & closer to a federal election, I hope that people remember that neo-con governments, Liberal, or Conservative are in cahoots and we need a more moderate, humanist solution to our current provincial climate. Jack Layton & the federal NDP will provide a balance to what BC faces over the next few years with these clowns continuing to tear the child welfare system apart.

Surprising as that is, I'd agree with Christensen that actions are more important than words and he did identify some quite specific actions that link back to specific recommendations in the Hughes report. It also should be no surprise that things take longer than anyone had hoped and I'd rather see it done right than done quick.

But Ted Hughes made a whole bunch of recommendations, that taken together offered what most thought was a sensible way forward. You can't just pick the ones you like and forget the rest because it would defeat the whole intent and you could easily end up doing more harm than good and going backward into the old crisis or forward into a new crisis if that's the approach being taken.

Given the commitment made by the Premier, the Minister has an obligation to demonstrate at least a framework for how he and his Deputy intend to realize the full package of recommendations. Let's not forget who's the one that's accountable here. Ms. Du Toit could spend all day holding hands and singing songs and it wouldn't matter if Minister Christensen could show the job getting done and commitments being honoured--or at least a clear plan for doing so. Du Toit also seems to have a problem with morale, but again, this comes right back to the Minister and whether he can show the job getting done or not.

(Pardon my ignorance, but is he the one who hires/fires his own deputy or does he have to take whoever is assigned to him by the head of the civil service or Premier's Office?)

Ministers don't hire their own Deputy. In the case of the DM of mcfd, she was apppointed by the Premier as an "expert" in child welfare "transformation."

du Toit reports to Jessica MacDonald.

The Minister says that he feels comfortable with 'how we make decisions'. I would encourage him to give his head a shake. Decisions made by one person are rarely good decisions.

Media Do you have a timeline in mind for covering all these 62 recommendations?

Minister Christensen I think it would be irresponsible of me to give you a specific timeline.

I thought that the whole point of 'The BC Liberal Way' was that they would bring a business style to the fine art of governance and there would be 'measurables' and 'accountability'...
I feel betrayed !

Hmmmmm......

Could it be that there is a delay because Ms. du Toit and/or Ms. MacDonald is/are waiting for Mr. Schwarzenegger to release his latest child welfare initiative so that they can scoop the best soundbites and ride the wave of the post-partisan P.R. parade?

Which, of course, is nothing but snark.....and the way that we that we appear to making policy in this province these days.

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'I thought that the whole point of 'The BC Liberal Way' was that they would bring a business style to the fine art of governance and there would be 'measurables' and 'accountability'...'

It seems the DM doesn't like Projects or Plans and it looks like Minister Christensen is falling into line.

no plans please makes a point but it must be said that the
DM likes projects. She gives lots of them to university types. One was spoken about at the Richmond meeting. But I understand that she doesn't like her staff to do projects or plans. I have seen no plans or projects and I can't say if anyone on the transformation team has. The Minister doesn't seem to be very well informed either.

"The Minister doesn't seem to be very well informed either."

The Minister sounds an awful lot like Max Headroom, but then, when the premier gets to appoint both you and your chief operator, vague generalities are probably a very safe way to avoid dis-appointment.

Maybe the critics should just cut the pretence and simply pose the queries to Gordon Campbell, Minister of Everything.

"Minister Christensen ...we very much appreciate the work Mr. Hughes did and the recommendations that he's made...We established a transition team at the time we received Mr. Hughes's report so that we'd have a strong team in place to ensure implementation ocurred. That team is led by the deputy attorney general. So that's where the leadership at the public service level is coming from."

Am I missing something here? Mr. Hughes sent his Report to the Minister responsible for MCFD so why is his Ministry not responsible for implementing the recommendations?

Why is it that another Ministry is responsible?

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