An opaque kind of transparency

Earlier, we reported on deputy minister Lesley du Toit personnel plans for children and development - which were detailed in a memo sent to executives back of January. Of course, some readers might think the ministry would be anxious to share those plans, even though they're classified as confidential. After all, according Ms. du Toit's latest transformation update, transparency is one of principles that will "form the foundation of our policy framework and practice as well develop good practice in child, family and community development." Writes Ms. du Toit, "to the extent that it is possible within law, MCFD and all service providers will be fully transparent with regard to plans, funding and achievement of principles and goals."

But a freedom of information request for the memo blanked-out any mention of her meeting with Premier Gordon Campbell, her intention to downsize the ministry's headquarters staff and instructions that managers must be at least 90 percent supportive of her restructuring plans. Those blank-outs were made under sections 17 and 13 of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, which allow government to withhold access to "policy advice or recommendations" or records that would be "harmful to the financial or economic interests of a public body." A leaked copy of that memo subsequently revealed what information had been blanked-out. The following is a complete copy of the blanked-out version.

***

From: du Toit, Lesley MCF:EX
Sent: Sun, January 28, 2007 2:50 PM
To: Ahmed, Sarf MCF:EX; Boon, Les N MCF:EX; Cunningham, Peter C MCF:EX; Dellert, Karen D MCF:EX Dicks, Beverly J MCF:EX; Doyle, Patrick J MCF:EX; du Toit, Lesley MCF:EX; Eamer, Chuck MCF:EX; Foxcroft, Debra MCF:EX; Gleeson, Kelly T PAB:EX; Hayman, Douglas MCF:EX; Hedlund, Marilyn MCF:EX; Hughes, Doug J MCF:EX; Knox, Donna L MCF:EX; MacMillan, Karen MCF:EX; Markwart, Alan MCF:EX; McCallum, Nikki MCF:EX; Sieben, Mark MCF:EX; Williams, Stan MCF:EX
Subject: Leadership meetings on 6th and 7th CONFIDENTIAL

Dear All

The two days of meetings will be extremely important and I would like to ask that you all make yourselves available for the full period of both days and that you prepare in advance, as much as that is possible.

Agenda Items

Please submit the items you would like on the agenda to Karen or directly to me, by no later than morning of Thursday 1st. Please indicate briefly what the agends item is about (unless it is quite obvious) and how much time you think it would require. I will then be in a position to decide about where and if it goes onto our agenda.

On the 6th we will focus on business items and then go on to discussing regionalization. Once we have spent sufficient time on that we will spend the rest of the two days on the restructuring and final organization chart of MCFD. These are two aspects which fundamentally affect the entire ministry and everything we do in the next 4 years, so I want us to give them the time needed to be as wise and careful as we can.

Regionalization
(s. 13) At our meeting on the 6th will spend most of our time on discussing the regionalization of MCFD's services, decision-making, and community engagement. (s. 17)
I will post the piece of the strategic plan on this matter up on the share point by Tuesday so that you can begin to think about it and prepare for the discussion. (s. 13) This is completely confidential.
(s. 17)

Restructuring of MCFD

Provincial Office:

By the end of day on the 7th the final decisions on the restructuring will be made and I would like you to thus prepare thoroughly for finalizing this. We have taken far too long on this matter and while processes will still have to be completed, it will NOT be up for discussion beyond the 7th. Please resolve any concerns, issues, disagreements etc by then and come with the draft of your piece of the organizational chart and any discussion pieces you have. You should of course bring unresolved issues to the table as well. If possible Pat should receive the organogram too so we can look at one integrated chart as well. The REDS will have refined their job description and will present this at the meeting to inform the debate and decisions.

After this meeting we will be sending out a major communication to staff on this issue, and on transformation.

(s. 17)

* Please structure for team work and not as a beurocracy.
* The work for provincial office is basically (s. 17), Provincial policy/legislation, Support for regional governance and service delivery, overall planning and (s. 17), seeing that resources get approved and down to regions effectively and efficiently, cross-ministry work at provincial level, FPT work, communications, and ensuring the goals and accountabilities of the minister and government as a whole are met etc.
* (s. 17)

If there are concerns on any of the above, please discuss with Pat and Donna, or bring these to the meeting for discussion. You can of course discuss with me if you have any major issue that you want discussed before the meeting.

Regional Offices

(s. 17)

Meeting time:
Please note that because we will only start at 10:00 on the 6th to give people time to fly in that morning, we will work to 5:00 on the 6th. We will start at 8:00 (with a working breakfast) and continue to 4.00 on the 7th.

We will have dinner together on the evening of the 6th.

Looking forward to the meeting and thank you for all your work todate on the above. I know it has not been an easy process.

Lesley

4 Comments

It's revealing to see what was blanked out, especially where it seems inconsistent with the guidelines. Who wields the black marker on these things at the Province? Is it the Deputy, the Minister's staff, Ministry Communications people or the Premier's issues management team?

Whoever is responsible, it makes a joke of the constant obligatory commitments to transparency, but then again, that's not news -- consistent with the broader pattern we've seen across the board.

And why so shy about plans being directed/coordinated by the Premier? Everyone knows he's been the constant force behind MCFD restructuring while four different Ministers and at least as many Deputies have come and gone, and that his office hired and oriented Ms du Toit before installing her as Deputy. (That doesn't suggest pride in ownership of what's proposed, or much confidence in the outcome.)

The language and approach all sounds so familiar, though. These are all the same key messages we heard when the previous team was planning "regionalization" via CLBC back in 2001/02 -- total system redesign, no tinkering around the edges; those who aren't on board will need to get out of the way; total culture change required; out with the old bureaucracy and in with the new non-bureaucracy; even plans being finalized pre-"community engagement". Walls & co also had the organizational charts all neatly filled in with important sounding new roles and titles. Sadly, nothing on those charts suggested the disfunctional new bureaucracy we'd be confronting today in practice.

Unfortunately this is not a problem that can be corrected by changing systems, transforming, restructuring.Rather it requires common sense, dignity, real transparency, real consultation and good practice. Theory is being pushed and good practice is yet again beyond the capability of this motley crew.You see they all sold out, got more than 90% behing the unethical cost cutting, program cutting agenda, got promoted and now are in management positions they attained for being colloborators( nothing like blind ambition) rather than having any real skils in maanging a major system. Don't trust them as they scramble to please Ms.Du Toit and gscramble to figure out what she wants rather than providing real leadership.Hey , that is how you stay employed.Do not appoint unless they are more than 90% sold.

And this is the DM who was brought to BC from South Africa (a bastion of Democracy) to teach us to behave with respect, inclusiveness, open communication and all the other blah blah words that were written in emails to all staff at Children and Families? The words seem to have no meaning in practice.

I have only had a few minutes to review du Toit's February update and would wish for more time to comment before this particular post by Sean is moved on; I have a question:

Does anyone know if the Youth Advisory Committee du Toit refers to includes representation of youth from all communities in the province, including the Asian community or is this group made up only of aboriginal youth?

It appears to me from a quick reading of the update that it's all about the aboriginal community. While this focus is very important, are the rest of BC's children and youth being shunted aside?

I'd like to see an update that includes ALL children and youth in BC.

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