Vindictive and cowardly are two words that begin to describe the Liberals’ decision to deep six Auditor General John Doyle.
Doyle’s first term is expiring and he should have been re-appointed for a second term as our fiscal watchdog in Victoria.
There is a reason we have auditors general. There is a reason they answer not to the party in power, but to the whole legislature, to all the people. That reason is simple: ruling parties generally deplore transparency and accountability. They celebrate openness when they are seeking power, but quickly degenerate once they begin to enjoy the solitude of the cabinet chamber and the silence of the committee room.
In the case of the Liberals, they fear transparency beyond all other governmental virtues and so they feared John Doyle. For the Liberals, an hour of Doyle’s forensic attention was like an overdue visit to the dentist. When it came to drilling down into the decay of this government’s wilful neglect, studied indifference and plausible deniability there was none better than Doyle.
So, last weekend, the Liberal-controlled legislative committee charged with Doyle’s fate decided to run newspaper advertisements seeking his replacement. To do this less than five months ahead of a general election, at a time when stability and continuity are vital, is unconscionable.
Everyone agrees, Doyle was one tough bastard. Hell, he had to be tough to take the flak when he started probing the dark recesses of the $6 million legal fee waiver for the government aides guilty of breach of trust in the B.C. Rail case.
The NDP caucus strongly supported Doyle’s reappointment. Caucus chair Shane Simpson touched on the bipartisan nature of Doyle’s mandate: “I think he’s been a staunch critic of problems in the government and quite honestly had he been reappointed and should we win the election in May, I would expect him to be just as staunch a critic of the NDP.”
I believe two specific reports issued by Doyle at year’s end sealed his fate. The first was a report on whistleblowers in which he made it painfully clear that public servants shouldn’t have to put their jobs on the line to protect the public interest.
“Whistleblowers need an element of protection in regard to the fact that they are coming forward with … information and at the moment there is very, very limited protection that’s afforded,” Doyle said. “There has been some draft legislation put forward to the Legislative Assembly in the past, but none of it got through.”
The second report aimed right at the heart of this government’s refusal to be held accountable. Titled “Summary Report: Results of Completed Projects and Other Matters,” the report reviews the government’s progress toward implementing “Reporting Principles” adopted in 2003.
The goal in 2003 was to get “agreement on the fundamentals of meaningful performance reporting to support an open and accountable government, one that clearly communicates to the public what government strives to achieve and what it actually achieves.”
However, a decade down the road, Doyle reports that “government-wide adoption of the Reporting Principles is still stalled. As a result, the full potential of these reports to enhance government’s transparency and accountability to its stakeholders is not being achieved.”
Doyle said he planned to mark this dubious 10-year anniversary “by undertaking a more in-depth review of government accountability reporting.”
Clearly, the Liberals had no stomach for that. M