I asked, a few weeks ago, if anyone else thought that the Trudeau Liberals had gone “tone deaf” and I listed a few problems that seemed, to me, to indicate that the campaign team might be somewhat less than sure-footed when it came to governing.
Now I need to ask the same question about General Jon Vance and the staff at National Defence Headquarters. Do you remember the sad case of the family of Corporal Stuart Langridge? Corporal Langridge, for those who have forgotten, was a veterans of combat operations in Bosnia and Afghanistan who committed suicide in 2008. What followed was a horrid series of bungled investigations (by clearly incompetent military police officers) cover-ups by their equally incompetent military police superiors and then bureaucratic bungling of the highest order by senior military officers,up to and including the very top brass, and officials in the Department of National Defence. Now, it appears to be happening again: the media is reporting that DND officials, on the 14 Wing RCAF base at Greenwood, NS, and in Ottawa, are, once again, bungling the treatment of families of a deceased member, Private Tyrell Vail. The (linked) Ottawa Citizen report says that, “The department pointed out [in an e-mail] that it safeguards personal belongings and aims to avoid potential contentious issues and litigation. “Our thoughts are with the family of our lost comrade,” the email added.“
I think what is really happening is that “the department”is engaged in another “cover your ass” campaign ~ where one might not even be required. Their “thoughts” are on, and the very root of the problem is, a pernicious doctrine that I call “don’t embarrass the minister.” That notion has been dominant in ‘official Ottawa‘ since at least the early 1990s. I saw it, close up, more than once when I was still serving in National Defence Headquarters, as a director, and I saw it again ~ both inside and outside of DND ~ when I was (1990s/2000s) a civilian manager of an agency that had extensive dealings with governments at a quite high level. Senior officers and officials are so afraid of doing something wrong that they will hide behind any bureaucratic contrivance rather take even a small risk ~ even when they know taking that small risk (there is, I’m guessing, some minor legal question of the status of the common law wife) is the right thing to do.
I remind readers of management guru Warren Bennis’ excellent dictum:
It is time for Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and General Jonathan Vance to step up and be the leaders we all believe they are, and, summarily, fire a couple of dozen senior officers and officials (generals and commodores and colonels and lieutenant commanders and civilian equivalents) just for a start and then tell the rest that the minister will answer, publicly, for minor errors that are made in good faith, in the interests of really respecting the troops and their families, and the CDS will demote and dismiss weak, ass covering staff officers and less than stellar formation and unit commanders.
This is not a partisan political issue. It ~ the “don’t embarrass the minister” thing which is at the root of the brown-nosing and ass-covering ~ began around 1970, I think; I just noticed and commented on it in the 1990s. But one politician, a minister who doesn’t need to have his ass covered (or kissed), might be able to start the slow process of change for the better.