Lawyer, businessman and long-time Tory Douglas Goss steps aside as U of A board chair

Posted on July 22, 2015, 2:19 am
6 mins

PHOTOS: University of Alberta Board Chair Douglas Goss at the infamous Melcor Five news conference on May 1. Below: New University of Alberta President David Turpin, who took over on July 1, and former U of A provost Carl Amrhein, now the deputy minister of health in the Alberta government.

Lawyer, businessman and long-time Tory supporter Douglas Goss announced yesterday he would resign as chair of the University of Alberta board of governors at the end of next month.

Despite making an effort to strike a positive tone in his resignation letter, Mr. Goss really had little choice after shooting himself in both feet, figuratively speaking, hours before the election of Premier Rachel Notley’s New Democratic Party majority on May 5.

1297719199358_ORIGINALAlert readers will recall how Mr. Goss and four other prominent Edmonton-area businessmen called a news conference on May 1 in the Jasper Avenue boardroom of Melcor Developments to beg Albertans not to do anything so stupid as electing an “amateur” NDP government. They suggested instead that smart Albertans would stick with the “solid” track record of Progressive Conservative premier Jim Prentice.

Ah well, give the five of them their due. They had the courage of their convictions and they sensed what was going to happen on May 5 a darn sight more clearly than Mr. Prentice himself and his expensive strategic brain trust at Toronto-based Navigator Ltd. – polling, GroupThink ™ and all.

In the event, Alberta voters chose not to take the advice of the Melcor Five – which besides Mr. Goss included Melcor Developments Chair Tim Melton, Clark Builders CEO Paul Verhesen, Keller Construction CEO John Cameron and NPO Zero CEO Ashif Mawji, each with well-established connections to the PCs. For his part, Mr. Goss had served as a past PC campaign co-chair and party vice-president as well as donating significant sums to the Tory cause.

Despite the storm of controversy stirred up on social media by the tone-deaf quintet – which in the event was extremely helpful to the NDP – the U of A Board of Governors voted on May 8 to keep Mr. Goss around as chair. Obviously, however, something happened between then and now.

Mr. Goss’s letter, first revealed yesterday on Twitter by blogger Dave Cournoyer and then picked up by the media, indicated he felt be could retire now that a new university president was on the job. Former University of Victoria president David Turpin began his term as the university’s 13th president on July 1.

“My attention, in recent weeks, has been focused on how I can best contribute as a volunteer going forward, and specifically on the upcoming capital campaign,” Mr. Goss wrote.

DrAmrheinwebHowever, even though he admitted at the time that in retrospect it might have been wiser to keep his own counsel about whom Albertans should support, by calling the news conference to command the orange tide to turn back, and insulting the New Democratic Party and its supporters in the process, Mr. Goss seriously compromised his ability to act in the interests of the U of A.

Meantime, if the outgoing board chair happened to have anything to do with the movement of former U of A provost Carl Amrhein over to Alberta Health Services as “official administrator,” whence he was able to move on to become deputy minister of health last month, perhaps Mr. Goss can be said just the same to have made his mark on the NDP government.

When the job of U of A president didn’t come Dr. Amrhein’s way as many in the university community had expected, the road was opened by then-premier Prentice for the former provost to temporarily become the top dog at AHS, essentially the massive agency’s one-man board.

After seven months in that temporary post he could have been painlessly sent back to the U of A. Instead, Dr. Amrhein was invited to move upward to the key deputy minister job, one of a raft of similar appointments including several senior civil servants who had been closely associated with the PC government announced the day before the Canada Day holiday.

The move by the Notley Government mystified and disappointed many NDP supporters who had hoped for a broader change among the ranks of Alberta’s senior civil servants that would put in place a cadre of top officials who could be counted on to support the government and who would believe in its promised policies.

The NDP will have many additional chances to make appointments more satisfactory to their supporters and perhaps better for their future in the weeks and months ahead – including, presumably, the replacement for Mr. Goss on the U of A board.

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

8 Comments to: Lawyer, businessman and long-time Tory Douglas Goss steps aside as U of A board chair

  1. thomas

    July 22nd, 2015

    We should thank Doug Goss for his great service, especially warning us of the perils of the new socialist government. We should have heeded his warning…

    Reply
    • brogan

      July 22nd, 2015

      It wasn’t a warning you idiot, it was corrupt, corporatist scum fearmongering against change. The assholes already have more wealth than they deserve, they fear a government that will tax them fairly, or make them pay fair wages, making it slightly less likely they can buy another car or house or luxury item most of us could never afford.
      The NDP are barely socialist, while north American politics have been dragged to near fascism by ignorant dupes like you. You believe in bullshit economics. The rich do not share wealth, they hoard it.

      Reply
      • Athabascan

        July 24th, 2015

        Well said. I couldn’t agree more.

        There are plenty of resources to meet the needs of everyone, but never enough to satisfy greed.

        Reply
  2. Laurie Adkin

    July 22nd, 2015

    Personally, I would love to see Dr. Raj Pannu appointed as Chair of the Board of Governors of the University of Alberta. As a distinguished (retired) professor of Education with deep knowledge of the university and of PSE issues in general, he would be an excellent choice.

    Reply
    • David Climenhaga

      July 22nd, 2015

      I totally agree, Laurie, although I would think the normal protocol would be to appoint a new member to the board, Dr. Pannu say, and have an existing member of the board step up to be chair. This is a problem for the NDP as the ranks of Alberta’s boards, agencies and commissions are literally almost entirely populated by Tory appointments. Many of them are dedicated volunteer servants of the public, but a significant number were and continue to be conservative partisans who cannot be relied upon not to attempt to sabotage the NDP government. This is why the NDP needs to start taking more care and make appointments from the large number of Albertans on whom it can depend, instead of merely reshuffling and reappointing PC/Wildrose loyalists.

      Reply
    • Bobbie Saga

      July 29th, 2015

      I completely agree that Dr. Pannu would make an ideal candidate for the B o G chair position at the U of A. He certainly is qualified. And notwithstanding the usual progression of partisan boards, to heck with protocol after 40 plus years of Tory rule.

      Reply
  3. Athabascan

    July 22nd, 2015

    Good riddance to bad rubbish at the U of A.

    I’m looking forward to a total house cleaning (Board of Governors, and President) at Athabasca University. The sooner the better, because that university is broke and on the brink of closing its doors.

    To avoid total collapse the NDP needs to address the governance of the institution and not just throw money at incompetent, secretive, and entitled administrators.

    Reply
  4. David

    July 23rd, 2015

    It is good that Mr. Goss decided to step aside after making the terrible mistake of trying mix two very high profile roles that so obviously and publicly conflicted – conservative partisan attacker and the impartial chair of the the board of the largest post secondary institution in the province. If he had not spoke out so publicly, I suspect many people would have been happy to see him finish his term and quietly retire, probably to be replaced by someone whose thinking was more in line with the new government . Instead, I think his remarks caused such great concern, especially to the University community which is what led to his quick departure.

    I am very glad to see the cozy world of tory board appointees start to be shaken up, it is long overdue. Often these people do not reflect well the goals or the views of the organizations they purport to represent but they were there more to monitor the organizations for the previous government, curry favour with the previous government and sometimes suppress dissent.

    I hope there will be a lot of new blood on these boards soon, but I also hope the new people appointed will not just be the loyal servants of the new government. If NDP loyalists replace PC loyalists then I think we have just replaced the blue cats with the orange ones. I hope the new government takes this opportunity to make less partisan and more thoughtful appointments to these boards.

    Reply

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