Despite his huge unintended favour to the NDP, U of A chair Doug Goss needs to step aside

Posted on May 10, 2015, 12:36 am
7 mins

PHOTOS: Doug Goss chairs the notorious news conference at which five prominent Edmonton businessmen assailed the New Democrats as amateurs and patronized Albertans about their need to start “thinking straight” mere hours before the May 5 election saw the NDP crush the Tories he supported. Below: Construction company CEO John Cameron and Alberta Premier Designate Rachel Notley.

Edmonton lawyer and businessman Doug Goss’s determination to hang onto his job as chair of the University of Alberta Board of Governors is a small illustration of just how out of touch this province’s Tory establishment had become before their dynastic government was swept away May 5 on an Orange Wave.

Mr. Goss certainly had a right to engage in a partisan effort on behalf of the Progressive Conservatives with a group of prominent businessmen five days before the election. But by calling a news conference to command the orange tide to turn back, and insulting the New Democratic Party and its supporters in the process, he seriously compromised his ability to act in the interests of the U of A.

CameronThat he doesn’t get this, and is apparently supported in this thinking by the other members of the board, suggests it hasn’t yet quite sunk in with the province’s former Tory leaders that the world has turned.

Truth be told, movers and shakers in the Notley Government would probably like to give Mr. Goss a medal for his effort on April 30.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not going to happen. The epic favour done for Premier Rachel Notley and her just-elected NDP majority government by Mr. Goss and four other well-off Edmonton businessmen will likely never be fully acknowledged, except perhaps here at AlbertaPolitics.ca.

Anyway, Mr. Goss already has a gong from the Alberta Order of Excellence, given to him when Alison Redford was the premier, for his efforts in business, the law and volunteer activities like the U of A board.

We don’t actually know which of the five prominent men with political connections and business ties to former premier Jim Prentice’s PC government had the bright idea of calling a news conference to lecture Albertans about how they weren’t “thinking straight” if they planned to vote for the NDP.

RachelNotleyBut it was Mr. Goss – who had also served as a past PC campaign co-chair and party vice-president as well as donating significant sums to the PC cause – who chaired the April 30 meeting and whose face will thus be forever associated with the accusation the about-to-be-elected New Democrats were just a bunch of “amateurs.”

Well, they certainly didn’t run an amateur campaign, did they?

Regardless, this patronizing little boardroom homily by five well-off and well-heeled men, some of whom had received millions in government contracts in the previous three years, came at exactly the right moment to reinforce Ms. Notley’s narrative that the Prentice PCs were entitled, tone deaf and out of touch with the needs and aspirations of ordinary Albertans.

A windy complaint about taxes by one of them, construction company CEO John Cameron, may have done almost as much to persuade voters the NDP had it nailed on business taxes as what the party had to say itself. “Why is it always the corporations? Why is it always? I risk everything I have because I am a small business, and then I have somebody telling me that I should be paying more tax,” Mr. Cameron complained. “Why? Why is it me?

Talk about a tin ear! If there had been any danger that the Orange Wave then roaring through Alberta was about to start declining, the news conference ended it and ensured the massive NDP victory five days later.

The news conference provided a demonstration on a par with Mr. Prentice’s own spectacular blunders – the early election no one wanted, the cynical Wildrose floor crossing, the advice to Albertans to look in the mirror, and the notoriously patronizing “math is hard” moment during the TV leaders’ debate – of just how far the Tories had wandered from the more democratic days when Peter Lougheed ran their party.

Now Mr. Goss insists there is no connection between his partisan political activities and his non-partisan role on the board. “In no way, shape or form did I represent the University of Alberta,” he told the CBC.

I’m sure that was Mr. Goss’s intention. But from a practical standpoint, it’s very hard to separate his role slamming the party that was about to become the government from his position as the supposedly non-partisan chair of the board of a publicly funded institution.

The university’s Association of Academic Staff certainly agrees. Association President Kevin Kane wrote Premier Designate Notley asking her to rescind Mr. Goss’s appointment.

“His actions have resulted in our complete loss of confidence in him as the board chair and as a member of the board,” Mr. Kane wrote, arguing that the university’s board “should reflect the interests, knowledge and perspectives of a wide spectrum of civil society and appointments should not be heavily weighted in favour of one political party.”

It’s pretty clear that for the sake of the University of Alberta, Mr. Goss needs to go. The best way for him to serve the interests of the university now is to voluntarily step aside without a fuss.

Mr. Prentice, who should have stayed, quit in a huff the instant he didn’t get his way on election night. Mr. Goss, who needs to go, seems determined to hang on. What do these things tell us about the state of the PC Party in the spring of 2015?

This post also appears on Rabble.ca.

20 Comments to: Despite his huge unintended favour to the NDP, U of A chair Doug Goss needs to step aside

  1. Expat Albertan

    May 10th, 2015

    I agree that Goss has to go. Unfortunately, if Notley rescinds his appointment it would just look vindictive. Perhaps he’ll do the honourable thing if handed a sword…

    Reply
  2. jerrymacgp

    May 10th, 2015

    44 years of PC Party patronage have led to an intricate and nearly inextricable intertwining of PC tentacles in virtually every aspect of public affairs in this province. It will take a long time to untangle it all.

    Reply
  3. Amanda

    May 10th, 2015

    Who would be a good choice for the next BOG Chair?

    Reply
    • Athabascan

      May 10th, 2015

      Anyone with an education who values post secondary education and who isn’t a Tory crony will do.

      Reply
  4. Athabascan

    May 10th, 2015

    Oh yeah? Why stop there?

    The Athabasca University Board of Governor Chair, Mrazek was a former pcaa party president who went door to door campaigning for the conservative party. He should be forced to resign as well.

    AU might not be on the verge of shutting down if the BOG worked for the best interest of the university instead of their PC overlords.

    Reply
    • Jason

      May 10th, 2015

      To target people who have a different view is as unfair as someone telling you to vote a certain way. How about deciding whether someone should go or stay based on the merits of how they do their job?

      Reply
      • Marteto

        May 11th, 2015

        Right on Jason.

        No kidding. All the comments above want Goss removed so that they could put someone instead who is more in line with their political thinking. Isn’t that doing exactly the same as what they want stopped?

        Yes. Merits!

        Reply
  5. Tom Barrett

    May 10th, 2015

    Mr. Goss and his neoliberal ideas have no place at a world class university. He said and did nothing while the institution was being undermined, underfunded and treated like Thomas Lukaszuk’s private punching bag. Even Stephen Mandel stood up for the university, while Goss’s silence reflected his apparent approval of the shallow Redford vision of the U of A as a job-creation factory for corporate Alberta. Goss operated as a tool of the Redford government, not as an advocate for the university. He deserves to be replaced by someone who values the true mission of a university, to produce an educated public, protect academic freedom and promote pure research, not just research tied to economic results. A more general clear out of past PC appointments at the BOG is also needed. Education at all levels will now be a priority, as it always should have been, and they have no place in an institution they have nothing to contribute to.

    Reply
  6. Val Jobson

    May 10th, 2015

    At least that CBC interview you linked to made him squirm. But he doesn’t seem to get it, and too many other people don’t get it either.

    Reply
    • marteto

      May 11th, 2015

      This is what has bugged me with this election.

      I voted NDP as a vote of protest against the PC’s, but am feeling a little ashamed now by my vote because of all the self-righteous bull crap going on by the ‘sore winners’.

      “too many other other people don’t get it either,” “finally Alberta got it right”

      I’m getting tired of all of YOU knowing so much about life and the world, while telling everyone else how little they know. It’s akin to a kid going skiing for the first day in his life and coming off the hill after a day snowplowing, announcing to everyone that they’re a skier now. You’re a political NDP creature now Val. Congratulations on knowing so much more than the rest of us.

      Reply
      • pogo

        May 11th, 2015

        You know what bugs most people? Jim Prentice running away from his elected responsibility to ensure a smooth transition for the citizens of Alberta. But that doesn’t suit him, nope, when he found out that his outgoing gang of “professionals with just the right kind of experience to ruin alberta” tm PCPA intended to pack the locks with chewing gum and hide the toner for the photo copier after taking one last piss on the Alberta legislature floor, he decided that as much as he’d like to join in it might splash on him, so off he went. Heroism, some might say. A real profile in courageous public service or maybe “what might have been”. Anyway you cut it, for every disingenuous comment like yours: “I’m getting tired of all of YOU knowing so much about life and the world, while telling everyone else how little they know.” (didn’t anyone ever tell you it’s better to remain silent and… oh what’s the use!). But anyway, do you happen to know anything about Danielle Smith, the North West Upgrader and a certain Jonathan “I own the police” Denis? How about Steve West, Ken Kowalski? Don Getty? Ralphy “to the moon Alice” Klein? Who voted for that mess? Over and over? How much real fraud and graft can an untouchable dynastic autocracy generate? I’d say lots, but let’s turn over all the rocks and look, shall we? It’s our rock garden after all. Then you can come back and sling your fauxtrage.

        Reply
      • topiary

        May 11th, 2015

        Come on Marteto, you didn’t really vote NDP…. did you now?

        Reply
  7. Jimmy Connor

    May 10th, 2015

    Smart, insightful writing, thank heavens for a place to read a balanced narrative.

    Reply
  8. Brian

    May 10th, 2015

    What it tells me is that the PC party, like the Wildrose party, stands for true conservative principle that are the direct cause of the success of this province. The extreme leftist, socialist, and union-loving NDP will dismantle the Alberta advantage one step at a time.

    Reply
  9. Rod

    May 10th, 2015

    The longstanding tori establishments is long past it’s best before date. The establishment appointed heir Dinning was replaced by Stelmach who was quickly displaced. The next establishment appointed heir Mar was replaced by Redford who was quickly displaced. The establishment finally had it’s front runner Prentice who blew it in an early election. Albertans have voted for change. Mr Goss and his tori establishment cronies are a spent force.

    Reply
  10. Jeff Wedman

    May 11th, 2015

    Are you advocating a purge where anyone, on any board in Alberta, who ever had a link with the PC party must now step aside? If so, this would give credence to the “Albertastan” jest that so much contrived outrage is currently being expressed. Or must only Mr Goss step down because he did it so publicly and to such a ham-fisted effect?

    Reply
    • Topiary

      May 11th, 2015

      Dear Jeff, we’re those people appointed on merit or affiliation? If they were indeed appointed on affiliation, then I would suggest to you that ‘Albertastan’ was actually conceived 44 years ago.

      Reply
    • marteto

      May 11th, 2015

      Totally with you Jeff.

      Everyone is an outraged expert now, knowing it should have been this way all along.
      Sheesh. It’s verging on nauseating. Self righteous born-againism.

      Reply
  11. KEVAN RHEAD

    May 11th, 2015

    . . . One down and how many to go ? –– not for retribution, but because their ingrained superior attitude of permanent entitlement does not permit their unbiased conduct of duties. How long will remediation take?
    . . . It is time to examine empirical facts (science, that is) which have been being assembled since the early 1970’s on the design and implementation of change in societal institutions. Change attempted without this knowledge is doomed to fail.
    For example, educators have long said that “the only thing that can be done quickly in education is DAMAGE.” The temptation to act for the sake of acting is totally stupid. The same is true for other societal institutions.
    . . . To truly assist the public interest in Alberta, citizens must be judged on their record of honest rational behaviour, not previous party affiliation.
    . . . I am ready to give Premier Notley a long time to engineer remedies for 80 years of problems created by the incompetence and malfeasance of many –– but not all on the right. I trust the NDs to find and deploy the best and fair minded individuals to consider public policy and engage Albertans in honest consultations that have not been seen for scores of years. Just the new exposure of facts in lives of Albertans will go a long way to make solutions self evident.
    KR

    Reply
  12. Stella

    May 12th, 2015

    Would it be effort well spent to search out PC party affiliated appointees in every organization? Smacks of McCarthyism. Can we assume that most appointees will act in the best interests of the organization they represent, and not spend their time trying to discredit the NDP, if they show themselves to be competent governors?

    Reply

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