Media Beat
Media Beat

Media Beat: May 08, 2017

Ottawa: What the Blais is going on at the CRTC?

Gossip leaching out of the CRTC Gatineau garrison suggesting the regulator's lair is as about as composed as a seal during killing season just got bloodier late last week as Ontario commissioner Raj Shoan found himself fired on his first day back at work after an Ontario court judge ruled his earlier dismissal by the crown agency and its Chair JP Blais was without merit.

Blais' own tenure terminates in June and if appearances are to be believed, the federal political appointee wants to see his pensioned term end in a ...blaze of acrimony and political shame that is almost certain to end in a legacy of legal embarrassment.

After 18 months fighting a wrongful dismissal suit, lawyer and tenured civil servant Shoan has announced he will, again, seek redress for his second dismissal from the CRTC in federal court.

His judicial vindication a week ago found no comment from the cabinet minister responsible for the CRTC file and no comment on his second dismissal before he found his desk last week.

A lawyer by trade, Cabinet Minister Melanie Joly pushed to the test found herself bereft of voice in sharing an opinion in a matter of credibility where a servant of the Crown was twice dismissed and latterly shown the door after a court ruled in the bureaucrat's favour.

By outward appearances, Blais is a PC appointee whose career jitterbugged between opposing dance partners, one perhaps expecting political servitude and the other a fair shake.

His legacy appeased neither—but instead left a vision of a future less certain as the past he inherited.

 Asked to broker peace between the two Koreas one might suggest Blais would offer appeasement with the same dramatic gusto as a cheery cheeked Neville Chamberlain claiming 'peace in our time' in 1938.

Asked to underline his own achievement running an entitled agency charged with offering a roadmap to the billion dollar industry driving Canada's broadcast industry, some might say he sought love through a trail of brittle prose bespeaking 'transparency' while ducking reality like a politician on the campaign trail.

Others might suggest his enduring legacy is his argument that the CRTC should lessen regulatory control over old-world legacy media and avoid regulatory control over new-world media running amok on the Internet.

Best we avoid the 'fuck' word on licensed media—and duck the Wild West where ISIS, the Klu Klux Klan and their ilk can broadcast messages with impunity; sort of, maybe, let's talk about it kinda.

His intentions we are sure were honourable, just as a club house of tenured simple, er, sorry, civil servants gathered are almost certainly sure to almost certainly come to a conclusion, give or minus a dissenting opinion.   

Raj Shoan said that he will contest his most recent dismissal from his role as the CRTC's Ontario commissioner in order “to ensure accountability and justice.”

Shoan was relieved of his duties four days after returning to the job after his appointment was first terminated in June 2016.

CRTC chief JP Blais was less than enthused with the news and spilt the following evocation to his staff and perhaps the public at large:

“This is to inform you that, on reconsideration, the Governor-in-Council has again terminated Raj Shoan’s appointment as Regional Commissioner for Ontario, effective May 5th”.

Perhaps swallowing hubris, the legacy government appointee rambled further:

“This has been a challenging period in the CRTC’s history (and) I am fully aware that events that have been playing out in the courts and in the media have created uncertainty and affected employees.

"I have always admired your ability to rise above the noise in the public environment as you continue to carry out the important work we are doing on behalf of Canadians.

"Further to this announcement, I would like to remind you of my commitment, which is shared by the senior management team, to the values upheld by the public service and the CRTC," Blais blathered on.

"We have a busy agenda ahead of us, with decisions to publish on group-based TV licence renewals, next-generation 9-1-1 services, the Wireless Code and urban Indigenous radio, to mention only a few. I know that I can count on your dedication as we pursue our mission of ensuring that Canadians have access to a world-class communication system."

When contacted, Shoan was reluctant to bat the blather but offered what any legal-minded servant of the Crown might say:

“I am deeply concerned about the manner in which I have been removed and that I have been further denied procedural fairness.

“Despite the serious impact on my ability to engage in my duties as a Commissioner, I was deprived of any opportunity to discuss the alleged basis for my removal.

“During the past four days, my focus was on re-engaging with my role as a Commissioner in order to ensure a positive contribution to the work of the CRTC during the remainder of my term for the benefit of all Canadians.

"It is truly unfortunate that this goal was not shared. In the coming weeks, I will be challenging this dismissal in the Federal Court and initiating other actions to ensure accountability and justice.”

At the end of this pissing match, the reality is it is going to cost the taxpayer a minimum of $800,000 to terminate the plaintiff and cover the crown agency defendant's legal bills.

In the worst of the best case scenarios, taxpayers save themselves the better part of $50 million to terminate the CRTC and fork over power over broadcasters to an agency that simply wants to please voters and tax Netflix users.

Either way, there is no agenda.

Either way, there is no rational game plan.

Either way, there is no protection for the individual caught up in a mess of government entanglement and no redress imaginable should either party be at fault.

Either way, there is absolutely no transparency on why Shoan was let go, vindicated and then fired.

Either way, the taxpayer pays the piper and the piper shows no regard for the law other than collecting entitlement.

Are we wrong in saying this before you collect your purse, JP?

For those with a desire to walk on the wild side the salary range for a commissioner is between $143,000 and $168,000., Transparency aside, the CRTC at this time advertises zero positions open despite the fact that several provinces are without representation on a board of trustees that media has pointedly made clear is absent of.... well, those Canadians whose names and gender fail to be fashionable in men's clubs where ethnicity might be a problem if one's mother tongue (oops, sorry, parents,,,) are neither English nor French.

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