Wesley ck taxpayers deserve answers

July 8
Posted By BRUCE CORCORAN http://www.ChathamDailyNews.ca
Wesley, C-K taxpayers deserve answers

Point of view
Community engagement isn't about digging up political dirt on an opponent.

Tell that to the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance and its contracted spin-doctor guns at Veritas Communications Canada.

The alliance hired the Torontobased PR firm ostensibly to develop a community engagement plan. According to the alliance's Kim Bossy, Veritas is working to develop a "transparent and open plan that hears diverse opinions" from around Chatham-Kent.
Apparently to get the opinion of Jeff Wesley -- the outspoken head of Save Our Sydenham -- Veritas contacted the personnel in the office of former Wesley political rival, Lambton-Kent-Middlesex MP Bev Shipley.

An e-mail from Veritas senior consultant Karl Baldauf -- who has since been pulled from the project -- to Shipley's chief of staff Pat Davis revealed Veritas' client, the health alliance, was "coming up against some stiff opposition from the Lib candidate that ran in your riding."

Big mistake from a big-city PR firm wading into small-town Ontario. Wesley, who ran unsuccessfully against Shipley in the last two federal elections, received a tip from Davis, who happens to have been friends with Wesley since the two were kids.

If Veritas wanted to learn about Wesley and the SOS group, the best way to do that is to talk to him directly, not slink around with a shovel and a flashlight in hand, nudging political opponents and winking at them to point to the best spot to start digging.

The move backfired explosively. Not only is this dirt quest out in the open now, but Wesley refuses to speak to Veritas personnel.

Who told Veritas personnel to operate in this manner? Wesley is a community leader who was able to rally Wallaceburg and area residents to fight for their hospital's emergency room; whose March Break rally caught the alliance and the LHIN with their executive pants down; who has really become a thorn in the LHIN and CKHA's side, intelligently pulling the community together in peaceful and knowledgeable protest.

It's difficult to fathom Veritas acted independently to attempt this back-door excavation. Digging for mud is not community engagement planning, but rather a quest for ammunition for a counterattack.

Who at the alliance hired Veritas? Who issued the marching orders? What were they going to do with the information? Was/is Wesley the only target of this cheap effort?

It is incumbent upon the CKHA board to demand a very public investigation on this decision to use tax dollars to fund a fishing expedition to dig up dirt on community volunteers who don't agree with the alliance's stance.

This newspaper challenges Marjorie Fair, Jennifer Wilson, and Kurtina Hammerlein -- chairs of the Public General, St. Joe's and Sydenham hospital boards respectively -- to take action.

If the board fails to act, the province must call for an investigation into this matter, and Chatham-Kent citizens should accept no less.

Heads should roll for this abuse of authority. This is a clear betrayal of public trust

Article ID# 1645798