I got up today knowing exactly what I was going to blog about but not having a title in mind. This is quite typical for me and usually the title is what I write after the post is complete. Today, though, I was able to start my post with the title provided by Amanda Sebastian who ‘penned’ these words on a Facebook post this morning.
Although Amanda wasn’t talking about the same thing, it would appear that there is much common sense getting lost in a myriad of processes.
Yesterday’s front page story in the Ottawa Citizen is titled “Marching Banned”. Although the creativity of the headline writer is amusing, the story has angered me and evoked in me the need to do the little I can to raise awareness of yet again another pathetic example of a systemic loss of common sense.
Cpl. Kate MacEachern, a tank driver from CFB Gagetown has been denied the opportunity to repeat the fundraising walk she completed last year from Gagetown, NB to Antigonish, NS. She completed this 562 kilometre journey in full uniform and pack and raised $20,000. for the military charity Soldier On. She was publicly praised by Defense Minister and her own MP, Peter MacKay and told she “epitomized leadership”.
This year her request for permission to undertake a more ambitious walk from Cape Breton to Ottawa was denied. She was told she could choose to do the walk but not as a serving soldier. After an eight year career, this soldier and single mother was given the choice of walking for a cause she believes in OR losing her job . And what was the reason given for this response? OK, wait for it… Treasury Board policy states that any expenditure of more than $5,000 requires Deputy Minister (DM is government parlance) approval. DM???? How many layers upon layers of middle managers and senior executives are there below the DM level? This new Treasury Board directive does not only apply to DND but to every department and agency over which Treasury Board presides. Are none of the first line, middle managers, directors, directors general, etc etc deemed to be competent to make a financial decision of $5,ooo.? And what about all those DM’s across the public service? At that level, equivalent to the C-suite in the private sector, surely their role is to spend their time conceiving a vision, providing guidance and direction, motivating people to understand and believe in the stated objectives and mentoring and coaching their direct reports in such a way that these sound leadership practices cascade down through the ranks. Is it really the best use of the time of these people who make six figures to be entertaining requests for $5,000. expenditures? Where is the trust in managers to be fiscally responsible? Where is the belief that people should be and are willing to be accountable for their decisions? Can this be called anything other than the worst example of micro management that will undoubtedly contribute to diminished morale and an increased sense of apathy within the leadership cadre?
The irony of this situation is that Cpl. MacEachern in fact, never requested any financial aid from the military and her costs are being covered by three sponsors and the rest by herself. (Imagine a single mom being able to do that). She planned to use her 25 days vacation and was simply asking for extra days to do her part for a cause that the military SHOULD be very interested in supporting: post-traumatic stress disorder awareness and treatment.
“One of the main values I learned from the army is that you never leave anyone behind. But the more I opened my eyes, the more I realized that a lot of people are being left behind. I signed a 25-year contract to serve my country, Queen and regiment. It is honestly a devastating blow for me to make a decision between what I believe in and the uniform I wear because I thought they were the same thing. Finding out they aren’t the same thing is extremely hard”.
So what does a person of integrity do when faced with such a decision? She follows her beliefs, values and convictions and will be doing the walk and leaving the military in August.
I am appalled and outraged at this outcome. As someone with no military connections but the greatest respect for those who truly live (and are prepared to die for) the words public service, I can’t believe that this decision is seen to be anything but politically expedient. As a mother, the military would be the LAST place I would ever encourage my children to consider as a career given the many reported cases recently of the treatment of those suffering from PTSD at the hands of military brass and Veterans Affairs.
To thwart the attempts of this soldier looking to do her part is shocking. I am guessing that the bad press alone will cost the military far more than 5K. I will be contacting Mr. MacKay’s office and if you feel as I do, please do the same. If ever a situation called for an injection of common sense in a bureaucratic web of process, this is it.
I am truly inspired by Cpl. Kate MacEachern. I don’t know if my, yours or our interventions can help. But if I don’t try, I’ll never know.
The final words belong to her: “One thing I’ve learned over the past year is that having a fancy house or the latest model car and the biggest TV on the block means nothing if you can’t sleep at night knowing that you could have helped and didn’t”.