Despite only getting the report Tuesday, UPEI needs to act quickly on recommendations contained in the review of its athletics department. There is wide public interest to see if university acts on the recommendations compiled by former coach and administrator Dave (Hermie) MacNeill. The report cannot be dismissed as simply an exercise in public relations. It should be released, along with guarantees from the university that key recommendations will be addressed.
Of immediate concern is the status of women’s basketball coach Greg Gould. The popular bench mentor tendered his resignation, effective in late June, citing problems within the athletic department. His departure caused a firestorm of protest, with demands these problems must be solved and quickly. The basketball booster club lost its president earlier this year when Lyall Huggan quit in frustration, calling for a departmental review.
The university had announced it was delaying a search to replace Mr. Gould pending the completion of the review, hinting it was going to do something that might perhaps persuade the coach to return. Now it’s getting late into July and the women’s basketball program needs a coach at work immediately to save the coming season — preferably Mr. Gould. Every day without action on the report is a day wasted. Time is of the essence.
The review contains some far-reaching recommendations. It says there is a need for a change of leadership to restore confidence and stability within the department. The department has been steadily downgraded in recent years with budget cuts and the review calls for an immediate infusion of $250,000 to $300,000 into the athletic budget for a return to funding levels of several years ago.
How the review is handled will send a signal to both the university and Island communities if this administration is serious about fixing the problems in athletics. Or if it will be content to see athletics continue a dangerous slide down a very slippery slope.
Unless Premier Robert Ghiz is willing to take advice from NDP P.E.I. Leader Mike Redmond, it’s doubtful there will be a cabinet shuffle anytime soon. Mr. Redmond cites various problems as reasons to re-assign roles and try to bring in a fresh approach. The Opposition was speculating that Mr. Ghiz would shuffle the end of June and that didn’t happen. Now the NDP is calling for a shuffle, so it won’t happen. Maybe just before the House returns for the fall sitting in early November would be a logical time. The NDP leader does bring up an interesting statistic. This cabinet has been static since the 2011 provincial election — a long time without any changes.
From Canada’s Parliamentary Budget Officer comes a picture of how many sick days federal bureaucrats take. The latest figures from 2011-2012 show four departments averaging more than 13 sick days per employee, per year. Veterans Affairs Canada is in third place with 13.3 days. Extra costs piled on by sick days are fiscally insignificant because absentees are rarely replaced, says PBO Jean-Denis Fréchette. Yet another PBO report found wages paid for federal employees off sick totalled $871 million in one recent year. Just what does our budget officer consider is fiscally significant?
Finally, reverberations are still resounding around rural P.E.I. following dramatic news from the Crapaud Exhibition. The popular agriculture fair takes place July 25-27, with lawn tractor pulls, draft horses and much more. Major facility upgrades have made the Crapaud fair a popular stop on the summer calendar for Islanders and visitors. It regularly adds new components but organizers have taken change too far this year. They have dropped the traditional war cake competition and replaced it with mock cherry pie. Is nothing sacred?