Dr. Penny Ballem, photo by Vancouver Sun
As the Toronto scribbler, I’m reluctant to wade in on the new hire for Vancouver’s City Manager. But I worked closely with Dr. Penny Ballem when she was the Deputy Minister to both Health Services and Health Planning.
Dr. Ballem is extraordinarily intelligent; her inquisitive mind a wonderful thing to behold. I found her bold and willing to take risks, and most importantly in the bizarre and backstabbing world of politics, trustworthy. I was a political aide in the BC government and there were times when I was rather candid with Dr. Ballem and not once was that trust betrayed.
Of course, there is that well publicized break Dr. Ballem had with the Campbell government. Some may criticize her for making too much of a fuss when she could have gone quietly, but I found that honesty refreshing. Civil servants once served with anonymity, but as governments hungrily pursued greater transparency and accountability, that invisible cloak was stripped away. On many occasions, Dr. Ballem was put forward as a public face. Therefore, her public resignation should not strike anyone as overly odd. Moreover, she had every right to depart with her integrity and reputation intact.
I haven’t been in contact with Dr. Ballem for a number of years. I say this in the event anyone thinks I’m writing flattering things about a friend.
While she may have much to learn in managing a city, Dr. Ballem is intelligent, fair and not put off by bedeviling issues or confrontation.