Oppal will have to earn the job

Kamloops Daily News
February 12, 2011 01:00 AM

You'll have to excuse us if we don't jump up and down and get all giggly over the appointment of Wally Oppal as Thompson River's University's next chancellor.

To be sure, Oppal has a pretty good resumÃ. He's a native British Columbian, having grown up on Vancouver Island. A lawyer, a judge and a cabinet minister at various times during his career, he's also had his struggles.

Four years ago, he was treated for prostate cancer and, thankfully, emerged cancer free. He narrowly lost his bid for a return to the provincial legislature in the 2009 election when he switched ridings, defeated by independent candidate Vicki Huntington by only 32 votes.

Early this year, demands grew for his removal as head of the Missing Women Commission of Inquiry, convened to look into the police handling of investigations into women who have gone missing from Vancouver's downtown eastside.

In large part, he's viewed as politically partisan and too close to many of those who will be witnesses in the inquiry.

Then there was an embarrassing email exchange between MLA and former solicitor general Kash Heed and his campaign manager referring to Oppal as someone who is "getting on and needs to be put out to pasture soon."

But controversy and politics aren't reasons to question Oppal's appointment as TRU chancellor. It's the fact that Oppal has no connection to TRU or to Kamloops.

The chancellor's position is a ceremonial one akin to governor general. The job involves attending dinners and convocations and making some speeches.

To at least some extent, it's about marketing, about putting a name out there that people will recognize. That's OK.

Surely, though, there must have been someone who lives here or, at least, has childhood connections here, who would have been a suitable candidate to succeed Nancy Greene Raine. This city has certainly turned out its share of famous hockey players and other sports personalities, plus more than a few who've made a mark in the entertainment industry and other walks of life.

Names like Shane Doan, Mark Recchi, Tom Gaglardi, Mark Madryga, Lesra Martin, Claude Richmond, Henry Small and Len Marchand Sr. come to mind, all of whom would have brought both name-recognition and spark to the position, all of whom have roots with our community and region.

That said, Oppal is the guy, and he deserves a chance. Let's hope the fact he didn't make the trip from Vancouver to Kamloops for the announcement isn't an indication of what's to come. Let's hope he makes a point of commuting often.

Certainly, his distinguished legal career will be a strength in terms of promoting TRU's new law school. As a lawyer, judge and ex-politician, he's certainly not a stranger to a microphone.

It's really up to Oppal to prove he's a good choice. He'll have to work hard at it.

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