The latest mini-scandal in Ottawa involves some overtly partisan letters by Julian Fantino (or, more accurately, his staff writers) which were posted on a publicly funded CIDA website. This is against Treasury Board rules and so resulted in a complaint. The letters were taken down, but opposition critics are arguing that it was no innocent mistake.
This little incident is illustrative. The original letters were prepared for publication in newspapers, and were probably written by government employees – something that is allowed to a point. The dividing line between what is partisan and what is simply the government’s position has become increasingly fuzzy in recent decades.
Once it would have been out of bounds for a minister to ask bureaucrats to write a letter attacking opposition MPs, or to collect data on military helicopter usage by opposition critics, or to ask them to stop a potentially embarrassing access to information request from being processed. But attitudes have slowly changed, and now such requests are routine. What the press reports is just the tip of the iceberg.
Combined with this is the tendency for bureaucrats to simply do what they’re told – even lie – when ordered to do so.… Read the rest