Ian Bron and Allan Cutler
Three years ago, we attended a conference of government administrators in Victoria, B.C. Wayne Wouters, Clerk of the Privy Council and the most powerful bureaucrat in Canada, was a keynote speaker. Someone asked him what he considered the qualities of the ideal public servant. We expected an answer that included things like integrity, devotion to the public interest, competence, and non-partisanship. Instead, we were treated to his reminiscences of the flag debate in the 1960s.
This says much about the current state of leadership in the public service, how distant it is currently from golden age ideals and out of touch with modern public expectations. The latest federal government re-visioning exercise, Blueprint 2020, reinforces this reality. During Wouters’ recent testimony before a Parliamentary Committee, he patted himself on the back for doing such a fine job, arguing that there was no evidence of a morale problem in the public service. “I want to do a good job. I think I’m doing a good job,” he said.
Wouters is hardly neutral on the subject. However, is he really doing a good job? More broadly, are senior bureaucrats leading the public service well, and, by extension, the working in the public interest?… Read the rest
Posted by Ian Bron on June 23, 2014
National Defence Minister Rob Nicholson, right, and General Tom Lawson, Chief of Defence Staff
Two weeks ago, L’actualité, and its sister magazine, Maclean’s, broke a major story on sexual assault in the Canadian Armed Forces. The numbers were stunning: it estimated an average of five assaults every day. What was worse, the victims reported being intimidated into not making or dropping complaints, being harassed if they persisted, and assailants getting off scot-free. The Minister of National Defense immediately ordered an investigation. Senior officers claimed to be shocked by the report.
Even I was surprised, and I was a victim in the 1980s. The figures must be too high. They mean that a little over 2.6% of members would be assaulted in any given year – a rate about two times higher than that estimated for the general public, depending what figures are used. But a review of statistics from the U.S. and a lengthy conversation with a journalist convinced me that it was accurate. I also recalled a conversation with a colleague who said that he believed every woman in the Forces deals with either serious sexual harassment or assault at some point.
The military brass cannot have been surprised – or, if they were, they were negligent.… Read the rest
Posted by Ian Bron on May 6, 2014
I worry about the state or ‘fate’ of democracy in our country. Slowly laws are being passed to restrict freedoms, stifle opposition, and reduce transparency. Sometimes I wonder what the Parliamentarians have in mind.
It is convenient for the governing party to reduce the power and rights of any opposition to ensure that they remain in power. However, do they not see the flip side of the coin? When they are out of office, and it will happen eventually, their ‘replacements’ will inherit these increased tools of power. As a result, they will be deprived of effective opposition by the very laws that they have passed now.
Even more importantly, do Parliamentarians not realize (or do they just not care) that their children or grandchildren will inherit this reduced freedom? As democracy erodes and power concentrates in the hands of the few, our personal freedoms are threatened.
The Elections Canada situation is a prime example and a worrying one. The underpinning of our democratic system is the belief that elections are conducted fairly. The Conservative government is reducing the ability of Elections Canada to ensure elections are fair so they can be re-elected with less opposition or challenges. Sooner or later, the Conservatives will lose the right to govern and become a party in opposition.… Read the rest
Posted by Allan Cutler on April 3, 2014