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
The undermining of the RCMP as a strong and independent police force continues apace. Leaked documents showing the criteria to be used to select the Commissioner make it clear that the government wants another bureaucrat in place.
This is disturbing on several levels. It suggests that those controlling the hiring process either do understand the need for a police force to be independent and its head to understand the work – that, or they do understand but would prefer someone in the job who is more malleable.
Another bureaucrat will further damage the force’s morale and weaken its independence. I simply can’t see an Ottawa bureaucrat being willing to investigate the government. The careerism is so prevalent here that the first impulse would be to protect the government and hope that the reward might be a promotion to Clerk of the Privy Council.
But at least there was an implied acknowledgment of one of Bill Elliott’s shortcomings: the criteria include “superior interpersonal skills”. Allegations of abusive, ill-informed and ethically challenged management by senior Mounties caused a mini media storm last summer. Trouble is, would those doing the hiring even know “superior interpersonal skills” if the saw them? I have my doubts.… Read the rest
Posted by Ian Bron on June 21, 2011