All posts tagged Lac Megantic

A Tale of Two Committees

This piece was first published, in edited form, in the Hill Times on July 3, 2014.

When Dickens wrote the opening to A Tale of Two Cities, set over two hundred years ago, he described an age of contrasts – wisdom and foolishness, belief and skepticism, hope and despair. He also wryly observed that this could be said of any era. It certainly seemed true to whistleblowing advocates attending two sets of recent Parliamentary committee hearings.

The committees in question were the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates (or OGGO, as it’s commonly known) and the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities (or TRAN). In both cases, the committees had serious, deeply embedded problems to tackle: whistleblower protection on one hand, and aviation safety on the other.

For its part, OGGO set its sights on reviewing the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act in early February. This is the law which is supposed to protect federal government whistleblowers, but which has been spectacularly ineffective at doing so for 10 years. Without going into details – David Hutton and Allan Cutler have dealt with the issues thoroughly in previous editions of the Hill Times – it would be no exaggeration to say that the law intended to protect whistleblowers is little known and even less trusted by the rank-and-file public service.… Read the rest

The Ethical Bureaucrat’s Dilemma

Ian Bron

Several weeks ago I published a piece on the Hill Times website commenting on the failure of the federal government’s ethics program. It could be interpreted as suggesting that the phrase “public service ethics” is an oxymoron.

It isn’t, of course. There are many in government today who are highly ethical, who come to work every day with the best of intentions. Most do meaningful work for the benefit of Canadians, stoically enduring the scorn of a public all too ready to accept the notion that public servants are lazy and overpaid. Reports by right-leaning think tanks aside, public servants generally clock long hours and get paid at a level appropriate to their education (which is generally higher than average). Job security is also a thing of the past.

Even the most ethical people must find a way to get by in the institutions in which they work, however. Institutions are powerful, and if its values are different than the ones an employee holds, the employee must frequently accommodate his or her values to that of the institution. What many people develop is two sets of ethics – one for work and one for their personal lives. As long as work reflects the ethics of broader society, there is nothing wrong with this.… Read the rest