All posts tagged Prime Minister’s Office

Harper’s Man Friday

Ian Bron and Allan Cutler

Last week, the government announced that Stephen Harper had appointed a new Integrity Commissioner, Joe Friday, who has been with the office since 2008 and was the last Commissioner’s Deputy. This was not a surprise to us, but it is a disappointment. It is also a slap in the face of conscientious public servants looking for a safe place to report misconduct. They, as well as the Canadian public have a right to expect an aggressive, thorough, and competent Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner (OPSIC).

Friday served under both previous Commissioners, Christiane Ouimet and Mario Dion. Ouimet’s tenure was an unmitigated disaster. Just three and a half years into her tenure, she resigned in the face of a damning report from the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) that concluded she had been engaging in the very kinds of acts she was supposed to be preventing – harassment and reprisals against staff believed to be speaking out about abuse and mismanagement in her office. She left with her pension intact and a $500,000 lump sum. When called before Committee in 2010, Friday denied seeing anything wrong: “Madame Ouimet was carrying that out in her role as commissioner, which would be appropriate.… Read the rest

The Age of Unaccountability

I’ve been trying to find a topic to write about these past two weeks, but haven’t found something that really inspired me into outrage. I’ve just become too jaded.

There have been stories of incompetence and abuse of authority – the rising aviation accident death rate due to Transport Canada’s refusal to act as a regulator, the RCMP’s growing sexual harassment scandal and more instances of flagrant privacy violations by government officials trying to discredit critics.

I wasn’t always this cynical.  Back in 2006, when the Harper Conservatives won their first majority, I penned an op-ed entitled “The Age of Accountability” and pitched it to the Ottawa Citizen. It was an op-ed full of hope and expectation – the Conservatives were going to bring in new legislation to protect whistleblowers, rules were going to be tightened and information made more accessible to the public.

The Citizen didn’t buy the piece, but did rip off my title for an editorial. But that was to be the least of my disappointments.

Within a year, the government had passed a deeply flawed whistleblower protection law and appointed a new Commissioner, Christiane Ouimet, who (probably correctly) interpreted her mandate as one of suppressing whistleblowing.… Read the rest

Here’s the real skinny on how power works in Ottawa

Published in the Hill Times on September 19, 2011

We should be forgiven if we believe that ministers, or in the case of this government, the Prime Minister’s Office is in complete control of Ottawa. This dogma of the Westminster model of government stands in the way of reality. Given the need to restore Canadians’ faith in our federal government while managing the inevitable cutbacks requires we fully
understand Ottawa if we are to make its powerbrokers truly accountable.

The reality is that the senior mandarins are the ultimate arbiters of power in Ottawa. They exercise control through departmental agendas and complex Treasury Board processes that often have little to do with the public their
namesake institution claims to serve.

It has become a near truism that the Prime Minister’s Office under the Harper government has carried out unprecedented centralization of our federal government. This does not mean he is in control. Even with 130-plus
staffers, the PMO is vastly outnumbered by 1,000 or so public servants in the Privy Council Office.

Beyond that, there are less than 500 mostly inadequately experienced political staffers to direct, control and oversee almost 400,000 public servants. These are odds more akin to the Fellowship of the Ring fighting the armies of Sauron.… Read the rest