All posts tagged Shiv Chopra

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

Has the federal government’s ethics program failed?

As 2013 comes to a close, it is  time to take stock of the state of the federal government. It  has been a year of years, with the Senate Scandal dominating. It wasn’t the only story involving dodgy ethics, either. Former Justice Canada lawyer Edgar Schmidt was pushed out of the Department for challenging a policy which lets the Conservative government propose any law unless a legal analysis shows a 95% chance that it will be ruled unconstitutional. Sylvie Therrien was fired for speaking out against an unethical government policy in which EI auditors were given quotas (see our earlier post on this).  There are more, simmering below the surface, either pushed aside by bigger stories.   or they have  become so routine that the media barely notices them anymore.

For those of us at Canadians for Accountability, this is a serious issue that goes beyond mere occasional scandal. Is the government ethics program a failure?

When unethical behaviour is unchecked – and even rewarded, for example with promotions – administrative evil is the result. Canada has seen its share in residential schools and eugenics programs (which Alberta had until 1972).

Fighting this tendency is a challenge as old as government.… Read the rest

It’s time Ottawa fix its broken trust with Canadians

The article below was first published in Ottawa’s Hill Times on December 5, 2011

It has become a sad truism that Canadians’ faith and trust in our federal government has been consistently declining.

This is hardly news. Over the past decade, federal government studies from the likes of Public Works and Government Services in 2001 and independent studies from the World Economic Forum in 2005, Conference Board of Canada in 2009 as well as the Nanos and the Manning Institute reports both in 2011 show how prevalent and persistent is Canadians’ declining trust and faith in government.

What to do about it is of greater importance. Ottawa’s own Gilles Paquet (University of Ottawa) offers a hope-fired torch to lead Canadians from our growing “malaise” and disaffection with Ottawa into a new era of “collaborative” government. His often colourful diagnoses of the problems are matched by his inspiring call to duty of all levels of society including citizens, bureaucrats, and intellectuals.

Should we care that we have lost substantial faith and much trust in Ottawa and its institutions? Not only should we care, the foundations of a modern democratic society depend upon such trust. Declining trust in government not only results in adverse economic impacts (witness the growing economic crisis in Europe) but trust is fundamental to creating a peaceful and productive society.

Read the rest