Natalie Brender writes in the Toronto Star that two former Clerks of the Privy Council, Mel Capp and Alex Himelfarb, recently spoke out about the Harper Government's concerted efforts to sabotage the public service:
Befitting the nonpartisan role they previously held, Cappe and Himelfarb each delivered strong but not overtly political speeches. A subtext running through their remarks, however, delivers an undeniably political message. Taken together, their comments suggest that the risks the public service should be grappling with today are not the ones the Harper government is forcing it to address — and that diversion of public servants’ attention affects the vital interests of all Canadians, whatever their political views.
Himelfarb has been warning for sometime now that the policies the Harperites are implementing -- with religious ferocity -- are self-defeating:
What our public service ought to be tackling, Himelfarb’s speech urges , are the challenges of adapting itself to a new age. Some facts remain constant: “the public service continues to be critically important to our quality of life, to our economic performance and to our international standing.” But organizational models of authority and information-sharing are transforming, and “public issues are more complex, often with no historical precedent, and with multiple poles of conflict.” To reinvent itself in response to these changes, he says, the public service must become more creative, open and connected to Canadians.
And Capp insists that the public service should be focused on the well being of future Canadians:
The proper role of public servants, Cappe says, is to produce “economic, social, scientific and environmental analysis that takes into account the long run and future generations’ interests.” Though they should not talk publicly about policy, they “should be encouraged to talk to the public about their science and their research.” Yet such information-sharing is being thwarted by the Harper government’s obsession with stifling perspectives that might diverge from its chosen policy path. Their disregard of public servants’ analysis and evidence in favour of ideologically-based policymaking is well documented. So too is their restriction of researchers’ and analysts’ capacity to share insights with the public.
The Harperites know that the evidence is against them. Essentially, they have chosen to defend the indefensible. The information the public service generates -- at the ELA or at Statistics Canada -- proves that government policy is wrong headed.
And, in pursuit of what is demonstrably false, this government is quite prepared to destroy the public service.