Campbell Clark has a piece in the Globe today outlining in journalistic fashion how the machinery of the public service was disorganized and at odds with itself and thus, as a result, the truth and accountability become the first victim. I thought it was a good follow up for those who found my piece from yesterday on how Canada has entered a Bush-like vortex to be interesting.
Someone at the Globe thinks that this story has legs – which is good, since it is of paramount importance to Canadians. If a ministry as important as Foreign Affairs handling an issue as important as the war in Afghanistan can’t tell us where the buck stops then perhaps the model we presently have is broken.
I hope that this situation becomes a case study in Public Policy schools across the country. It is a classic example of the types of conflicts public servants regularly face: what to do when what a political master (or more senior public servant) wants to hear conflicts with all evidence and reality? And don’t think that Colvin was an isolated issue. Remember there were 21 other public servants in addition to Colvin who were subpoenaed by the Military Police Complaints Commission (MPCC) but did not testify. (As an aside: The MPCC – the committee that originally subpoenaed Richard Colvin and which the government tried to block from doing so – ultimately prompting MPs of the The House of Commons’ Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan to subpoena Colvin). Maybe they have nothing of interest to share. But suspect this is not the case – as if it were, why not just testify? Instead, I suspect they have stories that are similar to Colvin’s (or support his) but they fear for their careers too greatly. But for them all that testifying promises is the possibility of ending their careers and the risks of being forever marginalized by senior public servants who don’t want trouble with their political masters…
On that note, I’ll end by reposting an anonymous comment from yesterday’s Globe website that appeared under my article. Suspect there is another story here.
While it is to a far smaller degree on the marality scale, I can assure you all that this is a matter of routine in government/civil servant sectors. I work at CMHC and have been present at a meeting where we were directed as to the language we were to use in upcoming publications. The change was in direct conflict with our mandate to provide unbiased information to the public. When this concern was brought up and a request for written directions made, we were all told very directly that there would never be a written record of the meeting, or the directions.
As this policy remains in place, and we remain in violation of our own priniciples, the higher ups are having to scramble to cover themselves as dissatisfaction grows. The president recently had the director of our function `fall on his sword`over suggestions that it was her that had directed this change in policy.
We all await the next directive that allegedly doesn’t come from her via the PMO.