12.01.2015 07:56 AM

Vast left-wing conspiracy, exposed

Like no less than Carol (public servants are acting like “teenaged groupies”) Goar and others, I was profoundly uncomfortable with the greeting that the public servants at Foreign Affairs gave the new Liberal government. It was widely written about, as here.

Now, courtesy of Hillary Clinton’s errant emails, we learn this:

“I was a little astonished at how openly the career folks at the foreign and assistance ministries disliked their new political masters and wanted us to convince them not to cut Haiti,” said Tom Adams, in a May 2012 e-mail forwarded to Clinton and released Monday.

“In my many years here I have never seen such open disloyalty with a change of administrations. Although the political appointees told me there was no need to have the Secretary talk to Baird about Haiti, the senior career folks, on the margins, implored me to have this done.”

You can debate whether it was appropriate for public servants at the former DFAIT to behave in this way. But one thing you can’t debate: the Foreign Affairs folks have given the Conservatives fundraising and rhetorical fodder for the next four years – and they have painted a big target on their backs, too. Dumb.

28 Comments

  1. ottawacon says:

    While the PMO was filled with stupid excesses, it was very definitely a two-way street from the beginning. The public service was openly hostile across the board, not just DFAIT. In 2006, there was a clear sense that Harper was a temporary interregnum who merely needed to be slowed down long enough for another election to get rid of him. It is not much of an accident that the ‘gag rules’ and the silly dictums on messaging (‘Canada’s new government’, etc.) became progressively more restrictive as mutual distrust and antipathy deepened. The culture was so resistant that now in places like Environment Canada, one can find discussions of needing to purge bureaucrats who were ‘collaborators’.

    The idea of a neutral public service is probably dead, hard to pin down quite when that happened – maybe the surge in pushing political staff into civil service positions at the end of Martin’s tenure? It may be that future Conservative governments will be forced to move to the ‘serve at the pleasure’ model of US administrations for much of the executive level, though it is hard to see how that could be operable in tandem with lobbying restrictions.

    • JamesHalifax says:

      Actually, Harper was pretty straightforward about this BEFORE he was elected. He know the public service was biased against him for the most part. He did what he could to mitigate it, but for some public servants, they resent having someone tell them what to do. Long term beaurocrats believe they run the show….and Goverments come and go.

      Here is what I would advise the next Conservative Government do (regardless of their leader). HUGE PURGE. Get rid of most of them, and hire younger people.

  2. cgh says:

    Goar is right about the undignified spectacle of a supposedly neutral public service. But there’s more going on at Foreign Affairs than is readily apparent.

    One of the developments that did not make Goar’s list of achievements of the Harper government and should be kept was the split in 2006 of DFAIT into Foreign Affairs and International Trade. With it went a shift in emphasis as well. No longer would the stripey pants crowd be dominating international trade matters of which they new little.

    With the split came a downgrade in Foreign Affairs influence in Cabinet relative to the trade side. So the celebration was at least in part hoping that the new government would reverse this and put the trade serfs back in their ‘proper’ place.

    Before the mid-20th century, it was customary in many governments in Canada to dismiss huge portions of the public service with a change in government. The demonstration by Foreign Affairs shows that new governments coming in might well revert to the earlier policy of ‘purge the lot, they’re all our enemies.’

    As for the rest of her good piece, “They must guard against any sign of entitlement.”

    Fat chance. The adulation from the press and public service virtually guarantees complacency. I give it no more than a year before the phrase “Canada’s natural governing party” is heard again.

    • ottawacon says:

      Not really a Conservative ‘achievement’, in that what happened in January 2006 was the planned full split into two totally separate departments was cancelled – the act splitting them did not pass in 2005, but it was done at an administrative level. The Conservatives effectively stuck with the interim structure they inherited from the Martin government, then later moved CIDA into it.

      • cgh says:

        Moving CIDA into it was long overdue. That agency had been wandering around without adult supervision making its own policy without much regard to what was happening elsewhere in government. Among other things, it was getting seriously into dictating to other countries what they should or should not do as a criterion for aid. At one point, CIDA accounted for more than half the environmental assessments being done by CEAA. It was totally clogging up the system without rhyme or reason.

  3. DougM says:

    “The system of Canadian parliamentary democracy and its institutions are fundamental to serving the public interest. Public servants recognize that elected officials are accountable to Parliament, and ultimately to the Canadian people, and that a non-partisan public sector is essential to our democratic system.”

    This is a cornerstone of the Public Service code of ethics and is crucial to our democracy regardless of what party is in power. Those in the PS who do not live by it should indeed be “purged” as they do Canadians no service by being partisan.

  4. Kenneth Tufts says:

    I see the Clinton email is from 2012 and concerns Haiti. Does that mean it took six years for DFAITers to show their deep-seated disloyalty to the new regime? Or could it be that somebody at Fort Pearson thought downgrading Haiti was a really bad, hypocritical idea and tried anything to stop it?

    I suspect your guess is as good as mine …

  5. Mark says:

    While I don’t disagree with you that this was, perhaps, not the smartest move on the part of certain Foreign Affairs staffers, I don’t think the former government truly understands how misguided their professional consular and diplomatic public servants thought they were. The former government did everything it could to muzzle the only people on the ground who actually had a good sense of what was going on in the countries they served in. Not only that, they took a particular ideological bent to foreign policy that pissed off far too many people. I think a Conservative future election platform that includes anything like this will only backfire and remind Canadians about this sad 9 year period in our history.

    • Warren says:

      I’m not defending (ever) wars on public servants. But the ‘crats have now validated every crummy thing he CPC ever said about them. Dumb move(s).

      • Ted H says:

        I think the Conservatives forced the bureaucrats into this position, a self fulfilling prophecy. In any case, the kindest term anyone can use about the Conservative tenure controlling foreign affairs would be “amateur hour”.

    • DougM says:

      “I don’t think the former government truly understands how misguided their professional consular and diplomatic public servants thought they were.”

      Thinking and acting are two completely different things. High level Public Servant’s job is to both advise the Minister and to carry out his/her directives loyally, full stop.

  6. doconnor says:

    The values of the Harper government where fundamentally misaligned with Canadian values. Despite being a notional government they where the most right-wing government in all of Canada and their election was only an artifact of our electoral system and attack ads. It’s understandable that those who had to work with them on a day to day basis and be able to see much more clearly what they where would be a major source of friction.

    • Kelly says:

      Yes, exactly. Now Trudeau has to modernize our electoral system so the national will can be better reflected in our government, going forward.

      As for the public service being anti-Conservative…I have no problem with that. I can’t think of a single Harper policy I wouldn’t undo if I had the chance, anyway.

      But introducing fair voting would change an awful lot and expose the myth that conservatism is even a real force in Canadian politics. Get rid of the money and clean up voting and move us toward more Nordic consensus and away from Anglo/American hollering and screaming and life would be good.

    • cgh says:

      You don’t really understand and accept how a Westminster parliamentary system works, do you? It’s for the elected government of the day to determine the country’s direction and values, NOT that of the public service. Whether they were left or right is irrelevant. Within months of first being elected to a minority government, the breaches of confidence emerged with leakage of Cabinet documents.

      All that your excuses suggest is the next change in government could see a wholesale purging the way it used to be in the bad old days.

      • doconnor says:

        The civil service is supposed to provide the government with fact and evidence it can use to make decision, but it breaks down when a government isn’t interested in fact and evidence.

        It’s just like how accountability to parliament is supposed to work breaks down when there is a majority government.

    • SG says:

      Yes yes, we know. Canada = the Liberal Party.

      It was despicable rhetoric when Chretien uttered it in the 90s, and it’s despicable now.

      The Conservatives are Canadian too and therefore their values are Canadian.

      • The Doctor says:

        Apparently you need to be sent to a Liberal re-education camp. No values other than Liberal values are permissible in Trudeaupia. All other values are verboten. And remember, it’s conservatives who are the fascists here. Got that?

  7. The Doctor says:

    . . . and I’m sure that once Justin finishes hugging and taking selfies with besotted public servants, he can be trusted to do something about all the fake sick days that they take.

    • Mrs. Green Acres says:

      I’m not typically prone to violence, but that right there? I wish there was a way for me to climb through my screen and through the intertubes and choke you until you cry uncle.

      Maybe then you would have even an inkling of what some PS workers have gone through over the past couple of years.

      • The Doctor says:

        Threatening violence — how progressive and enlightened of you. Please have a look at the article published in the National Post on Nov 27th entitled “Public Servants ‘Gaming the System’ — Take Twice as many sick days as private sector workers: report”. Based on a report from the Macdonald-Laurier Instutute, authored by no less than Phillip Cross, former chief economic analyst at Statistics Canada. Having facts presented to you makes you threaten the presenter of said facts with violence. Interesting.

  8. dean sherratt says:

    The department has a far higher proportion of EX’s than others per capita and as a result there is an uncomfortable combination of intelligence marred by ego. Perhaps too some of the senior mandarins who were affronted by the little shorts were more than capable of micro-managing their own less senior but often equally intelligent subordinates. During the campaign it was apparent that some documents thought to be damaging to the government were leaked so in many ways this department welcomed the new government first of all…that is to say several weeks before election day. On the other hand, no government can easily achieve the level of hostility achieved effortlessly and this one went to some lengths to earn the anger headed their way.

    For the next few years this matters little as over the top partisanship can easily take the form of very, very energetic professional enthusiasm.

  9. Bluegreenblogger says:

    I don’t think that anybody will remember this a week from now. They were attacked at every turn. Villified, ridiculed, muzzled, abused, and they hated their oppressors. ’nuff said, they are forgiven. It’s more of a cautionary reminder of just how bad things were under the Sith.

    • The Doctor says:

      Yes, poor little oppressed galley slaves — with their taxpayer-funded defined benefit pension plans and bogus “sick days”.

  10. Kevin says:

    I’ll out myself here. I’m a retiring Foreign Affairs staffer. I was sent all over the world to speak at conferences on behalf of Canada, to allies, to regional internal conferences and on and on. Read the riot act to recalcitrant ambassadors. Spoke to international bodies and to intra-governmental bodies. Then the previous regime came in and told me to shut the f**k up. If I’d been in the building when Trudeau came in,I’d have been down there cheering myself senseless. It has nothing to do with partisanship. It has everything to do with professional pride.

    • JamesHalifax says:

      Kevin notes part of his job was: “Read the riot act to recalcitrant ambassadors” and then complains when the new guys in charge basically did the same thing to his department. Here’s a point you need to consider kevin….maybe many of your peers needed to be told to limit what they were saying. It is not up to the Foreign affairs staff to state Government policy. You may not be aware of this Kevin..but YOU ARE NOT IN CHARGE. YOU DO NOT SET POLICY, and you certainly don’t get to say what Canada’s stance is to be. This is what bothers you.

      Under the Harper Government, Canada finally had a PM that was quite clear in the moral stances taken at the UN. Israel is an ally…full stop. No more resolutions that were blatantly anti-semitic from the UN, or other diplomats; Canadian or otherwise.

      Professional Pride? I don’t think so, Kevin. Sound more like Hubris.

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