Dr. Dawg

Dirty doings at ACOA

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Only a few days ago, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency posted an announcement that referred to “Harper Canada.” It turned out not to be the new omnibus department that some of us were fearing, but—so we were assured when the matter came to light—a typo. ACOA meant to say “Harper government.” And no doubt some, unfamiliar with the concept of the Overton Window, breathed a sigh of relief.

Now we learn of some intricate rule-twisting, if not breaking, to ensure a high-level post for a former Peter MacKay staffer, Kevin MacAdam. That appointment process was voided by the Public Service Commission last Fall on the grounds of improper conduct. MacAdam and ACOA officials are now appealing this decision in federal court.

Two perhaps unrelated incidents. But they are symptomatic of a kind of moral corruption that is affecting the entire machinery of governance that is the federal Public Service.

Harper’s autocratic management of public communications, which has ordinary public employees fearful and operations paralyzed, is by now common knowledge. The routine muzzling of scientists is old news, and so is the obsessive secrecy in which the government works. Less immediately evident, however, are the corollary effects: department heads and managers scrambling to perform the prevailing political culture.

This behaviour is not merely ingratiating. To be sure, it’s good these days to be seen as loyal to the Dear Leader. One wants to avoid close scrutiny by the Eye of Sauron. But we should not make the mistake of imagining that what we are observing is merely defensive.

Harper’s political values—fundamentally anti-democratic, based upon power and control—are embraced by many of those managers. His government, therefore, has the effect of liberating tendencies already present in the hierarchy. The bizarre Code of Conduct now being foisted upon potentially subversive archivists and librarians at LAC is symptomatic. The Minister in charge, James Moore, says it all came as a surprise to him. We have every right to be sceptical, but it might conceivably be the case.

“Like all federal organizations, LAC’s Code must align with the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector and take into consideration the wider public service environment,” Richard Provencher, the LAC’s senior communications adviser, said…. “While developing our Code, we participated in numerous planning and research meetings with other departments.”

One can see how the rot sets in, even if the manner of transmittal of the contagion in this case, admittedly, remains obscure to us. There’s no PMO directive, but Harper is sitting in the catbird seat of the Conservative government’s panopticon. This can be expected to have its effects on managerial behaviour, but that behaviour may spontaneously flourish in appropriately treated soil.

So ACOA may be just currying favour by bending rules and paying website homage to the Dear Leader. That would be the prevailing explanation, I suspect. But these incidents may also suggest something a little deeper and darker. They may reveal, in fact, how ACOA officials actually think.

[H/t Stephen Maher]

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on March 29, 2013 10:55 AM.

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