3 min

Resignations and the death of internal dissent

The joke going around the Twitter Machine
last night was that at the pace things are going, the Harper government won’t
have to lay off a lot of civil servants because so many of them will resign in
protest. And such was the case yesterday with the resignation of the chief
economist at Statistics Canada, who tendered his resignation in large part
because internal dissent within the department is being quashed by senior
managers, especially around the 2011 census and the National Household Survey
that replaced the long-form. But here’s the thing – half the point of having a
non-partisan, permanent civil service is the ability to speak truth to power,
to tell ministers that hey, we have all the research that proves that your
political directives aren’t going to work. We’ll still implement them, but we
have all this data that shows that you’re barking up the wrong tree, and so on.
There is a dire need in politics not to have yes-men surrounding you, because
you already get that among political staffers, whose most marketable job skills
seem to be their undying loyalty. If the civil service is now clamping down on
internal dissent, be it to curry favour with a minister or to try to avoid the
brunt of the oncoming axe, it sends a very bad signal for the future of where the
institution is headed in this country. Those senior managers should perhaps be
reminded that they swore their oath to the Queen and that they serve
the Crown – not the prime minister or the minister – and for very good reason.

As you have probably heard by now, at a
press conference yesterday morning, Conservative Senator Pierre-Hughes Boisvenu suggested that we can solve prison overcrowding by putting some rope in every
cell and letting nature take its course. Also, that we should look at reinstituting capital punishment “in a limited way,” just for those offenders who “can’t
be rehabilitated.” He did later apologize and retract the comments, for what
it’s worth. But can we also ask why social conservatives are in favour of
capital punishment but will fight tooth and nail against doctor-assisted
suicide or euthanasia for terminally ill patients who want to check out while
they still have some quality of life? Also, given Boisvenu’s status
as a “victims of crime advocate” following the murder of his daughter, I think
that statements like these show precisely why we insist on justice being blind
in our legal system.

Oh, and for all you who say that this
somehow proves why the Senate should be abolished – as Nycole Turmel did – how is
one senator saying something ridiculous any more justification than all of the boneheaded things that MPs say on a continual basis? Does that mean we should
abolish the House, too? Just saying.

Remember a couple of years ago how the
Conservatives worked with all other parties to fix a really bad refugee reform
bill to turn it into a pretty decent piece of legislation? Well, they’re
putting out signals that they’re going to try to undo some of those
cooperative fixes now that they have their majority mandate.

The committee for procedures and house affairs has
quietly sidelined a motion that would make all sessions on future business take
place behind closed doors only. Score one for actual transparency (for now
anyway).

Research shows that raising the eligibility
to age 67 for OAS would disproportionately affect women and that it would
force more seniors onto the provincial welfare rolls – just as the opposition
(and primarily the Liberals with these specific arguments) has been saying in
the Commons. And so much for the promise not to download costs onto the provinces.

The means by which the government is giving
money to International Planned Parenthood Federation projects – through CIDA
initiatives rather than funds set aside for the Muskoka Initiative – has
certain pro-life MPs grumbling, even if the IPPF projects aren’t abortion-related.

And it looks like Brian Topp is leading NDP
leadership hopefuls in terms of fundraising by a fairly significant margin.

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