Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Where is the politically independent bureacracy? Going, going ...

There's still quite a bit of fallout from last week's rather surprising admission that employees on the federal government's payroll, the permanent civil service, were recruited to take part in a citizenship "reaffirmation" ceremony -- and broadcast on the Conservative's semi-official organ, Sun News TV.   Seems that some of the new Canadians saw the stunt for what it was, a stunt, so six bureaucrats were "conscripted" to take their place.

Set aside the fact that so many new Canadians, perhaps as many as 3000, were phoned in hopes of finding any ten willing to.   And it was handled by communications people, not actual citizenship clerks.  That's a major invasion of privacy since a citizenship application should only be used for that purpose; just as we all expect our tax returns whether filed electronically or by snail mail to be used to calculate only what is owed and by whom and not to find out who's running "X" grow op, "Y" chop shop or "Z" brothel.   After all, if the government is getting its revenues, it really should not matter to them if income is being reported from whatever source even if it is being laundered.  The police may want to know what illegal activity is going on, of course, but one would think they have other investigative modes at their disposal.

It's not just the charade demeans the naturalization process as we understand it.   It's a big deal to assume a citizenship, and when it's by choice and not by birth it carries with it major rights as well as responsibilities -- the same in fact as for native-born Canadians.    My family in the two generations before me have at least several "new" Canadians and I am sure they would be quite appalled by the Con / Sun ploy.

It also makes me want to ask a much more ominous question -- what is the point of having a permanent civil service if it only serves to carry out the will of the governing party?   Or promoting from within based on skill, if those skills aren't necessary after all?

The existence of a public service based on merit and not on who one knows is one of the things which helps push back against possible influence peddling.    The rules may change from time to time based on what the law is, but the same people can be depended upon to act in the interests of all people and not for a chosen few.   It also ensures, in theory, there are no "press opportunities" where the people get one message but those tasked to put policies into place know what the real rules are.    After all, if you are telling the truth there is no need to repeat the story.

Many governments of all stripes have no doubt been guilty of this.

But it is the brazenness of this stunt that I find worrisome as it it marks a trend towards those who are willing to pay for the message and twist it for their own ends.    When it comes to citizenship in particular, I have been under the impression that one does not take the oath as a conservative Canadian or a liberal Canadian or a socialist Canadian but a Canadian, period.   To use the taxpayer funded bureaucracy to spread this kind of propaganda is unacceptable.

There should not only be a ban on this kind of politicking.    There should also be a ban on all propaganda ads crafted by the party in power promoting X "Action Plan" or Y "De-register this" but labelled "A message from the Government of Canada" -- such seal of approval ads should only apply to legitimate public service announcements, such as (for an example) how to access the SAME codes for programmable weather radios.

The Cons have a huge warchest.   Let them rely on that for their smears and propaganda on what tax "cuts" (really "expenditures") they've implemented, and that will allow the other parties to compete on a level playing field.

I say the same should apply to names for acts of Parliament.   No sloganeering in the long or short titles, just something neutral so there is no confusion.

Let the public service do what they were hired to do -- serve the public, the whole public, not one specific party.    After all there is only one pool of money to draw income from.

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