The point about appointments

In addition to the uproar the government is causing by preparing to appoint 18 persons with a very specific agenda to the Senate, the Ottawa Citizen is reporting that more than 500 administrative appointments have been processed this year. That’s a huge number of new people on various boards, administrative tribunals, etc.

The appointments cause the appearance of political patronage, of course. But moving away from public relations into the world of the Public Service for a moment, I would like to make a different point.

Those administrative (and Senate) appointments were made because the positions were vacant. Actually, many have been left vacant for a long time. From Day 1 of Canada’s New Government, there has been much foot-dragging on appointments. The workload of those remaining increased and work has been piling up. Lots of people have been complaining about this, but our political masters consented to spend a little time on appointments only over the last year, trying to clear that monstrous backlog.

This was allowed to happen because this government has a profound dislike of the Public Service and of the professionals working in it, with a tendency to view them as enemies. They have made it clear through their words and deeds right from the start. They have told our bosses to get approval from the PMO for any public communication, and told us peons to shut up. Some have not and paid the price. That is one reason why this blog is anonymous.

This brings us to the paradox of Public Service Renewal. The Public Service needs to increase the number of people it hires each year, to compensate for the hordes of retiring workers. “PS Renewal” is the big buzzword in Ottawa right now and pretty much the only thing our big boss Kevin Lynch cares about. But how do you recruit people with skills when government members treat the Public Service as if we are a bunch of scheming, incompetent paper-pushers? All right, some of us are – go after them, not the whole outfit.

Fortunately, in the current economic climate good people might be desperate enough to consider the federal Public Service as a lesser evil. And there is good, interesting work getting done, especially in areas the government doesn’t pay too much attention to.

I’ve had quite a few Blogging Tories coming to the blog lately, probably to get a good giggle out of this post. Feel free to leave comments and propose variations to “scheming, incompetent paper-pusher” if you like. Or you could show you guys actually have a sense of humour and post your favourite joke about bureaucrats. I generally edit comments only to remove insults of a racial of sexual nature – some of you guys have been naughty little boys and girls lately.


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