Rob Nicholson may have crossed the line in threatening the senate committee, but he jumped right over it when he posted a partisan attack on OUR Justice department website.
The media also got wind of it, so Nicholson changed the heading from NEW SENATORS TO HELP END OPPOSITION OBSTRUCTION OF LAW-AND-ORDER BILLS to MINISTERS WELCOME NEW SENATORS TO HELP SUPPORT LAW-AND-ORDER BILLS. Who says ordinary citizens can't change things?
I just hope It doesn't end there. One of our members stated that he had worked as a public servant for 33 years, and has never seen anything like this. That's a common complaint, I'm afraid.
Can I just say, that if you've never examined these new crime measures, they are absolutely horrible. Their intent is not to reduce crime, because we all know this will only increase it. Their purpose is to fill the private prisons that they are allowing the Americans to build here. They can't very well get them to do that when Canada has the lowest crime rate in almost three decades. Solution ... make more things criminal.
First on my list would be cabinet ministers abusing their office for partisan purposes. Sentence ... LIFE!
Grits pan 'partisan' posting on Justice website
Conservatives compromising neutrality of public service, Liberal MP says
By Kathryn May,
The Ottawa Citizen
January 30, 2010
The Liberals have complained to Canada's top bureaucrat about using the Justice Department's non-partisan website for a "brazen partisan attack" in announcing five new senators to clear the way for the Conservatives' law-and-order agenda.
"This is a concerted effort on the part of this government to politicize the public service," said Liberal MP Marlene Jennings.
"This is not the first time, it is reprehensible and it has to top." Jennings lodged her complaint with Privy Council Clerk Wayne Wouters over a press release posted on the Justice Department's website saying, "New Senators to Help End Opposition Obstruction of Law-and-Order Bills." The release went on to say the opposition gutted the government's bill proposing mandatory jail time for serious drug offences, a key part of its bid to fight organized crime.
Jennings said the press release flouts the public service's value and ethics code, which dictates that bureaucrats maintain neutrality in their work to protect the public's confidence in its integrity and impartiality.
Similarly, the government's communications policy says public servants must provide information to the public in a "non-partisan fashion" while protecting the "value and reputations of public institutions." Jennings said it was particularly worrisome that a partisan release was on the Justice Department's site. She wants it removed and Wouters to investigate whether public servants wrote, approved and posted it, or if it was prepared by political staff and posted under their orders.
She also wants to know if any bureaucrats objected. "I hope the deputy minister and Mr. Wouters can say when they investigate that it was political staff and not public servants who drafted that press release and it went out against the advice of public servants," said Jennings.
"If not, then one has to say public servants have demonstrated to be politicized and we can't rely on what they say to be non-political." Government officials were unavailable for comment.
In her complaint, Jennings cited several other releases she felt violated the code. She pointed to a press release Public Safety issued in 2007 accusing the opposition of being "soft on security and terrorism," while the government was committed to protecting the safety of Canadians. In another by Fisheries and Oceans, Liberals were accused of pandering to special interest groups while the Conservatives protected Canada's "hardworking sealers."
It's an issue that worries many experts, who fear the unravelling of Canada's independent and impartial public service. Some worry the government's attack on diplomat Richard Colvin for his revelations about the handling of Afghan detainees has created such a chill within the bureaucracy that public servants won't push back if politicians or political staff cross the line.
Peter Aucoin, professor emeritus at Dalhousie University, has long sounded the alarm about government communications being used for partisan spin. Policies should clearly spell out what's allowed on department sites. "It should be impartial and we should be able to distinguish between political communications and government communications," he said.
The growing concern about the impartiality of the public service, especially in the age of Facebook and Twitter, prompted Public Service Commission president Maria Barrados to call a review into the nature of non-partisanship in the 21st century. The commission is the watchdog of merit and neutrality in the public service.