Federal civil servants find it increasingly difficult to “tell the truth to power”: a new study

Canadian civil servants are having a hard time telling the truth to their politicians, the new study says.

Released May 11th, “Top of MindInvestigate the fears and hopes of civil servants at all levels of government across the country. It was carried out by two think tanks. Governance Research Institute And that Brian Mulroney Government InstituteBased on interviews with 42 senior leaders and a survey of 2,353 employees in the same organization in the public sector.

“Roughly speaking, two-thirds of the survey participants acknowledge that the interaction between elected civil servants is an important issue and requires more effective management.” The study states.

“The main concerns are the independence of public services, the effectiveness of parliamentary commissions, the loss and / or reduction of policy counseling capacity, the role of political staff, and the ability to provide” fearless “advice to political leaders. , And the politicization of issues and debates. “

Research shows that the spirit of civil servants (fearless advice and loyal implementation) is becoming increasingly difficult as civil servants’ political bosses want less advice and are implemented on their terms. Said.

“‘Telling the truth to power’ is important, but it seems difficult for many participants to achieve,” the study said.

“So far, participants have referred to less secure space for senior civil servants to provide analysis and options that are not well aligned with the (political) position of the government or are unpopular. was doing.”

Research shows that public services “lost” the element of independence, and employees do not provide advice based on “feasibility of commitment” or alternatives to achieving commitment goals, but on the platform. It is expected to provide a commitment.

Participants also told think tanks that “the over-politicalization of policymaking and choice, and the lack of opportunities to constructively challenge political directions” have hampered the relationship.

In addition, according to the survey, there was a sense among the participants that political staff had overextended their role and were in conflict with the responsibilities of the Deputy Minister. The Deputy Minister serves as the administrator of the government sector and directs the management of finance and human resources under the leadership of the Minister.

According to one participant, according to a survey, “public services have been defeated because they need to be politically responsible.”

The survey made several recommendations to improve the relationship between bureaucrats and their political bosses.

One proposal was made by a joint committee of the Senate and the Commons. Federal Accountability Act Introduced by the Harper Government in April 2006 Offer Rules of Conflict of Interest; Limitation of Election Funds; Measures to Respect Management Transparency, Oversight, and Accountability.

“”[It is] “Understanding whether that compliance and reporting requirement has had unintended consequences that have had” fearless advice “or impact on innovation, either in practice or in culture,” the study states.

Think tanks also recommended investigating the factors needed to create a “safer space” for fearless advice.

“The belief that senior public sector leaders, whether real or perceived, are not endorsed to provide” fearless “advice is a problem for good governance. The potential “cascade effect” for Assistant Deputy Minister (and beyond) is unclear and probably worth further study. “

Isaac Theo


Isaac Teo is a Toronto-based Epoch Times reporter.