Monday, June 7, 2010

Harper's 'hyper-extreme control' plus threats

Documents expose Harper's obsession with control
Harper's Message Event Proposals reveal 'hyper-extreme' political control

The Canadian Press: ... The MEPs have blurred the time-honoured separation of non-partisan public servants and political staffers and sidelined seasoned government communicators, sapping morale across the civil service. They have become the political tool for literally putting words in the mouths of cabinet ministers, federal bureaucrats, low-profile MPs on the barbecue circuit, and seasoned diplomats abroad... a transformation that federal officials and public-policy analysts say is undermining democracy...

'We discussed every single issue and micromanaged every news release -- everything,' said one former Harper-era PCO official... The Conservative government's message control is 'putting the shackles on everyone,' said John Gordon, national president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada. 'I've been around for a long time,' said Gordon, who joined the public service in 1974... 'I've never seen it as closed as this.'...

The stringent handling of issues and messaging has resulted in less reflective policy-making that's not as sensitive to different voices and what's actually going on in society, said David Brown, a senior associate at the Ottawa-based Public Policy Forum... 'Anybody that could still think for themselves realized what the objective was here -- control. It's hyper-extreme control, complete with threats...' said another senior official, who has also worked at the PCO...

'There's no question we've witnessed quite a change in the centralization of decision-making,' said [David] Zussman, who now teaches public management at the University of Ottawa. 'So all of the functions that you normally associate with cabinet work and communications and policy-making are different now than they were under previous governments.'

In virtually all cases, the strategic benefit to the government's overall agenda is carefully weighed in the requests.
Image source here.