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The Mess => Canadian Politics => Topic started by: Chris Pook on March 18, 2008, 10:52:08

Title: A Discussion on the Evolution of the Civil Service- Split from Gomery
Post by: Chris Pook on March 18, 2008, 10:52:08
Quote
But the Citizen betrays its true colours when it misstates the problem as being about media access. The problem is that the checks and balances in our, Westminster type, cabinet system of government are provided by the civil service. When the PMO becomes too powerful, as it has been for nearly 40 years, then the PCO (Privy Council Office – the “head” of the civil service) loses power – it is a zero sum game – and that means that the checks and balances do not work as well as they should.

There's an interesting point.

Under our system, based on tradition, precedent and evolution, the civil service was originally staffed by royal prerogative.  The Monarch appointed Commissioners and Ministers and Generals of all sorts (Captain-, Adjutant-, Governor-, etc).  Those Appointees then hired their own staff and were personally responsible for their actions.

It was only under the Hanoverian Georges, particularly Georges I&II, that the Monarch's powers were completely usurped by the Prime Minister and his cronies that were the leaders of a small clique of either mercantile or landed interests.  The first two Georges were happy enough to enjoy the prerogatives of living off the British treasury and behind the wooden walls of the Royal Navy.  The alternative was life in the Rhineland Palatinate which Louis XIV and XV periodically devastated.  They left the aristocratic and commercial "rebels" alone to run Britain as they saw fit.

In a classic case of "Bait and Switch" they moneyed classes conned the lower classes into supporting the Glorious Revolution, convincing them that the evil was Monarchy rather than Autocracy, set rules in place to control the Monarch, including eliminating the Royal Prerogative, and proceeded to establish an Oligarchy of the Cabinet, if not an Autocracy of the Prime Minister.  People thought that the Prime Minister and Parliament "controlled" the Monarch when in fact they replaced the Monarch.

With the American Revolution the fiction of the Evil Monarch was continued as it suited both sides of the Atlantic.   In fact the Revolution was as much a clash between British commercial interests as it was an ideological war.

When the Americans drafted their own Constitution they effectively restored the power structure that existed before the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and re-established the Royal Prerogative.  They may not have adopted a hereditary Monarch but they did adopt a Monarch - just an elected Monarch-pro-tem.  They vested the Royal Prerogative to pick Ministers, Commissioners, Generals and by extension the Civil Service, in the Presidency.

Consequently our Civil Service is nominally a creature of a non-existent all-powerful Monarch and theoretically a creature of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.   Meanwhile the American Civil Service is nominally and theoretically a creature of the Presidency.

In practice, because the Civil Servants serve for periods much longer than any PM or President, often for life, and because they comprise many individuals with overlapping careers that are mutually supporting the Civil Service under both systems have become independent, largely unaccontable, institutions.  They control their own hiring, firing and appointing and consequently ensure that only the "right sort" of people with only the "right sort" of views are allowed into the fold to make the decisions.

They have become the College of Pontiffs, the self-selecting College of Patrician Priests that appointed and anointed Etruscan and Roman Kings prior to the rise of the Roman Republic.  One of their jobs was to appoint a junior body of priests, the Auguries, whose job it was to offer advice to both the governors and the governed. They released birds, threw bones and gutted goats and proceeded to tell people if a certain course of action was beneficial or harmful.  Given that nobody else had the skill to read goat guts and verify their pronouncements their pronouncements went pretty much unchallenged - except perhaps by their bosses, the Pontiffs, that hired an commissioned them.

These days, for all the access to information that we have in any country in the world, and the resulting inability to verify much of the advice being supplied by Civil Servants, they might as well be ripping open goats as preparing multi-volume tomes.  Both processes are equally inscrutable.
Title: Split from Gomery
Post by: E.R. Campbell on March 18, 2008, 12:44:55
There's an interesting point.

Under our system, based on tradition, precedent and evolution, the civil service was originally staffed by royal prerogative.  The Monarch appointed Commissioners and Ministers and Generals of all sorts (Captain-, Adjutant-, Governor-, etc).  Those Appointees then hired their own staff and were personally responsible for their actions.

It was only under the Hanoverian Georges, particularly Georges I&II, that the Monarch's powers were completely usurped by the Prime Minister and his cronies that were the leaders of a small clique of either mercantile or landed interests.  The first two Georges were happy enough to enjoy the prerogatives of living off the British treasury and behind the wooden walls of the Royal Navy.  The alternative was life in the Rhineland Palatinate which Louis XIV and XV periodically devastated.  They left the aristocratic and commercial "rebels" alone to run Britain as they saw fit.

In a classic case of "Bait and Switch" they moneyed classes conned the lower classes into supporting the Glorious Revolution, convincing them that the evil was Monarchy rather than Autocracy, set rules in place to control the Monarch, including eliminating the Royal Prerogative, and proceeded to establish an Oligarchy of the Cabinet, if not an Autocracy of the Prime Minister.  People thought that the Prime Minister and Parliament "controlled" the Monarch when in fact they replaced the Monarch.

With the American Revolution the fiction of the Evil Monarch was continued as it suited both sides of the Atlantic.   In fact the Revolution was as much a clash between British commercial interests as it was an ideological war.

When the Americans drafted their own Constitution they effectively restored the power structure that existed before the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and re-established the Royal Prerogative.  They may not have adopted a hereditary Monarch but they did adopt a Monarch - just an elected Monarch-pro-tem.  They vested the Royal Prerogative to pick Ministers, Commissioners, Generals and by extension the Civil Service, in the Presidency.

Consequently our Civil Service is nominally a creature of a non-existent all-powerful Monarch and theoretically a creature of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.   Meanwhile the American Civil Service is nominally and theoretically a creature of the Presidency.

In practice, because the Civil Servants serve for periods much longer than any PM or President, often for life, and because they comprise many individuals with overlapping careers that are mutually supporting the Civil Service under both systems have become independent, largely unaccontable, institutions.  They control their own hiring, firing and appointing and consequently ensure that only the "right sort" of people with only the "right sort" of views are allowed into the fold to make the decisions.

They have become the College of Pontiffs, the self-selecting College of Patrician Priests that appointed and anointed Etruscan and Roman Kings prior to the rise of the Roman Republic.  One of their jobs was to appoint a junior body of priests, the Auguries, whose job it was to offer advice to both the governors and the governed. They released birds, threw bones and gutted goats and proceeded to tell people if a certain course of action was beneficial or harmful.  Given that nobody else had the skill to read goat guts and verify their pronouncements their pronouncements went pretty much unchallenged - except perhaps by their bosses, the Pontiffs, that hired an commissioned them.

These days, for all the access to information that we have in any country in the world, and the resulting inability to verify much of the advice being supplied by Civil Servants, they might as well be ripping open goats as preparing multi-volume tomes.  Both processes are equally inscrutable.

I don’t know if I can let my friend Kirkhill’s analysis lie there unchallenged.

Going back just a bit we see the emergence of a civil service in the Cecils (William (Lord Burghley) and his son Robert (Lord (Earl of Salisbury)) who were chosen/appointed by the monarch explicitly for their apolitical loyalty. Elizabeth I said to William Cecil (1558) "This judgment I have of you, that you will not be corrupted by any manner of gift and that you will be faithful to the State and that, without respect of my private will, you will give me that counsel which you think best." That’s remarkably close to the standard that we, today, hold our most senior civil servants. Elizabeth needed to balance her privy council because, while she was required, by custom and the realities of power, to appoint a certain number of the most powerful nobles and while she was allowed, also by custom, to appoint some of her own loyal supporters, she needed someone who was loyal to the state, who would remain above the partisan squabbling of the members of her council, her cabinet. Even the Cecils’ titles, Chief Secretary of State and those of their subordinates, clerks of the privy council, resonate through the centuries.

I find the origins of the modern civil service in e.g. the creation of the Woolwich Dockyard in 1512 and Trinity House in 1514. These marked a revolutionary turning point in national governance – one which would allow the British to sprint ahead of all their continental European competitors for 200 years. The advantages of an honest, efficient, effective and apolitical bureaucracy cannot be overstated. The British may have been brave and supremely skilled strategists, sailors and soldiers but they were, above all, well maintained and, again and again and again, it showed.

The upshot of the Glorious Revolution is that the British people lose their fear of mismanagement by their sovereign and her/his council and put their trust in that other great British secret weapon: the public debt – something even more important to war fighting than a sound grand strategy, a firm, effective administrative and logistical base, and brave fighting men (and women).

Friend Kirkhill is spot on when he says that the Mandarins have become a self-selecting, self-perpetuating government within a government but that does not alter the fact that they are the de facto "checks and balances" in our system - not even the opposition in a minority parliament can be so powerful.
 
Title: Split from Gomery
Post by: Chris Pook on March 18, 2008, 23:14:41
Thank you Mr. Campbell for the opportunity to see if I can rise to the challenge.

While I can join you in stipulating that Elizabeth sought untainted advice from the Cecils I think that falls into the category of one swallow not making a spring. 

The Tudors generally were great institution builders, Henry VII reorganizing the Treasury and building the drydock, Henry VIII establishing the Navy Board and the Board of Ordnance amongst others.  Elizabeth inherited those institutions and treated them with respect and they survived her reign.  However, despite her personal preference for good, honest advice the fact remains that she appointed her advisers personally to serve her.  The advisors were subject to her Royal Prerogative and the Cecils served at her pleasure.  As some others discovered.

Also it seems a bit of a stretch to discuss apolitical advice in an environment where the Monarch's House is itself a political party.  The Monarch was not neutral in the nation's affairs and Elizabeth most certainly wasn't a hands off leader.

But suppose we allow to stand the notion of the Tudors, and Elizabeth, establishing an impartial Civil Service.  How do we view the Stewart Interregnum?

You cite the example of the Treasury and the Banking system.  Elizabeth's Grand Father Henry VII put the Treasury in good order leaving funds enough for his son Henry VIII to establish many of the military and naval institutions that survive today, or at least until 1964(?) and the creation of the Ministry of Defence.  In the course of raising those institutions Henry depleted the coffers.  Elizabeth struggled to raise funds with one of her more successful gambits being the issuance of Royal Warrants to trading companies.

When James VI & I took over the throne he was reliant on his ability to pawn his wife's (Anne of Denmark's) jewels to "Jinglin' Geordie" Heriot of Edinburgh. Can we honestly say that the Cecil's Civil Service survived the Autocracy of James VI & I, Charles I, George Heriot and Buckingham?  While that was certainly true of the naval and military institutions that had had sufficiently lengthy support from the Tudors to develop lives of their own, I'm afraid that I don't see the similar continuity on the civil side.  Certainly not through the Protectorate of Cromwell.

I think a better starting point for our modern institutions generally, and our civil service in particular is with our first properly hobbled King, the Restored Charles II.  I offer Samuel Pepys in counterpoint to the Cecils and the reorganization of the Navy Board into the Admiralty.  Charles can also be "credited" with encouraging/allowing that other famous civil institution, the Royal Society.  Now there might be a useful progenitor for an apolitical civil service, if the civil service is seen in an advisory capacity rather than executive.

Beyond Charles II we next arrive at the Dutchman.  We'll skip York. 

With William III we see the institutions you referred to, in particular the Bank of England (and its companion institutions Lloyds and the Exchange) an institution founded on Dutch lines by a Calvinist Scot and a Huguenot Belgian under the auspices of a Dutch King.  But equally it was under the auspices of the British/Dutch/German/Huguenot protestants of the ascendant mercantile class.  That class, including Glasgow Tobacco Lords, dominated the politics of Britain at least until 1911 when Lloyd George started whipping the Lords into line.  They flourished under the Hanoverians. They were not challenged in any substantial manner until the reforms of the 1830s and '40s and then they held on  tenaciously.

I think that the only way you can argue that the Commissioners and Ministers of that era were apolitical is by analogy to the dictum "What is good for General Motors is good for America".   The Civil Servants of that era were selected from, and served the interests of, the Mercantile Class - many of whom were Continental parvenus.  It is not impossible to suggest that that class was Britain in the same sense that General Motors was (is?) America.  But I don't think it can be fairly argued that they directly benefited, or sought to benefit pressed sailors, flogged soldiers or scalped children in factories and many other Britons.  And yet this was indeed the era of Britain's rise to greatness.

I feel that the notion of an apolitical civil service really only can be said to have reached realization following the Victorian reforms initiated after the death of Albert.  And even there many will argue that that Civil Service still reflected a narrow slice of British society and its views.  It was apolitical in the sense that it does not seem to have been overtly Liberal or overtly Conservative in the broad execution of its duties but this still set it apart from the Cloth Bonnets of the Labour Party, a contemporary phenomenon.

Your servant, Sir.  ;)
Title: Split from Gomery
Post by: E.R. Campbell on March 18, 2008, 23:59:29
Thank you Mr. Campbell for the opportunity to see if I can rise to the challenge.

While I can join you in stipulating that Elizabeth sought untainted advice from the Cecils I think that falls into the category of one swallow not making a spring.

Agreed, as you point out, later, there are those incredibly inept, inbred Scots, the Stuarts, who balance all the good ever done by all good monarchs: English, Dutch, German, etc.

The Tudors generally were great institution builders, Henry VII reorganizing the Treasury and building the drydock, Henry VIII establishing the Navy Board and the Board of Ordnance amongst others.  Elizabeth inherited those institutions and treated them with respect and they survived her reign.  However, despite her personal preference for good, honest advice the fact remains that she appointed her advisers personally to serve her.  The advisors were subject to her Royal Prerogative and the Cecils served at her pleasure.  As some others discovered.

Elizabeth was constrained in appointing her council by the very real national politics: regional, religious and establishment vs. new men.  

Also it seems a bit of a stretch to discuss apolitical advice in an environment where the Monarch's House is itself a political party.  The Monarch was not neutral in the nation's affairs and Elizabeth most certainly wasn't a hands off leader.

Yes, indeed it was; and just one among many. Elizabeth could not afford to be neutral, not is she didn't want to be neutered.

But suppose we allow to stand the notion of the Tudors, and Elizabeth, establishing an impartial Civil Service.  How do we view the Stewart Interregnum?

As about the worst 100 years in English history ... see inbred Scots, above.

You cite the example of the Treasury and the Banking system.  Elizabeth's Grand Father Henry VII put the Treasury in good order leaving funds enough for his son Henry VIII to establish many of the military and naval institutions that survive today, or at least until 1964(?) and the creation of the Ministry of Defence.  In the course of raising those institutions Henry depleted the coffers.  Elizabeth struggled to raise funds with one of her more successful gambits being the issuance of Royal Warrants to trading companies.

But Henry VIII and Bloody Mary wasted too much of that money on useless military adventures. Elizabeth (and especially Cecil) had to be creative (crooked, if you like).  

When James VI & I took over the throne he was reliant on his ability to pawn his wife's (Anne of Denmark's) jewels to "Jinglin' Geordie" Heriot of Edinburgh. Can we honestly say that the Cecil's Civil Service survived the Autocracy of James VI & I, Charles I, George Heriot and Buckingham?  While that was certainly true of the naval and military institutions that had had sufficiently lengthy support from the Tudors to develop lives of their own, I'm afraid that I don't see the similar continuity on the civil side.  Certainly not through the Protectorate of Cromwell.

No, but the idea of the institution did survive and ideas are much more powerful than kings.

I think a better starting point for our modern institutions generally, and our civil service in particular is with our first properly hobbled King, the Restored Charles II.  I offer Samuel Pepys in counterpoint to the Cecils and the reorganization of the Navy Board into the Admiralty.  Charles can also be "credited" with encouraging/allowing that other famous civil institution, the Royal Society.  Now there might be a useful progenitor for an apolitical civil service, if the civil service is seen in an advisory capacity rather than executive.

Pepys is a good great example of the apolitical civil servant who serves despite all the "slings and arrows" but the Cecils establish the idea (again) of a trusted, apolitical secretariat for the sovereign's privy council. Thus, when the council and parliament supplant the sovereign in real authority the principle of "best counsel" is well established.

Beyond Charles II we next arrive at the Dutchman.  We'll skip York. 

Always wise.

With William III we see the institutions you referred to, in particular the Bank of England (and its companion institutions Lloyds and the Exchange) an institution founded on Dutch lines by a Calvinist Scot and a Huguenot Belgian under the auspices of a Dutch King.  But equally it was under the auspices of the British/Dutch/German/Huguenot protestants of the ascendant mercantile class.  That class, including Glasgow Tobacco Lords, dominated the politics of Britain at least until 1911 when Lloyd George started whipping the Lords into line.  They flourished under the Hanoverians. They were not challenged in any substantial manner until the reforms of the 1830s and '40s and then they held on  tenaciously.

I think that the only way you can argue that the Commissioners and Ministers of that era were apolitical is by analogy to the dictum "What is good for General Motors is good for America".   The Civil Servants of that era were selected from, and served the interests of, the Mercantile Class - many of whom were Continental parvenus.  It is not impossible to suggest that that class was Britain in the same sense that General Motors was (is?) America.  But I don't think it can be fairly argued that they directly benefited, or sought to benefit pressed sailors, flogged soldiers or scalped children in factories and many other Britons.  And yet this was indeed the era of Britain's rise to greatness.

The plight of pressed sailors and flogged soldiers is vastly overstated today. In fact the reforms introduced by Buckingham (1625ish) and expanded by e.g. Blake (1650s) set the stage for a military that, while harsh in its conditions of service, pioneered decent pay and conditions for the men in it.

But the point is that over a relatively short period the British managed to discard the hereditary nobility and introduce a meritocracy. There was nothing kinder and gentler about the new "lords" - in fact they were as rough and greedy a lot as one could find but they had a basic understanding of the need for the people, the country to prosper along with them. It is the genius of liberal capitalism and it still shines in a sea of conservative statist nations.  
 
I feel that the notion of an apolitical civil service really only can be said to have reached realization following the Victorian reforms initiated after the death of Albert.  And even there many will argue that that Civil Service still reflected a narrow slice of British society and its views.  It was apolitical in the sense that it does not seem to have been overtly Liberal or overtly Conservative in the broad execution of its duties but this still set it apart from the Cloth Bonnets of the Labour Party, a contemporary phenomenon.

Except that Elizabeth clearly established one threehundred years earlier.

Your servant, Sir.  ;)
Title: Split from Gomery
Post by: Chris Pook on March 19, 2008, 01:54:26
While I share your enthusiasm for the liberal capitalism, and equally your disdain for the Stewarts/Stuarts (frenchified spawn of Lennox or otherwise) I can't really accept the notion that a meritocracy arose over a short period of time liberating the Britons from the clutches of feudalism.  I think the interpretation most favourable to your argument still sees a tale that developed over centuries - from William the ******* securing the throne to the loosening of both the monarchical bonds (by the barons, and de Montfort, by Tyler and Cromwell, by Glyndwr and the Tudors) and the baronial bonds (by Edward I and Henry VII).  The effect of these interchanges was that authority generally lost credibility.  There was less of a sense of awe.

A less favourable interpretation would be that the *******'s press was better than the facts might warrant.  While he did a remarkable job of accounting the assets that he claimed, and he likewise established some well founded outposts I think it can be argued that in the same manner that Karzai has been labelled as little more than the Mayor of Kabul so William's authority probably didn't extend much beyond the lance points of his supporters.  Much of Britain wasn't subdued until very recently (1746 conventionally).

I submit that Britain's success is due precisely to the inability of central authority to exert control.  This allowed space for individuals to succeed on their own merits - even if by thievery and crookery.  But, as you noted with Elizabeth, this merely put them on the same level as Royalty. 

With success, often monetary, then that allowed the upstart to gain access to the throne.  Elizabeth's West Country sailors are classic examples.  Fisherman makes good - sighted squiring the Queen around London.  In Britain money, capital, levelled all playing fields, or at least bought a ticket to them all.

One field it bought entrance to was the Civil Service, or at least the parties that appointed the Civil Servants.

Once appointed however the Servants became an autonomous entity, accountable to none, much like our own Courts and Bureaucrats.  It required major upheavals, like the occasional revolution to throw padded seats out of padded seats.

Britain succeeded because central authority never secured the grip it did in major centers in continental Europe.  When the man on horseback came riding you could always take to the marshes (Hereward), the seas (Charlie and Blackbeard) or the hills (too numerous to mention).

One final point sir before addressing your last - I sense a dig somewhere in your reference to inbred Scots - fortunately I am an Anglo-Scots mongrel and thus immune - but in a rare defence of the Stewarts/Stuarts they were no more inbred than your usual royal (with the exception of Darnley).  Charles I female forebears include Anne Oldenburg, Mary Stuart, Marie Guise, Margaret Tudor, Margaret Oldenburg, Mary Guelders, Joan Beaufort, Annabella Drummond and Elizabeth Mure - a particularly eclectic mix of Danes, French, Dutch, English and Scots women.  In fact they share many of the same genes as your Tudors, all the way back to Joan Beaufort.

And to your last point - agreed that ideas are stronger than kings, and agreed that Elizabeth sought apolitical counsel however I am afraid we must disagree on the directness of the linkage tying Cecil to Mr. Lynch. 

One area, among many, in which we are in agreement, the Bureaucracy does act as a Check, or Balance, to the authority of the Government.  Whether this is a desirable state, or whether one might prefer a more accountable Check, is a point of further debate.

Title: Re: A Discussion on the Evolution of the Civil Service- Split from Gomery
Post by: E.R. Campbell on May 11, 2008, 09:25:29
Here, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from today’s Ottawa Citizen, is an obituary of Arthur Kroeger:

http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/story.html?id=79c510f7-91f7-4f95-9e94-5e7f73a70744
Quote
Kroeger was the 'wisest of the old mandarins'

By Mohammed Adam, Ottawa Citizen

Published: Saturday, May 10, 2008

He was one of the last great Canadian mandarins, a public servant extraordinaire whose "high ethical compass" and professionalism was a symbol of the plain-speaking, independent and non-partisan public servant. 

Now his death, colleagues and commentators say, marks the end of the era of the truly remarkable public servants, who helped define the country and left their mark as "co-architects" of Canada.

Arthur Kroeger, perhaps the "wisest of the old mandarins," died Friday after a battle with cancer. He was 75.

Companion of the Order of Canada, Mr. Kroeger was deputy minister of numerous federal departments in a distinguished career spanning 34 years. From 1993 to 2002, he was also the chancellor of Carleton University.

As the accolades and tributes poured in yesterday, colleagues and commentators remembered a great Canadian who served his country with honour and distinction. He was ahead of his time in many ways, and one of his defining legacies, colleagues say, was his role in advancing the rights of women in the public service. He was fearless and not afraid to go against the grain even in retirement, if he felt the cause was right.

While most of the country fell in line with Justice John Gomery's recommendations for a sweeping overhaul of government in the wake of the sponsorship scandal, Mr. Kroeger was one of the few voices to oppose the judge. He said Judge Gomery's proposal to hand more power to senior bureaucrats as a counterweight to ministers would open the door to "government by the unelected." Those recommendations have still not been implemented.

"I think it is fair to say that he was the last of a great and extraordinary generation of public servants who, you could say, were co-architects of the new Canada," said Gilles Paquet, senior research fellow at the University of Ottawa's school of public and international affairs.

"He was probably the wisest of the old mandarins. He represented the ultimate wise mandarin who was capable of working with any government."

Jim Roche, who was a senior official in the office of the Minister of Transport when Mr. Kroeger was deputy minister, said his death leaves a massive void in the world of Canadian public service.

"He was a great leader and public servant. He had a great belief in the good the government can do for the country and he inspired a whole generation of public servants," Mr. Roche said.

"Before it was even fashionable, he opened the door to women in the public service. He sought them out, he nurtured them and he promoted them. It is one of his defining legacies."

Arthur Kroeger was born in 1932 in Naco, Alta., the son of Russian Mennonite immigrant farmers who came to Canada in 1926 to escape communist persecution. But the Kroegers faced discrimination in Canada and life was tough for a family trying to make a living out of farming in a region that had inferior land and minimal rain. But life grew harder still during the Great Depression and the lessons of the time left a deep impression on Mr. Kroeger. He wrote a book about the family's travails and Katherine Graham, dean of the Faculty of Public Affairs, said his "challenging youth" growing up in the Prairie dustbowl defined his strong ethical character.   

"Despite his great accomplishments, he was never one to put on airs and I attribute that to his Alberta farm background. He was very proud of his Prairie roots," Ms. Graham said.

A Rhodes Scholar, he studied at Oxford University, returning to Canada to marry the late Gabrielle Jane Sellers, with whom he had two children, Nina Alexandra and Kate Megan Jane. He joined the Department of External Affairs in 1958, the beginning of what would become a stellar career during which he served as deputy minister for 17 of his 34-year service. He served in several diplomatic posts, including Washington, Geneva and New Delhi, worked in government departments ranging from the Treasury Board to Indian Affairs, Regional Industrial Expansion and Employment and Immigration. He sat on numerous committees and boards, including president of the Canadian Association of Rhodes Scholars, chairman of the National Statistics Council and the Canadian Centre for Management Development.

In 1989, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada and became Companion in 2000. He received the Public Service Outstanding Achievement Award in 1989 and received honorary Doctorates of Law from several Canadian Universities. In recognition of his distinguished public service career, Carleton University named one of its colleges after him - the Arthur Kroeger College of Public Affairs.

"The only time I saw Arthur Kroeger blush was when he was asked if he'd lend his name to the college," recalled Ms. Graham, dean of the faculty.

"There was nothing about Arthur Kroeger that was about Arthur Kroeger. Almost everything he did, he did for the benefit of others," added Chris Dornan, director of the College.

"He was an extraordinarily kind individual. His concern was not for himself, his concern was for others and what he could do to help them, particularly young people."

Ms. Graham, who had known Mr. Kroeger for 15 years, said while his death is a tremendous loss, his legacy will live on. "We've lost a great public servant of the old school who had a strong ethical compass, someone who had a powerful mind and was not afraid to speak his mind," she said, adding that we've also "lost an exemplar of the public service of tomorrow."

Gordon Ritchie is a retired public servant whose job track roughly paralleled that of Mr. Kroeger for about a decade. One of Mr. Ritchie's responsibilities at the economic development department was to advise the secretary of the cabinet on the performance of deputy ministers. He said Mr. Kroeger was the best of the bunch, "the quintessential senior public servant" who had minimal public profile, but was "very forceful and effective" in giving his ministers straight advice.

A telling example of the delicate balance Mr. Kroeger struck between serving his political masters while sticking to his convictions occurred in the lead up to the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, Mr. Ritchie said.

As deputy minister of the Energy Department, Mr. Kroeger testified before parliamentary committees on the trade deal. The deal was much favoured by western Canadian energy producers and reviled by those in favour of a national energy program, Mr. Ritchie said.

"Arthur's testimony was absolutely masterful. He managed to not say a word that would undermine the position of the government, but leaving no doubt to anybody who could read between the lines that he really didn't like the agreement.

"That is really the epitome of a fine public servant. He's always respectful of the political authorities and does not undermine them, but that doesn't mean he's given up his soul or that he has no opinions of his own."

Funeral arrangements are expected to be announced in the coming days.

I’m not sure he was the “wisest” of the ”old mandarins” but he was amongst the last. He fit the mould perfectly: modest origins, Oxford, and so on. That mould would be broken in the late sixties and never reformed – to the country’s detriment.

The article, in the second and third to last paragraphs, is instructive on the subject of ”speaking truth to power”. He was, erroneously  in my opinion, opposed to free trade but he did his level best to implement the government’s agenda, efficiently and effectively, despite his own personal and professional reservations. That’s how civil servants should act.

It is interesting that Diefenbaker, Trudeau, Mulroney and Harper all distrusted or distrust the civil service for its perceived bias. Diefenbaker, Mulroney and Harper had the examples of e.g. Lester Pearson (http://www.canada.com/ottawacitizen/news/story.html?id=79c510f7-91f7-4f95-9e94-5e7f73a70744) (1948), Mitchell Sharp (http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2004/03/19/sharp040319.html) (1958) and Marcel Massé (http://www.pco-bcp.gc.ca/index.asp?lang=eng&page=clerk-greffier&sub=FormerClerks&doc=FormerClerks1979-1980_e.htm) (1993) to confirm their belief that the civil service was/is a hotbed of Liberal partisanship. Trudeau, on the other hand, mistrusted the civil service because he perceived, correctly I think, that it was too exclusive – it systematically excluded people like him. His perception was that it was a closed, Anglophilic, Oxbridge community; he was only partially correct – it was both but its exclusivity was based on merit and Trudeau was found waning in that by the standards of the day, despite his excellent education at Harvard and the LSE.

The Canadian civil service was never a model of the Cecils’ original – O.D. Skelton (http://faculty.marianopolis.edu/c.belanger/QuebecHistory/bios/odskelton.htm) created it in his own image and, perhaps more importantly, in the image he had of a Canadian elite

Title: Re: A Discussion on the Evolution of the Civil Service- Split from Gomery
Post by: E.R. Campbell on May 17, 2008, 09:12:01
Here is a bit more on the topic, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from today’s Globe and Mail, from Prof. Don Savoie (http://www.universityaffairs.ca/issues/2004/may/print/man.html), a long time critic of Governing from the Centre (http://books.google.ca/books?id=rD8y3W-yCagC&dq=governing+from+the+centre&pg=PP1&ots=ktiVTsvtSz&sig=c7IJlc60J7P1SE4AV3MN8-SfewQ&hl=en&prev=http://www.google.ca/search%3Fhl%3Den%26pwst%3D1%26sa%3DX%26oi%3Dspell%26resnum%3D0%26ct%3Dresult%26cd%3D1%26q%3Dgoverning%2Bfrom%2Bthe%2Bcentre%26spell%3D1&sa=X&oi=print&ct=title&cad=one-book-with-thumbnail) as practiced by Trudeau, Mulroney, Chrétien and Harper:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080516.wsavoie0517/BNStory/specialComment/home/?pageRequested=2
Quote
Globe essay

The broken chain of answerability

DONALD SAVOIE

From Saturday's Globe and Mail
May 16, 2008 at 12:00 AM EDT

Officers of Parliament have come under increasing scrutiny in the media, and none too soon. They have been in fashion for some time, and their number and mandate have expanded considerably. Establishing new officers of this kind, however, can never get at the root cause of what ails our institutions. The issue is much broader and needs the urgent attention of Canadians and our elected representatives. In brief, the unwritten part of our Constitution and our national political and administrative institutions simply no longer correspond to present-day requirements.

The chain of accountability, from voters to MP, from MP to prime minister and cabinet ministers, from ministers to the heads of government departments and agencies, and from senior civil servants to front-line managers to their employees, has broken down. No officer or officers of Parliament can repair it. They have neither the mandate nor the legitimacy to play more than a supporting role.

The relationship among Parliament, the prime minister, ministers and public servants is in need of repair, and we are ill served by pretending that all is well. We should no longer tolerate court government, by which a political leader with the help of a handful of courtiers shapes and reshapes instruments of power at will. Those with the power to introduce change for the better are reluctant to do so because they enjoy being able to wield tremendous power. We need to define, preferably in law, the role of the prime minister, cabinet and the public service and give public servants an administrative space of their own to manage government operations, while recognizing that the prime minister and ministers must always have the authority to override public servants in all matters not covered by statutes.

Instead of recognizing that our machinery of government is structured for a world that no longer exists, we keep patching things up, thinking the next patch will finally fix things for good. We have, over the past 25 years or so, introduced access to information legislation and measures to protect whistleblowers, and added several new officers of Parliament. By one count, we now have 11 such officers, including the newly created Parliamentary Budget Officer to "ensure truth in budgeting." This suggests that public servants can never be as credible as officers of Parliament. The message can hardly be lost on officials in the Department of Finance. In addition, officers of Parliament have been created without clarifying how they fit into the constitutional framework. Parliament itself appears to have lost its way, and its decline has been well documented.

Yet Parliament is the one institution that truly should matter to Canadians, the only one that constitutes the democratic link between citizens and their government and connects citizens from British Columbia to Newfoundland and Labrador. Ordinary Canadians do not have access to lobbyists — modern-day witch doctors — and so they must look to their MPs to speak on their behalf in Ottawa.

Parliamentarians, it seems, have turned over much of their accountability responsibilities to officers of Parliament and to the media. Officers of Parliament have somehow projected the belief that they are able to provide objective evidence about almost any public policy and administrative matter. They are independent of government and now also increasingly of Parliament: thus, their claim to be the source of objectivity. For the most part, they are answerable to themselves alone. John Reid, a former information commissioner lamented in public that, when it comes to their own accountability, MPs all but ignored them. They have an oversight function, but always from a narrow perspective, and no one is charged with providing a broad overarching perspective. The result is that those in government have several independent voices constantly looking over their shoulders from different and at times conflicting perspectives (for example, privacy versus access to information).

Opposition parties view officers of Parliament as their natural allies and do not want to challenge them, let alone hold them to account. Best to let them wander wherever they want, in the hope that they will uncover a situation embarrassing to the government. Meanwhile, the prime minister, ministers and even MPs on the government side, should they question their work, are immediately taken to task by opposition MPs and the media for tampering with their independence. Because they operate largely unchallenged in a special zone, it is no exaggeration to say that what an officer of Parliament writes is often taken as gospel, but what a government minister or official says is invariably regarded as self-serving or as posturing.

One senses that much of Parliament's decline has been self-inflicted. Carolyn Bennett and Deborah Grey said as much in 2003, insisting that Parliament "no longer contributes meaningfully to policy debates" and that it had even "lost its forum quality." If MPs do not start to heal their own institution, then the message of the former British prime minister John Major that "the timbers which support Parliamentary government are weakening and diseased and are in danger of collapse" will resonate more and more, not just in Britain, but also in Canada.

COURTIERS

Inside government, prime ministers and their courtiers, perhaps to get things done, have concentrated effective power in their own hands. By "court government," I mean that effective power now rests with the prime minister and a small group of carefully selected courtiers. I also mean that there has been a shift from formal decision-making processes in cabinet and in the civil service, to informal processes involving only a handful of key actors. The government of Canada now makes policy by announcement rather than by a policy process.

One can appreciate why prime ministers, from Pierre Trudeau to Stephen Harper, have decided to locate effective power at the centre of government. It is the one way to get things done. New officers of Parliament, measures after measures to promote transparency in government, overlaying rules with still more rules, the need to go through the motions of a consultation process for all things and the fact that all public policy issues now transcend the mandate of a single department have combined to make government thicker and slower. Exasperated with policy and decision-making processes that could no longer deliver what they wanted on time, prime ministers decided to establish two processes, one for them and another for everybody else. The latter takes months, if not years, to deliver new policies and initiatives, if at all, while the former can quickly deliver these almost at will.

Senior public servants must now look to the prime minister's court rather than to their ministers to get things done. Paul Tellier, a former clerk of the Privy Council Office, recently observed that "a deputy minister has to be able to put his foot down and say, 'I don't think the government should do that.'" It was much easier for a deputy minister to speak the truth to his or her minister when institutions mattered and formal processes applied than it is under court government. In the past, a deputy minister could always appeal to the prime minister, who appoints deputy ministers, over a disagreement with the minister.

But that is not all. The bureaucrat-bashing of recent years has had an impact in Ottawa, as elsewhere. Public servants in many, if not all, Anglo-American democracies have been subject to an assault by politicians, including those on the government side, which has no precedent since modern bureaucracy was born 100 years ago. Relations between politicians and the public have turned sour, and public service morale has plummeted. This, I hasten to add, has been true, no matter which prime minister has been in office. It is also no less true in Britain than it is in Canada, which suggests that the problem may well have to do more with how our institutions function than with the work of any single prime minister, ministers or public servants.

LOSS OF NO-NAME STATUS

Access to information legislation, meanwhile, has stripped bare the anonymity of public servants. In the past, their anonymity underpinned the doctrine of ministerial responsibility, a key constitutional convention in our Westminster-style parliamentary government. It may be difficult for private-sector managers to appreciate what it is like going to work every morning knowing that there are several officers of Parliament looking over your shoulders with the objective of highlighting what you have done wrong. We now have several officers of Parliament constantly doing exactly that, and their continuing relevance depends on their finding mistakes. Public servants, meanwhile, are trying to cope as best they can, playing by the rules of constitutional conventions that no longer apply.

What is to be done? The time has come to engage Canadians in a debate on the role of Parliament, officers of Parliament, the prime minister, cabinet and the public service, and for Canadians and public servants to tell Parliament, "Heal thyself." Political parties need to take the lead and launch a meaningful debate on the state of our national political-administrative institutions. The issue is vitally important, and parties should engage their members in the debate. It provides an opportunity for political parties to be more than election-day organizations, to offer meaningful opportunities for involvement and to become effective vehicles for promoting thoughtful debates and change.

Donald Savoie is the Canada Research Chair in Public Administration and Governance at the University of Moncton, and the author of the recently published book Court Government and the Collapse of Accountability in Canada and the United Kingdom.

In effect, Savoie says that we, in Canada especially (although appointed officers of parliament have proliferated in both Westminster and Washington style systems), have reverted the sort of court government (http://www.utppublishing.com/pubstore/merchant.ihtml?pid=9025&step=4) with which Elizabeth I and Lord Burleghy (William Cecil) would have been very comfortable.

Title: Re: A Discussion on the Evolution of the Civil Service- Split from Gomery
Post by: Chris Pook on May 17, 2008, 12:28:35
As Mr. Savoie identifies, the problem lies with "the parties".

As I have stated before, it is my belief that the origins of parliament lie in local power brokers, warlords or club leaders, acting as trusted agents of their community, going to power centers to represent their community's needs: the Jirga model.

Unfortunately when that agency becomes a full time job then the agents form their own clubs and discover divided loyalties.  They often eventually end up acting in the interests of their fellow agents rather than their sponsoring community.  The party system entrenches that dichotomy (and proportional representation would make it worse).

The Yanks, and particularly the Republicans seem to have something of the answer in their primary and caucus systems.  It seems that despite national pressure local organizations are free to set their own rules on how to select their representatives at the party conventions.  In my opinion our democracy would be much better served with patch work quilt of electoral regimes where local citizens set their own rules for selecting their own representatives for whatever period they deemed fit.  I would sooner seat an "open" thug in parliament than an upstanding party member who acts thuggishly covertly.

With local rules, constantly changing, then there would be less opportunity for the national power brokers to rig the game.

However, the Jirga model relies on having a central authority to check, a King or a President.....and that brings us back to the age old question of "Who shall be King?" and how do select the person for that office.

Regardless of that issue though, the real issue for a democracy is who gets to appoint the local interlocutor with power: the locals or the power?
Title: Re: A Discussion on the Evolution of the Civil Service- Split from Gomery
Post by: Thucydides on May 18, 2008, 00:50:35
American history is both illuminating and opaque. While the American system is very decentralized (especially as compared to our own), this does not mean that back room politics is not important. The annals of American history are full of important figures like Horace Greeley, William M "Boss" Tweed, Tammany Hall and Thurlow Weed, all powerful backroom operators or operations that could be considered "courtiers". Local power brokers rigging enough games do affect the national game as well.

Even today political commentators talk about the "Clinton Machine", and the "Obama Machine" uses social networking and other modern tools to rig or create thousands of small scale games to overtake the "Clinton Machine".

I would suggest that the overarching powers of government have simply increased the stakes the courtiers can play for now, and only a reduction in the scale and scope of the State will really resolve the problem, or at least reduce it to manageable proportions.
Title: Re: A Discussion on the Evolution of the Civil Service- Split from Gomery
Post by: Chris Pook on May 18, 2008, 01:07:15
Agreed entirely that the US, like every other society, has its pluses and minuses and indeed it has had, and still has, its share of ward heelers (or is that ward healers?).  My only point in referencing their caucus/primary system is that it is an example of local autonomy.

From my stand point, and I believe yours as well, anything that makes it harder for central power to exert uncontested control is a good thing.  In this case: "Confusion to the enemy".  ;)

It is the opposite of your mesopotamian posting about the advantages to the social engineer of corralling the herd.
Title: Re: A Discussion on the Evolution of the Civil Service- Split from Gomery
Post by: E.R. Campbell on May 18, 2008, 10:08:43
It's ward "heeler". There's a good explanation here (http://www.barrypopik.com/index.php/new_york_city/entry/heeler_tammany_hall_politics/).
Title: Re: A Discussion on the Evolution of the Civil Service- Split from Gomery
Post by: Chris Pook on May 18, 2008, 13:28:52
Thanks Edward.  My education continues.
Title: Re: A Discussion on the Evolution of the Civil Service- Split from Gomery
Post by: Colin P on May 22, 2008, 18:39:06
All I can say is that the tide of change has yet to sweep through my level of government. I find the level that I am at, Inspectors, Program mangers, operational staff generally have a strong moral compass and try to do obey the law and be fair. I do find the up and coming groups have a perception of what is “right and fair” that they don’t even realize that it is exclusive. Also I worked with DFO, where mangers were purposely brought in from outside to disrupt the advancement of people within their divisions or department. These mangers had no loyalty to the program/department they served and owed their careers to the higher ups they served, to stand for a program that was deemed expendable was to put your career on the line. This type of civil servant has been steadily climbing the ranks, coupled with stiff competition from the outside and poor HR practices over the last couple of decades, you will see a massive turnover that will have a profound effect on the civil service as a whole. The focus on a university degree rather than ability for jobs that have no need of a degree has also biased the makeup of the younger civil service, certainly guaranteeing a Liberal outlook for the near future.

Interesting disscussion gents.
Title: Re: A Discussion on the Evolution of the Civil Service- Split from Gomery
Post by: E.R. Campbell on May 29, 2008, 09:38:26
This story, reproduced under the Fair Dealing provisions (§29) of the Copyright Act from today’s National Post, could go in any number of threads – and I’ll post links to this copy in one or two of them, but I put it here because, despite the fact that it is, for now, little more than idle speculation, it raises an interesting question:

http://www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=547130
Quote
Latest theory: Bernier set up

Don Martin, National Post

Published: Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Conservative Cabinet minister leaned back wearily into the overstuffed lounge chair, flummoxed by the sad fate of politically-deceased pal Maxime Bernier.

The former foreign affairs minister will be missed as a crazily energetic force dominating an inner circle content to wait for direction from the powers above, sighed the minister.

But the perplexing question -- even at the Harper Cabinet table -- is how any of their kind could have misplaced a briefing book for five weeks.

The Privy Council Office, which acts as the secretariat of the Cabinet, checks out every document bound for a minister's desk and checks them back in, usually within hours of their release, the minister said. Missing documents or even a few removed papers, particularly on sensitive files like foreign affairs, are tracked down almost immediately and reclaimed with a respectful rebuke from officials hired to maintain Cabinet confidentiality.

The system is supposedly foolproof and perhaps doubly so given this government's penchant for excessive and perhaps unwarranted secrecy.

Former Liberal ministers describe similar tracking tactics during their terms, including maverick Grit MP Garth Turner, who insists classified documents arrived handcuffed to the wrist of an official escort. That seems a tad over the top, unless Canada has suddenly acquired launch codes for intercontinental missiles.

But, at the risk of sounding like a grumpy old busybody, that five-week gap between Mr. Bernier's bizarre document drop-off at Julie Couillard's home and her subsequent surrender of the NATO briefing book to unknown officials last Sunday is where the truth in this story seems to check out -- and fails to check back in.

The government continues, but cannot do so convincingly, to deny the possibility of a security breach, even though spy-worthy papers were in the possession of a woman with some rather shady biker-gang pals in her past.

As of her television interview on Monday night, she had not been interviewed by federal security forces to question her possible viewing, copying or distribution of the documents. Thus, the government cannot state with any authority that a security breach has not occurred.

And then there's the surprisingly specific allegation levelled by Liberal MP Ujjal Dosanjh that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service met with officials in the Prime Minister's Office to discuss the Bernier file just as news of his former gal pal's criminal connections were hitting the headlines.

That would suggest a tripwire had gone off and that the Prime Minister was taking the allegations seriously, even while Mr. Harper was smearing all those who dared questioned the connection.

Now officially denied by the government, the allegation might be a fishing expedition by the Official Opposition. The fact the accusation was levelled by second-stringer Dosanjh instead of the Liberal leader or his deputy suggests they might not have total confidence in their data. Still, Liberal insiders insist the source is solid, as is the intelligence, so stay tuned.

As this mess continues to unspool, one conspiracy theory that may sound a tad grassy-knolled is the possibility that Mr. Bernier was let down or set up by staff, bureaucrats or his own department officials.

To have classified documents disappear despite a careful tracking system at the precise moment the oft-gaffed Mr. Bernier was most vulnerable to a firing would hint that somebody wanted to inflict a fatal flaw on this minister.

The controversy, while starting to weary a bit, seems likely to have just enough oxygen to survive until the Prime Minister returns to face his tormentors in the House of Commons next week.

The combined opposition, once so laughable for its fixation on low-impact scandals, appears to have the perfect combination of sex, security issues and a ministerial pink slip to unleash strong questions this government seems incapable of answering.

National Post

I beleieve Don Martin is right about the fact that there is a Cabinet Papers System Unit (http://www.pco-bcp.gc.ca/index.asp?lang=eng&page=secretariats&sub=cabinet&doc=cabinet_e.htm) (CPSU) that carefully tracks and controls those documents.

It’s not clear to me if Bernier mishandled cabinet papers, managed by the CPSU and alluded to by his sources, or a briefing book prepared and managed by other bureaucrats in DFAIT (http://www.international.gc.ca/assets/about-a_propos/pdf/DFAIT-en.pdf).

What was clear to me, 15+ years ago, was that ministers’ briefing books were carefully prepared and equally carefully managed – as were those used by senior officials. Ministers’ staffs were required to account for (and return, for destruction) those briefing books. Special provisions were made for security in foreign places – sometimes extraordinarily expensive special provisions. In other words, officials, in the PCO and in departments, took security seriously and they were not in awe of ministers or their political staffs – not on security matters. In fact, I think, many officials took a wee tiny bit of secret delight in terrorizing (mostly detested) ministerial staffers on security matters.

Don Martin may be on to something here.

Bernier seems to have been respected, even liked over in Industry Canada; and he appeared, to me anyway, to have been reasonably competent in that post. He stumbled in Foreign Affairs – right from the first step and  it seems that no one tried to steady him. Perhaps instead of steadying their new minister the DFAIT people decided to give him a shove as he negotiated the tricky, rickety corridors of that place.

IF, and it’s a big ‘if,’ there is any merit in Don Martin’s article then the civil service may, indeed, be living up to Harper’s oft reported impression of it.
Title: Re: A Discussion on the Evolution of the Civil Service- Split from Gomery
Post by: Greymatters on May 29, 2008, 12:43:55
Bernier seems to have been respected, even liked over in Industry Canada; and he appeared, to me anyway, to have been reasonably competent in that post. He stumbled in Foreign Affairs – right from the first step and  it seems that no one tried to steady him. Perhaps instead of steadying their new minister the DFAIT people decided to give him a shove as he negotiated the tricky, rickety corridors of that place. 

There's no such thing as a fool-proof tracking system, so an error like this actually occuring is no surprise.  The timing is unusual, but how much can be attributed to coincidence and how much to conspiracy? 
Title: Re: A Discussion on the Evolution of the Civil Service- Split from Gomery
Post by: E.R. Campbell on May 29, 2008, 13:14:08
There's no such thing as a fool-proof tracking system, so an error like this actually occuring is no surprise.  The timing is unusual, but how much can be attributed to coincidence and how much to conspiracy? 

I agree that nothing is foolproof, certainly not in Ottawa where we have a surplus of fools - especially in DFAIT, thus making foolproofing even more difficult.

That being agreed, the top levels in official Ottawa used to have the last of the old-fashioned, manual, central registries - complete with 'flags' and temporary dockets and all that good stuff. It is was really hard to screw up a well run CR - if for no other reason than the fearless and hyper-efficient grey haired ladies who work(ed) there. That's why, in the '90s, the centre refused to automate the registry functions; but, perhaps they finally succumbed to the siren song of the IT community and perhaps that's why things are going wrong more often.
Title: Re: A Discussion on the Evolution of the Civil Service- Split from Gomery
Post by: Greymatters on May 29, 2008, 13:32:06
That being agreed, the top levels in official Ottawa used to have the last of the old-fashioned, manual, central registries - complete with 'flags' and temporary dockets and all that good stuff. It is was really hard to screw up a well run CR - if for no other reason than the fearless and hyper-efficient grey haired ladies who work(ed) there. That's why, in the '90s, the centre refused to automate the registry functions; but, perhaps they finally succumbed to the siren song of the IT community and perhaps that's why things are going wrong more often. 

I personally approve of manual central registries run by grey-haired old ladies.  Tougher to bypass than current electronic systems...



Title: Re: A Discussion on the Evolution of the Civil Service- Split from Gomery
Post by: Colin P on May 29, 2008, 13:48:48
Likely they were given Thin Client and RDMIN's which actively works to make the life of a civil servant miserable, when they work at all.

I estimated that the workarounds and delays in my department caused by these two programs likely cost a minimum of 15minutes a day per employee, based on a guesstimated average wage and published amount of employees, costs the department 6.7 million a year in lost time.
Title: Re: A Discussion on the Evolution of the Civil Service- Split from Gomery
Post by: Chris Pook on May 29, 2008, 14:38:02
I personally approve of manual central registries run by grey-haired old ladies.  Tougher to bypass than current electronic systems...





I am currently re-discovering the merits of a hardbound notebook in coordinating my latest endeavours.  I am engaged by a company that embraces the "paperless" office.  All work is to be done electronically.  However I find that that leaves everybody with the opportunity to modify everything at all times and present it as the latest "what if".    It quickly becomes difficult, if not impossible, to keep track of the sensible and the nonsensical.

The hardbound notebook, completed in ink and not pencil, imposes its own discipline - strike outs and scratches and all.

Electronics have their place and I use it regularly, but there is nothing like a notebook, not an electronic one either, to line out ideas. 

Likewise, hardcopy distribution and control is still the best way to control information flow.  Anybody can propose amendments but only one person is authorized to supply the necessary reference number to define an approved amendment.

Ooops - I sense a split of a split..... ;D
Title: Re: A Discussion on the Evolution of the Civil Service- Split from Gomery
Post by: MarkOttawa on May 29, 2008, 14:55:45
Don Martin's piece is clearly about Cabinet documents, primarily memos to Cabinet, their drafts etc.  Such documents indeed are very closely controlled and numbered.  And all are classified "Secret" (even if dealing with, e.g., federal support for small harbour upgrades).  Such documents are certainly not involved here.

What does appear to be involved is a departmental (DFAIT) briefing book.  The highest classification of any briefing note therein would likely be "Secret"--and most of those usually are at root not all that sensitive.

The really odd thing in l'affaire Bernier is that the NATO Bucharest summit was April 2-4.  Yet it seems M. Bernier forgot his book at Mme Couillard's in mid-April well after the summit.  What was he doing taking it to her place then?

Another odd thing is why DFAIT doesn't give a general description of procedures for handling ministerial briefing books.

Mark
Ottawa

Title: Re: A Discussion on the Evolution of the Civil Service- Split from Gomery
Post by: Greymatters on May 29, 2008, 15:00:48
Ooops - I sense a split of a split..... ;D 

Must... resist urge... to rant... on myth of... paperless society ... >gasp<...


Ive seen that several IT systems/programs 'designed' to help track information are anything but, especially if supported by tech staff who refuse to make changes that would make the work easier for the user.  And it doesnt help that the bidding process favored either the lowest bidder or somebody's pal...

 
Title: Re: A Discussion on the Evolution of the Civil Service- Split from Gomery
Post by: Roy Harding on May 29, 2008, 18:18:41
Although I've never been called a "hyper-efficient grey haired" lady, I do have extensive experience in the paper-bound Central Registries that Edward alludes to, and somewhat more limited experience with the "paperless" CR systems that others have mentioned.  A GOOD Registry is a priceless thing - the worth of which is only apparent when it fails.

Both paper-based and electron based CRs are only as good as the people working in them, and the compliance enforced upon users by the leadership involved.  When it comes to SECRET and above material, compliance was - in my experience - much more enforced.  A "relaxed" atmosphere with regard to proper recording of the passage of documents quickly leads to "misplaced" files.

Whether DFAIT's document control procedures qualify as "relaxed" or not is beyond my ken - but my past experiences with non-military, non-intelligence, non-police organs of governments of all stripes indicated to me that civilians in general take security MUCH less seriously than military/intelligence/police personnel.

Title: Re: A Discussion on the Evolution of the Civil Service- Split from Gomery
Post by: Greymatters on May 29, 2008, 19:15:10
When it comes to SECRET and above material, compliance was - in my experience - much more enforced.  

With this material, compliance is pretty easy when the alternative is having your head on the chopping block...
Title: Re: A Discussion on the Evolution of the Civil Service- Split from Gomery
Post by: Roy Harding on May 29, 2008, 19:17:58
With this material, compliance is pretty easy when the alternative is having your head on the chopping block...

In "our" world, you're right.  I'm not so sure that civilians, especially political ones, have the same respect for the security designation, nor am I sure that they suffer the same consequences unless the media gets hold of their sloppiness.
Title: Re: A Discussion on the Evolution of the Civil Service- Split from Gomery
Post by: Greymatters on May 29, 2008, 20:03:41
In "our" world, you're right.  I'm not so sure that civilians, especially political ones, have the same respect for the security designation, nor am I sure that they suffer the same consequences unless the media gets hold of their sloppiness.

Unfortunately true...
Title: Re: A Discussion on the Evolution of the Civil Service- Split from Gomery
Post by: Old Sweat on May 29, 2008, 20:36:43
Don't forget that it seems politicians, especially if they are appointed to cabinet (and maybe their entourage), get security clearances much more quickly than we mere peons. Perhaps corners are cut; I don't know.
Title: Re: A Discussion on the Evolution of the Civil Service- Split from Gomery
Post by: Greymatters on May 29, 2008, 20:44:11
Don't forget that it seems politicians, especially if they are appointed to cabinet (and maybe their entourage), get security clearances much more quickly than we mere peons. Perhaps corners are cut; I don't know. 

Unfortunately, again, not an area I think we can discuss here...
Title: Re: A Discussion on the Evolution of the Civil Service- Split from Gomery
Post by: E.R. Campbell on May 29, 2008, 20:48:54
Don't forget that it seems politicians, especially if they are appointed to cabinet (and maybe their entourage), get security clearances much more quickly than we mere peons. Perhaps corners are cut; I don't know.

It's a conundrum: when the people of Canada elect one of their own to represent them in Parliament they give that person a vote of confidence that is very, very, very difficult for the security services to overturn. When the prime minister then selects one of those most trusted Canadians to serve in the cabinet he joins the people in saying "this fellow (or gal) can be trusted."

I think the PMO gives the PCO a list of potential new ministers almost as soon as the names are known and, as far as I know an appropriate security clearance - sometimes waaaaay beyond TS - is always in place just as soon as the oath is sworn. I wonder if, late in the process, the Clerk has ever gone to the PM and said, "Sir, you must not appoint M. Xxxxx to the cabinet; it would gravely endanger national security because ..."

That being said, several years ago I briefed more than one minister on quite sensitive matters. I worked very, very hard to avoid highly classified specifics - my military superiors were able to assure the minister involved that my presentation was supported by reams of solid but complex evidence which was available for review, if necessary. I was never asked for the details.
 
Title: Re: A Discussion on the Evolution of the Civil Service- Split from Gomery
Post by: Colin P on May 30, 2008, 11:27:21
Must... resist urge... to rant... on myth of... paperless society ... >gasp<...


Ive seen that several IT systems/programs 'designed' to help track information are anything but, especially if supported by tech staff who refuse to make changes that would make the work easier for the user.  And it doesnt help that the bidding process favored either the lowest bidder or somebody's pal...

 

IT types firmly believe that removing the user and their obnoxious requirements from the mix will solve most of their problems, sounds almost like a religion. currently the RDMINS system being pushed is not accepted for classifiedor protected documents.