TORONTO– Liberal Treasury Board critic John McCallum sent the following letter today to Pat Martin, Chair of the House of Commons Government Operations Committee, calling for hearings on the politicization of the public service:
Mr. Pat Martin, M.P.
Chair, Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates
629-C, Centre Block
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
Dear Mr. Martin,
I am writing to you today regarding an important matter I believe clearly falls under the jurisdiction of our committee – the rules, regulations and Treasury Board policies regarding the political operations of government departments.
As I am sure you are aware, the Canadian International Development Agency came under criticism yesterday for posting two exceedingly partisan editorials from the Minister on their departmental website.
This is not the first instance of government resources being used directly for specifically partisan purposes.
Late last year, I wrote to the Clerk of the Privy Council regarding reports Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Jason Kenney had his department spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on monitoring the Minister’s image in the press. We have also heard reports that Minister of Defence Peter MacKay tasked his department officials with discrediting the Parliamentary Budget Officer.
It is clear that Parliamentarians may have a different understanding of what constitutes “political activity” by departments than what the rules allow. It is essential that Parliamentarians be informed of the rules and be provided with an opportunity to make suggestions for their improvement.
I am sure you would agree that our committee has a very good working relationship across partisan lines. I have copied the Conservative vice-chair, Mr. Mike Wallace, and the New Democratic Public Works critic, Ms. Linda Duncan, on this letter so that they are equally aware of my concerns and my proposal.
I understand that our committee already has a very busy schedule. In appreciation of this, I am proposing that the Government Operations Committee strike a sub-committee to study this issue that is comprised of fewer members than the Standing Committee and that the committee does not have to meet as frequently as the Standing Committee. This should help alleviate any scheduling or workload concerns Members have.
The sub-committee should be briefed by government officials who can explain the different legal, regulatory and policy frameworks that govern the political operations of the government. The sub-committee can then report back on the matter to the Standing Committee.
I have included my proposed motion for your consideration.
I look forward to discussing this matter with the committee members when we return to Ottawa. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.
Hon. John McCallum, P.C., M.P.
Vice-Chair, Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates
Liberal Treasury Board critic
Mr. McCallum’s motion can be viewed here.