Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Partisanship at Pissed-Off PCO

I haven't seen this story blogged about by any of our esteemed colleagues at ProgBlogs.

It's quite amazing and important on two counts: first, people at the 'famously discreet' Privy Council Office have had enough to spill some beans, and second, it's published at CTV, aka, Conservative TV.
A partisan government advertising campaign paid for by taxpayers raised alarms from the outset among senior public servants who serve Prime Minister Stephen Harper, The Canadian Press has learned.

The Privy Council Office, the non-partisan bureaucratic arm of the Prime Minister's Office, has never been comfortable administering the website for the Economic Action Plan -- and informed Harper of its misgivings at the time of last January's federal budget.

Those misgivings were heard, but overruled.

While the story is being denied by both PCO and PMO, the extraordinary claim originates from several sources within the famously discreet Privy Council Office.

The fact the story is being aired at all -- even under the cloak of anonymity -- suggests just how far the Conservatives are stretching the traditional boundaries of partisan behaviour in Canada's professional bureaucracy.


Dimitri Soudas, a spokesman for the prime minister, said the story was "entirely false."

"The site is legitimate and appropriate and we reject that characterization entirely."

The actionplan.gc.ca website, linked to by a massive advertising campaign that has cost at least $34 million, has been widely criticized as an exercise in Conservative propaganda on the taxpayers' dime.

In interviews with past and present government insiders, The Canadian Press was told the Tories are trampling the admittedly grey area between partisanship and policy.

More than one career bureaucrat said they've never seen anything so blatant as the current use of the office for self-promotion.

None would speak on the record, some for fear of reprisals, but many said it is a story that needs to be told.

"You have a political party that is not constrained by what conventionally would be perceived as overtly partisan actions," said one former insider.

"I can tell you every funding program across the government is being politicized," said another public servant.

"They do it for their own needs and they don't do it to help people. Welcome to Stephen Harper's world."

Go read the whole thing.

Here's the description of the PCO at its official website:
The Privy Council Office (PCO) provides essential advice and support to the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Our goal is to help the Government of Canada serve Canada and Canadians.

The Privy Council Office is committed to the highest standards of professionalism and public service.

Funny. Now, look at wiki:
In Canada the Privy Council Office (French: Bureau du Conseil privé) is the secretariat of the federal cabinet, providing officially non-partisan advice and support to the Prime Minister and leadership, coordination, and support to the departments and agencies of the government.

Can you see this difference? The government site replaces 'offically non-partisan' with 'essential'.

Who wrote that, we wonder?

Relentless partisan campaigning. On our dime. And yet again, diminishing a Canadian institution.

h/t CAPP Facebook


Pseudz said...

Fern Hill, do you suppose that there might be a connection (reactive) between the appearance of this CTV story on the PCO members' criticism of the Cons and the (Doris) Day's announcement of an end to over 200 "patronage appointments". From the PCO website it seems that that body would be significantly involved in such appointments.

Coincidence? I don't know - but it smells a bit 'off'.

This government plays 'shiny-thing' media manipulation steadily enough to be called the Disco-ball-Cons. I wonder if there'll be some spin issued after the release of the CTV story.

fern hill said...

Pseudz, I put nothing past these lying liars. Nothing.

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