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Divided Loyalty

Posted by Don McLenaghen on June 30, 2012

If a government employee falls in the forest, does he make a sound? Well, with a new directive, they had better not.

We have often talked on the show about the ‘apparent’ trend of the Harper government to silence scientist. Now, some could argue that it’s not ‘silencing’ but attempting to ensure a ‘consistent’ message. I think we pretty much exposed in a previous show that was NOT how science should be done or reported. This is also not a gag that applied to employees only at work but extends to their private life as well.

Part of the Parks agency’s code of ethics states that “All Parks Canada employees shall…arrange their private affairs so that their impartiality is conserved and enhanced.” Thus, making possible as Eddie Kennedy, national executive vice-president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, said “If you’re in a coffee shop and you’re criticizing the Harper government and there’s someone sitting beside you and they know you work for a government department, technically you’re in violation of the code of ethics,”

Recent action by our government has provided evidence that there really is a deliberate attempt to muzzle government employees even on their own time. The action in question was a ‘reminder’ to Parks Canada employees about their “Duty of Loyalty”.

In a letter sent to park employees by their supervisors, they were warned not to speak against the government. The letter states that ‘Workers are not supposed to speak about the cuts, whether at meetings, forums or through social media. Only designated people are allowed to deal with journalists.’

The letter informed that “as employees of the public sector, our duty is to support the elected government” that seems to mean the Harper government not Canada itself.

Now, one might argue that this is only Parks Canada, seems harmless but such loyalty documents and amendments are being made in several agencies and departments. When this ‘silencing’ extends to health, environment or science as we skeptics are concerned about… harm will happen. For rational and reasoned debate to exist there must be the free flowing of information. If someone in a government department says that, for example, cuts to Parks Canada will result in higher fees and fewer parks; this is not disloyalty…well not disloyalty to Canada although Harper may disagree. This is the information required by the public to make reasoned decisions. If all we get from our government employees is “Whatever Harper said is true…and if it’s not I could not tell you because that would be disloyal and may get me fired”, reasoned decisions are not possible.

Ironically, there is a contradiction in the Parks Canada Code of Ethics, after warning employees not to be honest to the public but to only tout the party line; it states that “All Parks Canada employees must be open and honest in their dealings with the public, stakeholders and other organizations.”

Yet, another piece of evidence that things are not “all right” on parliament hill.



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