Stand up for Canada’s public service: An open letter to Kevin Lynch and Len Edwards

Dear Mr. Lynch and Mr. Edwards:Mr. Lynch, Prime Minister Harper has just given you a challenging assignment, namely to determine who leaked the Department of Foreign Affairs memo reporting on Obama adviser Austan Goulsbee's meeting with consular officials in Chicago. Does the Prime Minister want you to, in the words of Casablanca's Captain Renault, “round up the usual suspects” or does he want a serious investigation?I hope that whatever the Prime Minister told you in confidence, you will undertake a serious investigation. Public servants in Foreign Affairs Canada, as they should, have been conducting back-channel diplomacy to the American presidential contenders and their advisers. Leaking this memo has likely made it impossible for our diplomats to continue doing their job. As head of the public service, you ought to be very concerned about that.If, as seems likely, the leak was made at the political level, will you have the persistence to find out who did it, and tell the prime minister clearly? Even if the source turns out to be the Prime Minister's Chief of Staff – your counterpart in the political hierarchy – Ian Brodie?Mr. Edwards, as Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, will you have the courage to tell the politicians that their “messaging” is making it impossible for the public service to do its work?This is not the first time that the Harper Government's political messaging has come into conflict with the public service's mission. Other instances include the remake of the Canada portal and the posting of notices about government priorities over public service pages online.Mr. Lynch, if your conclusion is that the leaking came from the political level, then it is up to the prime minister to impose the consequence. He might settle on an admonition, rather than a firing. But you should press for his commitment that this sort of leak won't happen again, so that public servants in Foreign Affairs can continue to search for and interpret information relevant to our national interest – which is what we all want them to do.Sincerely yours,Sandford BorinsProfessor of Public Management

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