Thursday, March 28, 2013

Thursday Morning Links

This and that for your Thursday reading.

- Edward Greenspon discusses the importance of a public service whose focus extends beyond the narrow interests of the government of the day:
The hundreds of thousands of Canadians who work for governments, particularly those employed - in the evolving argot of recent decades - as knowledge workers or symbolic analysts or members of the creative class, are, in a sense, servants. They owe a duty of loyalty to carry out the programs and policies of the elected government of the day.

But they also have a broader public duty to the pursuit of truth and the open exchange of information integral to democracy. Thus we have Freedom of Information laws and whistleblower legislation. We also have public servants regularly appearing before Parliamentary committees, which tells us they are not meant merely to be seen and not heard. Rather, they are fair witnesses to facts and trends that shape the progress of the nation, laying down a base of understanding from which political discourse can flower.
The tension between their public and servant roles does not render their jobs impossible, merely challenging. In the normal run of things, governments protect them from the worst effects of this tension by listening to their advice, not disclosing it and not blaming them for decisions taken by the political class. All three, of course are periodically breached. The extraordinary resignation of the country's Chief Statistician a couple of years ago flowed not from the government's refusal to heed his advice on the census, but rather his minister's mischaracterization of that advice.
- Meanwhile, Andrew Coyne slams the Cons for their typical budget dishonesty. Glen McGregor reports on the public money being used to defend Jason Kenney and Alykhan Velshi's attacks on George Galloway - featuring the Harper Cons' mission statement of "Defamation and misfeasance in public office. Ongoing." And Murray Mandryk discusses the Sask Party's implausible evasiveness when it comes to the misuse of IPAC funding.

- The CP reports on the Cons' decision to isolate Canada as the lone country withdrawing from a global treaty on desertification. But I suspect the answer as to why they're doing it is fairly straightforward, as a government seeking to edit out of existence all references to scientific research, poverty and environmental issues surely had little interest in this:
The UN body has a research committee dedicated to finding ways to stop the spread of droughts that lay waste to farmland across the planet, particularly Africa.

Scientists, governments and civil society organizations are headed to Bonn next month "to carry out the first ever comprehensive cost-benefit analysis of desertification, land degradation and drought," says a notice from the United Nations Environment Program.

"Also, for the very first time, governments will provide concrete data on the status of poverty and of land cover in the areas affected by desertification in their countries."
- Finally, it shouldn't come as any surprise that on-reserve schools receive up to 50% less funding than off-reserve equivalents. But there's little indication that our current provincial and federal governments see that gap as a problem - meaning that improvement seems highly unlikely until at least the next election cycle.

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