Campaign Research fires back at Martin

Campaign Research is firing back at Pat Martin for comments the NDP Winnipeg MP made on CTV’s Question Period yesterday.

Campaign Research writes to Martin,

“we ask that you immediately provide a writtenstatement to be published on your MP website and provided to media, correcting the record,apologizing for your mistake and retracting your false implication which was made in the absence of anyevidence whatsoever. Please note that if we receive no response from you, and/or no written statement is made public by 5pm EST on February 28, 2012, we will be proceeding with the filing of a Statement of Claim”

Advanced Leadership Program Followup

A few news stories have been written about the Advanced Leadership Program exposed yesterday.

National Post
Postmedia Papers
QMI Papers
Huffington Post

Of note, the NDP and the Public Sector Alliance of Canada have responded to the story suggesting that the program is outrageous.

This is smart positioning by PSAC which is the union that represents the bureaucratic sector in Ottawa.

PSAC notes that some of their members will be receiving pink slips after the government reviews spending to cut the deficit. EX-level bureaucrats who traveled on the Advanced Leadership Program are not represented by PSAC.

The NDP is now active on this issue as well. They question the value of spending tens of thousands on training per senior bureaucrat. Their position is one of saving money on services to Canadians. Given a limited pool, the Advanced Leadership Program is superfluous.

The government’s only response has been to say that the program (like others) is under review.

Stephen Harper’s former Chief of Staff, Ian Brodie, has come out in defense of the program. Brodie suggests that the when the Conservatives came to power in 2006, many senior-level bureaucrats were set to retire with no plan on how to replace the mandarins. Like any other organization, Dr. Brodie asserts, the Government of Canada has senior staff that require training in executive management. While I have tremendous respect for Brodie, I must say that while we’re in deficit, we can’t have all that we want and now is the time to prioritize need. Further, $50,000 trips around the world for training is a tough sell to most Canadians. The Advanced Leadership Program seems to be a unwise use of tax dollars.

The story still has quite a bit of active interest from news/advocacy/political organizations today and I’m somewhat surprised that the government has not yet addressed this issue specifically.

High-flying bureaucrats

Senior bureaucrats are flying around the world on lavish multi-destination trips on the taxpayer dime, all under the guise of “leadership training”, and seeing how bureaucrats handle their jobs in other countries.

The Conservative government has stated that the next budget will be an austere one as Canada’s federal deficit looms large and the Prime Minister has tasked instated a “Deficit Reduction Action Plan” across all ministries. Every department has been told to come up with a 5% reduction plan and a 10% reduction plan for their overall spending.

However, one area that they should look into is the “Advanced Leadership Program” run by the Canada School of Public Service. From the program website,

Learning and development are often best achieved through the exploration of and reflection upon real-life experiences. The Advanced Leadership Program (ALP) provides relevant experiences to senior public service leaders that challenge and expand their current worldview and allow them to gain insight into the world and thinking of top leaders, thus preparing them to effectively lead the public service into the future and achieve results for Canadians.

Participants will be exposed to a highly experiential and strategic program that aims to build a cadre of more effective senior leaders across the public service, that creates a stronger community of senior leaders to better enable teamwork based on trust, that expands the talent pool of future senior leaders and aligns senior leaders’ values and their connection to the strategic business priorities of the public service.

Who participates, and what’s involved? The website continues,

Participants — EX-04s, EX-05s and a few seasoned EX-03s – are nominated by the Clerk of the Privy Council in collaboration with a select group of Deputy Ministers.

The program is comprised of three main blocks of 2 – 3 weeks each, as well as two-day integrated sessions, delivered over a period of twelve months.

The Canada School of Public Service which offers the Advanced Leadership Program has an annual expenditure of about $145 million a year.

In 2009 for example, the program had various participants visit 35 different cities around the world with all participants visiting India, the United Arab Emirates, Mexico, Washington, DC and Yellowknife.

I decided to dig up the associated expenses involved with this Advanced Leadership Program. For a government that is claiming a new urgency for cuts, it’s surprising to see how this program spends and spends on a handful of public servants.

The program for most participants came in three blocks which encompassed three different global regions. One block would encompass Asia, Africa, Europe or the Middle East, the second block US cities and the Americas and the third block various Canadian cities. Generally the first two blocks would cost between $10k-$20k+ each, while the third block would come in just under or around $10k.

Why is the government spending all of this money on travel for senior bureaucrats to far off places? The program states,

An important objective of the program is to expand participants’ frame of reference by developing their capacity to integrate regional, North American, and global perspectives in dealing with public service challenges. Study tours were organized to expose participants to these perspectives.

Many senior bureaucrats go through the program, but here’s a sample:

Richard Wex, the Assistant Deputy Minister for policing, law enforcement and the interoperability branch. From January 16th through February 5th of this year, Mr. Wex traveled from Canada, to the US and Brazil at a cost of $21,999.23. From April 30th – May 14th, he hopped between Belgium, to Norway, to India at a cost of $21,745.32.

Also traveling this year, consider Marie Lemay, the CEO of the National Capital Commission. The taxpayer spent $21,745.86 in January and February of this year taking her to Calgary, Chicago, Washington, Rio and Brasilia, and another $23,826.87 shuttling her from Brussells, Oslo, Frankfurt, Chennai and New Dehli in May

Consider Anil Arora, the Assistant Chief Statistician at Statistics Canada. In less than one year, Arora took three trips with the Advanced Leadership Program. In November 2008 he traveled to Montreal, Japan, China, United Arab Emirates and India for $24,548.58, in January 2009 he traveled to Sacramento, San Francisco, Washington, Port au Prince and Mexico for $17,081.60, and then in April and May 2009 he traveled to Yellowknife, Regina, Saskatoon, Sydney and Halifax for $7,891.92

Other high flying bureaucrats on the Advanced Leadership Program:

Barbara Ritzen, Justice. $17,909.53, $17,337.31

Thanh Thao Pham, Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. $17,951.47, $13,825.72, $8,401.90

Jean-Pierre Blais, Heritage. $19,266.31, $10,718.95, $15,645.12

Catherine MacQuarrie, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. $19,751.64, $15,565.90, $8,244.27

Don Head, Correctional Service Canada. $20,604.95, $11,822.29, $7,958.36

Helena Borges, Transport Canada. $22,877.55, $14,369.82

Daniel J. Caron, Library and Archives Canada. $21,807.44, $11,238.77, $8,063.74

Keith Clark, RCMP. $16,483.40, $11,296.24

Martine Dubuc, Canadian Food Inspection Agency. $15,149.61, $21,582.81

Greg Fyffe, Canada School of Public Service. $22497.70, $9336.80

Christine Hogan, CIDA. $19,604.16, $18,286.86

This is only a sample to illustrate that this program seems to span all departments and is offered to senior bureaucrats. The data is disclosed on the government’s website via proactive disclosure. Many Canadians will be shocked to hear that senior public servants are traveling around the world each at a yearly expense that eclipses the mean Canadian income. The government is looking to cut back on departmental expenses in its strategic and operational review. It should cut the Advanced Leadership Program.

If you agree and think that the Advanced Leadership Program should be cut under the Strategic and Operational Review, click the recommend button below.

UPDATE: Treasury Board has responded to my request for comment. Jennifer Geary from Minister Clement’s office replies, “our Government is working to reduce wasteful and inefficient spending across the government, and this program, like many others, is under review.” Also, while the expenses of the Canadian School of Public Service come in around $145 million per year, that of the Advanced Leadership Program within the school come in at $2.2 million.

LPC blogger issue unresolved

Late last week, I wrote about an email received by Dr. Roy regarding his interest in covering the upcoming Liberal convention as a blogger. He received a response from the Liberal Party stating that,

In other words, freelancers and bloggers must be “sponsored” by the MSM. After republishing his email, with his permission, I took to twitter to raise awareness of how this was an unprecedented move on behalf of any modern mainstream North American political party.

Liberal convention will be the first modern political convention that doesn't accredit bloggers. #cdnpoli

The issue caused quite a stir on twitter, with Liberal partisans, MSM journalists, and others criticizing the Liberal Party for their policy. But then, in the midst of the stir, seeking to perhaps clarify, the Liberals issued this tweet,

Bloggers welcome at #LPC convention! through media accred or observer status. Contact media@liberal.ca

I took this as a positive sign, yet still questioned whether or not a policy change had been enacted by the Liberals. So, I emailed their media address with the following,

Here is the response I received today,

There it is. No policy change.

For reference, here are some of the tweets from all walks condemning this move,

+1. Um, what decade is this? MT @jordanowens: This is a giant mistake. MT @stephen_taylor #LPC convention won't accredit bloggers. #cdnpoli
Idiocy. Dumb. Wow. "@stephen_taylor: Lib convention will be the first modern political convention that doesn't accredit bloggers. #cdnpoli"
Seriously? Idiotic. @stephen_taylor: @kady "Freelance and social media representatives must be sponsored by a recognized news organization."

This tweet, which I used to raise awareness of the issue was retweeted 78 times,

"We stand against the Liberal ban of bloggers and freelancers at their upcoming convention." RT if you agree #cdnpoli

UPDATE: For a matter of comparison, here was the CPC policy for bloggers during their last convention,

Deadline for Blogger Registration May 27, 2011

Conservative Party of Canada recognizes the growing importance of bloggers in sending our vision to Canadians. As a result, for the 2011 Conservative Party of Canada’s National Policy Convention we will be formally accrediting bloggers.

The accreditation of bloggers will be based on, but not limited to: interest; space availability at the convention; the readership and influence of a blog; and the amount of original content the blog typically generates.

Bloggers who would like to register for accreditation must submit a request by email to Fred DeLorey, Director of Communications for the Conservative Party of Canada at freddelorey@conservative.ca

UPDATE: Jeff Jedras writes a great post on this

UPDATE: LPC Presidential candidate Mike Crawley weighs in,

Legitimate bloggers should be accredited at the #LPC convention. Caps/screening good idea. Media is changing...we need to keep up.

LPC won’t accredit bloggers at convention

I’ve learned the news today that the Liberal Party of Canada will host the first modern political convention that doesn’t accredit bloggers. Our friend Dr. Roy received a letter from the party rejecting his request for accreditation. I’ve shared it with his permission below,

I don’t think this is the right thing to do. I was invited by the Liberal Party in 2006 to blog about their leadership convention and I had a blast doing it. The Blogging Tories produced a lot of video and blogs regarding the convention.

The Liberal Party is rebuilding. It needs to engage with new media and those that have influence on the various platforms with respect to Canadian politics.

I suspect that the Liberal decision is related to delegate fees; Liberal bloggers will likely pay the delegate fee anyway. Other bloggers are faced with paying an >$1000 observer fee.

I took to twitter this morning to express disappointment with the Liberal Party decision.

UPDATE: Success? The Liberal Party looks to have reversed its decision regarding bloggers and will may now allow them to register for media credentials. However, do they mean that bloggers and freelancers need not be sponsored by a mainstream media news outlet? I will try to register as media for this convention and report back the results.

@liberal_party: Bloggers welcome at #LPC convention! through media accred or observer status. Contact media@liberal.ca

Long gun registry this week

I’ve heard from some who know that the Conservative government is planning on tabling legislation this week to put an end to the long-gun registry.

It’ll be a government bill introduced by the Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews and it is on track for Thursday of this week according what I’ve heard.

Candice Hoeppner — the Conservative MP who introduced private members legislation last session — will no doubt be taking a significant role selling the government’s legislation to the media and the broader Canadian public.

Now that the Conservatives have a majority, the legislation is expected to sail through Parliament.

The legislation comes on the heels of another long time Conservative promise this week to end the Canadian Wheat Board monopoly.

UPDATE: Intent to introduce legislation was just announced today (10/19). Nicholson will introduce, according to Postmedia.

UPDATE PART II: Was right about Toews all along! Toews introduced the bill (10/25).

How did Alison Redford win?

Alison Redford is the new leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta and will be sworn in on Friday as Alberta’s 14th Premier.  She pulled off a stunning upset of her chief rival in this year’s leadership race against front-runner Gary Mar.

I say upset because Redford accomplished just 19% on the first ballot compared to Mar’s 41%.

Between the first and second ballots, Redford jumped to 28,993 votes while Mar jumped to 33,233 total. Mar also had the benefit of the endorsement of the other contenders. But as the preferential ballot broke after the second ballot was counted, Redford picked up the rest.

Who were these new members?

Between the first and second ballot, Redford had a meeting on September 22nd with the Alberta Teachers Association, a 43,000 member strong union. Redford sent a letter to the ATA president promising to restore $107 million in education funding that the previous cabinet (of which she was a member) cut. Mar and other leadership rival Ted Morton said that such funding could not be restored due to Alberta’s deficit budget, but Redford made the promise to the union.  Here is her letter:

Dear Ms Henderson,

As you know I am contesting the Leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party to become the next Premier of the province of Alberta.  My priorities, like so many Albertans, are healthcare and public education.  In particular, I am committed to funding public education properly and it is important that the government move quickly on that front.

I will commit to restoring the education cuts made in the 2011/2012 budget within 10 days of being sworn in as Premier. This funding should not have been removed from the budgets of Alberta School Boards. I only regret that the timing of the leadership contest means that unacceptable disruption has already occurred that must be reversed. If elected Premier, I will not allow that to happen again.

The restoration of this funding will allow School Boards to hire back teachers and support staff laid off this summer. This, in turn, will reduce class size to a more manageable level. In consideration of the funding restoration, I will request that School Boards also roll back fee increases passed onto parents this fall.

Further, I commit to stable and predictable funding on three-year cycles in the future. School boards need to be able to plan, not annually react to unpredictable budgets. In order to keep talented teachers, we must be able to offer them longer term stability, not a continual cycle of layoffs and rehiring. Students and parents must know what to expect from year to year.

It is increasingly obvious that we need to change how we consult, and how we plan and implement government initiatives. I am very hopeful that you will work with me going forward to build a much better process, for the benefit of public education, public health care reform and other areas of government.

I very much appreciate the opportunity to address your representatives on these issues, and look forward to some challenging questions!

Sincerely,

Alison Redford

And then ATA Executive Director Gordon Thomas published a letter on the union website encouraging union members to sign up to influence the leadership vote,

As I write this editorial, Gary Mar, Doug Horner and Alison Redford are in the final days of a long campaign seeking the leadership of Alberta’s Progressive Conservative party.

I encourage all members to consider being active in this leadership campaign—and, for that matter, any leadership campaign. Get involved in choosing the next premier of Alberta. Assess the candidates for their education platforms. In my role with the Alberta Teachers’ Association, I have met with all of these candidates to discuss their views on education. I look forward to working with the new ­premier, no matter which candidate wins, as the teaching profession and the government work together to improve public education in Alberta. While the Association is decidedly unpartisan, we do encourage our members to get involved in public affairs—and this leadership competition will have a real impact on the ­province and our future.

Did a $107 million dollar promise activate the machinery that turned out most of the new votes on the 2nd ballot? One thing is for certain, the second ballot took a decidedly different direction than the first and that new direction was due to brand new members. The Tory rank-and-file showed up to vote on the first ballot. Did the special interests rush the ballot box to take Redford from 19% to victory?

As an allegedly “conservative” party, the Alberta PC is not supposed to be delivering for the special interests. Today a $107 million promised hand-off and tomorrow a ballot box explosion? Did Alison Redford use taxpayer dollars to unions to guarantee her victory?

CBC Opt Out Campaign

Here’s our latest from the National Citizens Coalition:

OTTAWA –– With the federal government struggling to emerge from a $36-billion deficit this year, taxpayers have been demanding an immediate end to wasteful spending.

“This government was elected to balance the budget – that must remain the top priority,” says Peter Coleman President and CEO of the National Citizens Coalition. “If they are serious about the promises they made during the most recent election it is time to put the CBC on the chopping block.”

With taxpayers being forced to hand over $1.1-billion annually to fund the CBC, the broadcaster has still failed to remain relevant.

Now, a new petition has been launched at www.cbcoptout.ca, which allows taxpayers to join with thousands of others to symbolically opt-out of providing funding.

“It is time to tell Heritage Minister James Moore and Prime Minister Harper that the buck stops here – all 1.1 billion of them.” adds Coleman.

The CBC’s negative impact on the Canadian economy is deeper than most taxpayers realize.

“Private networks must compete with the CBC for advertising dollars, and the CBC has repeatedly refused to even open its books,” says Stephen Taylor, a Director with the NCC.

“Without a transparent, forensic audit the true costs of the CBC are impossible to estimate. This is before even including the millions of public dollars spent each year by other government agencies, such as Canada Post, to advertise on the CBC,” adds Taylor.

The National Citizens Coalition has been working hard for several years to bring this issue into the spotlight. Now that the CBC is in the hot seat, the pressure is on the federal Conservatives to act decisively and to stop wasting taxpayers’ dollars immediately.

Visit www.cbcoptout.ca and sign this petition today!

Discriminatory hiring in the government

Here’s a good job that may interest you.

A Corrections Officer making $59,513 to $74,647 per year would be a great paying job for most Canadians. You must apply by July 24th to the Correctional Service of Canada.

However, under the Who Can Apply section we see the following restrictions. Surely these must be based upon learned skill, educational qualification, or the content of one’s character? No, some particular hiring restrictions are based on the colour of one’s skin.

Persons residing or employed in Moncton, NB and within a 400 kilometer radius* of Moncton, NB, within Canadian territory, extending to, amongst others, Miscou Centre, NB, Cape Tormentine, NB Seal Cove, NB, Forest City, NB, Connors, NB, North Cape and EastPoint, PE, Yarmouth, NS, Main-à-Dieu, NS, Leslie, QC, Cap-des-Rosiers, QC, Saint-Antonin, QC who are members of one of the following Employment Equity groups: Aboriginal persons** Visible minorities***

Those asterisks helpfully let us know what these terms mean,

**An Aboriginal person is a North American Indian or a member of a First Nation, Métis or Inuit. North American Indians or members of a First Nation include treaty, status or registered Indians, as well as non-status and non-registered Indians. Effective January 1, 2010, all departments and agencies under the Public Service Employment Act are required to use an Affirmation of Aboriginal Affiliation Form (AAAF)for appointment processes in which the area of selection is restricted to Aboriginal peoples only or to employment equity groups that include Aboriginal peoples. The AAAF is a condition of appointment: it must be completed and signed by the candidate before or at the same time as the Letter of Offer. For more information, consult the Public Service Commission’s Web site on AAAF.

***A person in a visible minority group is someone (other than an Aboriginal person as defined above) who is non-white in colour/race, regardless of place of birth. The visible minority group includes: Black, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean, South Asian-East Indian (including Indian from India; Bangladeshi; Pakistani; East Indian from Guyana, Trinidad, East Africa; etc.), Southeast Asian (including Burmese; Cambodian; Laotian; Thai; Vietnamese; etc.) non-white West Asian, North African or Arab (including Egyptian; Libyan; Lebanese; etc.), non-white Latin American (including indigenous persons from Central and South America, etc.), person of mixed origin (with one parent in one of the visible minority groups listed above), other visible minority group.

This issue has come up before and a review was promised by Stockwell Day, then Minister of the Treasury Board.

“While we support diversity in the public service, we want to ensure that no Canadian is barred from opportunities in the public service based on race or ethnicity,” Day said in a statement.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, who was also involved in the decision to review the government’s hiring practices, which give priority to qualified applicants from minority groups, said everyone should be considered for federal jobs.

“We are in favour of appropriate diversity in the public service and reasonable efforts to achieve it, but we don’t think any Canadians should be excluded from applying within their government,” he told CBC News. “It’s OK to encourage people from different backgrounds to apply but in our judgment it goes too far to tell people that if they are not of a particular race or ethnicity they cannot apply [for a job] that is actually funded by their tax dollars.”

A representative workplace that doesn’t discriminate is an ideal that should be held by everyone. What is the progress of this review?