Another senior bureaucrat leaves government to join Ignatieff

UPDATE: Ms. Beckton emailed me insisting that this story is absolutely not true and that she plans to take her retirement in a politically neutral manner. I put in a call to a friend in Mr. Ignatieff’s office and the Liberal leader’s office has no knowledge of Ms. Beckton’s plans. I called Ms. Beckton and she informed me that this has been a nasty rumour that has been spreading on the Hill for about ten days concerning her retirement from public service and it probably stems from her letter of retirement to Minister Moore. The rumour was likely constructed by other partisan actors and spread as truth (thus despite my double and triple sourcing of this story in various departments). I foolishly was perplexed by this, “How can this be untrue when everyone else talks about this as fact?” The first person I should have called – despite their senior rank in the government – should have been Ms. Beckton. I apologized to Ms. Beckton and she was too kind. I wish her the best in her retirement. My hope is that this blog has developed a new threshold and sensitivity between unconfirmed rumour and fact and that it will remain accountable to you, the reader.

ORIGINAL POST: I’ve learned that Clare Beckton, the head bureaucrat and the coordinator of Status of Women Canada – the department headed up by Conservative Minister of State Helena Guergis – will leave the public service to join Michael Ignatieff’s office.

Ms. Beckton has received a letter of offer from the office of the leader of the opposition and the political department at SWC is shocked to learn of her departure.

This poaching of a senior bureaucrat comes months after Ignatieff was able to draw another highly placed public official to turn to politics. Kevin Chan, the executive assistant to former Clerk Kevin Lynch, was a student at Harvard when Dr. Ignatieff was there as a professor.

Like Chan, Beckton has a connection to Harvard. A source close to Beckton suggested that she’s an old Harvard friend of the Liberal leader. Her bio at the SWC website confirms her attendance at Harvard, earning an MPA in 2005.

An official in Stephen Harper’s government when asked about the news explained that the government had no knowledge or insight as to how long Ms. Beckton had been planning the move. Further, Beckton plans to move to Ignatieff’s office in three weeks time, while holding a position overseeing government files and the minister’s strategic direction for the department.