Liberal MP Marlene Jennings has written to the Clerk of the Privy Council to protest against the partisan language in this release from the federal Department of Justice. The Clerk, Wayne Wouters, is a former deputy minister of the Treasury Board, incidentally, which oversees the rules keeping party politics from interfering in government. Here's Jennings' letter.
January 29, 2010
Mr. Wayne Wouters
Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet
Privy Council Office
Langevin Block 80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0A3
Dear Mr. Wouters
I am writing to request action concerning a press release that was issued by the Department of Justice and posted on its website which I believe violates the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Service.
The press release issued January 29, 2010 and entitled “NEW SENATORS TO HELP END OPPOSITION OBSTRUCTION OF LAW-AND-ORDER BILLS” contains the following claim:
The opposition has obstructed that agenda in the Senate, most notably by gutting Bill C-15 – a bill proposing mandatory jail time for serious drug offences, and a key part of the government’s efforts to fight organized crime.
A copy of the release can be found posted here: http://justice.gc.ca/eng/news-nouv/nr-cp/2010/doc_32473.html
Quite apart from the dubious nature of this claim, it seems clear to me that including this partisan attack as part of press release that was issued using public service resources is a clear violation of the Values and Ethics Code for the Public Service.
The Code states that “Public servants must work within the laws of Canada and maintain the tradition of the political neutrality of the Public Service” and requires that public servants “perform their duties and arrange their private affairs so that public confidence and trust in the integrity, objectivity and impartiality of government are conserved and enhanced.”
Unfortunately, this is not the first time under the present government that a purportedly non-partisan department has been forced to put out a press release that goes well beyond the provisions of the code. On February 23, 2007, the Department of Public safety issued a press release stating that “At a time when the Opposition Parties are being soft on security and soft on terrorism, Canada’s New Government remains unwavering in its determination to safeguard national security and is committed to working with all its partners to protect the safety and security of Canadians.”
Again on March 3, 2009 the Department of Fisheries and Oceans issued a press release that includes the following claim: "While Liberals try and please special interest groups our Conservative government will seriously defend our sealers and we will continue to fight for the rights of hard-working Canadian sealers, on the international stage and here in Canada, so they may provide a livelihood for their families through our lawful, sustainable and humane hunt."
As the official responsible for ensuring strict adherence of the principles of non-partisanship by Canada’s public service, I am requesting that you instruct the Department of Justice to remove the January 29, 2010 press release from the department’s website. I further request that you issue instructions to this department and all others that this kind of partisanship in communications products issued by non-partisan departments and agencies will not be tolerated in the future.
Marlene Jennings, MP
Critic for Democratic Reform and Government Ethics.