Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Did you make "The List" ..... well did you?

PMO memo asking for enemies list creates new furor
By Josh Wingrove/Ottawa
Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office is once again under fire after it sent a memo asking for lists of "enemy stakeholders" for new cabinet ministers - a request one union leader says is unprecedented and another sign of the Conservative's combative nature.

Earlier this month, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) sent a "checklist" of instructions to ministerial staff who were creating "transitional binders" for members given new portfolios in Monday's cabinet shuffle. One request was: Who to engage or avoid: friend and enemy stakeholders." Government officers typically take a more formal tone, even when referring to their critics.

The July 4 e-mail memo shows the extent to which the PMO is involved in ministerial operations. The memo asked for a list of "bureaucrats that can't take no (or yes) for an answer," although that request was withdrawn in another e-mail four hours later. It also asks for: "What to avoid: pet bureaucratic projects" and references "sword/shield issues" ministers need to be aware of during Question Period.

"Now it's about enemies and friends, not people who have different opinions. And that's really that they're saying: If you have a different opinion, you are the enemy." Gary Corbett, President of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada.

"To talk about it in terms of enemies and friends is just unheard of," Gary Corbett , President of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, representing scientists and professionals in government including the federal civil service. Bureaucrats and political staff continue to have a "very tense relationship," he said.

"Now it's about enemies and friends, not poeple who have different opinions. And that's really what they're saying: If you have a different opinion, you are the enemy," Mr. Corbett said.

It is the latest misstep for the PMO. Mr. Harper's Chief of Staff Nigel Wright, resigned earlier this year after writing a cheque to Senator Mike Duffy, and the PMO was then embarrassed whe it was accused of trying to feed an unflattering story about Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau to a local newspaper. The leaked memos were made public this week when copies were anonymously sent to several media outlet, including The Globe and Mail.

It's not clear, from the e-mails, whether the ministries ever prduced lists of "enemy stakeholders." Mr. Corbett said he had no doubt some unions were considered enemies. One charity the federal government has clashed with over its environmental work - Tides Canada - declined to comment.

The memo was signed by Nick Koolsbergen, an "Issue Manager" in the PMO, and sent by Erica Furtado, an Executive Assistant in the PMO's Issues Management Section. The PMO declined comment on the leak, neither confirming no denying its authenticity.

"While we don't comment on internal communications, we are collaborating with our ministers, especially new ministers, to ensure they are fully briefed so they can continue their work on behalf of Canadian taxpayers," spokesman Carl Vallee said.

The Official Opposition NDP said the leak is another signal the cabinet shuffle was just for show. "This is part of an alarming pattern of Conservatives putting partisan politics first, and shutting out any group that disagrees with them," NDP Deputy Leader Megan Leslie said.

The Public Service Alliance of Canada said on Tuesday it did not know whehter its members - non-partisan government staff - whould have been asked to help develop lists of "enemy stakeholders."

"This government should be listening to all Canadians, not just those who agree with their policies," Chris Aylward, PSAC's National Executive Vice-President said in an e-mailed statement.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper shuffled his cabinet on Monday, introducing eight new members and a few more women in an attempt to give a fresh face as the Conservaives' poll numnbers had slid. Of the 39 ministers, 27 take on new files - and will get transition binders.

With a report from John Ibbitson


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