Why Justin Trudeau shook up Canada’s diplomatic corps, diversity

HoM 2016 appointments.001The above chart captures the diversity of all 38 Liberal government head of mission appointments in 2016 to date with respect to all appointments as well as those that are classified at the ADM level (EX4-5):

The Liberal government cleaned diplomatic house on Tuesday, announcing the appointment of 26 new ambassadors, high commissioners and consuls general from Havana to Tel Aviv. The list is heavy on foreign service experience, short on overtly political appointments and pristinely gender balanced. In a statement, Global Affairs Canada said the recalls and new postings “ensure its diplomatic leaders represent a wide diversity of Canadians.”

Ferry de Kerckhove, former high commissioner in Pakistan and ambassador to both Indonesia and Egypt over a long career in the foreign service, said the appointments signal a conscientious shift in approach for Justin Trudeau’s government. “We’re back to what I would call normalcy in diplomatic appointments,” he says. “It confirms the Prime Minister’s early statement about giving back to the foreign service its role in representing Canada abroad, and also giving back its ability to actually do their job, which is to report, comment and provide advice.”

Source: Why Justin Trudeau shook up Canada’s diplomatic corps

Tuesday morning started off with a big shuffle as 26 new diplomatic appointments were announced, some replacing political appointments made under the previous Tory government.

As it did with its last shuffle, the department included a statement at the top of the list of appointments stating the government’s “commitment to ensure its diplomatic leaders represent a wide diversity of Canadians and include a greater gender representation.”

While the appointments include 13 men and 13 women, the overwhelming majority of heads of mission being replaced are men. Only four female ambassadors have been rotated out, compared to the 22 men.

A few of the new appointments are simply rotations from ambassadorial positions in other countries, while a few brand new political appointees have been added to the heads of mission team.

Harper appointees replaced, more women added to Canada’s roster of ambassadors

Patrick Martin’s astute analysis of the postings to the Mid-East:

Israel has been watching for evidence of a shift since Canada’s Liberals won the October election. Within hours of being sworn in, Foreign Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion announced that Canada will strive for a more balanced policy in the Middle East, one that includes reaching out to “other legitimate partners in the region” besides Israel.

He even described Canada’s role as being that of an “honest broker” – no words make Israeli leaders shudder more than those two.

Stephen Harper’s government was very good to Israel and Benjamin Netanyahu’s government knew it had a staunch supporter in Canadian Ambassador Vivian Bercovici. It also knew the next Canadian representative could not be so one-sided.

But in Deborah Lyons, whose name as the ambassador-designate leaked two months ago, the Israelis are being mollified by the appointment of a fair-minded career diplomat of substantial seniority. Ms. Lyons, most recently, has been Canada’s ambassador to Afghanistan, a posting that gives her credibility in conflict zones. But prior to that is where her résumé gets really interesting.

She served as deputy head of mission in Washington, as chief strategy officer of the Department of Foreign Affairs in Ottawa and as a trade counsellor for high-tech industries in Tokyo. Few words give Israelis goosebumps more quickly than “high-tech.”

Does this high-level appointment reframe Canada’s relationship with Israel and the Middle East? Perhaps, but it depends on what policy changes follow the appointment.

The departure of Bruno Saccomani as Canadian ambassador to Jordan will be welcomed by those Jordanians who care about such things. The Royal Hashemite Court grimaced at the appointment of Mr. Harper’s former head of security to lead Canada’s mission in Amman.

Mr. Saccomani lacked the experience of a foreign service officer, but also lacked the ear of the Canadian prime minister, which would have compensated for his not being a diplomat.

In Peter MacDougall, the Jordanians are getting an upgrade. Mr. MacDougall’s expertise is in refugees and in setting standards for admission to Canada – two very valuable traits in a country hosting nearly two million Syrian refugees and the place from which Canada chooses those it will allow entry.

The change of ambassadors in the United Arab Emirates is about equal in quality – both the outgoing Arif Lalani and the incoming Masud Husain are senior officials with lots of expertise and experience.

Which is a good thing, because the Gulf countries matter more than ever – with tensions over Iran, Syria and Yemen, and concern over the Islamic State and al-Qaeda.

 Ottawa’s diplomatic shuffle signals shift in approach to Middle East 

Former Clerk and High Commissioner to London on the balance of skills that career and political backgrounds bring to appointments:

After several years watching appointments, I realized that political appointees do these jobs differently. Each person brings different strengths and skills to the job.

David MacNaughton and Gary Doer before him have a strength as Canadian Ambassador to Washington that most other ambassadors do not. They are seen as well-connected and understand politics. When they speak to American political or business leaders they know they speak with the PM’s voice. That is remarkably valuable in doing the job.

When I met political, cultural and business leaders in the U.K. and they heard I had been Secretary to Cabinet, they took me more seriously (more than I deserved to be taken). When we want to be taken seriously at the UN, or in Washington, London and Paris, then the person representing Canada may best be a career diplomat schooled in the intricacies of diplomacy, or a career public servant knowledgeable and experienced in the key issues of the portfolio, or a “political” appointee who has access to the prime minister. It depends.

However, there can be too many political appointees. To run a career foreign service we need to have senior offices available for the careerists to aspire to. However, that there are political appointees is not a bad thing.

The appointments announced Tuesday should be judged on the quality of the people and not on whether they helped get the Prime Minister elected. Every prime minister has appointed former ministers, party apparatchiks, and business people, career public servants as well as career diplomats to the rank of Ambassador or High Commissioner. They should be judged on their talents, what they bring to the job and ultimately on what they accomplish.

I like to think that because I had been a senior public servant with access, I added value to representing Canada that was more than many others could do. My predecessors each brought different strengths to the job and did it differently, not better or worse.

All those Ambassadors and High Commissioners announced Tuesday will do their best to represent Canada well. Many of them will do a very good job and accomplish great things. We should wish them all well.

 Judge diplomatic picks on talent, not their relationship with Trudeau 


Government by referendums is not democracy – Cappe and Stein

One of the better articulations against referendums by Mel Cappe and Janice Gross Stein:

The value of representative democracy has been clear since Edmund Burke wrote in the eighteenth century. Public policy problems are by their nature complex. Representatives, meeting again and again formally and informally, can study, analyze and deliberate before they make their judgments. Referendums, by definition, require simplified “yes” or “no” choices and a one-time only opportunity to vote.

This is not, as some populist critics allege, a defence of “elitism” or the “hubris of experts.” Rather, it is an acknowledgment that it is the full-time responsibility of elected representatives to deliberate and come to an informed decision. They are accountable to the voters if they do not, and can be removed from office. Members of the public, by definition, have no such responsibilities or accountabilities.

Referendums also polarize opinion and sharpen divisions among the electorate. It is almost an inevitable result, as partisans on both sides seek to mobilize voters, often by invoking stereotypes and playing to the fears of the public. Witness Jacques Parizeau and Nigel Farage.

The public often responds emotionally to these arguments, especially in a climate of insecurity that is in part the result of leaders on each side manipulating fear to get out the vote.

Especially in these kinds of circumstances, the debate that leads up to a referendum can ride roughshod over the rights of minorities. Immigration in Britain from former colonies surpasses immigration from other countries in the European Union and far exceeded immigration of Syrian refugees. But Nigel Farage used his Breaking Point poster of refugees from the Middle East to whip up passions against the EU. There was no discussion during the period before the referendum that Polish plumbers and Romanian hair stylists were generally doing jobs that Britons were not disposed to do. Polls after the referendum showed that these kinds of attacks against minorities and refugees worked; immigration was the overriding issue among those who voted Leave.

Parliamentary debate is a different kind of process. Debates are a matter of public record and representatives are accountable for their comments. In well-functioning democracies, parliamentarians – not always but often – work to find solutions that serve the interests of the majority but simultaneously protect the rights of minorities. The debate on the right to assisted death in Canada was an example of exactly that kind of debate. For electoral reform in Canada, parliament should study it, consult the public, deliberate and then allow members a free vote on the issue.

Finally, there is a challenge function in parliamentary debate that helps to inform representatives and correct glaring errors of fact. This is especially the case when an independent and vigorous media report on parliamentary debates. This challenge function was largely absent in the run up to the British referendum. Boris Johnson disavowed his allegation that 350-million pounds a week that was going to the European Union would go to the health care system … but only after the vote. Nigel Farage’s charge that Britain would be overrun by immigrants from Turkey was finally exposed as an entirely imaginary issue … but only after the vote.

Misrepresentations and outright lies dominated the referendum debate in ways that would have been unsustainable in a contested parliament where members can challenge each other.

Source: Government by referendums is not democracy – The Globe and Mail

Les fonctionnaires saluent le gouvernement Trudeau

More on the public service public (and private) reaction to the change in government and approach to the public service:

Mel Cappe, un ancien greffier du Conseil privé (sorte de grand patron de la fonction publique fédérale), accueille lui aussi favorablement la nouvelle, tout en apportant un bémol. Il rappelle que les fonctionnaires ont le devoir de servir leurs maîtres politiques du jour. Si les scientifiques devraient avoir le droit de parler de leurs recherches, cela ne leur donne pas pour autant le droit de critiquer publiquement les choix politiques du gouvernement.

Fonctionnaires partisans ?

Cette annonce vendredi n’est pas le seul événement à avoir ébranlé la bulle fédérale. En après-midi, le ministre des Affaires étrangères, Stéphane Dion, a donné à son ministère un point de presse au cours duquel plusieurs fonctionnaires présents l’ont applaudi à trois reprises : lorsqu’il a parlé de la valeur de tous les fonctionnaires, d’évaluations environnementales et de lutte contre les changements climatiques.

Les critiques ont fusé sur les réseaux sociaux, de nombreux commentateurs y voyant la preuve que la fonction publique fédérale est « rouge » dans l’âme et que Stephen Harper avait raison de s’en méfier.

Debi Daviau y voit plutôt une « réaction complètement naturelle et humaine après neuf ans d’abus complet et absolu »« Notre fonction publique vit une lune de miel du fait qu’elle peut, après neuf ans, être autorisée à faire son travail correctement. On ne doit pas s’inquiéter que notre fonctionpublique célèbre cela. »

Tom Flanagan, professeur de sciences politiques de Calgary et ancien collaborateur de Stephen Harper, trouve ces applaudissements problématiques. Ils trahissent non pas un biais pro-libéral, mais un biais en faveur d’une vision interventionniste de l’État.« Les fonctionnaires ont intérêt à ce que l’État soit gros. C’est leur industrie. Plus l’État est gros, plus il y a d’emplois, d’occasions de promotions et meilleur est le salaire. C’est pour cela qu’ils sont toujours suspicieux des gouvernements qui prônent la retenue. » Les visions politiques libertariennes véhiculées par les partis politiques de l’Ouest sont donc perçues comme étant étrangères.

« Je vais utiliser cet exemple dans mes cours pour démontrer la dominance du courant de pensée laurentien [du Canada central] à Ottawa et comment l’Ouest est encore perçu comme un outsider ! » reconnaît-il.

Mel Cappe lui donne en partie raison. Les applaudissements soulignaient, à son avis, « la revitalisation et la renaissance du rôle du Canada sur la scène internationale ». En ce sens, dit-il, les fonctionnaires avaient beaucoup aimé le gouvernement de Brian Mulroney, preuve que ce n’est pas la « partisanerie » qui anime les fonctionnaires, mais une certaine vision de l’État.

Source: Les fonctionnaires saluent le gouvernement Trudeau | Le Devoir

Eight steps to get more Syrian refugees into Canada: Adelman, Alboim, Molloy and Cappe

Best and most comprehensive advice I have seen so far from Howard Adelman, Naomi Alboim, Mike Molloy and Mel Cappe:

1. The government should authorize the admission of Syrian refugees under a special program without the need for individual determination by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) or another state. This has been done for other major refugee movements in the past. This one step would expedite the selection of refugees and reduce the paperwork burden for sponsor groups.

2. The actual number and time frame will have to be negotiated or determined by the government when elected in October, but the method for speeding up the process must be introduced as soon as possible. We believe that it is not unrealistic to call for 25,000 government-assisted and 25,000 privately sponsored Syrian refugees to be admitted each year for the next two years.

3. The vast majority of Syrian refugees should be resettled to Canada from four target countries: Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt . This will relieve the pressure on these countries of first asylum and will reduce the desperation that is compelling people to risk their lives to get to Europe.

4. First priority should be given to displaced Syrian families with children in the four target countries. These would include families with significant Canadian connections, which would include relatives of Canadian citizens or of permanent residents. The fundamental rule (applied during the Indochinese movement) would be that extended family groups that have fled or taken refuge together would be processed and travel to Canada together. Families would not be broken up.

5. In addition to those with significant Canadian connections, the new program should target (but would not be restricted to) cases referred by the UNHCR.

6. Canadian visa offices in the field should be reinforced significantly and instructed to accelerate the selection rate for refugees referred by the UNHCR or with Canadian connections so that they can be referred to both the large umbrella sponsor groups (sponsorship-agreement holders) and local sponsor groups (groups of five) in large numbers expeditiously.

7. An increased number of government-assisted refugees should be selected from the pool of refugees referred by the UNHCR or other reputable agencies and should be destined to communities with reinforced agencies providing immigrant and refugee services. Humanitarian considerations should be paramount and provision should be made for hardship cases and those most in need.

8. Early outreach to employers will be essential; the temporary foreign worker program for low-skilled workers should be severely curtailed, freeing up jobs for incoming refugees.

Now is the time for all political parties to demonstrate to Canadians that they can work together to address a crisis of enormous proportions and to reclaim our leadership role on the world stage that reflects our values as a caring and compassionate society. We have the experience and expertise. We did it before and we can do it again. All we need now is the political will.

Mel Cappe on ideology over evidence

Well worth reading the entire issue of Policy Magazine (I previously highlighted Kevin Lynch’s more general commentary Canada’s public service and the new global normal of change).

I particularly liked former Clerk Mel Cappe’s commentary:

However, that requires Ministers to ask policy questions before they find policy solutions. It requires prime ministers to be open to evidence convincing them of the importance of the issue at hand, an analysis of the effects of the problem on Canadians, and the development of policy options and approaches that could be elaborated to deal with the problem.

This model presumes ministers and PMs asking questions before they have answers: has violent crime increased or decreased in Canada and why? It presumes that we would invest in data collection with quality assurance to ensure that we know who we are, the problems we face and possible policy avenues to address them: for instance, a long form census instead of a voluntary national household survey.

In this model, the demand curve of ideas in the market for public policy is robustly shifted out and to the right. It still slopes downwards, but it values ideas. The marginal value of the last idea is significantly positive. Unfortunately, now that ministers ask fewer questions and demand less of their public servants, the marginal value of the last idea is very large. But it is not actually leading to increased use. Curiosity is a prerequisite for vigorous public debate.

The more that ideology plays into the picture, the more that answers are provided before the questions are posed. If you have ideology you don’t need evidence.

…Quality public policy requires a fine understanding of the nature of the problems that afflict us, of the impacts of alternative policies and an analytic basis for informing public policy. This requires a robust evidentiary basis for the market in ideas. It requires a vigorous, analytic and highly educated public service to do the analysis. And most importantly, it requires ministers who will ask tough questions, be open to the evidence and be prepared to make their decisions informed by that evidence and analysis.

Public Service in the Digital Age

New PCO Clerk Charette takes on ‘battered’ PS, reform issues in federal election year | hilltimes.com

Lots of positive comment on new PCO Clerk Charette and observations on some of the challenges she faces from previous Clerks, Donald Savoie and others:

“There’s no question the federal public service is crying out for some sense of direction,” Mr. Savoie said. “I think it’s been battered about, not just the past 10 years, but it’s been battered about for the last 20-30 years. In some ways it’s lost its moorings. It’s not anchored like it used to be, in terms of knowing it was there to provide evidence-based policy advice, it was there to deliver programs in a professional manner.”

Part of the problem has been the trend across English-speaking democracies to view “the latest management fad coming out of the private sector as a panacea to dress the public sector to look like the private sector,” Mr. Savoie said, which has undermined the public service’s values.

In his final report as chair of the Prime Minister’s Advisory Committee on the Public Service, former Conservative and Liberal Cabinet minister David Emerson warned that public servants had to work to remain relevant amid the digital revolution and global economy.

The report recommended pushing authority down in the organization and empowering people to make changes; streamlining business processes; investing in learning and leadership development, especially in middle management; and focusing on longer-term thinking.

Former clerk Mel Cappe, who served under prime minister Jean Chrétien, said keeping the bureaucracy relevant and attracting bright young people will be Ms. Charette’s biggest challenge.

“I think the challenge is going to be adapting to the Twitterverse and modern communications and the transformation that’s taking place in the political world, and keeping the public service relevant to be the privileged adviser to government,” he said in an interview.

New PCO Clerk Charette takes on ‘battered’ PS, reform issues in federal election year | hilltimes.com. (pay wall)

Public service losing its ability to provide policy advice, former top bureaucrat says

A good article by Kathryn May of the Ottawa Citizen on Mel Cappe’s upcoming Public Policy Forum speech. Thoughtful remarks on the decreased demand for policy advice and reduced role of the public service. Reinforces points in my book. Quote:

“The issue isn’t whether advice is followed or not but whether public servants can prepare the work they need for ministers to make decisions … Let the minister choose whether to take or ignore the advice, but they should hear it. Let the minister choose to ignore the evidence, but don’t allow them not to have the evidence in front of them.

“I never expected my advice to be followed, but it was heard, listened to and taken into account. When the government did what it thought was politically the right thing to do and I was heard, I was successful whether they followed my advice or not. But if public servants don’t get heard, it’s not a good thing for the country.”

Public service losing its ability to provide policy advice, former top bureaucrat says