Tories call for probe of public servants who aided report on tax agency

Valid concerns regarding the breach of the impartiality of the public service, not just leaking of documents (which also is problematic):

The Conservatives are calling for an investigation into claims that Canada Revenue Agency employees teamed up with an advocacy group for a report that alleges mismanagement and political interference in tax investigations that cost billions in uncollected revenue.

Conservative MP Ziad Aboultaif, the party’s national revenue critic, said the involvement of public servants in such a report during an election is “disturbing” and shouldn’t be ignored just because a new government was elected.

“I would hope that the Minister of National Revenue realizes the seriousness of this and is investigating the supposed wrongdoing, not ignoring it because the incident took place under the previous government,” said Aboultaif.

“There is a principle involved here; it is not about party politics. Canadians expect their public service to be both professional and neutral.”

The report, by Canadians for Tax Fairness, was based on 28 interviews with former and current auditors and other tax specialists. They alleged the agency is mismanaged, undermined by major budget cuts, and that it targets ordinary taxpayers over the “big-time tax cheats” hiding money offshore.

Public servants are supposed to be non-partisan and loyal to the elected government. They face even stricter limits on their behaviour during an election.

Aboultaif argued neutrality is part of the job and that public servants give up the right to criticize government policies when they join the public service.

“Public servants take an oath of office and agree to abide by a code of ethics while employed in the civil service,” he said.

….So far, the Canada Revenue Agency has rejected the report’s allegations as unfounded. It said it was unable to determine if the ethics code was breached because it didn’t know who the employees were.

Donald Savoie, Canada Research Chair in public administration and governance at the University of Moncton, has written books on how the traditional “bargain” or relationship between public servants and politicians is broken. He says this case is one of the most blatant violations yet.

“If public servants become political actors, which is what is happening here, that is just not how the Westminster system was conceived. We are reshaping fundamental tenets of the system on the fly without any reflection or debate.”

Savoie argued this is an issue that warrants the attention of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to clarify what is expected of public servants today.

“This is a government issue, not a CRA issue. It should be raising alarm bells in the Privy Council Office and Treasury Board because it goes to the heart of the fundamental role of the public service.

“I think the prime minister, cabinet and head of the public service should be responding.”

Source: Tories call for probe of public servants who aided report on tax agency | Ottawa Citizen

The earlier article ICYMI:

Source: Public Servants ‘blow the whistle’ on tax system shortfalls | Ottawa Citizen