The Liberals And The Public Service – Reunited At Last

Why does it seem that most public servants are Liberals? At a superficial level, it is obvious.

Conservatives, at least ideologically, want to cut public spending and the size of government in the name of being diligent with public money. In other words, they want to cut the influence, and sheer number, of public employees. They’re skeptical of big government and critical of institutions such as the CBC.

Liberals, on the other hand, want to grow the size of government. They embrace debt, love big government programs, and are enthusiastic about the government sculpting and playing a major role in Canadian culture.

So if you’re a public servant whose livelihood depends on the continued existence of big government, which party are you more likely to support? It’s a no-brainer.

Whatever their political stripe, bureaucrats need to put it aside between 9 and 5. Public servants exist by definition to serve the public via executing the will of the democratically elected government. They are not there to pursue their own political agendas, and for good reason – you can’t run an efficient democratic government if the bureaucracy is full of active partisans.

This is known and accepted, which is why any bias that exists within the public service is to be eliminated by their own decree:

Non-partisanship is an essential element of both a professional public service and responsible democratic government. A non-partisan public service is one where appointments are based on merit and free of political influence and where public servants perform their duties, and are seen to perform their duties, in a politically impartial manner.

Despite that clear mandate, the political agenda of the public service has been on full display for years.

Public sector unions — in this case, the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) – engage in political activities all the time. For example, these buttons and shirts that were distributed to and worn by their members in 2012. (Subtlety isn’t their strong suit.)

PSAC’s stated purpose is to represent their 170,000+ members by protecting their wages and benefits – wages and benefits that those in the private sector can often only dream of.

According to a recent report from the Canadian Federation of Independent Business:

The average public sector employee makes 18 to 37 per cent more than a comparable employee working in the private sector.

Unlike the private sector, where wages are often tied to the value of a particular product in the open market, there is no comparable way to determine wages in the public sector … public sector unions, particularly in strike situations, also play a role in driving the wage gap.

In addition to driving up the wage gap, public sector unions influence election outcomes by spending millions of dollars on major ad campaigns attacking government policies, and organizing rallies across Canada – you won’t see a major lefty protest anywhere in the country without a whole bunch of union flags present.

While you can argue that the public is not served well when the public service and the government are constantly at each other’s throats, the government shouldn’t be in bed with the public service, either.

Public sector unions meeting with governments to discuss benefits and pay raises is not a traditional negotiation. They are not negotiating against each other – they are both on the same side of the table, “negotiating” how much of the public purse to divvy up.

A strong government will do what is necessary – including angering the unions – to protect taxpayer money and ensure it is being spent reasonably. A big-spending government will happily give the unions whatever they want.

Ergo, taxpayers should actually be quite happy when the government and public service square off – it signals that we have a voice at the table; that our elected officials are pushing back against the massive, bloated, overpaid, unionized machine that is the public service.

When the two sides get along too well, serious alarm bells should be going off.

Which brings us to the recent election of the Liberals.

Never was the public service’s overt partisanship more blatant than immediately following the 2015 federal election.

After losing, but before officially stepping down as Prime Minister, Stephen Harper issued a letter to the public service thanking them for their support:

“I would like to thank each and every one of you for the support you have shown my team and me over three successive parliaments and for the dedication you have demonstrated in delivering for Canadians.

“It has been an honour to serve as Prime Minister of the greatest country in the world and I will always be grateful for the support of Canada’s world-class public service.”

It was a classy note, delivered in a conciliatory tone – as such, PSAC was having none of it. They immediately issued a terse reply:

“The work that public service workers do on behalf of Canadians day in and day out is invaluable. It is unfortunate that the Conservative government was not able to recognize the important contribution of public service workers during their mandate.

“We look forward to building a positive and constructive relationship with the new Liberal government where trust and respect for public service workers is restored.”

Even after they had won by booting Harper from office, and even in reply to a respectful letter sent by the outgoing PM, the union couldn’t do anything but pat itself on the back and slam the Conservative government.

They also couldn’t contain their giddiness that a Liberal government had finally been elected.

This giddiness was personified on November 6, when Trudeau was mobbed by Foreign Affairs bureaucrats in Ottawa.

According to the CBC, Trudeau “was swarmed. Many took photos and even selfies along the way. The prime minister was hugged. Cheers erupted.”

It’s not just the creepiness of 40-something female bureaucrats fawning over a married man on government hours that taxpayers should be concerned about, but also the bureaucracy’s united and relentless defence of their new co-conspirators.

When a reporter dared to ask the new Minister of Foreign Affairs Stephane Dion a slightly negative question about the newly appointed cabinet ministers, the crowd of public servants actually booed the reporter!

This baffling scene prompted many pundits to finally understand, if just for a minute, what we conservatives have understood for over a decade.

Trudeau, as we all know, has promised to plunge us back into debt after Harper balanced the budget. This means growing the government and, in turn, caving to the unions’ demands.

With that in mind, I really can’t blame the bureaucrats for being so happy – they’re going to come out ahead. It is ordinary taxpayers in the private sector who are going to end up getting screwed by this new love-in.

Ordinary Canadians didn’t just lose an unpopular Prime Minister on October 19. They lost their voice at the negotiating table.