Political Exemption Should Not Be Abolished
The Hill Times, March 22nd, 2004
Regarding "Abolish public service exemption: expert," (The Hill Times, March 15-March 21). Professor Denis Saint-Martin's recommendation to abolish the public service exemption for political staffers is less than "expert." The Tremblay case is the exception rather than the rule. The transfer of a small number of ministerial staffers to the public service each year will not politicize the public service, but it does provide access to a small but useful trickle of talent.
The public service, with an aged management cadre and recruitment challenges, obtains access to energetic young people who know something about the nuances and pressures of our political system -- useful skills senior public sector managers have always valued and often actively recruited. Most political staffers do not chose this option -- but those that do obtain access to employment their experience predisposes them to do well. Getting involved in politics isn't always a great career choice. It seems wasteful to have young people learn how government works and then tell them to leave town.
Where is the body of evidence suggesting ex-staffers are inappropriately political? Since their career paths now lie in a different direction, there is far greater pressure on them to become "bureaucratized." The public service has great powers of absorption. And that is exactly what happen to most ex-staffers who quickly morph into loyal, hard-working public servants.
If Professor Saint-Martin wants to turn over rocks and look for problems, there are other places to look.