Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Tone at the top, or lack thereof

That's a shame: "Government sees red over Liberal poaching PCO insider." Didn't pay too much attention to this story until tonight when we learn that it's causing much upset to the Conservative brain trust. Kevin Chan, former executive assistant and director to Kevin Lynch, the clerk of the Privy Council Office, has left that position this week to take on a job with Michael Ignatieff's office.  He's subject to a 3 month cooling off period at the suggestion of the PCO.  Some "senior government official," however, is concerned that this is not enough and is voicing anonymous opinions to the Canadian Press, intimating unfair suggestions about Chan in fact:
"Are we to also assume that for the next three months he will have zero contact - even a fireside chat - with the leader of the Opposition where he shares information that he's not at liberty to share?" asked the official.

"We can presume, but we cannot be 100 per cent (certain)."

As Lynch's right-hand man, Chan had top-secret clearance, the government official confirmed on condition of anonymity.

While civil service confidentiality agreements prohibit Chan from sharing such knowledge with the Liberal leader, he will take to Ignatieff's office an insider's perspective on how the Harper government approaches issues and develops policy.

"If he had fundamental disagreements with the government's direction, he should have asked to be transferred somewhere else (long ago)," fumed the official.

Reached by The Canadian Press on Wednesday, Chan would not discuss his career change: "I'm sorry, I can't comment," he said.
Um, just because you're paranoid doesn't mean everybody's out to get you. Nor does it mean that just because you tend to assume the worst about people, that they're likely to fulfill your expectations. From the accounts of the past two days, there's no suggestion that Chan is anything but one of our best and brightest. The digs from the "senior government official" are just that, digs from a government who continues to display that their gut reaction to such developments is to distrust and lash out at the slightest sign of vulnerability.  Maybe just once they might consider, when presented with such a challenge, to take the high road, wish a valuable public servant well in pursuing what he really wants to do.  It seems clear that Chan has a pre-existing relationship with Ignatieff, going back to time at Harvard and his desire to work with Ignatieff should be readily understandable to any objective observer.  What's more, keep in mind Chan's role in the PCO and the very mission of the PCO:  
To serve Canada and Canadians by providing the best non-partisan advice and support to the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
Non-partisan.  There's nothing to suggest that Chan would violate any confidences given the confidentiality conditions of his now former employment in the PCO as a professional public servant. And the Ignatieff team has agreed readily to the cooling off period suggested by the PCO.  To see Chan now being slagged in the press, unjustifiably by some senior government official, it's not surprising at all that a quality individual might leave such an environment.