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Shivering in the summer heat

There was a real to-do in Ottawa in June when the federal Privacy Commissioner resigned his office following hearings held by a parliamentary committee into various matters connected with his expense accounts.

The affair dragged on for a week or more after Parliament adjourned for its summer recess, and the committee's report will not be presented until the House of Commons reconvenes in the Fall.

Media coverage was intense. Pundits pontificated. Taxpayers fulminated. All was hub-bub and public outrage.

Citizens were appalled to learn of $400 dollar lunches, dinner tabs and hospitality expenses totalling thousands of dollars.

These are figures people can comprehend.

Then came the most startling event in the whole episode, an event that sent shivers through management and mandarinate in the Public Service, an event unprecedented in Canadian annals.

Employees in the Privacy Commission held a public demonstration during their lunch hour, telling of their experiences with management, of an atmosphere of intimidation and contempt, and of fear to talk about what they saw taking place in their workplace.

If that is to become a norm, no one will any longer be free to hire and promote friends and family members, to decorate, re-carpet, and refurnish offices at whim, to move to another department and there repeat the process in an ongoing expenditure of taxpayers' dollars for no good reason.

"The enemy is at the gates! The times call for stout hearts, not early retirements! Cull the files and erase the disks! It's us they're after!"

But conscientious public servants, who are the majority, have nothing to fear.


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