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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

More Harper purging 












The Harper regime claims another victim. Luc Pomerleau (declaration of interest: I know him and have worked with him in the past), a scientist at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, has been fired and formally blacklisted for passing on information to his union that was on a CFIA server and accessible to all of its employees.

The information was indeed sensitive: it signaled the intentions of the Harper government to deregulate food inspection, allowing companies to, in effect, be self-regulating, inspecting their own products. Obviously the union--the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada--has a stake in this. And Luc Pomerleau was a union steward at PIPSC. But so does every Canadian citizen who buys and eats food.

This information, in the form of a letter from the Treasury Board secretary to the President of the CFIA, was not kept confidential as per regulations. As noted, it was scanned onto a server and hence made available to literally thousands of people. While there was a small "confidential" stamp on the first page, the ensuing pages were not stamped: genuinely confidential documents are marked on each page.

Moreover, the fact that Pomerleau was immediately identified as the person who transmitted the information to PIPSC indicates that there was no attempt, either on his part or on that of his union, to cover up his actions. The media have not yet made anything of this, but it strikes me as salient. It goes to Pomerleau's state of mind: whether he knew he was doing something seriously against regulations.

The gross overreaction by CFIA may well indicate something other than a difference of opinion about the status of the document in question. Its existence could indeed be a serious embarrassment to the government in the run-up to an election. Canadians like to know that what they're eating is safe to eat, and they trust--perhaps naively--that the government will ensure their safety in this respect.

After the Linda Keen affair, and the bizarre actions of the government with respect to Elections Canada, I no longer can bring myself to believe that our federal public service is free from direct political interference from on high. Here, admittedly, I am speculating: I knew the President of CFIA back in the day as well. Carole Swan is an ambitious sort, unlikely to want to be Keened into the ranks. Safer by far to throw another sacrificial victim on the fire.

The firing and blacklisting are being challenged by PIPSC. Godspeed, say I. Who, after all, was acting in the interests of ordinary Canadians here--Pomerleau the whistle-blower, or the Harper government? But for public employees these days, it seems, no good deed goes unpunished.


(Crossposted from Dawg's Blawg)

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