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Top bureaucrat calls AG’s summary on public service culture an ‘opinion piece’

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OTTAWA — The public service’s top bureaucrat is taking issue with Auditor General Michael Ferguson’s spring report which criticizes the culture in the public service.

Ferguson’s message in his report on culture in the public service is an “opinion piece,” Privy Council Clerk Michael Wernick said Tuesday.

Wernick was called before the House of Commons Public Accounts committee to address comments Ferguson made about culture in the public service in his latest report.

In Ferguson’s spring report, he wrote that the public service has an obedient culture that “fears mistakes and risk” and has to change.

“This culture causes the incomprehensible failures it is trying to avoid,” he said, referring to the Pheonix pay system.

Wernick said the public service isn’t perfect but he won’t accept Ferguson’s findings and called them “sweeping generalizations.”

Wernick also said he does not agree with Ferguson’s characterization of the Phoenix pay system as an ‘incomprehensible failure.’

“It’s entirely comprehensible, it was avoidable … it’s reparable,” he said.

NDP MP David Christopherson said the committee needs to decide where they land on the two opposing views of the culture in the public service.

“Either we have a deputy of the Privy Council who has his head buried in the sand and is in complete denial with what the cultural problems are or we’ve got an auditor general that’s off the rails,” said Christopherson.

The committee later decided it would invite Ferguson back to testify before the House rises for the summer so he can respond to Wernick’s comments.

Wernick reiterated that there are problems in the public service, but not across every department.

“I don’t think we have a broken culture,” he insisted.

Wernick also told members of the committee that they should create a culture where it’s possible to disagree with the auditor general.

He said it should be OK to challenge the auditor general’s analysis and hopes he’s not in too much trouble for disagreeing with his findings.

 

Janice Dickson, The Canadian Press


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Construction

Liberals set hiring, procurement rules for federally-funded projects

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OTTAWA — Cities, provinces and territories building new roads, bridges, water and transit systems funded with federal dollars will have to let Indigenous Peoples, veterans and recent immigrants have a hand in those projects under new rules being unveiled today.

The idea of so-called community benefits will be a mandatory requirement for many infrastructure projects the federal government will help pay for through its $33-billion spending envelope.

Provinces and territories will have some leeway to decide what projects are to be subject to the rules. Those projects that are will have to explain publicly how far they have come in meeting the government’s goals.

Under the new guidelines, provinces, territories and cities would have to hire apprentices, Indigenous Peoples, recent immigrants, veterans, young people, people with disabilities and women, or procure goods and services from small- and medium-sized businesses or social enterprises.

Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi will be in Toronto to unveil the new rules alongside the MP that first brought the idea to him two years ago — Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen.

Community benefit agreements have been used for years in the United States and were applied to the construction of the athletes’ village for the Vancouver Olympics. The agreements require projects to hire locally or create jobs for groups facing high unemployment rates, such as young people and Aboriginals.

The deals are usually negotiated among private companies doing work, the public body funding the project and community groups like unions, faith-based groups or social services.

The Liberals inserted broad wording about community benefit requirements into infrastructure funding deals that provinces and territories signed over the past year.

Once construction starts on projects funded through those agreements, the Liberals want to see how many hours the targeted populations work, or the value of the contracts provided to targeted businesses, to see how well proponents are doing at meeting their goals.

There will also be requirements to explain the challenges and successes provinces, territories and cities have in meeting the community benefit goals.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press


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National

‘Hot Dog Water’ seller in Vancouver gets laughs, sales with savvy marketing

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VANCOUVER — A Vancouver man who sold bottles of “Hot Dog Water” for nearly $40 each says he was trying to see how marketing of health claims backed by supposed science amounts to quick sales.

Douglas Bevans said he boiled about 100 organic beef hot dogs and put each one in a bottle of the water he sold at an annual car-free event.

Each bottle of the “keto-compatible,” unfiltered water sold for $37.99, but two bottles cost only $75 because of a special deal last Sunday at his booth, where he wore a hot dog onesie and promoted himself as CEO of Hot Dog Water.

Bevans promised the water would lead to increased brain function, weight loss and a youthful appearance, even erasing crow’s feet when applied to the face in the form of a lip balm, which he also happened to sell.

“We noticed that some people were rubbing lip balm on their crow’s feet and they were swearing their crow’s feet were disappearing before their eyes,” he said.

One man who rubbed the lip balm on his “dome” sent him photos suggesting it promoted hair growth, Bevans said.

While many people laughed, he said others were impressed by the health benefits they’d experience with his unique products, including body spray and “Hot Dog Water breath freshener.”

Bevans said he sold 60 litres worth of the products.

He told people the water creates quicker sodium uptake for good health, uttering sheer quackery: “Because Hot Dog Water and perspiration resemble each other so when you drink Hot Dog Water it bypasses the lymphatic system, whereas other waters have to go through your filtering system, so really, Hot Dog Water has three times as much uptake as coconut water.”

Bevans, who is really a tour operator and a performance artist, said he came up with the idea as he questioned the ridiculous marketing and health claims behind some products and thought to himself: “I bet I could sell hot dog water.”

“We’re helping people, empowering them to use informed decisions in their purchasing choices,” he said about his marketing stunt. “That is the message behind this.”

His aim is to get consumers to bypass slick marketing and think about what they’re buying, especially in the age of social media clicks and ‘likes’ involving celebrities pitches.

Bevans said he thought of his project as an art performance to create awareness about critical thinking.

“Art, I think, has a way of doing this better than if this was a public service announcement. There’s an image attached to it, that it’s ridiculous.”

— Follow @CamilleBains 1 on Twitter.

 

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press


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