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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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Woman and her dog lost for 72 hours in B.C. woods are found safe

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INVERMERE, B.C. — A 52-year-old woman and her dog are both safe and unharmed after wandering lost for 72 hours in the thick woods in southeastern B.C.

RCMP Sgt. Chris Newel says Louise Baxter hopped off a rescue helicopter Wednesday, hugged her husband and was talking and laughing with her rescuers.

Baxter went out for a hike with friends in the Jumbo Pass area on Sunday, but she disappeared after taking her leashed dog out for what she said would be a short walk.

Newel says Baxter appears to have become disoriented shortly after leaving her friends and then heading down the mountain, moving “west when she probably should have been heading east.”

The dog, a golden poodle named Maverick, was with her the whole time and Newel says the animal is also in good health. 

At the height of the search, there were three helicopters, four search dogs, a drone and 35 search and rescue volunteers looking for the woman in the difficult, mountainous terrain.

Newel, who was the incident commander for the search, said Baxter saw the search helicopters and tried to flag them down, but no one saw her.

“But if anybody’s every been in a helicopter, trying spot a person in forested area is extremely difficult and a lot harder than you would think,” he said in an interview on Thursday. “I can’t imagine the emotion that would have gone through her seeing these helicopters and not be able to signal them in some sort of way.”

Baxter is an avid hiker, Newel said, adding the general rule of thumb for those who get lost in the woods is to stay put. Baxter did stay in one place for a while but proceeded down the mountain because she thought help wasn’t coming, he said.

“But she was working further and further out from the primary search area.”

He said she found water along the way and ate berries, but didn’t have anything else to eat.

“I couldn’t believe when she walked off that helicopter and practically ran to her husband,” Newel added.

 

The Canadian Press


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Greens won’t run candidate in Burnaby South as ‘leader’s courtesy’ to Singh: May

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VICTORIA — The Green party will not run a candidate against NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh in the riding of Burnaby South.

Green Leader Elizabeth May says the decision is an extension of a “leader’s courtesy,” a long-standing Canadian parliamentary tradition that facilitates a newly elected party leader’s entry to the House of Commons in an unopposed byelection.

She says in a statement the Greens believe it is right to step aside to allow the leader of “an important part of the political spectrum” to serve in Parliament.

Singh announced his candidacy for the federal riding after New Democrat MP Kennedy Stewart indicated he was stepping aside to run for mayor of Vancouver.

The Liberal and Conservative parties have not announced candidates in the riding, but the Liberals have said they will contest the byelection.

May received the leader’s courtesy in 2008 when then-Liberal leader Stephane Dion chose not to run a candidate against her in Central Nova. She extended the same gesture to Dion.

In 2002, the Liberals and Conservatives stepped aside for Stephen Harper when he ran in a byelection held shortly after he became leader of the Canadian Alliance.

No date has been set for a byelection.

Singh sat in Ontario’s legislature and served as the provincial NDP’s deputy leader before he replaced Tom Mulcair as the federal leader.

The Canadian Press


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