Public Values

Food inspectors balked at orders to rebrand Government of Canada

Many balked at May orders to replace official term with 'Conservative Government'.

Bob KingstonOTTAWA, October 7, 2008 — Last May, staff at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) received orders, which many balked at, to replace the phrase "Government of Canada" in official correspondence with the term "Conservative Government."

The notion apparently died in the face of heated response from agency staff.

"I've never seen anything like it. We thought it was a joke," says Agriculture Union president Bob Kingston, who forwarded the following exchange of email to The names of correspondents have been deleted to protect them.

Date: Tue, 27 May 2008 09:16:01 -0400
From: aaa
To: "bbb"
Cc: "Bob Kingston"
Subject: Fwd: Use of "Conservative Government" in MinCorr

Dear XXX:

I am writing further to the directive received today to add, or not edit out, references to the "Conservative government" in place of the traditional and correct title "Government of Canada" in ministerial correspondence when requested to do so by the Minister's Office. I feel strongly that this compromises my integrity as a public servant.

I am seeking an explanation as to how I can conduct my duties as a neutral public servant if I am being told to add the name of a political party to correspondence.

I refer to the document "Values and Ethics Code for the Public Service," Chapter 1, Statement of Public Service Ethics and Values, under Professional Values:

* Public servants must work within the laws of Canada and maintain the tradition of the political neutrality of the Public Service.

A fairly broad but casual review of how this matter has been handled by other departments and agencies has confirmed to me that the CFIA appears to be alone in the issuing of such a directive or, indeed, making a verbal request, instructing public servants to refer to a political party.

It is understood, of course, that political messaging is often added by a Minister's Office in the Minister's Office itself. I do not know why this status quo could not have continued. This time-consuming and divisive issue could therefore have been resolved to the satisfaction of the many officers, writers and editors who are now in ethical conflict over this at the CFIA.

I am asking that this decision be reviewed at the Presidential level. I am also asking what form any discipline might take if I refuse to follow the directive.

Thank you in advance for your attention to this.


Date: Mon, 26 May 2008 08:48:56 -0400

Good morning,

Further to the request to obtain written clarification regarding the appropriateness of the use of "Conservative Government" in ministerial correspondence, please find an e-mail reply below from YYY , referencing the written feedback received from the Integrity officer and Legal counsel. Please share with your staff.

I am available to meet at your convenience should you have any questions or wish to discuss.

In the meantime, we are to process the correspondence accordingly, adding, or not editing out, this language when requested to do so by the Minister's Office.


>>> YYY 2008/05/26 8:06 am >>>

Hello ,

A number of questions have been raised regarding whether the replacement of "Government of Canada" with "Conservative Government" in Ministerial Correspondence prepared by CFIA officials for the Minister's signature raises ethical or legal issues such that requests for such changes should not be completed. This is an important issue and one that the Agency has taken very seriously.

In responding to your questions, we have sought the guidance of Sarah Paquet, Head, Legal Services and Tom Beaver, in his capacity of Integrity Officer for the Agency. I wish to inform you that the use of "Conservative Government" in Ministerial correspondence does not raise either legal or ethical issues, and is considered to be factually accurate. As a result, the Agency and its employees should reflect this language in Ministerial letters, when requested to do so by the Minister's Office.

I appreciate you raising this issue with me. It is important that we take our ethical and legal obligations seriously and give assurance to staff that they are not in breach of democratic, professional, ethical or people values. While this particular requested edit has been determined to be within our legal and ethical responsibilities, I would encourage you to contact me if you have concerns regarding other requested text.

Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I would appreciate if you could please convey this message to your staff and ensure the appropriate edits are brought to bear so that we can expedite the correspondence in question.


Corporate Secretariat
Canadian Food Inspection Agency - Agence canadienne d'inspection des aliments

Links and sources
  Related article: Canada's federal public servants under intense political pressure, by Ish Theilheimer, Public Values, October 7, 2008

Posted: October 06, 2008

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