Jul. 17, 2020

Where systemic discrimination has its root

There is a difference between schooling and education. For decades, we have put a heavy emphasis on the value of schooling. The thinking is that the four or more years of university study involves discipline that will produce a superior intellect.

Another factor is the social aspect. Exposure to prevalent attitudes, standards and values will fit a person to either private or public employment. While that seems viable, it is a groupthink trap.

Education begins when the schooling is applied in the real world where decisions have consequences. When people make bad decisions, which is inevitable, they either analyze the reasons for the bad decision and learn, or try to minimize the consequences and remain ignorant. The ‘old boy’ system encourages the latter for several reasons.

When someone on a lower strata makes a bad decision and those above protect him or her from the consequences, they establish a new relationship. The person saved is no longer just an employee, but someone subservient. The strings are subtle, but real.

That brings up another factor, particularly evident in large organizations. When there is a competition for promotion, the level above will choose to promote a subservient to promoting someone capable. Competent people are a threat to incumbents, while subservient people are not.

Over time, the rot works its way to the top. The top of the chain of command promotes those known to be subservient to avoid a threat to his or her power. The chain of command, down to middle management, is thus riddled with people who are subservient rather than competent.

That is why the RCMP is in a mess.

The same factors apply in every government department and agency. It is not whom you know that governs promotions, but what the layers above have on you. There is a degree of replication in private enterprise, but it is curbed by the profit motive. When subservience gets in the way of profit, a private organization will clean house. There is no similar check in the public sector.

When we examine our government, the lack of competence is obvious. Huge departments overseeing multi-millions in spending have chronic problems. Two examples stand out – Indian Affairs and Veterans Affairs. Both have been abject failures for decades. The failings are well known and documented. There are no changes to operations. Lessons are not learned. Ignorance persists.

Even with a change of government and new department ministers, incumbent civil servants are masters at passive resistance. Although a new minister may strive to bring about improvements, the civil service simply slows implementing orders. At some point the directive sits in someone’s ‘in’ basket awaiting a follow-up. If there is no follow-up the directive is lost.

Since there are no penalties for incompetence or errors, there is no incentive for civil servants to improve. They come to understand the subservient structure and the futility of giving their job the best they can. Superior performance will not result in promotions or rewards.

As if this picture is not bleak enough, the head of the civil service is the Privy Council Clerk who is part of the Prime Minister’s Office. On top of the subservient structure, we have political interference as party stalwarts and supporters are rewarded with civil service positions, politicizing the civil service. When the Prime Mister tries to assure us that the WE charity decision was based on the recommendation of a neutral civil service, I break out in laughter.
You will recall the SNC-Lavalin affair where the Privy Council Clerk, on behalf of the Prime Minister, was pressuring the Attorney General to forego prosecuting SNC-Lavalin. We have every reason to believe that the Prime Minster wanted to give the WE charity a boost and asked the Privy Council Clerk to make it happen. That is the way the PMO works.

The PMO and government do not learn. They are incapable of analyzing their errors to establish where they went wrong and make corrections. That is why our Prime Minister is facing yet another conflict of interest investigation. He failed to learn from the first two instances where he was found in conflict and remains ignorant. He may be schooled but he lacks education.