Scott Bradley on the challenges facing the federal public service

2011 április 6 9:36 de.0 comments
Scott Bradley

Scott Bradley, az Ottawa-Centre választókerület liberális képviselőjelöltje interjút adott a Kanadai Magyar Hírlapnak, melyben beszélt a szövetségi közszféra kríziséről, a közalkamazottak elkeseredettségéről, valamint arról, hogy miért indul a választáson és, hogy milyenek mindennapjai az öthetes választási kampány idején.

How does the multicultural nature of Ottawa-Centre and the existence of diverse communities fit into your election campaign in this riding?

Diversity is part of the fabric of this community. The challenges that we try to address impact Canadians and new Canadians who are establishing themselves in Ottawa.

 What were the key issues that convinced you to run for public office at the federal level?

I’ve always had the passion to run. I am extremely concerned about what is happening in government right now. The institutions of government are being degraded and undermined. At some point, we had to have new people stand up and say that is wrong. We can’t tolerate this and we need to be passionate and  active in what we do, in terms of addressing what’s taking place right now. The government is fundamentally changing the direction of this country and we see it here first-hand in Ottawa, because we’re much closer to the issues than, for example, people would be in Brandon, Manitoba. When I ran for the Liberal nomination in Ottawa-Centre, public service was the key issue that I focused on.

What would the Liberal Party try to tackle first, should it form the next government?

Certainly the issue of restoring integrity to government would be key. There is a recognition in the Liberal Party of the importance of having a strong, objective public service. As a party in government, you have a mandate to deliver on policies and on the programmes that you outlined and were elected on. But at the same time, you recognize that the role of a government department is to put forward ideas and take action based on facts. All of these things are fundamental to the notion of good government. The Liberal Party understands this. We understand that there is a separation between a stable, strong governing structure and a political structure that provides a vision for leading the country forward.

Michael Ignatieff is someone who understands this. His father was a public servant and his family was deeply involved in the public service. This is the foundation that Michael brings to the table, in terms of his passion for strong institutions. One of the reasons that we’re successful as a country is because we have had a strong, stable governing structure and this is what is at risk right now. We need to make sure that we have a public service that can do its job—that can be objective in the ideas that they put forward.

So you’re looking to ensure that day-to-day party politics are removed from the public service.

That’s the way it’s always been. Every government will eventually get tired at the political level, but for 125 years, conservative and liberal governments respected the Westminster model—the importance of that separation. This Harper government has undermined that.

Would you argue that this risk is magnified with a possible Conservative majority in Parliament?

Many people that I have spoken to can’t comprehend what might happen in a Conservative majority situation. And this isn’t fear-mongering, it’s simply because people see first-hand the control that has been effected on them by the Prime Minister’s Office. They’re handcuffed, they’ve been neutered. They can’t do their jobs properly and the public service is being entirely undermined.

Obviously there are many public servants in this riding. Do you have a chance to speak with civil servants working at all levels and do they raise these concerns?

In the last eighteen months, I have knocked on about 12,000 doors. In fact, during the first four days of the election campaign, we’ve knocked on over one thousand doors. We’ve been out talking with people consistently over this time and we’ve had a number of town halls. We’re in Ottawa-Centre, this is the home of the government. There are 20,000 public servants who work in our riding. They see first-hand what’s going on.

Do you feel that the public service is somewhat demoralized?

Hugely. I don’t use this word to be dramatic, but people are apoplectic. People who are managers tell me that they can’t even write a policy paper without it being signed off by the deputy minister and going through the PMO for approval. This simply isn’t functional.

We’ve spoken about public servants, but you also have a large student population in this riding, particularly around Carleton University.

I’ve been to Carleton a dozen times—I’m probably on campus about once a month talking with students. I think that they like the focus that Michael’s putting on education nationally. There’s not a lot of love for Stephen Harper’s policies and his approach on university campuses. Most students in this riding recognize that a big choice needs to be made in this election. Students are focused on the issues and you get some good debates on campus.

Ottawa-Centre is a highly intelligent, educated riding and for all of the talk about students feeling disenfranchised and not knowing the issues, that’s really not the case. I think that university campuses are doing a lot to get students to be politically active.

You’re basically at the beginning of a five-week campaign and usually campaigning gets fairly strenuous. How does your work day look like?

Most mornings I stand on street corners and wave for an hour and a half. Yesterday I had three people give me thumbs down and two hundred people honk their horns. It’s a good pump-up for the day, because people are generally very receptive to it. From ten o’clock on I pretty much knock on doors all day. I’ve got three kids as well and I’m trying to still spend time with them. Last night my wife and kids came out campaigning with me, so they were knocking on doors and having a lot of fun with it. I think the kids are excited to see dad’s picture around town. I try to find an hour a day when we can spend a little time at the dinner table. We’re actually having dinner early these days—usually quarter to five—just so I can get back out and knock on doors.

What are the key local issues for you in this campaign?

Value in the public service and the role of the federal government in Ottawa.  As the government goes, this town goes. You don’t need to be a public servant to realize that if you’re a small business owner, you rely on government and in fact everyone in this town relies on that place to stay healthy and to thrive. At the moment, there are a number of things that the federal government is doing that aren’t congruent with what the city is trying to achieve. There are two issues in specific that we talk about and one of them is economic development—how do we leverage our assets in government to help economic development. We need to have a coordinated partnership approach and thinking, which doesn’t exist right now. This would allow the federal government to play a positive role in the community.

The second issue is light-rail, which has cost $2.1 billion in taxpayers’ money, $600 million of which is federal to build a railroad to Tunney’s Pasture. There’s no long-term plan for Tunney’s Pasture right now, while the federal government has gone and bought the Nortel campus out in the greenbelt. How is this consistent with keeping development in the downtown core and building a transit system around that infrastructure?

As you mentioned, we follow the Westminster model in Canada. Some people have suggested that this government has been trying to move the style of politics and political discourse a little closer to what you have in the United States, particularly perpetual and permanent presidential campaigns and significant amounts of money spent on negative television ads. Do you see this is as a problem as well?

People don’t like attack ads, but unfortunately I often knock on doors where I hear the ads coming back at me. I don’t take it personally, but I usually say in a general sense that I hope people can look beyond the attack ads. In terms of the perpetual campaign, this is a result of the lack of long-term thinking. It’s about having the conviction and political fortitude to say that I’m going make my bet here.

We do have some social problems in this riding, including poverty—especially around some of the group homes in the downtown. Ottawa-Centre is a mixed riding, with visible poverty in certain areas and relative affluence in others. How do you address issues of poverty in society and social justice issues in general?

There’s always been a Liberal way of recognizing the importance of having that social infrastructure in place to help people who are in need. This government seems to be entirely focused on crime and is spending billions of dollars on super prisons. I think that this money could be far better invested in helping Aboriginal youth who are coming from a difficult situation, or those who become alcoholics on the street at an early age. In some communities in this country, the rate of fetal alcohol syndrome is fifty percent. You need to have programmes in place to help these people.

We as a community are now also much more sensitive to issues of mental health than we were five or ten years ago. We need to understand the role that mental health issues play in homelessness or crime. We need to understand that the smarter investments are those that keep our community safe and provide assistance to those battling mental health problems. We need to place a focus on great facilities, like the Royal Ottawa Hospital.

Much of this has been neglected in political discourse.

It has been, but people are talking about it now and there is far more acceptance and understanding of that spending $2.7 billion on prisons isn’t the way to go. We need to invest in other areas to get people help who are at risk.

I play guitar and at Christmas, I would go around to some of the senior facilities and play carols for the residents. We played at more than half a dozen senior residences and seen many of the social programs in place, including lunches, opportunities for social interaction and subsidized home. Recently, I met a labourer, who probably didn’t make much more than minimum wage all his life and he doesn’t have much of pension. But he’s still happy and still reads the paper every day and still participates in the community. He grew up as a working-man, never had a lot, but had a good life and you really want to make sure that people like that are provided for.

There are many people earning minimum wage in the riding, yet it has been determined that they would need a working wage closer to $14 per hour just to get by.

Many new Canadians also struggle to find jobs and this is one of the bigger issues in this town. The federal government is the primary employer in Ottawa, so how do you go about offering good jobs to people in communities where unemployment is higher? Many people in Ottawa and across the country struggle. This reinforces for us the importance of education and making sure we get as many young Canadians through school as we can, so that they at least have the skills to go out and hopefully secure a well-paying job. And we also need to focus on those who invest and create new economic opportunities in Canada.

You’re looking ahead to a strenuous five weeks, but ultimately what do you  think you will be getting out of this campaign beyond, perhaps, a seat in Parliament?

I’m pursuing a passion, not a job. I feel like I’m doing the one thing that I was really meant to do. I am happiest simply to be doing this right now. You simply give it all you’ve got and hope that you meet as many people  as possible who shake your hand and understand how committed you are to this. You hope to be as genuine as you can in the way you present yourself. We’re giving it all here, but politics is part luck, part timing and part things that you can do yourself. It’s exhilarating and you simply have to take it as far as you can go.

Tags:

Leave a Reply


Trackbacks

This site is protected by Comment SPAM Wiper.