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Elizabeth May: Top Level Of Public Service 'Contaminated' From Harper Years

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OTTAWA — Green Party Leader Elizabeth May is calling for all the top senior public servants to be removed from their current jobs because, she says, they are tainted from the Harper years and resisting change.

"It's awkward as a person in politics, you don't want to single out public servants," May said. "But it can't escape note that the deputy minister for trade negotiated the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the deputy minister at Environment Canada was Harper's lead negotiator at Copenhagen blocking climate action…

"The deputy ministers advising [Public Safety Minister] Ralph Goodale were okay with C-51, so was the deputy minister at the department of justice," May added.

elizabeth may
Green Leader Elizabeth May holds up a draft agreement as she speaks about the upcoming Paris climate conference during a briefing, Thursday, November 19, 2015 in Ottawa. (Photo: Adrian Wyld/CP)

It's not about the public service being partisan, May told reporters Wednesday during a press conference highlighting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's six months in office.

"But it's clear that the top level of the public service is contaminated by their role in the last 10 years."

"In my opinion, right now, there is a level of resistance against change," May said, pointing to examples of a press release and advice from bureaucrats at the department of international trade and the Canada Revenue Agency. "There is, to put it mildly, inertia in the system."

"It's clear that the top level of the public service is contaminated by their role in the last 10 years."

The Green Party leader said she isn't accusing public servants of being Harper cheerleaders or secret Conservatives but rather she is suggesting there is a problem afoot because the deputy ministers still in place are at ease with the decisions they made during the last government.

"I'm not accusing the civil service of wishing they had Stephen Harper back. They are non-partisan. But after 10 years, it takes a while to make the shift," she said.

"It's not really possible to imagine that there is no loyalty to the action that you've personally undertaken as a senior civil servant," May added. "There is pride in accomplishments. Logically, they were doing the right thing ‘cause their job as civil servants is to follow what they are instructed to do by the political side of government."

Watch her full press conference:
 

Trudeau later told reporters he was saddened that May and everyone else couldn't see at what point Canada has a professional non-partisan public service.

Trudeau 'proud of the public service'

"Yes, during the previous government the public service had to deliver the priorities of that government but what I found during the past six months is a public service that is ready to engage on new ways of doing things, of ways that are more aligned with science and data, of concentrating on concrete results we can deliver for Canadians rather than just announcements to bolster a certain image," the prime minister said.

"I'm extremely proud of the public service that we have in this country," he added before repeating again that he felt bureaucrats are actively engaged in helping his new Liberal government deliver on its promises.

May said it shouldn't be Trudeau's job to remove the deputies, but it is "clearly the role of Mr. [Michael] Wernick as the head of all the public service to ensure that all deputy ministers are absolutely at ease and engaged for big change" in Canadian politics.

Wernick took over as clerk of the Privy Council in January after Trudeau removed Harper's appointee, Janice Charette.

"I'm not suggesting that people be sacked, but I think it would be healthy to move people around a bit," May said. "I'm not saying they are bad people but it is inevitable, it is human nature that people are rather attached to the stuff they just did, which I would like to see reversed."

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