- Jun 12, 2009
Not something I would normally think, but this piece is a reminder why of it's important to have a robust bureaucracy.
Ms. Hill’s testimony was widely hailed as an example of a public servant standing up for the public interest in the face of wrongdoing. And it indeed fell on the right side of a line that all public servants must walk.
There’s an important difference between the bureaucrat who publicly voices a personal disagreement with a government policy and one who has discovered something illegal or unethical, and blows the whistle.
The former is almost always wrong. Public servants must implement an administration’s policies without bias. They are unelected; they have no democratic authority to try to usurp the wishes of the elected.
In 2015, after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau won his first election, there was a justified outcry when civil servants in the Global Affairs department inappropriately cheered his victory when he visited their offices. Canadian bureaucrats aren’t prohibited from voting, but they have to maintain the appearance of impartiality in public and can never let personal political beliefs infect their work.
But even though the systems are different, the principle is universal: Democracy depends on bureaucrats who are professionally neutral and whose overriding allegiance is not to a political party but to the rule of law.