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in the shadow of the bully

Over the last couple of weeks, we've detected a disturbing trend in civil servants. They've morphed into a bunch of fraidy cats. Well, more so than usual.

Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve detected a disturbing trend in civil servants.

They’ve morphed into a bunch of fraidy cats. Well, more so than usual.

One civil servant breathlessly told us she’d lose her job if we quoted her.

Another told us they weren’t allowed to talk during the election.

And yet another told us they couldn’t give an interview, but told us to put the questions in writing and they would do what they could. And, to be fair, they did provide anonymous answers, though some were diplomatically muddy.

Finally, we asked another a straightforward question - what was the total cost of the Yukon Student Information System?

The Education official told us they would not provide the cost of the system until after the election.

Huh? ** arched eyebrow **

This is ridiculous.

We can understand why civil servants might be a little shy in announcing, say, a new hospital. Or two.

Although, there are recent examples of government officials going rogue and announcing such facilities on a whim, with no justification or business case; those people were politicians.

A civil servant who did the same during an election campaign, though they may be eminently smarter and better informed, would surely lose their job when the news became public.

Similarly, we can understand why a civil servant wouldn’t want to announce, say, a $30-million investment in asset-backed commercial paper.

Or privatization talks with ATCO.

Or lifting the staking moratorium in the Peel.

Or the racking up of $200 million in public debt.

Or why more than $17 million in housing money was left to languish in the government kitty.

These are not fair questions for career civil servants to answer in the midst of an election.

They are far better left to the smiling politicians on your doorstep.

But an election shouldn’t strike the entire government mute.

It is still a public institution, and citizens have a right to basic information, like the simple cost of installing a computer system. Or how much debt the Yukon Hospital Corporation currently holds.

Civil servants should be allowed to do their jobs - to provide simple facts to the public, without fear of reprisal.

And, if the fear of reprisal is real, they really should question the type of people they are working for. (Richard Mostyn)