Monday, August 08, 2011

Nycole Turmel's Professionalism Problem

Public service union bosses should reject partisanship

In Canada, there is a problem that public service unions refuse to admit is a problem; it's because it chiefly concerns them.

Canada's political discourse is far too often -- near constantly, in fact -- littered with partisan messaging on the part of public service unions. Under the leadership of now-NDP interim leader Nycole Turmel, the Public Service Alliance of Canada was one of these unions.

During the time Turmel was President of PSAC, the organization was endorsing Bloc Quebecois candidates. Turmel herself held memberships in the BQ and Quebec Solidaire, and was a self-described "activist for the NDP".

But in campaigning for the BQ, Quebec Solidaire and the NDP, Turmel essentially campaigned on who she thought her bosses -- or at least those of the members of the union she represented as President -- should be. It's incredibly improper, and the President of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada agrees.

“The professional institute is non-partisan and, when you become partisan - I am not going to speak about Ms Turmel per se - but when you display partisanship it impacts on your credibility,” Corbett mused.

“It is an issue for Ms Turmel,” he declared.

It would be a bigger issue for Turmel if she was still President of PSAC. Fortunately, she isn't.

The bigger question is whether the current leaders of PSAC can aspire to the higher standard of professionalism evident at PIPSC. It won't be hard to figure out if they do.

With Turmel occupying a high-ranking position with the NDP, a PSAC endorsement for the NDP will immediately fail the smell test. PSAC members and leadership will likely immediately excuse the funk, but it will give Canadian voters good reason to be concerned about the impartiality and professionalism of the public service.

Fortuantely, even though Nycole Turmel very clearly didn't care about this, Gary Corbett at least does. Hopefully current PSAC President John Gordon will aspire to Corbett's example, not Turmel's.

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