A crat’s a crat for a’ that

In his game effort to wish away the cheque-writing scandal, Conservative blogger Stephen Taylor posts a telling email from an anonymous Harper MP:

When we formed govt the crats stopped bringing cheques to announcements & we were FORCED to cough up the $ to buy our own. Specifically, at [a government department I was involved with] the crats used to like to be in the photo ops giving out chqs, as though it was coming from them. They detested Conservatives being photographed handing out chqs, so they stopped bringing the chqs – when they even bothered to show up for announcements. They’ve screwed up dates for announcements so badly (trying to schedule announcements while the House is in session) that we don’t even bother to include them, thereby saving taxpayers thousands of $s in travel claims from the crats.

Two things leap out at me from this screed:  (1) The seething rage of the unreconstructed Reformer who wrote it; (2) How sharply it deviates from my own experience with federal bureaucrats and political announcements, both Liberal and Conservative.

For six years, I directed communications for the Sydney Tar Ponds cleanup, a $400-million, joint federal-provincial project. Over that time, we endured many federal-provincial announcements. These were invariably ordeals, mainly because of heavy-handed micromanagement from Ottawa. Not once did I see a “crat” elbow his way into a photo-op. On the contrary, unelected officials were exquisitely deferential to their elected bosses, whether Liberal or Conservative.

We never produced mega-cheques for photo ops under either party’s guidance. Doesn’t everyone regard these as cheesy relics, whatever logo they bear?

The one salient difference after Harper took office was that decisions concentrated obsessively in the PMO. Officials of the many federal departments with a role in the cleanup had to clear the minutest detail not just with their departmental head office but with Harper’s—a process that often produced less than optimal outcomes.