CANADA

Shuffling the mandarins

HILARY MACKENZIE August 26 1985
CANADA

Shuffling the mandarins

HILARY MACKENZIE August 26 1985

Shuffling the mandarins

Last Oct. 2, just 15 days after he took the oath of office, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney announced plans to make “substantial changes” in the senior ranks of the federal civil service and to recruit “new blood and new people.” After waiting three months, Mulroney made 26 appointments on Jan. 8 in what he described as “the largest single change of senior people in the history of the Canadian public service.” On Aug. 2 he announced two top assignments. Then, last Wednesday he released a list of 18 more. But of the total of 46 appointments since Mulroney began making his changes, only six—including three men hired from provincial bureaucracies last January—are new to the federal public service.

Said a government insider after last week’s announcement: “The list would disappoint those who want big change and new blood.” But Mulroney’s slow shuffle of senior mandarins may benefit his administration in the long run. For one thing, the changes made it clear that the new Tory government has taken charge of the civil servants after 20 years of control by the Liberals.

For another, career public servants have reason to be grateful that the invasion of newcomers was limited.

Two newcomers in last week’s appointments include economist Judith Maxwell, 42, an analyst with the Montreal consulting firm Currie, Coopers and Lybrand, who will become chairman of the advisory Economic Council of Canada on Nov. 1. Also recruited from outside the Ottawa bureaucracy was Frank Iacobucci, 48, provost and vice-president of the University of Toronto, who will join the justice department at the end of September as deputy minister. The only other Mulroney recruit without previous civil service experience is his friend Stanley Hartt, 47, a Montreal corporate and labor lawyer whose appointment as deputy minister of finance was announced earlier in August.

Mulroney moved diplomat James Taylor, 55, the current ambassador to NATO, into one of the half-dozen top jobs in Ottawa as undersecretary of external affairs. Taylor replaces Marcel Masse, 45, whom Mulroney has nominated to be

executive director of the International Monetary Fund in Washington. Arthur Kroeger, 52, was named deputy minister of regional industrial expansion after carrying out a still-private study on whether Canada should participate in the research for the U.S. Strategic Defense Initiative, the so-called Star Wars program, which President Ronald Reagan has invited allies to join.

Last week’s appointments followed weeks of behind-the-scenes consultations and recruiting efforts. During that time Mulroney worked closely with Gordon Osbaldeston, who has resigned at 55 from the dual posts of cabinet secretary and clerk of the privy council—the highest-ranking public service job—and was replaced in the Aug. 2 announcement by Paul Tellier, 46, a veteran bureaucrat who had been deputy energy minister. But a source close to the Prime Minister said that Mulroney failed in personal attempts to enlist more high-calibre—and highly paid—talent from outside government because of the relatively low salary range for deputy ministers of between $81,890 and $114,260 a year.

In making changes at the top of the bureaucracy without reference to Parliament, the Prime Minister also disappointed MPs who had sought the right to review senior I public service appointments—an idea advocated by Mulroney before he became Prime Minister. During the election campaign last summer Mulroney said that political appointments should be approved by the House of Commons. And a committee studying parliamentary reform recommended in June that House committees be able to question those appointed to senior posts, such as deputy ministers.

But Mulroney’s limited success in bringing in outsiders relieved career civil servants who had feared a wholesale purge ever since the Prime Minister summoned 55 top bureaucrats to a closed meeting last Oct. 2 and announced his “new blood” policy. Said one of Mulroney’s closest advisers: “The Prime Minister went outside, but something came unstuck.”

-HILARY MACKENZIE in Ottawa