Mark Hammer

Thanks for those links. I always enjoy sifting through the NZ State Services Commission site. It brings together a lot of thoughtful material in an easily-findable way.

One of the differences between Westminster systems, like Canada and New Zealand, and the U.S.A., is the forms of political appointments. Our functional equivalent of Secretaries, Under-secretaries, and Assistant Under-secretaries are not political appointees, who serve at the pleasure of the President or Governor. The Secretary equivalents are elected representatives, equivalent to a Congressional rep, and the senior officials in their portfolio are public-service “lifers”, whose role and employment is essentially permanent and straddles multiple administrations. Even though there are boundaries of what is and isn’t permitted within both political systems, I think that tends to change the complexion of where the boundary is or is perceived to be.

I think it is also important to acknowledge that “political expression” of employees has different implications, depending on the level of government. A Canadian federal employee can often comment quite freely about municipal affairs, because very few municipal governments in Canada include a party system. Things get trickier when federal employees wish to express themselves about provincial matters, where the party system is in full play, and is often connected to federal politics, and obviously MUCH trickier when federal employees wish to express themselves about federal matters/candidates. of course, it is always incumbent on employees to make it clear they don’t speak for their employer (unless that is their formal role), but I think it is reasonable to suggest that some forms of individual political expression, more than others, are more easily mistakenly attributed to organizations, because of the level of politics being addressed and the level of government the individual is part of. Realistically, it’s not really any different than paying attention to the stuff you can say/do around your kids, or around your parents, compared to around your friends.