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Bulmer: to restore public trust, gov’t must listen to the experts

Publish date: Wednesday, April 21, 2021 presidentsMessage

President Dave Bulmer

After 13 months of this pandemic, Ontarians are tired and frustrated.

Now that we’re into the third wave, I can’t help but feel public trust and confidence in the very notion of government slip further away with each passing day. The short- and long-term implications of that worry me greatly.

In responding to COVID-19, our province seems to be listing.

It’s time to right the ship.

One way the provincial cabinet—the decision-makers setting the course—can begin to do so is by investing in experts and listening to their advice.

This includes the more than 14,000 AMAPCEO members who have continued to keep public services going for the millions of Ontarians who rely on them.

Whether they work in the Ontario Public Service, at Public Health Ontario, at Ontario Health, or another broader public sector agency—AMAPCEO members are smart, experienced, talented, creative, and diverse professionals.

On a daily basis, they collaborate with colleagues in every ministry across government and with other jurisdictions. They have an interest in research and evidence-based decision-making. They approach policy from a balanced, non-partisan perspective.

In a submission to the government back in 2004, AMAPCEO pointed out this ability to provide non-partisan advice as an internationally recognized key quality of a strong public service. Other important characteristics included:

  • acting as a trusted honest-broker, providing objective advice and comprehensive policy options;
  • promoting an open and transparent policy development process;
  • engaging in creative, strategic, long-term thinking to find the best approaches and solutions;
  • serving as a good role model for other employers and sectors in society; and
  • “speaking truth to power,” whether to the government or to stakeholders.

We wrote then that “a good public service is a necessary component of good governance.” That is truer than ever today, I think, and good governance is what’s going to get Ontario out of this crisis and on the road to recovery.

Smart leaders welcome oppositional perspectives. They admit when they’ve made a mistake or if their position needs to change, and they let people know why. They respect the experts in the room.

It’s not too late for this government to adopt a more collaborative, transparent model of decision-making around this crisis—and beyond.

Ontario is home to some of the best and brightest minds in the world. Make better use of them and their quality advice. Invest in the under-funded Ontario Public Service and broader public sector agencies to further increase capacity. Repeal Bill 124 out of respect for public service professionals. Listen to those around the COVID-19 Science Advisory Table and the ever-growing calls to implement paid sick days, close all non-essential workplaces, and prioritize the vaccination of essential workers and those living in hotspots.

It’s by working together that we can navigate these choppy waters and steer the ship towards calmer ones.

Dave Bulmer
President & CEO

More about AMAPCEO and our Members: Established in 1992, AMAPCEO is a bargaining agent that represents 14,000 professional and supervisory public servants, most of whom work directly for the Government of Ontario in every ministry and in a number of agencies, boards and commissions; in 130 communities throughout Ontario and in 12 cities outside Canada. We also represent employees outside the Ontario Public Service in: the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario; the Ontario Arts Council; Ontario Health (Quality Unit); Public Health Ontario; the Waypoint Mental Health Centre in Penetanguishene; and in the former Offices of the Ontario Child Advocate and the French Language Services Commissioner (now part of the Ontario Ombudsman).