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Commentary: Canadian diplomats being told to do less with less

At a time when most are having to do more with less, a government report says Canadian diplomats should be discouraged from going above and beyond the call of duty for fear of raising expectations. In particular, the Foreign Affairs department evaluation cites Canadian envoys working in other countries for exceeding established standards when it comes to their treatment of visiting dignitaries and officials, such as airport pick-ups. “The evaluation found that the use of discretion to exceed service standard has resulted in inconsistent service delivery to stakeholders across missions,” the reports reads. This is an issue, the report says, because when those same visitors do not receive the same treatment at another Canadian embassy or consulate, “this leads to confusion and a sense of dissatisfaction.” In their defence, diplomats told evaluators a degree of flexibility in applying the standards was necessary given the different contexts and environments in which Canadian embassies operate around the world. They also noted that smaller diplomatic posts generally get fewer visits from senior officials, and so picking dignitaries up at the airport gives the envoys an important opportunity to discuss strategic issues. Former Canadian ambassador to the UN Paul Heinbecker said he ran up against government rules and standards when he was in the foreign service, “but I never listened to that much.” Heinbecker said he believes things have gotten worse since he was in government, particularly as accountability has become a major buzzword in recent years. “What you have to do is keep firmly in mind what you’re there for, which is (to) advance Canadian interests,” he said of the foreign service. “The rules are not supposed to be there to prevent you from doing that.” Staff at Foreign Affairs, like at all federal government departments, are being forced to submit to cabinet proposals on how to cut five and 10 per cent from their spending. Experts expect travel and hospitality funds to be one of the first areas to be hit.

 

http://www.timescolonist.com/mobile/news/national-news/Canadian+diplomats+being+told+less+with+less/5698155/story.html

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