The bully in this case is one Dr. Irwin Itzkovitch, Assistant Deputy Minister, Earth Sciences Sector, Natural Resources Canada (who has very thoughtfully posted his photo and email on the government website). To be sure, he was carrying out the wishes of his odious master, Stephen Harper --- but rather more zealously than conscionably, as you shall see. A couple of months ago, Harper's Magazine (a favourite of mine) published some of Itzkovitch's email correspondence, and while it made me laugh, and then sneer, eventually it made me burn with indignation. If there is one thing that I hate even more than a simple bully, it is one who is putatively acting in my name, as a citizen of Canada. I began to think that, in spirit, though of course not degree, Itzkovitch's acts are of a piece with the sort of attitude popularly typified by Adolph Eichmann: unquestioning, boot-licking obedience to one's masters and ruthless intolerance towards underlings. And once I'd thought that, I didn't really feel comfortable just letting this go with a sneer anymore. So I wrote to him. Anyway, for your reading pleasure and moral indignation, I offer to you first the original correspondence as it appeared in Harper's, then my email to Itzkovitch.
From a September email exchange between representatives of Natural Resources Canada and Andrew Okulitch, a scientist working at the Geological Survey of Canada in an emeritus capacity. Irwin Itzkovitch is an assistant deputy minister under Minister of Natural Resources Gary Lunn. Vanessa Nelson is an executive adviser. Okulitch was fired but reappointed two weeks later. The Conservative Party won control of Canada's government in January, after twelve years of Liberal rule. Originally from Harper's Magazine, December 2006:
FROM: VANESSA NELSON As per the Minister's Office, effective immediately, the words "Canada's New Government" are to be used instead of "the Government of Canada" in all departmental correspondence. Please note that the initial letters of all three words are capitalized. Thank you for your cooperation.
FROM: ANDREW OKULITCH Why do newly elected officials think everything begins with them taking office? They are merely stewards for as long as the public allows. They are the Government of Canada. Nothing more. I shall use "Geological Survey of Canada" on my departmental correspondence to avoid any connection with "New Government." The GSC, steward to Canada's earth resources for 164 years, is an institution worthy of my loyalty, as opposed to idiotic buzzwords coined by political hacks.
FROM: IRWIN ITZKOVITCH Given your strong though misdirected views of the role and authority of the Government as elected by the people, and your duty to reflect their decisions, I accept that you are immediately removing yourself from the Emeritus Program. I wish you every success in your future.
FROM: ANDREW OKULITCH Although your knee-jerk response seems typical of Ottawa "mentality" these days, to give you the benefit of the doubt, it may have been mandated by our nervous minister. Of course, it is not a particularly rational decision, and perhaps you might reflect upon it. We of the GSC are used to taking the long view. Ministers come and go, but my talents will always remain available to the people of Canada.
FROM: IRWIN ITZKOVITCH This is not a knee-jerk reaction nor was it dictated by anyone. My decision stands and I await confirmation that it has been executed by the responsible GSC management.
FROM: ANDREW OKULITCH I have just received the clarification of the usage policy for the term New Government, stating that the new wording is required only in documents prepared for or on behalf of Minister Lunn. This limited usage is consistent and appropriate. We would appear to have been victims of an unfortunate misunderstanding. My intransigence about the term was in protest about its misapplication, not a call for civil disobedience. I do understand the need to obey ministerial directives once I am given them clearly. If I can help calm the waters by issuing my own clarification and apology, I would be glad to do so.
FROM: IRWIN ITZKOVITCH Your reaction was and continues to be unacceptable for anyone associated with Public Service. My decision stands. As of yesterday you are no longer an emeritus scientist.
FROM: ANDREW OKULITCH I concede that my memo was intemperate and deserving of a reprimand. It was, however, prompted by misinformation sent out by your staff. I don't expect that anything I might say now will change your mind, so I'll conclude with a few facts you will now have to live with. I'll come out of this a champion of common sense (except when it comes to sending memos), someone who tried to defuse a situation with humor and made an effort to restore calm. You'll come out as an intemperate, irrational manager who lacks the strength of character to reverse a hasty decision. Do you really want to be remembered as the only assistant deputy minister who sacked an emeritus scientist over such trivia? It is never too late to repair an unfortunate situation if everyone approaches it with an open mind and good intentions.
From: Craig Walker
Because I have been busy with other things, I have only just read your correpsondence with Andrew Okulitch published a couple of months ago in Harper's Magazine.
I imagine your emails must look very different, reading them as reproduced in an international publication rather than reading them upon your computer screen from the seat of power. Now it is there for all to see that in one swoop you managed to act as both a bullying tyrant and a craven toady. Shame on you. If you do not have the bare common sense to be at least moderate in your implementation of a government policy that any objective judgement would have to admit was, at best, rather vulgarly self-serving, you have no business holding any leadership role. I suggest that you resign before you disgrace yourself any futher.
Professor of Drama,