A test of merit

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The federal government is in the midst of finding the successful candidate for parliamentary budget officer (PBO): there are, apparently, three names left on the list.

And whoever wins will have big, politically unpopular shoes to fill. He or she will be replacing Kevin Page, a PBO who took his job so seriously that, despite the fact the Tories created the job, they had grown to loathe, demean and discount Page’s work.

Monday, the Globe and Mail reported that the remaining candidates are undergoing psychological testing: Page himself suggested that the ruling Tories have come to hate the position so much that they might be looking for someone who might buckle under intimidation.

That’s a little far-fetched: psychological testing is already used in the federal executive branch, and candidates for senior management positions in private business have seen the testing become common.

It may seem strange (OK, we’re kidding, it’s not strange at all), but companies are keen to know the moral compass of candidates who will be handling millions of dollars of their money, and the temper of those involved in making (and sometimes driving) decisions.

When you put someone on a senior management team, you want to know in advance if they’re likely to become a screaming tyrant who dominates an already-good team merely to satisfy their own personal foibles.

But while the topic of psychological testing might be debatable, it would be interesting to see if those at the top of governments, both provincial and federal, would be willing to experience the same rounds of testing they’d like to run their senior staff through.

It would be especially interesting because our elected officials have abilities far beyond most senior managers — for example, the ability to vote on their own salaries, benefits and pensions, and, in some legislatures, the ability to submit expenses simply on the weight of their own word (receipts optional).

Imagine: testing to detect the overweeningly self-important, those willing to be dishonest to suit their own ends and those who have honed self-interest to near-sociopathy. The elected could still argue that they face the most blunt of psychological tests — election.

But back to the PBO: we have pointed this out before, but it is worth repeating.

The Harper administration is facing a clear test of its own with the upcoming appointment. If we get a lapdog instead of a bulldog, they will have failed that test.

And we’ll know even more about a government psychology that, month after month, displays more than a few harmful tendencies.

Organizations: Globe and Mail

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Recent comments

  • Daniel Corbett
    July 09, 2013 - 13:56

    Hopefully the pros who did the testing on Russell Williams for his high security job won't be involved in the testing for the new PBO. One would assume the aim should be to reject the sociopath as opposed to embracing him for his lack of empathy and blind adherence to the cause of lunacy. Maybe we should consider reinstating the reading of tea leaves. Daniel Corbett

  • Joe
    July 09, 2013 - 13:08

    I guess the City Council failed the test of a moral compass when they voted to continue their gouging at the pension trough themselves while limiting councilors who are elected in the future. And of course they did not show any favoritism to themselves with their exemption. These are elected positions, not employees, there should be a uniform plan for all councilors during the next term. Why should the current crowd be making this decision, why not the new council. Maybe then there would be someone to fight their exemption and they wouldn't want that.

  • Cyril Rogers
    July 09, 2013 - 10:40

    The Conservatives will certainly try to get a lapdog, given the way that Mr. Page routinely embarrassed them. He was simply doing his job and they provided all kinds of ammunition for his "embarrassments" but they simply prefer to shoot the messenger. The only way they will hire a replacement with the intestinal fortitude of Mr. Page is if he or she is able to connive them...not the way for someone who needs integrity to operate. Sort of like the watchdogs in NL...hampered by the government and unwilling to speak the whole story.