Shooting the Messenger

4 - The Wrong Lesson Learned

To tell or not to tell? That was the question. I had added the numbers from the previous year’s publication and some did not add up.

If this messenger had been better acquainted with the more celebrated Greek playwrights of antiquity — especially tragedians like Sophocles — he would have known that the lesson he was about to learn was the wrong one.

It was Sophocles who, in Antigone, warned us that ”None love the messenger who brings bad news.” Unfortunately, my first public service boss did not fit the Sophocles stereotype.

My first job with the federal government was a four months assignment with Statistics Canada reading mining, oil and gas exploration companies’ balance sheets and adding up the numbers. Who would have thought that switching to accounting and commerce during my last year at Simon Fraser would land me my first job with the Canadian government?

During my free time at work I read the previous year’s publication of the statistics I was tabulating and collating for the current year. People tell me I'm funny that way. I found what I believed was a substantial error and showed it to the statistician in charge of the Financial Statistics Division, the guy I worked for.

The statistician was impressed. So impressed, that he offered to extend my term pass the four months. An offer he made only to me, and not the dozen or so others whose term assignment was coming to an end. Unfortunately, I had already accepted a position with the Department of Communications (Communications Canada).

I think I would have like spending more time working for this man, a public servant who was more concern with doing his job well than his ego and wanting to keep people who, like him, cared about such things.

Perhaps what I had been told in Social Studies about the Canadian Public Service being the most competent, the most dedicated and the most honest in the world was true.