Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper (L) and Governor General David Johnston (R) present Susan Cartwright with the Public Service Outstanding Achievement Award during a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa January 22, 2013.
OTTAWA -- Susan Cartwright's 31-year career as bureaucrat, diplomat and ambassador began when she was dared to take the foreign-service exam in university and actually passed, and ended with being given the Public Service of Canada's Outstanding Achievement Award.
At the ceremony Tuesday at Rideau Hall, home of Governor General David Johnston, Cartwright said she felt humbled, deeply honoured, and acknowledged the recognition she said other public servants deserved.
She then turned to and thanked the Prime Minister, who delivered the prize, for understanding the "importance of recognizing the work of the public sector," and the price citizens pay when there's no objective, professional public service.
In a statement, Harper said, "Throughout her career, Ms. Cartwright has embodied the ideals of Canada's public service: integrity, vision and a commitment to good government."
Harper has been accused of waging war on the public service. Last year, the government boasted cutting 11,000 federal jobs - more than halfway to its goal of 19,200 in three years.
Harper praised Cartwright's work in developing the government's much-maligned Federal Accountability Act. But to opposition MPs and union bosses, the delivery of the award by Harper and the focus on the Accountability Act smacked of irony and hypocrisy.
"Last week, there was Fantino misusing the website, that concerned the Accountability Act," Liberal MP Ralph Goodale told QMI Agency. "Then there's Jim Flaherty meddling in the CRTC, that has to do with the Accountability Act. [Parliamentary Budget Officer] Kevin Page has been under attack since day one. The double standard here is amazing."
Federal public service union boss Gary Corbett said the irony was somewhat superficial.
"They honour the executives, but they make the cuts from the bottom."