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Seeking a new top Mountie, committee stresses bureaucratic credentials

William Elliott, the first civilian commissioner of the RCMP, is stepping down this summer.

Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press

The next commissioner of the RCMP won't necessarily have to be a cop, but he or she will need to be fluent in bureaucratese.

The criteria for the selection of a new top Mountie were laid out before a parliamentary committee on Tuesday, and most of them require an intimate understanding of the language used by senior mandarins in Ottawa.

While many Canadians see the RCMP as a police force that fights drug traffickers, gang members, fraud artists and thieves, the committee of experts who will recommend a pick to the Prime Minister have a number of additional priorities. Among other things, the next RCMP commissioner will be expected to:

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- have "a vision that builds in innovation and dynamism";

- develop "a framework for talent management";

- offer executive-level experience in a time of "resource constraints";

- be able to motivate employees "to reach corporate objectives," and

- showcase "innovation and the ability to operate in a dynamic environment."

Patricia Hassard, a senior official in security matters at the Privy Council Office, said the goal is to find a new commissioner with good leadership and communications skills by October.

There is some urgency as the current commissioner, William Elliott, has announced plans to retire from the force by the end of the summer. The long-time bureaucrat was appointed as the head of the RCMP in 2007, even though he lacked any direct experience in policing. Senior RCMP officers slammed his management style and his people skills last summer, leading to an unprecedented internal crisis in the force.

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The NDP members of the public safety committee of the House tried to hold further hearings into the selection criteria, arguing they were too vague.

"This process is being rushed through," NDP MP Jasbir Sandhu said. "We need to slow down a little bit."

However, the Conservative majority on the committee decided to hold only one hour of hearings on the matter, calling only Ms. Hassard and a senior bureaucrat at Public Safety Canada, Graham Flack, as witnesses.

Liberal MP Francis Scarpaleggia tried to find out at committee whether any changes were made in the selection process to ensure that the mistakes of the past were not repeated.

"What went wrong the last time?" he asked.

Ms. Hassard did not want to address the past, saying she was "at a loss on this one."

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Later on, Ms. Hassard said it would be "highly desirable" to find a new commissioner with a background in policing, adding it is not an essential qualification.

"The government is looking for the best candidate to lead the RCMP, whether they come from inside or outside the force," Ms. Hassard said.

The selection committee includes the national security adviser to the Prime Minister, Stephen Rigby, as well as two former solicitors-general, James Kelleher and Jean-Jacques Blais, and a member of the Prime Minister's Office.

Ms. Hassard said a key priority of the next RCMP commissioner will be to adapt to the changing demographic landscape in Canada, both in its policing services and its recruitment and promotion of officers.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

Daniel Leblanc studied political science at the University of Ottawa and journalism at Carleton University. He became a full-time reporter in 1998, first at the Ottawa Citizen and then in the Ottawa bureau of The Globe and Mail. More

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