Kavanaugh Appointment Spells Trouble for Governance

1 minute read

The confirmation process by the US Senate for Brett Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court mesmerized the nation. The televised hearings dispelled any notion that the Senate was dispassionately assessing the candidate to ensure he was the best man for the job: when Christine Blasey Ford came forward to testify about his alleged sexual behaviour, the debate quickly and openly deteriorated along partisan lines as the public spectacle of her testimony and Kavanaugh’s response unfolded. Here was a citizen who agreed to speak before her elected representatives to help them make a wise decision, yet who by her own admission was ‘terrified’.

The challenge for Americans, according to an article written by the IOG in the Ottawa Citizen, is much more than whether Kavanagh is the right man for the job. The real and long-term issue relates to governance and the broad question of trust. If the process that public institutions use to reach decisions is not seen to be meeting the most basic criterion of fairness, then citizens will not accept their decisions as legitimate. This leads to decreased faith in the public sector to do its job well and quite possibly puts them, and democracy, at risk.

About the author

Toby Fyfe

Toby Fyfe


Toby Fyfe is President of the Institute on Governance in Ottawa.

For the last seven years he has led the IOG’s public sector leadership and capacity-building programs and courses aimed at providing tools and insights to enhance the skills of executives and officers at all levels of government.

He has led the design, curriculum development and delivery of multiple federal government year-long Executive Leadership Programs and Inter-Jurisdictional Executive Leadership Programs in Toronto and Nova Scotia, the latter in partnership with the Dalhousie School of Management. He also is responsible at the IOG for multi-year programs with the Government of Nunavut that build both leadership capacity and policy expertise.

Toby spent over twenty years with the government of Canada in central agencies (Privy Council Office, Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat) and government departments. His last post was as Assistant Commissioner, Corporate Services at the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages.

Before he joined the Institute, he worked with the Commissioner of the RCMP on a change initiative.

Toby is an Adjunct Professor of Communication at the University of Ottawa and was

editor-in-chief of Canadian Government Executive magazine for five years.

He was a broadcaster with CBC radio and television where he produced programs such as The House, Cross Country Checkup, and the first commercial-free version of Ottawa Morning.

He has an MA from the University of Ottawa and has attended the Harvard Kennedy School Executive Education program.

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