Meet Marinka Darling. Marinka – or “Marinka of the North”, as she has become known – worked with the Canada Border Services Agency for nearly thirty years. Over the course of her career, she worked in remote posts in the Yukon and British Columbia, garnering an exhaustive knowledge of customs issues in isolated regions, and finding safe passage for travellers and wildlife wandering through border crossings. Marinka became such a recognized part of her community that commercial drivers who regularly passed through the port of entry successfully petitioned the territorial government to have a passage leading to the port named “Marinka’s Hill”. You can read more about Marinka’s service that lead to her receiving a Public Service Award of Excellence here.
Marinka is one of thousands of dedicated, hard-working, and stand-out public servants. But unless they do something truly exceptional, most Canadians don’t get know them. One of the greatest flaws of my industry is that it is hesitant to show the public that there are real people behind the machine of government. There are good reasons for this – public servants are supposed to maintain a non-partisan public identity, so that Canadians can trust in ethics of the people implementing the policies and programs that keep the country running. When you make the people behind government known to the public, you run the risk of public servants’ private biases affecting the public’s perception of their professional neutrality.
But I think there is a lot that can be gained by putting a human face to government, and telling more stories of the people who work there. As John Jantsch tell us, it’s easier to put your trust in a business or an institution when you know something about its people. This may be where social media can help.
Social media vs. traditional media
Traditional media coverage of the Public Service Award of Excellent ceremony and recipients is generally low, but whether that’s because there genuinely isn’t interest among news readers in these types of stories, or whether it’s the media that has decided the interest isn’t there, I just don’t know. However, every week on the Your Government at Work Facebook page, there is a #PublicServiceSunday feature, highlighting stories from a real person in the public service. It’s early days, but it will be interesting to see what kind of engagement these people-oriented posts receive over time, and if this type of storytelling on social media is picked up by traditional media.
What do you think? Would knowing more about the people in the public service affect the way you think about government? How would it affect your opinion?