Canadian public servant Tony Turner likely to be sacked after his folk song 'Harperman' goes viral

This cheesy anti-government song turned a Canadian public servant into a cause célèbre after it became a viral hit online.

But singer-songwriter Tony Turner, who is also a geographer with Environment Canada, may now lose his job after he was suspended for allegedly breaching the bureaucracy's ethical code.

His pending punishment has sparked a national debate about freedom of speech and the right of public servants to take part in political activities. It mirrors similar cases in Australia in recent years but, unlike Australians, Canadians' freedom of expression is protected by their constitution.

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Turner, well known in the Canadian capital Ottawa's folk music scene, recorded the protest song Harperman in June with an impromptu choir calling themselves the Crowd of Well Wishers.

The tune – either catchy or gauche, depending on one's taste – has been viewed almost half a million times on YouTube.

It urges voters to dump conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper at next month's election, and includes lines such as "Who's a two-bit controlling freak, makes us feel the future's bleak?" and "Who muzzles all the scientists? Calls troubled people 'terrorists'?"

While broadcasting such a song would clearly breach most Australian Public Service staff policies on public comment, the Canadian bureaucracy appears split on whether Turner's tune went too far.

Like the APS code of conduct, the Canadian government's values and ethics code says staff must carry out their work "in a non-partisan and impartial manner".

A former head of the Ontario provincial public service, Tony Dean, told The Globe and Mail that Turner's song "well and truly" violated the bureaucracy's apolitical nature, particularly given the looming election.

However, the president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, Debi Daviau, told the Ottawa Citizen that Turner's expression of his political opinions did not interfere with his ability to perform his research, which was most recently on migratory birds.

She said the "rights of Canadians shouldn't be different between the private and public sectors. The right to participate in the federal election is the same and so is the right to free speech."

Most APS agencies warned Australian public servants of the risk of making political comments in 2013, in the wake of the Immigration Department's decision to sack Michaela Banerji.

Ms Banerji had used an anonymous Twitter account to criticise the government's refugee policies.

This story Canadian public servant Tony Turner likely to be sacked after his folk song 'Harperman' goes viral first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.