Canada's top civil servant to take time off for cancer treatment

Canada's most senior federal bureaucrat will be taking time off to receive cancer treatment.

Privy Council Clerk Ian Shugart replaced Michael Wernick in April 2019

Ian Shugart replaced Michael Wernick as clerk of the Privy Council on April 19, 2019. (Justin Tang/The Canadian Press)

Canada's most senior federal bureaucrat will be taking time off to receive cancer treatment.

Ian Shugart, clerk of the Privy Council and secretary to the cabinet, wrote a note to colleagues informing them of his recent diagnosis.

He said he plans to be fully engaged in the short term but will be absent for "a period of time" once he begins treatment in about a month.

"I will take this as it comes, and keep you posted," he wrote, adding that the PCO team will continue to serve the government and Canadians "with enthusiasm and diligence."

"I am confident of your best wishes, and I am grateful."

Shugart was appointed clerk of the Privy Council in April 2019 after serving in a variety of senior positions in the federal bureaucracy since the 1970s, including deputy minister of foreign affairs, environment, and employment and social development.

He also worked as a Conservative political staffer during the Brian Mulroney years.

Shugart replaced Michael Wernick, who resigned in the wake of allegations that he and other government officials tried to pressure former justice minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to sign a remediation agreement that would allow Quebec engineering firm SNC-Lavalin to avoid facing criminal charges.

Wernick maintained he did not make any veiled threats to pressure the minister. Tendering his resignation, he said there was no path for him to have a "relationship of mutual trust and respect" with opposition party leaders.

Last fall, Shugart was criticized by opposition MPs for redacting portions of documents related to WE Charity controversy. Shugart said at the time the pages were blacked out to protect cabinet confidences, or because they weren't relevant to the committee looking into the WE affair.

MPs on the ethics committee were reviewing the contract WE received to run the Canada student service grant program. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and former finance minister Bill Morneau did not recuse themselves from cabinet discussions on the WE agreement despite family ties to the organization, raising questions about potential conflicts of interest.

With files from The Canadian Press

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