Harper Government Want Better Public Sector’s Performance

Minister Clements
Minister Clements

Recently, the Harper government woke up to realize the public sector’s performance needs improving. What about politicians’ accomplishments? Public servants, like government ministers, don’t get fired for incompetence and waste; indeed, some get rewarded with fat severances and pensions. The current poster child of waste and ineffectiveness is former Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty who along with his rogues slapped a half billion dollar bill on taxpayers to win seats in Ontario’s recent elections. In the process they broke the law by deleting emails.

Will McGuinty and his gang suffer consequences? Of course not; he prorogued parliament, akin to rebooting his computers and wiping out ‘unsaved files.’ He rode into the sunset to draw his pension with his legacy of lying, cheating, driving up debt, taxes, and budget deficits firmly entrenched. Where is the accountability? It does not exist in the public sector.

It took seven years in office, expanding government, and wasting billions, for the Harper government to start talking performance improvement in the public sector. How many government departments operate effectively and efficiently if judged by the private sector’s performance criteria? How many government ministers would be tolerated by efficient and effective private sector organizations?

The public do not associate efficacy with governments. No doubt, that’s why we tolerate so much waste and asinine decisions from elected officials. Public service unions have been able to secure pay and benefits hike because unlike the private sector, governments have access to unlimited funds…they tax, spend, borrow, tax, and repeat the cycle. Unions press for more, some do less, and many governments accede. To be sure, higher public service wages will deflect from overpayments to ministers and other politicians.

Canada’s public servants are the highest paid group with the best pensions in the country. Yet, they do not create value; instead, many destroy value. In Ontario in 2012, 88,412 public sector workers were paid $100,000 or more! Did these folks have to account to anyone for their accomplishments? How did society benefit from these jobs? At what cost?

When will society wake up and realize that governments do not create productive jobs? When will folks start to demand accountability from politicians? Our country cannot continue to pay civil servants at current levels, especially with their defined benefits pension plans. Many companies realized years ago that defined benefits plans are unsustainable in the long term.

Minister Clements needs to realize that providing an edict about performance appraisal in itself achieves nothing. Who sets the standards? Who monitors whom? Is this a charade as depicted by the famous British TV series Yes Minister?

Will unions and bureaucrats decide to invest time in performance appraisals procedures rather than in doing their jobs well? What’s the incentive for public sector unions to get their workers to be more effective? Will any Canadian government challenge unions, eliminate all closed shop arrangements in the country, and downsize the public sector substantially? Governments should sell areas it has no right to be in such as Canada Post and the CBC. As well, it should contract out needed government activities to carefully screened effective private sector firms.

I close with this positive experience and pray it will snowball. This morning, I visited Service Ontario, Woodlawn, Guelph branch to renew my health card and driver’s licence. As I observed the operations, and from the service I received, apologetically, I commented to the person serving me that I was surprized a government department operated so effectively. The employee smiled and said the office was outsourced and employees were not part of the public sector.

Copyright © 2013, Michel A. Bell

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Michel A. Bell

Michel A. Bell is a former senior business executive, author of five books, speaker, and adjunct professor of business administration at Briercrest College and Seminary. He is founder and president of Managing God's Money, a private mission devoted to teaching biblical stewardship of time, talent, money and other resources. Visit Managing God's Money

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