COLUMN: Furey – Government has grown too big

- June 12th, 2012

Agencies, boards for lazy politicians

by Anthony Furey

The report in Monday’s Sun about the confusion surrounding remuneration in Ontario’s agencies, boards and commissions (ABCs) just underscores how badly the whole approach needs an overhaul.

It also underscores just how lazy our politicians are.

The report was about the wide berth of pay members of ABCs receive. But it also showed – through interviews with Liberal, PC and NDP politicians – just how little anyone has been keeping tabs on these unwieldy entities.

One problem is that there are 630 ABCs in Ontario. So that’s the number of only somewhat accountable organizations that act like private-sector companies, yet are underwritten by the taxpayer to provide services for a certain service (like ORNGE) or are tasked with regulating a certain sector. Within these 600+ groups, there are 3,800 board positions to be doled out across the province.

Politicians have rightly honed in on why there is no standard for determining the pay these appointees receive. The chairman of the LCBO took only $17,850 in 2011. While the Ontario Securities Commission chairman made $630,000.

Very valid concern. But the bigger problem is why many of these ABCs even exist to begin with.

The main response you’ll get from politicians is that doing such-and-such a task is important. Be that as it may. But they still haven’t answered why it needs to be an ABC, as opposed to simply a project within a government department.

The term “eHealth” is considered some evil omen. In truth the idea behind it is great. The purpose of eHealth is to make Ontario’s health records digital. It’s a no-brainer, really. Although it’s a sad proof that government is always both behind the times and terribly inefficient when it comes to catching up to it.

Why did the eHealth project need to unfold under a new agency? Why couldn’t it have been a Ministry of Health project? Sure, it’s a big project, but that still doesn’t answer the question. Why does a digitization process require its own office, CEO and completely separate accounting and HR departments, etc.?

Ask every politician who was involved in the creation of eHealth – as well as its current CEO – and I promise you not a single one of them will be able to offer a satisfactory answer.

Hence why this underscores how lazy politicians are. They are sadly inept at confronting problems head on.

Whenever there’s a job that needs to be done they create an agency. When there’s a problem that’s just a little bit complex they call for a study. When someone dies they call for an inquiry. There’s a word for this: passing the buck.

Yet this is a very talented version of passing the buck. It’s a version that involves doing absolutely nothing while claiming you’ve done everything.

They can claim to the voters they did stuff to solve problems. Yet, if something goes wrong they can also wash their hands of it and say it was an arms-length agency and they are therefore not responsible for it.

If government and politicians are the cure to all of society’s ills – as most people who run for office absurdly imagine – then why can’t government and politicians actually do any of the legwork? Why are they addicted to farming the work out to these agencies and commissions?

Because it’s the best of both worlds for them. And we need to change that. Ontario taxpayers and voters need to make it clear they’ve had enough with such mushy middle arms-length government.

Categories: Contributor Columns

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1 comment

  1. Bill Elder says:

    Anthony has discovered where the patronage dead wood collects. In Ontario there is enough dead wood cluttering up these redundant commissions, agencies etc to build a beach fire you could see from Jupiter.

    Hudak hasn’t even scratched the surface on this issue.

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