11.07.2010 07:42 AM

In today’s Sun: Chretien 3, Gomery Pyle 0

Here’s your average day for an opposition MP: Get up, get dressed, go to work, denounce the government and call for an inquiry into something or other. Have lunch. Express outrage about this and that, call for a Royal Commission. Go home, have dinner, go to bed.


  1. bc says:

    Wow. We agree on something. Thank the clocks being set back an hour.

    I’ve long hated the constant demands for a “full public inquiry” for anything and everything. My hatred for such tactics is over matched only by my hatred for calling for an MP to re-sign for so much as a sneeze.

  2. Paul R Martin says:

    Wasn’t it my namesake who called the Gomery Commission? Obviously some malfeasance occurred while Chretien was Prime Minister. Your objection is to the argument that Chretien was responsible. I am not sure that the voters are concerned whether he was responsible or not. In the court of public opinion, the Liberal Party was held responsible.

    • Warren says:

      The Liberal Party was one of the parties who had money stolen from it, Paul. And most of the ad men were card-carrying Conservatives.

      • Paul R Martin says:

        I have not seen any evidence that most of the admen involved were Conservatives or that the majority of the money went to Conservatives. Regardless, the public believes that Liberals were involved. I do agree with you that public enquiries are useless and should be resisted.

        • Colin says:

          I don’t think that most people were as concerned about who was getting taxpayers’ money as they were about who was giving it away.

    • James Curran says:

      And, in the end, didn’t Martin just screw himself in the the ear PR? It was a cheap shot to try and say: “And this is why we got rid of the old man”. Backfired just a weeeeeee bit.

      • Derek Pearce says:

        Bingo. That inquiry was Dither’s biggest mistake as PM.

        • nic coivert says:

          It was. When he said he was “going to get to the bottom of this” he was digging his political grave. Of course it was his plan to lay Chretien to rest in said grave, but that didn’t work very well. The Liberal party is still recovering from it, but it is recovering.

  3. Kelly Oh says:

    First, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. That is either a glaring oversight in your article or part of the reason why opposition MP’s lead such joyless lives.

    Second, fair point about the inquiries. They are better left for situations that have actual dead bodies, not just skeletons in the closet.

    • Warren says:

      I had Rice Chex for brekkie today. Yum.

      • Kelly Oh says:

        Good choice. They are tasty and delicious.

        The only other concern I have is, assuming a dysfunctional committee system, what is the proper forum for investigating to determine if conduct is innocent or of the politically odorous sort that would lead to John and Jane Frontporch wanting to throw the bums out?

  4. Namesake says:

    Short v.: Inquiring minds want to? No!!

  5. Ronald O'Dowd says:


    “[…] Go home, have dinner, go to bed.”

    No wonder so many opposition MPs look out-of-sorts — they’ve seemingly have forgotten the nookie!

  6. crf says:

    One more thing for your list of what the opposition (and press and public too) often do, but shouldn’t: worship at the altar of the auditor general.

    Here’s how it works:
    1) The auditor general does not know in advance on how the governmental things she audits work.
    2) She hires outside experts (ottawa parasites) who also do not know how things work.
    3) She and hired guns have complete freedom. No government or legislative or judicial scrutiny. They are sometimes obvious incompetents or mad authoritarians drunk with the power they now have. They can terrorize a department, trying to find that (often literal) stick of gum someone improperly expensed 8 years ago.
    4) Her reports distort what government does to the level she and her hired guns can understand. Often neither the public nor legislature will know how to evaluate her findings , since the people who actually know will work low down in the government and need permission to say boo.
    5) She makes recommendations, and inevitably they call to change what government does in order to make easier for her to do her audits. She has no idea how her recommendations would actually affect what the government does, or what cost they might have. It’s irrelevant to her.

    What Results:

    The press pretends the auditor general God knows all, and demands “accountability”. Government quakes in fear of the pudits’ God, and delivers Sh__t laws pulled straight from some government operations theory of 1980s communist Czechoslovakia to ensure that if a civil servant steals a ten cent pencil eraser they’ll know (and have spent 1000$ for the ability to save the country from pencil eraser embezzlement, thanks to an increasing army of civil servants within every department whose job includes the counting of erasers to make sure nobody steals any.) (This is not hyperbole. It’s the literal truth.)

    And we have the disuasion of any government function whose spending is in any way complicated for fear that a civil servant authorising it will be canned if the auditor general cannot wrap her limited mind around it. Thanks again to government laws over-reacting to the AG.

    And finally, we get the elevation of financial people to be the de-facto (but not de-juris!) decision makers in every government department. They do not having signing authority on budgets, but they dictate their terms. These are people who often don’t know what decisions they are making (because they are not subject matter experts) and don’t care (because they are not subject matter experts), but won’t cede authority (because if they make a “mistake” the government will have their hides, thanks to its over-reaction to the AG).

    End result … unknown. But Czechoslovakia turned out great in the end didn’t it? After they got rid of their government and cracked in two.

    • Warren says:

      Thanks for that. I’ve never been a fan of hers, either.

    • Namesake says:

      Hmm, lots of food for thought, but I’d like to encourage you to remake & repackage it in a more wholesome way…

      There’s lots of issues, here, some of which need to be identified as not being unique to the AG or gov’t and as being: largely unavoidable.

      That is, like it or not, audits (& auditors) are a nec. part of the private & charitable sectors with shareholders &/or large budgets, too. And no one but the shareholders or donors much likes them in those sectors, either, and maybe some of the controls they do insist on implementing wind up costing more money than if the pilfering or embezzling truly was going to always be relatively minor…. but we don’t KNOW that the losses will just be minor, do we, so that’s sort of like my saying that all these years I’ve been paying house insurance haven’t been worth it ‘cuz I’ve never had to collect on it.

      And besides, when it comes to the public sector, the chips-on-their-shoulder general public might actually prefer that it has overly expensive & draconian controls to prevent its employees from helping themselves to office supplies: they’re paid well enough, let ’em buy their own kids’ school supplies like everyone else, dammit.

      And maybe the fear of the “damn bean counters” does stifle innovation both in gov’t and elsewhere, but, again, that’s less a function of there being something wrong with THEIR function, than of the shortcomings of others, viz.:

      – both the middle managers who are too cowardly to relay the good suggestions up the chain (um, if they truly are: sometimes they may just be blaming the AG to “let you down easy); and,
      – the higher-ups who refuse to stick their necks out to champion the cost-saving but more complicated new system / process for fear of it popping up on the radar of a future audit, or to defend it properly when it does.

      So to combat THAT, I wish you’d put your thoughts or experiences to paper & submit an article to the Hill Times or elsewhere, to follow-up on their “Parliamentary agents have too much power…” review of a book on this topic by Donald Savoie: http://www.hilltimes.com/page/view/parties-06-07-2010

      That is, if you have concrete suggestions on:
      — how there should be more secondments or input from the ‘auditees’ departmental staff to inform the audits;
      — how the Public Accounts Committee should best critique and interpret these reports before forwarding or acting on their recommendations; and/or
      — who or what the reporters should consult to know how many grains of salt to add before breathlessly trumpeting the findings…

      …well, please make them.

      But I almost get the sense that you think the AG should mind her own beeswax & leave the Departments alone, who are doing their jobs just fine w/o outside scrutiny, thank you very much. And I’d have to disagree with that, not only because clearly, it’s sometimes found that there ARE shenanigans going on in some corners of them, but also because that silo mentality is NOT working very well for us:

      witness not only Veterans Affairs, where they seem to be more concerned with keeping their budget within the Department than in paying it out in benefits; and the DND, which does billion dollar baits & switches on equipment we may or may not really need; and ALL the departments, who have been so busy buying their OWN stupid pencil erasers in isolation from all the others, that collectively they’ve been wasting $500-M a year just on basic procurements for not going with a single supplier on each item. http://thechronicleherald.ca/Front/1210733.html

      And let’s not forget that a big part of the AG’s job these days is the performance audits, not the financial audits, which can sometimes get at some very systemic problems which should be addressed.

      E.g., when she announced that she wanted to look at the MP’s budgets, it wasn’t to track their erasers or lunch expenses: it was to find out why collectively they have such a huge contingency fund for HR issues like wrongful dismissal settlements. What’s going on there: are they hiring unqualified people they have to let go; or sexually harassing them; or working them to death; or replacing them with family members, etc.. If this is costing the taxpayer millions each year, it IS something she should get to the bottom of, so it can be stopped in its tracks, no?

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