Tuesday, September 06, 2005

A smattering

Babble on.

I wish - wish! - I had time to delve into all of these items in more detail, but I don't. Sucks, yes. 'The serenity to accept those things I cannot change', and all that.

  • Since I slagged her last week, it's only fair that I point out Kate's fantastic rant, and her endorsement of a simply awesome post at Eject! Eject! Eject! 'Grey and Pink' makes a lot more sense than 'Red and Blue' or 'Black and White'. Especially when I can point to a number of Dippers I trust implicitly and a number of fellow Tories I'd like to see taken out to the woodshed for a sound thrashing.

  • As someone who has loved military flying as both an observer and a participant for as long as I can remember, it pains me to say this: the more fighting we can do with drones, the better.

  • My Chief Ottawa Correspondent directed me to this piece of good news from the nation's capital:

    "It's huge. This issue of building a government-wide view is something I have been on about since I got to government and ... this will be the big legacy item as far as I am concerned," Mr. Alcock said. "If we make this change, it will do more to improve the management of government than just about anything else we do."

    At the heart of the strategy is a new approach to service that would effectively separate operations from policy-making.

    All external services to Canadians, from Canada Pension Plan to passports, would be hived out of departments and given to Service Canada -- a new "one-stop-shop agency" -- to deliver. At the same time, internal services, such as pay, staffing and contracting, which bog down the bureaucracy in red tape and delays, could be put in the hand of new agencies -- known as Shared Services Organizations.

    Eventually, all internal and external services could be handled by these new agencies, saving billions in duplication while putting a much-needed focus on "customer service" and freeing departments to concentrate on policy and programs.

    I trash the Liberals when they deserve it. I tend to do it a lot because they tend to deserve it a lot. But Reg Alcock's vision deserves praise, not criticism.

    I'm not saying it will work - institutional management sclerosis and public service unions might scuttle it, as might pork-barrelling and governmental bloat, as might political leadership that changes halfway through or pursues it only half-heartedly, as might any one of a number of other factors. It's still worth tilting at this windmill because the idea is transformative, and heaven knows the public service desperately needs transformative change at this point.

  • Sean Maloney's articles are always worth reading, and I don't just say that because he teaches at my alma mater:

    Are not all Canadian military personnel "peacekeepers"? Has UN peacekeeping not been the stock in trade for Canadian soldiers since Lester B. Pearson invented peacekeeping in 1956 during the Suez Crisis? Isn't our national identity based on the fact that we do peacekeeping while others fight wars? Are we not morally superior because Canada engages in peacekeeping? Will we lose that moral superiority if we engage in operations other than peacekeeping?

    There are inherent dangers in an unhealthy adherence to mythology. Mythology distorts. Mythology pigeonholes. Mythology produces blinders, it limits action. In the 1990s, the mythology of Canadian peacekeeping produced unrealistic expectations that, when they could not be met, merely produced obfuscation and disillusionment.

    Images on television readily distorted the complexities of military operations in the 1990s. If it wore a blue helmet and drove around in a white vehicle with black UN markings on it, it was a "peacekeeper." If it handed out teddy bears to starving children, it was conducting "peacekeeping." How, people asked, could UN peacekeepers in Rwanda not stop the carefully organized rampage against the Tutsis? How, the people asked, could peacekeepers be handcuffed to Bosnian ammunition dumps and used as human shields? How, they wondered, could the peacekeepers not bring peace?

    What the people didn't understand, and nobody was willing or able to tell them, was that UN peacekeeping as it emerged during the Cold War was obsolete, ineffective, and inoperative in the post-Cold War era. It was as "done" as the Soviet empire, except nobody had stuck a fork in it until Bosnia, Somalia and Rwanda.

    Do I really need to tell you to read the whole thing?

  • Again from my Chief Ottawa Correspondent, a reminder that the report "Governance in the Public Service of Canada: Ministerial and Deputy Ministerial Accountability" by the Standing Committee on Public Accounts is a worthwhile read, especially the Conclusion and Recommendations section starting on page 36 of the pdf version:

    The Committee is in full agreement with Mr. Kroeger and is firm in its conviction that ministerial responsibility and the doctrine of ministerial accountability must be retained. They are cornerstones of our parliamentary government and in most respects have served Canada extremely well. It is worth recalling that the struggle for democratic government in Canada was largely a struggle to achieve responsible government, and that responsible government (of which ministerial responsibility and accountability are an integral part) is what allows Parliament — and ultimately citizens — to hold government to account for its actions.

    Nevertheless, the current interpretation of the doctrine of ministerial accountability dates from a time when government was small, and ministers knew (or ought to have known) their departments with some intimacy. These circumstances have changed, as both the Lambert Royal Commission and the authors of the McGrath Report recognized, and while the doctrine remains as valid as ever, its interpretation and practice no longer correspond with contemporary parliamentary or governmental realities.

    Ambiguities in the doctrine, perhaps tolerable in the past, are now contributing to a situation in which those with responsibility are able to avoid accountability, as the Sponsorship Program has so clearly and so sadly demonstrated. What is needed, therefore, is not the wholesale abandonment of the doctrine of ministerial accountability. Instead, the doctrine needs to be reaffirmed and its interpretation and practice refined and clarified to assure its continuing relevance and utility to our system of government. The adoption of the U.K. accounting officer model would achieve these goals.

    This report was composed in the wake of the Sponsorship Scandal, but given recent events in New Orleans, we would all benefit by reading it from a broader perspective as well. Accountability in government is essential, and not just for elected officials.

  • The best one-line rebuttal of the blame-GWB-for-everything-on-the-gulf-coast phenomenon: "In short, an efficient federal lead would require converting our sovereign states into administrative subdivisions of the national government." If that's what you want, go ahead and make it a Democratic plank. Personally, I think the Republicans would love to have a presidential election that doubles as a plebiscite on state rights and the division of powers.

That should slow you down for awhile. At least keep you off my back until I get my chin above the waves again here at work.

Babble off.


At 4:58 p.m., Blogger Greg said...

I think the Republicans may have difficulty defending "states rights" if 10,000 black bodies are pulled from the rubble. The phrase has some pretty charged history attached to it afterall.

At 9:08 p.m., Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

Yet more evidence you're out of touch with the American electorate, Greg.

At 6:50 a.m., Blogger Greg said...

If what you say is true, then that makes me happy. I wouldn't want to be in touch with them. If the Republicans can get away with a slogan that appeals to naked racism after this disaster, then there is no hope for America. Fortunately, I don't believe they can get away with it. Not this time.


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