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In what together or (public) service as corporation


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When it walks, talks and acts like a corporation it must be a ...? I'm not going to cite many examples of a great many (takes one look at open positions at any level of public government yes right now in these difficult times of togetherness). But here's a few recent ones.

First. In the summer of the first pandemic year a program of student grants was offered. I did not follow it to the conclusion but if my recollection is correct, it was expected to pay qualifying recipients an hourly rate just above minimal wage (or maybe below) to a maximum of $5,000 for much needed work in hospitals, long-term care and such. The program did not mention the rate of annual pension plan contributions, courtesy of the public purse, of the creative bureaucrats who came up with the idea. And sure, they were entitled to their entitlements.

Second. An ad I for some reason regularly see in a social media feed, a program of part-time employment as resident support worker in LTC. It would be so nice and in true spirit of togetherness but: the hourly rate of $2 above minimal wage; no assurance of minimal hours; no benefits or pensions plans. Same question.

Third. It can be just me, but it appears that lottery ads have become increasingly frequent on TV channels. See, OLG in Ontario and similar establishments in other provinces are crown corporations that are funded by public. And so, in this difficult time of challenge and togetherness they regularly spend (what? millions? billions?) on expensive media advertisement (remember $5000 annual max for a student working in a hospital; so how many students would one lottery ad buy us, together?) and for what exactly, service?

Four. A renewal of a license plate in Ontario, in these difficult times of challenge and so on costs me $120. It is very hard to find anything obtained through public service that is 1) mandatory and 2) costs taxpayer less than a hundred hard-earned bucks. Question: why? What exactly there costs me $120?

Five. The third massive epidemics of this century in this country (after SARS, 2002 and MERS, 2006) began with well known "Travel from Wuhan is not a problem for our system". Question: why this particular phrase was vocalized by the service, on what grounds, and what was the outcome and consequences?

That's five and I'm sure there's more and I invite everyone and anyone with example and arguments to the contrary that is, of effective, efficient, affordable and open public service. And the point here is not a critique but rather a question, or two:

1. Does Public Service have to become and be a giant and growing corporation, imitating all attributes and properties of such, including obscurity; arbitrary practices and policies; massive management hierarchies; and the law of diminishing returns? Is it in the ultimate interests of the public that procures and funds these services?

2. Can Public Service be something else; different; not a corporation tending first of all and at some point if not already, primarily to its own ways and interests? efficient? agile? affordable? flexible? inclusive? and open?

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You make some valid points.

IMHO, the first level of the problem is in our inability to understand what government is and what it does (or, more to the point SHOULD do).  The only things a government should be doing is to legislate, regulate, enforce and fund NECESSARY services - and do so without bestowing privileged access to benefits of any kind.  What government should NOT be doing, and has proven consistently it is a HORRIBLE way of doing so - is delivering service.

ANYTHING outside of the four functions above should be contracted out to private corporations and contractors...but ONLY if there is an extremely good reason to do whatever that might be.  The reason is that a government employee and their union have the taxpayer firmly by the balls and will squeeze at every opportunity simply because there is no downside to them as they know they are untouchable (and, yes, you can interpret that word in several appropriate ways).  The only way for a taxpayer to be protected is for the service provider to be REQUIRED to live up to standards set and enforced by government as the payee, with the clear understanding that if they don't measure up, they have a small number of opportunities to remediate and then they are out of the door.   Everyone coming in would have to bid to get there.

The other concern is that many, many things that government does simply don't need to BE done.  Government unions to this very day still mutter in private about being Nielsenized.  When Erik was Minister, he did a study and found something like more than 11,000 programmes and departments that spent money in the name of the FEDERAL taxpayer (and provinces can no doubt rack up a similar number).  What he taught us is that the correct question about ANY government department (outside of the four essential functions above) is not how much more or less they can do with more or less money, but why they exist AT ALL in the first place.

Now that the most incompetent administration in Canadian history has racked up the highest debt/GDP ratio of any major government on the planet, we can't just carry on pissing away our grandchildren's future for complete idiots to virtue signal themselves into a fat lifetime pension.

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In my view, a government is a reflection of how the society, collectively, sees and understands common interests, common assets, and management of common assets and affairs. And it appears that for close to two centuries the preferred way to define and manage common affairs in this country has been via a giant quasi-democratic super-corporation with a strong and growing tradition and practice of entitlement. Is it sustainable? Will it be adequate to the pace; complexity; and cost of solutions of the problems that emerge in the 21st rather than 19th century? Some signs and cues are already out there.

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I guess this needs to go on record, somewhere. A chronicle of the pandemic times. A worker in a Long-term care home has died of Covid-19. The location is not disclosed, but who said it couldn't be one of those minimum pay, no benefits temporary positions in one of the highest-risk working environments? While another "public" hospital CEO received multi-million golden parachute for failing to lead by example.

We thought that it was a great opportunity for drumming about togetherness; but it was only a mirror, for those who care to look and see.

1. Teen LTC worker died of Covid-19

2. Hospital CEO will get over $1M payout

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