Clean, clear, easy to find and understand

Posted 2.1.18


Forget summer and winter, Canada's real seasons have nothing to do with hours of daylight. Our crucial seasons are two: "Pre-Election Promise Season" and "Don't Bother Us, We're Governing Season." post election. Our Pre-Election Promise Season is just getting underway here in Quebec.

With Spring, it's natural to be optimistic and hopeful, but with the Pre-Election Season, it's natural to be cynical. "We've seen it all so often." Pre-Election Season is followed by Post-Election (like Winter): excuse after excuse why promises can't be met. They usually blame the former government for hiding "cost explosions."

What if the new government happens also to be the former government? Those cost explosions have to be found elsewhere -- in the economy, balance of trade, tax revenue shortfalls, even natural disasters. We've grown up in a democratic system; we know the drill.

But the concept of a "cost explosion" is worth a pause.

Doesn't it mean, simply, cost over-runs? Usually, since the over-runs were in the past, nothing can be done "going forward," as politicians like to say as they slip into reverse gear. Let's see over-runs as they happen.

One Pre-Election Promise, 2018, has been new FARR grants – funding by the Ministry of Municipal Affairs for projects in the regions. Last week's FARR grants totalled almost two million dollars for 21 grants in West Quebec. Transport Minister Andre Fortin and the region's full Liberal slate made the announcement, surrounding Minister Coiteux and MRC wardens and mayors.

Here come cost explosions! How can we catch them before they grow, or mitigate their damage?

First, a commitment to transparency and accountability is necessary. Each project could have clear stages -- with consequences! Since missed deadlines are the responsibility of managers, the penalties come from their pocketbooks (not the taxpayers again, please).

For these projects this includes releasing results periodically, and at the conclusion. Costs and accomplishments, in quarterly reports.

Accountability? The public deserves the project's details. Details of managerial salaries, consultant fees, contracting-out fees -- the big costs. Quarterly reports. We have to know what the managers are being paid, to assess the projects. (Sorry but privacy concerns their private lives, not our tax dollars.)

Third, besides salaries and fees, let's see the budget for all leasing, rents, equipment purchases/rentals, etc. Lets see, by the second report, who gets these contracts.

And all these details in understandable prose. Transparency is a real word; it's not a political device. Clear prose, clear numbers, cleanly laid out so we ordinary mortals/taxpayers can actually read the reports. And how about publishing those reports so they are "accessible.". Forget the you-call-us approach, with arcane file names on award-winning Kafkaesque government websites.

A few considerations like these would go a long way in connecting with voters -- and would mellow the suspicion and cynicism which greets almost all statements by anyone in political office these days.

So how about it, Political Leaders? Transparent, accountable, easy to read and understand project details? That's the rocket science we want.


Copyright © 2018 Fred Ryan/Log Cabin Chronicles/2.18