Wednesday, July 09, 2014

The Tory Three-ring Circus

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages, welcome under the Tory big top and prepare to be entertained by the incredible performers of Harper Brothers (formerly Harper & Flaherty), Canada’s premier political circus.

Unlike other political circuses, we don’t just present one show at a time. We are a full, three-ring operation. That means no matter where you turn your head, there’s an amazing performance you just won’t be able to look away from.

Unfortunately, our regular ringmaster, Mr. Stephen Harper, could not be here as he is away on an extended foreign tour bringing our unique style of political showmanship to foreign capitals from Jerusalem to Kyiv to Berlin. However, as his political understudy, I, Pierre “call me Pete” Polievre, will host tonight’s festivities in the very same fashion with absolutely no added original thought or flourishes.

Now if you will turn your attention to the far ring on my right or what we have dubbed “the Senate ring”, you will be wowed by several acrobatic feats. Watch as the seemingly immoveable Mike Duffy simultaneously lives in Ottawa and P.E.I. Marvel as the glamorous dragon lady Pamela Wallin resides in Toronto but claims official residence in Saskatchewan. Be amazed and astounded at the financial high wire act of our once-undefeated serial pugilist Patrick Brazeau.

To my left is the Prime Minister’s Office ring which doubles as the home of our circus’s clown contingent. Watch as PMO clowns engage in all manner of political high jinks from unauthorized personal loans to senators to questionable interference in riding association nomination processes. Supposedly under the command and control of the ringmaster, these Kanadian Keystone Kops will have you in stitches with their crazy unexpected actions.

Some of you are no doubt expecting to see our most famous PMO performers Nigel Wright and Dmitri Soudas. Unfortunately, neither of these clowns is with the circus anymore but I can guarantee you that our current cast of jesters is capable of just as many wild antics as their famous predecessors.

Finally, if you will look directly in front of me in the main ring, you will see our star attraction: the dangerous caged caucus. For years, these fierce House members have been tamed and controlled by Canada’s top MP tamer, our brave ringmaster himself, Mr. Harper.

But with Mr. Harper’s repeated absences and recent damaging events, the caucus animals have become restless and emboldened. As your ringmaster for tonight, I will share taming duties with our top whip, Mr. John Duncan. Together we hope to keep these bellicose backbenchers from breaking free and bringing down the entire Tory tent.

We may not have dancing elephants or unicycle-riding donkeys but we have something even better: non-stop political shenanigans. If you thought politics was dull and unentertaining, you’re in for a delightful surprise as you’ll see astonishing things you’d never see anywhere outside Washington, D.C.

From double-claimed expenses to overused omnibus bills to borderline criminal activity, the Tory three-ring circus is sure to bring you ongoing, jaw-dropping entertainment unmatched in any jurisdiction north of the American border.

So, ladies and gentlemen, sit back and enjoy our three-ring circus. No matter where you look, you’ll be surprised, amazed and amused by the common sense-defying actions and antics of our team of unique performers.

You are indeed a fortunate audience as there is no guarantee that our circus can continue much longer. With this many no-net high wire acts, we may not last until the end of the year or even the end of the month. So sit back, open your eyes and be prepared to be astounded.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Bureaucrats' Trap

“[D]epartments are experimenting with regular ‘Dragons' Den’-type events with employees to find creative solutions to policy and operational challenges.”                                                          
-    Destination 2020 web site

“Good evening. I’m Tony Clement, president of the Treasury Board, and I’d like to welcome you to the first episode of our brand new show called Bureaucrats’ Trap. It’s a chance for federal public servants to participate in our wonderful new action plan called Destination 2020 by pitching their ideas to improve government service to a panel of topnotch bureaucrats.”
“First up is Fred Warner, a file clerk from Vancouver who has what he describes as a ‘sure-fire method’ to eliminate red tape and improve file processing in any government office.”
“Thanks, Mr. Clement. I’m really excited to be here tonight to tell you about my plan to revolutionize file handling in the public service. What’s that? Do I have my proper ID with me? Well, no. I didn’t think I’d need it for this. Security clearance? Again, I wasn’t aware I’d need to document that for a simple presentation.”
“Sorry about that, Fred, but you’ll understand that rules are rules and we can’t just have anyone appearing before our panel of experts. But hopefully our next presenter, Cindy Lawson, from Halifax has the proper accreditation so the bureaucrats can consider her new idea.”
“Yes I do, Mr. Clement, plus I’ve got everything in triplicate with extra copies for all the panelists.”
“Excellent, Cindy. Now please go ahead with your presentation.”
“As you can see on the screen in front of you, my plan for efficient file handling is called “first in – first out” or FIFO for short. It’s a revolutionary new method whereby the first file received in an office receives priority to ensure that it is the first one processed and finalized.”
“Thanks, Cindy, but as the bureaucrats have noted, that’s just not going to work. Your plan has a superficial appeal but, in essence, is just too simplistic. What about files requiring immediate priority for the minister? Or what about folios from favored constituents? And then there are those dockets that need to be temporarily or even permanently shelved for any number of good reasons that typically need not be publicly revealed. It’s a nice thought, Cindy, but I’m afraid it’s just a bit naïve. Which brings us to our next presenter - Gord Burroughs from Ottawa. Gord, what have you got for us tonight?”
“Well, Tony. May I call you Tony? No? OK. Well, Mr. Clement, I’ve got a plan that I know is going to help revamp and revitalize the entire federal public service. It’s something I call ‘adequate compensation and directions’ or ACAD for short. ACAD would provide a mechanism whereby an individual employee’s position would be properly classified and salary and bonuses would be set in accordance with established industry metrics.”
“Gord, the bureaucrats love your creative use of acronyms and the can-do spirit behind your proposal but ultimately they feel that it’s a no-go simply because it is far too specific. They would have preferred that you come up with a couple of innocuous acronyms without any detailed action plan. After all, obfuscation and deferral are the two key watchwords in any new grand government initiative. So long as it sounds good and it’s vague enough so no one can actually assess results, it’s a winner. Better luck next time.”

“Well, that’s it for this week’s episode of Bureaucrat’s Trap. Join us next week when we welcome three more workers with their simplistic and obvious suggestions that will likely not meet the bureaucrats’ minimum standards for viable policy implementation. And stay tuned for our new quiz show entitled Remember These? in which  workers and mandarins participate as contestants and try to recall anything meaningful about previous long-forgotten government action plans like La Relève, PS2000, GE Conversion, UCS (Universal Classification System) and VASE (Vision and Strategies Exercise). The winner gets to keep his or her job.”