February 4th, 2009
Toronto has long measured its cultural scene against New York City. If Queen’s Park measures our governance against New York City, we’ll find that in one key area that impacts all others – performance management – we don’t measure up.
Beginning in 1997, New York City has been posting the annual Mayor’s Management Report on its website (www.nyc.gov). For every area of government, the report lists critical objectives, provides detailed statistics on performance in achieving objectives, sets out next year’s targets, and shows agency resources. The 2008 report is 234 pages long. The report displays where performance has been improving and where it’s been deteriorating. These reports are an outgrowth of former Mayor Giulinani’s CompStat initiative that used timely and rigorous data analysis to drive crime reduction.
Does Ontario have anything comparable? Queen’s Park has been publishing an annual progress report, this year posted on the premier’s website. This year’s report is all of 21 pages. It does discuss progress in terms of certain key indicators such as class size in elementary school, student performance on provincial exams, and waiting times for certain medical services. But most of the report simply outlines spending initiatives. It isn’t comprehensive and doesn’t set out critical objectives for, or resources used, in all areas of government.
I asked my public management students to evaluate New York City’s Mayor’s Management Report and Ontario’s Progress Report. New York City got an A, Ontario somewhere between C+ and B-.
When it took office in 2003, the McGuinty Government resolved to undo the Tories’ Common Sense Revolution by putting money back into public services, and to set some targets to measure progress. The Progress Reports, published since 2004, do reflect this. The Government intended that its achievements would be the centre of discussion in the 2007 election campaign. Unfortunately, John Tory’s position on support for faith-based schools became the focal issue, generating much more short-term heat than long-term light.
As it works on a new budget to meet the challenges of a tough economy – particularly given Ontario’s dependence on the faltering auto sector – the McGuinty Government should look at the New York City Mayor’s Management Report – the leading edge in public sector performance management – and emulate it.