Existential Crises and Manageable Problems

The events in Israel provide a sobering perspective on the topics I choose for this blog. By and large, I have been working on manageable Canadian and Toronto problems. The Toronto problems have often involved the Greenbelt and waterfront, often exacerbated by the Ford Government’s policies. The existential challenge to my brethren in Israel is different by an order of magnitude.

I touched on it in my post a few weeks ago about Marty Peretz’s book The Controversialist. Last week, I spent the time I would normally have spent on the blog, expanding my post about Peretz’s book into a review for an Israeli publication. After citing several other themes, I argue that the most significant theme is Jewishness and Zionism. And I concluded the review saying that “at a time of growing global anti-Semitism [Peretz’s] refusal to apologize for his Jewishness or for his support for Israel is an inspiration.” Today, that conclusion is even more appropriate.

Problems of Bureaucracy

I devoted much thought during my academic career to the problems of bureaucracy. And they continue to be widely relevant.

One theme of the discussion of the situation in Israel is the failure of the Israeli intelligence bureaucracy to anticipate the Hamas attacks, even when there were clear signals, such as Hamas military exercises in plain sight. Given the scope of the Hamas operation, hundreds if not thousands of people must have been involved in planning and preparation. With their network of sources, how could the Israelis not have known? The Israeli Government will be conducting inquiries, but the complete answers may never be released, so as not to endanger ongoing operations.

The topic I was going to post about last week is bureaucratic failure in the Government of Canada. There appear to be failures in the Canadian intelligence bureaucracy with respect to surveilling the activities of agents of the Chinese and Indian governments in Canada. There are also failings in service delivery bureaucracies. The ones that have drawn the most attention are the immigration, transport, and passport bureaucracies.

I have two of my own to report.

A person I know who needs a visa to visit Canada required six months to get it. The office of an MP was trying to assist the colleague to little effect. In the six months the person missed a conference and then had to cancel a planned professional visit. Why did this take so long?

I filed an access to information request to the federal Department of Finance to get the results of its public consultation survey for the 2023 budget. The department hasn’t turned me down and they have discussed the data they would provide but, eight months later, they still haven’t provided anything. Similarly, why is this taking so long?

In contrast, I asked the Ontario Ministry of Finance for the results of its public consultation survey for its 2023 budget, and they sent me all the data, including open-ended comments, within two weeks. I used the data for an op-ed in The Globe, as discussed in a post last March. Why were they able to respond so quickly?

There has been widespread discussion about the unpopularity of the Trudeau Government. One possible cause that seems to have been overlooked is poor service delivery. When citizen contact with the public service is unsatisfactory, that must have some impact on how citizens think about the politicians in charge.

Chris Clearfield, in a recent op-ed in The Globe and Mail has called for a rethinking of public sector bureaucracy to put more emphasis on empowerment of staff, innovation, and process design. That these recommendations sound like things colleagues like Ken Kernaghan and Brian Marson and I were writing decades ago, make them no less urgent.

The Trudeau Government has just created a new portfolio, Minister of Citizen Services, but has not yet released the minister’s mandate letter. So is this appointment merely political theatre? If I were advising Pierre Poilievre, I would suggest making improved service delivery a theme in his critique of the Trudeau Government and platform for the next election. I think he would have widespread support.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe by email

If you are interested in my weekly blog posts about politics and political narrative, as well as updates about my research and teaching, please enter your email address below to receive a free subscription.


Previous Posts