Auditor General Says Crown Assets Crumbling

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Parliament HillTHUNDER BAY – There are times when one wonders if some of the political spin doctors can think past the end of their own nose. Today, from Ottawa comes a classic example. The federal Liberals are on the attack against the Conservative Government.

At issue today for the Liberals is the comments from the Auditor General.

“An Auditor General report that paints a grim picture of the future of essential service delivery by the federal government is a testament to the Harper government’s fiscal incompetence and preference for short-term politics over long-term planning, Liberal Treasury Board Critic Siobhan Coady said today.

AG Sheila Fraser today said that the information technology (IT) systems the government relies on to deliver programs and service to Canadians are so old they are “at risk of breaking down,” which could “have severe consequences.”

“She paints a picture where even our most basic government services are in jeopardy – EI benefits, pension benefits, tax returns, even police services. What’s worse, this government has known about this since coming into office – they completely ignored it, and so what was a problem is now a full-blown crisis. Did they think this problem was going to just go away?”

What is missed, apparently by Ms. Coady and the political experts in the Liberal Party is that the Conservatives have been in power since 2006. By saying “this government has known about this since coming into office”, what Ms. Coady is really telling Canadians is that during the years that the Liberals were in power, they had ignored the problem too.

It is a common flaw with governments, when they decide a good way to save money is by ignoring the maintenance, and the upkeep of crown assets. For both the Liberals, and Conservatives, a classic example is the Prime Minister’s residence.

Another is that the Auditor General reported that the Parliament building itself is in dire need of repair too. The AG states, “Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC) has identified serious risks to key systems in the Parliament buildings, such as electrical and heating systems, that could affect the continued operations of Parliament in the coming years. The risks to the West Block are already critical, and risks to the Centre Block—the hub of Parliament’s operations—are growing. Furthermore, the Senate and the House of Commons have indicated that their present and future needs cannot be met by the buildings in their present state.”

So why would Governments let things get to that stage?

Today, with the increasingly common practice of “gotcha politics” where slamming each other becomes more important than getting down to the business of running the country; things get left undone, because of the political optics.

For example, over the past two decades, the Prime Minister’s residence has been allowed to degrade as successive Prime Ministers have not wanted to be seen as living an opulent lifestyle having the property fixed.

Instead the property has been allowed to degrade, likely meaning the real cost of repairs is going to be far greater later, rather than now.

It is a little like the White House in the United States back in the 1950s. When President Kennedy was elected the White House was in rough repair. It was First Lady Jackie Kennedy who stepped up to fix it up.

Right now, governments over the past two decades appear from today’s report to be using false economy ideas in keeping computers and government buildings in good working order.

Maybe if politicians were to take less time to slam each other and more time to run the country in a similar manner to how they expect Canadians to run their homes and lives we would all be better off.

For all sides, there is a time when Canadians expect work, not games.

That of course is just my opinion, as always your mileage may vary.

James Murray

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