Friday, December 17, 2010
As a lifelong observer of BC politics, a political scientist of a decade's standing, and as someone who was a public servant for 5 years, I have reached the reluctant, somewhat boring and no doubt unpopular conclusion, that lawyers generally make better premiers than non-lawyers. They are simply more 'careful' about what they say and do, and in more than just a 'political optics' sense. Getting things done properly in today's world of government, is a highly legalistic exercise.Process is NOT for cheese, folks. It is the basis of nearly all good policy decisions, especially in this Charter era, and good lawyers are naturally good at it.
Furthermore, if efforts at electoral reform continue to fail, and we cannot achieve moderation of government by tinkering with institutions, perhaps we can achieve it by changing the character of the leading decision-makers themselves. Tom Berger and David Vickers are not available, unfortunately, but a couple of pretty good lawyers are.
There are two leading candidates who have discharged the responsibilities of electede office after undertaking reasonably successful law practices. While they are not the only potential candidates who meet these two basic criteria, I think that they are the safest bets among the candidates on offer.
Leonard Krog has been an effective parliamentarian, particularly on the BC Rail file. He has done a little more than De Jong both in his law office and in his family life, which should hold him in good stead.
Mike De Jong has been one of the more solid cabinet ministers, holding down a number of sensitive posts with only a whiff of scandal----he, like Falcon and Clark, was close enough to someone who was close to the BC Rail decisions, and will have some questions to answer.
So, if you want to make a prudent decision, choose someone who makes prudent decisions for a living. Choose one of these two guys.
Monday, December 06, 2010
Good thing about Adrian Dix: He is their purest, most professional politician.
Bad thing about Adrian Dix: He is their purest, most professional politician.
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Moira Stilwell benefits from being both a woman and being relatively unknown--a serious advantage in a party that has been in power for nearly a decade and is in need of a facelift. But much depends on the personal relationships between the remaining candidates. Would their mutual respect and insistence that success in cabinet portfolios cause them to pull for each other on the final ballot, or would mutual animosity cause them to pull behind someone else? I think that if the personality clashes were that serious, they would have been obvious by now. That probably rules out Stilwell making it to the last round. But, of the final four, Kevin Falcon would seem to be the most compromised by his proximity to Gordon Campbell. His wings were not burned, like Hanson's, but they were badly singed.
So that just leaves Coleman, De Jong and Abbott. Rich is the least telegenic of the three, and made a big splash when as Minister of Forests his brother became rich by having his land taken out of the Forest Land Reserve. That just leaves De Jong and Abbott on the final ballot.
My hunch is that De Jong, who along with Farrell-Collins constituted the "fifth column" that replaced Gordon Wilson and David Mitchell with the Campbell crew way back in 1993, has the most favours to call. But my sense is that the avuncular Abbott, who has been quiet, competent, has more teflon and has probably tread upon fewer toes, will appeal to the Liberal Party's urge for politically expedient image renovation. Lucky, to be sure. But he also worked hard to get into this position.
So that's my best guess, right now. Unless the 65-year-old Carole Taylor tosses down her Chancellor's robes and makes a case for being the "caretaker" premier for the next 2-6 years, I'm putting my money on George Abbott.
Friday, November 26, 2010
"A Rising Tide lifts all yachts, and leaves the rowboats behind."
If the President of theToronto-Dominion Bank thinks the tax system is unfair to low-income earners, then why should acquiesce in both federal and provincial policies that appear to assume that the only path to economic success is to shift the tax burden onto workers? If Warren Buffett appears on ABC's This Week complaining that the rich don't pay enough in taxes , and that the Bush tax cuts should be repealed, and Bill Gates is arguing for a bigger and better investment in public education in the United States, and Ted Turner is complaining that the U.S. Supreme Court made a bad decision in allowing corporations to make unlimited donations to political campaigns, shouldn't we be listening?
As Doug McArthur's Report on the BC Economy indicates, one of the distinguishing features of the Campbell government was its reliance on increased inequality as an attempt to gain competitive advantage. As I have argued on this blog, one of the great disappointments of the Campbell record has to be the failure of this 'supply-side' thinking. His top-heavy salary boosts for senior officials in government, his regressive approach to tax reform (including both the carbon tax and HST) reveal this "golden goose" approach to economics, yielded very little in terms of investment and jobs. The reasons, I suspect, are at least two-fold: (1) He was mistaken, just a smany premiers before him were mistaken, to think that he could have that big an impact when employment, investment and jobs are so highly determined outside of BC's borders. (2) Even if a large general benefit could be achieved, it would merely generate pressure for surrounding jurisdictions to do likewise --in other words, a race to the bottom.
Of course there are individual communities and industries that would appear to be exceptions to these generalizations--the coastal fish farm industry would appear to be a clear example. But even there, the benefits to the local economy have to be weighed against the larger social and environmental costs. The bent of the Campbell government was to refuse to undertake that social calculation. But what is the purpose of government, if not to perform that function?
Monday, November 22, 2010
Interestingly, Dix is lying low, like a snake in the grass, letting others do the dirty work for him.
From what I can see, Bob Simpson was sacked simply for stating the obvious--that Carole James has not yet sold herself to British Columbians. On the other hand, the rift is ironic, because Bob represents a pragmatic economy-oriented wing of the party that James has been trying to appeal to.
James is reminiscent of Mike Harcourt in more ways than one. On the one hand, she has the right attitude of modern progressive economics (listening to business, stressing social investment and the environment) that is absolutely essential if the NDP wants to get and retain power; on the other hand she has an unconvincing hold on her party and an unconvincing leadership style. Paradoxically, she has the right general attitude about leadership style (finding a balance between the extremes of Harcourt and Clark, with a greater emphasis on the former than on the latter), but there are serious doubts about her ability to implement it.
It may be that Gregor Robertson is the answer, but for the time being the NDP should support its leader--after she lets Bob Simpson back into the caucus. Perhaps Bob can make it easier for her by admitting that, while there is absolutely nothing wrong with what he said, perhaps it was linen best washed in private.
If you have a comment about this or any of my other postings, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Thursday, November 18, 2010
Saturday, November 13, 2010
First, Canada was obligated by virtue of its membership in NATO to participate. An ally was attacked from bases in Afghanistan.
Second, after the greatest military superpower the world has ever seen was attacked on its own soil for the first time in 60 years, the country that was picked to play a lead military role in arguably the most dangerous province in Afghanistan,Kandahar, was.....Canada.(??!!!). Some people will try to argue otherwise, but this state of affairs only makes sense when you consider that the United States had 150,000 troops tied up in a dangerous mission in Iraq. But if Canada rejected direct participation in the Iraq war on the grounds that it was unnecessary, illegal and immoral, why on Earth should we feel an obligation to pay a disproportionate sacrifice in Afghanistan, when the reason for that sacrifice was (in large part) Iraq? Since both Stephen Harper and Michael Ignatieff supported the war in Iraq, it must have been easy for them to indirectly support that war by taking on more of the burden in Afghanistan.
Third, the parliamentary resolution passed in March 2008 says that "Canada will end its presence in Kandahar as of July 2011." In other words, there is no room to argue that Canada's military "trainers" should remain in that region on the grounds that they are already familiar with it. They should set up shop in places well away from Kandahar or Waziristan, such as Kabul, where most of our NATO partners have been safely ensconced for the past several years. There will still be casualties after July 2011, but if Canada's mission is properly conceived and executed, Canadian military funerals should be a much rarer occurrence a year from now.
Saturday, November 06, 2010
Campbell certainly learned his lesson, and never made the mistake of excessive election candour again. But he did make the opposite mistake, several times, even though he probably interpreted his election victories in 2001 and 2005 as vindication for his hard-won political acumen. In fact, those elections were won for reasons other than legerdemain: anyone could have led the Liberals to victory in 2001, and Liberals were rescued by an Asian-fuelled surge in commodity prices in 2004-2005.
So the long fuse of the BC Rail scandal and the short fuse of the HST backlash were lit with the new strategy of cautious public opinion "management" that was a central characteristic of the Campbell years. Despite some impressive legislative achievements to his credit, he never learned to trust the people, and that fact ensured that they were unlikely to fully trust him, either.
Campbell's faith was reserved for B.C. capitalism---which is why we can charitably interpret his prediction in 2001 that "tax cuts would pay for themselves" and his clinging to a belief in only a half-billion dollar deficit in 2009 as wishful thinking on his part, rather than merely crass dishonesty. He did everything he could, within reasonable political parameters, to create a good business climate. He hoped that business would return the favour. As part of this effort, Campbell's tax policies--in particular the carbon tax and HST in exchange for cuts in progressive income taxes--- appeared to shift more of the burden onto ordinary people. These are the same ordinary people who Campbell couldn't trust with a discussion of tax policy prior to the 2009 election, the same ordinary people whom he had ("mistakenly") trusted in 1996. If, deep down, Campbell wanted these people to like him, he had a flawed strategy for achieving popularity.
But was it wrong to avoid the issue before the election and then implement the tax in the first year after the election (in order for the anger over the fait accompli to die down before 2013)? Is that not the common political strategy for administering painful-but-beneficial medicine upon recalcitrant publics? My advice to political leaders in this situation was (and is) twofold. First, equity matters. If the point of the HST was primarily to achieve administrative and economic efficiencies rather than to engineer a supply-side "trickle down" economy, then design and explain the tax in such a way as to make that fact perfectly clear. France and Sweden have more equitable societies despite getting close to half of their revenue from consumption taxes; that fact suggests the possibility of a more equitable HST. Indeed, much of the opposition to the carbon tax was blunted by a similar strategy of ensuring that two-thirds of BC families would be no worse off as a result of the tax.
Second, the question of tax harmonization could have been folded into the terms of reference of a commission on taxation that would have included extensive consultations similar to the dialogue on health care that the BC government held earlier. The Commission could have reported to the legislature in 2011. Whether you could call it deliberative democracy or simply management of public expectations, it would have provided an opportunity for citizens to let off steam in an environment much more controlled and less volatile than a grass-roots populist revolt led by Bill Vander Zalm.
But hindsight, as they say, is 20/20.
Thursday, September 23, 2010
If the Liberals win the next election, the same problem will likely emerge in a different form. A Liberal-NDP cohabitation sounds stable, but if it is too popular (e.g. gets 40% or more approval in the polls), the Liberals will be tempted to engineer their own defeat so that they can springboard into a majority government. That is what Trudeau did federally in 1974 and Peterson did in Ontario in 1987.
The solution: move to a slightly more proportional electoral system that makes it more difficult to win majorities and that rewards politicians for seeking support across the country instead of rewarding them for doing the opposite.
That, for me, is the real lesson of the gun registry debate.
Monday, September 20, 2010
From the perspective of the financial crisis and deep recession of 2008-2010, one has to look back on the great wave of mergers and acquisitions that gathered steam in the 1980s and 1990s with a degree of ambivalence. Back then, it became respectable for the first time to borrow 90% of the purchase price of an acquisition as a regular business practice. But now....let's just say that the entire U.S. economy is in a process of "de-leveraging", and that we are all feeling the pain.
Gerald W. (“Gerry”) Schwartz ranks about 30th on lists of Canada’s wealthiest people, with an estimated net worth of over $1.5 billion. He founded the private equity (buyout) firm Onex Corporation, which now has revenues of $26 billion and over 220,000 employees worldwide, making it one of Canada’s top ten companies. Yet even these statistics may understate Mr. Schwartz’s influence. From his early role as co-founder, along with his mentor Izzy Asper, of CanWest Global in 1977, to his founding of Onex in 1983 and his emergence in the 1980s as Canada’s Leveraged Buy-Out King, to his audacious bid to take over and merge Canada’s two national airlines in 1999, to his recent investments in the U.S. housing and auto industries (not to mention his business and philanthropic ventures with his wife, Chapters/Indigo CEO Heather Reisman), Schwartz has represented the new face of Canadian capitalism.
Onex is publicly traded, which is unusual in the buy-out world. And whereas most private equity or investment management firms “flip” companies for a quick profit, Schwartz prefers to grow firms over a number of years and help them to expand their market share. On more than one occasion, investors have complained about Schwartz having his cake and eating it too—as in 1987-88 when Schwartz raised $246 million by going public, but still skimmed a private-firm-like 20 per cent of the profits as a fee. But what shareholders have not generally complained about is the rate of return on their investments, or Schwartz’s sterling reputation as a long-term, patient investor.
Largely as a result of Reisman’s influence, Schwartz became more involved in Liberal Party politics in the early 1980s. He became a major fundraiser for Liberal leaders John Turner and Ontario's David Peterson, and became friends with finance minister and prime minister Paul Martin. Schwartz also grew personally close to prominent Conservatives, such as then prime minister Brian Mulroney, Toronto financier Hal Jackman, former federal finance minister Michael Wilson. Today, when Stephen Harper, Michael Ignatieff, and Bob Rae fall over each other to court Jewish voters, they will all have to beat a path to Gerry and Heather’s door. “Gerry has been involved with just about everybody in power," a top Liberal strategist has been quoted as saying. "But you also have to realize that this stems in part from a strong sense of public service. And that it's real, not fake."
Real, to be sure, but one need not be either a Marxist or an anti-Semite to see that Schwartz’s own ethnicity is as much at play as is altruism in his political and philanthropic activities. The Israeli military does not rank high on most people’s lists of needy charities, but Schwartz has created a $3-million scholarship for 6,000 non-Israeli born Jews serving in the Israeli Defense Forces. In 2004 Schwartz also founded the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy, an umbrella group that has been criticized as an attempt to “corporatize” the funding of Jewish community organizations and tie them to pro-Israel advocacy.
His advice for young entrepreneurs sounds almost hokey, but also rings true: “Get an education. Have, maintain, and don’t give up on the principle of integrity. And stick to it. Nixon put it well: it is not over when you fail, it is over when you quit.” For better or for worse, Mr. Schwartz has followed his principles.
Saturday, August 21, 2010
David Harvey, the author of The Condition of Postmodernity and over 20 other books, has provided a nice 11 minute overview the current crisis in a witty and accessible video:
Wednesday, August 04, 2010
"Forked" or not, the CMA is speaking more sense than it has in years. Unlike Brian Day and other likeminded political leaders in this professional association, the current report does not leap to the conclusion that we should open the doors not only to private for-profit delivery but private financing as well. (For example, France is a notoriously centralized unitary state in which 60 million people are squeezed into an area slightly larger than Saskatchewan, yet some people want to leap to the conclusion that its success stems from its fees at point of service, or "depassements". What little truth there may be to that judgement is itself grounded in that particular European context.)
Instead, the CMA recognizes that many of the biggest cost-drivers emanate from the 30% of the system that is still privately financed. Extending the scope of our relatively efficient single payer system to include more drug and home care is perfectly sensible--just as is the greater empowerment of physicians and patients to tailor health care to individuals' needs. Combining these two directions is a difficult balancing act, but not a full-blown contradiction. Ideally, we would each pay a medical premium that would carefully distinguish between the behaviours that we have some control over and the conditions that we do not control; incentivizing the former while co-insuring the latter all the while taking into account ability to pay. Such a perfect system does not as yet exist, and would be vulnerable to corruption by economic interests. But overall I would say that the CMA has taken a step in the right direction.
I will have more to say when I have reflected on each of the CMA's five recommendations in the light of the above-mentioned literature.
Saturday, June 19, 2010
Bob should know that while it is wrong to compare Israel's occupation of the West Bank to the Nazi's treatment of the Jews, there is some plausible analogy between the desire for a Greater Israel and the way the Nazis treated Poles and other occupants of ancient Germania.(Hence "Lebensraum").
In other words, there was more to Nazism than just antisemitism. And while Israel's right to exist should be accepted, I can't help but think that that small clutch of victorious allies who called themselves the "United Nations" in 1947-48, and who acted out of guilt about not liberating the death camps sooner, and sympathy for fellow educated Europeans, should have done a better job of considering everyone's interests in Palestine--especially those of the Palestinians. In other words, it was not unreasonable for Arabs and Palestinians to consider the creation of Israel as a legacy of colonialism, and not as a straightforward instance of de-colonization. And their slowness to come to terms with Israel's existence should not be taken as an excuse for building settlements all over the West bank, or for annexing East Jerusalem.
It is also important to clarify what one means by "intifada". The first or "popular" intifada was an inspired and inspirational grass roots movement that took place in the occupied territories and was aimed at Israeli soldiers and settlers. It was also the only Palestinian resistance that actually worked, by strengthening the hands of moderates inside Israel (led by Yitzakh Rabin) and deservedly garnering support throughout the world. Then Rabin was assassinated (by a Jew who wanted a Greater Israel), Ariel Sharon made his provocative march around a Muslim shrine, and all hell broke loose. Unfortunately, the Palestinians' self-proclaimed leaders (esp. Hamas) took control of the protest, and the polarization between extremists on both sides took place. The Second Intifada is an entirely different beast. Before deciding to fire Libby Davies, my question to her would be: which intifada were you referring to?
What should Canada's role be in the Middle East? To support the Rabins, the Abbas's and the Jimmy Carters of this world. Israel has a right to its 1967 boundaries--one could fudge that a little by saying that it has a right to that amount of land it had in 1967. If Israel gives Palestine enough land to build a corridor between Palestine and Gaza, Palestine could in principle agree to give Israel enough land to allow it to keep about half of its existing West Bank settlements. That is the kind of specific two-state solution that makes sense. I think that Libby Davies can be brought around to that, and should say so. The only question is: can Stephen Harper and Bob Rae be brought around to that position, or are they too busy competing for the support of the Jewish community?
Saturday, May 29, 2010
Pro-Life activists should be happy. But I wonder if they really are.
Thursday, May 13, 2010
Should I be ashamed? Efficiency pays. Harmonization streamlines the administration of the tax, and is more efficient than a straight sales tax, as it allows businesses to get credit for the tax they pay on inputs (as a deduction off the tax they collect). Exporters can reduce their prices by the amount of the tax they pay in imports that previously would have to be covered in the price. I would probably prefer a broader tax (i.e. with fewer exemptions) at a lower rate and more targetted help for low-income consumers. But, in principle,
I am not opposed to the HST.
Consider this startling passage from the Mintz Report. It suggests that 82% of the increase in capital stock and 80% of the job creation resulting from proposed changes to BC's tax regime will result from sales tax harmonization--i.e. only 18% and 20% from corporate tax cuts. Thus, if one is really concerned about the equity of shifting tax burdens onto ordinary consumers, I suggest ditching the corporate tax cuts, not the sales tax harmonization.
Monday, May 03, 2010
Now that the NDP is pulling ahead in the polls, and even former Finance minister Carole Taylor has had the good sense to distance herself from these large tax increases on ordinary consumers, it is time for the Campbell Liberals to consider how they might soften the regressive nature of their policies, while still hanging on to the conceptual virtues of both the HST and the carbon tax. I have two specific suggestions:
1. Lower the HST 1%-2%---with the lost revenue made up by corporate and personal income taxes.
2. Adopt the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives proposal to modify the incidence of the Carbon tax, viz. the low-income credit, at minimum, should be increased in line with carbon tax revenues, and ideally its share should be increased to half of revenues. The remaining half of carbon tax revenues should provide funds for other climate actions.
Even if the loss of revenue from reducing the HST (and the corresponding hike in income taxes) is too great to permit the adoption this prescription, one could always narrow some exemptions in order to lower the overall rate or broaden some other exemptions at the current rate, or target subsidies to the poor, etc. My general point is, I think still valid: that there a number of ways of dealing with the equity issues raised by the HST and the Carbon tax, short of abolishing these taxes altogether.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
What if $50 million could be found in other existing government outlays, including existing universities funding? And if another $50 million could be found from the federal government? That would only leave $100 million of additional spending to found out of rising resource revenues and plugged tax loopholes. If $200 million will close the access gap for the 100,000 neediest full-time studentsover four years, then a mere $25 million will close half the gap for a single year.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
BC’s Environmental Assessment Act was rewritten in 2002, replacing one of the country’s most progressive provincial EA laws with one of the weakest laws. Strong provisions that were eliminated included a purpose section emphasizing sustainability, requirements to examine cumulative effects, the need to detail alternatives, and innovative public participation requirements, including a mandatory role for First Nations. All of these functions are now being performed more ‘flexibly’ and ‘efficiently’ by a more ‘streamlined’ Environmental Assessment Office.
Perhaps the high profile of this project will help to ensure that the SiteC assessment will be conducted properly. But it will require vigilance and strong public pressure every step of the way.
Sunday, March 28, 2010
The NDP spends so much of its time and energy fighting defensive rearguard battles that it could do itself a lot of good--and a bit of good for its image--if it held its own thinkfest directly confronting the question of what to do about a health care system in which costs will be rising twice as fast as the rest of the economy for the next couple of decades. It could assemble a more expert and more diverse group of speakers than the Liberals just did: How about Roy Romanow debating Janice MacKinnon on the sustainability of single payer health care? Dr. Bob Evans of UBC and health futurist Jeffrey Bauer on the potential of 'reform from within' public health care? Yale political Scientist Theodore Marmor on comparative perspectives and Dr. Marcia Angell of Harvard on healthcare reform from the perspective of the medical profession in the United States?
David Dodge? Lloyd Axworthy? Give me a break!!
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
My BC-STV Post-Mortem: Half a Loaf Would have been better than No Loaf--and it would have been better than a Whole Loaf, too.
- It would have made Green Party and other third party votes count, without too much risk of giving people who are "green" (in more ways than one) the balance of power in the Legislature. For example, in my home riding of the Cariboo there would have been fierce competition for the second preferences of Green voters---and every reason for Green voters to get out on election day. It would have been the same story in many BC ridings.
- It would have shaken up the safe ridings, like those of Linda Reid, Adrian Dix, Jenny Kwan, and Colin Hansen, transforming them into competitive multi-party contests.
- It would have given voters constituencies that correspond more closely to their common sense notions of their regional communites, rather than to artificial political boundaries--districts like "Cariboo", "Richmond", "Kootenay".
- It would have been a brave political party that ran a slate of three candidates of all the same colour and gender. To do so would have invited a hemorraghing of second and third preferences. As a result, there would have been a more representative legislature.
- It would have expanded voter choice without the unpalatable consequence of geographically huge ridings or unfathomably long ballots--or the unsavoury aspect of MMP, which is a party list in which candidates are competing for favour of party members, not the preferences of the citizenry as whole.
Sunday, February 07, 2010
" The disposition to admire, and almost to worship, the rich and the powerful, and to despise, or, at least, to neglect persons of poor and mean condition...is...the great and most universal cause of the corruption of our moral sentiments." ---Adam Smith
Sunday, January 17, 2010
Saturday, January 16, 2010
I haven't had the time to write a proper OP-Ed , or even a letter to the editor on this subject, but since nobody on CBC's At Issue panel will say it, I will: the next Governor-General should be a First Nations person. Alberta's Willy Littlechild would be a good choice, so would B.C.'s Wendy Grant-John. Numerous Cree and Metis leaders can speak passable French.
It is long overdue.
#2 Google or bing "Cost of the Iraq War" and you'll find an expected total direct cost to U.S. taxpayers of $1 trillion dollars and a total cost to the economy of $3 trillion dollars.
#3 Then there was the loss of revenue associated with the financial crisis---which cost close to $5 trillion dollars for various bail-outs to avert collapse and a further $ 1trillion dollars for the economic stimulus package necessitated by the recession.
#4 But don't forget that the real villain is all those liberal "entitlement" programs, like President Obama's health care reforms, whch could, according to the Congressional Budget Office, offer a decrease in the deficit of $132 billion over the first decade, and a decrease of $1 trillion or more in the decade 2020-2029. Blame President Obama for that.
Monday, January 04, 2010
(1) From sunset to sunrise policy areas. One clue comes from the private sector, where the adage from industrial policy is 'protect workers, not jobs'. There is nothing sacred about a position, even when it is one's own. What is sacred is the idea of a public service career that directs resources and bureaucratic talent to where they are most needed. If we are going to expand single-payer medicine and the funding for it into home care and pharmacare, for example, it should not be necessary to raise taxes in order to do so---if the resources can be found inside government.
(2) Vouchers Where Appropriate (i.e. not schools). I have written elsewhere that the voucher concept works well in areas where there are (1) a small number of simple, discrete policy goals; (2) the relevant clients are individuals rather than institutions or complex policy communities; and (3) the relationship between policy means and ends is clear and direct--labour re-training and post-secondary tuition are the two examples I used.
(3) Putting the 'Public' Back in Public Administration , i.e. through Greater Public Sector Accountability. There are examples where corporate modes of governance have failed miserably, particularly in the health care sector---regional health boards in BC and Ontario consisting of members from the corporate sector approving the allocation of swine flu vaccine to private clinics, fo example, or nine executives in an outfit like Infoway paying themselves $3.9 million last year because of their supposed expertise in coordinating healthcare data; or the CEO at E Health Ontario receiving a bonus of $114,000 after only four months on the job. I have heard through the grapevine that similar sums of money are being earned in Alberta by new CEOs simply for making across the board cuts of a given percentage. The bottom line is short-term budgets, not quality or even the intelligent management of long-term costs.
The reasons for this state of affairs are at least twofold: (1) Witless neo-liberal obeisance to the corporate sector; and (2) gutless fear that handling these issues in -house, using line ministries directly accountable to the Minister, will result in --gulp--direct political responsibility for any mistakes that are made. In the words of the former Deputy minister of Health in BC, Lawrie McFarlane, "It is time that we rebuilt healthcare delivery around a more accountable framework. A good way to begin would be axing corporate boards."