All posts tagged bureaucratic accountability

New Veterans Affairs minister: same old crisis of insensitivity

Sean Bruyea

Veterans aren’t happy and recently-appointed Veterans Affair Minister Julian Fantino is only fanning the fire with the usual parroting of bureaucratic misinformation. How do veterans and other Canadians hold a minister and his bureaucracy accountable for spreading half-truths and misleading claims?

The first step to accountability is to uncover the truth.

The situation in the veteran community is so dire that Fantino wrote an op-ed for the National Post and also sent it out on the internet addressed to “Dear Veteran.” His open letter claims there is a “tangle of misinformation regarding how Canada treats” its veterans. His first assertion is that “a majority of Canada’s veterans receive the support and care they need.”

The truth is Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) provides programs to a mere 17 per cent of Canada’s serving and retired military members. It would be impossible for Fantino to know whether the remaining 83 per cent of veterans are indeed having their needs met since no effort is made by his department to track the “needs” of this population.

The primary focus of the minister’s op-ed is the legislation for Canadian Forces members and veterans known as the “New Veterans Charter.” He rightly points out that Parliament was unanimous in endorsing “wholesale change to veterans’ support and services” for post-World War II Canadian Forces veterans.… Read the rest

Safety last – the story of the 2009 Ottawa boiler explosion

The links below takes you to the recent CBC story of the 2009 boiler explosion in Ottawa that killed Peter Kennedy. The boiler was operated by Public Works and Government Services Canada, which had received a scathing report on its safety practices just days before. In addition, Rino DeRosa, a plumber working for PWGSC, had been trying for years to get action on problems he had seen – notably the use of unqualified personnel hired in a foolish effort to save money. But management, apparently blinded by arrogance, wasn’t interested in hearing what a plumber had to say.

Frustrated by a lack of action, Rino approached us in 2008 with his concerns. Using information that he provided to us, we filed Access to Information Act requests to get to the bottom of things. The requests also serve another purpose: they inform an organization that we know there’s a problem, giving it the opportunity to fix things. Sadly, all too often management instead tries to bury things. It’s the strategy used by lesser and more corrupt minds, and often makes the potential scandal worse.

In this case, PWGSC began a game of cat-and-mouse with us, first claiming documents didn’t exist and then, when confronted, arguing they should be exempted because of national security concerns.… Read the rest

Recent Julian Fantino misstep shows some of what’s wrong in Ottawa

The latest mini-scandal in Ottawa involves some overtly partisan letters by Julian Fantino (or, more accurately, his staff writers) which were posted on a publicly funded CIDA website. This is against Treasury Board rules and so resulted in a complaint. The letters were taken down, but opposition critics are arguing that it was no innocent mistake.

This little incident is illustrative. The original letters were prepared for publication in newspapers, and were probably written by government employees – something that is allowed to a point. The dividing line between what is partisan and what is simply the government’s position has become increasingly fuzzy in recent decades.

Once it would have been out of bounds for a minister to ask bureaucrats to write a letter attacking opposition MPs, or to collect data on military helicopter usage by opposition critics, or to ask them to stop a potentially embarrassing access to information request from being processed. But attitudes have slowly changed, and now such requests are routine. What the press reports is just the tip of the iceberg.

Combined with this is the tendency for bureaucrats to simply do what they’re told – even lie – when ordered to do so.… Read the rest