Open and Accountable- not this government with Phoenix

If you know someone in the Public Service or someone who has recently retired from the government- chances are you know someone who hasn’t been paid or who isn’t receiving the pay and benefits that they are supposed to be getting. We all have friends in that situation.

Stop and think for a minute about the impact on them personally or on their families.

 -You can’t pay your bills or mortgage
 -Your credit rating which will impact you for years to come will suffer
 -You can’t get welfare or EI because you have a job
 -For those who have been let go from positions in the government, if you can’t get your Record of  
  Employment, you can’t apply for EI
 -If you have retired you are missing your main source of income
 -Many are waiting for their severance package- that is the income they need to transition to their next job

The payroll issue is much broader than the examples above and impacts some 80,000 people- that's a lot of workers, that is a lot of families.

Passing the buck is what politicians of all stripes are famous for doing and both Scott Brison and Prime Minister Trudeau are pretty good at it when it comes to the PHOENIX payroll issue.

“Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the ongoing problem with the Phoenix pay system that has affected tens of thousands of government workers "is an unacceptable situation" inherited from the former Conservative government.” (CBC News)

Really? The election was when? You have been in power nine months- take some responsibility for the mess that was rolled out under your watch, not under the Conservatives, in February of this year.

Your government was warned in February that there were significant problems, but you kept rolling out the same flawed system month after month.

How about telling the media how many senior level management types are impacted (if any). Tell us how many Deputy Ministers and Assistant Deputy Ministers across the government aren’t getting paid.

“Trudeau said he has tasked the clerk of the Privy Council to oversee efforts to fix the system. Asked whether anyone will be held accountable for the system's problems, Trudeau said the government is right now focusing on addressing the problems first.” (CBC News)

Trudeau claims to be open and accountable so tell us this: On what date (yes the exact date) did you ask the Clerk to do this?

You claim to run an open government, how about releasing all of the memos since the election, that were sent to yourself, the minister in charge, the Deputy Minister and your Chief of Staff about PHOENIX problems. Don’t the public and the public servants impacted have a right to know the real timeline?

Trudeau said "There will be time to talk about lessons learned down the road, but we are taking this very, very seriously and ensuring that people get the support and the pay that they are owed." (CBC News)

We can all read between the lines of that bafflegab. In other words no one at a senior level will pay a price for this fiasco. It will be shunted off to some internal senior level committee which will consult with themselves and come to the conclusion that no one was responsible and these issues could not have been anticipated.

Just how serious are you? Would any of your senior managers (Deputy Minister’s and Assistant Deputy Ministers) still have a job if they were working in the private sector and 80,000 workers were having pay problems? These folks need to be fired, reassigned or demoted.



Alberta Bound

Jason Kenney’s decision to head back to Alberta puts to rest all of the chatter and speculation as to whether or not he would run for the federal leadership.

I wish him well in this latest endeavor. I was fortunate to work quite closely with him over the years when I was in charge of Question Period. He was formidable in QP both from a strategic sense and in his delivery of his questions. Many times I never gave Jason a written question, but he was our “clean up” guy, IE he would be up somewhere around the third round of questions and he would make up his own question based on the answers he had heard from Liberal ministers. It wasn’t unusual to see Jason’s question featured on the news instead of Harpers.

It will open up the Conservative leadership race a bit and it will be interesting to see if any new contenders step forward. There are still a few big names out there and no one can blame them for wanting to take their time before announcing yea or nay. I have worked for five different leaders and I have seen how challenging that leadership role can be especially when the party is in the opposition role and out of government. Trying to rebuild the party’s morale, platform and contend with all of the personalities and egos in caucus is not something most people would enjoy doing and it requires a very special dedication to the task.

I wish Jason much success and I think I can safely say Alberta politics will capture a lot of our attention over the next few months.


The Silly Season is Upon Us

As we move into the month of July it is obvious from following the news that we have clearly entered the “Silly Season”. I define that as the time after the House of Commons shuts down for the summer recess and we are bombarded with news stories that are often of little importance, but get trumpeted as such anyways. It is also a period when exaggeration is the name of the game.

Look at all of the stories around Obama’s brief visit to Ottawa. Yes it was an historic event and most certainly needed coverage, but, the sheer volume of it defies belief… and then it’s all about a “Bromance” and “Dude Diplomacy.” Once you read that in an article (you would think those terms were coined by some short pants in PMO) you can pretty well skip to the next story where you might find some real analysis. Obama is a great speaker, but how much does it matter and how much is achieved by being his best buddy, when his replacement is just months away. Obama has always been a great speaker, just look at his first election campaign- but how much has he changed things to date? Whatever he promises now can be undone by either of his two potential replacements after the November election. Just think if it is Trump that wins-won’t he have some thoughts on our gushing Trudeau-Obama “bromance.” Sometimes less is better.

We also had all of the “Sky is Falling” predictions over the UK vote to leave the EU. It reached a fever pitch and with all of the horrid predictions about how the British were doomed, I was waiting for the island nation to sink under the waves after the vote was counted. Needless to say it didn’t happen, just a tremendous amount of ink spilled covering the story. There is a long way to go before that story reaches a conclusion and the nation like its people will adapt. Is it the silly season over there too?

And last but not least when does shutting down  a lemonade stand rate national news coverage?

Yes, the kids are cute and photogenic, but they were in the wrong. Could it have been handled better by the Conservation officer maybe? But he was doing the job he is paid to do- IE enforce the rules. I know if that situation had arisen with me when I was their age (yes that is almost the Stone Age), my parents would have said sorry they didn’t know the regulations and they would have moved me back to my own property where I could have continued with my stand… they would have insisted that I understand the importance of checking out the rules first and then following them. They would certainly not have made a huge story out of it nor would they have given interviews to the media blaming everyone else’s decision, but their own- and I expect the media back then would have hunted down the young officer to hear his side of the story to provide some balanced news coverage. But while suicide bombs kill dozens- this story somehow rated national news coverage. I wonder if it had been two homeless people who had set up a lemonade stand to make a little extra money for themselves if there would have been even a single tweet or story written. So much for the “Silly Season”


Did someone say leadership race?

With two political leadership races underway, both of which at this point in time have put everyone to sleep, one can only hope that something happens to inject some life into them.

We have had the first NDP leadership bid if you can call it that with the declared entry of Cheri DiNovo. Declared, but at the same time insisting that she is an unofficial candidate as she won’t pay the $30,000 registration fee. One has to wonder what was gained by this PR stunt other than getting your name in the limelight. DiNovo has a good record at the provincial level, but if this is her attempt to move to the federal scene it leaves a lot to be desired.

Unfortunately, for the NDP; key people such as Brian Topp, Megan Leslie and Nathan Cullen have removed themselves from contention. It would have been interesting to see those three debate the future direction of the party. It is also bad news for the Conservatives as they need a strong NDP to siphon off votes from the Trudeau Liberals.

The Conservative leadership race is almost as dull and uninspiring as the NDP one. At least Kevin O’Leary’s musing about seeking the leadership provided a bit of interest and spark and even if he never runs he did wake the membership up for a couple of hours.

The latest trial balloon from a potential candidate came from Lisa Raitt. It generated a few minutes of interest and even got a couple of paragraphs out of the media. There is no reason for her not to run providing she can put together the financing and organization. She has a good track record both in and out of politics and can certainly hold her own against the present three contenders (Leitch, Chong, Bernier) none of which will or has excited much interest. Certainly at this point they don’t look like they could inspire a nation to vote Conservative. All of them are decent people and hardworking MPs, but does anyone seriously see them with "Prime Minister" in front of their names? Of course in politics you can never say never as upsets do occur. We don't have to look far back in our political history to see examples of that happening. Joe Clark and Stephane Dion being two recent examples.

There is still a lot of time for both the NDP and Conservative races to pick up speed and interest. With Peter Julian still to be heard from for the NDP and both Jason Kenney and Peter Mackay playing it coy, sooner or later (please make it sooner) the real race will begin. Certainly the Conservatives who are supposed to be “the government in waiting” need some life and political drama injected into their leadership race. They also need someone who is in it for the long haul IE eight years or more. I wouldn’t blame anyone for not wanting to do what will be an incredibly long and tough job of turning both of the parties around.

So until we get some serious contenders out there, maybe the media can keep interviewing O’Leary and that way the voting public will know that there really is a leadership race going on out there-somewhere.


Onwards and Forward

The CPC convention has come and gone. When you look back at it there wasn’t all that much excitement. A possible exception being the motion on marriage which generated a lot of interest and once passed brought us into the 21st century, but that was about it. The media tried to make the campaign review sound interesting, but it was pretty much old stuff and really just gave delegates a chance to vent one last time before the party came together and moved forward towards the next election.

We had the obligatory photo ops of potential and actual leadership candidates, but we aren’t all that much further ahead in knowing who will run and will any of the big name candidates such as Kenney and MacKay enter the race, although Kenney at least advised that we will have to wait until the end of the summer for a decision from him.

Still nothing concrete from MacKay, Raitt or Clement so party members are still in wait and see mode. It does give Chong, Bernier and Leitch a chance to get out ahead of the big names and sign up supporters and organizers which could make things more interesting down the road when the big names throw their hat into the ring. Will the present supporters of the declared candidates stay with them or drift to the bigger names? Will they stay with their present choice or move on a second ballot to one of the bigger names? Such is the fun of political leadership races.

Of course we did have Kevin O’Leary there to feed the media with his lines and promote himself. Whether or not he ever enters the race; all the exposure is good for his business as the more media exposure he gets the more interest there is in his funds. It is a win-win for O’Leary, even if just a distraction for the majority of the delegates. If O’Leary ever wants to get serious, he will soon find that it is not as easy a game as he thinks. It will be interesting to see if he listens to advice (which he is always telling budding entrepreneurs to do) or just shoots from the lip and plows blindly ahead.

Rona Ambrose did an excellent job and although delegates wisely voted to block attempts from a small group who wanted her to enter the leadership race, she should be thanked for her efforts as interim leader. The tribute to former leader Stephen Harper was as it should have been IE dignified and respectful and Harper’s address although brief, hit the mark.

Now it is onwards and forwards as the party comes together to elect a new leader and prepares for the next election. For all the doubters out there- remember 1968 and how Trudeaumania led to a sweeping victory of Pierre Elliot Trudeau (154 Liberals to 72 Conservatives) and how that was followed by his near defeat in the next election in 1972 by Robert Stanfield. In that election Trudeau only managed to win 109 seats to the Conservative 107 and Pierre Trudeau had to rely on the NDP under David Lewis to stay in power.

 In politics, no one is ever guaranteed a win.