The New Government
What to Expect
Tomorrow the new government of Justin Trudeau gets sworn in. The media will be filled with news about everything from the choice of cabinet ministers and their backgrounds to what Trudeau's wife is wearing and hoopla which promotes the Camelot image the Trudeau team is presenting for this administration. In this sense, we know what to expect tomorrow when the swearing in takes place. It may be followed by a press conference at which Trudeau says something about what to expect next.
So, what is it we can expect from the new government?
Again, already newspapers are filled with stories about the new government's priorities. This includes everything from when the new parliament will be convened to what legislation will be pushed through right away. It includes speculation on whether the Liberals will be able to deliver on the 25,000 refugees from Syria, where Trudeau will get the money for his infrastructure promises, and more. All of it is designed to keep Canadians in thrall, spectators to the decisions taken behind their backs while giving the impression that it is the people's government making the hard choices -- doing what it can to restore the middle class to its rightful place at home and restore Canada to its rightful place in the world.
"We can always do better" is the Trudeau pledge and now his government will show it can deliver.
And there is the rub. How will the government deliver? It turns out, delivery is the name of the game.
Trudeau's team is "drafting blueprints for a new structure at the top of government, designed to turn a handful of the Liberal Party's most valued promises into new institutions," Doug Saunders reported for the Globe and Mail on October 23. Trudeau's "new structure" is "drawing on a set of ideas that emerged in Britain more than a decade ago under Tony Blair's prime ministership and applied in a different version in Ontario under the Dalton McGuinty government, with results that pleased insiders but have left a questionable legacy," says Saunders.
The founder of this mad science, former Tony Blair adviser Michael Barber, calls it "deliverology." The idea is to establish "high-level ‘delivery units' to push key goals across the entire public service, sometimes bypassing the hierarchy of cabinets, departments and administrations, putting multiple government departments under the watchful eye (and sometimes forceful hand) of new organizations that report straight to the prime minister and impose their own goals and measures on the workings of government. [...]
"Mr. Trudeau's staff say their key mission is to establish a set of five high-level delivery offices to cut through bureaucratic layers on the most difficult and important promises in his agenda," Saunders reports.
Not coincidentally, this is the forte of Katie Telford, Trudeau's National Campaign Director, who is expected to be named his chief of staff in the new administration. In a December 2013 video for Liberal Party volunteers Telford remarked, "I have four numbers that I look at that drive everything, whether it be a local riding question or a national campaign decision. Does this help us increase our number of supporters, our number of members, our number of donors, or our number of volunteers? It's all about the numbers. If you are going up in every one of those categories you are on a path to success."
Gerald Butts, Justin Trudeau's principal adviser during the campaign, who is expected to continue in a similar position, told the Globe and Mail that the Liberals are "trying to wed modern delivery systems with traditional cabinet government." Butts previously traveled to Britain to learn "deliverology" from Tony Blair's Labour government and played a key role in applying it in Ontario, Saunders says.
The issue hinges on how success is defined, by whom, and for what. On the basis of what criteria are judgements made?
Michael Barber has described how his model as set under Tony Blair established "a set of specific targets in the categories of health, education, crime, and transportation." These included "reducing wait times... improving the punctuality of trains," etc. They ipso facto define what is meant by success and then the relevant government departments are told to plan to meet the target.
Not surprisingly, this poses a number of serious problems. For instance, how can hospital wait times be reduced without providing adequate funding for health care, for instance for additional hospital beds? Or, what if wait times are reduced by eliminating the patients? Does this system tackle the fundamental issue that healthcare is a right and the aim of planning must be to deliver this right in the form of guaranteed services at the highest quality society can provide?
In Ontario "deliverology" has been practiced under the Liberal government. Targets for reducing wait times in this case are based on giving bonuses to hospital CEOs for doing so and bonus payments to hospitals for kicking out patients quickly. Even hospital cleaning has been based on such "targets" resulting in scandal in 2012 after the CBC revealed the sordid state of a number of hospitals which had become breeding grounds for epidemics such as C. difficile, amongst others.
Does this experience and the experience of how the Liberal electoral coup was carried out indicate what we can now expect across the board with the new Trudeau, Telford, Butts trio in command? Such a pragmatic self-serving definition of success comes at a grave cost to the people. Once the issue is to achieve a target number which is set using neo-liberal methods, all sorts of crimes, corruption and unsavoury anti-people methods can be called success. Making trains run on time by eliminating the human factor/social consciousness to say nothing of eliminating human beings themselves can be done. We know that. Canadians did not like it when it was done before and they certainly will not put up with it from the likes of this trio either.
The success achieved by the Trudeau campaign team was self-serving through and through. There is no high road to be found there. All the talk about making Canada better is for purposes of politicizing private interests beyond what has been achieved thus far. As is the case with the other cartel political parties, the Trudeau trio found their niche during the election by using databases of supporters, potential supporters, donors, potential donors, and so on to pull off the electoral coup which handed the Liberals a majority government.
"I love the numbers because they don't lie," Telford said in the December 2013 video.
During the fight waged by Hamilton's steelworkers in defence of their rights and the rights of all, one of the things they said was, "Figures don't lie, but liars sure can figure." And there you have it. Is this an indication of what we can expect from the new government?