An answer

Section: 
Editorial

I can’t understand why government no longer seems to work – services deteriorate while costs escalate.

Then I read a review of Donald Savoie’s book, “Whatever Happened to the Music Teacher?” in the Toronto Star last week.

The Moncton author has written more than 40 books on politics, public administration and the decline of democracy.

The title of this latest book came from a conversation the author had with a prominent Canadian businessman who grew up in a small Nova Scotia village. While growing up, there was a provincially-employed music teacher in the village who worked alongside two Department of Natural Resources employees.

Today, the villagers are told the province can’t afford a music teacher. The village has two fine buildings housing 150 natural resources employees.

The story illustrates, says Savoie, what has happened to Canada’s public service in the past 30 years.

The front-line workers are sacrificed for offices full of paper pushers, managers, supervisors and evaluators.

Savoie is talking about the federal public service, but he might as well be talking about provincial and municipal government too.

In the 1970s, Kincardine had a clerk and a couple employees working in the town. Ripley, Tiverton, and the townships of Huron, Kincardine and Bruce were about the same – each had a clerk and maybe a part time employee or two. (There were no computers then and an employee actually answered the telephone.)

The county health unit had an office in town and the restaurants were inspected on a regular basis.

The town had a two- or three-man police force and a small OPP detachment that worked out of the basement of the old library.

Truth is, we have many more pencil pushers today than we had 40 years ago.

We can’t go back and I don’t know what the solution is.

The problem, says Savoie, started with the bottom-line doctrine of former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney which has been followed by those who have succeeded him. You can’t run government like private business. It has never worked and never will, says Savoie.

Maybe governments should just concentrate on providing proper services.

**

Kincardine is giving out more than $100,000 in grants to a variety of organizations.

I can see the municipality helping fund the trails and minor sports, etc., but where do you draw the line? Should taxpayers be funding, for example, the Blues and Scottish festival.

**

Team Kincardine is studying gas prices, I see.  They have discovered what everyone knows – they are higher here than in neighbouring communities.Perhaps the team should convince a discount gas retailer to come to town.

**

There were television networks from around the world in Rome last week breathlessly waiting for white smoke to come out of a chimney to announce a new Pope.

By Friday, things returned to normal – the media was digging up dirt on the newly appointed.

**

Politicians in this country are afraid to raise taxes to pay for services so they pick on the poor and those easily addicted by building casinos.

The Ontario Lottery Corporation wants to build one in Toronto – promising a bonanza for the city.

I was reading a math book (Here’s Looking at Euclid) this winter and the chapter on probability and chance was most interesting. Slots are the casino industry’s cutting edge. In Nevada, slots make up 70 per cent of gambling revenue. In the States, slots rack $25 billion each year in profits. (Blame mathematicians for inventing them.)

If you were to win early at the slots, it would be best to leave the building. You won’t win over the long haul.

How many will lose house and home if Toronto gets a huge new casino? I guess it doesn’t matter, we have to pay all those pencil pushers.

Maybe Toronto mayor, Rob Ford, newly infamous for the old wandering hand routine, should grab the ass of the OLG head and run him out of town.