Thursday, September 30, 2010

Politics, Idiocy & Rob Ford

‘All politicians are idiots, business leaders are necessarily better’ is an over-the-top statement.

And the idea that a lazy or slow bureaucracy wastes money needs a closer look.

Politicians face far more public scrutiny than any business leader; it’s simply in the job description. Sure, a CEO must answer to shareholders but the CEO is really only accountable to them and not a broader public at large, nor are they denied ridiculous bonuses for great failure (see large banks in the US).

Also, ‘wasted money’ or a ‘lazy/slow’ bureaucracy is tied to increased measures of accountability. Ministers of the Crown are politically responsible for their own decisions and the actions of anyone within their ministry (ie. Ministry of the Environment, Finance, etc.). A majority of wasted money or fiscal scandal occurs within the lower ranks of the department (manager, director, street-level bureaucrat) and yet, quite rightly, the Minister is still accountable to the public at election time. With the public demanding more accountability and ministers fearing for their elect-ability, layers and layers of checks, audits, and sign offs are set in place slowing government work to a halt.

It’s a ‘Catch 22,’ with increased accountability comes increased ‘red-tape’ resulting in the perception of a slow, “lazy” bureaucracy.

Municipalities are not spared the same increased accountability and red tape.

And it’s not like Toronto can spend their way out of a slow bureaucracy (if you even believe it to be true), cities face already constrained budgets and cuts, like Rob Ford proposes (ie. $230 million lost revenue), will only make that problem worse.

Cities really can only collect from property taxes and user/registration fees. Cities depend heavily on the province for money. That’s why I would support a mayor that works well with the province outright.

Talk about “wasted money,” it took 5-years and the closure of many business put out by the installation of streetcar tracks on St. Clair Avenue and Ford wants to get rid of streetcars! That’s a waste.

Even if Rob Ford manages to win the election, he needs the support of council for any of his ideas. One of them is fire half of the council, I’m sure that’ll pass unanimously (*cough*). His agenda will not be well received resulting in legislative gridlock and, in the meantime, the city will rot.

I truly believe that a big part of the anger that Toronto has lies within an ignorance we all have towards the realities facing the public service. Politicians like Ford capitalize on this by applying business standards to government and drilling into the differences. Comparing public organizations by the same set of standards as private ones prevents us from getting most from our public institutions. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Sarah Thomson Drops Out, Supports Smitherman

Newsflash: Sarah Thomson drops out of race to support George Smitherman.

This is really no surprise. George Smitherman, according to polls, is a seemingly distant second place trailing Rob Ford. However, if you take voter turnout and those polled who are absolutely certain who they will vote for into consideration, you find that Smitherman is actually a close second place.

Update: The poll that I was referring to shows a tightening of the gap "where it counts: with those committed to voting." 

Ford (28%) & Smitherman (23%) 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Thai Censorship

Austrailian Broadcasting Corporation's (ABC) show "Foreign Correspondent" broadcast feature on the controversial nature of Thai politics and the role of the monarchy. In Thailand, any negative or critical coverage of the King would certainly land any journalist, foreign or domestic, in jail for a very long time. After visiting Thailand, warnings were very explicit especially within travel advisories posted to DFAIT's website..
"It is a criminal offence in Thailand to make any derogatory or insulting comments about the King or other members of the Royal family. Any person making such comments is liable to arrest and prosecution." 
- Laws & Customs, Department of Foreign Affairs & International Trade
So, under threat of prosecution and imprisonment, the film was incredibly difficult to produce. In fact, the journalists involved operated "without any involvement of the ABC Bureau in Bangkok or the full knowledge of any Thai national" as it might risk compromising both the story and/or the future of ABC's presence in Thailand.

The video could not be posted to ABC's website, so it was leaked to Wikileaks.

Here is the link: ABC Foreign Correspondent video report on Thailand