Canada’s Bureaucracy is Broken
[:en]Wherever one sits on the political spectrum, Canadians are uniting under a common banner of frustration and fatigue at this government’s inability to perform the basic functions of government.
In recent weeks, my staff have spent hours on the phone trying to help constituents access basic government services. Passports that never arrived. Immigration applications that got deleted. Travel chaos at our airports. Not to mention the age-old difficulty in getting a hold of somebody at the CRA.
These days it seems like our entire public service sector is broken. This failure of leadership by the government has led to anger and stress for citizens and burnout among public servants.
MP offices are not immune to this dysfunction. Recently, we dealt with a case where a constituent was told she owed the government money. She couldn’t get a hold of anyone at the CRA, so she reached out to my office for help. My staff called the CRA’s MP helpline. Despite the agent’s admission the CRA had been in error and had failed to adequately communicate with the client, she refused to deal with the case. All this agent had to do was forward an email. One-click of a mouse. That’s all it would have taken to rectify the matter, and she refused to do it.
Immigration Canada decided to simply jettison any application in process prior to September 2021 and informed those people they would need to re-apply. Despite this drastic move, they still have a backlog of 2.4 million people!
Likewise, Passport Canada, already in early 2021 my office was informed they had a backlog of some 40,000 passport applications sitting in a warehouse.
The current passport fiasco is a great example because it was so easily avoidable. The government should have known that 1) with COVID restrictions ending—an eventuality they had total control over—people would want to travel and 2) the first batch of ten-year passports were up for renewal this year. This was easily foreseeable, and the government should have taken actions to prepare.
In recent weeks, there have been times our office has waited on hold for more than four hours trying to help constituents get their passport only to be told things that turned out to be false or that the consent form we submitted had been lost. Constituents have been the ones to suffer the consequences. Whether deliberate or mistaken this is unacceptable.
The Trudeau Government continues to blame their passport mess on COVID-19, but in recent days they’ve hired an additional 600 employees to deal with a lower volume of passports than the department was processing prior to COVID-19.
In the same way, this government’s fiscal policies have resulted in more dollars chasing fewer goods, their management of departments has led to more government employees, working longer hours, and accomplishing less with poorer results.
It is high time this Prime Minister and his team stop virtue signaling, stop making excuses, stop blaming Canadians for their own incompetence, and focused on the nuts and bolts of basic governance.
There are rarely simple solutions when it comes to government, but in the case of passports, I can offer a few suggestions.
1) Since the government cannot realistically put a freeze on new applications to deal with the backlog, the government should pass an Order in Council making all passports up for renewal remain valid for an additional two years. That way agents can focus on new applications and work to deal with the renewal backlog over the next 2 years.
2) Immediately recall all Federal Public Service Employees who have been working from home back to the office and eliminate redundant COVID-19 protocols for federal offices to increase efficiency and productivity.
3) Temporarily restructure offices to ensure a maximum number of employees are available to serve the public as frontline employees.
4) Improve communication between the department and the public and interoffice communication to streamline the process and avoid errors and confusion.
5) Hire, reward, fire, and promote employees based exclusively on the merit of their work.
6) Hold ministers and department heads accountable for their failures. For example, hold departments monetarily responsible for delays—if the government does not provide proper service in the timeframe they say, they must pay interest or a fee (out of their departmental budget) like any citizen would were the situation reversed.
Many of these simple commonsense ideas could be used to improve service in every government department.
Canada’s bureaucracy is broken, and Canadians deserve better. Taking these steps would show the government is listening to Canadians, serious about fixing the problem and would help to rebuild trust in our institutions.