Monday, December 6, 2010

Of Boot-Camps and Scabs

CBC News - World - Ottawa spending billions on consultants: union

So as the Government now out-sources so much of it's work that should be done by the public service, watch for them to trumpet the great savings they've made by reducing the size of government.

It would be a blatant "skewing of the facts", but it isn't unique. In Ontario in the 90s, one of then Premier Mike Harris's hot button election topics was "getting tough on youth crime". Sound familiar? He, like Harper, used fear mongering to capture votes rather than hope for the future.

Harris was a proponent of U.S. style "boot camps" for young offenders, where the kids get yelled at, maligned and bossed around by drill sergeant-like correctional officers. The image seemed to appeal to the public at the time, regardless of the fact that American research had already shown the boot camp model to be less effective then other, rehabilitative "up-front" methods of reducing recidivism in young offenders. But Harris was committed to the notion so like Harper, it was "damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead" with his borderline abusive notion of getting tough on punks.

So millions of dollars were siphoned off of already existing programs that were, at the time, doing exemplary work with young offenders, to fund an experimental boot camp near Barrie Ontario. The candidates (offenders) were hand-picked and every resource imaginable was poured into the project. And as the program progressed, the rate at which graduates re-offended after their release was carefully tracked. But the data was skewed. What was counted as re-offending was if a youth for example, charged with car theft, stole more cars in the future. But if he did a break and enter, this was not counted as re-offending. Thus, the Harris Conservatives attempted to trumpet the success of their project which, in the end, looked nothing like a boot camp and in reality, proved to be no more or less effective than other means of rehabilitating youthful offenders being used at the time. Oh, and this project was overseen by Minister of Corrections Bob Runciman, who incidental,couldn't legitimately get elected to Federal Parliament after his tenure with Harris, but was instead appointed to the Senate by Stephen Harper.
"Senator"Bob Runciman 

So the skewing of data is not a new method of proving the efficacy of a program, project or philosophy, especially if the program, project or philosophy is flawed in the first place.

But I am jumping ahead of my self here. This is only my take on what Harper might do with this scenario. He hasn't done it yet and in the end, he might surprise us all and give us the straight facts on what the costs of running his government are. And pigs can fly.......

But regardless of what Our esteemed  Prime Minister intends to do with his data, It is indeed amazing that the rampant use of "Consultants"/Contract workers has been allowed to occur to the extent that it has. The feds haven't actually shrunk the size of government, they have increased it by creating an unregulated parallel public service that has been outsourced to the private sector.

What amazes me is that the union representing these federal public servants has not been more aggressive in their protest of the use of "temp" employees by the government. These "Consultants" are most certainly taking work away from existing public servants and have prevented the hiring of other unionised personnel who would then have the opportunity to acquire benefits.

But there-in lies the rub. These Contract workers are not earning benefits. An employees benefits could easily be a cost to the government of as much as 14% of an employees salary on top of what they might earn. So there could well be a savings to the government in what is spent on public employees. But one has to wonder, when the contracts to these private sector temps are being negotiated, are the lack of benefits being off-set by an increased salary? With each contract likely being negotiated on an individual basis, it would be extremely difficult to calculate what, if any, the real savings might be.

So if I were a rampant NDP'er, I'd be screaming "Scabs to the right of us,  Scabs to the left of us...." from the top of the Parliament buildings. The Government is doing a fine job of incorporating a cheesy, union busting cost savings tactic that is all too common in the private sector today. But at what risk?

Garry Corbett, the Union Official who, according to the CBC article, is researching the Governments use of Consultants, is quick to recall the horror of Walkerton as an example of what could happen when the Public Service is slashed indiscriminately as was the case with the Harris regime in Ontario. People died unnecessarily. And thus far, Harper seems to have no difficulty putting his agenda ahead of Canadian lives. Placing the profits from the Alberta Oil Sands ahead of the health risks to local Indian populations is a case in point. But as far as we know, no one has actually died yet as a result of the Federal Governments use of "scab" labour.

What is also of great concern, is what these Consultants are being used for. As the CBC article states, these people are now being used to help form policy. That's right campers, these Temps with no vested interest in our Government except for what their salary is, are forming policy that could conceivably have an impact on your life and mine. And once the policy is made, these "fly-by-nighters" are long gone. And if that policy has serious flaws or dire consequences, who is to be held accountable? Well at the moment, it seems like no one in the Harper Government is accountable for anything.

And what about privacy and access to information. It already appears that the senior bureaucracy has issues regarding leaky security and indiscriminate access to confidential files. But what if you add hundreds of private sector temps to this mix?  Is your confidential information and mine accessible to these people? And does their access end when they leave the job they're doing for the government? And what might or could be done with any confidential information they may have acquired once they return to the private sector?

It seems our Government bureaucracy is being privatized in a big way right under our very noses, with out any kind of discussion or consultation. These are services and functions that are in place to serve us, the citizens of Canada, yet this process has not even been discussed with the officials we have elected to speak on our behalf. The members of the Canadian House of Commons. But then again, Harper has never been big on consultation, collaboration or even democracy for that matter.

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