Accountability and transparency became public sector buzzwords in the early 1990s, yet governments are making slow progress toward implementation. In his victory speech, PM Trudeau pledged his commitment followed by some media skeptics indicating that we would, again, be disappointed in a few years.
The private sector excluded, few people surpass the accountability of a Grade 1 student. Indeed, it is a moral dilemma that our children are held to higher degrees of accountability than most workers including all governments.
Consider that the student will receive a written formal evaluation on their work approximately 50 times before graduation. Their performance will be rated (symbols/letter grades) and ranked (percent/letter grades) in multiple subjects (reading/math/etc.) in multiple areas within each subject. Occasionally failure occurs unless the school is still devoted to the now ill-regarded practice of social promotion.
During these 12 years our governments are held accountable on approximately three occasions, and the decision will likely be based more on emotional reasons than on empirical data. Even though our previous government had the best empirical outcomes of any country, public satisfaction measures were weak.
Governments may eventually catch on to a process of developing a report card based on public input but featuring the same principles as applied to our school children. A recent premier in Alberta set out to do this but he failed to understand sources of strong opposition.
The emergence of accountability and transparency also gave rise to a new corps of government staff whose primary role is to spin messages. This is relatively easy when government’s performance is not given evaluation ratings, and departments made certain that the public could not benefit from a consistent assessment. Within one week of the premier’s staff understanding what was about to happen, he was persuaded to abandon the effort.
Surprisingly the media also disapproves. They thrive on creating controversy and also want to avoid consistent assessment so that they can spin their interpretation of the data.
We will wait to see whether PM Trudeau was merely tickling our ears or whether he has a sincere desire to make government more accountable than Grade 1 children.
Jim Dueck, Abbotsford