Seamanship Quotation

“In political activity, then, men sail a boundless and bottomless sea; there is neither harbour for shelter nor floor for anchorage, neither starting-place nor appointed destination.”
— from Michael Oakeshott's
Political Education” (1951)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Ontario’s restraint program: bulking up for cuts

Shafts of light are breaking through the gloom that has descended over Ontario in the wake of Don Drummond’s release of 362 proposals to cut government spending. Drummond and his client are avid students of modern management and, so, even the exercise of unwinding dreams must be creative.
What can’t go on cannot simply stop. No movement in modern government is free. What’s left to spend must be better “co-ordinated” and better “aligned with priorities” and, of course, able to soothe the stakeholders who used and often helped hatch the programs that have to go.
The tedium and complexity of all this is balanced by a promise: Mr. Premier, you can survive this. (This is the same kind of promise, it seems, that has released the federal public service to expand by 13% over the last five years—or twice as fast as the growth of Canada’s population—to help Stephen Harper be a competent conservative.)
Making a positive exercise out of restraint in Ontario too will require additional and expensive human capital. Drummond and the government have both rejected “crude” across-the-board-cuts in favor of making hundreds of individual decisions around the Cabinet table. Earlier this week, Adam Radwanski reported in the Globe and Mail that the government will need help:
“The barrier, as much as lack of will, is absence of infrastructure. There are very smart senior political staff and bureaucrats. But those familiar with the inner workings of government suggest there just aren’t enough willing or able bodies to drive dozens of reforms at once, let alone 400 of them.”
You can be sure a vast army of management consultants, communication strategists, and transformation wordsmiths are gearing up to help.

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