Ottawa Merely Paying Lip Service To New Rules
Date: Tuesday, November 21 2006
Nov. 21, 2006. 01:00 AM
Rules are to politicians what alarms are to car thieves — a challenge. Worse still, experience suggests it takes more effort to design new controls than to find ways to render them useless.
So it's a sadly safe bet the current fuss about the signature Conservative Accountability Act won't make the federal government more ethical or transparent.
Stripped to a skeleton of the election promise, the controversial legislation isn't about to reform behaviour.
Why? Because piling new rules on top of old regulations mistakes effects for causes.
What's wrong with accountability in Ottawa is that Ottawa doesn't want to be accountable. It hasn't been for decades and, apart from taxpayers, it's in no one's interest to revert to the days when ministers and mandarins resigned when things went undeniably wrong.
It's an understood but little discussed fact of political life that responsibility died slowly at the hands of complexity.
Over time, the capacity to fully grasp everything departments were doing, as well as the willingness to be accountable, fell as government grew from a cottage industry into a conglomerate.