Friday August 29, 2014





Rothenburger: Do as we say, not as we do — gov't

For the most part, information is a good thing. Sometimes, though, we lose our focus on what’s good to know and what we could do without.

I’m thinking, for instance, that we don’t need to know what somebody looks like while exercising at the Tournament Capital Centre gym. On the other hand, it would be nice to know more about how politicians spend our money. Surveillance cameras, smartphones and webcams have made privacy dicey at best. If you go to a movie, event or meeting and somebody recognizes you, there’s a fair chance your presence will be tweeted, texted or Facebooked in seconds.

Many a writer has mused about life in a world where everybody knows your name, when you were born, and if you excavated your nostrils while waiting at a red light or scratched your butt while sitting in the stands watching a game.

It’s too much information. Or not enough — the universe is chalk full of double standards.

This week’s story of a Facebook page featuring secret videos of people working out in the TCC gym has been sharing news space with these:

* A report on MLAs’ expenses was accurately labelled by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation as “completely useless without any context.”

* B.C. auditor general John Doyle, whose scathing analysis last year of MLAs’ lax bookkeeping led to the above feeble report, rebuffed a grudging offer of an extension to his term, opting instead to take a job in Australia.

* B.C.’s new auditor-general for local government, Basia Ruta, began her work watchdogging City councils, a prospect municipal politicians are quite grouchy about.

* Bill C-27, the First Nations Financial Transparency Act, is at the Senate stage. Many chiefs, including Shane Gottfriedson of the Tk’emlups Indian Band, condemn this legislated accountability as “regressive” and “paternalistic.”

* The federal Conservatives are demonstrating a singular disinterest in extending the term of Kevin Page, the parliamentary budget officer responsible for several unflattering reports on spending, including the cost of the Afghanistan war and estimates on the F-35 fighter jet.

The convergence of all these stories rages with irony and hypocrisy. We have a bunch of provincial politicians who can’t keep their credit card receipts straight, and whose own auditor general throws up his hands and goes back to Australia, but who hire a special new AG to ferret out waste in civic government.

We have band chiefs carping about having to be accountable to their members and the public in the same way City councils are being forced to, while revelations of over-spending and shoddy bookkeeping in various reserves have become common place. And we have a federal government demanding accountability from band councils after giving its own clinic on how not to be accountable with a $10-billion jet plane mess, and getting mad at the civil servant who caught them at it.

In a time when we have more ways to communicate than ever before, when it’s never been so easy, the very best our arithmetically and communicatively challenged governments can do is to tell us, “do as we say, not as we do.” No wonder our attention turns to videos of people looking silly on treadmills.

armchairmayor@gmail.com


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