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The Niagara Winners Circle
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Best-laid plans of government go nowhere 

Canadians who fear their hard-earned tax money is disappearing down a black hole will no doubt be relieved to learn they are actually investing in government mismanagement on a grand scale. 

Auditor general Sheila Fraser's latest compendium of federal misdeeds calls into question the basic competence of a Conservative government already under fire over stimulus squander and the current flu-shot fiasco.

Surprising only to those awaking from a long coma, Fraser concluded that Stephen Harper's government of big cardboard cheques is far better at making announcements than implementing them. 

Some of Fraser's findings would be worthy of a comedic spoof were the consequences not so dire. 

The Department of Public Safety, for instance, is responsible for co-ordinating national responses to large-scale emergencies, disasters and other crises such as the current H1N1 flu pandemic. 

Most ordinary Canadians probably believe that preparing and dealing with catastrophe is rather fundamental to the whole concept of government. Apparently not.
 
Fraser found that while the public safety department has a "federal emergency response plan," it never has actually been implemented. 

The department also has spent a fortune and many memos to co-ordinate police, firefighters medical and ambulance crews in response to a major disaster. Years later, Fraser reports, they still don't even have compatible walkie-talkies. 

The auditor general says the public safety department has made progress in the areas of "strategy, framework and plan development." 

The only thing missing is "what concrete steps it would take to co-ordinate federal action in the event of an actual emergency of national significance." Details. Details. 

Over the past three years, the Harper government has announced no end of measures to bring order to the chaos that is Canada's immigration and refugee system.

Fraser notes, for instance, that the backlog of skilled workers waiting to get into the country could take up to 25 years to eliminate. 

In response, the Conservatives introduced "sweeping changes" almost two years ago that promised to fast-track foreign skilled workers to meet specific needs of the labour market. 

It all sounded good in the press release. But as Fraser notes: "We saw little evidence 
that this shift is part of any clear strategy to best meet Canada's labour needs." 

The measures did manage to reduce the old queue of more than 600,000 skilled workers by 6% last year, mainly by rejecting new applicants or putting them in a different lineup. 

Canada Health Infoway is a federal agency that has spent $1.6 billion since 2001, leading the development of a national system of electronic health records. 

Fraser notes the agency has been fabulously successful at planning, consulting, developing mechanisms, standards and management systems galore. 

The only things missing are electronic medical records, still available to only a small fraction of sick Canadians. 

The Canadian International Development Agency will dole out more than $4 billion of taxpayers' money in foreign aid this year, but Fraser reports finding no real plan to ensure th money goes where it will do the most good. 

Over at National Defence, the procurement department has so far managed to spend three years buying new light armoured vehicles for our troops in Afghanistan, preferably before they leave. 

So far, the project is only 120% over budget. Thank heavens for Sheila Fraser, and viva 
by Greg Weston of Osprey