Wednesday, 30 November 2011

LAC and the broken parliamentary system

In the past few days I've provided comments on the LAC 2011-2012 Department Performance Report.  Now it's time to put those into perspective.

One year ago today Daniel J. Caron appeared before a parliamentary committee and was questioned about the client consultation process at LAC, and newspaper digitization, amongst other things. The session was unsatisfactory. Read the transcript at

One year later and nothing has changed. Meaningful client consultation is nowhere to be found. LAC looks as if it's further withdrawing from it's mandated responsibilities to provide a national collection, not just a governmental and legal-deposit-based non-governmental collection. The newspaper collection appears to be in real jeopardy, and not just the prospect of a modern digitized collection but now even the legacy collection.

A recent column in the Ottawa Citizen put the problem in a larger context by pointing out that the existing parliamentary oversight process under which such performance become acceptable, is broken.
MPs are not doing their jobs - can't do their jobs - to exercise the power of the purse by going over federal spending estimates line by line. Both the auditor general and the parliamentary budget officer have called for urgently needed reforms to the system, and Clement has promised improvements.
"It's designed basically to be confusing," says Kevin Page, the parliamentary budget officer.
"We have no expenditure control mechanism in Canada," says Gregory Thomas, federal director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation. "You've been to the committees. Nobody has the estimates open in front of them. It's almost an empty ritual."

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