OTTAWA, ON (September 28, 2023): From a stymied oil and gas sector to a healthcare system that struggles under mismanagement, from a multi-billion-dollar infrastructure bank that hasn’t built anything to a disastrous lack of planning to safeguard local peoples in Afghanistan in 2021, our government has been unable to accomplish its stated goals across a huge range of policy priorities. We can’t seem to get anything done in Canada.
In Canada’s Governance Crisis, MLI senior fellows Richard Shimooka, Heather Exner-Pirot, Ken Coates, Aaron Wudrick, and Shawn Whatley document the government’s inability to deliver on key policy priorities. Each article demonstrates the immensely damaging consequences of our policy paralysis, both in terms of the overwhelming decay in state capacity and in terms of corroding trust and morale within the civil service.
The exact causes of our government’s incapacity to deliver (even on the political priorities of the governing Liberal Party) are not always the same, but some cross cutting governance issues are apparent.
“The key dynamic that underlines this issue is between the political leadership and the bureaucracy,” writes Senior Fellow Richard Shimooka. At the core of this issue “is the lack of political leadership to make decisions and push them through.”
Several factors are at play in this lack of effective political leadership, including: the centralization of decision-making in the PMO (causing a bottleneck effect, hamstringing Minister’s offices), subtle cultural shifts within the bureaucracy over the past 30 years from “providing unvarnished advice for the political leadership to defending its stated political positions,” a general focus on political messaging, rather than deliverables, and, finally, the combined damage of “inertia cause by the governments failure to make any choices at all, which deprives the public, including the media, opposition, and other actors from even offering criticisms or suggestions to course correct.”
The authors conclude: “This report is really a preliminary study of the topic – a sketch of worrying trends rather than a comprehensive portrait of the issues at hand. There are plenty of different avenues to explore and we hope others will carry the baton further to push Canada to live up to our ideals of peace, order, and good government.”
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