Left to right back row: Reg Alcock, Carolyn Bennett, Leon Benoit, Joe Clark, Roy Cullen, Ken Epp, Raymonde Foko,Paul Forseth,Robert Lanctot
Front row: Derrel Lee, Pat Martin, Massimo Pacetti, Gulles-A. Perron, Judy Sgro, Paul Szabo, Tony Tirabassi


SCOGOE says NO-GO or GO-SLOW or NOW-GO to bureaucracy

Ottawa - Saturday, September 27, 2003 - by: Walter Robinson, Federal Director, Canadian Taxpayers Federation


Just when you thought official Ottawa and Parliament were entirely out of control with expense account abuses here, sponsorship scandals there, non-answers in Question Period left dangling in the air and police investigations popping up almost everywhere, there is hope.




For over a decade efforts by Members of Parliament to understand the machinery of government and bureaucracy have been stymied. Just when we think there is light at the end of the tunnel, more tunnel is built. Yet in the past year a new and potentially very influential 16-member, all-party House of Commons committee has emerged and is rightfully flexing its muscle.




The Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates -- SCOGOE for short in a city overflowing with acronyms and buzzwords – is quickly earning a reputation as one place for Members of Parliament to reassert their sovereignty over the spending of public monies … our money. Imagine that, a committee of the people’s representatives (from all parties) doing what they were elected to do, understanding and scrutinizing how our tax dollars are spent in productive and wasteful ventures.




This committee is chaired by veteran Winnipeg-area Liberal Reg Alcock, an articulate Member of Parliament and one of Ottawa’s most knowledgable parliamentarians when it comes to understanding the machinery of our $180 billion federal government, the impact of new technologies and demographics on public policy, and the 21st century dynamic of citizens’ desires and demands to be involved, informed, influential and ultimately, in charge of the public policy decisions.


  In the past decade, parliamentary oversight of the spending of our tax dollars has plummeted accelerating a disturbing trend which has been in existence for three or four decades. This is partly due to a concentration of power in the Prime Minister’s Office, partly due to the size and complexity of an ever expanding federal bureaucracy and concentration of control in the hands of bureaucrats, and partly a function of the massive turnover of Members of Parliament that resulted in the 1993 general election.


And this point about the electoral decimation of the federal Progressive Conservatives in 1993 is important. On average it takes a Member of Parliament usually two terms to really understand how Parliament works, how its committee system functions, how bureaucrats interact with politicians and how to function within official Ottawa’s media fishbowl.




However in 1993, almost 80% of the Members of Parliament elected were brand new – as opposed to the average 40% or so turnover – many with precious little in the way of government experience at other levels. This does not discount the welcome and refreshing private sector backgrounds many brought with them to Ottawa, but government is, let’s be blunt, a very different and often counter-intuitive place. And with little institutional memory left in the House, the pros in the Prime Minister’s Office and other central agencies and long-serving bureaucrats quickly swooped in to hoard power for themselves.
  Finally, after a decade of taxpayers questioning – and this is a polite term – Members of Parliament of all partisan colours about waste and abuse of tax dollars, our Members of Parliament have shown some backbone.
  SCOGOE is on a roll. They put Mr. Radwanski’s expenses under the microscope. The operations of the office of the Governor General are in their sights. Private arms-length foundations – which have amassed billions in budget allocations – will soon be called to testify.
  SCOGOE has said NO-GO to wasteful expenditures. And it could say NO-GO again, GO-SLOW or NOW-GO to all agencies and departments – not just the flavour of the month scandal – and officials in the coming months. The work of this new committee is important and taxpayers will watch its deliberations with great interest.

Walter Robinson
Federal Director

  Standing Committe on Government Operations and Estimates web page
  Standing Committe on Government Operations and Estimates member's list web page
  Standing Committe on Government Operations and Estimates Fourth report
  Public Service Commission : Submission to the Standing Committe on Government Operations and Estimates Studying Bill C-25
  Reg Alcock member of parliament for Winnipeg Southweb page
  Caroly Bennett, Member of Parliament web site
  Roy Cullen, Member of Parliament for Etobicoke North, web site
  Paul forseth, Member of Parliament for New Westminister - Coquitlam - Burnaby, web site
  Paul Szabo, Member of Parliament for Missisauga South, Biography
  MacKay, Peter, Mackay urges Alcock to convene meeting, July 5, 2003, Progressive Conservative Party of Canada web site
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