There was an excellent column by John Robson in the Ottawa Citizen this week, reminding us of the over bloated government of Stephen Harper. Thirty-eight cabinet ministers, some with obscure names. Twenty-five Parliamentary secretaries.
But he brings up an interesting point. With so many members of Harper's caucus in the executive branch of government, it leaves few to scrutinize what the executive is doing.
Not that they do, but if they were a functioning caucus they might find a reason or two to object.
Given that ministers, other than a handful of the most senior ones, have so little influence, why do we have so many? Canada now has 38 cabinet positions plus 25 parliamentary secretaries to various ministers, so fully 62 members of the 143-member Tory Commons caucus (plus the government leader in the Senate) are in cabinet or its penumbra. (The U.S. number is 22.) Scary, huh?A serious matter indeed, and yet he is getting away with it. He's also getting away with increasing administrative costs.
If we consider the ruling party's parliamentary caucus merely an embarrassing extension of "the government" used, dangerously inaccurately, to mean the executive branch, all these fancy titles might just sound like jobs for the boys and girls. But if we understand the role of the legislature is to hold the executive to account, the absorption of much of the government caucus into the executive branch with prestige, pseudo-importance and money, is a serious matter.
This after promising to tighten their belts, seeing as how we're broke. And they are spending lavishly on perks.
According to the Public Accounts, in 2009-10 the cost of Harper's office was $9.89 million — compared to $8.1 million the previous year and $7.5 million in 2007-08. Among the highest costs for this year's expenses was $8.8 million in staffing, $684,805 in "transportation and communications," and $230,365 in "professional and special services."
Documents also show a substantial rise in total costs for the Conservative cabinet. In 2009-10, the ministers' office expenses reached $67.6 million — compared to $59.3 million the previous year and $58.1 million in 2007-08.
Time to dispel the myth of Harper being a fiscal conservative, or being any kind of conservative at all.
But it inspired me to create another video.