Just over a week ago I helped organize an information booth for the Ontario Libertarian Party at a large book fair in downtown Toronto. Our purpose was to publicise the party and solicit new members. We used a technique developed by The Advocates for Self-Government called Operation Politically Homeless where we asked passersby if they thought government was doing a good job. Depending on their answer we followed up with a short quiz to determine if the participant had libertarian leanings or not. From the few that did, we asked if they would like us to contact them. For us it was a productive day that gave us insights to the mood of a small select portion of the electorate. Of those people that consented to be interviewed roughly half were satisfied with government (typically we did not specify what level of government but we are Ontario-centric), the other half not so much. I think this degree of satisfaction (troubling to me) is likely a function of general apathy, ignorance and complacency. Most people don't really pay attention to government except during elections and then usually to the promises on the table rather than the record of the past. Of course that is part of the reason that governments grow larger, the promises invariably include new programs that allegedly benefit the taxpayer, spending increases and so must taxes. So when governments set out to save tax dollars by instituting efficiencies it sounds good but too often that's not what happens.
Ontario joined the other provinces and territories to create an Electronic Health Record (EHR) 10 years ago to streamline patient care across the country and save the Canadian health-care system $6 billion a year, a worthy goal. In Ontario the project was started by the Harris Tories and continued by the McGuinty Liberals and to this day Ontario lags most of the country in developing and implementing these EHRs. In a report released today, Auditor-General Jim McCarter concludes that "Ontario taxpayers have not received value for money for this $1-billion investment." The money was squandered. I find it hard to get my head around a billion dollars, that of course is to the advantage of the government, its just a number. In the current Great Recession it doesn't even sound like much considering all the bailouts that have occurred. But look at it this way, a billion dollars pays 10 000 people a $100 000 salary for one year - good salary. Or it pays 286 people a salary of $100 000 each for their entire 35 year working career. Or if you had a billion dollars in the bank at the current pitiful 1.05% interest rate (the daily rate today at the most popular Internet bank) you would make $10.5 million in interest a year, $875 000 a month! Oh, to dream! So now imagine this money frittered away by the Ontario government, just one of the many levels of government under whose jurisdiction your pockets are picked. Is it possible that the other levels of government are frittering away money? Do bears poop in the woods? Does the government do a good job?