But cutting through the spin doesn’t inspire any greater confidence.
Hot on the heels of its ‘The Way Forward’ strategy session last month, the Ball Government has produced a bold and decisive ‘vision document’ to tell the people of the province what it has learned and decided to do.
It seems the Liberals have also run this new plan through the bureaucratese-language-generator.
This is a government that “will leverage where possible,” “become digital-by-design,” and impress us with no shortage of bold, innovative phrases such as “multi-pronged series of solutions,” “improve Government-wide collaboration and maximize resources,” “improve internal and external communications,” “promote regulatory excellence,” and of course (a timeless classic) “maximize our efforts using all available resources.”
The document, which seems designed to maximize befuddlement using all available resources, also contains a number of those bureaucratic contradictions in terms which can only be achieved, realistically, through magic: “We will do better with less and we will ground our budgetary decisions in service improvement,” and “realize efficiencies, improve services and streamline the organization with no negative impact on clients.”
Some readers may not be fully fluent in bureaucratese of the sort used by the government, so I’ve translated a few key phrases for you. Hopefully this will maximize your appreciation of government’s vision document (utilizing existing resources and building on efficiencies achieved to date in a multi-tiered regime of regulatory excellence, of course).
By March 31, 2017, our Government will have reduced its footprint by 40,000 square feet. By 2020, our Government will reduce its building footprint by ten per cent.
Translation: we will sell off public property to the private sector at a great steal. We will then have to rent that property back at extortion-level prices, costing us more money in the long run, and paid for by the taxpayer.
By 2022, our Government will increase the number of services delivered online by 50 percent.
Translation: we will close offices and lay off staff, and instead invite you to download generally useless albeit flashy apps that won’t really help you but will absorb a great deal of your time and generate a great deal of frustration.
Currently, our Government does not have baseline data on the level of satisfaction that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have with provincial services. In the next six months, our Government will undertake a random sample survey to assess our residents’ level of satisfaction with a wide range of provincial services. Upon completion of this survey, we will publicly release an improvement target.
Translation: We haven’t bothered to read any of the countless reports and data produced over the years, or talk to any of the many experts, including everyday Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, about what they like and don’t like about government services. So rather than tackle the obvious problems, we will first spend a lot of money to survey you to find out how dissatisfied you are with government services, and then we will spend some more money to do up a proposal to make a certain percentage of you three to four percent happier.
As we build a more sustainable future, we will look to other partners to also offer leadership. Our Government will engage and partner with other sectors…
Translation: We will sell out public services and engage in public-private partnerships despite the overwhelming body of evidence showing they are more expensive and less efficient.
By March 31, 2017, our Government will undertake a survey of Newfoundland and Labrador residents on service delivery expectations to help inform this transformation from a paper-based application culture to a digital-by-design model.
Translation: We will spend money hiring more people to do more surveys, because we lack the common sense to determine when a service is functioning adequately. We will also spend money developing lengthy and frustrating online application forms to replace the lengthy and frustrating paper application forms we currently have.
Our Government will also begin work towards consolidating toll-free numbers.
Translation: We will get rid of many of the toll-free numbers we currently have for individual services, and instead create One Big Toll-Free Number that will take you a great deal more time and frustration to navigate through, if you ever manage to reach it. In fact this is such a wonderful idea that the One Big Toll-Free Number is already experiencing higher than average caller levels, even before it exists!
In preparing for Budget 2017, our Government is implementing a zero-based budgeting approach.
Translation: we will ignore everything we currently know about what things cost. We will slash all public services and departments’ budgets to zero. We will eventually give back some of that money when departments beg for it, but we’ll give them a lot less than they currently have. Normally this would be called a cut-back but because we cut them back to zero first we call it being generous. Boo-ya!
Currently, our Government uses a Vendor of Record model that is comprised of partner organizations which have been approved to manage the majority of Government IT contracts. Accordingly, this model limits availability of related Government IT work to other interested companies. The new model will allow more companies to bid on Government IT work, thereby increasing competition and choice of vendor.
Translation: we will contract out work to cheaper companies that do poorer work.
To enhance visitor services, our Government will develop a standardized identifier for those promoting mobile services for travelers through a common logo for public Wi-Fi locations and mapping of public Wi-Fi locations.
Translation: We will spend money to create a logo for public Wi-Fi, because simply posting a sign saying “Public Wi-Fi” would be far too easy. We will also produce an app showing where you can find public Wi-Fi (provided you already found Wi-Fi in order to access it).
We will also strengthen the sustainability of core attractions that attract travelers and stimulate repeat visitation.
Translation: This is not a sexual innuendo. Really.
Tourism product development includes the delivery of travel experiences that are desired by travelers and that highlight the unique aspects of a region to draw travelers to the destination.
Translation: Tourism happens when people like things. Tourists go to places that they want to see.
Our Government will lead the implementation of a new Provincial Tourism Product Development Plan that is based on research, industry input and the province’s core experience categories of nature and wilderness, people and culture, and history and heritage…This plan will be released by March 31, 2017.
Translation: we will spend money trying to figure out what’s attractive about this province. Because clearly no one has ever done that before. We will also, instead of relying on the things in front of our eyes, spend money asking researchers and industry experts what’s nice about Newfoundland and Labrador. We will let you all know by March 31, 2017!
To improve the province’s response to major investment projects, our Government will establish a Major Investment Projects Unit
Translation: While cutting money and shrinking departments and services that help poor people and families in this province, we will create new departments to help rich businesses.
Review the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation
Translation: Cut funding to the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation
Modernize College of the North Atlantic
Translation: Cut funding to the College of the North Atlantic
Position Newfoundland and Labrador Globally as a Preferred Location for Oil and Gas Development
Translation: Sink more money into oil and gas, because that’s clearly worked out well.
By March 31, 2017, our Government will enhance Newfoundland and Labrador’s regulatory framework by implementing a Generic Royalty Regime and regulations.
Translation: Instead of fighting tooth and nail to get the best deal we can from each development project, we’ll just come up with a basic template for royalties and ignore all the times we get ripped off or could have done better.
Our government will designate officials to be facilitators for early stage proponents within the mining, oil and gas, and renewable energy sectors. These individuals will liaise with operators and companies in early stages of exploration and development to guide them through the provincial policy and regulatory frameworks, as well as liaise with government departments to ensure a streamlined response.
Translation: While cutting staffing from public services, we will create a bureaucracy of people to hold hands with big business and help them do whatever they want. But the average people of Newfoundland and Labrador needn’t worry because they’ll have downloadable apps and One Big Toll-Free Number to call.
Our Government wants Indigenous leaders to know there are real opportunities to work together to make positive change, and through the annual Leaders Roundtable with Indigenous Governments and Organizations, we will shape an agenda together, as stronger relationships with Indigenous peoples is part of building for our future.
Translation: Despite ignoring Indigenous Peoples for years and most recently committing to poisoning them through a pointless and fiscally disastrous hydro development, we want to appear in photo-ops with Indigenous leaders and those who do what we tell them will get to come to an annual meeting. For photo-ops.
Adopt a Health-in-All-Policies Approach: Our Government will build health impact considerations into all policy decisions, from infrastructure planning to labour market supports.
Translation: We will consider health in all policy decisions, except for those affecting Indigenous peoples or Labrador, whom we will poison.
Increase Memorial University and College of the North Atlantic Collaboration: By March 31, 2017, our Government will form a Council including representatives from the Provincial Government, Memorial University and College of the North Atlantic.
Translation: We’ll make a big committee. We actually had one of these but got rid of it a few years ago.
With access to mobile tools such as laptops and cell phones, workers can work anywhere at any time. Our Government will develop innovative work arrangement policies which support employees working in remote locations, virtual offices or shared work spaces.
Translation: We will provide less offices and make our employees find their own places to work in.
Our Government will increase revenue generated from international education in the K-12 system. A review of options to expand our province’s K-12 International Education Program will include the feasibility of working with other jurisdictions to establish Newfoundland and Labrador-administered schools abroad, selling or licensing the use of our K-12 education curriculum to other jurisdictions, developing e-learning education services for access by international students, and increasing the number of international students studying in our K-12 schools.
Translation: We never got a chance to be a big overseas colonial power so we want to make up for lost time by exploiting poorer countries abroad. Our Education Minister has made a disaster of our own K-12 system, but we think other countries would like us to come in and run their schools and they will pay us to do so. We also think we can peddle them our outdated curriculums. We can charge lots of money for inferior online learning apps while we’re at it. Yah!
Our Government will expand the role of personal care homes.
Translation: We will privatize care of our elderly.
These improvements will modernize service delivery of these community support services, support appropriate utilization of health care resources and be more client-centred.
Translation: We will cut back funding and services for seniors.
In an effort to determine where operations can be more efficient, our Government will review department organizational structures inclusive of management positions, functions and roles and responsibilities with a view to assess the appropriate management subordinate reporting relationships… We will then implement new human resource guidelines to reasonably optimize the number of direct reports to managers and/or directors based on the nature of the service and clientele, and to limit duplication of management personnel.
Translation: We will cut jobs.
Hans Rollmann is an editor, writer, researcher and organizer with a penchant for chocolate and a knack for limericks.