Bureaucracy oversteps their real role


If you have been following my columns over the years you will have noticed that I have been quite critical of government bureaucrats. In this column I will try to highlight how significant the role of the bureaucracy is in the way the Alberta government exercises control over our everyday life.

This control does not lead to a better government, it leads to the government being run by the bureaucrats rather than our elected officials.

In the seventies I was elected as an official to two provincial rural organizations, Unifarm and the Alberta Union of Rural Electrification Associations. These were organizations that lobbied government for policies that would benefit the membership of those organizations. This was my introduction to working with bureaucrats.

Now don’t get me wrong, most bureaucrats are well intentioned. It is the system that they are a part of that seems to get off track. In my opinion they lose sight of what their real purpose is. Legislators pass the legislation or laws that are to benefit society. The purpose or role of the bureaucracy is to implement those laws. This is done by developing regulations and hiring people to put those laws into action or practice.

One of the issues that has irritated me with bureaucrats over the years is that once a regulation has been approved there can be no common sense applied to the implementation of this regulation regardless of the situation.

The issue that has really bugged me here in Alberta is that the bureaucracy has really overstepped their real role. Policy development is the responsibility of the MLAs or legislators.

For at least the last 20 years the bureaucracy seem to be developing the policies and then lobbying the MLAs and Cabinet to pass legislation to put the policy into effect.

A good example of this was the deregulation of the provincial electric industry in the mid 1990s. I was directly involved in that process. I was one of 18 stakeholder representatives appointed to a steering committee to develop the concept.

The idea of deregulating the electric industry was cooked up by bureaucrats in the Department of Energy. It was a bad idea and was totally unnecessary in Alberta as the industry was not exposed to the North American market like natural gas.

There were six of us on the steering committee that told the government all they would achieve was to increase the price of electricity.

We were proven right. The price of electricity in Alberta is at least 25 per cent higher today than it would have been under the old system.

In my opinion, the bureaucracy has become more interested in enhancing its own power and influence than it is in providing service to the citizens of Alberta.

Whenever there is talk of downsizing government or reducing the cost of government the first thing you hear out of them is that it would require the reduction of front line workers. By that they mean, reducing the number of nurses, school teachers, etcetera. Of course, that would immediately result in negative public reaction.

On the other hand, the bureaucracy in Alberta is top heavy [which I will go into in more detail in another column]. They never suggest that the cost of providing services to Alberta citizens could probably be reduced by eliminating  about 30 per cent of their unproductive bureaucracy.

This situation will get worse before it gets better with our new union friendly NDP government, as hiring more bureaucrats is their idea of job creation.

I will be expanding on this topic in next week’s column.

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