The public interest is not for sale
Government, not private industry, provides independent, non-partisan accountability in public safety issues.
by The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada
OTTAWA, May 4, 2009 —The ongoing inquiry into the tragic events surrounding the listeriosis crisis clearly highlights the problems associated with the privatization of public services. A series of government actions and policy decisions has seriously undermined both the capacity and the reputation of government professionals, who above all else must be independent, non-partisan and committed to advancing the public interest and maintaining the public trust. The federal government is increasingly looking at the private sector to take over responsibility for a number of services traditionally performed by public service employees. This "Quick Fix" approach is anything but benign.
Deregulation has gone hand in hand with cutbacks to critical public assets including the closure of weather offices, reduced financial support for climate research, a reduction in food inspection programs and the wholesale privatization of federal laboratories and facilities. Government scientists, researchers, veterinarians, health inspectors and other professionals are bound by outdated legislation that needs to be updated to match profit-driven industry innovation, and are working with reduced resources. They don't have the time or the resources to do their jobs properly, and Canadians continue to face potential risks linked to questionable products.
Reducing government involvement and handing the responsibility for safety to industry in sectors such as transportation, food, and consumer products goes well beyond the issue of fiscal responsibility and restraint on the federal government's part. For example, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is obviously in difficulty, the food industry is squeezed between legislation and shareholders, and all the while the government is trying to strike a balance between protecting jobs and ensuring public safety.
There have already been too many victims of deregulation and it is high time to stop political showboating at the expense of Canadians. The government should be able to count on its professional public service. Our country urgently needs more, not less, control of its public institutions. It's not about money - it's about protecting the public interest. That's the government's job and you can't delegate or contract it out.
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Posted: May 07, 2009
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