Monday, February 14, 2011

The Liberal “Open Government” Plan: Let's Just Make Some Websites, That'll Fix Everything!

Does anyone remember what the Conservatives campaigned on back when Martin was Prime Minister? It was accountability. The Liberals had bamboozled a lot of money, and this time even the media recognized it as stealing. So Harper made “accountability” a major election issue.

Of course, we haven't had any accountability from Harper's government.

But no worries, Canada. Michael Ignatieff has dressed up the accountability issue and put a new name on it: “open government.” Even if these ideas were good ones, I still wouldn't trust the Liberal party to implement them. But for the sake of argument, let's say they do.

Let's say Iggy becomes PM and follows through with all these promises. What would be the result?

To create a new level of accountability for government spending and to spur innovation and economic growth, a Liberal government will open government to the public through four specific measures.

Why four specific measures? If the Grits want to achieve accountability for State spending, spur innovation and economic growth the best to way to “open government” would be to make taxes voluntary. Wasteful spending would be discouraged as voters (or consumers) would not want to pay for lacklustre services. The State would compete for resources honestly and have to subject all of its silly socialist programs to supply and demand to meet consumer satisfaction.

Within the various bureaucracies (not longer bureaucratic as their payment would come from consent, not coercion) innovation would grow to cope with this profit and loss style of management. Economic growth would also result as people would, most likely, pay less for government. Less government traditionally results in better economic growth. Plus, with wasteful spending subdued, people would get more bang for their buck as voluntary payments increase State efficiency. Hopefully, the State itself would decentralize and eventually whither way.

But of course, that's not the Liberal plan.

Here's what Iggy wants to do:

Immediately restore the long-form census;

That's a step backwards. Wanna restore the census? Make the survey voluntary and that's fine. Scrapping this invasion of privacy has been one of the few highlights of Harper's last five years.

Make as many government datasets as possible available to the public online free of charge at in an open and searchable format, starting with Statistics Canada data, including data from the long-form census; [emphasis added]

Tanstaafl. This doesn't really make the State accountable for anything. It just creates a database for statistical information. Statistics that can be – and probably will be – biased. How much info will the State give away? Probably not much, and not in the areas that count. The USA has something similar (, as does the United Kingdom (, and Australia ( Does anyone think those States are less secretive now?

Post all Access to Information requests, responses, and response times online at; and

This won't create efficiency, this will only show the world how slow and bureaucratic the Canadian State really is.

Make information on government grants, contributions and contracts available through a searchable, online database at

Once again - biased information, misleading statistics, numbers fudged to make the State look appealing, etc. What about a private third-party auditor going through the State's books? (including the Bank of Canada's)

A Liberal government will bring the Access to Information regime into the digital age through a new online portal,, where:

All Access requests will be posted online so that government processing times for requests can be publicly scrutinized;

Canadians will be able to submit Access requests directly online; and

All documents released under the Access to Information regime will be made available online to avoid duplication and encourage the sharing of information.

I still like my voluntary taxes idea better. It's cheaper too. Why go through all this hassle when accountability can be achieved in the same way businesses are accountable? Basing your payment system on consent over coercion will do wonderful things for the Access to Information bureaucracy.

To make information about government spending open to Canadians, a Liberal government will launch, where:

Government grants and contracts will be posted online in an easily searchable database; and

Key information such as the names of grant and contract recipients and the amount of money disbursed will be available.

There is far more State spending then just grants and contracts. And once again, this information can be biased or simply untrue. But for the sake of argument, let's say this initiative works and a couple journalists notice massive wastefulness or corruptness. Now the State has to go through the pains of correcting this issue and making sure it never happens again (or at least giving that illusion). More wealth destroyed. The right to withdraw consent by payment will hit the State where it hurts the most and correct this issue speedily.

This initiative will significantly increase transparency and accountability...

No it won't.

...and offer the public a powerful tool to report potential fraud, waste and abuse.

So it can go on being ignored.

The Liberal Party is not going to bring accountability to the State. There tends to be a progression towards more secretiveness and corruptness when it comes to the Federal Government. It doesn't matter which party is in charge or who their leader is. I suspect an Ignatieff government would be just as bad as the current one, if not more so.


  1. "Open government". I knew that rang a bell.

    "Always dispose of the difficult bit in the title, does less harm there than in the text."

  2. Great video, David. "It's a contradiction in terms, you can be open or you can have government" haha