Politics of Canada
2 min

Shared Services and unanswered questions

We all suspected that this was coming, but not in this particular form. Tony Clement and Rona Ambrose held a press
conference yesterday to announce the creation of Shared Services
Canada, which is designed, all in the name of cost savings, to do things such as work on unifying the government’s
diverse and numerous IT systems (as was announced two years ago). So far so good, right?

Well, maybe not. You see, there are a whole
lot of unanswered questions about this whole endeavour, and it may not really
deliver much, if anything, in the way of savings. First of all, the government insists that
Shared Services Canada is not a new bureaucracy and is just redirected pieces of other ones. Yet, the government has appointed a deputy minister to run it (which you
can’t exactly redirect from elsewhere and costs money). There is zero mention of money involved in doing the work. You know, not only the work of unifying
systems, but of the work it’ll take to start migrating unique legacy systems to
new platforms (such as what the auditor general talked about a couple of years
ago, saying that it would cost $2 billion for just five major entities). The Conservatives claim that reducing the number of systems and data centres is “more secure,”
but consider that when the Finance Department and Treasury Board got hacked in a major
way this year, it was contained to those two departments. If we move them
all together, wouldn’t that allow hacks or other damage (fire, flood,
earthquake or ice storm) at data centres to have a much greater impact? Ontario is cited as saving money by moving to a single data centre, but there is no mention that, a couple of years later, the per capita costs were right back to where they started (page seven of this report) and that the
procurement process becomes pretty much impossible for small and medium-sized
businesses. What about the fact that the government was subjected to a
lawsuit a few years ago by WordPerfect because it tailored the procurement contract
for Microsoft? Then there is the testimony given in the Senate when the Conservatives passed the legislation that enabled
this, where they said that none of this would be mandatory for departments and
that they weren't looking at job cuts (except that they are now). All of this
to say, it’s not like we couldn’t use some better efficiency with government IT
practices, but it would be nice if the Conservatives could be upfront about a few
things and not look like complete IT neophytes as they come up with
this major undertaking that likely won’t save any money in the end. (And
once again, a huge debt to @P41Questions for his work over the Twitter Machine
with some of the background material.)

It seems that Nycole Turmel laid a lot of
the groundwork for the NDP’s Sherbrooke Declaration (its policy on Quebec),
which is all about asymmetrical federalism and abrogating the Clarity Act.

In Washington, John Baird met with Hillary Clinton, who appreciated his “candour.”

Since the government seems to be
committed to washing its hands of our nuclear industry, here is a look at some
of the private interests that are now vying to take over Chalk River and its research reactor.

The second quarter results are in, and the
NDP, the Liberals and the Conservatives are all doing well for fundraising.
Yes, even the Liberals, whom the pundit class keeps asserting are “broke” (even
though they are far from it).

And Laureen Harper was serenaded onstage by the
Backstreet Boys last night. Because the Harpers have really
decided to get all the mileage they can out of this gig of theirs, apparently,
even though meeting celebrities wasn’t Harper’s shtick.

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