Accountability in government

“If there is no definition of success, there cannot be failure. And if there is no failure, there is no risk of accountability.”

That was the closing line of an editorial in last Saturday’s Globe and Mail, “How to succeed in Ottawa without ever trying.” The article speaks of an aversion in Ottawa to set “a vision married to a measurable outcome, a yardstick by which success or failure could be measured.”

Instead, we have programs, budget line items that allocate pots of cash to hand out for various endeavours deemed worthy. Rural broadband is a juicy one. Innovation is another.

Ministers handing out money makes for a great press release, and maybe even a great photo op. “Our government is proud to contribute to the initiative…”

What could possibly go wrong?

As we now know, the answer to that question is “a lot.”

In a press release dated April 21, 2021, we read a quote attributed to The Honourable Ahmed Hussen, Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion:

In Canada, diversity is a fact, but inclusion is a choice. Our government is proud to contribute to the initiative ‘Building an Anti-Racism Strategy for Canadian Broadcasting: Conversation & Convergence.’ Together, let’s continue to build a country that is better, fairer, and more inclusive for everybody, and work together to address issues such as the barriers faced by racialized Canadians. Thank you to CMAC for opening these discussions.

According to Blacklock’s Reporter, a briefing note prepared by Canadian Heritage “says it did a “comprehensive assessment” before awarding a $133,822 grant to a consultant who fantasized on Twitter about shooting Jews.”

Apparently, that assessment wasn’t quite comprehensive enough. No one did a basic web search before awarding the funds, or allowing the Minister to appear in a press release alongside Laith Marouf. In my blog post last April, I asked “Was sufficient due diligence performed when Heritage officials were reviewing this funding request?”

An essay in last week’s New York Times asked “What if Diversity Trainings Are Doing More Harm Than Good?” The article observes that the diversity, equity and inclusion (D.E.I.) “industry” reached an estimated $3.4 billion in 2020 in the United States.

D.E.I. trainings are designed to help organizations become more welcoming to members of traditionally marginalized groups. Advocates make bold promises: Diversity workshops can foster better intergroup relations, improve the retention of minority employees, close recruitment gaps and so on. The only problem? There’s little evidence that many of these initiatives work. And the specific type of diversity training that is currently in vogue — mandatory trainings that blame dominant groups for D.E.I. problems — may well have a net-negative effect on the outcomes managers claim to care about.

According to the minutes of its meeting last October 25, the Parliamentary Heritage Committee agreed “That the officials from the Department of Canadian Heritage that were responsible for the funding of Laith Marouf be invited to appear before committee regarding the federal funding provided to the Community Media Advocacy Centre by the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Department officials’ handling of the situation”. The officials are to “appear before the committee following the conclusion of the consideration of Bill C-18”.

Consideration of Bill C-18 concluded before the year-end holiday break. There have not been any meetings scheduled yet.

When will the Heritage Committee take a comprehensive look at the failures that led to a serial purveyor of hate being engaged under the guise of of an anti-racism program? It is long overdue for an examination of federal funding provided to CMAC, and the Department officials’ handling of the situation.

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