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Diane Francis: A country run by amateurs who hire more amateurs

May 28 2021

Re-printed without permission.

Diane Francis: A country run by amateurs who hire more amateurs

The consultant gravy train is well-established in Ottawa. What’s new is the unprecedented scale

An investment guru once told me that when a public company provides a jet, cars and drivers for its executives, and spends a fortune on consultants, it’s time to short the stock. The same applies to Canada, a nation state with lousy leadership and soaring consultant fees, because few, if any, of our federal political leaders know what they’re doing.

Last month, my colleague Jesse Snyder wrote a piece about the staggering increase in public salaries and third-party consultancy fees paid by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government since 2015. According to the latest budget, the costs for “professional and special services” are expected to hit $16.4 billion by 2022, which is up from $9.5 billion when Trudeau took over in 2015 and represents the highest level of spending on consultants since the 1990s.

“At the same time, the cost of paying government worker salaries has also increased sharply from $39.6 billion before 2015 to $47.5 billion in 2020,” wrote Snyder. This is because the size of the federal public service has grown by 10,000 bureaucrats a year since the Liberals came to power and now totals 380,000, which is bigger than the population of Victoria.

Yet this shouldn’t surprise anyone. The consultant gravy train is well-established in Ottawa. What’s new is the unprecedented scale.

Why do the Liberals need so many public servants and consultants? The underlying reason for all this is that the Trudeau government cannot run a pop stand and his cabinet is run by amateurs. Many ministers — who make $270,000 a year plus a huge expense account, along with a car and driver — are there for one of two reasons: they are either buddies of the prime minister, or Gerald Butts, Trudeau’s former chief of staff.

Butts, a green fanatic and serial job killer, advised former Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty for years. The two ran the province into the proverbial ground through excessive spending and by building shockingly expensive solar and wind power projects that have made the province’s manufacturing industries uncompetitive.

The Butts’ group includes a few cabinet ministers but is headed by his replacement as chief of staff, Katie Telford. She was implicated in the WE Charity scandal and has no professional credentials, as she has only ever worked as a political operative.

The Trudeau buddy team includes Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Dominic Leblanc, who babysat Justin and whose father was a friend of Pierre Trudeau’s. Another is Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller, who attended the same elite private school with Trudeau, was in his wedding party and was present at one of the prime minister’s scandalous “Blackface” performances.

Then there’s the singularly unqualified Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan, a pal of Trudeau’s who was a minor television celebrity and engaged in ethically shady behaviour, as did the prime minister, by taking a lavish freebie holiday compliments of the Aga Khan.

The rest of the roster is downright depressing, so it’s little wonder that this is the group responsible for hiring an army of new civil servants and a battalion of third-party consultants at a cost to taxpayers of tens of billions of dollars.

As for the man at the top, here’s an example of his management style: He hired an unqualified former astronaut to be governor general. She failed miserably. Then, rather than simply firing her, a firm called Quintet Consulting was hired and taxpayers paid nearly $400,000 to analyze a situation that Trudeau and others should have known about.

As was obvious in the vaccine procurement debacle, Canada is run by amateurs, who hire more amateurs, who hire Liberal consultants because they don’t know how to run a country.

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