Monday, March 25, 2013

March 25: somtimes, I'm....

....unpardonably slow to connect the dots. The pieces were all there - Irving's declaration of being in coalition with the government following his great conference on the economic future of NB, the introduction of Sigma Six, the dismay in the civil service...and the almost complete silence of The Moncton Times and Transcript on these.

So, since there is nothing in today's paper worth reading or commenting on, let's connect the dots.

First, there was James Irving's comment that he was in coalition with the government. He announced it in his papers. None of them commented on it, not even mentioning what coalition meant, or that such a coalition was unheard of in all of Canadian history, and that it is contrary to Canadian constitutional law and practice.

1. To be in coalition means to be a member of the government.
2. Nobody has the right simply to declare himself a member of the government.
3.If there were such an announcement to be made, the premier himself would the one to make it. For Irving to make such a statement was stunningly arrogant as well as unconstitutional. If any other person had gone around making such a claim, he would be promptly placed under psychiatric examination.
4. There are only two groups in all of Canadian history who are entitled to be appointed to government membership - MPs (or MLAs) and senators. And even the latter are rarely appointed.

No premier with any knowledge of Canadian constitutional practice and history would have permitted such a statement. To do so,  he would have to be ignorant of Canadian history or have the spine of an oyster.Alward may be both.

It is unthinkable that a whole newspaper chain would not have a single person who was so ignorant of Canadian history or political practice. But I'm not sure it's fair to say the Irving press acted in collusion on this. There is. after all, evidence that it carries a heavy burden of ignorance.

I'm not sure whether Harper had the power to cancel this appointment. However, his own grip on Canadian history and constitutional practice is so weak, it's possible he wouldn't know whether he had the power - or that he would have cancelled it, anyway.

It is not clear whether the Lieutenant-Governor was officially informed of Mr. Irving's elevation to the government. If so, the Lieutenant-Governor had a responsibility to the federal Prime Minister to report it - and he had a responsibility to tell the LG to cancel it. (Yes, the LG represents the government of Canada, not the Queen.)

Then there was the great conference of Irving invitees to discuss the economic future of New Brunswick - quite an act of arrogance in itself - a gathering of unelected hacks to do the planning we elected a government to do.

There was a lot of press on the conference. But there wasn't much on its conclusions; was there? So, this great conference was held with participation by university presidents who should have known better - and the only major conclusion I know of is that it (or Irving) would appoint official advisors to the Department of Finance to plan future budgets. (Another quite stunning act of capitulation by oyster Alward.)  Who the hell were these unelected puppets to get such influence in a democracy?

It was arrogant. It was unprecedented in Canadian political practice. It gave people we never elected the power to have a profound influence on our lives. And the Liberals didn't say a word. Nor has the new Liberal leader said a word about all this. And he won't.

Nor did the Irving press say a word, of course - not the editorialists, not the staff writers, not the opinion columns, nobody.  Still, to be kind to them, it is quite possible in examining the general quality of their writing to conclude they had no understanding whatever of what was going on.

Then there was the introduction of  Sigma Six into the civil service. And that, I suspect, is much of what the "coalition", the great conference, the "special advisors" were all about.

Sigma Six is a management system based on data analysis. It may work for managing a business department - though opinions are sharply divided even on that. It does not work at all, not ever, when applied to a department which has to meet social needs rather than to simply post profits.

A few days ago, I posted a form used by the government to sample morale in the civil service. I should have had the wit to add some of the text in the letter that came with it. I'll do so now with a passage or two omitted and with wording changed to protect the sender.

(Why didn't the writer send it to the Irving press? Get real.)

Hi, Mr. Decarie,

Sigma Six is what is being implemented from the top down since the "coalition". That's is all management is talking about in meetings. A business methodology foisted on people departments such as health and education.

As a result, we are bogged down in lengthy, awkward and expensive procedures. Income Assistance has become an area in which benefits are very difficult to get. They are commonly denied - for no clear reason - but with the right to appeal. That makes it seem fair.

And almost all appeals have resulted in benefits being assigned. And that seems fair - except ----the appeal can take a year. That's a long time to wait when you and your family are hungry.

However, the denials look good on a data sheet. They show you're following good business methods. So the civil servants, instead of assisting the needy, are forced to deal with them as if they were business clients.

While waiting out the appeal process, people are forced to turn to soup kitchens, to sell food allowances on Kijiji or simply stay destitute because all we provide in the end is enough to stay destitute, anyway.

Just thought I would give you a bit of what I've been seeing from within.

This is what the great conference on New Brunswick's future was all about. It's going to get very bad, indeed. The need to gather data and to look good on data charts will drive administrators in health and education and all other government services to focus entirely on getting data that would look good in a business organization.

That means far less attention to the needs of patients, students, all the people of New Brunswick. It means reducing essential staff to look good. It means a full stop on innovation and evolution of methods - to look good on a data sheet. It also means firing people. A reduced staff always looks good on a data sheet.

Oh, and as a side benefit, it gives the Irvings effective control over all of our government services. Jamie Irving, for example, now has a two and half million dollar grant to interfere with our childrens' education - though he has no credentials whatever for that, and would be unemployable as a teacher in any public school in Canada.

Alward and his party have handed over the government and the services we entrusted to them. The Liberals, including their new leader, haven't even burped.

Where does this all take us to? Almost certainly, it takes us to a gradual privatization of both schools and health - though in both cases, US experience has shown privatization to be expensive and hopelessly ineffective. It means butchered social programmes. And it means the Irvings and their friends will never pay their share of taxes.

New Brunswick is, for all practical purposes, a dictatorship.  The dictator's economic plan is to suck this province dry - and to hell with you. There are no limits to the greed and ego that control New Brunswick.

The people of this province have a fight for survival on their hands - and not much time to deal with it. They are also kept in ignorance of their danger by newspapers and private radio that lie to them. If we elect either a Conservative or Liberal government in the next election, it's game over; and, in that case, I would advise young people to get out of here as soon as possible, never to come back.

You might want to print this. Next time you see an ad inviting you to go the Irving Chapel to sit and reflect, take this with you. And sit. And reflect.


  1. I've looked at several six sigma YouTube offerings and the undeniable conclusion any sane person can come to is one of foreboding dread!

    George Lucas has already warned us in his 1970 film 'THX-1138' what becomes of an overly technocratic society who speak in such terms - not only do they lose any sense of their humanity, but become Prozac, and pharmaceutical ridden, empty shells who have entirely lost the original purpose in being alive!

  2. I lost a comment on this blog. It dealt with what we should do about the assault of big business on democracy... Could the sender please resend it?

    The first thing to do is to avoid both the Liberals and Conservatives. Anything is better because if you touch those two parties, you're dead meat. Both parties were created in order to serve big business.

    The second thing is that New Brunswickers have to develop a bit of courage, and talk to each other about what is going on. As it is, their just silent lambs going to the slaughter.

    Is there a danger of violence on the way to restoring democracy? You bet. In the US, if you don't go along with things as they are, you get your name on a secret list kept by the largest domestic espionage system the world has ever seen.

    As well, American police forces are being thoroughly militarized and equipped to deal with people who make noises about wanting democracy. They and the army are prepared for a civil war.

    The leaders of big business had no qualms about killing millions of Vietnamese, Central Americans, Iraqis, Afghanis, etc. They won't have any about killing Americans.

    Canada is going the same route. The government already spies on dangerous enemies like environmentalists. It has its own secrets and secret lists - and it shares them with big business.

    If violence comes, it will probably come first from government. It's really a bad choice for either side because the result is unpredictable no matter who wins. The Russians wanted brotherhood. They got Stalin.

    What's need now is lots of communication, open discussion, among people. More people have to learn what is going on. More people have to be aware of the realities we live in. We need the courage to exercise the free speech we claim we have.
    And we must vote intelligently. There is nothing to hope for from either Liberals or Conservatives at any level of government.