As the new City Council gets ready to get to work over the next four years, the 2023 budget will be their first major order of business. As taxpayers for all three orders of government, municipal, provincial, and federal, the citizens expect that their political representatives exercise the proper duty of care and sound judgment in their decision-making process. This includes assuring the taxpayers that they are getting value for their money while providing the necessary services for a good quality of life.
As we look ahead to a post-Covid19 world, our orders of government not just in Canada but around the world, will navigate years of challenging budgets that will deal with extreme financial conditions that did not just happen, but were there before Covid19 and made much worse by the need for lock-downs and investments in areas of the economy meant to protect the most vulnerable while providing essential services.
At this time of societal stress and dysfunction, the foundational values of accountability remain our guiding principle for a way forward that does not play to the fear and uncertainty of our citizens for political gains. At times it is easier to just throw money at a problem but if spending money alone was the solution to our problems, Canada would already be out of the woods.
Being held accountable is much easier when things go well. It is much more difficult to take ownership when things do not work out, especially when faced with the uncertainty of a Covid19 world, wars, and inflation not seen in generations. It is this new level of uncertainty that now requires a new model of accountability, especially in government, and especially from our elected officials.
The need for a new accountability model
More than anything else, the shameful failure of the provincial and federal orders of government to protect our seniors in Long Term Care has shown us that systemic failure can occur at all levels. Unfortunately, we usually do not hear much about the causes of the problems and what corrective actions can and should be taken. Finger pointing is not a solution either as in most cases there are structural issues that precede these types of failures, thus the need for a new accountability model that is focused on prevention.
For long-lasting benefits, accountability should be built on a shared vision that starts at the top levels of government and any organization (be public or private sectors, the concept is the same), is properly presented and articulated, and once approved it becomes the guiding force, not only for the political leadership but an equally supportive administration and staff throughout the government departments. This vision guides actions and decisions that help in strengthening the government’s financial systems and ensure our quality of life while keeping taxes at reasonable levels.
The vision is built on the intrinsic values of leadership and four key elements that do not just start at the top but permeate an organization and hold everyone accountable through:
Vision – to have the foresight and the ability to take proactive action when needed;
Courage – to tackle difficult issues and take some risks; Integrity – based on solid principles and values; Knowledge – depth of understanding of issues, not only to do things right but also to do the right things, because behind every decision made there are people that will be affected, and we need to understand the long-term impact of every decision.
Within the context of these fundamental qualities of leadership, elected officials, civil servants, and administrators as well as community decision-makers at all levels, will be better prepared to effectively tackle the important issues of sustainable economic growth and financially responsible orders of government that are accountable to the people in their mandate to ensure a safe and prosperous future for its citizens.
Frank Pullia is a former Councillor for the City of Thunder Bay. He has written extensively over the years for local and regional publications. More insights can be found in his blog “Frankly Frank” which can be viewed at www.frankpullia.com