Clark's waste buster promise might be a waste

When Clark was running for the provincial Liberal leadership, she took a page out of her predecessor's playbook and promised to get the public involved in the elimination of government red tape. But the civil service has warned her that effort, which took the form of the Waste Buster Website under Gordon Campbell's leadership, didn't meet with much success in the past.

Waste Buster - which was launched during the first 90 days of the Liberals taking office in 2001 - promised to "allow taxpayers to take an active part in reducing unnecessary spending and improving services."

Ten years later, Clark echoed that promise by committing to create an online forum where the public can help improve government policy and service delivery. Among its suggested uses: letting taxpayers nominate "regulations that should be downsized or eliminated, to cut through red tape for business and citizens."

But a confidential briefing document prepared for the incoming premier advised Waste Buster "has been unsuccessful in achieving its goal of identifying wasteful practices in government," despite having received over 16,200 submission to date.

The reasons, according to the document, are twofold. Number one: "Citizens are well positioned to talk about their experiences, but they are seldom knowledgeable about the ins and outs of government regulations and policy (indeed, why should they be?)."

And number two: "Wastebuster (sic) reports have been managed as correspondence, which has left little room for public servants to explain the reasons why certain policies or regulations are in place."

"Without two way dialogue, the exercise is unproductive, because it is hard for the public service to understand the real need expressed in the report, and it has hard for the citizen to understand the rationale for their experience."

So it remains to be seen whether Ms. Clark's own version of that site - if it ends up being launched - is more successful.

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