Privatization, Cuts Erode Public Accountability
The BC Liberal regime’s privatization
efforts and cuts to public monitoring agencies are threatening British
Columbians’ right to hold government authorities accountable, says the
BC Ombudsman Howard Kushner’s recently
released his 2002 Annual Report, which discusses what he calls the
“harsh realities” of the 35 per cent cut to his office’s budget and its
ability to serve the public.
In the report, Kushner also takes aim at
the government’s privatization and outsourcing initiatives, which have
removed several government institutions from the office’s jurisdiction
and away from public scrutiny.
"In some cases, the oversight of the
Ombudsman has been deliberately removed, as with the new BC Ferry
Services," Kushner said. He adds that privatization initiatives
undertaken at the same time as severe cuts to his budget causes concern
that British Columbians may lose the ability to access his office with
complaints involving all authorities under his jurisdiction.
"In light of our reduced budget, we will
not be able to investigate complaints about some authorities,” he said.
“As a consequence, a level of accountability and an assurance of
fairness by those authorities in their dealings with the public will be
Despite repeated election promises of
maintaining an open and transparent government, the Liberals have come
under fire for making deep cuts to Legal Aid, placing more restrictions
on the Freedom of Information Act and rolling back human rights
guarantees, especially in areas dealing with employment.
The government insists the huge cuts to
the Ombudsman’s office will not hinder its ability to function, despite
While Kushner's priority remains ensuring
every member of the public is treated fairly by public agencies that
fall under the authority of his office, he says the resources needed to
fully meet the task simply are no longer there.
The Ombudsman’s office operates as a
complaint driven advocacy office for members of the public who have
been mistreated by government administration and agencies. The yearly
report provides an overview of how the office conducts its business,
including the development and implementation of performance measures
covering all of its areas, using case studies as examples of the types
of complaints received.
In 2002, the
Ombudsman received more than 10,000 complaints and inquiries about