Thursday, February 20, 2014

A Government Rant

As most people know, I live in Canada as a "Permanent Resident", but I'm actually still British and not a Canadian.  What this means is I have a British Passport, but I live in Canada and have every obligation that a Canadian has, such as paying taxes and abiding by all laws without exemption, but I have have the added benefit in that I can't be blamed for anything the government does, because taxpaying residents aren't eligible to vote.  

Unlike governments, I'm a product of the modern era.  It was through helping North Americans from my base in the UK during the mid-90s that brought me here.  However, like governments, I have a habit of integrating myself into many things.

I'm intimately familiar with four governments.  

  • The UK Government is the one that raised me - and I don't have too much respect for the top level, though I do for the local levels.  The reason for this is simply that once I worked with the upper levels, I felt like there wasn't much substance to it.  Meanwhile at the local levels, people don't shuffle around so much and so they actually try to make a difference.
  • The French Government is the one that I have never forgiven after they tried to pin blame on me for something that required the services of American forensics experts to prove I wasn't the cause of the issue.
  • The American Government is the one that (border control people excepted) always appears to be in sync with me.  I explain how something can be improved and they listen.  I also never hit a problem where things just "stop" because of "not my job" mentality - if I needed to be handed off to someone else, they hand me over.
  • The Canadian Government is the one that has been my host for the past 15 years.  It appears to be a cross between the UK one and the American one.  It inherited the disjointedness of the US System, and the arbitrary anchors of bureaucracy that hobbles the UK one.
There's one additional "government" I am very very familiar with: Toronto's municipal government - meaning the City of Toronto.  My face is probably on a dart-board at City Hall, because I don't actually deal with City Hall much; choosing instead to find the name of the person responsible for each problem and then dealing with them directly. 



I look at the role of government as very simply being a framework that helps it's people to prosper.  How it does this is through silos of health, education, economics and safety - and all of this is paid through taxation.  The way it should work is like this:  The government helps you, and you prosper thus giving money to the government to help it help you further.  It should be a symbiotic relationship.

However, it's not actually like this.  More often than not, the government doesn't want to help and it offloads the responsibility to the people.  This then leads to the observation that the government only exists to further the government.

Anyone that knows me well will know that I have a habit of integrating into all things.  Sometimes, I end up in some strange places that I didn't expect to be in.   I also keep an eye out for things that need fixing, and I'm more than happy to voice my opinion or show people a better way.  

Sometimes, I fix or make things work in sensitive environments.  This ranges from Air Forces and Armies, through to Home Offices, Police Forces, Supermax Prisons, Nuclear Facilities, Presidential Libraries, and local authorities.  In the case of Canada, one particular example of my tinkering is that Canada has an industry silo called "Industry Canada" and that has an R&D department called The National Research Council of Canada.  The very top of this chain are top advisors to guide the national effort.  Who has been called to help them?  Me.

So, in Canada, I've already managed to achieve the situation of being simultaneously above the top of the government chain whilst also being ignored at the bottom of it.

Contrast this with the USA:  There, I'm a nobody as I don't live there and I'm not American, but I'm a nobody that gets listened to.  They understand I'm actually trying to help.  This has led to humorous situations where my receptionist has in the past come to my desk in a state of disbelief saying that the White House, or Andrews AFB, or Fort Bliss is on the phone.

Of course, this level of tinkering like a one-man-band/loose-cannon couldn't go on forever, so I was put into the Joint Certification Program to have a few house rules put around me.  Cutting a long story short, that path culminated with me becoming a one-man NATO codified C4ISR R&D mobile software engineer, which just pushed me even further down the path of being taken seriously by the Americans.  

This resulted in a new "at the top and bottom at the same time" scenario where I'd gotten people from Fort Bliss calling me about running prototype software at White Sands Missile Range and this was brought to a successful resolution, whilst in Canada I was trying to tell Service Ontario to put twins birth certificates in the same envelope to save postage costs and to this day (I checked) Service Ontario hasn't listened to me as I heard from another parent of twins that their's recently arrived in two envelopes.

Fast forward to today...  

Today has a common theme:  Government Finance.  I'm working on fixing an American taxation system that ran into a spot of bother.  Again, I'm able to call people and if it's not someone's job, I just wait ten minutes and someone else calls me back to resolve the issue.  You help me and I help you.

Today, I also walked into a Service Ontario centre today for the first time (I usually use the website) to ask a question about my Social Insurance card as I was passing, having just left a meeting.  After suffering a wait through a very loud rendition of Frank Sinatra's "My Way", I get to the desk and I'm told that this is a Service Canada problem.  Further, their solution was to go to another city (Scarborough) to resolve it.

I'm sorry, but this is Toronto - there has to be a sodding office in Toronto.  That's just bad advice from Service Ontario.  So this little tale ends, where I'm both helping one government and being brushed off by another... again.

I can't be bothered today to track down a responsible human being at the Government today, so I'm going to just leave an idea here - someone will find it eventually.

What Canada needs is this.
First you create an office, let's call it a "Service Centre" or something similar. It's purpose is to act as a coherent link between the government and the community. When you walk in there, you should be able to do simultaneous things like get a new health card and a new Social Insurance card... Believe it or not, you can't currently do this as the system is too fractured to handle even related things like this.