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Canada’s Auditor General and the Chamber of Commerce in Osoyoos, BC address the same issues. Will the community demand changes?


Canada’s Auditor General has accountability concerns for the federal government’s accounting and arbitrary transfer of billions of tax dollars to foundations and private non-profit corporations that are only accountable to themselves.  For example: the $300 million to the Green Municipal Fund.  

On municipal level in Osoyoos, the Chamber of Commerce is concerned for, and involved in a legal dispute with the local Town Council over, the local government transfer - without cost benefit analysis and tendering process - of $1 million of the taxpayer’s money to a non-profit private corporation (the Osoyoos Business and Community Development Centre).   

From completely different government levels and with vastly different dollar values, the Auditor General and the local Chamber of Commerce address issues that derive from the same fundamental and interrelated problems in our government system.  Government has failed in its accountability to society to provide appropriate monitoring and intervention. 

Canada is not an autocratic governed planned economic system such as the former Soviet Union. Canada is a democratic mixed economy.  The government’s task is to provide product and service that the private sector fails to provide, in order to secure social satisfaction. One such fundamental government task in a mixed economy is to identify and recognize problems in the allocation and market mechanisms and to intervene before socio-economic problems in the allocation mechanism escalate into adversity.  Further, to test if intervention in the economy, policies and tax transfers, such as to the Green Municipal Fund and to the OBCDC Corporation in Osoyoos meets the standard for government intervention in a mixed economy.  Further, to ensure that government interventions meet the constitution and “reduce disparities in opportunities”.    

Too often government has failed in its task, allowing decades of unsolved problems in Forest, Fishery, Healthcare and other sectors to escalate into adversity and job losses. Billions of tax dollars have been wasted in failed politically and patronage driven intervention and tax transfers by federal and provincial levels, through Human Resource Canada, regionalization of BC Healthcare, building Fast Ferries, Forest Renewal BC, to mention a few. 

These policies in good times failed to stimulate investment in research and technology, adding value, and using fewer resources. During bad times, industry expected government assistance and bailouts - the reason for US countervailing actions (that few mention or that never gets mentioned).  Interest groups and non-profit corporations lined up to pursue tax transfers, and those who tried to address the problems were out of favour. 

In the heat of the debate, a person in Osoyoos compared the Osoyoos Town administration and Council’s action against the Chamber with that of the Gestapo in Nazi Germany. That is too strong.  However, it is a fact that shifts in the economy and tough times fuel ‘bystander’ behavior and people take less personal responsibility for social and economic issues.  Corruption and the lack of civic courage is what permitted events to escalate in Germany. 

It is therefore important to remember that democracy in itself does not guarantee there will be no abuse of power such as the Auditor General and the Chamber of Commerce address.   What democracy guarantees is free speech and ultimately free elections that ensure the members of the community in good democratic order can change the legislature, Town Councils and governments.  On guard we stand.


June 19, 2002