Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Clement's user fees kabuki dance

Well this seems strange: "Federal departments to propose user fees hikes despite government promises."
The Harper government may have vowed that cutting the deficit would not lead to higher user fees, but documents show that as many as a dozen federal departments plan to raise those fees – including Parks Canada.
My, despite the governmental vow, apparently we have government departments gone wild that are hiking user fees without the blessing of the government. Scroll down to about the two-thirds mark of the report, however, and you get a glimpse at what's going on here:
After floating the idea of higher user fees in a closed-door speech to public servants, the Treasury Board President later flatly rejected the notion when asked about it by reporters on Parliament Hill.

“We don’t think that taxpayers should be taxed more or should be user-feed to death,” Mr. Clement said on June 13. “There’s lots of ways that we can get to a balanced budget without additional user fees on Canadians.”

Squaring this circle requires a classic case of Ottawa-speak.

Mr. Clement’s office explains that the minister was only ruling out higher user fees as part of his Strategic and Operating Review process, which will be detailed in the 2012 budget. That doesn’t prevent government departments from raising fees outside of that plan.
So, to recap. Behind closed doors in early June with said government departments, Clement raised the option of user fees. See this report as well ("“We are encouraging departments to develop a full range of options in areas such as administrative and program efficiencies, business consolidation and user fees,” he said"). Then it becomes public, he denies. Yet 13 departments go ahead with user fee plans. Of course they do, they were given the green light by Clement. Yet...this government can't be seen to be raising revenues aka taxes aka user fees. It's anathema for them. Bad public relations and all. Thus the solution, pin it on the departments doing so beyond the review process they've got going on.

Why whatever will these rogue government departments be doing next? Somebody, anybody in charge up there, really should get on that.