Don Drummond’s report is about to become an epoch in Ontario’s history. All ideas, notions, proposals that existed Before Drummond (BD) will now be compared and contrasted against the report and will have to conform to the After Drummond (AD) ideology.
With expectations so high for the report, people are expecting to see real substantive changes on AD + 1 (the day after the Drummond report, the day formerly known as February 16 2012). The reality of course is that it will take at minimum one year to see the changes realized, more likely closer to two years. So why would the McGuinty government go down this path for a pay off that is likely past the next provincial election?
The publicly stated reason is to balance the budget by 2017. The real objective, more likely, is to avoid getting the government (of any political stripe) trapped into a structural deficit. A structural deficit is a deficit that occurs even when the economy is operating at full potential. If a deficit that can be eliminated just through economic growth is referred to as a cyclical deficit – one that all governments experience as they ride the waves of the economic up and downs.
Drummond’s 400 recommendations over 600 pages will certainly give many many ideas, but the central theme was presented by Health Minister Deb Matthews recently when she outlined a plan to move routine procedures to non profits. How this will be implemented is not yet known, but the principle of moving services from government delivery to third party delivery is evident.
If this principle is applied to other areas of government then there is a real opportunity to make substantive changes to the structure of government. The benefits of those changes can only be realized if staff moves off the government payroll to the service provider. There are examples of where this arrangement is working successfully right now in government.
With this type of approach government can become a developer of policy and an enforcer of standards. It can focus on what it’s citizens need and then find most cost effective way to deliver it.
It’s not a panacea but can help keep Ontario out of the structural deficit trap.
So what happens on AD +1; there will be lots of analysis, commentary, and pontificating. But the sun will rise, and if this weather holds we’ll have another Spring like day in the middle of February.
We have to ask ourselves, what does success look like? For Drummond, that measure will be evident by the end of March when the government introduces its 2012 Budget. If they adopt his path (and early indicators are that they will) then he can be satisfied that his report didn’t end up on the shelf gathering dust. For the rest of us, success will be seen with the fundamental change in the delivery of services. This could be when you visit a non-profit clinic specializing in knee and hip replacements or when you renew your health card at your local pharmacy. Let’s check in again on AD+45 to see what progress has been made.
Atul Sharma is a vice president in the Toronto public affairs group.