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DAVID DELANEY: Barriers and secrecy mark actions of some local authorities in Cape Breton

David Delaney - Point of View
David Delaney - Point of View

A friend recently told me of how he had contacted the head of a local agency via email and back came an automated algorithmic response to the effect that this top dog was away from the office and she would not be back for a week.

We are all too familiar with this formatted type response from government and public agencies.

How often do you telephone, only to then hear a recording of what number to press. Then, if you get that correct, it most often comes down to one of the following: the party is on the phone, away from their desk, with someone else or out of the office.

It never seems that any government official answers the telephone. I suppose we should realize that these are busy people. Doesn’t it strike you as odd, however, that they are always busy with someone else. When might they be busy with you? Or is it, as I suspect, that screening calls is one of their principal tasks and they are well-schooled in getting back to you when they please.

Government bureaucracy and its companion traveler, citizen-funded agencies, delight in a new form of isolationism.

Theirs is a world of meetings, committees and travel and all of it for vitally important public purposes, or so their narrative goes.

Mind you, its vitality is not accompanied by much in the way of personal communication responsiveness or even receptiveness.

Let’s look at some repeated examples and these are not aberrations or one-offs.

Try applying for a government job or one with one of these agencies.

Rarely does one get an acknowledgment of the application’s receipt. It is made clear that only those selected for an interview will be contacted. This is a nice screen for the union of arrogance and ignorance.

A citizen takes the time to apply and isn’t even afforded the dignity of an acknowledgment. Again, however, these are busy people. We must be more understanding.

Go down to the Cape Breton Regional Municipality building on the Esplanade in Sydney. The lay-out down there suggests it was designed by one of Stalin’s architects. It certainly is Soviet style.

Long empty hallways, closed doors leading to a series of closeted offices, safely kept from public reach. Upon entering the particular department, one is contained in a small, glassed-in cubicle. You speak to a selected public official through a small hole in the glass barrier separating you from that official.

The message is as clear as it is false. We are busy. The truer, though unstated reality is this: stay away; do not bother us.

A similar situation exists in our local courthouse.

First, there is the security corridor, out-fitted with a walk-through metal detector, a wand detector and an x-ray of your belongings. If you wear a belt you must take it off. I am thinking that at some seminar, likely in Las Vegas or some other exotic location, the potential danger of belts was made apparent.

Then, assuming you get past this defensive bulwark and want to speak to an official, you do so through a reinforced glass barrier, again bending down so as to be able to speak through a small hole. Small, I should think, to prevent one from possibly jamming his belt through it and doing one or more dastardly things.

Government practices of this sort suggest an affection for play-acting as if to suggest a level of importance beyond what is necessary.

Try asking from one of our esteemed members of the political class for what is no more than basic information. I have been asking the Cape Breton Partnership for near two years for their basic financial statement. Let me be clear. I have not asked for anything that might be considered confidential. Merely a basic inquiry on how much of taxpayer money they receive and what they spend it on — namely wages, travel, benefits, etc. They will not provide an answer.

At one point I sent a registered letter to the chairperson of their board. He didn’t even acknowledge receipt of the letter, much less address its contents. His and his agency’s attitude would seem to be that if they close their eyes, nobody will see them.

So much for openness and transparency so touted, yet not practiced by this special class.

I simply believe that if you seek and receive public money, you should be obliged to explain how it is spent by posting your financial statements. We should not have to go looking. It should be right out in the open.

Further, that a government that delights in building walls between it and the citizens it serves loses its legitimacy.

All of this suggests an attitude by government and the political class summed up in four words: secrecy, paranoia, privilege and entitlement.

David Delaney lives in Albert Bridge and can be contacted at [email protected].

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