A smarter, leaner government will put people first

By MPP Toby Barrett

Over my years as an elected representative, one of the key frustrations I hear from people is with government waste-wasteful spending coupled with inefficiencies and lack of results.

It is time to look at the public service and the broader public sector through a results-driven lens-to find efficiencies, to remove duplication, and to maximize quality service.

Making government smarter is about embracing and implementing change, never operating under the assumption that the status quo is best, and looking towards innovation for potential solutions to challenges.

Recently, Treasury Board President Peter Bethenfalvy addressed the Economic Club of Canada with plans to transform and modernize the work of the Ontario government.

As he reiterated, the process and procedures of government have been operating largely unchanged and unchallenged.  As businesses have modernized, updated and innovated, the business of government has lagged behind.

It is time to bring the language of business to the business of government.

We need a smart, fiscally sustainable governing system-a system that puts people at the centre and a plan that transforms the culture of government…

We must build smarter government.

When our government took office, we promised we would spend tax dollars wisely and clean up the fiscal mismanagement from the past decade.  Whether it’s a household’s finances or a multi-billion-dollar provincial budget, the consequences of unsustainable spending cannot be avoided.

We’ve been working hard to reduce waste in government.  For example, we took steps this year to curb the usual flurry of new spending at the end of the fiscal year-a practice called ‘March Madness.’

It’s time government took a lesson from business to make taxpayers’ lives easier, and government services more responsive.

People recognize the business world has used technology to become more responsive to make the lives of consumers easier. 

For example, we need to build a digital system that works for everyday people-a system that’s easy and effective.  Such an approach has the potential to save millions.  Phase one will put the top-ten most-used transactions at ServiceOntario online.  You will be able to renew your driver’s licence or health card, update personal information, or register a business from your computer or cellphone, without ever leaving your house.

Every person online means one less person in line.

The proposal also protects face-to-face options for those Ontarians who still want or need to use them.  We’re giving people options for a more convenient government.

Estimates have shown that government spends approximately $29 billion every year to buy goods and services.  Every week, Ontario families buy in bulk at places like Costco.  Why can’t government do the same thing?  From pacemakers to bandages, to computer and IT hardware, a modern and fully integrated procurement system will help drive savings of an estimated $1 billion each year.

Our new procurement strategies will encourage competition and innovation and seek to increase participation of businesses of all sizes, regardless of geographic location.

Or work will also include reviewing government office space to look at selling off unnecessary offices throughout the province.

Taken together this is about smarter regulations, smarter process and smarter service delivery for everyone in Ontario.

Toby Barrett is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk