John Robson: Ottawa’s Neglect of RCMP and Armed Forces a Case of Bad Policy Driving Out Good

John Robson: Ottawa’s Neglect of RCMP and Armed Forces a Case of Bad Policy Driving Out Good
Members of the RCMP march during the Calgary Stampede parade in Calgary on July 6, 2018. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)
John Robson

Once upon a time bell-bottoms, mullets, and “Gestalt” theory were trendy. Until someone realized two fashion blunders didn’t cancel out and people had always seen patterns. Like this one where the RCMP is desperately understaffed.

As the National Post reported, “The force provides police to provinces across the country, but it is missing [recruiting] targets in every region, with vacancy rates up to 17%.” You might say it’s not a pattern, even with the Armed Forces also officially short some 16,000 members, probably far more. It’s just as ugly as the purple jumpsuit Burt Reynolds wore on the “Tonight Show” in 1973 that the state cannot protect us from internal or external threats, its most basic duty.

True. The pattern emerges because these empty red serge and CADPAT uniforms stand off guard next to a vast bureaucracy that gets vaster each day.

Here I propose a corollary to economists’ “Gresham’s Law” that bad money drives out good, namely that bad policy drives out good. The more the state is preoccupied with things it shouldn’t be doing, in ways it shouldn’t be doing them, the more it neglects its core duties.

If the bureaucracy, budget, or both were static, resources expended trying to change the weather or re-engineer bigoted citizens would obviously not also be available to defend our borders, fight crime, and maintain roads. But Canada’s federal public service grew by 27 percent under Justin Trudeau and the budget swelled from $296 to $490 billion, while Ottawa’s personnel costs exploded from $46.3 billion to $60.7 billion in the last three years alone.

So how can we be awash in committees and consultants but short of cops and corporals? And keep reading stories like the federal transport minister suddenly deciding some “high-frequency rail line” between Toronto and Quebec City won’t be ready before the mid-2030s, although the CPR took just 12 years, with time out for a massive scandal?

We might not need more Laurentians whizzing between the Ontario and Quebec capitals on subsidized rails. But infrastructure is a vital government responsibility. And they keep flubbing it, from Ottawa’s light rail to TTC stabbings to the Trans-Mountain Pipeline Expansion, whose cost has ballooned to $30 billion without moving any more fuel.
I’d say too many bureaucrats are occupied with DEI, Gender-Based Analysis, online censorship, and slick messaging rather than their day jobs. Except those are their day jobs. (Other than those bagging CERB benefits by claiming to lack day jobs; the CRA unsurprisingly called 1 percent of its staff trying this stunt a “very limited” number, after trying to hide it in case it wasn’t.)
They’re also busy awarding one another cash. The CMHC managed to hand out $75 million in bonuses from 2020 to 2022, and average executive pay reached a wallet-taking $697,667 during an acute housing crisis. The Bank of Canada doled out $55 million from 2020 to 2022 as inflation burst loose. And the Canada Infrastructure Bank gave every executive and manager a bonus in 2022 while a Commons committee said close it for not investing in, say, infrastructure instead of its own staff, 91 of whom got an average pat on the pocket of $85,200.
Now consider the classic Hill Times headline “Global Affairs knows it needs to embrace risk and become nimble, but can it change?” Imagine the serried ranks of public servants fussing over the “discussion paper” on that pseudo-problem instead of real-world things like Chinese communist subversion. On which ministers’ offices appear to employ sizeable staffs dedicated to not passing along reports.
Then there’s Justin Trudeau trailing carbon to New York “to participate in the #WorldLawCongress, and to present an award to President von der Leyen for the @EU_Commission’s commitment to the promotion of peace through law,” instead of sitting at his desk dealing with real problems, or even fake ones like their stalled effort to add 2 billion trees to our existing 300 billion to fix the weather. Again, platoons of public servants coordinate travel, photo ops, and messaging. But there’s no productive activity.
So I present Robson’s Corollary to Gresham’s Law, with catastrophic implications from education to health care to security. If the government is more worried about who we sing is standing on guard than making sure anyone really is, we’re liable to be vulnerable.

Canadian brass put a brave face on personnel shortfalls because loyalty is a virtue and leaders should project confidence. But past a certain point, they become enablers for misguided political masters in ways dangerous to security, integrity, and credibility with the rank and file.

I also don’t see much appeal in becoming a police officer in Canada today, facing trendy “defund the police” calls and an enduring “revolt of the elites” against everything from security to liberty. Our prime minister said genocide is ongoing on his watch. Who’d want to defend genocide?

What an ugly pattern.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
John Robson is a documentary filmmaker, National Post columnist, contributing editor to the Dorchester Review, and executive director of the Climate Discussion Nexus. His most recent documentary is “The Environment: A True Story.”