As Canadians, we hand over a substantial portion of our income to the government in the form of taxes, and we would like to believe that our hard-earned money is being put to good use. But few of us ever try to pinpoint exactly where our tax dollars go once they leave our hands, or to figure out how decisions about public spending are made. Who decides which programs and projects receive funding? How does the decision-making process work? Armed with these questions, Jay Innes and a team of researchers set out to investigate how spending decisions were made for one specific government initiative: the Canada Infrastructure Works Program (CIWP). The researchers interviewed community leaders and businesspeople in various provinces about their experiences with CIWP, and spoke to the politicians and civil servants who administered and implemented the program -- the people who should have been most familiar with the decision-making process.
Nevertheless, although three levels of government (federal, provincial and municipal) participated in the program, the researchers could find no one, at any level, who could tell them how and why decisions were made, or even who was responsible for making them! Their findings demonstrate just how little accountability there is in Canadian government today -- a problem that should concern all Canadians who care about how their tax dollars are being spent.
A graduate of Lakehead University, Tim Chorney is a freelance journalist and media researcher for television, newspaper and radio. He is based in Ottawa. Jay Innes holds a master's degree in journalism from Carleton University and has worked as a researcher and reporter for newspapers, radio and television. He is the producer of Secrets in High Places, a television documentary for Stornoway Productions.