Public Institution or Public Nuisance? HRSDC, the community sector's increasingly dysfunctional "partner"
Human Resources & Skills Development Canada (HRSDC) went off the deep end in the years following the so-called "Billion Dollar Boondoggle" back in 2000-01. In response to perceived public pressure, the Ministry introduced policies and procedures that are supposed to make its operations more publicly accountable and transparent. In fact, they have been very destructive. HRSDC became a pest rather than a partner to the community sector contractors who carry out so much of HRSDC's mandate. It's tragic for the nonprofits doing the work and for many HRSDC staff who are obliged to enforce the new rules. For certain kinds of social enterprises, especially training businesses for high-risk populations (Mottet, 2004 and Lougheed Green, 2004), the results have been more than frustrating. There has been some fight back. Pressure emanating from a coalition of community-based interests, solid policy analysis by the Canadian CED Network, articles such as this one, and working closely with supportive politicians from different parties managed to get an advisory council to the Minister established. Since then, some progress has been made in undoing the destructive array of rules and resulting practices that caused so much damage.