How much paperwork does it take to approve a (small) government website? 39,230 words
A federal public servant revealed that when his team wanted to launch a simple website with 4,305 words, he had to submit internal documents almost 10 times as long
OTTAWA – The internet age has brought us an app for meeting the love of your life and a website for finding a mortgage on the home of your dreams. Why is it then that when Canadians interact with their federal government, they’re often forced to deal with a litany of paper forms, outdated or primitive websites and even fax machines instead of apps and sleek online forms and sites?
In a revealing blog post titled “Paperweight, a cautionary tale of onerous oversight,” CDS lead developer Paul Craig detailed the harrowing amount of internal paperwork necessary to create a single, 12-page citizen engagement website called Service Canada Labs.
His experience is far from unique, says Carleton University associate professor Amanda Clarke, author of the 2019 book Opening the Government of Canada: The Federal Bureaucracy in the Digital Age.
She says that a series of scandals over the decades (such as the Sponsorship Scandal or the grants and contributions “boondoggle”) created an “overly aggressive accountability culture” in the federal bureaucracy that led to new “overly onerous and ineffective” oversight rules.
“For the most part, these rules and oversight mechanisms do not actually make the government more accountable, and they certainly don’t make it more effective (or a pleasant place to work a lot of the time),” she said in an email.