« J’ai compté sur ses doigts et je me suis trompé »
Gomery’s Phase One report (Gomery I), entitled “Who is Responsible?” and filed in November 2005, landed like a grenade. Judge Gomery’s Phase Two report (Gomery II), entitled “Restoring Accountability” and filed in February 2006, generated more of a whimper than a bang. This is mostly because “… proposals for reform are far less entertaining a public spectacle than the apportioning of blame” (Potter 2006: 10). Yet the repercussions of the notions put forward in Gomery II on our mode of governing in Canada may well be significant, so they deserve some critical attention.
Pessimists anticipated that Gomery II would be limited to suggesting some plumbing adjustments to the machinery of government in order to improve it marginally; optimists saw the Gomery inquiry as a potential glasnost that would throw more light on poor governance processes, and prepare a wished-for perestroika (Paquet 2005). At the end of the day, the recommendations of Gomery II are neither as trivial as feared, nor as inspiring as hoped for.
A good number of Gomery II recommendations are helpful. In fact, many, if implemented, are likely to correct some of the power imbalance between the government of the day and Parliament, and bring greater transparency and legitimacy to many administrative processes. For this, Canadians should be genuinely grateful. However, the overall tone of the report, and Gomery II’s recommendations in toto, are problematic: they lack both temperantia (a sense of limits, of not going too far) and prudentia (a sense that one should pursue reasonable and practical objectives).
A most important weakness of the report is its failure to factor in the challenges of governance in a world in which power, resources and information are now widely distributed. While this new reality has been recognized in some of the background research studies of the Commission of Inquiry (Roberts 2006), it is not a feature of the Gomery II report as such.
In this kind of a world, coordination and collaboration are crucial requirements both at the political/administrative interface and horizontally among the different players. This occlusion has allowed a romanticized view of the public administration system to prevail: a mindset has taken hold in the report that has determined that firewalls have to be built everywhere, despite the existence of a world of governance that calls for continuous collaboration, social learning and much blurring of roles (Thacher and Rein 2004). As a result Gomery II is an amalgam of useful, if general and banal, recommendations, along with others that are very seriously wrong-headed.
This world of collaboration must also be able to count on fail-safe mechanisms and crucial mavens who accumulate information and knowledge about many dimensions of the governing process. Such features are essential to ensure that the system does not fall prey to saboteurs and will be able, when needed, to generate innovative, reasonable and negotiated arrangements that are likely to receive general support. As a result, it is fundamentally important to maintain the conditions necessary for the government of the day to govern effectively and creatively. Gomery II would not appear to have understood this point well.