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Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Royal Commissions, Boards of Inquiry... all that stuff

Missy recently asked me if I was still considering doing a PhD on the Poitras Commission. Well, it's been in the back of my mind, but I'm still too focused on finishing my Masters in the Spring. Then I'll think about what comes next.

I must admit, though I do have an interest in the Poitras Report, but only as an element of broader research into the effectiveness of all public inquiries - this is the only topic I have come up with that I feel compelled enough to dedicate another 4 - 5 years of scholarship (plus my mom would like to call me Dr. Allore).

Last night, in my Organizational Behavior class, we had to do sort of mock presentations on the NASA Challenger disaster. The setup was that we were sort of a board of inquiry, and we had to make recommendations to Congress of what should be done to prevent another "Challenger" (suspend disbelief for a second and forget that there was a board of inquiry - the Rogers Commission - and NASA ignored most of their recommendations which lead to Columbia.

What surprised me were the recommendations; almost everyone thought that a separate oversight entity should be but in place to watchdog NASA - kinda what Poitras recommended for the SQ, but the government ignored that too.

My question was - and is - why have these oversight units become the solution-de-jour for practically every government screw-up in the past 20 years? Have they ever accomplished anything except to throw money at a problem? What ever happened to entities being responsible and exercising good judgement? And those aren't rhetorical questions, I'm genuinely intriqued by the answers.

I received in the mail today the English summary and recommendations of the Poitras Commission (I have read thru the French version, and contrary to myth it can be purchased through Publications Quebec). I think the sub-title of the summary speaks for itself:

Toward A Police At The Service Of Integrity And Justice

Toward? You mean we're not there yet? We need remedial action for the Police in order to get there? And if you don't implement the recommendations - take a close look at the SQ's Stratigic Plans for the past 10 years and it's clear that they never paid anything but lip service to the Commission's recommendations - then where does that leave public safety in the Province of Quebec?

You reap what you sow.


On a side note: As I have told Missy, I think she is doing a wonderful job; far more focused and coherent than I was able to manage. I have no regrets giving this up, and love how the blog has developed.

But I reserve the right to come back and comment on any subject of my choosing. :-D



Having finished the Poitras summary, I have to make a correction. Originally I had only read the SQ's first strategic plan after Poitras: it was a piece of crap, but not authored by current SQ head Normand Proulx. The 2005 - 2007 S.P. is a vast improvement. For one thing it's a readable document (ie: shorter). It's clear that Proulx has an understanding of the importance of results based management; everything that was missing from the 1st S.P. is there in the 05 - 07 plan - Mission and Vision tied to objectives that produce goal alignment, goals tied to strategies and outcomes, a strong message from the head that the agency is all about Professionalism, Respect, Transparency. And many of the Poitras recommendations are incorporated. And it's clear from reviewing the S.P. that the SQ borrowed from other forces (Google the OPP's Business Plan and you'll see what I mean). That they borrowed it? Whatever, that's how these things get done, and the amount of reporting the SQ has been doing over the last 7 years is a great improvement to past practices.

I could write about this forever, suffice it to say, I am a little surprised, encouraged and enlightened by what I have seen thus far. On first blush Proulx appears to be a manager who understands the foundation of achieving results.

What's missing are the outcomes, I haven't had a chance to review the SQ's annual reports, but if they tie to the planning in the way this is supposed to work, the Provincial force is on its way to correcting many of the mistakes of the past.



At 7:22 PM, Blogger Sharron Prior website said...


At 11:32 PM, Anonymous Maritime Missy said... "reserve" the right?! You OWN the right!! Glad to see your post. Glad to see that you're still fired up about injustice.

RE: Oversight Committees
Policing the police is always the first recommendation but are there instances where it has actually IMPROVED anything? If the committee or board doesn't have teeth and a genuine will to root out the rotted parts, then it's back to the same ol' same ol'. Why not do what corporate America does during a takeover. Clear out and replace the top level of management and give the new bosses the authority to turf any and all who aren't prepared to tow the line. Give each department head performance measurements and hold their toes to the fire if they fail to meet them.

At 12:45 AM, Blogger Bill Widman said...

Hey John - It's always good to hear from you.

At 6:42 AM, Blogger - said...


Well that was the big recommendation in Poitras that the Minister of Securite Publique past on: An oversight board between the Head of the SQ and the Minister that had the power to hire and fire (not just make recommendations).

So that was late 1990s. It's interesting what happened next. I walk in around 2001 - completely oblivious to Poitras - and say, "hey... this here SQ was screwed up, it's STILL screwed up!"

That must have been a cold shower for some bureaucrats. Wish I could have been a fly on the wall...

Gotta go... it's "model government day" at work and I have to demonstrate to high schoolers why not to get cynical.


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