End windshield time for public servants

Kinder Morgan prefers to have boots on the ground to more paper pushers in head office

The BC Liberals and the federal Conservatives both identify themselves as private enterprise parties.

Perhaps they should take some lessons from private enterprise on how to run their governments.

For those who missed him, Kinder Morgan project manager Greg Toth made quite an interesting presentation to District of Clearwater council on Tuesday evening.

Most of it was about the company’s plans to twin the Transmountain Pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby.

One of his more interesting statements, however, had to do with how the pipeline company is now decentralizing its operations back into the small towns.

For example, a few years ago there were no Transmountain employees stationed in Clearwater. Now there are seven.

The company found that, with too many functions centralized in offices in the city, employees spent too much “windshield time” traveling back and forth, and not enough time actually dealing with problems on the ground.

In many ways the earlier situation with Transmountain is similar to what we are experiencing with the provincial and federal governments. As with the pipeline company several years ago, both senior levels of government are seeking to cut costs by cutting services to outlying areas.

BC Parks at one time had three or four people stationed permanently in Clearwater and Wells Gray Park, plus several more seasonal employees. Gradually that number got cut down until there was only one – and then none. All park management is now done by remote control out of Kamloops and Victoria.

Same story with BC Forest Service. Not too many years ago there were so many employees stationed locally that they couldn’t fit inside the district office next to Highway 5 and they had to use portables. Now there is just a skeleton crew there and if the receptionist gets sick or goes on holiday, they have to lock the doors to keep the public out.

The social services ministry formerly had a sizeable presence in Clearwater, with a large staff in the building now occupied by North Thompson Funeral Home. Now that ministry is gone and people needing help have to settle for call center counseling from Kamloops.

Just recently we learned that the federal government plans to eliminate the Department of Fisheries and Oceans office in Clearwater. Not too many years ago there were four or five people working there full-time. Now there are just two, and they can do their job better if they are re-located to somewhere more central, we are told.

Kinder Morgan is not exactly well know for its wasteful management practices – in fact, quite the opposite.

If the pipeline company decided it preferred to have boots on the ground to more paper pushers in head office, you can bet there were good reasons.


Our provincial and federal governments should take a page out of the private enterprise book. Get our public officials back out into the real world where they can see what is really happening, make real decisions and make a real difference.

– Keith McNeill