Recommendations for Alberta’s International Offices a positive step toward eliminating wasteful patronage positions

EDMONTON, AB (February 18, 2015): Dr. David Swann says the decision to reorganize Alberta’s International Offices is a positive step toward eliminating wasteful patronage positions.

“This is a good first step,” says Swann. “I have always seriously questioned the efficiency and effectiveness of these trade offices, so we are very pleased the government is accepting all 23 of Mr. Hoffmann’s recommendations, which will save millions of dollars of public money.”

I have raised concerns in the past that appointments to international offices were being used as patronage positions for friends of the government insiders. The recent review found that there was indeed waste, but fell short of recommending the offices be closed completely. However, Alberta export numbers to destination countries provided in the review show that changes in trade volumes are largely due to global market fundamentals. This makes it difficult to pin point how effective Alberta’s International Offices actually are in promoting trade and maintaining trade.

“To fully assess the value of these offices, we need to know how Alberta export numbers compare with countries that don’t have them,” says Swann. “Are export trends in those countries similar to the countries that have an Alberta Office? If so, we would have to question why we need them at all.”

I have called for trade representatives to be hired through a competitive process and for all Alberta trade offices to be co-located in Canadian embassies or consulate-general offices.