The Empire Builders

October 31st, 2013

Empires tend to be built on the backs of the little people, to benefit the big people, to the detriment of all people.  The mandate of the CSA is microscopic, its coordinative and secretarial, their actual responsibilities could be accomplished with 10 - 12 full time staff and about $6MM in annual budget.  Yet the CSA has over 1,600 full time staff and an annual budget of more than a quarter billion dollars.  The CSA has been relentlessly expanded beyond its original mandate by a series of self serving corporate cogs, what used to be called “company men,” enticed to CSA by the prospect of building their own petty fiefdoms within the protected confines of an unaccountable government entity.  And the result is clear to see.  The CSA has become a bloated, bumbling bureaucracy, a red tape empire of mandarins masquerading as contributors, abusing the people who pay for their princely positions.

So what is CSA supposed to be doing?  Well, the CSA was created to; 1) “coordinate the efforts of producers and others for the improvement and standardization of engineering materials,” and to;  2) “promote the general adoption of standards in connection with engineering structures” and related.  In other words, the CSA was coordinative or, in CSA’s terms, “administrative in nature.” 

Now however, the CSA regards itself as a “full solutions provider” rather than a secretary with a tiny mandate, the source of solutions “in areas as diverse as life itself.”  You caught that?  The CSA thinks that the breadth of their mandate is comparable to “life itself.”  The CSA is not afflicted with low self esteem.

Some of CSA’s activities “as diverse as life itself” involve bemoaning the problems of living “life itself.”  Among CSA’s life-focussed worries, “too many people live without adequate financial means.”  Yes.  And we’re all quite concerned about this, and have been for some time, actually.  The CSA wants to focus on “social good” and “delivering societal benefits” and “helping to identify and manage these issues, and in reducing [the] adverse effects” of living “without adequate financial means.”  However noble these interests may be, they are dramatically, even profoundly, outside of CSA’s actual “engineering materials” purpose. 

In the words of their CEO, Ash Sahi, “We are building a strong and sustainable organization that acts globally to prevent injuries and fatalities, protect the environment, and demonstrate care for people.”  None of these things are relevant for CSA.  The CSA was created to help build strong and sustainable industries in Canada, not to build a strong and sustainable CSA at the expense of industries in Canada.  And its not supposed to be acting “globally,” the CSA is a domestic regulator, and it reports to Industry Canada, not Foreign Affairs.  And “protecting the environment,” though awfully noble, isn’t a secretarial function either.  And the “demonstrate care for people” part is just nonsense.  The text of CSA’s federal Charter is available in the Lawsuit section of this website, you’re invited to check for yourself if the Federal Government has mandated that the CSA affect the appearance of humanitarianism.

The CSA’s documentation is crammed with kak about “strengthening our capacity to do social good” and “delivering societal benefits by improving people’s lives.”  Do they seriously believe that people can’t sort out their own lives without CSA’s priggish collaboration?  Given CSA’s performance, they’d need 46 people to cook you dinner and another 85 to turn on your light switches.

The reality is that CSA exists to “coordinate” engineering standards, not to aggrandize itself with notions of sweeping societal improvements, or pompous pulpiteering on the nature of social good, or to come across as all contemplative, Ghandi-like, pondering the perplexities of human existence. 

But they’ve got an empire to feed, they’ve got to keep their bureaucrats busy.  And they do.  “We are also investing in solutions relating to alternative fuels, hydrogen, fuel cells, electric vehicles, wind power and other technologies.”  Swell.  “Augmenting our climate change solutions, we introduced a new carbon performance program”, and further, “we plan to expand our offerings globally by investing in new technologies and creating a center [sic] of excellence for education and learning.” 

While the CSA is permitted to “promote the adoption of standards in connection with engineering structures” such as fuel cells, electric vehicles, (etc.), their Charter absolutely does not permit them to “invest” in any of these industries, or in “new technologies,” or in “solutions” commercially fixated to them.  And “climate change solutions”?  There is nothing in their Charter which permits CSA encroachment on academic or scientific research activities, nor does it permit related investment in such activity.

But that’s just the start.  The CSA is also involved in crafting human resources standards, though their involvement is actually quite irrelevant given the ubiquity of HR standards, and HR standardizing bodies, and HR trade associations, and the proliferation of sufficient HR standards and practices documentation to take down whole forests in the paper to print them.  The CSA also spends taxpayer dollars to fund “flood relief operations in Pakistan and China, and earthquake and tsunami relief in Japan,” even though its not CSA’s responsibility, nor is it permitted in their mandate, nor is the Foreign Affairs Department pleased with CSA ‘s uninvited ineptitude making murky the delivery of Canada’s foreign aid programs.

The CSA itself however, is perfectly pleased with their performance and takes every opportunity to tell the world, no matter how disconnected their statements may be.  For instance, the CSA infers that their service is terrific, as; “service makes the difference between merely tolerable and truly excellent.”  This, from the agency whose customer service features three-year wait times to receive one-word answers to technical questions.  “We embrace competition because open market practices benefit everyone.”  This, from the government monopoly that is trying to wipe out the last vestiges of the open market in their commercial areas.  From former Chair, Daniel Gagnier; “We consider not only what we do […] but also how we made a difference in people’s lives.” This, from the agency responsible for bankrupting the companies to whom they sold counterfeit safety certifications.  The CSA’s surely made a difference in their lives.  “The CSA […] helps detect, expose and punish unauthorized use of our certification marks”.  This, from Canada’s most prolific counterfeiter of certification marks.  “Smart people don’t waste time or money.”  This, from a domestic regulator that spends over $65,000 per day on travel, over thirteen million dollars per year on “other,” and that pays rent on thirty-five superfluous offices at golf courses and yacht clubs around the world.  “To me, how we do things is as important as what we are doing.”  Thus spake Mister Sahi, CSA’s Dear Leader.  Rhetorically, does he appreciate the irony of his statements? 

“Creating trust and excellent service requires unrelenting attention to good governance, management system standards, auditing to ensure compliance, and transparent measurement and reporting.”  This latest line is from former Chair of CSA Douglas Hatch.  In this quote, as in those above, the CSA gives a good impression but their statements are wholly divorced from the reality of their conduct.  The CSA is being exposed, increasingly their statements are trusted only within the workforce of CSA itself and, as we know, sometimes not even there.  The CSA is embarrassed, the emperor has no clothes.  And as their CEO once warned, “there is no place to hide in today’s world.”