The Hays Study

June 1st, 2014

Contrary to the claims of the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), we now know that the CSA was established by government prior to the First World War as a government regulatory agency.  They still have a Federal Charter and they still report to the Federal Minister of Industry.  They have taxation authority, they draft legislation, they’re exempted from accountability and transparency standards -even those accountability standards that they drafted to apply in other government departments.  The CSA is as government as it gets.

That fact explains a lot of CSA’s behaviour.  Take their CEO for example, Mr. Ash Sahi.  He recently bragged to the Globe and Mail that “today we have $150MM in the bank.  We have no debt.  We have become a cash machine.”  As a government regulator, the CSA has no business amassing hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money.  Such statements by Sahi are politically suicidal, we’re quite pleased with them. 

So what’s his background?  Well, he was ensconced at the CSA in 2009.  He was installed there under the authority of Industry Canada.  Prior to 2009, Sahi was an executive of a sort at a subsidiary of DuPont, a company with substantial business dealings with Industry Canada.  And prior to that assignment, Sahi was an executive at Industry Canada itself, he was their Director of Industry and Trade.  Curiously, Mr. Sahi has deleted his record at Industry Canada from his online employment history.  Clearly, a coincidence.

An executive position at the CSA is a pretty cush gig.  The CSA’s only oversight is the Standards Council of Canada, an outfit run by former executives of the CSA.  The Council is run by Industry Canada, which for years had as its senior advisor a member of the Board of Directors of the CSA.  There seems a circularity to these relationships.  The cush gig extends to money, the CSA being indeed a money machine.  They can compel people to buy their products and they can charge whatever they wish.  The CSA is exempted from the accountability and transparency requirements that they drafted for others to follow.  They have acquired for themselves thirty-six offices around the world located for practicality at major industrial centres like the Brook Hills Golf Resort and the Bluegrass Yacht and Country Club.  They also spend over $65k per day on travel though, in fairness, RestoreCSA is hearing noises from the CSA’s CFO group that the $65k per day they officially reported as travel expenditure wasn’t really spent on travel.  In the Mike Duffy mindset, one shouldn’t take expense reporting too literally.

According to a recent study by the Hays Group, “the perception amongst private sector managers that public sector workers have an easy life is common.”  Mike Duffy was a government player, just like the CSA Group.  There are characteristics common to the public sector which stem from the more protective and artificial nature of their working environs.  Apparently, public sector workers are “castigated as workshy, overly concerned with process and lacking in any business savvy.”  Astounding.  “The vast majority (83%) of private sector employers regard previous private sector experience as ‘very important’ or ‘quite important’ when recruiting.” 

Contrast this with the infamous Lisa Ebberman.  She has no private sector experience whatsoever.  None.  As we noted last August, “her whole career experience has been in CSA’s cloistered environment, protected from competition, from having to work for success, or from having to take risks.  In consequence, Lisa doesn’t have the frame of reference in business from which to relate to those actually in business.”  From the Hays study, fully 75% of respondents considered civil servants to be “less commercially aware.”  That seems about right.

Standards, pardon the pun, decline in the absence of accountability, just as the sense of entitlement is enhanced by it.  At CSA, they consider themselves “invulnerable.”  Yet their actual performance is abysmal.  We’ve learned that the CSA’s testing process is rarely followed, never audited, and that they function as a law unto themselves when coercing standards revision to boost their revenues.  Likewise, their performance standards are woefully low, witness Anthony Toderian

One Hays study respondent described her frustration with a former civil servant.  “Whenever there is a strategic decision to be taken she is not ready.  She refers everything up the chain.  There is a lack of accountability in the sense of making decisions.”

In an artificial environment like the CSA, executives are found to be “‘promoted beyond their abilities’ and have a ‘more relaxed attitude to work’ to the point of being called ‘clock-watchers,’ ‘slow,’ and ‘lazy.’”  Private sector workers tend to view CSA style leadership as “institutionalized” and cultivating “an easy life” for people “in it for the benefits.” 

As with all such things, the longer of one’s proximity, the more corrosive the result.  We know that there are good and decent people at the CSA, but none of these are in leadership.  Restoring the CSA’s capabilities and its respect requires a wholesale change in CSA leadership, and it requires a lot of working together.  Stephen Harper has railed against “going to Ottawa to join private clubs or become part of some bureaucratic elite.”  That description fits the CSA very well, and this Government knows it.  In time, the CSA’s luxe life and their leadership of entitled underachievers will both be properly renovated.