Published here December, 2003.

Introduction | Project Formulation | Project Performance
Other Matters | Lessons Learned | Project Benefits

Lessons Learned

Learning from the past: The concept of "lessons learned" appears to be beyond the normal political radar screen because "The Canadian landscape is littered with white elephants similarly born of rosy projections and cost overruns:

  • The 1976 Montreal Summer Olympics cost $3.5-billion, about 30 times the initial estimate.
  • The Olympic Stadium alone cost five times the initial estimate of $310-million.
  • Toronto's SkyDome was supposed to cost $225-million, but by 1989 the price tag was more than $650-million. Ontario taxpayers, because of ill-advised loan guarantees made by their government, were on the hook for the cost overruns.
  • Albertans have spent more than $440-million since 1987 to subsidize the operation of the Swan Hills waste-treatment plant, which was supposed to recover its costs through processing fees.
  • Built in 1975 for $500-million, Montreal's Mirabel Airport has never been a viable passenger airport. This year it is expected to run a $15-million deficit and will soon become a cargo airport."[11]

Still, this particular project seems be the grand daddy of them all at a cost of some 500 times the promised estimate.

Stakeholder consultation: The stakeholders mostly impacted by the Registry do not appear to have been consulted in any meaningful way. Indeed, it has been suggested that the real motivation was not so much to devise a system that would work (a previous registry had already been set up and abandoned by police as too time consuming) but rather to score political points by attracting media attention demonstrating that something was being done. This is not an uncommon political strategy.

According to John Dixon:

"The supreme irony of the gun registry battle is that the policy was selected because it would goad people who knew something about guns to public outrage. That is, it had a purely political purpose in the special context of a hard-fought election. The fact that it was bad policy was crucial to the specific political effect it was supposed to deliver.

And so we saw demonstrations by middle-aged firearm owners, family men whose first reflex was to respect the laws of the land. This group's political alienation is a far greater loss than the $200-million that have been wasted so far. The creation of this new criminal class -- the ultimate triumph of negative political alchemy -- may be the worst, and most enduring product of the gun registry culture war."[12]

Fertile Ground: Notwithstanding purely political motivation, it is clear that sound (i.e. "professional") project management is sorely needed both by politicians, the sponsors, as well as the government services at the highest level, the doers, that manage for them. Surely this is a fertile field for consultants promoting good project management practices?

Product quality: Aside from monumental fiscal waste, this is ultra-bad law. "It's designed to operate on the law-abiding, without touching the outlaw. People who register their firearms rarely use them for crimes, and people who use their firearms for crimes rarely register them. The law's net effect is to diminish public safety rather than enhance it, first because it consumes financial resources and manpower that could be more usefully employed in other areas of law enforcement, and second because it reduces people's own ability to fight crime."[13]

Other Matters  Other Matters

11. Ottawa Citizen, as reported by the National Post, 12/6/02, pA9.
12. Dixon, J., president B.C. Civil Liberties Association, Globe and Mail, 1/8/03, pA11.
13. Jonas, G., National Post, 7/23/03, A15.
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