Federal Government Failure in Canada, 2013 Edition: A review of the Auditor General's reports, 1988-2013

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The discussion of the limitations of government and subsequent government failure is wholly absent from debate in Canada where, unfortunately, we still assume that governments act benevolently and without institutional constraints. That this is not true is plain to see in the pages of the Auditor General of Canada?s reports, which provide concrete evidence of the existence and extent of federal government failure in Canada.

The reports issued by the Office of the Auditor General of Canada (hereafter, Auditor General) are an excellent source of tangible examples of federal government failure that illustrate Public Choice theory. A total of 614 instances of government failure are included in this volume. All cases were derived from reports of the Auditor General published between 1988 and 2013.

For the purposes of this study, government failure is defined as a failure to achieve the stated goal(s) of a program or initiative. It is a more narrow definition than what is commonly used, which includes evaluating the efficacy of a program or initiative. This study undertakes no such evaluation but simply uses the Auditor General reports to determine whether there were problems in program design, delivery, and effectiveness.

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