Here is a story that is unusual in that it illustrates both the importance of traditional media as well as the ability of the Internet to empower an individual.
Our federal government is a massive institution – our 2010 budget had the Canadian government spending 280 billion dollars despite only pulling in 230 billion dollars from its 33.5 million residents (source). There are many opinions on deficit spending, but I’m sure for most of us, we just kind of accept what our elected representatives put on the table. We might complain amongst our peers, 45% of us vote, some write our local newspapers or directly to their MPs.
An IT professional in Nova Scotia by the name of Drew McPherson has decided to take a more active role by highlighting the decisions being made about how our money is being spent. He’s working to improve the transparency of a politically visible component of the federal budget: travel and hospitality expenses. The federal government is obliged to disclose this information, but not in a useful or easy to analyze format. Mr. McPherson uses his IT skills to collect and aggregate all expense information across various sites, and place it on his own, in a useful format.
Drew McPherson’s site can be found here: http://www.governmentexpenses.ca/
A site like this isn’t something you’re likely to stumble on, unless you happen to be researching government expenses yourself, which is where I have to thank Macleans magazine for drawing my attention to his work: http://www2.macleans.ca/2010/08/25/high-flying-civil-servants/print/
Greater transparency of the system should lead to better spending by our representatives.