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This editorial is 510 words long. It takes every one of those words, sometimes, to make a clear and cogent argument. But when it comes to making submissions to the federal Standing Committee on Finance about something as important as the direction the federal budget should take, 510 words is way too long.

The committee set new rules for dealing with the public. From now on, it only wants to receive online submissions of 350 words or less, and those submissions are supposed to be in a strict new format: the committee wanted people to answer a scripted set of questions by Aug. 3. If they liked your approach, you may be invited to speak to the committee at its hearings. Your answers could just as easily be dust-binned.

The Conservative-dominated committee says reading 800 or so submissions about the areas where its constituents feel the government should focus its financial efforts is just too much work, and instead wants notes equal to roughly one and a half pages of double-spaced, typed comments.

Here are the specific areas that the committee was willing to hear about this year:

Economic Recovery and Growth

Given the current climate of federal and global fiscal restraint, what specific federal measures do you feel are needed for a sustained economic recovery and enhanced economic growth in Canada?

Job Creation

As Canadian companies face pressures resulting from such factors as uncertainty about the U.S. economic recovery, a sovereign debt crisis in Europe, and competition from a number of developed and developing countries, what specific federal actions do you believe should be taken to promote job creation in Canada, including that which occurs as a result of enhanced internal and international trade?

Demographic Change

What specific federal measures do you think should be implemented to help the country address the consequences of, and challenges associated with, the aging of the Canadian population and (Note to readers: this editorial is 350 words long right here) of skills shortages?

Productivity

With labour market challenges arising in part as a result of the aging of Canada’s population and an ongoing focus on the actions needed for competitiveness, what specific federal initiatives are needed in order to increase productivity in Canada?

Other Challenges

With some Canadian individuals, businesses and communities facing particular challenges at this time, in your view, who is facing the most challenges, what are the challenges that are being faced and what specific federal actions are needed to address these challenges?

Some may note with some humour that the parliamentarians need 215 words just to ask the questions, but are only offering groups 135 more than that to offer up answers. Brevity may well be the soul of wit, but it’s also worth pointing out that the committee itself is in no way short of words. When they last met, on June 5, for example, the single day’s discussion, transcribed, ran to 61,645 words and 349 pages — 176 times what the committee is willing to hear from anyone else.

Perhaps they should be willing to share a little more of that space with the common folk.

Organizations: Standing Committee on Finance

Geographic location: Canada, U.S., Europe

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