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Registering for Halifax recreation programs shouldn’t be an ordeal

An office at the Ministry of Intransigence in Halifax, a sleepy shiretown in England

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Ryan Van Horne is a Halifax journalist, playwright and documentary film director. His work has appeared in magazines and newspapers from coast to coast and on his blog at ryanvanhorne.com. Follow him on Twitter at @RyanVanHorne.

Ryan Van Horne is a Halifax journalist, playwright and documentary film director. His work has appeared in magazines and newspapers from coast to coast and on his blog at ryanvanhorne.com. Follow him on Twitter at @RyanVanHorne.

Aide: Sir, registration for the summer recreation programs will open tomorrow…

Deputy: Splendid. I can already sense the frustration of people trying in vain to register their little darlings for the programs they want.

Aide: Excuse me?

Deputy: Oh yes, you’re new to this aren’t you. Just watch and learn how it’s done.

Aide: What I was about to say sir is that we’ve added 50 phone lines and 30 temporary operators to make it more convenient to register–

Deputy: YOU DID WHAT!!!? Who gave you the authority to do that?

Aide: Well sir, our new program officer. She decided not to renew the untendered Muzak contract that was given to the minister’s old school chum.

Deputy: So what are these people listening to during their interminable waits to speak to a human being if there’s no Muzak from the Old Boys Network?

Aide: We’ve downloaded free background music available online.

Deputy: What brand is it?

Aide: It’s unbranded, sir.

Deputy: We’re using unbranded background music? That’s not acceptable!

Aide: Well, sir, that decision saved a pretty penny so she thought that she could just use the money within the budget to provide better service to the people.

Deputy: Better service to the people. What does she think we’re providing, a public service?

Aide: Yes, in fact. For the last several years, we’ve had numerous complaints about how difficult it is to register and we’ve also had repeated requests to offer more of these programs.

Deputy: You can’t just give people what they want and be responsive to their concerns. Do you realize what a slippery slope that is? Do people think money grows on trees?

Aide: These programs actually pay for themselves. They don’t generate any profit, but they operate on a cost-recovery basis and provide a tremendous benefit to the community.

Deputy: I know that, that’s why we don’t offer more of them. What do you take me for, some kind of fool?

Aide: No sir, but if people want more of these programs and we can recover the cost and provide summer employment to students, we should be creating more of them.

Deputy: I can see by your intransigence that you’re well-suited for our ministry, but you’re completely wrong-headed in what you think is common sense. I must say, I admire your spunk and willingness to argue a point.

Aide: Actually, sir, I hate to argue. That’s why I only do it when I’m right. Given the low supply of these programs, we should be charging much more.

Deputy: We can’t charge more, these are subsidized programs.

Aide: Yes, they are, but we don’t ask about income when people register. A person who is well-off and living in a posh house with a nanny can just as easily register their kid for one of these programs as someone who’s living on the margins of society and really needs a spot for their kid.

Deputy: Are you suggesting that we add another layer to the bureaucracy? Now you’re talking!

Aide: Actually, what I’m suggesting is that we offer more programs. If we’re going to offer these programs at these prices, we’re creating more demand for them. If we’re not going to offer more, we should raise the price to avoid the frustration.

Deputy: This is a bureaucracy. The law of supply and demand does not apply here. Just because there is intense demand for our programs that doesn’t mean that we can charge more for them, nor does it mean that we should offer more of them.

Aide: But we should do something to make it easier for people to register, rather than frustrating them with this phone-in registration. We should advertise our online registration platform a little better, perhaps?

Deputy: On the contrary. Considering the level of frustration I’d say we’re doing just fine. No changes are necessary. Cancel the extra phone lines and staff. As for advertising the online registration, keep it secret. That’s how we do things around here.

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