In 1991, the Province of Manitoba embarked upon a search for solutions embracing a different approach to evaluating public programming and spending. Internal reform was adopted as:
“… a long-term strategy which focuses on the key results which Government should achieve. Are there better or more efficient ways of achieving these results? Are there programs or services which are no longer essential? Are there alternate or innovative means of delivery which can provide better and more efficient services to Manitobans?”
Special Operating Agencies (SOAs) emerged as Manitoba’s preferred approach to alternative service delivery. The Province designated seventeen SOAs in nine departments in seven years. They have 715 full-time and up to 200 part-time staff, representing 5% of the Civil Service. They generated $116 million in gross revenue in 2001/02.
Eighty candidates have been identified to examine SOA status, with over 30 feasibility studies conducted. The early strategy favoured low-risk, fast-payback pilots. The first five rounds saw annual doubling of agencies. Fewer, but larger, candidates in areas of significant public programming are now the norm.