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Canada

Engage Civil Society on Open Government (CA0060)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Canada Action Plan 2016-2018

Action Plan Cycle: 2016

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat

Support Institution(s): NA

Policy Areas

Public Participation

IRM Review

IRM Report: Canada End-Term Report 2016-2018, Canada Mid-Term Report 2016-2018

Starred: No

Early Results: Pending IRM Review

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Civic Participation

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Engage Civil Society on Open Government Why do this: Collaboration among governments and civil society on open government reforms is a cornerstone of the Open Government Partnership model. As a result, member countries are required to establish a permanent mechanism for ongoing public dialogue in order to foster transparency and empower civil society organizations’ interaction on open government. Establishing a permanent forum for dialogue provides a formal structure for regular, two-way communication between government and civil society. How will it be done: Canada initially established a multi-stakeholder advisory panel to support development and implementation of Canada’s first two Action Plans. Canada is committed to cultivating an effective relationship with civil society by designing and nurturing a renewed mechanism to support constructive, ongoing dialogue between government and non-government stakeholders. Led by the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, this renewed mechanism will establish a strong link between government and civil society. It will engage regularly to track progress on Canada’s commitments, identify potential new areas of focus, and help raise awareness of open government issues across Canada.

IRM Midterm Status Summary

19. Engage Civil Society on Open Government

Commitment Text:

The Government of Canada will create ongoing mechanisms for strengthening dialogue with civil society in support of open government activities.

Milestones:

19.1. Develop and maintain a renewed mechanism for ongoing, meaningful dialogue between the Government of Canada and civil society organizations on open government issues across the country.

19.2. Undertake targeted engagement activities to discuss open government issues in specific domains with key civil society stakeholders.

Responsible institution: Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat

Supporting institutions: Civil society partners

Start date: Not specified

End date: Not specified

Editorial Note: The text of the commitment was abridged for formatting reasons. For full commitment text, visit: http://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2001/01/Canada_AP3.pdf.

Context and Objectives

This commitment seeks to remedy weaknesses around civil society consultation that occurred during Canada’s first two action plans. Engagement with civil society is a core aspect of participation in the OGP. The 2015 midterm assessment by the IRM included, among its five main 'SMART' recommendations, a call to overhaul the existing Advisory Committee to make it an active, permanent dialogue mechanism.[Note172: Mary Francoli, 'Canada Progress Report 2014-2015,' Open Government Partnership Independent Reporting Mechanism. Available at: https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2001/01/1.Canada14-15_English_Final_0_0.pdf.] The importance of improving consultation, and specifically of developing a co-creation mechanism, was also brought up at each of the four IRM focus groups, in Halifax, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. Because of its importance, the potential impact of this commitment, and in particular Milestone 19.1, borders between moderate and transformative. However, the potential impact of Milestone 19.2 is somewhat less than 19.1, particularly as it seems to overlap significantly with mandatory OGP activities. Although the milestones themselves are reasonably clear, Publish What You Pay-Canada noted that ambiguities exist regarding how this mechanism will work, and expressed a strong need for a robust co-creation structure.[Note173: This was expressed at a consultation in Ottawa on 18 September 2017, though again it echoes sentiments expressed by a variety of stakeholders.] In addition, in focus group consultations, civil society stakeholders involved in establishing the mechanism noted that the initiative came mainly from civil society, rather than government, which played a reactive rather than a proactive role in the mechanism’s development.[Note174: This notion was first expressed by the Centre for Law and Democracy at a consultation in Halifax on 12 September 2017, but the sentiment was echoed by other stakeholders in follow up conversations.]

Completion

For Milestone 19.1, over the course of the first year of implementation, discussions between the Treasury Board Secretariat and civil society stakeholders resulted in draft terms of reference to establish a permanent consultation mechanism. A nomination process for representatives is planned for the fall, with a formal launch of the forum planned for late 2017.[Note175: The call for nominations is posted at: http://www.opengovdialogue.ca/en/apply-multistakeholder-forum.html.] There has been substantial progress in completing this milestone, which is on schedule.

Regarding Milestone 19.2, various agencies have carried out consultations connected to their OGP commitments, including a consultation by the Canada Revenue Agency on rules governing charities’ political activities (Commitment 22)[Note176: See details of the consultation at: https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/charities-giving/charities/resources-charities-donors/resources-charities-about-political-activities/canada-revenue-agency-registered-charities-political-activities-consultations.html.] and a cross-Canada tour by the Open Data Exchange (Commitment 15).[Note177: Notes from which are available at: codx.ca/?s=cross+canada+tour.] In addition, several stakeholders, including Open North and Powered By Data, reported that consultations continued with government agencies over the implementation of their OGP commitments.[Note178: Representatives from both organisations attended a consultation in Montreal on 20 September 2017.] This may be viewed as substantial progress for completing this milestone, though it is also somewhat duplicative of existing consultation responsibilities which attach to OGP participant countries.

Early Results

Civil society representatives who participated in focus groups connected to the preparation of this report noted almost universally that engagement and consultation had substantially improved since the current government took power and that they have increasing access to government officials. It would be inaccurate to characterise these changes as flowing directly from the milestones in this commitment, since the changes predate the commencement of this action plan, shortly after the election. Nonetheless, the milestones are a part of this broader change, making them relevant.

Next Steps

Although stakeholders consulted for this report were generally positive about the establishment of a multi-stakeholder consultation mechanism, they were also hesitant about ascribing too much credit for the initiative as it currently stands. Publish What You Pay-Canada noted that scepticism from previous processes still lingered, and they were waiting to see what level of impact the mechanism would have on policy-making, and in particular whether it would follow a proper co-creation model.[Note179: Expressed at the Ottawa consultation, 18 September 2017.] The Centre for Law and Democracy noted that, in developing the terms of reference, government representatives had pushed back against a co-creation model for the body.[Note180: Expressed at the Halifax consultation, 12 September 2017.] In discussing the development of the new mechanism, Dr. Teresa Scassa noted that the previous advisory panel on open government had never formally been disbanded, and expressed hope that the new mechanism would be more organised.[Note181: Expressed at the Ottawa consultation, 18 September 2017.] Powered By Data was more positive and emphasised that the government was making progress in engagement and consultation.[Note182: Interviewed by phone, 29 September 2017.] Nonetheless, they acknowledged further room for improvement. In particular, they noted that current consultation strategies were unlikely to capture new voices, beyond the relatively small community of experts that are already engaged.

Civil society consultation is an essential aspect of the OGP, and the importance of this commitment to the government’s overall progress cannot be overstated. The IRM researcher recommends continuing to push forward on this commitment, both by expanding the scope of civil society consultations, and by pushing toward a stronger standard of co-creation in the development and execution of action plans.

IRM End of Term Status Summary

19. Engage Civil Society on Open Government

Commitment Text: The Government of Canada will create ongoing mechanisms for strengthening dialogue with civil society in support of open government activities.

Milestones:

19.1. Develop and maintain a renewed mechanism for ongoing, meaningful dialogue between the Government of Canada and civil society organizations on open government issues across the country.

19.2. Undertake targeted engagement activities to discuss open government issues in specific domains with key civil society stakeholders.

Responsible institution:Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat

Supporting institutions: Civil society partners

Start Date: Not specified

End Date: Not specified

Editorial Note: The text of the commitment was abridged for formatting reasons. For full commitment text, visit http://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2001/01/Canada_AP3.pdf.

Commitment Aim

This commitment sought to remedy the weaknesses of civil society consultation that occurred during Canada's first two action plans. Such remedies would improve engagement through the creation of a Multi-stakeholder Forum on Open Government, as well as a series of targeted engagement activities to discuss open government issues.

Status

Midterm: Substantial

Over the first year of implementation, the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS) consulted with civil society stakeholders to develop draft terms of reference for the Multi-stakeholder Forum. TBS also began planning for the representative nomination process. Under Milestone 19.2, the government carried out various consultations. These consultations included discussions on rules governing charities' political activities (Commitment 22)[Note164: See details of the consultation at https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/charities-giving/charities/resources-charities-donors/resources-charities-about-political-activities/canada-revenue-agency-registered-charities-political-activities-consultations.html.] and a cross-Canada tour by the Open Data Exchange (Commitment 15).[Note165: Notes from which are available at codx.ca/?s=cross+canada+tour.] In addition, several stakeholders, including Open North and Powered by Data, reported that consultations continued with government agencies over the implementation of their OGP commitments.[Note166: Representatives from both organisations attended a consultation in Montreal on 20 September 2017.]

End of term: Complete

The Multi-stakeholder Forum on Open Government launched on 24 January 2018. The body met several times in the run-up to the release of Canada's fourth action plan. These convenings included brokering additional meetings, discussions, and working sessions among experts, stakeholders from civil society, and government programme leads.[Note167: See “Multi-stakeholder Forum on Open Government,” Government of Canada, https://open.canada.ca/en/multi-stakeholder-forum-open-government.]

Milestone 19.2 has been completed. Regarding Milestone 19.2, the government held many consultations over the course of the third action plan, mostly in connection with the development of the next action plan. Some of these sessions, which are not mentioned elsewhere in this assessment, included a bilingual webinar by the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat open government team on open data. Also included in these sessions are information sessions held by the nonprofit and private sectors on 21 June 2018; a series of information sessions and meetings on the Extractive Sector Transparency Measures Act in Vancouver, Calgary, and Montreal; and a discussion on open science held on 22 January 2018.

Did It Open Government?

Civic Participation: Major

Engagement with civil society constitutes a core aspect of participation in OGP. This commitment addressed a recommendation in the 2015 IRM midterm assessment.[Note168: Mary Francoli, Canada Progress Report 2014-2015 (Washington, DC: Open Government Partnership Independent Reporting Mechanism), https://www.opengovpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2001/01/1.Canada14-15_English_Final_0_0.pdf.] The issue was also raised in each of the IRM focus groups in Halifax, Toronto, Ottawa, and Montreal. The government held these sessions to inform the development of the 2017 IRM midterm assessment. As a result, the formation of the Multi-stakeholder Forum on Open Government has provided a significant step forward. However, it has not come without its growing pains. There remains a strong need to bridge cultural and expectational divides between government and civil society. According to Lindsey Marchessault of the Open Contracting Partnership, the Forum opened doors to engage departments on open government issues, but the current engagement could have offered further benefits had the Forum been given a role in shaping Canada's overall OGP engagement plans.

Carried Forward?

The government completed this commitment, and the Multi-Stakeholder Forum on Open Government is now up and running. The Forum, of course, has an important role to play in future action plans. However, it is not clear whether the Forum itself should be the subject of future action plan commitments, since it represents an infrastructural component of the OGP process, not a thematic focus area.


Commitments

  1. User-Friendly Open Government

    CA0064, 2018, Capacity Building

  2. Financial Transparency and Accountability

    CA0065, 2018, E-Government

  3. Corporate Transparency

    CA0066, 2018, Beneficial Ownership

  4. Digital Government and Services

    CA0067, 2018, Capacity Building

  5. Open Science

    CA0068, 2018, Capacity Building

  6. Healthy Democracy

    CA0069, 2018, Civic Space

  7. Access to Information

    CA0070, 2018, Capacity Building

  8. Feminist and Inclusive Dialogue

    CA0071, 2018, Capacity Building

  9. Reconciliation and Open Government

    CA0072, 2018, Capacity Building

  10. Open Government Community

    CA0073, 2018, Capacity Building

  11. Enhance Access to Information

    CA0042, 2016, Legislation & Regulation

  12. Streamline Requests for Personal Information

    CA0043, 2016, E-Government

  13. Expand and Improve Open Data

    CA0044, 2016, E-Government

  14. Provide and Preserve Open Information

    CA0045, 2016, E-Government

  15. Define an Approach for Measuring Open Government Performance

    CA0046, 2016, Capacity Building

  16. Develop Open Government Skills Across the Federal Public Service

    CA0047, 2016, Capacity Building

  17. Embed Transparency Requirements in the Federal Service Strategy

    CA0048, 2016, Capacity Building

  18. Enhance Access to Culture & Heritage Collections

    CA0049, 2016, Capacity Building

  19. Enhance Openness of Information on Government Spending and Procurement

    CA0050, 2016, Capacity Building

  20. Increase Transparency of Budget and Other Department of Finance Information

    CA0051, 2016, Capacity Building

  21. Starred commitment Increase Transparency of Grants and Contributions Funding

    CA0052, 2016, Capacity Building

  22. Improve Public Information on Canadian Corporations

    CA0053, 2016, E-Government

  23. Increase the Availability and Usability of Geospatial Data

    CA0054, 2016, Capacity Building

  24. Increase Openness of Federal Science Activities (Open Science)

    CA0055, 2016, Capacity Building

  25. Stimulate Innovation through Canada’s Open Data Exchange (ODX)

    CA0056, 2016, E-Government

  26. Align Open Data Across Canada (Open Data Canada)

    CA0057, 2016, Capacity Building

  27. Implement the Extractives Sector Transparency Measures Act

    CA0058, 2016, Capacity Building

  28. Support Openness and Transparency Initiatives Around the World

    CA0059, 2016, Aid

  29. Engage Civil Society on Open Government

    CA0060, 2016, Public Participation

  30. Enable Open Dialogue and Open Policy Making

    CA0061, 2016, Capacity Building

  31. Promote Open Government Globally

    CA0062, 2016, Capacity Building

  32. Engage Canadians to Improve Key Canada Revenue Agency Services

    CA0063, 2016, Civic Space

  33. Implement Directive on Open Government

    CA0030, 2014, Open Data

  34. Starred commitment Open Data Canada

    CA0031, 2014, Open Data

  35. Canadian Open Data Exchange (ODX)

    CA0032, 2014, Capacity Building

  36. Open Data for Development

    CA0033, 2014, Capacity Building

  37. Open Data Core Commitment

    CA0034, 2014, Open Data

  38. Starred commitment Open Science

    CA0035, 2014, Science & Technology

  39. Starred commitment Mandatory Reporting on Extractives

    CA0036, 2014, Extractive Industries

  40. Open Contracting

    CA0037, 2014, Open Contracting and Procurement

  41. Open Information on Budgets and Expenditures

    CA0038, 2014, Fiscal Transparency

  42. Digital Literacy

    CA0039, 2014, Capacity Building

  43. Open Information Core Commitment

    CA0040, 2014, Right to Information

  44. Consulting Canadians

    CA0041, 2014, Marginalized Communities

  45. Starred commitment International Aid Transparency Initiative: Publish Plan to Make CIDA Activities Available and Accessible

    CA0010, 2012, Aid

  46. International Aid Transparency Initiative: Implement Plan

    CA0011, 2012, Aid

  47. Opening Government of Canada Records: Increase Access to Archived Federal Documents at Library and Archives Canada

    CA0012, 2012, Records Management

  48. Opening Government of Canada Records: Issue New Mandatory Policy on Document Classification

    CA0013, 2012, Records Management

  49. Opening Government of Canada Records: Make Classified Information Available Online

    CA0014, 2012, E-Government

  50. GCDOCS: Deploy Wave One of Electronic Record and Document Management Solution

    CA0015, 2012, E-Government

  51. GCDOCS: Deploy Across Federal Government

    CA0016, 2012, E-Government

  52. GCWEB: Develop Consolidated Web Presence

    CA0017, 2012, E-Government

  53. GCWEB: Implement New Platform

    CA0018, 2012, E-Government

  54. Data.Gc.Ca: Expand Number of Datasets Available

    CA0019, 2012, E-Government

  55. Data.Gc.Ca: Implement Data.Gc.Ca Portal

    CA0020, 2012, E-Government

  56. Data.Gc.Ca: Improve Standardization of Data

    CA0021, 2012, E-Government

  57. Government of Canada Resource Management Data: Publish Resource Management and Performance Data

    CA0022, 2012, E-Government

  58. Government of Canada Resource Management Data: Enhance Search and Data Tools

    CA0023, 2012, E-Government

  59. Consulting Canadians: Develop New Platform for Consultation

    CA0024, 2012, E-Government

  60. Consulting Canadians: Develop Standard Approach to Use of Social Media

    CA0025, 2012, E-Government

  61. Consulting Canadians: Pilot a Crowdsourcing Initiative

    CA0026, 2012, E-Government

  62. Consulting Canadians: Enable Use of Common Online Tools

    CA0027, 2012, E-Government

  63. Open Regulation: Federal Regulators to Post Forward Regulatory Plans

    CA0028, 2012, Legislation & Regulation

  64. Open Regulation: Simplify Engagement Activities

    CA0029, 2012, Legislation & Regulation

  65. Open Government Directive: Issue Directive on Open Government

    CA0001, 2012, E-Government

  66. Open Government Directive: Implement Directive on Open Government

    CA0002, 2012, E-Government

  67. Starred commitment Open Government Licence: Issue Open Government Licence

    CA0003, 2012, Legislation & Regulation

  68. Starred commitment Open Government Licence: Adopt Open Government Licence

    CA0004, 2012, Records Management

  69. Modernising Administration of Access to Information: Pilot of Online Request and Payment Service

    CA0005, 2012, Fiscal Transparency

  70. Modernising Administration of Access to Information: Implement ATI Solution

    CA0006, 2012, Fiscal Transparency

  71. Modernising Administration of Access to Information: Make Completed ATI Request Summaries Searchable

    CA0007, 2012, Right to Information

  72. Virtual Library: Begin Design of Virtual Library

    CA0008, 2012, E-Government

  73. Virtual Library: Launch Virtual Library

    CA0009, 2012, E-Government