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Canada

Enable Open Dialogue and Open Policy Making (CA0061)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Canada Action Plan 2016-2018

Action Plan Cycle: 2016

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: Privy Council Office; Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat

Support Institution(s): NA

Policy Areas

Capacity Building, Public Participation, Regulatory Governance

IRM Review

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

Starred: No

Early Results: Marginal

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Civic Participation , Technology

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Enable Open Dialogue and Open Policy Making Why do this: Public engagement through open dialogue and participatory processes is vital to the success of government. The Government of Canada recognizes that informed decision making requires the knowledge, views, values and skills of experts, stakeholders, and citizens to inform and shape effective government policies, programs, and services. Consultation provides participants an opportunity to state how an issue affects them, identify underlying values and contribute to shared outcomes. How will it be done: Through this open dialogue commitment, the Government will engage citizens, stakeholders, and other governments, to participate in well-designed processes that create space for deliberation and collaboration of the participants involved. The Government of Canada will adopt common principles, clarify needs and implement tools and guidance to foster greater collaboration across traditional organizational boundaries.

IRM Midterm Status Summary

20. Enable Open Dialogue and Open Policy Making

Commitment Text:

The Government of Canada will foster enhanced citizen participation through greater collaboration and co-creation with the public and stakeholders within and across government initiatives.

Milestones:

20.1. Promote common principles for Open Dialogue and common practices across the Government of Canada to enable the use of new methods for consulting and engaging Canadians.

Engage with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis to ensure that these principles and practices support meaningful engagement and reflect the renewed nation-to- nation/Inuit-to-Crown/government-to-government relationships.

20.2. Identify necessary supports (e.g. skills development, resourcing, technological innovation) needed to deliver on the full potential of engaging with stakeholders.

20.3. Identify and support participatory processes undertaken by departments to share lessons learned and demonstrate the value of including stakeholders and members of the public throughout the policy, program or service design and implementation.

20.4. Develop, implement the measurement of, and promote indicators for open government to support benchmarking and continuous improvement.

Responsible institution: Privy Council Office; Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat

Supporting institutions: Public servants, public engagement practitioners, civil society, civic tech, citizens.

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 aims to improve public engagement by training public officials and instituting new technical solutions to facilitate communication with the public. Of particular note is Milestone 20.1, which addresses engagement with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis. This reflects a prominent campaign promise made by the current government in the last election.[Note183: A New Nation-to-Nation Process, Liberal Party of Canada. Available at: https://www.liberal.ca/realchange/a-new-nation-to-nation-process/.] It also reflects a major human rights priority, as assessed in Canada’s most recent Universal Periodic Review by the United Nations Human Rights Council.[Note184: National report submitted in accordance with paragraph 5 of the annex to Human Rights Council resolution 16/21: Canada, 8 February 2013, UN doc, A /HRC/WG.6/16/CAN/1. Available at: https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G13/108/44/PDF/G1310844.pdf?OpenElement.] Although this commitment addresses an important thematic area, several of the milestones are vague with unclear benchmarks or even final deliverables. This limits the potential impact for this commitment to moderate. During consultations, First Nations stakeholders similarly assessed that the process had been marked by a lack of clarity and expressed frustration at the slow pace of change.[Note185: Ottawa consultation, 18 September 2017.]

Completion

Building on workshops that were held at the Open Dialogue Forum and at GovMaker 2016, the Privy Council Office in collaboration with the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat developed and posted a set of draft principles for Consultations and Public Engagement (Milestone 20.1).[Note186: These are available at: github.com/canada-ca/welcome/wiki/Draft-Guiding-Principles-for-Consultations-and-Public-Engagement.] To improve engagement with Indigenous Peoples, the Privy Council Office arranged workshops for civil servants that dealt with engagement strategies, and facilitated a workshop with First Nations leaders at the Canadian Open Data Summit.[Note187: See: http://opendatasummit.ca/.] The government’s self-assessment reports limited progress on this milestone, but that it is on schedule for completion. This assessment seems accurate, partly due to the lack of specificity in defining completion for this milestone.

Regarding Milestone 20.2, the Privy Council Office fostered discussions at the Canadian Open Data Summit and the Civic Tech Ottawa workshops to improve online consultation tools and has developed an eRegulations pilot.[Note188: See: Lisa Fast, 'A Government Minimum Viable Product – Learning from small successes & small failures,' LinkedIn, 15 August 2017. Available at: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/government-minimum-viable-product-learning-from-small-lisa-fast/.] They also carried out training sessions for 135 participants, and well as two trainings for trainers. Substantial progress has been made on implementing this milestone, and it is on schedule.

Regarding Milestone 20.3, the Privy Council Office commissioned a study by EKOS to assess public views on engagement and the government.[Note189: 'Rethinking Citizen Engagement 2017,' EKOS, 31 March 2017. Available at: http://www.ekospolitics.com/index.php/2017/03/rethinking-citizen-engagement-2017/.] The Privy Council Office also added material to the Consulting with Canadians website, incorporating information on engagement efforts across different government departments.[Note190: See: https://www1.canada.ca/consultingcanadians/.] The government self-assessment reports limited progress for implementing this milestone, but that the commitment is on schedule to be completed, which seems accurate.[Note191: The draft self-assessment for Commitment 20 is available at: http://open.canada.ca/en/mtsar/commitment-20-enable-open-dialogue-and-open-policy-making.]

The government self-assessment reports substantial progress on implementing Milestone 20.4, because of work to develop open government indicators in Commitment 5.[Note192: The draft self-assessment for Commitment 20 is available at: http://open.canada.ca/en/mtsar/commitment-20-enable-open-dialogue-and-open-policy-making.] This seems accurate, though it is worth noting that this makes the milestone fairly duplicative of Milestone 5.3.

Next Steps

Promoting civic participation is a core aspect of the OGP. Given that the milestones in this commitment mostly target long-term improvements, this is a good area to continue. In particular, engagement with First Nations is essential as Canada seeks to establish nation-to-nation relationships after centuries-long abuse and mistrust. This process is further complicated by the diversity of the indigenous nations represented across Canada, each of which has its own unique culture and values that must be reflected in the dialogue process. Nonetheless, the status and circumstance of Canada’s First Nations are probably the gravest human rights challenge that the country faces,[Note193: In addition to the prominence of First Nations issues in Canada’s Universal Periodic Review, see Human Rights Watch's latest country chapter on Canada at: https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2017/country-chapters/canada.] and engagement and civic participation are essential prerequisites to progress here.

The IRM researcher recommends working with First Nations governments to help build their own capacity for civic engagement and participation among their constituents. While this would need to respect First Nations’ autonomy in handling their own affairs, offers of technical assistance in establishing consultation mechanisms, in line with the work Canada’s government is doing to develop these processes itself, could be a valuable addition.

IRM End of Term Status Summary

20. Enable Open Dialogue and Open Policy Making

Commitment Text: The Government of Canada will foster enhanced citizen participation through greater collaboration and co-creation with the public and stakeholders within and across government initiatives.

Milestones:

20.1. Promote common principles for Open Dialogue and common practices across the Government of Canada to enable the use of new methods for consulting and engaging Canadians.

Engage with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis to ensure that these principles and practices support meaningful engagement and reflect the renewed nation-to- nation/Inuit-to-Crown/government-to-government relationships.

20.2. Identify necessary supports (e.g. skills development, resourcing, technological innovation) needed to deliver on the full potential of engaging with stakeholders.

20.3. Identify and support participatory processes undertaken by departments to share lessons learned and demonstrate the value of including stakeholders and members of the public throughout the policy, program or service design and implementation.

20.4. Develop, implement the measurement of, and promote indicators for open government to support benchmarking and continuous improvement.

Responsible institutions:Privy Council Office; Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat

Supporting institutions: Public servants, public engagement practitioners, civil society, civic tech, citizens.

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 aimed to improve public engagement by training public officials and instituting new technical solutions to facilitate communication with the public. The commitment would advance consultation and engagement practices—particularly with regard to Canada's First Nations, Inuit, and Métis. The commitment calls for identifying supports for stakeholder engagement and departments' participatory processes, and for developing and implementing indicators for open government.

Status

Midterm: Substantial

For Milestone 20.1, the Privy Council Office, in collaboration with the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, developed and posted a set of draft principles for consultations and public engagement.[Note169: These are available at github.com/canada-ca/welcome/wiki/Draft-Guiding-Principles-for-Consultations-and-Public-Engagement.] The departments also arranged workshops for civil servants on engagement strategies and facilitated a workshop with Indigenous leaders at the Canadian Open Data Summit.[Note170: See homepage, Canadian Open Data Summit '18, http://opendatasummit.ca/.] Under Milestone 20.2, the Privy Council Office fostered discussions at the Canadian Open Data Summit and the Ottawa Civic Tech workshops to improve online consultation tools and developed an eRegulations pilot.[Note171: See Lisa Fast, 'A Government Minimum Viable Product—Learning from Small Successes & Small Failures,' LinkedIn, 15 August 2017, https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/government-minimum-viable-product-learning-from-small-lisa-fast/.] The departments also conducted training sessions for 135 participants and two trainings for trainers to equip them to deliver their own workshops in future.

Regarding Milestone 20.3, the Privy Council Office commissioned a study by EKOS, a social and economic research company, to assess public views on engagement and the government.[Note172: 'Rethinking Citizen Engagement 2017,' EKOS, 31 March 2017, http://www.ekospolitics.com/index.php/2017/03/rethinking-citizen-engagement-2017/.] The office also added material to the Consulting with Canadians webpage.[Note173: See “Consulting with Canadians,” Government of Canada, https://www1.canada.ca/consultingcanadians/.] Under Milestone 20.4, the government researched existing global indexes and developed a draft framework for its indicators.

End of term: Complete

The government completed all four milestones. However, considerable work remains on Milestone 20.1, as noted in the government's self-assessment.

In December 2017, the government finalised and published the Public Engagement Principles (Milestone 20.1).[Note174: See “Principles and Guidelines,” Government of Canada, https://open.canada.ca/en/content/principles-and-guidelines.] However, the self-assessment notes that the government team did not have the skills to engage meaningfully with Indigenous peoples in a broad enough dialogue to support the development of engagement principles in that area. Under Milestone 20.2, the eRegulations prototype has been completed and is now available on GitHub.[Note175: The code for this tool is available at https://github.com/canada-ca/regs-consult-wet.] The government self-assessment also reports that the development of this tool has helped identify barriers to stakeholders participating online and internal barriers to creating online tools. The government also held workshops on designing public engagement approaches, including at a Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency retreat on 10 April 2018 and a train-the-trainer session for the Public Engagement Community of Practice.[Note176: The facilitator guide from the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency Retreat and the slide deck for the train-the-trainer session were shared with the IRM researcher.]

Under Milestone 20.3, the self-assessment reports many instances where the government published citizen feedback as open data.[Note177: For two such examples, see “Open Government Consultation Data: Canada's Third Biennial Plan to the Open Government Partnership,” Government of Canada, http://open.canada.ca/data/en/dataset/8ef41d2e-9309-486a-9f9f-bfd11945a959; and “Consulting on National Security Submissions,” Government of Canada, http://open.canada.ca/data/en/dataset/5e9433bf-2334-463a-bd48-03ba53a7051c.] The Public Opinion Research team of the Privy Council Office also explored new approaches to more easily release datasets that were not in accessible formats, documenting the experience and lessons learned online.[Note178: See “Canada-ca/devex,” GitHub, https://github.com/canada-ca/devex/issues.] The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS) also updated the “Cabinet Directive on Regulation.” The directive outlines the purpose, value, and process of engaging with stakeholders when developing or changing regulations.[Note179: See “Cabinet Directive on Regulation,” Government of Canada, https://www.canada.ca/en/treasury-board-secretariat/services/federal-regulatory-management/guidelines-tools/cabinet-directive-regulation.html.] TBS also posted guidance on conducting Gender-Based Analysis Plus for consultations issued by Status of Women Canada.[Note180: “GBA+ IN CONSULTATIONS”, GCcollab, available at: https://gccollab.ca/file/download/60637 (sign-in required).] Regarding Milestone 20.4, the government published blog posts on principled engagement measurement, on a trust and data, and on a citizen engagement study by EKOS.[Note181: See “Does Principled Engagement Lead to Increased Trust?” Gvoernment of Canada, https://open.canada.ca/en/blog/does-principled-engagement-lead-increased-trust; and “A Study on Citizen Engagement,” Government of Canada, https://open.canada.ca/en/blog/study-citizen-engagement.] The self-assessment also refers to the performance management framework referenced in Milestone 5.3.[Note182: See “Open Government Performance: Measuring Impact,” Government of Canada https://open.canada.ca/ckan/en/dataset/f637580f-e0f7-5939-bf3f-ded35ce72d2a.]

Did It Open Government?

Civic Participation: Marginal

Most of the milestones in this commitment target long-term improvements. From that perspective, the IRM observed work to develop indicators to assess Canada's open government progress, even if the short-term results are not as visible. Improving engagement with Canada's First Nations, Inuit, and Métis to reflect a nation-to-nation/Inuit-to-Crown/government-to-government relationship is a challenge which extends beyond the life of any single action plan. Indeed, this multi-generational process must reconcile centuries of harm. Consultations with First Nations stakeholders revealed a measure of scepticism regarding expected levels of progress under this commitment.[Note183: Ottawa consultation, 18 September 2017.] Further, there exist external indications that consultations between the government and First Nations remain challenging.

Notably, on 30 August 2018, Canada's Federal Court of Appeal released a high-profile decision challenging the construction of the Trans Mountain pipeline project. The decision concluded that in this instance, the federal government had failed in its duty to engage First Nations stakeholders in a “responsive, considered and meaningful dialogue” on the project.[Note184: The full decision is available at https://www.canlii.org/en/ca/fca/doc/2018/2018fca153/2018fca153.html.] It is also worth noting that, based on reporting, it appears that Milestone 20.4 was mostly duplicative of Milestone 5.3. As a result, this commitment is assessed as marginal.

Carried Forward?

Canada's fourth action plan contains some commitments which seem to expand on the indicators developed here. Particularly, the development of Gender-Based Analysis Plus indicators and their application to all national action plan commitments further this work.

Engagement with Canada's First Nations stands as a prominent feature of Canada's fourth action plan. In particular, Commitment 9 includes milestones to develop First Nations' open government and data governance skills, and to enhance consultation and engagement strategies. These are important priority areas, and their inclusion is consistent with the recommendations in Canada's 2017 IRM midterm assessment.


Commitments

Open Government Partnership