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Canada

Healthy Democracy (CA0069)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Canada Action Plan 2018-2020

Action Plan Cycle: 2018

Status: Active

Institutions

Lead Institution: Canadian Heritage (PCH); Global Affairs Canada (GAC); Privy Council Office (PCO)

Support Institution(s): NA

Policy Areas

Anti-Corruption, Civic Space, E-Government, Legislation & Regulation, Marginalized Communities, Open Parliaments, Participation in Lawmaking, Political Integrity, Public Participation

IRM Review

IRM Report: Canada Design Report 2018-2020

Starred: Pending IRM Review

Early Results: Pending IRM Review

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Civic Participation

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion: Pending IRM Review

Description

Healthy democracy
Issue to be addressed
There is growing evidence that trust in public institutions is low and citizens are concerned
about campaigns of false information and ‘fake news.’
7 These factors can present a threat to
healthy democracy. It is critical for Canadians to have the tools and information to think
critically about public policy, so they can participate more effectively in democratic processes.
Commitment
The Government of Canada will build the resilience of Canadian democratic institutions in the
digital age, while respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms. We will:
• strengthen democratic institutions in Canada through modernized election laws
• strengthen international capacity to identify and respond to evolving threats to
democracy
• support a healthy and reliable news ecosystem in Canada
• champion diversity of content, and quality and transparency of information online
Lead department(s)
Canadian Heritage (PCH); Global Affairs Canada (GAC); Privy Council Office (PCO)
Milestones
What will we do? How we will know we succeeded? What is our
deadline?
6.1 Strengthen democracy and
democratic institutions in
Canada, both in advance of and
following the 2019 federal
election
(PCO)
Election laws are modernised to be more
secure, transparent and accessible,
including by:
• modernizing Elections Canada and
reinforcing the role of the
Commissioner of Canada Elections
• prohibiting foreign funding
• increasing transparency around
how Canadians are targeted by
traditional and online and
advertising
October 2019
7 See, for example, the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer
32
What will we do? How we will know we succeeded? What is our
deadline?
Government of Canada delivers on
Budget 2018 commitment to support a
new process that would ensure that
federal leaders’ debates are organized in
the public interest and improve
Canadians’ knowledge of the parties,
their leaders and their policy positions
October 2019
6.2 Leverage the G7 Rapid
Response Mechanism (RRM)8
to strengthen international
capacity to identify and
respond to a diversity of
evolving threats to democracy,
including through sharing
information and analysis, and
identifying opportunities for
coordinated responses
(GAC)
The RRM is fully operationalized, and the
coordination unit at Global Affairs Canada
is established
November 2018
The RRM Focal Points convene on a
regular basis
Ongoing through
June 2020
The RRM will be tried and tested during
its first year of operation
January 2020
6.3 Leverage existing Canadian
Heritage programs, including
Youth Take Charge and Canada
History Fund, to support a
healthy democracy
(PCH)
Projects and initiatives are supported
with a focus on digital, news and civic
literacy for Canadians
June 2020
6.4 Support a healthy and
reliable news ecosystem
(PCH)
Government of Canada delivers on
Budget 2018 commitment to provide
$50 million to support local journalism in
underserved communities
June 2019
Work has been completed to better align
the Canada Periodical Fund with the
reading choices of Canadians and an
increasingly digital world
June 2019
8 The RRM was launched after the G7 Leaders’ Summit in June 2018. Government of Canada officials have already
begun to operationalize the mechanism, establish a Canada-based coordination unit, and leverage open source
analytical tools to monitor threats.
33
What will we do? How we will know we succeeded? What is our
deadline?
New models are explored that enable
private giving and philanthropic support
for trusted, professional, non-profit
journalism and local news
June 2019
Media organizations are consulted to
consider how the government can further
support the transition to digital media
June 2019
6.5 Champion international
norms to support diversity of
content, and quality and
transparency of information
online
(PCH)
The Government of Canada hosts a
working session for experts on diversity
of content in the digital age to advance
the national and international
conversation on principles that should
guide action in this space
June 2019

IRM Midterm Status Summary

6. Healthy Democracy

The Government of Canada will build the resilience of Canadian democratic institutions in the digital age, while respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms. We will:

  • strengthen democratic institutions in Canada through modernized election laws
  • strengthen international capacity to identify and respond to evolving threats to democracy
  • support a healthy and reliable news ecosystem in Canada
  • champion diversity of content, and quality and transparency of information online

Milestones

6.1 Strengthen democracy and democratic institutions in Canada, both in advance of and following the 2019 federal election (Privy Council Office)

6.2 Leverage the G7 Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM) to strengthen international capacity to identify and respond to a diversity of evolving threats to democracy, including through sharing information and analysis, and identifying opportunities for coordinated responses (Global Affairs Canada)

6.3 Leverage existing Canadian Heritage programs, including Youth Take Charge and Canada History Fund, to support a healthy democracy (Canadian Heritage)

6.4 Support a healthy and reliable news ecosystem (Canadian Heritage)

6.5 Champion international norms to support diversity of content, and quality and transparency of information online (Canadian Heritage)

For more details about the commitment text, milestones, self-identified success criteria, and estimated completion dates see, https://open.canada.ca/en/content/canadas-2018-2020-national-action-plan-open-government#toc3-4

Start Date: August 2019

End Date: Varies according to milestone

Commitment Overview

Verifiability

OGP Value Relevance (as written)

Potential Impact

Completion

Did It Open Government?

Not specific enough to be verifiable

Specific enough to be verifiable

Access to Information

Civic Participation

Public Accountability

Technology & Innovation for Transparency & Accountability

None

Minor

Moderate

Transformative

Not Started

Limited

Substantial

Completed

Worsened

Did Not Change

Marginal

Major

Outstanding

1. Overall

Assessed at the end of action plan cycle.

Assessed at the end of action plan cycle.

Context and Objectives

This commitment is anchored in ongoing domestic and international apprehensions about the decline of trust in public institutions and the implications thereof for the health of liberal-democracies. Of particular concern in this regard is the proliferation of disinformation and so-called fake news via social media platforms and its negative implications for the economic, political, and social well-being of nation-states. [37] To this end, the objective of Commitment 6 is twofold: (i) to ensure that “Canadians to have the tools and information to think critically about public policy, so they can participate more effectively in democratic processes;” and (ii) to “build the resilience of Canadian democratic institutions in the digital age.” A noteworthy feature of this objective is that information, here, pertains to information about government and public policy related matters circulating in the mediasphere; not government-held information. To this end, the focus of Commitment 6 is principally on matters of digital governance as opposed to open government per se. The proposed means for realizing the commitment’s aims is to minimize the opportunities for disinformation to threaten Canada’s democracy [38] by implementing a series of domestic and international measures that will contribute to shaping the contours of the Canadian mediascape. As written, the commitment is built around a series of broad scope activities and offers no information about the current state of affairs prior to its launch nor the targeted change that is meant to emerge from its implementation.

Seeking to foster greater trust in government and striving to strengthen democratic institutions are praiseworthy objectives. However, the efficacy of this commitment is blunted by a lack of precision about the impacts it seeks to achieve and the means by which these impacts are meant to be measured. Several comments expressing similar concerns were received when the draft version of this commitment was released for public comment in July and August 2017. [39] The ambiguous manner in which this commitment and its milestones are written make any substantive assessment of the extent to which they align with OGP values exceedingly difficult. This said, given that two of the eleven proposed indicators for success entail providing opportunities for a select group of stakeholders (i.e., media organizations and digital content and diversity experts) to engage with government in the implementation process, the IRM researcher is applying some interpretive flexibility to suggest that the commitment may be seen as very loosely aligning with the OGP value of civic participation.

Equally noteworthy, milestones 6.1, 6.3, 6.4, 6.5 are all late additions to the action plan. They were not included in the original draft commitment, and the civil society members of the MSF were not consulted about their late addition to the commitment. This said, it must be acknowledged that the ‘new’ milestone 6.1 is indicative of efforts to address critiques advanced about the commitment’s draft iteration.

The milestones are sufficiently specific so as to be easily verifiable insofar as either the proposed activities take place, or they do not. The validity of the success criteria on the other hand is questionable because they principally refer to activities to be completed rather than indicators for measuring whether these activities result in expected outcomes. Specifically, it is unclear how the extent to which the proposed initiatives reinvigorate Canadians’ trust in public institutions and/or substantively alter the diversity, quality, and transparency of information that they access online will be measured.

There is much to be applauded in the activities set out in this commitment insofar as they all mark positive steps in battling disinformation-based threats in Canada, and internationally. However, as written, Commitment 6 seemingly takes it as given that completing the milestones will necessarily correlate positively with reinvigorating Canadians’ trust in public institutions. This is dubious proposition on two fronts. First, there is no direct causal relationship between the proposed measures and citizens’ levels of trust in democratic institutions. Second, and despite being verifiable, the milestones do not specify how or why these actions would actually impact on Canadian citizens’ levels of trust in democratic institutions. Despite these limitations Commitment 6 can nonetheless be seen as potentially marking an incremental step forward in opening government in Canada.

Next steps

Ensuring the vitality and health of democracy is a priority concern for the GoC and is a cornerstone of the OGP’s Open Government Declaration. [40] The quality and veracity of government-held information to which citizens have access is one of many factors contributing to the levels of trust they accord to democratic institutions. Another contributing factor, and the main focus of this commitment, is the quality and veracity information circulating in the mediasphere about government and public policy related matters.

Commitment 6 is certainly illustrative of efforts to tackle domestic and international disinformation-based threats to Canada. However meritorious its objectives, in the absence of more narrow precision, the proposed line of action for building resilient democratic institutions in the digital age can just as well be enacted outside the auspices of Canada’s OGP action plan.

The IRM researcher suggests that a problem-centred approach toward tackling “campaigns of false information and "fake news",” that is more directly germane to the OGP and which builds on Canada’s status as a global leader in open data, might focus, for example, on working in tandem with civil society organizations and other stakeholders to pilot initiatives aimed at investigating the impact robust open government data initiatives and programs have on countering disinformation and so-called fake news.

[37] Public Policy Forum (2017). The Shattered Mirror: News, Democracy and Trust in the Digital Age. Ottawa. January. https://shatteredmirror.ca/wp-content/uploads/theShatteredMirror.pdf. See also, Vosoughi, Soroush, Roy, Deb, & Aral, Sinan (March 9, 2018). The spread of true and false news online. Science, 359(6380): 1146-1151 https://science.sciencemag.org/content/359/6380/1146
[38] A recent survey of some 2400 Canadians commissioned by the Canadian Journalism Foundation found that some forty percent of respondents reported finding it difficult to distinguish between truth and misinformation in the news. See, Canadian Journalism Foundation (2019). News Consumption Survey. Earnscliffe Strategy Group April. http://cjf-fjc.ca/sites/default/files/CJF%20News%20Consumption%20Survey.pdf

Commitments

  1. User-Friendly Open Government

    CA0064, 2018, Access to Information

  2. Financial Transparency and Accountability

    CA0065, 2018, Access to Information

  3. Corporate Transparency

    CA0066, 2018, Anti-Corruption

  4. Digital Government and Services

    CA0067, 2018, Automated Decision-Making

  5. Open Science

    CA0068, 2018, Access to Information

  6. Healthy Democracy

    CA0069, 2018, Anti-Corruption

  7. Access to Information

    CA0070, 2018, Access to Information

  8. Feminist and Inclusive Dialogue

    CA0071, 2018, Capacity Building

  9. Reconciliation and Open Government

    CA0072, 2018, Access to Information

  10. Open Government Community

    CA0073, 2018, Access to Information

  11. Enhance Access to Information

    CA0042, 2016, Access to Information

  12. Streamline Requests for Personal Information

    CA0043, 2016, E-Government

  13. Expand and Improve Open Data

    CA0044, 2016, Access to Information

  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, Access to Information

  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, Access to Information

  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, Access to Information

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

    CA0057, 2016, Access to Information

  27. Implement the Extractives Sector Transparency Measures Act

    CA0058, 2016, Anti-Corruption

  28. Support Openness and Transparency Initiatives Around the World

    CA0059, 2016, Access to Information

  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, Access to Information

  32. Engage Canadians to Improve Key Canada Revenue Agency Services

    CA0063, 2016, Access to Information

  33. Implement Directive on Open Government

    CA0030, 2014, Access to Information

  34. Starred commitment Open Data Canada

    CA0031, 2014, Access to Information

  35. Canadian Open Data Exchange (ODX)

    CA0032, 2014, Access to Information

  36. Open Data for Development

    CA0033, 2014, Access to Information

  37. Open Data Core Commitment

    CA0034, 2014, Access to Information

  38. Starred commitment Open Science

    CA0035, 2014, Public Participation

  39. Starred commitment Mandatory Reporting on Extractives

    CA0036, 2014, Anti-Corruption

  40. Open Contracting

    CA0037, 2014, Anti-Corruption

  41. Open Information on Budgets and Expenditures

    CA0038, 2014, Fiscal Openness

  42. Digital Literacy

    CA0039, 2014, Capacity Building

  43. Open Information Core Commitment

    CA0040, 2014, Access 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, Access to Information

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

    CA0020, 2012, Access to Information

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

    CA0021, 2012, Access to Information

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

    CA0022, 2012, Access to Information

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

    CA0023, 2012, Access to Information

  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,

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

    CA0005, 2012, Access to Information

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

    CA0006, 2012, Access to Information

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

    CA0007, 2012, Access to Information

  72. Virtual Library: Begin Design of Virtual Library

    CA0008, 2012, E-Government

  73. Virtual Library: Launch Virtual Library

    CA0009, 2012, E-Government

Open Government Partnership