Policy development in the digital age – Canadian Government Executive

NEWS

SEARCH

HR
Renewal
March 23, 2015

Policy development in the digital age

Last September the federal government announced a small business hiring credit. Asked to justify the policy, finance minister Joe Oliver cited analysis by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB), a nonprofit that represents the interests of small and mid-size business owners. It projected that the government’s policy would create 25,000 person-years of employment. By contrast, the Parliamentary Budget Officer estimated that the policy would create 800 jobs.

When journalists asked the finance minister’s office for the department’s analysis, the minister’s office directed them to the CFIB’s study. This case illustrates a shift away from policy development and analysis as the principal purview of public servants. It raises the prospect of broader engagement with civil society and citizens as government develops policy. It also presents challenges related to legitimacy, accountability, and fair representation.

Speaking to these challenges at the Digital Governance Forum, Wikinomics author Don Tapscott signaled two big opportunities for government. The first is to change the business of government. Tapscott argued that bureaucracy was a hot new management term a century ago but that we must now move beyond it. Government should release its treasure troves of data and become a platform for the self-organization of other pillars of society.

The second opportunity involves remodeling governance itself, changing the relationship between citizens and their government. The status quo is a weak public engagement model: citizens vote and leaders govern. The opposite extreme, electronic mob rule on a nightly basis, is no better. According to Tapscott, governance in the digital age should promote a second era of democracy that includes stronger representation, less vested interest and power forces, and more public deliberation and engagement.

At the forum, former federal deputy minister Rob Fonberg said that the role of public servants has shifted from policy development and analysis to policy filtering and advising and the rigid adherence to 20th century accountability structures is at odds with digital era policy analysis.

Chris Froggatt, who has served as chief of staff to federal and provincial ministers, added that the biggest changes are the speed of information flow, new tools that politicians and public leaders have access to, and vast increase in the policy content available to everyone. These developments speak directly to the opportunities identified by Tapscott.

They also highlight the importance of a central topic of discussion at the forum: the dis-intermediation of traditional governing institutions in the digital era. Who should serve as the go-between in conversations among politicians, public servants, journalists, lobbyists, advocates, and citizens? If governance in the digital era has created a dis-intermediated and distributed governance context, how should government institutions adapt? Are other players or platforms better placed to mediate discussions about public policy?

As one might expect, the forum did not settle on a particular way forward. Some argued for incremental change: gradual reform of the Canadian Westminster system and recognition that political parties, public servants, citizens, and others play important but distinct roles in policy decision-making processes. Others insisted that we are on the cusp of a historical revolution, like the shift from the agrarian to the industrial age, and that fundamental change to Canadian governing institutions and practices is required.

Ultimately, argued Ann Pappert, Chief Administrative Officer at the City of Guelph, these are questions about leadership. Pappert believes that government needs to free public servants from their gatekeeping roles. Sharing information and embracing uncertainty may seem counterintuitive to senior leaders who value authority and control, but in the digital era co-production is becoming the norm. Co-production collapses the space between politicians, public servants, and citizens and requires people to leave their traditional view of place-based authorities at the door.

Democracy works because citizens perceive their governments to be legitimate. Public opinion polling and declining voter turnout may soon bring this legitimacy into question, if they have not done so already. The digitally driven governance inflection point about who should lead and how transcends partisan ideology. In a dis-intermediated context, a “status quo” is elusive and the process for developing and determining public policy continues to change.

How should governing institutions respond? These are particularly pertinent questions in the lead up to the 2015 federal election and even more so thereafter. The need for digital age policy development processes will only continue to intensify in the months and years ahead.

About this author

0 comments

There are no comments for this post yet.

Be the first to comment. Click here.

Renewal
 
In this issue of Canadian Government Executive, our lead story is...
 
Written by Jason McNaught Former Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page doesn’t...
 
Like all governments, the federal public service faces increasing demands for...
 
As a new assistant director in the Human Resources Branch at...
 
John Manzoni, the head of the U.K. public service, will be...
 
What is the central challenge facing government institutions and societies in...
 
Last September the federal government announced a small business hiring credit....
 
We hear it often about the digital era: “Everything has changed.”...
 
I don’t think governments have changed fundamentally since Al Gore made...
 
Last September Netflix refused the Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission’s (CRTC)...
 
Go ahead. Read the comments that anonymous users post under online...
 
There’s something happening here. It might not warrant the protest cry...
 
Blueprint 2020 continues to be the key driver in the federal...
 
On October 7, 2014 the World Bank Group (WBG) opened its...
 
Barring an early federal election call fraught with risk, our next...
 
The mantra on technology and change is becoming tiresome, I’m sure,...
 
The traditional definition of civic engagement is voter turnout. The traditional...
 
Well, there is little doubt that on the public sector front...
 
Most public sector conversations around the impact of digital refer to...
 
Since joining the federal government just over two years ago, there...
 
In the U.K., reform of the public sector has been a...
 
“Do you believe public servants are too politicized?” This was the...
 
I call today’s youth the Net Generation. Born between 1977 and...
 
I call today’s youth the Net Generation. Born between 1977 and...
 
they tend to gloss over the substantial range of public servants...
 
Commitment to social justice can erode in times of austerity, change,...
 
Francis Fukuyama is best known for his book, The End of...
 
i.e. profit. The public sector...
 
while there is something very good to be said about consistent...
 
commentEmail””:””peter.karwacki@servicecanada.gc.ca””...
 
but it’s an important distinction that the marketing needs don’t overshadow...
 
A year ago, the 7th annual report of the Prime Minister’s...
 
While the gist of the 7th annual report of the Prime...
 
If there is one thing governments spend a lot of time...
 
After seven years in the public service it was time to...
 
One of the challenges facing the public service is recruiting and...
 
Middle managers are emerging as the true change makers and disciples...
 
APEX suggests that some public servants do not appear to appreciate...
 
Public sector leaders face an environment characterized by complexity, shifting demographics...
 
The second annual CGE Leadership Summit was held yesterday in Ottawa....
 
Departments and social media platforms within the government have been encouraging...
 
In 1996, Pacific Rim Commonwealth countries shared experiences in managing complexity...
 
The changes that the public sector is going through are well...
 
December was the six month check-in for Blueprint 2020, the current...
 
Prime ministers matter when it comes to public service reform. In...
 
If you’ve read Nudge by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, you...
 
Blueprint 2020 follows similar efforts of previous Clerks who were trying...
 
The push for government cutbacks is running up against growing public...
 
It should come as no surprise that citizens who suffered the...
 
According to Booze and Co., change management, “because it is predicated...
 
Some of us are old enough to remember the New Public...
 
There has been no shortage of change initiatives driven by federal...
 
The Blueprint 2020 process is historic because it engages employees across...
 
Many nations look to the Canadian public service as a model...
 
Throughout the Blueprint 2020 campaign, I’ve heard one thing again and...
 
Over the past months, a number of teams within the federal...
 
Collaboration is the new mantra for how governments can work more...
 
In June, the Clerk of the Privy Council, Wayne Wouters, launched...
 
As government departments and the GoC Twitterverse continue to respond to...
 
To adapt to the forces of change reshaping our world and...
 
Dramatic transformations to historically stable institutions are creating exciting opportunities to...
 
Just had a fascinating discussion with Paul Macmillan about the new...
 
the message on the sign starts to sound juuuuust a little...
 
I was not surprised to hear one individual advise Louise that...
 
Today we are launching a CGE blog. So, you might ask,...
 
There is no denying that today’s students are the future of...
 
The government of the United States of America is starting to...
 
National Public Service Week’s theme this year is “Proudly Serving Canadians.”...
 
As part of its Big Society initiative, and linked to Prime...
 
I used to be a proud public servant. Now I’m not...
 
In the Twentieth Annual Report to the Prime Minister on the...
 
The Clerk of the Privy Council spoke at the APEX Symposium...
 
At this time of global uncertainty, Canada has strong frameworks: a...
 
The best sand castle I ever built was constructed on top...
 
Yesterday the Auditor General released his spring report. The media played...
 
It is interesting that when you ask people why they work...
 
No one can predict the future. In a world of rapid...
 
The commentaries on Margaret Thatcher have focused on her determination and...
 
There are very few countries in the world where public sector...
 
Too often those implementing change in the public sector can get...
 
If you are a senior leader interested in adopting the Community...
 
I often refer to reports and information on government from the...
 
Federal public servants south of the border are, of course, concerned...
 
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about a U.K. National...
 
Culture change takes time and requires the dedication of employees and...
 
The U.K. government public sector reforms, as outlined in the 2011...
 
The world today seems to be changing significantly faster than ever...
 
Many think the traditional Westminster system of public management is on...
 
Choice. It seems like such a simple thing, to choose to...
 
In Monday’s Globe and Mail, Donald Savoie wrote an op-ed piece...
 
I recently had the opportunity to attend Mega-ConnEX – a government-wide...
 
Minister Tony Clement, President of the Treasury Board, was preaching to...
 
Countries, particularly in the western industrialized world, are coming under increasing...
 
Henry Mintzberg observed in a 2007 CGE interview that management and...
 
The new Secretary of the Treasury Board of Canada, Yaprak Baltacioglu,...
 
Last night in Toronto the head of the Ontario public service,...
 
It’s all very well to talk about making government smaller. But...
 
The question is: when will governments wake up and figure out...
 
More and more, money alone doesn’t cut it to attract and...
 
During the mid 1990s Canada gained a reputation internationally for public...
 
The U.K. has released its Civil Service Reform Plan, and anyone...
 
What do new professionals (NPs) need to better engage, contribute, and...
 
At the APEX Symposium last week, the President of the Treasury...
 
Wayne Wouters spoke at the APEX Symposium yesterday, and reiterated two...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.5 May 2007 Karen Ellis is Vice-President of the...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.1 January 2007 What exactly do federal public servants...
 
Renewal is an ongoing process demanding hands-on commitment across a broad...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.6 June 2007 Public service renewal has become a...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.3 March 2007 Kevin Lynch is Clerk of the...
 
In the April edition, the Federal Youth Network wrote a memo...
 
When I was hired into the federal government in 2003, I...
 
Un demi-millénaire après le premier contact entre les Autochtones et les...
 
En Nouvelle-Zélande, la fonction publique représente 31 % du PIB....
 
Pour concrétiser tout véritable effort de renouvellement, la fonction publique devra...
 
New Zealand’s State Services comprise 31 percent of GDP. State servants...
 
Any truly meaningful renewal of the public service will, by necessity,...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.10 December 2007 Public servants are used to secretaries...
 
Treasury Board President Tony Clement is leading the federal government”s Strategic...
 
Allan Seckel joined the British Columbia public service in 2003 after...
 
In November, Canadians came face to face with the reality of...
 
On March 22, Federal Budget Day, the Harper government authorized the...
 
As promised, the advisory group on the future of the Australian...
 
While the Canadian approach has been piecemeal and incremental, some countries...
 
On March 31, the Clerk of the Privy Council Office submitted...
 
An interview with Deputy Minister Cassie Doyle....
 
Une entrevue avec le vice-ministre Cassie Doyle....
 
In October 2012, the Commonwealth Ministers Forum on Public Sector Development...
 
Is there reason to hope? Once again, the federal government has...
 
Chairing two national networks from Prince Edward Island can be challenging....
 
Recently I had the opportunity to be part of a panel...
 
Over the next five to ten years, the private and public...
 
Recognizing that the federal public service must evolve to keep pace...
 
With cuts anticipated in the upcoming budget, many public servants are...
 
The Canada School of Public Service is playing a significant role...
 
As canada@150 approaches the one-year anniversary of its final report, we...
 
Wicked issues? What does that mean? It means that traditional solutions...
 
We would like to share with you our ideas on how...
 
The economic meltdown has crippled governments already challenged by global warming,...
 
Join us on a trip around our planet as we explore...
 
The Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner was created by...
 
Many young Canadians have joined the public service to serve their...
 
Best practices are a way of accomplishing a business function that...
 
The public service today has been enduring a barrage of criticism...
 
Thanks to demographic shifts, climate change, energy shortages, global economic meltdowns...
 
À cause de l’évolution démographique, du changement climatique, des pénuries d’énergie,...
 
Dans son quinzième rapport annuel au Premier ministre sur la fonction...
 
In the fifteenth annual report to the Prime Minister on the...
 
Mes amis, vous avez fait un bon choix. En entrant dans...
 
La Direction de la conservation et de la protection (C&P) est...
 
Conservation and Protection (C&P) is the enforcement arm of Fisheries and...
 
When the National Managers’ Community gathers in Montreal in March for...
 
When someone I meet for the first time asks me the...
 
Please to view this Content. (Not a member? Join Today! )...
 
Please to view this Content. (Not a member? Join Today! )...
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
In this issue of Canadian Government Executive, our lead story is...

Member Login

Forgot Password?

Join Us

Password Reset
Please enter your e-mail address. You will receive a new password via e-mail.