Welcome to the fall edition of CGE. Since our last issue, there have been lots of developments in the political landscape across the country.
In Ontario, after 15 years of Liberal rule, the Ford government has recently completed its first 100 days in office marked by an active and contentious legislative and fiscal agenda which has been accompanied by a new approach to governing and communicating with citizens. Of note in Ontario is the government’s use of external consultants to reset its deficit projections and its use of the extraordinary powers of legislative committees to compel senior bureaucrats to divulge information about advice they had provided to a previous administration. This all makes for a wonderful political theatre, but the tactics are questionable. This approach has severe longer-term implications for governing through a transition where conventions relating to Cabinet secrecy and the discretion of public servants could always be relied upon.
In New Brunswick, a near dead-heat election result has once again brought our constitutional processes into the spotlight. Besides, this fall saw province-wide municipal elections in Ontario, where over 50 communities used electronic voting systems for the first time with interesting results. British Columbians are participating in a referendum on a potential switch to proportional representation. In Alberta, preparations are underway for a much anticipated 2019 provincial election.
What do all these things have in common? Well, they all put public servants to the test. Supporting transitions of governments, providing advice on conventions and legal practices during minority governments, developing fiscal strategy and safeguarding democratic processes – while not well understood by a majority of citizens – is all in a day’s work for readers of CGE.
A backdrop to many of the national developments affecting public servants is mounting concern over privacy and the safeguarding of personal information. Canada is, of course, being swept up in genuine issues surrounding the social media “giants” involvement in real and perceived misuse of these platforms to shift public opinion and for illegal activities. All of this is affecting Canadian perceptions as well. Even highly credible organizations such as Statistics Canada are under the gun for plans to use digital financial information as a tool.
Another example is Waterfront Toronto’s partnership with Alphabet’s Sidewalk labs. This grand plan to “digitize” the urban landscape in a part of the city has come under sharp criticism from those concerned about privacy including from some of its board members. Based on this, we are in for interesting several years where the push for more effective, digital government runs headlong into issues of citizen trust, calls for transparency and general dissatisfaction with democratic institutions.
All of this creates interesting leadership challenges for public servants across our country, and at CGE we will continue to explore these times of unprecedented change, people who will inspire these reforms and the best practices in governance, policy and program leadership.
We hope you enjoy this issue of CGE and as always, your comments and suggestions are welcome. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.