Making Room for a Little Science - Canadian Government Executive
Editor's Word
July 26, 2016

Making Room for a Little Science

Other countries have taken on the job of educating their elected representatives. We need to act on this also. It can only make for better policy and better legislation.

This Editor’s Note is taken from the April issue of Canadian Government Executive.

I write this on the morrow of the federal budget, when the goodies falling out of the government’s piñata are being collected. The Trudeau government has clearly chosen to reengage the federal state on a number of issues. There are many exciting new directions and commitments that are worth considering.

Inspired by Paul Dufour’s thoughtful piece on the search for a science policy advisor in this month’s issue, I paid particular attention at what the Liberals are thinking on this file.

I never thought “Science Policy” had much resonance outside a few buildings in Ottawa and in some of the halls of academia, yet for the late Conservative government, it turned out to be lightning rod. It was not just a matter of programs. I was amazed by countless conversations with friends and acquaintances who had never paid attention to “science” before but who were now adamantly criticizing the government’s attitude towards the collection of empirical evidence. The backlash over the census was the most evident manifestation of that. The reaction spread, however, as more people started to track what could be considered the government anti-intellectual bias. Some called it a Conservative “war on science” that affected the government’s policy on environmental protection, a host of regulatory matters, and education policy.

The new budget promises an immediate $73 million increase for Canada’s research grant councils—a substantial climb after years of neglect. The new “Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment fund” will eventually pour $500M/year (starting in 2017-18) to help universities and colleges modernize their laboratory facilities and to “expand on-campus incubators that support start-ups as they grow their businesses.” No word on the long-form census, but the government is clearly not afraid of supporting science and is showing an openness to what it can bring to an economy that has to be focused on preparing the future.

So, this is a bit of welcomed fresh air. The policy will have coherence and conviction, however, only when it comes informed with the help of a scientific advisor. The national government under Prime Minister Paul Martin had actually created this position, and it was occupied by Dr. Arthur Carty, a chemist, from 2004 to 2008. The Harper government had no time for him and his issues, and the office was closed. The new administration is committed to reviving this office, and Paul Dufour’s article in this issue scrutinizes the horizon on what could be adopted.

Making sure a very busy prime minister is properly advised on science is a good thing, but it is not a solution in itself. As Dufour points out, parliament needs education just as much. Of the 338 members in the House of Commons, only two individuals list themselves as scientists (both from Manitoba). Four members are physicians; three from Ontario and one from Manitoba (again!). Fourteen members are listed as engineers: Twelve of them are Liberals; two are Conservatives; five are from Quebec, seven from Ontario and one each hails from Newfoundland and Labrador and British Columbia. In all of the above categories, none are New Democrats (what is going on here?).

Put them all together, throw in a handful of people who list themselves as “environmentalists” (hello, New Democrats) and you have maybe twenty-five members in the new Parliament that have more than a passing acquaintance with science. That is less than eight percent of the House of Commons. This is the institution that will prepare the country for a “scientific future”?

Other countries have taken on the job of educating their elected representatives. We need to act on this also. It can only make for better policy and better legislation.

The Liberal government is also committed to reengaging with the public service. This is as important at a general level, but the issue can be reduced to a personal level. What is a government executive to do in order to reengage what once was a high-performing employee who has lost the verve for service? I asked Dr. Craig Dowden, a specialist in Human Resource Management and Leadership, to consider this problem. His thoughtful piece in this issue you will find enlightening. It’s all about reengagement.

To view the digital editions of Canadian Government Executive, sign up for a free membership by visiting our Digital Editions section.

About this author

Patrice Dutil

Patrice Dutil is the Editor of Canadian Government Executive. He is a Professor in the Department of Politics and Public Administration at Ryerson University in Toronto. He has worked as a government policy advisor, a non-profit organization executive, a television producer and was the founder, and editor for five years, of The Literary Review of Canada. His upcoming publications include a book on the administrative practices of Canadian prime ministers Macdonald, Laurier and Borden, and a study of the 1917 election in Canada.

0 comments

There are no comments for this post yet.

Be the first to comment. Click here.

E Editor's Word
 
This year is proving to be an interesting one for all of us working in and with the governments across the country. On top of the inexorable and unrelenting pressures government executives face in carrying out their daily policy, regulatory and operational roles, this year we will see even more challenges caused by other factors....
 
It’s that time of year when some of us think reluctantly about new year’s resolutions – which in most cases revolve around big life goals – like diet and exercise, work and life balance, mindfulness, productivity and so on. For public servants at all stages of their career, it’s a superb time of year to...
 
In a rather unusual, quiet manner this past summer, a new report has emerged from the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford and the UK’s prestigious Institute for Government – the International Civil Service Effectiveness InCiSE Index 2017. This report ranks the overall civil service effectiveness of 31 countries and is the...
 
For over 20 years, Canadian Government Executive (CGE) has been a staple in government offices from coast to coast to coast. CGE has been coming into our places of work, has been a travel companion and indeed has adorned our waiting rooms. But beyond that, CGE has been an important way for us to stay...
 
In this episode of CGE Radio, J. Richard Jones is joined by George Ross, the new editor-in-chief of CGE. Hear more from George about his vision for CGE and some of the initiatives that he has coming up in the next 90 days. Also, TechGov is growing rapidly to become a must-attend event for public...
 
One of the writers in this month’s issue started a note by saying “Did you know that some of the world’s most interesting analysis of employment programs is being conducted in Canada?” It struck me as a strange line. It had a familiar, if odd, lacquer; a mix of pride and frustration.  I call it...
 
Canadian Government Executive Media (CGE) announced last Friday, that George Ross has been selected as editor-in-chief of Canadian Government Executive magazine. Ross, a former deputy minister brings with him a wealth of experience from his service as a deputy minister and senior public servant. “We are elated to have George join our team. It’s a...
 
Faithful readers will remember that the cover story on last month’s issue was on the Institute for Citizen-Centred Service’s new study, Taking Care of Business. A few weeks ago, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce (OCC) published a study of its own entitled Obstacles and Opportunities: The Importance of Small Business in Ontario. The publication of...
 
In the recent June issue, we published a captivating piece by Christopher Lau on what governments need to do to attract more foreign companies to settle in this country. His conclusion, drawn on what is happening in the United States and Canada, was that governments need to “sell” the quality of the workforce, the education...
 
Almost exactly mid-way in writing his How to Run a Government So That Citizens Benefit and Taxpayers don’t Go Crazy (2015), Michael Barber put down his pen and savoured a moment. He then wrote the passage where he describes the scrambling around 10 Downing in anticipation of the first campaign for re-election in 2001. The...
 
It’s hard to believe we are still talking about this, but the numbers confirm the anecdotal evidence. The reality is that government departments, even after years of efforts in weeding them out, harbour more jerks than what is endurable. We’re talking about abuse, but it is more than that. It is about the lack of...
 
Anyone who remembers the 1980s has to acknowledge how far governments and their agencies have travelled in improving service in the past generation or so. Government, which typically offered rude and uncompromising service, now has a (mostly) smiling face. The quality of government services is acknowledged by respondents to various surveys and a key player...
 
In the December 2015 issue of Canadian Government Executive, I reported on the new happenings at the MindLab, the Danish government’s in-house laboratory for design. Created at the turn of the century, this Copenhagen centre has become a catalyst of new thinking in terms of service and program architecture. It focused on “design” long before...
 
Regardless of whether you are an elected official, a public servant, consultant or service-provider, I’m sure you regularly cup your head in your hands and wonder “how could they have made so many mistakes?” Government does countless things every ticking second. Most things go right but, inevitably, some things go wrong. People are mistreated and...
 
It’s been a long time since a public administration theorist has made such waves in the national capital, or in any capital, for that matter. As the throne speech was being read late last fall, a flutter of wings and murmurs announced that “deliverology” was coming to town. Sir Michael Barber landed a few weeks...
 
This Editor’s Note is taken from the April issue of Canadian Government Executive. I write this on the morrow of the federal budget, when the goodies falling out of the government’s piñata are being collected. The Trudeau government has clearly chosen to reengage the federal state on a number of issues. There are many exciting...
 
Over the past forty years, ministers have grown remarkably more media-sensitive and government affairs more complex (World War II was actually far more complicated, but we’re not dealing with the same thing; you know what I mean). At the same time, they have come to rely on personal assistants (call them political aides or, as...
 
One can’t write about public administration in the spring of 2016 without mentioning the heroic work done by public servants in combatting the forest fires in Alberta or in looking after the thousands of victims of this terrifying tragedy. It takes guts and dogged persistence to meet the challenges of natural disasters like this, from...
 
With the inexorable expansion of internet, and the advent of highly efficient computers and software, the private sector has successfully exploited “crowdsourcing,” a concept coined to describe a new approach to find talent and put it to work. Typically, the label has been given to a strategy where a firm seeks services from anonymous members...
 
By: Patrice Dutil The MindLab meets every expectation you might have about a post-modern Danish institution that would dare sport such a title. Nestled on the ground floor of a rather non-descript building that contrasts cruelly with Copenhagen’s old stock exchange (the “Børsen”) across the street, the MindLab presents itself as a deep, white rectangle....
 
Written by  Patrice Dutil It’s hard to believe we are still talking about this, but the numbers confirm the anecdotal evidence. The reality is that government departments, even after years of efforts in weeding them out, harbour more jerks than what is endurable. We’re talking about abuse, but it is more than that. It is...
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
This year is proving to be an interesting one for all of us working in and with the governments across the country. On top of the inexorable and unrelenting pressures government executives face in carrying out their daily policy, regulatory and operational roles, this year we will see even more challenges caused by other factors....