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CARPE DIEM: The Public Service and the Minority Government

3 minute read

By Toby Fyfe, President, Institute on Governance

“The public service needs to be asking itself some serious questions to make sure that in the 21st Century world of significant social and economic upheaval, disruption and division, the public sector of the future is up to the task of serving the Canadian public.”

There is no shortage of analysis, conjecture and punditry assessing the outcome of the federal election and the challenges the Prime Minister will face forming and running a minority government.

What should the public service do in this situation?

Minority governments can accomplish great things. This one will have to: as the Prime Minister noted, Canadians expect action from all our politicians on key social and economic issues. They will not accept the political difficulties of a minority government as an excuse for failure.

From a governance perspective, the challenge can be articulated this way: citizens remain cynical about the ability of government – of all governments – to deliver, but nonetheless expect action. If this minority government does not succeed in meeting those expectations, trust in the ability of the public sector to accomplish things will continue to fall, with possible long-term implications for democratic stability.

This should matter to the public service. It is also an opportunity for it.

In the business-as-usual category, the public service will be working hard to ensure a smooth transition, editing materials and informing new ministers on their portfolios.

It should do more.

In the medium term, whether the issue is climate change, pipelines, federal-provincial relations, the Arctic, reconciliation or countless other divisive yet critical issues, the public service should take a leadership role in developing new, inventive, innovative, out-of-the-box options to help the new government find the common ground necessary for moving forward in this divisive and changing environment.

In the long-term, the public service needs to prepare a robust reform initiative to save its own relevance. This is more than about being better and faster. It is about asking some fundamental questions such as: what is the public policy role of a 21stcentury public service? How should risk be defined in and by a 21stcentury public service? How will a 21stcentury public service convince Canadians and politicians that it matters?

In short, the public service needs to be asking itself some serious questions to make sure that in the 21stcentury world of significant social and economic upheaval, disruption and division, the public sector of the future is up to the task of serving the Canadian public.

The then-Clerk of the Privy Council bragged in his 26thAnnual Report of March 2019 that “Canada’s federal public servants have been working hard to support their ministers in addressing…important shifts.” The challenge for the public service is to make sure it can continue to do so.

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What’s Come to Pass in Governing Past the Next Election?

3 minute read

By Brad Graham, Vice-President, Toronto

In August, we launched Governing Past the Next Election, a series examining the critical challenges facing Canada and a new government. In partnership with Ipsos, we have been merging their survey-based opinion data with our expertise and insights into governance.

So far, we’ve covered Canadian values, debt and deficits, climate change, and health care.

Does Canada Need More Canada?
By Brad Graham, Vice President, Toronto, Institute of Governance

There is a growing divide in Canadian society on complex policy issues, resulting in increasingly polarized political debate. We face an erosion of trust in, and support for, government and its institutions, conventions and practices. This growing decline in Canadian social cohesion is putting the ability of governments to find shared and workable solutions at risk. The article notes that our values of fairness, diversity, inclusion, tolerance and equity are at odds with this state of political affairs, and sets the stage for the articles that will follow. Read more.

Debt and Deficits: The Elephant in the Vault
by Jim Marshall, Lecturer and Executive in Residence Johnson Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy, University of Regina

Political parties seem to be avoiding a serious discussion on debt and deficits. Talking about reducing the debt is often seen as admitting that they want to cut back government services. It may call into question their ability as political parties to deliver on finely-honed election platforms—whether they call for new spending or tax cuts. Alternatively, if a party views the debt and deficits as unimportant, then it is interpreted as disregarding the need for prudence with taxpayer money. In the end, political parties find it easier to fall back on political orthodoxy and blame others for real or imagined mistakes. Debt and deficits do matter, especially for future generations. Read more.

The Climate is Changing; Why Can’t the Debate? By Dr. Warren Mabee, Associate Dean and Director of the School of Policy Studies, Queen’s University.

The issue of climate change has been at the front of many policy conversations as we head into the 2019 federal election. Canadians are increasingly united on the need for a significant and credible plan to fight climate change, but remain divided on an appropriate strategy. Instead of trying to build consensus and support for broader, meaningful solutions, political parties are exploiting this divide. Dr. Mabee argues that any new government will have to openly and transparently bring forward demonstrably effective policies to win public support. Read more.

The Future of Health Care – Will that be One Tier or Two?
By Brad Graham, Vice President, Toronto, Institute of Governance

What is the future of the Canadian health care system? There is a large and looming fiscal pressure coming which could undermine the very principles on which the system is based. However, the future of medicare does not appear to be on the political agenda during this election. The federal government’s leadership was crucial in establishing medicare, and it will be crucial again if we are to save one of Canada’s most cherished institutions. Read more,

We will release several more issues of the Governing Past the Next Election series as we near election day on October 21.

Decorative photo of Toronto City Hall

IOG’s Policy Crunch Returns for a New Season

2 minute read

By Jeff Kinder, Executive Director, Science and Innovation


Following a very successful inaugural year, Policy Crunch, IOG’s monthly speaker series, is back for a second season of provocative and informative talks. This season’s theme is “Disruption and Convergence in Public Policy and Governance” and will feature topics ranging from ethics in a digital age to the new nature of regulation.

Policy Crunchesare free of charge and take place between 5:30pm and 7:30pm at the IOG’s offices in the Byward Market (60 George Street). Sessions include plenty of time for questions and discussion with participants, as well as time for mingling and networking. Live broadcasts will also be available on the IOG Youtube Channel and on Twitter at #PolicyCrunch.

On October 15, join us for a session on Cybersecurity.

Never before has the creation and preservation of value depended so much on effective cybersecurity, nor has the means to “getting security right” been so complex. Many aspects of traditional security management are urgently being reconsidered as security teams seek to both stay aligned with the characteristics of the modern enterprise, and stay ahead of the threats. It is important for organizations to cut through the market noise and gain a different perspective on practical ways forward.

Informed by the collective voice of our clients, as well as our own security evolution, this presentation will provide insight into current threats, discuss how a risk-based approach is critical to establishing an effective cybersecurity program, and identify key steps for preparedness.

The coming months will see sessions on:

Renegotiating the Social Contract between Science and Society – November 12

The Future of Work: Beyond the Hype – December 10

And there are many more to come in 2020! Visit the series page here.

Celebrating the last session in Policy Crunch Season 1
Decorative photo of the Supreme Court

Dive into the First Year of IOG’s Digital Executive Leadership Program

5 minute read

By Rebecca Hollett, Marketing and Communications Manager

In September, IOG welcomed 17 new members to the Alumni family of our Digital Executive Leadership Program. With Ryan Androsoff at the helm, and four cohorts under our belt since the program first launched in December 2018, ELPDigi (as it is known by the Twitter community) has been a great success and addition to digital education for government. As we approach the first anniversary of the program, we take an in-depth look at what the Digital Executive Leadership Program is all about.

“The need for something like the Digital Executive Leadership Program has never been greater for executives and policy leaders,” says Toby Fyfe, IOG President, “as the skills to be digitally literate and technologically-savvy are increasingly important. The digital revolution has brought about tools and techniques that open up radical new possibilities for governments. However,” he adds, “it also introduces challenges for risk-averse organizations that traditionally adapt slowly to change.”

Rapid advancements in the technology sector have dramatically changed citizen expectations that are shaped by their experiences with companies such as Google, Amazon and Netflix. As such, citizen interactions with government are increasingly out-of-step with the quality, timeliness, and user experience of what they are used to in other aspects in their lives. Add to this the increasing struggles that governments are having with technology procurement and digital project failures; organizational cultures and processes that have been resistant to adapt to the more agile approaches that are the hallmark of the “digital era;” and a rapidly changing policy landscape when it comes to technology-driven issues as diverse as autonomous vehicles and the impact of social media-amplified “fake news” on the electoral process (a topic of particular interest with 10 days before the 43rdfederal election on October 21st).

Day 1: Ryan Androsoff welcoming cohort 4 to a week of digital government learning

“ELP Digi is designed to provide executives and policy-leaders at all levels of government (federal, provincial, municipal) with the knowledge and competencies they need to lead in a digital world,” says Program Lead Ryan Androsoff. ”Spread out over five days, our program features topics such as digital government, design thinking, digital technology, data, and leadership. Under these topics, participants spend their days learning about the big digital picture, as well as the details, and most importantly, how to take action.”

Cohort four welcomed a mix of high-caliber speakers including Mike College, President of Canadian Pubic Affairs at Ipsos Canada; Siim Sikkut, CIO of the Government of Estonia; Hillary Hartley, Chief Digital and Data Officer for the Province of Ontario; our core facilitators Amanda Clarke (Carleton University), Meghan Hellstern (Bll+E), Mike Gifford (OpenConcept), and Jennifer Shellinck (Sysabee); as well as key players in Canada’s digital service and digital government revolution from organizations such as Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, the Canadian Digital Service, and Transport Canada.

And IOG’s own leadership shared their expertise throughout: Toby Fyfe, IOG President, Gerard Etienne, Vice-President of Diversity and Inclusion, and Francois Gagnon, Vice-President, Learning Lab, have spoken to the various cohorts of the program. We mix learning opportunities with guest speakers, panels, e-learning on the IOG Academy platform, hands-on exercises, technology demonstrations, real life case studies, and discussions—which often take to Twitter. Check out the hashtag #ELPDigi to follow the conversation.

Here a few examples of some of the fun had during the ELPDigi program:

Day 2: Design thinking in action – this activity, led by Meghan Hellstern and Ryan Androsoff, has participants synthesizing data that will help identify challenges for their afternoon session on ideation, prototyping, and testing.
Day 3, Cohort 3: Participants took a deep dive to demystify digital technology. Here’s a participant tweet of the blockchain workshop led by Matt Jackson.
Vr Demo Elp Digi
Day 3, Cohort 2: A Tweet from Ryan Androsoff from one of the coolest #ELPDigi days we’ve had. Our students had an opportunity to test out some emerging technology like virtual reality and voice control.
Day 5, Cohort 1: The winning marshmallow challenge team (and might we add this was an all-women power team) as part of an exercise related to related to agile management practices

ELP Digi has become so much more than an opportunity to get our hands wet with all things digital; it has also a home to cultivate relationships and build mutual support among peers. When we call the Alumni a family, it is because of the inclusivity and engagement that we see growing amongst the cohorts. This engagement can be seen in one of the highlights of the week: the Thursday-night dinner. Here, we gather current and past participants to talk about the future of digital government, enjoy each other’s camaraderie, and take the opportunity to build relationships that last far beyond the length of the program.

Cohort four hosted Hillary Hartley, Ontario’s Chief Digital and Data Officer, as the Thursday evening guest speaker. Previous dinner speakers have included Aaron Snow, CEO of the Canadian Digital Service; Alex Benay, former CIO of the Government of Canada; and Michael Tremblay, President of Invest Ottawa.

Day 4: Hillary Hartley discussing what leadership means in a digital government context at our Thursday-night dinner, which welcomes all program Alumni.

ELP Digi welcomes all levels of the digitally/technologically-savvy—or not so savvy—as the course provides participants with a basic grounding in key digital concepts and a practical understanding of how they can be applied to the business of government. The program also provides participants with an understanding of the big strategic drivers of the digital era, as well as considerations for building and managing modern, digitally-savvy teams in the public sector.

To learn more about our Digital Executive Leadership Program, or sign up for Cohort #5 (launching in early 2020), click here,or sign up to the program waitlist here.There is no commitment, but it will help us plan the timing of cohorts next year. If you have more questions, please feel free to reach out to our Director of Digital Leadership, Ryan Androsoff at

Decorative photo of Parliament Hill

Social Cohesion and Trust: Join IOG, Rachel Curran, Don Lenihan, and Matthew Luloff for the Failing State debate on October 16th

6 minute read

By Rhonda Moore, Senior Advisor, Science and Innovation

On 16 October, IOG will host a debate between Rachel Curran, former Director of Policy for Stephen Harper, and Don Lenihan, IOG Senior Associate. The debate will be moderated by Deputy Mayor of Ottawa, Matthew Luloff.

Under the title The Failing State: Is it the politics or the process?, our debaters begin where the IOG’s recently-released paper Rebuilding Cohesion and Trust: Why Government Needs Civil Societyleft off.

IOG research reveals that declining levels of public trust are eroding the capacity for productive public dialogue and debate in Canada. The research also suggests that a primary obstacle to rebuilding social cohesion and repairing public trust is neither the population nor the issues, but the process. While people can be united through effective public engagement processes, poor or non-existent public engagement creates divisions among citizens and may even polarize or paralyze public discourse. A second obstacle is often the disposition and skills of those in government and civil society who are tasked to work together.

Indeed, the paper offers three recommendations to improve the ways in which governments at all levels work with civil society to strengthen dialogue and debate, and they respond to the two obstacles identified above. The first two recommendations tackle an increasing lack of deference to government and political leadership and attempt to bring the controversial parts of the government process out from behind closed doors. They reinforce that government and civil society need each other if they are to achieve meaningful change. The third recommendation targets potential ambivalence about government’s and civil society’s openness to engagement.

The recommendations of the IOG research are to:

  • Strengthen government’s and civil society’s capacity for rules-based dialogue and debate. Advocacy and policy engagement are a big part of what civil society organizations do. A rules-based approach to advocacy and dialogue promotes fair and informed dialogue, and mandates participants to work together to analyze, compare, and even consolidate, their views. Under a rules-based approach to dialogue and debate, advocates would be required to: be open and transparent about their objectives and concerns; listen to one another and try to empathize with different values and viewpoints; respect rules of evidence; and ensure that all the parties affected are fairly represented in the process.
  • Deepen government’s and civil society’s understanding of how partnerships work and why they are essential for the future. Civil society organizations typically work in closer contact with communities, citizens, and their needs, than do governments, and as a result, they sometimes deliver services more effectively. Yet the history of government/civil society partnerships and the history of contracting demonstrates that rigid, competitive mechanisms erode trust and communication, undermining the expertise of non-government actors (e.g., expertise in the needs of local communities and in the appropriate design of services). Thus, these mechanisms may actually produce unintended consequences and result in a failure to address communities’ needs.
  • Government and civil society should develop the skillsneeded to assess and empathize with one another’s contexts, priorities, and concerns. Empathy plays a key role in sensitive enterprises such as conflict management and negotiation. Empathy is defined not as a skill but as a disposition underlying the soft skills that enable individuals to identify different perspectives and then devise solutions for the problems that those perspectives bring to light.

What do you think of these recommendations? Join us at the debate on 16 October for a deeper dive into this topic.

The Debate: The Failing State: is it the politics or the process?

Wednesday, October 16, 2019
5:30PM – 7:00PM
Institute on Governance
60 George Street (in the Byward Market), Ottawa

The Debaters:

Rachel Curran, President, Wellington Advocacy and Fellow and Instructor, Clayton H. Riddell Program in Political Management, Carleton University

Rachel Curran is a lawyer by training and has nearly fifteen years of experience in public affairs, including extensive experience providing strategic and policy advice to the Prime Minister of Canada and federal and provincial Cabinet ministers. She is known for her intelligence, work ethic, and analytical ability, as well as her capacity to deliver on objectives. As Director of Policy to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Rachel was closely engaged in all matters involving the federal government, including foreign and defence policy, trade negotiations, economic affairs, immigration, transportation, energy and the environment, indigenous affairs, social development and intergovernmental relations.

Don Lenihan, IOG Senior Associate and President & CEO of Middle Ground Policy Research

Dr. Don Lenihan is an internationally recognized expert on public engagement, accountability, and governance. He has over 25 years of experience as a project leader, writer, speaker, senior government advisor, trainer, and facilitator and is the author of numerous articles, studies, and books. To learn more about Don’s work as a practitioner and a thought-leader, visit his website at:

Matthew Luloff (Moderator), Deputy Mayor, City of Ottawa

Born and raised in Ottawa, Matthew Luloff has always felt strongly about service to community and country.

As a member of the Governor General’s Foot Guards and later the Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, Matthew served as a member of the Ceremonial Guard and deployed to Afghanistan in 2008. Fighting out of small combat outposts along the Arghandab River, Matthew and his platoon patrolled the volatile Panjwai-Zharey districts of Kandahar Province.

After leaving the Canadian Forces, Matthew graduated from The Arthur Kroeger College of Public Affairs at Carleton University with a Bachelor of Public Affairs and Policy Management. He has worked as an advisor to several members of parliament and federal cabinet ministers, including most recently the Minister of National Defense.

Matthew continues to serves his community as City Councillor for Orléans. Entrusted as Deputy Mayor in his first term, the role affords him a seat on the influential Finance and Economic Development Committee (FEDCO). Councillor Luloff also serves on both the Transportation and Community and Protective Services committee, and is the Council Liaison on Accessibility.

With an experienced and dedicated team, Councillor Luloff oversees the vision, direction and budget of the City of Ottawa. He builds trusted relationships with senior managers and works collaboratively with City of Ottawa staff to ensure the needs of the residents of Orléans are met with everything from snow clearing and transit service, to garbage pickup and development proposals.

As a strong mental health advocate, Matthew produces and co-hosts Veteran X, a podcast for veterans and first responders transitioning to civilian life.

Passionate about local arts and culture, Matthew has fronted the award-winning local band Hearts&Mines and continues to write, record and perform music.

He lives in Orléans with his wife Laura, newborn Elizabeth and their two dogs, Norman and Elliot.

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