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Winnipeg needs new partnerships to combat its violent crime crisis

4 minute read

Contributed to the Globe and Mail | November 13th, 2019

By Ross Holden, Vice-President of Indigenous Governance and Self-Determination

Heartbreaking. That’s the only word to describe the news out of Winnipeg about three-year-old Hunter Straight-Smith, who was stabbed on Oct. 30 and died days later as a result of his wounds. His mother’s ex-boyfriend has been charged with second-degree murder. A few days before Hunter was stabbed, an assailant at a Winnipeg Halloween party stabbed and killed a 14-year-old girl and sent an 18-year-old woman to hospital in critical condition. Another man that was shot and killed on Nov. 4 put Winnipeg one death away from reaching its 2011 record of 41 murders.

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman has declared the city in crisis and is reaching out to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Premier Brian Pallister to explore ways to better work together to build a healthier community and address the root causes of crime in Winnipeg.

That this recent spate of violence comes a full five years after the death of 15-year-old Tina Fontaine at the Forks is equally gut-wrenching. After Tina’s death, Maclean’s controversially named Winnipeg “Canada’s most racist city,” and in response, Winnipeg City Council approved a reconciliation-based Indigenous Accord that recognized the importance of creating a “more equitable and inclusive society by closing the gaps in social, health and economic outcomes that exist between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians.”

Winnipeg is very much a city of two solitudes. It is one of the most economically diversified and robust major metropolitan regions in Canada, experiencing a growth in gross domestic product of 3.1 per cent in 2018, almost twice the Canadian average. Between 1996 and 2016, its population increased by 16 per cent, in line with other major cities in Canada. During the same period, Winnipeg’s Indigenous population almost doubled, making it the largest urban Indigenous population in Canada. But many Indigenous people have not shared in Winnipeg’s prosperity; the city’s North End, where it is estimated 20 per cent of residents identify as Indigenous, contains some of the lowest-income postal codes in the country. The city has the highest rate of violent crime in Canada and four out of five people incarcerated in Manitoba prisons are Indigenous.

Chief of Police Danny Smyth has stated that much of the violent crime is linked to the methamphetamine and opioid crisis currently gripping the city. But the roots of the crisis go much deeper: residential schools, the Indian Act and reserve system, dislocation from lands and resources, loss of language and culture, and systemic racism have all taken their toll. It’s no secret that Winnipeg’s North End and other neighbourhoods are the destination of First Nations and Métis youth from surrounding reserves and northern settlements looking to escape the conditions in their home communities. They arrive without the education or skills to succeed in the city, only to be preyed upon by gangs.

Given the scope and complexity of the crisis, only a co-ordinated, long-term and multipartner strategy to address the real root causes has any hope. This should involve all levels of governments – federal, provincial, municipal, First Nation and Métis – as well as support from local and national service organizations. They could all play a role in supporting community-based policing and health services, cracking down on gangs and drugs by targeting leaders for arrest and prosecution, and allocating more resources for intervention and diversion away from correctional services for low-level offenders, implementing a comprehensive approach to investing in the well-being of First Nations and Métis communities, and promoting the academic fields and careers most likely to lead to success in the 21st century: science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM.

Above all, to ensure its success, the strategy should be cemented with a formalized partnership among all levels of government, long-term commitments to funding, effective co-ordination and accountability for outcomes. Without such an intervention, the prosperity and security of Indigenous people in Winnipeg, and Manitoba more broadly, will continue to decline beyond the crisis point at which it has arrived.

That there is a risk of this happening in light of Canada’s 2016 pledge of full support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the many calls to action of both the 2015 Truth and Reconciliation and the 2019 Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls commissions, is appalling. The death of little Hunter and the fate of all the other victims of violent crime in Winnipeg, is a tragedy not just for their families or the city, but for the entire country.

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Collaboration Corner: November events brought to you by the IOG and other great organizations

3 minute read

By Rebecca Hollett, Marketing Analyst

At the IOG, we work towards advancing better governance in the public interest and offering relevant learning opportunities to our clients. When we get the opportunity to put our expertise together with that of partners who provide diversity of thought and experience, we know we are both strengthening this mission and bringing better opportunities to you. So, check out our November roster of great events:

Policy Crunch: Renegotiating the Social Contract Between Science and Society with speakers from Genome Canada and the University of Ottawa – November 12th

This month’s Policy Crunch will explore the role of science in addressing modern societal changes that will also include a look at funding, advice, and relevancy. We are welcoming great speakers from Genome Canada and the University of Ottawa. Dr. Rob Annan, Vice-President, Public Affairs and Communications at Genome Canada, drives an open and collaborative strategy that promotes the value and potential of genomics in Canada to major stakeholders. Rees Kassen, University of Ottawa, is a leading researcher, educator, and author in evolutionary biology and brings to the conversation his experience in leading work between science, society, and policy. In collaboration with IOG’s expert team in science and innovation, we are looking forward to a great evening of conversation and ideas that move towards modernizing the science-society relationship. Learn more about the event here.

Crowdsourcing: An IOG Alumni Breakfast with John Stroud, CEO, CrowdBridge – November 27th

When IOG Leadership Program Alumni finish their program, our relationship with them doesn’t end there. We welcome this community back for events to further their learning, and strengthen their relationships and leadership experiences. At the end of November, we are hosting a breakfast event for our alumni on crowdsourcing with accomplished executive John Stroud of CrowdBridge. John has extensive experience in collective intelligence and crowdsourcing as they apply to strategic planning, innovation, governance, engagement, risk management, and performance measurement. This joint IOG and CrowdBridge interactive breakfast workshop, 7:30AM – 9:30AM, will provide an understanding of how you can leverage the “wisdom of crowds” to make better decisions and improve results. Let us know (hyperlink to email) if you want to learn more about this event.

Digital Ethics Workshop with Saint Paul University – November 28th

This workshop has been developed as a partnership between the IOG, Saint Paul University, the CIO Strategy Council, and digital government expert Ryan Androsoff (who leads our popular Digital Executive Leadership Program– “ELP Digi”). This partnership has allowed us to put together a unique offering that brings both an academic understanding of the key ethical issues facing the adoption of disruptive technologies in government, along with a practical lens to explore what this means for public servants in their daily work. Read about the format and highlights of the workshop here.

Deliberation: Turning Stakeholder Tensions into Solutions with Dr. Don Lenihan – November 21 & 22

Dr. Don Lenihan is an IOG Associate and President and CEO of Middle Ground Policy Research. He is an internationally recognized expert on public engagement, governance, policy development, and organizational change. Dr. Lenihan leads this two-day workshop which teaches the skills and tools to build a broad collaborative approach to reaching decisions and sharing outcomes through the process of deliberation. Get the course description and more details about the process of deliberation here.

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Inside the Black Box: Public Servants and Managing a Transition

9 minute read

By Karl Salgo, Executive Director, Public Governance

First, a disclaimer: we’re talking about managing transition because we at the IOG have absolutely no privileged access to this particular transition. However, some of us have at least been flies on the wall during other transitions.

Second, there actually is no transition. When a prime minister stays on after an election, with a majority or otherwise, his or her ministry continues uninterrupted so that what follows is technically just a Cabinet shuffle. It’s a really big, complex Cabinet shuffle, mind you, but whether Mr. Trudeau appoints a political team to oversee the process (as a new government certainly would have done) is his call.

In any case, it’s fair to say that Cabinet formation is at the center of the frenzy that undoubtedly prevails right now among both political staff and senior officials at 80 Wellington Street – the Office of the Prime Minister and Privy Council – in Our Nation’s Capital. Building a Cabinet is arguably the defining responsibility of a prime minister (Sir John A. Macdonald famously gave out his profession as “cabinet maker”).

The big news so far is that the government has announced that the new Cabinet won’t be sworn in until November 20 – fully four weeks after the election. Such a delay doesn’t present legal issues – a minister remains in place until he or she resigns or is replaced – but it will be unprecedented. A typical “transition” in Canada takes up to two weeks from election to swearing in. (Contrast that with the United Kingdom where, albeit in a different context, it has historically taken about 24 hours.)

We can be pretty sure the challenge is not booking time at Rideau Hall, but rather that the PM is wrestling with the thorny issue of whom to include. And, despite all the strides this PM has made in having a Cabinet that more closely resembles the true face of modern Canada, the thorniest issue right now will be the old-fashioned one of regional representation.

On the issue of composition, we can be fairly certain that Cabinet will be comprised purely of Liberals – that is, that there will be no coalition. Formal coalitions are rare in Canada and there has only ever been one at the federal level (and barely one at that, the so-called Union Government during WWI, when Prime Minister Borden took a few pro-conscription Liberals into his government). Prime Minister Trudeau has no obvious need of a coalition. All of the other three official parties would have to line up against him to bring down his government, something that’s not likely to happen any time soon given the financial positions of the parties and the mood of the electorate.

We also know – because we’ve been told, although we could have guessed – that the Cabinet will have gender parity. As in the past, that doesn’t mean that all ministers will preside over government departments (or be “full” or “senior” ministers in common parlance); some will be ministers of state (formally “ministers of state to assist”, or so-called junior ministers, without direct control over a government department). But they will all sit at the Cabinet table and have, in formal terms at least, an equal voice.

But while the current prime minister was the first to achieve gender parity in Cabinet and has demonstrated a distinctive commitment to diversity, we suspect he is struggling with the most time-honoured objective of Cabinet composition: regional representation. In this he faces a distinctive challenge (though not so distinctive that his father didn’t face essentially the same challenge decades ago) of having no caucus members from Alberta or Saskatchewan to draw upon (including for the critical Natural Resources and Environment portfolios). In the good old days a prime minister simply reached into his party’s Senate caucus; but Mr. Trudeau officially doesn’t have such a thing, and in any case, unelected members of Cabinet face a greater legitimacy problem than in the past. Still, our guess would be that, one way or another, the PM will ensure that there is a senior Western voice at the table.

Speaking of problems, the PM will also need to decide on senior staffers within PMO. For instance, will Mr. Butts make a second debut? Or will PMO opt for someone like Ralph Goodale as Chief of Staff or Principal Secretary in the interest of having a senior Western voice (assuming he doesn’t make it back to the Cabinet table)?

The prime minister will also need to decide how to structure the Cabinet committee system. In this, unlike his selection of ministers, he will have the benefit of public service advice, focused on what has worked, and not worked, in the past. The committee structure can tell you a lot about a prime ministerial governing style and policy agenda. For instance, to date, Prime Minister Trudeau has left ratification authority for committee recommendations to “full” Cabinet instead of a de facto inner Cabinet called Priorities and Planning, in the manner of Harper and other prime ministers.

Committee mandates can speak volumes too. For example, most recent prime ministers have chosen to place criminal justice matters with social policy committees, while Mr. Harper placed them with issues of national security. (And does anyone remember Mr. Harper’s Cabinet including a committee with “diversity and inclusion” in its title?) Officials will no doubt be waiting to see if there is once again a dedicated committee on delivery and results, such that the government is sticking to its not conspicuously successful “deliverology” approach. Nomenclature counts in how ministers and their departments are styled as well. For instance, it wasn’t hard to catch the drift when Industry Canada became Innovation, Science and Economic Development, especially given the previous government’s quarrels with the science community.

Portfolio composition is another important structural consideration. For example, will regional development agencies be clustered? Or will they go to regionally based ministers who “understand” their regions best?

By the way, for those who have concerns for the public service, be assured that all these appointments, portfolio combinations and updated stylings entail plenty of work for public servants. This work, like much of the work of the transition (er, shuffle) is done by a group known as Machinery of Government. (I believe it’s a metaphor.)

Of course the public service is now busy providing advice on a host of other matters. Typically, briefing books (now supplied virtually we are told) include a significant range of updates and policy proposals, including some form of highly respectful platform assessment. Usually just one set of books is prepared but it has happened, when the electoral outcome was particularly uncertain, that a second set was asked for. Particularly when there is a true transition, the PM will get a briefing focused on the urgent decisions or events of the first few weeks. Other things being equal, the briefing process is less complicated when there’s continuity, not just from the perspective of knowledge but from that of confidentiality, since a new government does not get access to the Cabinet confidences of its predecessor.

Policy direction is a huge issue, of course, and anyone with an interest in it will be waiting eagerly for the new batch of mandate letters that the PM will surely have to make public once again. There was a time when such letters were expected to be on a minister’s chair the day he or she was sworn in, with resulting 2:00 am adjustments between PMO and Machinery, but less priority seems to be given to such timing these days. The letters, which typically open with a general statement on the government’s priorities and planned approach (hint, they will be open and accountable), derive their content from multiple sources, starting with the party’s electoral platform.

And just as discretion is the better part of valour, strategy is the better part of policy. This is distinctively true in a minority situation, where legislation and agenda management – assisted by a dedicated secretariat in PCO – become the art of the possible. The pundits broadly agree that this government should be able to achieve majority support working with different parties on an issue-by-issue-basis, at least for the time being. But House committees will no longer automatically be dominated majorities from the government caucus, meaning that legislative committees (among others) will likely give the government a tougher ride.

Policy and legislative strategy come together in the decision around when to open Parliament and what to include in the Speech From the Throne (SFT). Canadian governments have tended to open Parliament (or rather, to ask the Governor General to do so) in pretty short order, even if only briefly before a recess. In principle at least, this will be especially important for demonstrating confidence for the minority government. But with a November 20 swearing-in, there will be a narrow window for an SFT before a typical Christmas recess. The government could wait longer: an extreme case of waiting by a minority was that of the Clark government, which delayed more than half a year, although this didn’t work out very well for them. Canadian SFTs, unlike their British counterparts, tend to be longwinded affairs (think 3,000 plus versus 800 words) and add a healthy dose of self-promotion to the outline of their legislative agendas.

It will be interesting to see what, if anything, the SFT says directly or indirectly about the situation in Quebec given the resurgent Bloc, and what it offers to the West. There will certainly be some commitments in the matter of pipelines, but what else can be done regarding issues like carbon pricing is hard to see, given that two-thirds of the country voted for parties that favour the “carbon tax” loathed in the West. The minority government may have a period of stability in power, but it will have no honeymoon and little tranquility.

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Highlights of the Failing State Debate: An Idealist and a Cynic debate the answer to hyper partisan politics and polarizing debate

6 minute read

By Rhonda Moore, Practice Lead, Science and Innovation

On 16 October, 2019, the IOG hosted a debate entitled The Failing State: Is it the politics or the process?In front of a live audience of about 85 people, with a few dozen more watching online, Rachel Curran, President, Wellington Advocacy, and Fellow and Instructor, Clayton H. Riddell Program in Political Management, Carleton University, and Don Lenihan, Senior Associate, IOG, debated the following resolution: “Be it resolved that the answer to hyper partisan politics and polarizing debate lies in establishing a new generation of engagement process rather than yet another promise to do politics differently”. Matt Luloff, Deputy Mayor of the City of Ottawa, moderated the debate with acuity and a little humour.

Unlike some of the debates during the recent federal election campaign, the October 16 event was structured to allow the debaters to explore the resolution put before them, and constructively respond to their opponent. The moderator also made sure to leave time for some questions from the audience.

Perhaps also unlike the recent federal election debates, our debaters – one, a self-identified cynic, and the other, labeled an idealist by the cynic – found a number of items upon which they could agree.

In principle, both the cynic and the idealist agreed that Canadians expect transparency from their federal government. According to both debaters, Canadians understand federal parties present platforms during campaigns. Once elected, the governing party uses its (four-year) term to deliver on that platform. Canadians expect the governing political party to do what they promised, and to be transparent about their progress, both by bringing more of the political process into public discourse (e.g. publishing ministerial mandate letters) and by using technology to make information available, in real time and via the latest technology.

The debaters agreed that there is room to improve consultation and public engagement practices at the federal level. Both dismissed the ‘standard’ consultation practice described in the IOG’s paper on this subject, released in September. They agreed that public policy issues facing Canadians are increasingly complex and require better public engagement. The cynic believes that current approaches to these activities can be improved through a series of small, incremental changes, which, over time, creates real impact. The idealist, on the other hand, proposes a more extensive change to public engagement, as outlined in IOG’s paper, above.

Both debaters agreed that elected, political leaders are risk-averse. How a government delivers on its mandate, and the extent to which and how they make use of public engagement, is where our debaters differed in opinion. The cynic proposed that Canadians elect governments to take on tough policy questions and debates, to deal with complex policy issues and simply to keep Canadians informed of their progress. Canadians, said the cynic, are busy raising their families and living their lives. They do not want, nor do they need, to engage in the work of the government at every turn.

The idealist believes that Canadians care deeply about the complex policy issues facing them and our country, and identified public engagement as a means by which Canadians may be engaged on a divisive issue and, through process, may discuss trade-offs, find middle ground, and achieve buy-in. Effective public engagement can bring citizens to the decision-making table with a unified voice and clear idea of their value statement. And when funded and endorsed by government, said the idealist, public engagement saves government time and money.

The cynic identified a four-year political term as “an incredibly short period of time during which political parties cannot afford, and nor are they interested in, a public engagement process where the outcome is uncertain” and may or may not reinforce a predetermined position they have on a certain issue or decision. Politicians, maintains the cynic, must address any issue or challenge inside the term they are given; issues rarely survive a change in government. Rather, the cynic encouraged civil society not to wait for government to catch up or support efforts to bring people together and identify a common ground, arguing that the government of Canada is already challenged to deliver on its responsibilities to Canadians without adding this to the mix. The cynic also suggested that a robust process with compelling findings will find its way to government, to inform policy.

Our idealist disagreed, saying that public engagement can be an effective means by which to ensure buy-in for an issue, and a means to identify direction for the electorate.

The conversation between our cynic and our idealist is typical of a dialogue that is taking place across Canada, at varying degrees, about the state of public trust and social cohesion in our fair country. Is there an issue of declining trust in public institutions in Canada? Many Canadians, our debaters, and countless public polls and research surveys tell us that, Yes, there is indeed a decline in trust of public institutions. Is the trend irreversible? Does a decline in our trust of public institutions infer a decline in social cohesion?

Our cynic agreed that there is a decline in public trust, but does not draw the link from a decline in trust of public institutions to a decline in social cohesion. To illustrate this point, the cynic pointed to a number of factors : economic inequality has declined in Canada over the last decade; voter turnout remains relatively constant; Canadians of differing opinions are still finding ways to talk to each other; and Canadians continue to elect governments with populist messages (e.g. Trudeau’s focus on the middle class). In contrast, the cynic shared examples of life in the U.S. where there is a decline in social cohesion.

The cynic believes in the power of debate and discussion as a means to explore issues, strengthen arguments, and determine a path forward. The cynic does not believe it is necessary to find a middle ground on every issue, and indeed, does not believe there even is a middle ground on some issues.

Our idealist, however, draws a link between trust in public institutions and a decline of social cohesion, saying that the problem can be fixed through new tools and approaches to public engagement that create safe spaces for dialogue, where Canadians can come together to find common ground, using new, clear, rules of engagement. Citizens, said the idealist, are the experts on Canadian values, and the government and civil society have a role – and perhaps a duty? – to create and support places for those conversations in order to reduce polarization among Canadians. Failure to identify and act to repair the decline in social cohesion could have a detrimental impact on Canadian society.

These two positions could represent ideological positions about the role of government in Canada, or two variations on the pulse of Canadians’ thinking. Which is true? Which represents your personal view point?

At the end of the debate, the moderator asked which debater presented a stronger argument. By a show of hands, our audience was tied.

A recording of the full debate is available on the IOG Youtube page here:

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What Happened to Science?

5 minute read

By Jeff Kinder, Executive Director, Science and Innovation and Rhonda Moore, Practice Lead, Science and Innovation

In reflecting on the federal election and the largely content-free campaign we just experienced, one might reasonably ask, “What happened to science?” Although it can be argued that climate change was the dominant election issue, and science is a key input to climate action, science was clearly not a campaign focus in its own right.

This is in sharp contrast to the 2015 federal election campaign. Leading up to the campaign, the scientific community was keenly concerned about the state of science in Canada. Unease with the Harper Government’s treatment of government science led to a rare show of solidarity and advocacy when scientists marched on Parliament Hill to protest the “death of evidence.”

The opposition parties saw their chance and made science a campaign issue. The New Democrats called for a new Parliamentary Science Advisor. The Liberals went further, giving significant space in their platform to a “Stand Up for Science” agenda. The agenda included commitments to create a Chief Science Officer, to “unmuzzle” government scientists, thus allowing them to speak freely to the public, and to advance “open science” by improving access to government-funded science.

Fast forward to the 2019 election: science has enjoyed much less profile. This despite the fact that research, science, and innovation are critical for Canada to grow our economy and address the big societal challenges we face: opioid addiction, climate change, job displacement. In addition, artificial intelligence, gene editing and other disruptive technologies are here to stay. Canada’s new government will have to determine how best to capitalize on these innovations and how to regulate them in the public interest.

What can Canadians expect from the new government regarding science? The Liberals’ campaign platform is one indicator of their priorities (although this can serve only as a partial indicator as they adjust to the realities of a minority government). In the 84-page campaign document, the words “science” and “research” each appear only a handful of times, although we might consider implicit support of science and research in other areas. (Curiously, the Liberals make no reference to science in the list of major accomplishments during their first mandate.)

The greatest emphasis on science is found, not surprisingly, in the chapter on climate change and protecting the environment. The platform indicates that the Liberals will convene a group of scientists, economists and other experts to recommend a path to a net-zero society. They will ensure that conservation efforts – including safe, clean freshwater – are grounded in science and Indigenous knowledge. They will increase funding for marine science and the fight against invasive species.

The Liberal platform emphasizes the need for science to deliver on the party’s health priorities, committing an additional $30 million to research and a long-term plan to address pediatric cancer. The Liberals promise to create a National Institute for Women’s Health Research and to work with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to integrate diversity factors to improve women’s healthcare. The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and CIHR will enjoy more funding for “studies on race, diversity and gender in Canada.” And there is a commitment to “look for opportunities for increased collaboration between our talented scientists, researchers, and innovators and those in other G7 countries and advanced economies.”

Less obvious is how the Liberals plan to use science to help drive technological innovation. They commit to creating a new technology commercialization fund to give natural resource producers “an advantage in the clean economy” and fund incentives to develop zero-emission clean technologies, but offer few specifics. In foreign policy, the Liberals want Canada to “take a leadership role in ensuring the ethical use of new technology, by developing and supporting international protocols to ban the development and use of fully autonomous weapons systems.”

Although there are no references to the role the Chief Science Advisor might play going forward, there are indications that public policy will be based on scientific evidence. For example, in a section speaking to LGBTQ2 issues, the platform comes out strongly against conversion therapy as “scientifically discredited” and “not founded in science.” And in a section on Parliamentary reform, there is a reference to increasing research support to Parliamentary committees. Presumably this would mean beefing up the Library of Parliament research service. These and one other reference imply a continuing commitment to “evidence-based” decision-making.

So, what do we take from the Liberal campaign platform? Science is there, but you have to look for it. Is this concerning?

Since the post-WWll period, science (in virtually every OECD country, including Canada) has benefitted from an unwritten social contract that offered funding in exchange for societal improvements. Scientists have delivered those benefits in many ways, not the least of which include: Canadians are living longer, we enjoy healthier diets, and we have increasingly cleaner and more efficient energy sources.

The last decade has been a turbulent time for science. Actions of the Harper Government shook the foundation of the social contract for science, calling into question the role, function and value of the scientific enterprise. In response, scientists mobilized to demonstrate the value they bring to society. In effect, belief in science became a political and sometimes divisive topic of conversation and debate. According to some, the actions of the Trudeau Government under their last mandate would be seen as a successful campaign to recognize the role and value of science.

At the same time, there remain opportunities for the next government to embrace new approaches such as inclusive innovation, responsible research, and the interweaving of Indigenous knowledge with scientific knowledge, to think differently and more creatively about how we advance science and innovation and develop sound evidence for decision-making.

Join us on November 12 for the next IOG Policy Crunch on “Renegotiating the Social Contract between Science and Society”. Rob Annan and Rees Kassen will join the authors in exploring these issues and where Canada is heading in science and innovation.