Decorative photo of Parliament Hill

Walking the Vote: IOG welcomes the Secretary of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP)

2 minute read

By David Murchison, Sr. Vice President, International and Iraq

Pakistan, with help from Canada and other development partners, has made impressive gains in increasing electoral registrants and having broad-based and fair elections.

On October 23, 2019, the IOG was pleased to host Mr. Babar Yaqoob, Secretary of the Election Commission of Pakistan. Mr. Yaqoob was interested in learning more from the IOG on Canada’s experience in this area and on how Pakistan might be more inclusive in the electoral process with the vulnerable segments of their society, including women, ethnic minorities, religious minorities, people with disabilities, transgender and youth.

“Not a lot of Pakistani women had registered to vote, but because most Pakistani citizens now have government-issued ID cards, the government had data on where they were located,” said David Murchison, IOG’s Vice President, International. “So the government mounted a campaign with mobile units to walk from door-to-door to register them, often in very remote communities, thus achieving impressive gains in the number of women registered voters.”

In a wide-ranging discussion, the IOG further explored the barriers facing women in the democratic process in Pakistan, both as voters and as candidates, and how underrepresented groups, be they social, racial or geographic, might be given a larger voice.

Picture L to R: David Murchison, IOG; Dani Srour, IOG; Lisanne Garceau-Bednar, Global Affairs Canada; Mr. Babar Yaqoob, Secretary ECP, Pakistan; Madeleine Meilleur, IOG and Gerard Etienne, IOG.
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Informed Participation Solutions

2 minute read

A new joint venture with IOG, Middle Ground Policy Research, Publivate, and PACE Public Affairs & Community Engagement.

The Institute on Governance is pleased to announce that it will lead Informed Participation Solutions (IPS), a new joint venture with Middle Ground Policy Research, Publivate, and PACE Public Affairs & Community Engagement.

Trust in government is in decline and social polarization has been growing in Canada. The IPS Joint Venture sees this as due in part to an increasing complexity in the issues. This can make difficult tradeoffs impossible to explain and undermine the legitimacy of governments who try.

IPS restores legitimacy and rebuilds trust by giving citizens a meaningful say in such decisions. It blends new and emerging tools for public deliberation, such as narrative building and Artificial Intelligence, to help governments manage these issues in new ways.

IPS will be a full-service public engagement provider unlike any other in Canada. Our team includes some of the most experienced practitioners in the field.

Our services go well beyond providing advice or designing and delivering engagement processes. The IPS Joint Venture includes a unique and ambitious program to transfer knowledge and skills to our clients through real-time, project-based training, as well as courses and workshops.

IPS is registered as a qualified service provider for the Government of Canada’s Standing Offer and Supply Arrangement system.

Who We Are

Informed Participation Solutions (IPS) is a Standing Offer & Supply Arrangement ready, Ottawa-based team of highly experienced public-engagement practitioners from four organizations:

  • The Institute on Governance is one of Canada’s leading public-interest institutions and provides governments with research, training, and advice on good governance. IOG is a registered charitable organization and governed by a Board of Directors. Follow IOG on Twitter and LinkedIn.
  • Middle Ground Policy Research is an internationally-recognized leader in the development of innovative engagement methodologies and techniques for solving complex issues. Follow Middle Ground Policy Research on Twitter and LinkedIn.
  • Publivate provides world-class in person, virtual and online solutions for public engagement. This includes leading expertise, methodologies, and a suite of the most advanced virtual and online tools to support the right collaborative dialogue. Follow Publivate on Twitter and LinkedIn.
  • PACE Public Affairs & Community Engagement is a Canadian leader in engagement practices and solutions at the community level. Follow PACE on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Your IPS Partner Can Help:

  • Revise regulations that once shaped an industry but now bring stakeholders into conflict
  • Develop a winning strategy involving stakeholders, provinces, territories and Indigenous governments
  • Bring diverging voices to the table in a safe, inclusive, and mutually respectful manner
  • Reach stakeholders to gather and analyze feedback, quickly and efficiently

For further information contact:

Samuel Wells (P) 613.562.0090 (E) swells@iog.ca

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Join the Digital Governance Webinar Series Discussion Paper

1 minute read

Last fall we introduced a four-part webinar series to you titled the Digital Governance Webinar Series. In collaboration with leading experts and policy makers from Canada and Internationally, we explored critical digital governance issues that are becoming increasingly important for governments around the world, particularly given the impact of COVID-19 in accelerating digital trends in all parts of society.

The purpose of the series was simple: to bring together digital government leaders and experts to share their insights and facilitate frank and insightful discussions about how to accelerate the digital government movement forward in the months and years to come. Together with 15 panelists from across Canada and around the world, and nearly 1500 participants representing more than 140 organizations, we looked deep into some of the digital governance issues that consistently surface as being amongst the most challenging for policy makers. In collaboration with Publivate, an Ottawa-based digital engagement company, we offered these participants an engagement platformas an additional way to engage before, during, and after each of the webinars in this series.

What’s Next?

Given the richness of our discussions during the webinar series, we have decided to work to produce a public discussion paper that will highlight potential paths for governments to take and practical recommendations to address the digital governance issues that were identified both through the series and our broader digital leadership work at the IOG. In the spirit of the webinar series we want to make the development of this discussion paper participatory and invite you to be a part of the process!

Please join us as we recap the findings from the webinar series and outline potential recommendations to include in the discussion paper that we will publish. The interactive virtual working session will be held on April 1st, 2021 from 12:00PM – 1:00PM EST and will be facilitated by Ryan Androsoff, IOG’s Director of Digital Leadership Programs and the host of our digital governance webinar series. There will also be opportunities for you to submit and comment on specific ideas and recommendations for the discussion paper before, during and after the working session through our digital.iog.ca platform. Register for free and help contribute to the future of digital governance policy advice in the post-COVID “new normal”.

Visit EventBrite to Register

You can watch the four sessions on YouTube here:

Streamed live on Sep 11, 2020
Streamed live on Sep 23, 2020
Streamed live on Oct 22, 2020
Streamed live on Nov 19, 2020
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Biden’s First 100 Days – The Science File

3 minute read

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

After the last four years of relentless “alternative facts,” evidence-free policies, and major assaults on science, President Biden has much work ahead to restore the place of science in public policy and decision-making.

Although the word “science” did not appear in President Biden’s Inaugural Address, he is sending clear signals of its role in his agenda. As he stood on the steps of the Capitol, President Biden highlighted challenges such as attacks on democracy and truth, a raging virus, growing economic inequity, systemic racism, and a climate in crisis. Science will help address each of these.

In recent days, President Biden has also announced major players on his science team. First, he selected geneticist Eric Lander as his chief science advisor. For the first time in American history, President Biden has placed this position inside Cabinet, giving science a seat at the table during the Administration’s deliberations. Since the early Cold War when the position was first created, almost all Presidential Science Advisors have been drawn from the physical sciences, usually physics. Biden’s choice to select Lander further signals the importance of the life sciences, to address the pandemic and in what many suggest will be the Century of Biology. As science advisor, Lander directs the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) that coordinates science and technology efforts across the federal departments and agencies.

President Biden selected sociologist Alondra Nelson, president of the Social Science Research Council and Harold F Linder Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study, for a new position at OSTP that will focus on the intersection of science and society. As a woman of color in a field long dominated by white men, Nelson brings diversity and an unprecedented focus on the social sciences and racial equity to the OSTP.

The President has chosen Frances Arnold and Maria Zuber to co-chair President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). Arnold was the first woman to pull a hat trick by being elected to all three of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. Zuber is a planetary geophysicist and vice-president of research at MIT. Another first for American science policy, this is the first time that two women will co-chair the U.S. government’s top external science advisory body. PCAST was created during the G.H.W. Bush administration in 1989 but had precursors dating back to the Eisenhower Administration in the 1950s. In Canada, where scientific advisory mechanisms routinely come and go with no staying power, analysts can only dream of having such institutionalized science policy machinery at the top of government.

In Lander’s appointment letter, Biden pointed to the recent 75thanniversary of Science – The Endless Frontier, the famous report written by President Roosevelt’s science advisor, Vannevar Bush, at the end of the Second World War. Roosevelt sought Dr. Bush’s advice on how the nation could continue to benefit from the mobilization of science during peacetime, as it had during the war. The report provided the postwar blueprint for U.S. science policy but now, seventy-five years on, many of its basic tenets are under strain. In his letter to Lander, Biden wrote: “I believe it is essential that we refresh and reinvigorate our national science and technology strategy to set us on a strong course for the next 75 years, so that our children and grandchildren may inhabit a healthier, safer, more just, peaceful, and prosperous world.”

Although much of the detail of Biden’s science agenda is yet to be announced, he is clearly assembling a strong leadership team that will guide the nation’s science enterprise and ensure key policy decisions are informed by the best scientific evidence.

The IOG’s Science and Innovation team will monitor and report on developments over the first 100 days. We also invite you to learn about our major new research initiative – Beyond Endless Frontiers: Renewing the Social Contract between Science and Society. For more information, please contact Jeff Kinder, Executive Director, Science & Innovation, jkinder@iog.ca.

Decorative photo of Ottawa

Unity and trust through crisis management: Biden’s first 100 days in office

2 minute read

In his first day on the job, President Biden signed 17 executive orders to advance his agenda, including rejoining the Paris Agreement and the World Health Organization, lifting the restrictions on immigration from Muslim-majority countries, expanding protections for the LGBTQ community, stopping the construction of the border wall, extending a moratorium on evictions for certain renters, and extending a freeze on federal student loan payments.

These executive orders are aggressive moves to implement an ambitious agenda. But what alternative exists if President Biden wants to undo so much of the work of the previous administration? Executive orders are not without precedent, as we have seen in recent years. They are also an aggressive means by which to exercise the executive power of the Office, despite President Biden’s stated preference to work with both parties in Congress to accomplish his goals, and not make unilateral decisions.

The battle to regain the trust of the nation will have to be fought on multiple fronts.

President Biden’s team will have to bring Congress around to authorize the trillions required in spending for their priorities, as well as the many other priorities President Biden underlined during his campaign. Such priorities include: raising the minimum wage, funding community health care clinics, creating a national police oversight commission, funneling money for schools to reopen safely, job creation, raising corporate taxes, fighting racism, and supporting climate initiatives. And some initiatives will undoubtedly require much more convincing than others, such as President Biden’s plan to offer aid to the countries of Central America in order to reduce the influx of immigrants from that region. His advisors and administration will have to do some heavy lifting in policy and legislation to reverse the previous administration’s policies in all of the above-mentioned areas and to rebuild an atmosphere and practice of cooperation across parties.

President Biden’s deep knowledge of Congress and his long-time personal relationships with its members give him a strong fighting chance to regain the control of the country’s top institutions. But the President’s team will have a great deal of work ahead of them to rebuild the American public service. Sadly, there is no shortage of reports that recount a hollowing of the public service where experienced career staffers have steadily fled their positions. Sadly, this trend can be traced to a chaotic transition – or lack thereof – initiated by the previous administration. Restoring capacity in the public service will be essential to ensure the effective administration of the country. Until this work is done, it’s unlikely that President Biden’s team will succeed in advancing their policy priorities. After all, one cannot win a race with a lame horse.

The toughest battle will be the one for the hearts and minds of the citizens, among whom tens of millions still adhere to narratives peppered with alternative facts. For many, the new administration’s performance in dealing with a weakened economy during a pandemic will no doubt become an important indicator of their trustworthiness.

The new administration must therefore take full advantage of the goodwill they will most likely enjoy during the “honeymoon period”. However, with images of the insurrection that took place at the Capitol on January 6 still fresh in the minds, it is – ironically – the overall realization by senators, public servants, and citizens alike, of the extent of disunity and fragmentation in their country that may be this administration’s greatest weapon to move forward.

Decorative photo of Quebec City

Biden’s First 100 Days – The Science File

3 minute read

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

After the last four years of relentless “alternative facts,” evidence-free policies, and major assaults on science, President Biden has much work ahead to restore the place of science in public policy and decision-making.

Although the word “science” did not appear in President Biden’s Inaugural Address, he is sending clear signals of its role in his agenda. As he stood on the steps of the Capitol, President Biden highlighted challenges such as attacks on democracy and truth, a raging virus, growing economic inequity, systemic racism, and a climate in crisis. Science will help address each of these.

In recent days, President Biden has also announced major players on his science team. First, he selected geneticist Eric Lander as his chief science advisor. For the first time in American history, President Biden has placed this position inside Cabinet, giving science a seat at the table during the Administration’s deliberations. Since the early Cold War when the position was first created, almost all Presidential Science Advisors have been drawn from the physical sciences, usually physics. Biden’s choice to select Lander further signals the importance of the life sciences, to address the pandemic and in what many suggest will be the Century of Biology. As science advisor, Lander directs the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) that coordinates science and technology efforts across the federal departments and agencies.

President Biden selected sociologist Alondra Nelson, president of the Social Science Research Council and Harold F Linder Professor at the Institute for Advanced Study, for a new position at OSTP that will focus on the intersection of science and society. As a woman of color in a field long dominated by white men, Nelson brings diversity and an unprecedented focus on the social sciences and racial equity to the OSTP.

The President has chosen Frances Arnold and Maria Zuber to co-chair President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). Arnold was the first woman to pull a hat trick by being elected to all three of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. Zuber is a planetary geophysicist and vice-president of research at MIT. Another first for American science policy, this is the first time that two women will co-chair the U.S. government’s top external science advisory body. PCAST was created during the G.H.W. Bush administration in 1989 but had precursors dating back to the Eisenhower Administration in the 1950s. In Canada, where scientific advisory mechanisms routinely come and go with no staying power, analysts can only dream of having such institutionalized science policy machinery at the top of government.

In Lander’s appointment letter, Biden pointed to the recent 75thanniversary of Science – The Endless Frontier, the famous report written by President Roosevelt’s science advisor, Vannevar Bush, at the end of the Second World War. Roosevelt sought Dr. Bush’s advice on how the nation could continue to benefit from the mobilization of science during peacetime, as it had during the war. The report provided the postwar blueprint for U.S. science policy but now, seventy-five years on, many of its basic tenets are under strain. In his letter to Lander, Biden wrote: “I believe it is essential that we refresh and reinvigorate our national science and technology strategy to set us on a strong course for the next 75 years, so that our children and grandchildren may inhabit a healthier, safer, more just, peaceful, and prosperous world.”

Although much of the detail of Biden’s science agenda is yet to be announced, he is clearly assembling a strong leadership team that will guide the nation’s science enterprise and ensure key policy decisions are informed by the best scientific evidence.

The IOG’s Science and Innovation team will monitor and report on developments over the first 100 days. We also invite you to learn about our major new research initiative – Beyond Endless Frontiers: Renewing the Social Contract between Science and Society. For more information, please contact Jeff Kinder, Executive Director, Science & Innovation, jkinder@iog.ca.

Decorative photo of Library of Pariament

Unity and trust through crisis management: Biden’s first 100 days in office

2 minute read

In his first day on the job, President Biden signed 17 executive orders to advance his agenda, including rejoining the Paris Agreement and the World Health Organization, lifting the restrictions on immigration from Muslim-majority countries, expanding protections for the LGBTQ community, stopping the construction of the border wall, extending a moratorium on evictions for certain renters, and extending a freeze on federal student loan payments.

These executive orders are aggressive moves to implement an ambitious agenda. But what alternative exists if President Biden wants to undo so much of the work of the previous administration? Executive orders are not without precedent, as we have seen in recent years. They are also an aggressive means by which to exercise the executive power of the Office, despite President Biden’s stated preference to work with both parties in Congress to accomplish his goals, and not make unilateral decisions.

The battle to regain the trust of the nation will have to be fought on multiple fronts.

President Biden’s team will have to bring Congress around to authorize the trillions required in spending for their priorities, as well as the many other priorities President Biden underlined during his campaign. Such priorities include: raising the minimum wage, funding community health care clinics, creating a national police oversight commission, funneling money for schools to reopen safely, job creation, raising corporate taxes, fighting racism, and supporting climate initiatives. And some initiatives will undoubtedly require much more convincing than others, such as President Biden’s plan to offer aid to the countries of Central America in order to reduce the influx of immigrants from that region. His advisors and administration will have to do some heavy lifting in policy and legislation to reverse the previous administration’s policies in all of the above-mentioned areas and to rebuild an atmosphere and practice of cooperation across parties.

President Biden’s deep knowledge of Congress and his long-time personal relationships with its members give him a strong fighting chance to regain the control of the country’s top institutions. But the President’s team will have a great deal of work ahead of them to rebuild the American public service. Sadly, there is no shortage of reports that recount a hollowing of the public service where experienced career staffers have steadily fled their positions. Sadly, this trend can be traced to a chaotic transition – or lack thereof – initiated by the previous administration. Restoring capacity in the public service will be essential to ensure the effective administration of the country. Until this work is done, it’s unlikely that President Biden’s team will succeed in advancing their policy priorities. After all, one cannot win a race with a lame horse.

The toughest battle will be the one for the hearts and minds of the citizens, among whom tens of millions still adhere to narratives peppered with alternative facts. For many, the new administration’s performance in dealing with a weakened economy during a pandemic will no doubt become an important indicator of their trustworthiness.

The new administration must therefore take full advantage of the goodwill they will most likely enjoy during the “honeymoon period”. However, with images of the insurrection that took place at the Capitol on January 6 still fresh in the minds, it is – ironically – the overall realization by senators, public servants, and citizens alike, of the extent of disunity and fragmentation in their country that may be this administration’s greatest weapon to move forward.

Decorative photo of Peggy's Cove

Trust in Government

2 minute read

The world is looking for new directions from US President Biden, hoping – among other things – that the credibility and trust in the US as the beacon of democracy in the world is restored.

To begin with, he will need to build trust in government inside the US: for example, 70% of Republicans think the US election was stolen. And recent events – such as the storming of the Capitol – confirm that its institutions of democracy are under threat from the extreme right and from foreign interference. This erosion is accelerated by baseless critiques of electoral legitimacy; wedge politics; the weaponization of the internet through cancel culture; a growing dysfunction in policy-making; economic disparity and a sense of disenfranchisement; and a mainstream press that has no idea how to adjust its ethical commitment to neutrality in the face of toxic, anti-democratic office-holders or their enablers.

What are the implications for Canada? After all, one in five Canadians agree that the US election was illegitimate. What does this tell us broadly about the trust that these citizens have in the institutions of democracy to ensure – in this case – a fair election? And why does it matter?

In Canada, it is tempting to be complacent: internationally, Canada is 14th in the Legatum Prosperity Index among 149 countries; top for public service effectiveness and third, behind Norway and Sweden, for the quality of life for women. Yet as Yascha Mounk notes: “…the one prediction that has reliably misled us – the assumption that things will forever remain the way they have always been – remains the most popular, even today.”

Trust is the currency of democratic governments. And like all currencies, it fluctuates. The Edelman Trust Barometer noted in spring, 2020 at the height of the pandemic’s first wave that trust in government, including in Canada, was high. A more recent Edelman Trust Barometer reminds us that trust has fallen back again and that there remains a “trust inequality” in Canada with a 16-point trust gap between the informed public and the mass population, as well as a general lack of confidence (65%) in the system.

A key player in maintaining citizen trust in our democratic institutions is the public service. The OECD lists five government ‘trust indicators’: reliability, responsiveness, openness/inclusiveness, integrity and fairness. One might add relevance, the ability of the public service to respond to the modern, 21stcentury world it faces in a modern, 21stcentury fashion with modern, 21stcentury tools.

Without doubt, in Canada citizenexpectations of the public service have increased. The performance of our public institutions during the pandemic as they responded, connected, generated new programming, implemented new services, undertook speedy and comprehensive vaccine regulatory reviews and continue to grapple with the challenges of mass vaccination has raised the expectation bar.

Now, as Canada plans for an uncertain post-pandemic future, it is the time to ensure ongoing trust by citizens in our democratic institutions by thinking about what Canadians need from a modern public service. The government needs to work closely with the public service to make sure that it learns from this moment, adjusts accordingly, and positions itself for the future.

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Clarity, Conviction, and Competence are Key to the First 100 Days

2 minute read

One cannot overstate the importance of the first 100 days for a new administration. American President Franklin D. Roosevelt was first to coin this period to chart a course for America that became “The New Deal”. Done well, a president establishes the tone, expectations and agenda for their four-year mandate. It’s also one of the core principles of good governance advocated by the Institute on Governance that government should establish clear policy and programme directions publicly to improve both policy coherence (and hence performance) and accountability (because governments are judged on how they’ve delivered against what they’ve said they’ll do).

New administrations are under intense scrutiny by the public, media, and opposition parties to detect any incongruence with actions, platforms, and statements made during the preceding election campaign. While supporters are looking for leaders to keep promises, critics are equally vigilant to throw shade in hopes to slow, destabilize or wound a new, inexperienced government.

Clarity, conviction and competence are the three C’s of an administration’s early success. A new administration is strengthened by its ability to – ideally flawlessly – telegraph its intentions and vision, to reinforce convictions battle-tested during a campaign, and to execute them, thereby cementing their agenda until the next election.

In the United States the inauguration is the “kick-off” to give citizens the first indication of what the next four years will bring. In Canada, we have the swearing in ceremony and soon after the Speech from the Throne.

In 2015, Prime Minister-Elect Justin Trudeau assembled his Cabinet in waiting on Parliament Hill to travel together to the Governor General’s residence for the swearing in ceremony. The imagery was deliberate: A youthful, diverse, and gender-balanced team taking busses to incent team building akin to the life-long bonds children form on their way to summer camp. That day was planned to the last detail and was executed with military-like precision. The symbolism, tone, and contrast with the previous government was dramatic.

President Joseph Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are also looking to establish clarity, conviction, and competence. Arguably, there are much greater stakes on a global scale. A nation plagued by a pandemic, polarized by racial conflict and socio-economic inequality, submerged in a boiling pot of misinformation and media manipulation sets the scene for either greatness or burning agony during the next four years.

Unlike Canada, which has a Westminster styled, permanent, non-partisan public service at the ready, a good portion of the Biden Administration’s time will be spent recruiting, screening, and appointing its senior public service to provide leadership to deliver on his mandate.

Nevertheless, Canada, the United States closest ally, has a role to play to make sure the first 100 days are successful. Canada needs to assess alignment with agendas and interests.

Major media outlets have written about the common policy interests between Canada and the new Biden Administration, including climate adaptation, building back better, and dealing with increased aggressiveness from China. However, Buy America and the cancelation of the Keystone Pipeline authorization make it clear that there will be “puts and takes” to be factored. Identifying early wins for both countries that align with the clarity of agendas, conviction of constituencies, and competently delivered appears to be in both countries national interest.

The Institute on Governance will be following decisions by the new Administration for clarity, conviction, and competence in its transition, and drawing comparisons to public administration and governance in Canada.