CanGovBetter - A Governance Agenda for Canada's Public Sector - Institute on Governance


A timely and important initiative to determine how the public institutions of the federation can adapt to a post-COVID environment, bringing the Canadian values of openness, inclusion, diversity and working together to solve the challenges of today and the future.

A strong, responsive and relevant public sector– in both its administrative and political roles – that reflects Canada’s reality today is critical to ensuring citizen trust in government and democracy today and in the future.

Democracy is under threat. Recent elections around the world confirm that public institutions are at risk from the extreme right and from foreign interference. The 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. These multiple threats are real to Canada; they are not merely theoretical.

Furthermore, as Canada continues to control the pandemic and prepare for an uncertain future, governments face a changed environment that includes major shifts in citizen expectations, increased flexibility of the workforce, reconciliation, the role of government, the use of technology, the delivery of health care, the inequality and marginalization of segments of the population, and the need to reach net zero. How will our federated system of government sort out both longstanding and emerging societal and policy shifts facing Canada today and in the future? Do our public institutions have the capacity and the tools to tackle these known and future challenges effectively?

The project will include a governance review of the Canadian system to determine its impact on the ability of today’s public institutions at all levels to meet tomorrow’s expectations and challenges. It will explore the theory and reality of the distribution and interplay of power and decision-making in Canada between the different orders and institutions of government, including provinces, territories, municipalities and Indigenous governments, in working together collaboratively to deal with the challenges of a post-pandemic world. It will consider whether the public service interactions between the three orders of government are adapting fast enough to the realities of the 21st century. To consider the imperatives, possibilities and risks of digital, the project will also ask how we can ensure that digital technology in government strengthens rather than undermines open, inclusive and secure democratic decision-making.

Other public sector issues to be reviewed include, but are not limited to:  the interface between elected politicians and public servants, the role of central agencies, the changing nature of regulation, the digital future, and the skill sets and leadership requirements of a modern public service.

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Support for CanGovBetter

“Congratulations to the IOG for launching this important and timely initiative. A strong and responsive public service that reflects Canada’s reality is critical to ensuring citizen trust in government and democracy today and in the future.”

Lord Nick Herbert

The Commission for Smart Government UK

“The IOG has launched an important initiative worthy of support.  Countries like Canada that successfully blended democratic principles, market dynamism and human rights outperformed others during most of the 20th century and the early part of the 21st.  There is an urgent need for a public conversation to ensure it will continue to be the case in the future.”

The Hon. Jocelyne Bourgon, President

Public Governance International

“We must ensure that Canada’s democratic institutions are able to appropriately respond to the rapidly changing social and economic environment they serve. Initiatives like this are critical to a prosperous Canada.”

George L. Cooke, Chair of the Board of Directors

OMERS Administration Corporation

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