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09 Mar

Canada’s Open Government Team Holds Consultation at SPPG

March 9, 2018 | By |

Participants had their say on open government, engagement and policy-making

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Open government is big these days. There are weekly civic tech meetings in Toronto, new organizations like Code for Canada and Tech Reset Canada, and government initiatives such as the City of Edmonton’s Citizen Dashboard and the GovTogetherBC portal. But what does open government really mean and will it lead to more civic engagement? These were some of the questions raised at a consultation hosted by SPPG featuring the Government of Canada’s Open Government Team, convened by Jonathan Craft, assistant professor at the School of Public Policy and Governance (SPPG), on Monday, February 26.

A full house of attendees, made up of academics, students, government staff and the public, participated “Have your say: open government, engagement and policy-making” to provide input on the upcoming fourth Open Government Action Plan, led by the Treasury Board Secretariat. The 2018-2020 document, which aims to inform accountability, transparency, and participation across the federal government, is a requirement for Canada’s participation in the Washington, D.C.-based Open Government Partnership, and will be released in July 2018. This was the last Toronto event of a series of cross-country in-person consultations.

“SPPG was pleased to host this consultation for the Government of Canada’s fourth Open Government Plan. Transparency, citizen engagement, and public consultation are all essential for effective policy making and governance,” said Craft. “Our hope is that the Treasury Board Secretariat will now move towards concrete changes to ensure Canada takes a leadership position on open government.”

The evening began with Professor Ian Clark offering introductory remarks about how much has changed in regards to government and transparency.

The session was run by Kent Aitken, lead for Outreach and Engagement for the Government of Canada’s Open Government team. He began by defining the government’s idea of open government: open data, open digital records, dialogue and collaboration. He also pointed out that the program is built around engagement with multi-sector civil society, academia and the idea of co-creation.

Rosshane Vignarajah and Mélanie Lajeunesse presented on the Government of Ontario’s upcoming 2018-2020 Action Plan. Their aim is to use crowdsourcing to answer questions on engagement, inclusion, accessibility, data information, and others. Their first stakeholder event is on March 26, 2018. You can sign up at the province’s Open Government page

The audience asked a variety of questions on a range of subjects including: what are the primary goals for open government? How do you choose which data sets to open? What is feminist open government? How can open government be accessible and inclusive?  Participants were then split into groups and asked what would make for a better relationship for citizens and the government and what would need to happen to make that future a reality. The recorded answers are to be coded, analyzed and released online.

The Government of Canada fourth Action plan will release a set of commitments on May 9, 2018 with a formal plan submitted to the Open Government Partnership by July 31, 2018.  You can follow that progress at