Home Page News Opinion Foreign Policy Politics Policy Legislation Lobbying Hill Life & People Hill Climbers Heard On The Hill Calendar Archives Classifieds
Hill Times Events Inside Ottawa Directory Hill Times Books Hill Times Careers The Wire Report The Lobby Monitor Parliament Now
Subscribe Free Trial Reuse & Permissions Advertising
Log In
Opinion

The time is right: will Canada be a leader in ‘open government’?

By Aruna Roy, Suzanne Legault      

Canada’s leadership role at the Open Government Partnership is fairly limited. It is a government anchor on a working group dedicated to open data initiatives, but not involved in access to information. This is in spite of the fact that it is currently working towards amending the federal Access to Information Act in the context of open government.

Canada should be a leader with the multilateral group Open Government Partnership, says Suzanne Legault, the Information Commissioner of Canada. The Hill Times photograph by Jake Wright
Share a story
The story link will be added automatically.

At an international workshop on “Unpacking Participatory Democracy” held at McGill University last month, experts acknowledged that in these challenging times we need to learn lessons from democratic practice around the world to strengthen the current discourse on democracy.

In 2011, eight countries and an equal number of civil society organizations met to create a global initiative for greater transparency and accountability in systems of governance. From December 7 to 9, Paris will host the biannual summit of this expanding multilateral collaboration, called the “Open Government Partnership” (OGP). Membership in this partnership has now grown to 70 participating member countries, including Canada.

The value of such a unique multilateral initiative does not need to be argued today—we have a greater understanding of the importance of democratic governance and citizen participation as an essential pillar of democracy than ever before. Transparency and accountability are fundamental principles of any democracy. Without transparency, citizens are unable to scrutinize the actions of government and make informed decisions. Without accountability, governments are no longer responsible to the citizens who elected them.

The OGP has diligently evolved a minimum set of standards for transparency, accountability, participation, and consultation within an open government framework, where member countries decide on their reform strategies. The OGP also accepts and understands that civic space is essential for thoughtful deliberation, and meaningful citizen engagement on all issues of public concern.

Leaders and citizens working together in open government settings develop better decision-making frameworks and make better policy choices. Simple as these concepts may seem, they must be handled with maturity, confidence, and a genuine commitment to democratic values.

Significantly, OGP allows for countries to come together and share their experiences in democratic governance. This aspect of the OGP is especially valuable for those countries that are increasingly facing democratic and development challenges and could benefit from the lessons learned from those with more established democratic traditions.

This, we believe, is where Canada’s leadership role within the OGP can, and should, be leveraged much more.

Canada has more than 30 years of experience with transparency and accountability of government institutions, primarily through the legislative framework, and implementation of the Access to Information Act (which came into effect in 1983).

Canada has a robust history in information management and archiving, with its Public Archives Act, dating back to 1912. Today, the Library and Archives of Canada Act imposes record keeping obligations on public institutions, and is supported by a suite of policies and directives, all aimed at increasing their accountability. Canada scores high on all the core areas of OGP participation: access to information; open budget processes; disclosure of assets of public officials; consultative processes in the making of law and policy; and the sanctity provided to civic space. Nevertheless, there is room for improvement, and an opportunity to lead by example.

At present, Canada’s leadership role at the OGP is fairly limited. It is a government anchor on a working group dedicated to open data initiatives, but not involved in access to information. This is in spite of the fact that it is currently working towards amending the federal Access to Information Act in the context of open government. With Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the helm, Canada should bid to be on the OGP Steering Committee, and at the forefront of the global movement on open government.

The OGP is a nascent and unique international partnership. It provides an opportunity for members to meet as equals and build strategies. It is instrumental in preventing the spirit of democracy from being extinguished. The OGP needs real political leadership from nations like Canada who have articulated a commitment to transparency and accountability, and who see open governance as a means to that end.

The question is: will Canada step up and take the initiative to be a global leader in Open Government? The answer will become clear in Paris.

Politics This Morning

Get the latest news from The Hill Times

Politics This Morning


Your email has been added. An email has been sent to your address, please click the link inside of it to confirm your subscription.
More in News

‘We’re finding our way’: MP Gord Brown’s widow reflects on year that changed her whole life

Claudine Courtois is planning a May 2 reception to mark the first anniversary of his death, saying she’s touched by Hill community support.

Bring in quotas, financial incentives to get more women to run, says House committee

After studying barriers facing women in politics, the Status of Women Committee also suggests calling for a crackdown on gender-based heckling.

ISG Senators say poll shores up Red Chamber reforms, but feds running out of time to make them law

‘We are committed to making legislative changes’ to continue with Senate modernization, says the office of Government House Leader Bardish Chagger.

Defeated MPs to get access to more support services to navigate life after the Hill

‘Imagine losing your job, getting fired, but you’re fired by basically your entire riding and your whole life has been serving these people, and there’s just a lot wrapped up in it:’ Tory House leader Candice Bergen.

Senators blame bad bill, justice minister’s absence for long C-58 study

The access-to-information bill needed close scrutiny to turn it into ‘workable legislation,’ says committee chair Sen. Serge Joyal.

In face of uncertainty, Kashechewan’s frustration at feds brews, says MP Angus

News|By Beatrice Paez
Though being temporarily relocated is a recurring feature of their lives each year, residents expected this year to be different.

Senators weighing limits on Liberal tanker ban; government ‘amenable’ to changes to C-69, says Sen. Simons

Bill C-48 would ‘basically trap Alberta oil,’ says Independent Alberta Senator Paula Simons.

MPs, political insiders question ‘endgame’ of former cabinet ministers Philpott and Wilson-Raybould

News|By Abbas Rana
Jody Wilson-Raybould and Jane Philpott say they have no endgame, but some observers say they risk their reputations by continuing to find points of disagreement with Justin Trudeau, the government, and the Liberal Party.

Re-election calculus, base politics key reasons for Liberals to seek DPA for SNC-Lavalin: political analysts

News|By Abbas Rana
But the Trudeau government’s motivation to help out SNC-Lavalin is to protect jobs, not any strategy for the federal election, says Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux.
Your group subscription includes premium access to Politics This Morning briefing.