What We Heard - Summary Report

Summaries of the various discussions and meetings are also available on the Consultation Summaries page.

For more detailed information, download the Open Government Action Plan Consultation Data.

Summary Report on the Open Government Action Plan Consultations April 24–October 20, 2014

November 27, 2014

Open Government Secretariat
Chief Information Officer Branch
Treasury Board Secretariat
Government of Canada

Table of Contents

1. Executive Summary

This report provides an overview of the comments, ideas, and suggestions on the development of Canada's Action Plan on Open Government 2.0 received in the course of online and in-person consultations with Canadians between April 24 and October 20, 2014.

Canadians were asked for suggestions on how to improve the consultation plan, for ideas on what activities should be included in the Action Plan, for feedback on the activities that had been proposed, and finally for comments on the draft Action Plan itself.

In total, 1,451 individuals took part and collectively generated 2,010 ideas, comments and questions. Of these, 312 in-person participants told us why they thought open government was important, and how we could better engage with civil society and others in the future. This also includes some civil society organizations that made the extra effort to prepare and submit detailed submissions that proved invaluable during deliberations to prepare the Action Plan.

In-person participants came from a range of sectors, including other government jurisdictions (25%), civil society and social innovators (24%), academia (15%), and business (14%).

After removing duplicates, more than 1,200 comments and suggestions were organized into seven themes: citizen engagement and civic literacy, transparency, governance and resourcing, data quality and availability, innovation and data literacy, open and agile culture, and stewardship.

Several key points emerged:

  • Canadians want quick and easy access to the data they need regardless of the government jurisdiction from which it originates.
  • The federal government is seen by many as the natural lead for facilitating multi-lateral collaborations with business, civil society and other jurisdictions.
  • Citizens and civil society want more than data and information; they want to participate in creating solutions and they want to see their input reflected in the policies and decisions that affect them.
  • Canadians want to establish mandatory requirements for extractive companies (oil, gas, and mining) to report their payments to governments as a means of ensuring accountability and transparency worldwide.
  • There is strong demand for increased access to government information through improved mechanisms, such as access to information, proactive disclosure, and an online virtual library.
  • Calls for reform of the Access to Information Act were expressed in most consultation sessions and also from the Information Commissioner.

Figure 1: Word cloud based on 184 in-person participants who described their interest in Open Government.

Figure 1

Figure 1: Word cloud based on 184 in-person participants who described their interest in Open Government - text version
Expression Count

access

13

accessibility

4

accountability

6

advocacy

2

and

3

awareness

3

big

2

change

3

citizen

10

collaboration

10

commercialization

2

commitment

2

communications

2

community

5

concern

4

connect

3

connection

2

consultation

2

contribution

5

curiosity

12

curious

3

data

24

democracy

8

disclosure

2

discussion

2

education

5

effectiveness

2

efficiency

3

engagement

20

governance

2

government

14

ideas

4

improving

2

in

2

influence

3

information

17

innovation

9

input

3

interest

15

interested

3

involvement

3

knowledge

2

learn

20

licences

2

listen

3

making

2

my

2

network

3

non

3

of

3

open

29

opportunity

7

participation

12

personal

2

policy

7

preservation

3

public

4

research

4

responsibility

2

service

2

share

6

sharing

4

skeptical

2

social

3

support

2

the

2

to

7

transparency

17

trust

2

understand

2

understanding

4

with

3

work

4

 

2. Introduction

Open government empowers the public to make government more effective and accountable by providing greater access to government information. In April 2014, the Honourable Tony Clement, President of the Treasury Board of Canada, launched a three-part consultation to inform the development of Canada's second Action Plan on Open Government. The goal of the second Action Plan is to create a more transparent, responsive, and cost-effective government that reflects Canadians' views and encourages their participation in government.

The Open Government Action Plan describes commitments made to Open Government as part of Canada's membership in the Open Government Partnership, which Canada joined in April 2012.

Although the consultation is now closed, the Government of Canada continues to welcome comments, critiques, suggestions, and ideas from Canadians about Canada's Action Plan on Open Government 2.0 and its implementation.

Feedback was collected from the Advisory Panel on Open Government, online forums, in-person sessions, email submissions, Twitter (hashtag #OGAP2), and LinkedIn. Participants' comments, ideas and questions have been coded by theme to support the analysis in this report.

Action Plan Consultation – A Phased Approach

The consultation on Action Plan 2.0 was conducted in three phases as illustrated in Table 1.

Table 1: Overview of the 2014 Open Government Action Plan Consultations

* Between February 6, 2014 and September 11, 2014, we spoke with 50 representatives from 27 different civil society organizations (CSO) in 8 separate meetings. Because these meetings tended to focus on specific activities, the results were included in the Activity Discussion phase.
Phase Consultation Plan Idea Dialogue Activity Discussion
Dates April 24–August 8 May 14–August 8 August 8–September 19 October 9–October 20
Focus Share views on how to improve the consultation plan Suggest ideas that could be included in the Action Plan Discuss proposed activities, suggest improvements and new ideas Comment on the draft Action Plan 2.0
Scope Online only Online and ten in-person sessions across seven cities: Ottawa, Kitchener, Victoria, Montréal, Vancouver, Toronto, St. Catharines Online and three in-person sessions: Edmonton, Halifax, Fredericton
8 civil society meetings*
Online only
Participants 19 identified participants 184 in-person participants,
52 identified online participants
128 in-person participants,
216 identified online participants
852 identified participants online & email
Activity 21 ideas and comments 687 ideas, comments and questions 421 ideas, comments and questions 74 comments and questions
1,961 page views 7,705 page views 7,445 page views 2,595 page views

3. Participation Summary

Highlights

1,451 2,096 2,010 19,706
Total number of identified participants Note: (Anonymous online participation was allowed) Number of votes cast online Total number of comments, ideas and questions Total page views
 
 
Chart colour Category Percentage Participants
Total 313
  Business 15% 46
  Public Service Municipality 15% 48
  Public Service Provincial 10% 31
  Public Service Federal 22% 68
  Academia 15% 46
  Civil Society 18% 56
  Social Innovators 6% 18
  Media 0% 0

Based on 312 responses from in-person consultations April 24–October 20, 2014

Note: Public Service breakdowns are partial estimates; breakdown data was not collected until the Activity Discussion phase.

 
Chart colour Category Percentage Participants
Total 1,139
  data.gc.ca 28% 323
  Email 71% 808
  Twitter .6% 7
  LinkedIn .08% 1

Based on submissions from 1,139 online participants. April 24–October 20, 2014

Figure 4: Comments from all sources by consultation phase

Figure 4: Comments by Phase

Figure 4: Comments from all sources by consultation phase - text version
Activity by Phase Comments
Total 2010
Consultation Plan 21
Idea Dialogue 687
Activity Discussion 421
Draft Plan 881

Based on 2,010 comments, ideas and questions received from all sources between April 24–October 20, 2014.

4. Results

Seven themes emerged from the ideas, comments, and questions submitted throughout the consultation. The figure below shows the relative popularity of each theme, based on 1,200 unique comments, ideas and questions received online and in person between April 24 and October 20, 2014.

Figure 5: Theme Chart

Figure 5: Theme Chart

Figure 5: Theme Chart - text version
Theme Comments % Comments
Total 1200
Stewardship 8% 101
Open & Agile Culture 10% 116
Innovation & Data Literacy 11% 130
Data Quality & Availability 12% 144
Governance & Resourcing 19% 122
Transparency 19% 233
Citizen Engagement & Civic Literacy 21% 254
 

Based on 1,200 unique comments, ideas and questions received online and in person between April 24 and October 20, 2014.

The following sections describe the results for each of the seven themes.

1. Citizen Engagement and Civic Literacy (21% of comments)

"…create an open government forum for two-way conversation. Government of Canada should participate but not necessarily drive it."

(Halifax round table)

Participants told us they want quicker, easier, and more meaningful access to their Government. We heard that consultations were important and helped build trust with the government. Furthermore, consultations need to be timely, relevant, inclusive and accessible. The Government needs to use simple, honest language and to provide prompt (and complete) feedback on consultation efforts. There was a clear desire for government to become better at listening to citizens. To achieve this, some suggested that the public service (including elected officials) needs to be retrained on how to work with citizens "to troubleshoot and to make communities healthier." The City of Surrey's participation program was mentioned as a good example.

Participants also expressed a desire to be involved in government decision making beyond consultations. They want to help create solutions and to provide input into the policies that affect them, in partnership with government. Technology can aid this process. One group suggested that crowdsourcing challenges should be organized around key problem areas.

It was made clear that more promotion is necessary to make people aware of open government in general and of consultations specifically. Some suggestions on how to make this happen included encouraging invitees to forward consultation invitations to their networks, and using other government "touch points," like tax forms or benefit payments, to share the open government message.

Engagement platforms were another key topic of discussion. E-petitions, wikis, shared collaborative platforms, public rating systems, and user-friendly applications were all suggested as tools to improve citizen engagement. The City of Toronto's IdeaSpace was identified as an example of an effective platform that promotes interaction between citizens and their government.

Participants reminded us that some Canadians do not have Internet access, and that governments need to find innovative ways to include all citizens in the discussion as part of consultation processes.

Finally, civic literacy was frequently mentioned as something that all levels of government should work together on improving. Some suggested lowering the voting age to 16 and introducing high school civics classes as a possible solution to low participation rates during elections. Libraries were suggested as "connectors" between citizens and governments at all levels.

 
Chart colour Category Percentage Category
Total 221
  Digital Divide 6% 14
  Engagement Platform 11% 25
  Direct Participation 15% 34
  Civic Literacy 16% 35
  Open Government Promotion 19% 43
  Consultation Process 32% 70

Based on 221 comments received between April 24 and October 20, 2014.

"The Government should conduct a public awareness campaign on the value of Open Government."

Kitchener expert panel

"Conduct experiments in participation, to determine how to use the right exercise for the right purpose."

(Vancouver round table)

 

2. Governance and Resourcing (19% of comments)

"Levels of government should work together to integrate - share principals of collaboration for innovation. Feds should create a good client focused framework that everyone buys into."

(Toronto round table)

Collaboration among governments at all levels, academia, business, and civil society was viewed by consultation participants as essential for developing solutions to common problems. Furthermore, Canadians suggested strongly that the federal government take on a leadership role in facilitating multi-jurisdictional collaboration with respect to adopting open data standards and reducing duplication of effort across the country. The Canadian Geomatics Community Round Table was suggested several times as a sophisticated collaboration model worthy of exploration.

The requirement for adequate internal funding for open government was frequently raised during discussions. In particular, many participants felt that the Government of Canada's recently published Directive on Open Government would "require sustainable resources to support implementation if social and economic benefits are to be effectively realized by Canada."

The need for metrics and reporting around the success of open government was often discussed. One suggestion was to monitor Access to Information requests as an overall measure of openness. Another suggestion was to develop an open government value framework that would provide the basis for key performance indicators (KPIs). Other ideas included making a connection between open government metrics and the Government's Destination 2020 transformation agenda.

Finally, accountability was another frequent topic of governance discussions. Participants suggested that Open Government should become a formal responsibility of senior bureaucrats, such as departmental Chief Information Officers. This could be achieved by reflecting this responsibility in existing management measurement tools, such as the Performance Measurement Strategy Framework (PMF) and the Management Accountability Framework (MAF).

 
Chart colour Category Percentage Category
Total 159
  Accountable Individual 9% 15
  Performance Measurement 11% 18
  Funding for Departments 13% 20
  Multilateral Collaboration: Solutions 32% 51
  Multilateral Collaboration: Data Standards 35% 55

Based on 159 comments received between April 24 and October 20, 2014.

"Facilitate and create shared service/performance metrics for all levels of government."

(Vancouver round table)

"What if the federal government had a platform that could be shared with other governments? It would be great to see governments play together nicely."

Vancouver round table

 

3. Transparency (19% of comments)

"Allow federal employees and experts to express themselves openly and respond to questions."

Vancouver round table

The vast majority of comments relating to transparency were about the need for mandatory reporting requirements for extractive companies (oil, gas, and mining). This means reporting the payments made to governments to ensure accountability and facilitating the monitoring of corruption worldwide. Potential benefits of this course of action were highlighted, including the creation of stable operating environments for companies, transparency around the contributions extractive industries make to governments, and helping investors to better analyse and assess risk. This issue generated more than 150 very similar comments. Online participants repeatedly stated that there was an opportunity for Canada to set a global example given the high number of extractive companies headquartered here.

In addition to the Mandatory Reporting of Extractives issue, there was also interest in more visibility regarding the government procurement process, including making more data available on the development, awarding, execution, performance, and completion of public contracts. Furthermore, improving the user experience on government websites was mentioned a number of times as a means of enhancing transparency by making information easier to find and use.

Finally, several participants called for the establishment of a centralized public registry of the beneficial ownershipFootnote 1 for all companies operated, registered, and traded in Canada.

 
Chart colour Category Percentage Category
Total 202
  User Experience 4% 8
  Beneficial Ownership Transparency 7% 14
  Procurement Reform 7% 14
  Extractive Transparency 82% 166

Based on 202 comments received between April 24 and October 20, 2014.

"I support this idea - please include mandatory reporting in Canada's next OGP action plan!"

(Online, Anonymous)

"Build it from the outside in. In other words, from the end user point of view first."

(Ottawa round table)

 

4. Data Quality and Availability (12% of comments)

"It is essential to have an ongoing engagement between government departments responsible for data, and the innovators using that data"

Montreal Roundtable

Data quality and timeliness of data releases/updates were the source of some varied opinions among participants during the consultation. Some called on the Government to release more data, more often, regardless of quality. This would effectively put timely and relevant data in the hands of developers, who would sort out data quality issues if required. Others expressed concerns about the quality of data the Government was already releasing and noted issues on the frequent lack of adequate contextual information and an inconsistent approach to data collection and presentation for some datasets. During these discussions, some participants suggested that there could be a compromise between these two extremes. The Government should continue to release data quickly, but concentrate on data quality for popular datasets when issues are raised.

Furthermore, it was felt that raising data quality could be achieved through broader adoption of international standards, particularly for metadata, and open formats. Creating more Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to facilitate access to large datasets was also discussed several times.

These debates also led to discussions on how the Government could work with the community to prioritize the release of datasets. Participants offered their own suggestions on what data they would like to see published first, including postal code data (without personal identifiers), airport security, health care, procurement, and environmental assessments. The majority of sessions also saw a call for more longitudinal data, as had been previously collected through the long form census. A range of tools and options were suggested to help the Government make prioritization decisions in a more transparent manner. These suggestions included building consultation platforms, engaging with industry representatives, and holding more discussions with thematic communities of experts. A number of participants also pointed to examples in the United Kingdom and Ontario, where the Government released inventories of unpublished datasets and asked citizens to vote on which ones they would like to see released.

Another frequent request regarding open data was the desire to see a common platform for open data from all levels of government in Canada. Some participants suggested that municipal and provincial data be added to the federal open government portal while others called for a federated search and unified data catalogue for Canadian jurisdictions.

 
Chart colour Category Percentage Category
Total 94
  Data Quality and Delivery Standards 19% 18
  Specific Data 21% 20
  Data Platform 24% 23
  Prioritization 35% 33

Based on 94 comments received between April 24 and October 20, 2014.

"Improve data release incrementally, continuous improvement over getting it perfect the first time."

(Kitchener Expert Panel)

"Build everything as APIs so anyone can access and connect."

(Toronto round table)

 

5. Innovation and Data Literacy (11% of comments)

"Enabling new market opportunities - facilitating problem finding that leads to solutions."

Kitchener Expert Panel

Participants told us they want the Government of Canada to provide financial support and incentives for open data innovation. To this end, they would like to see an increased number of hackathons and other open data competitions – particularly events targeted at students and youth—to encourage innovation. Such competitions would foster positive social outcomes, and open up new opportunities to monetize open data.

"Provide support to organizations who want to analyze or present the data (grants, etc.)"

Online, Duncan Sanderson

They would also like to see the establishment of an innovation fund that civil society or entrepreneurs could access to explore the potential of open data. Some suggested that traditional procurement tools, such as requests for proposals, could be replaced with challenges that offer a cash reward as means of stimulating innovation.

At the same time, it was suggested that many Canadians lacked the skills and knowledge necessary to effectively find and understand—let alone reuse and manipulate—open data. These skills are essential to ensuring Canadians remain well-informed and economically competitive in a modern, technology-driven world. For this reason, every session generated a call for some form of national digital/data literacy effort. Participants also called for more outreach and communication to demonstrate the value of open data for Canadians.

Finally, there was often an expressed desire for the federal government to collaborate with business, particularly start-ups, on exploring the economic opportunities presented by open data.

 
Chart colour Category Percentage Category
Total 89
  Business Collaboration 10% 9
  Funding for Data Innovation 15% 13
  Open Data Promotion 16% 14
  Challenges & Hackathons 16% 14
  Digital Literacy 44% 39

Based on 89 comments received between April 24 and October 20, 2014.

"Create initiatives that bring open government into classrooms (high school and university) and allow students to learn about and manipulate data in a sustained way (e.g. develop apps and review them over the course of weeks or months)."

Montréal round table

 

6. Open and Agile Culture (10% of comments)

"Keep politics completely out of the picture. Less talk, more listening. Don't be afraid to fail."

Vancouver round table

Participants recognized the need for cultural change within government and were strongly in favour of the concept of "open by default" with respect to data and information. Cultural change was acknowledged as a long-term goal that might take a decade or more to achieve, requiring the breakdown of silos across government departments and an understanding that government no longer has the monopoly on solutions. Citizens can and should be viewed as partners in the problem-solving process.

Participants noted that truly effective dialogue between citizens and government would require more candid, real-time access to government employees and information. They expressed concern that the federal government had become reluctant to release even the most basic and uncontroversial information. Private sector organizations told us that lengthy approval processes for simple answers were untenable if they were going to rely on government data for their business.

Finally, online participants were strongly in favour of the Government of Canada adopting open source software and releasing government-created software under an open licence. They saw this as a practical benefit because when others can open and extend the software, more value can be extracted.

 
Chart colour Category Percentage Category
Total 75
  Partnership Culture 15% 11
  Open Public Servants 15% 11
  Open Source 25% 19
  Culture Change 45% 34

Based on 75 comments received between April 24 and October 20, 2014.

"Government needs to step away from dictating how problems are going to be solved, and engage the interested public in a conversation about the real problem."

Toronto round table

"Establish a clear Government of Canada (GC) position and strategy position for open source software."

Online, Anonymous

 

7. Stewardship (8% of comments)

"Remove the policy advice exceptions from the Access to Information Act. Reform, update and strengthen the Access to Information Act and system."

Civil Society Meeting, Centre for Law & Democracy

Access to Information (ATI) legislation was seen by most participants as central to the concept of open government and most sessions included suggestions regarding reducing the number of exemptions or improving response times to ATI requests.

Some participants were enthusiastic about the idea of a comprehensive virtual library of government publications, and suggested that it include all documents created by or for the Government of Canada. Others suggested that it be connected to municipal, provincial, and international libraries.

"Open government is not only about today. Yesterday is important for tomorrow. Access to archives needs to be maintained."

Victoria Expert Panel

Librarians in particular expressed a desire for the Government of Canada to commit to ensuring the long-term preservation of Canada's documentary and public policy heritage. A number of participants were concerned about a perceived loss of information that they feel has accompanied the Government of Canada website consolidation initiative (Transforming How Canadians Obtain Government Services and Information).

Participants were enthusiastic about the potential for open data and open information, but also recognized that privacy and intellectual property rights needed to be protected. Nonetheless they sometimes felt that data was held back unnecessarily because of a lack of clear guidance or poor understanding of the legislation by data curators.

 
Chart colour Category Percentage Category
Total 80
  Privacy 4% 3
  Preservation 15% 12
  Virtual Library 16% 13
  Reform/Modernize Access to Information 65% 52

Based on 80 comments received between April 24 and October 20, 2014.

"Open data needs to be part of library services."

Kitchener Expert Panel

 

5. Comments on Draft Action Plan

Overview

From October 9–20, 2014, Canada's Draft Action Plan on Open Government, containing 12 proposed activities, was made available for public comment. In addition, comments were collected via Twitter, LinkedIn, and emails.
Of the 870 comments received, 802 were identical and were the result of an organized campaign promoting legislative reform of the Access to Information Act and enhanced whistleblower protectionFootnote 2.

What We Heard

With the exclusion of the organized email campaign, the response to the draft Action Plan was generally supportive (59%) and provided constructive comments for further refinement and improvement of planned Action Plan activities.

Figure 13: Comments by Activity and Topic

Figure 13: Comments by Activity and Topic

Figure 13: Comments by Activity and Topic - text version
Topics and Activities Total
Total 68
Specific Data Request 1
Civil Society Collaboration 1
Whistleblower protection* 1
Consultation Process 1
Shared Services Canada 1
Open Contracting 1
Open Science 1
Culture Change 2
Digital Literacy 2
Open Data Core 2
Open Data Exchange (ODX) 3
Directive on Open Government 4
Beneficial Ownership Transparency 5
Next-Generation Consulting Canadians 5
Open Data Canada 5
Mandatory Reporting on Extractives 11
Open Information Core Commitment * 22
 

Based on 68 original comments received on the draft Action Plan, October 9– 20, 2014.

* The open information activity and whistleblower protection each received an additional 802 duplicate comments, which are not factored into the graph above.

Comment Summary

Activities and topics receiving at least 5% of total comments are further explored below:

1. Open Information Core Commitment (22 comments*)

Access to Information

Many participants were focused on Access to Information Act (ATIA) reform, calling for a number of changes:

  • ATIA should apply to all records created by any entity that receives significant funding from or is connected to the Government.
  • Responsibility should be assigned to individuals for the creation and maintenance of each record, and when not adhered to, severe penalties should apply.
  • Explicit powers should be afforded to the Information Commissioner, as well as provisions for increased funding and enforcement of the ATI system, including discretionary exemptions, and regular review of the ATI Act (every 5 years).

"Increasing the proactive disclosure of information is very important, and Canada is showing leadership on this issue. At the same time, the access to information law is the backbone of openness in any country and Canada's ATIA is sadly outdated and weak in comparison to other countries."

Centre for Law and Democracy

 
Virtual Library

Participants highlighted the need for broad, external consultations in the development of this activity to ensure long-term preservation and accessibility, and sufficient resources.

"The Virtual Library is promising, assuming that there is provision for long-term preservation of these publications."

Talia Chung

 

2. Mandatory Reporting on Extractives (11 comments)

Respondents were pleased that this commitment was included in the draft Action Plan, and suggested that the Government of Canada could go even further toward improving transparency in the extractives sector. For example, proposed legislation to establish mandatory reporting standards could stipulate that extractives data be disclosed in open, machine-readable formats based on a standard template with uniform definitions. Furthermore, data should be made available via a single, searchable repository.

"MiningWatch applauds the intention of Canada's draft Action Plan on Open Government 2.0 but it requires some improvements to fulfill its transparency mandate."

Catherine Coumans, MiningWatch Canada

 

3. Open Data Canada (5 comments)

Comments on Open Data Canada underscored that the Government's priority should be its role of data publisher, making ample data available quickly, while ensuring quality. As data publishers, municipal, provincial and federal governments should adhere to common data standards.

"We suggest that the federated open data search can be broadened beyond 'the provinces' to include at least larger municipalities that might wish to participate."

Roy Wiseman, MISA/ASIM Canada

 

4. Next-generation Consulting Canadians (5 comments)

Feedback on the "Consulting Canadians" activity noted that participation of civil society and the broader public is required as part of the development of principles and standards for public consultations. It was suggested that a number of different methodologies should be employed to ensure all Canadians have the opportunity to participate.

Comments also indicated that this commitment should include communication mechanisms to keep participants informed about specific consultations from beginning to end. This includes explaining how ideas will be measured, why frequently proposed ideas were successful and why others were not. It was also suggested that the importance of open government and why Canadians should care could be better expressed to help stimulate participation.

"With respect to 'Consulting with Canadians', the indicated measures to be undertaken within government would appear to be useful however, they only go part way to ensuring effective consultation…"

Michael Gurstein

 

5. Beneficial Ownership Transparency (5 comments)

Participants called on Canada to take a leading role on transparency of financial transactions through the inclusion of Beneficial Ownership Transparency.

"Beneficial ownership is a critical issue in the global fight against tax evasion and money laundering. Canada's Action Plan 2.0 should include a commitment to create a public registry of the beneficial owners of companies."

Claire Woodside

 

6. Lessons Learned

Figure 14: Edmonton Participants

Business people at round tables smiling.

 

All in-person participants were specifically asked to comment on what they liked and disliked about the process, and many offered suggestions for improvement:

Promotion and Communication:

  • More can be done to promote consultations and ensure a broad spectrum of participants, especially from civil society.
  • Integrating online and in-person activities would help to deepen the conversations over time.
  • We need to better communicate in-person consultation opportunities and be clearer on relevant opening and closing dates.
  • Changes to consultation timelines need to be communicated faster.

In-Person Sessions:

  • Interactive discussions are popular and productive.
  • Having fun is important for creativity.
  • Networking and community building is a natural side effect of bringing together diverse groups of people who care about different aspects of open government.
  • A half day is not long enough for substantive conversations about big topics with passionate people.
  • Distributing context material in advance is helpful.

Audience:

  • More effort needs to be made to reach underrepresented communities, such as senior citizens, Aboriginal groups, and youth.
  • A priority should be placed on understanding and reaching out to a broad spectrum of civil society in Canada.

"Thanks for a very valuable session!!"

Ottawa round table

 

7. Conclusion

The Government of Canada would like to thank the hundreds of passionate individuals and organizations who took the time to participate in our open government consultations over the last six months. We have learned a great deal, and have used that knowledge to strengthen the commitments in Canada's Action Plan on Open Government 2014–16.

At its core, open government is about engaging Canadians in how Canada is governed. It is about making openness, transparency, and collaboration the default in government. The passion and commitment of all participants has been inspirational, and we look forward to continuing this journey with you.

Appendix 1: Related Documents and Datasets

This report is part of a collection of materials that includes:

Appendix 2: Civil Society Detailed Submissions

Several civil society organizations prepared detailed submissions which are briefly described here along with links to the original documents.

Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD)

This 13-page document contains comments and suggestions on the consultation process and nine proposed activities for the Action Plan. The Centre's blog provides a summary of the report which is reproduced in part below:

CLD's Submission to Canada's Open Government Consultations points to problems with both the consultation process and the substantive commitments the Government is proposing to make. CLD's main criticism is that the Government is still refusing to amend Canada's sorely outdated Access to Information Act, despite universal recognition among users that the system is broken.

The CLD Submission also proposes several new ideas for inclusion in the Action Plan. These include the establishment of a registry of beneficial owners of Canadian companies, something which has already been included in the US Plan, mandatory disclosure of all public contracts over $5,000, allowing Canada's scientists and officials to speak freely with the public, adopting minimum standards for consultation, and a process of review and reform of the system for classifying documents.

The Submission also notes weaknesses in the consultation process around the new Action Plan, while recognizing that it has been much improved since the first consultation. A key problem has been confusion around the schedule and a failure to communicate the process clearly. In addition, the process has been unduly controlled, limiting the ability of participants to engage openly. Outreach efforts have also been limited, resulting in low levels of participation, particularly among civil society.

The complete text of the submission is available at the Centre's website.

Letter from the Information Commissioner of Canada

Suzanne Legault (the Information Commissioner), wrote to recommend that the Government commit to modernizing the Access to Information Act (Act). She noted that this crucial commitment is the one element that must be included in Canada's Action Plan on Open Government 2.0. The Commissioner's comments also suggested that undertaking an in-depth reform of the legislation would clearly demonstrate the Government's commitment to the right of access as a central piece of the open government initiative. The Commissioner concluded by saying "It is imperative for the Government to put the same energy and vision into access to information as it does for open data".

The complete text of the letter is available on the Open Information – Openness, Transparency, Accountability section of the Activities Discussion.

The Canadian Association of Journalists

The Association submitted a two-page letter along with a sample of the letter redacted to illustrate what they clearly feel are excessive exemptions under the Access to Information Act. The letter calls for Canada's Action Plan on Open Government 2.0 to make a commitment to modernize the country's Access to Information Act.

The letter suggests that the Government of Canada has had difficulty meeting its ongoing verbal and written commitments to increased openness and transparency. Specific recommendations include narrowing or eliminating the exemptions and exclusions in the Act, and including a commitment to allow public servants to freely speak to members of the media without interference or involvement from communications staff.

The Association's comment can be viewed on the Access to Information section of the Idea Dialogue. A copy of the letter can be viewed at the Association's website.

Proposed commitment drafted by Publish What You Pay -Canada

Publish What You Pay (PWYP) Canada prepared a draft commitment on mandatory reporting for extractive industries.

The draft commitment calls for the Government of Canada to implement and internationally champion a global standard of financial transparency and accountability in the extractive industries (oil, gas, and mining) in line with the principles in the G8 Open Data Charter, the Resource Revenue Transparency Working Group's recommendations, the E.U. Transparency and Accounting Directives, and Section 1504 of the Dodd Frank Act.

PWYP states that Canada plays a leading role in the oil, gas and mining sectors worldwide, and the draft commitment suggests that Canada should aim to be a world leader in implementing reporting for the extractive industries by applying the principles of open data as laid out in the G8 Open Data Charter (open by default; quality and quantity; usable by all; releasing data for improved governance; releasing data for innovation).

The draft commitment also recommends that the federal government support the strengthened Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) standard adopted in 2013, including requirements for project-level reporting and information about state-owned enterprises.

The complete text of the draft commitment can be found in a PDF Document on the PWYP website.

Civil Society Meetings

In addition to the written submissions, the Open Government Secretariat met with 50 representatives from 27 different civil society organizations (CSOs) in 8 separate meetings. Comments from these meetings have been integrated into the thematic analysis. For more information, please see the "What We Heard" consultation summaries.

Appendix 3: Who else should be involved?

The Idea Dialogue group worksheets asked participants to suggest organizations that they think should be involved in open government; they are listed here by sector with duplicates removed.

General

  • All areas of society
  • Students/youth

Academia

  • Academics and students at colleges and universities,
  • Monk School of Public Affairs

Business

  • Business Leaders
  • Software developers
  • Start-ups and small business groups
  • Software developers and users of data
  • Private sector experts in delivering IM e.g. Deloitte, OpenText

Government

  • All levels of government could work to share information and educate citizens first to allow for informed discussion
  • Provincial and municipal partners as service providers
  • Federal government employees
  • Government leaders
  • Partnering within and between jurisdictions

Non-Profit/Community

  • Non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
  • Civic engagement groups like Samara Canada that seek to improve civic education
  • Smart Communities - Intelligent Communities Forum
  • Associations like ARMA, AIIM
  • Civil society organizations
  • Libraries for open data - to build connections and bring people together
  • Leaders in open data projects
  • Technology groups
  • Open Data Saskatchewan
  • Open data groups
  • Quebec: Montréal Ouvert

Appendix 4: Methodology

A mix of in-person sessions and online discussion forums were used throughout this consultation.

In-Person Sessions

Four types of in-person sessions were held:

  • The Advisory Panel on Open Government met twice during the course of the consultations, where the discussion focused on Action Plan 2.0. Comments were collected from the meetings as part of data collection.
  • Expert Panels were frequently organized by host organizations, either at the request of the Government of Canada or on their own initiative. Attendance at these sessions was normally determined by the organizers and consisted of professional or civil society members, e.g. librarians, advocates, business incubators, or open data curators.
  • Public round tables were organized by the Government of Canada with the help of partnering organizations.
  • Civil society meetings took place with civil society organizations with an interest in open government. The format for these meetings was an informal information exchange.

A typical public round table or expert panel session:

  • The public round tables and expert panels followed a similar agenda, usually over two to two-and-a-half hours. The sessions began with a short presentation that included a plenary discussion on why participants thought open government was important.
  • The presentation was followed by a workshop, where participants worked together for 20-40 minutes to answer focus questions. They recorded their group answers on a worksheet and reported back to the room at the end of the table discussion.
  • A plenary discussion then ensured where participants could learn from each other and refine the ideas under discussion. Facilitators took notes which are reflected in the session summaries. The session would then conclude with a short wrap up and thank you.
  • Participants were asked if they wanted to join the mailing list for updates and to receive this report.
  • Every participant also had an individual comment sheet on which they were asked for suggestions and an evaluation of the session itself. A copy is included in the appendix.
  • Longer meetings included plenary discussions around a "bonus question" that varied depending upon the focus of the audience. See the appendix for a list of the questions. The answers to the questions were captured by note takers.
  • Figure 15: Dotmocracy results in Edmonton.

    six yellow sheets describing activities posted on the wall with blue dots indicating votes.

    The Activity Discussion meetings used a "Dotmocracy" exercise whereby the activity descriptions were posted on the wall and participants were provided with two stickers (dots), which they applied to the descriptions they wanted to discuss. The most popular activities were then used as the basis for table discussions.
 

Online

The primary vehicle for collecting ideas, comments and votes was the Open Government Portal, using a threaded forum with voting capabilities. The data collected includes:

  • Consultation Plan comments
  • Idea Dialogue Ideas and comments and votes
  • Activity Discussion comments and votes
  • Emails sent to open-ouvert@tbs-sct.gc.ca
  • Specific comments on twitter using the #OGAP2 hash tag
  • One comment via LinkedIn

Data Analysis

All the comments and suggestions from all sources were entered into a series of spreadsheets. Duplicate comments were removed, and then the ideas and comments were coded according to themes, activities, and sub-themes that emerged. These codes were then used to generate the charts and groupings in the report.

Two spikes in activity were recorded that were associated with campaigns organized by civil society groups to express support for Mandatory Reporting for Extractive Industries, reform of the Access to Information Act and enhanced Whistleblower protection. In both cases, the total number of unique user names or email addresses was used for the participant count, while identical comments were only counted once in the theme analysis.

Appendix 5: In-person Data Collection Forms

Individual Comments

The sector/group that I identify most with is:

  Academia   Business/Industry   Community/Non-Profit   Media   Municipal Public Service   Provincial/Territorial Public Service   Federal Public Service   Other:______________

Three words that describe why you are here today:

Open government is important to me because:

One Practical idea about how to make government more open might be:

One question I would like to see explored in public engagement sessions on open government is:

Ways I would like to participate in the open government initiative in the future is/are:

  On-line forums & surveys   Social media   In-person meetings focused on particular topics   Open public meetings   Workshops   Mailings   Other:______________

What did you …like most about the session?    …dislike most about the session?

How can we improve the open government consultation experience?

Overall, would you recommend a colleague to participate in this consultation session?

Rate from 1 (Not at all) to 10 (Definitely)

Other Comments:

Thank you!

Idea Dialogue Group Notes:

What do you think should be included in the Open Government Action Plan?

We are looking for Ideas that help Canadians from all walks of life, access and use data and information, or engage with government and influence decisions. Ideas can be big or small. The best ideas will be transformative in some way, usually by increasing transparency and efficiency. Innovation and collaboration are two other common attributes of good ideas. You might think about why open government is important to you, envision a better future, and then try and imagine what would need to happen to make that future a reality

Who else do you think can contribute to open government in Canada?

How do you see yourselves continuing to participate in the decisions that affect you and your community?

What is your group's # 1 Idea?

What idea generated the most debate?

Activity Discussion Group Notes:

Group Notes       Activity Name

Within two years the Government of Canada will…

What do you see as the ultimate goal for this proposed activity within a two year span?

What are three specific actions and milestones required to meet the goal of this activity?

  • Action 1:
  • Action 2:
  • Action 3:

How do you see yourselves continuing to participate in the implementation of this activity?

Who else should be involved in the implementation of this activity?

Other thoughts?

Bonus Questions

Idea Dialogue Bonus Questions

  • What can the Government of Canada do to improve citizen engagement across the country at all levels of government?
  • How can open government contribute to incubating a startup culture?
  • How can the Government of Canada best include the public in policy development?
  • How can open government make Canada's research and development ecosystem more efficient (e.g. increasing knowledge transfer and collaboration opportunities)?

Activity Discussion Bonus Questions

  • What can the Government of Canada do to facilitate collaboration across jurisdictions and sectors?
  • How can the Government of Canada better engage with the public and civil society on open government?

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