Spotlight on Open Government at the United Nations

September 22, 2017


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I’ve just returned from New York City and the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly. Every fall for 72 years, the UN’s now-193 member states have convened to seek solutions to the world’s most pressing problems. It’s an important opportunity for Canada to promote multilateralism and the rules-based international order, advance human rights, including gender equality, and champion diversity and inclusion.

While in New York, I had the honour of speaking to the Open Government Partnership Ministerial-Level Steering Committee Meeting about Canada’s leading role as an advocate for government openness, accountability and transparency. I also discussed ending violence and discrimination against LGBTI persons with the LGBTI Core Group.

These are both subjects close to my heart. They’re also fundamental to the success of modern nations. I heard repeatedly in New York how Canada’s leadership in promoting healthier, more credible public institutions serves as a model for how governments can stay in tune with the citizens they serve.

Open Government

I am also thrilled to say that Canada has agreed to take on a leadership role with the Open Government Partnership for the next two years. We’ll be the lead government chair of the OGP for 2018-19, while serving as supporting government chair for 2017-18. In my role as the President of the Treasury Board, I look forward to representing our country with enthusiasm, humility and great optimism.

Canada will bring three priorities to the table: participation, impact and inclusion. Participation is about strengthening the relevance of public engagement and civic participation to government decision-making. It’s also about making more government data and information available to citizens to enable innovation.

Our second priority is impact, or creating real change. To do this, we’ll publish targets for our work, measure the social and economic outcomes, and share our accomplishments and struggles so we can learn together.

But openness in government is about more than just data and information. It’s about inclusiveness. This means being open to different cultures and people, and to a diversity of views and new ways of thinking. It’s about empowering the people we serve, and particularly marginalized or under-represented groups, to positively engage with government.

Leadership in diversity, inclusion and gender parity

Inclusiveness is critical to the success of modern nations and governments. Governments need diverse views, experiences, backgrounds, orientations and ideas to find the best solutions to complex public policy problems. In short, we need to get the best from our entire population.

One way to do this is by working to end discrimination based on gender, race or sexual orientation. Making opportunity available to everyone is the message I delivered during the panel discussion on ending violence and discrimination against LGBTI persons.

I also affirmed Canada’s strong support for LGBTI rights internationally. We champion these rights in multilateral forums like the United Nations Human Rights Council, and will continue to do so in partnership with other governments and civil society organizations. These rights are far from universal; in some parts of the world, members of the LGBTI communities are rounded up and persecuted. In fact, Canada recently responded to just such evil by quietly rescuing some of our LGBTI brothers and sisters and giving them sanctuary in our country.

In Canada, we understand that we are stronger because of our differences, not in spite of them. As Prime Minister Trudeau said, “we cannot build a better world unless we work together, respect our differences, protect the vulnerable, and put people at the heart of the decisions we make.”

I anticipate a busy couple of years bringing Canada’s message of openness, opportunity, diversity and inclusion to the United Nations and the world, while working hard to give all Canadians the government they expect and deserve at home.

The Honourable Scott Brison is the President of the Treasury Board.

Minister Brison, the Member of Parliament for Kings–Hants (Nova Scotia), has been elected to Canada's House of Commons in seven general elections. He was a key spokesperson on economic issues and served as the Critic for Finance as well as Vice-Chair of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance.

He served as Minister of Public Works and Government Services, and Receiver General of Canada, and was the youngest member of Prime Minister Paul Martin's Cabinet. He also served on three Cabinet committees: Treasury Board, Domestic Affairs and Expenditure Review.

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