What We Heard: Summary report on open government consultations March 31 – July 15, 2016
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Table of Contents
- 1. How to read this report
- 2. Executive summary
- 3. Introduction
- 4. Consultations on Canada's Third Biennial Plan to the Open Government Partnership
- 5. Gathering and analyzing feedback
- 6. Outcomes
- A. Open data
- B. Open dialogue and policy
- C. Access to and preservation of information
- D. Leadership and collaboration across governments and stakeholders
- E. Culture of openness
- F. Open parliament
- G. Postal code data
- H. Data and civic literacy
- I. Open source and co-creation
- J. Other issues
- 7. Recommendations and best practices for future consultations
- Appendix A – Glossary
- Appendix B – Individual comment sheet (In-person workshop)
- Appendix C – Group discussion comment page
- Appendix D – Overview of consultation activities
- Appendix E – Detailed submissions
- Appendix F – Commitments in Canada's Third Biennial Plan to the Open Government Partnership
1. How to read this report
- For a quick summary of the results of our consultation and how the comments we received were incorporated into our Third Biennial Plan to the Open Government Partnership, read the Executive Summary below, section 2.
- For an overview of Canada's new approach to open government, see section 3: Introduction.
- To review the specific consultation activities undertaken to support the development of Canada's Third Biennial Plan to the Open Government Partnership, see section 4: Consultation on Canada's Third Biennial Plan to the Open Government Partnership.
- To get information on the methodology we used to track, review, and analyze your input, see section 5: Gathering and Analyzing Feedback.
- To read the largest part of this report, dedicated to key themes we heard during our consultations and the way we dealt with the comments and ideas we received in each of those themes, see section 6: Outcomes.
- Finally, to review our recommendations for how future open government consultations can be strengthened, see section 7: Recommendations for Future Consultations .
2. Executive summary
The Government of Canada is renewing its approach to open and transparent government. As part of that process, we asked you to help us set ambitious goals for what we could achieve in the coming months and years. To develop a new vision for open government, as well as Canada's Third Biennial Plan to the Open Government Partnership (2016-18), we consulted with Canadians and with stakeholders in civil society, business, academia, and other sectors. We wanted your ideas and feedback on how government can become more open, accountable, and transparent.
Over the course of three months, through a number of online and in-person channels, you spoke and we listened. You submitted ideas and comments to help shape the Government of Canada's commitments on open government, and we have done our best to ensure these are reflected in the Third Biennial Plan.
Based on our analysis of the input you provided, we found that the most popular ideas fell into the themes listed below; we have also listed the commitments that we have made as a result of your input.
A. Open data
You told us Government data should be open by default and easy to find and understand. Data should be made available in a timely manner and should reflect the interests and priorities of Canadians.
We incorporated this feedback into our commitment to Expand and Improve Open Data (commitment 3).
B. Open dialogue and policy
You told us that the Government of Canada should engage in open dialogue with Canadians, leveraging innovative technologies as well as community-focused, in-person events. Canadians should be able to be involved in all stages of government policy- and decision-making processes.
We reflected your comments in our commitment on Open Dialogue and Open Policy Making (commitment 20) and our commitment on Developing Open Government Skills in the Federal Public Service (commitment 6).
C. Access to and preservation of information
You told us Canadians have a right to access certain government information and should have effective systems that allow them to request this information. Government information should be open and carefully managed and preserved to ensure it can benefit all Canadians now and in future generations.
We reflected your feedback in our commitments to Enhance Access to Information (commitment 1), our commitment to Provide and Preserve Open Information (commitment 4), and our commitment to Develop Open Government Skills across the Federal Public Service (commitment 6).
D. Leadership and collaboration across governments and stakeholders
You told us that the Government of Canada should take leadership in supporting openness and transparency across Canada. Governments at all levels should work together to align standards and share best practices for open government. You also told us that the Government of Canada should collaborate with institutions inside and outside government, working in close partnership with stakeholders in civil society.
As part of our commitment to Engage Civil Society on Open Government (commitment 19), we are working to establish permanent dialogue mechanisms with civil society. Additionally, government departments are doing more to reach out to experts outside government and to enable a dialogue with the government's own experts, including through Statistics Canada's "Chat with an Expert" sessions. Your comments have also helped us to shape our commitments and priorities for Aligning Open Data across Canada (commitment 16).
E. Culture of openness
You told us that the Government of Canada should communicate more openly with Canadians and should measure government departments' progress in transitioning to a culture of 'open by default.'
We sought to incorporate your feedback through a number of commitments in our Plan including our commitments to Define an Approach for Measuring Open Government Performance (commitment 5), Develop Open Government Skills across the Federal Public Service (commitment 6), Expand and Improve Open Data (commitment 3), Open Dialogue and Open Policy Making (commitment 20), and Promote Open Government Globally (commitment 21).
F. Open parliament
You told us open government should not stop with the federal public service. Parliamentary openness should be an important pillar of open government.
We sought to recognize this important issue in the introduction to the Plan, where we mention some of the initiatives tied to parliamentary openness. The Plan itself is focused on what the federal public service can accomplish.
G. Postal code data
You told us Canadian postal code data should be made available under an open and unrestrictive licence.
In Canada, postal code data is owned by Canada Post, a Crown corporation that operates at arm's length from the federal government. It is expected to conduct its operations on a self-sustaining financial basis that does not rely on taxpayer funding. As such, Canada Post licences the uses of its postal code database products to businesses, which provides an important revenue stream for Canada Post, and helps to ensure the accuracy of information for delivery. Your comments have been shared with officials at Canada Post. Additionally, the Government of Canada is conducting an independent review of Canada Post to ensure Canadians receive quality postal services at a reasonable price.
H. Data and civic literacy
You told us Canadians should have the tools and knowledge they need to use open data effectively, and to understand how governments make decisions.
Although not linked to a specific commitment, the Government of Canada continues to develop and launch tools that allow users to effectively visualize and understand data (such as the Open Maps portal and TBS InfoBase). Taking the time to develop visualization tools that work for everyone is a Government of Canada requirement. We will continue to work with partners inside and outside government to promote data literacy as an important priority.
I. Open source and co-creation
You told us that the Government of Canada should seek to open up the source code underlying many of its programs and services and should collaborate with experts outside government to co-create data and solutions that will help government better serve Canadians.
All the comments we received on open source software have been analyzed as part of TBS consultations on the IT Strategic Plan 2016-2020. As part of this consultation, we will consider feedback on how software solutions, including open source, can be best leveraged to meet strategic objectives.
Some ideas and comments we received could not be included in the Plan because they were either beyond our scope at this time or may be better suited as part of other government efforts. We have tried to provide some explanation in this report as to why certain feedback we received is not reflected in the Plan. We will hold on to all these ideas and comments and will share them with partners within and beyond government who can assist us to make these ideas a reality. We will also use these comments to support the implementation of our commitments or to inform the development of future initiatives and commitments.
We would like to thank all of you who participated in our consultations and helped shape Canada's Third Biennial Plan to the Open Government Partnership. Your thoughtful insights have provided us with a solid foundation to advance open government over the coming years and we look forward to continuing to work with you to ensure the Government of Canada is open, accountable, and responsive to Canadians.
"Open government is important on a person to person level. When you see people's passion to work together and learn, to solve wicked problems – this is a different way to connect with people."
A new approach to open government
Openness and transparency are important priorities in the federal government's agenda. Through the November 2015 Ministerial Mandate Letters, the December 2015 Speech from the Throne, and the most recent federal Budget in March 2016, the Government has set ambitious goals for an open, transparent, and accountable government.
To deliver on this ambitious agenda, a dedicated team within the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS) developed an engagement plan to support open dialogue with citizens, parliamentarians, stakeholders, businesses, academics, media, entrepreneurs, and civil society organizations to better understand their needs and expectations. We also worked across government departments to identify and develop new or improved initiatives to promote openness and transparency and to enable the federal public service to transition to a culture of 'open by default'.
As part of our commitment to the Open Government Partnership (OGP) and to Canadians, we have developed the Third Biennial Plan to the Open Government Partnership (2016-18), which sets out many of the deliverables we will work to achieve over the next two years. The commitments in the Plan have been shaped by the input compiled in this report.
In the Plan, we have committed to making government and its information open by default and to ensuring Canadians have more opportunities to be heard in government decision-making processes. We have also committed to making government information and data easier to access, which includes revitalizing Canada's Access to Information Act.
This Plan is not an exhaustive list of all we will do to make government more open, but it is an important tool for reporting on our progress and making us accountable to Canadians for the results we achieve.
Overview: Canada's Third Biennial Plan to the Open Government Partnership (2016-18)
Canada's Third Biennial Plan to the Open Government Partnership was developed through consultation with Canadians, stakeholders, and government departments. We also reviewed best practices and commitments on open government from other countries; identified commitments from previous Plans which required ongoing effort (e.g. open science); and met with government departments to identify new and upcoming initiatives related to openness and transparency. These discussions and research allowed us to begin to shape some of the key themes that structure the Plan.
The Plan includes twenty-two commitments that are structured around four priority areas:
- Open by default: Canadians can easily access government data and information in open, standardized formats. Citizens have the tools and information they need to hold government to account, which builds trust in public institutions.
- Fiscal transparency: Government of Canada financial and budget information is available and easy to understand, allowing Canadians to track how their tax dollars are spent and understand how government fiscal decisions are made, and enabling Parliament to more easily review and approve government spending.
- Innovation, prosperity, and sustainable development: Government data and information can be used in innovative ways by Canadians to improve their lives, their businesses, and their country, and to create sustainable, inclusive social and economic progress worldwide.
- Engaging Canadians and the world: Canadians have the information they need to meaningfully interact with and participate in their democracy. They have the opportunity to make their voices heard on government policy and programs from the start. Canada demonstrates leadership by championing open government principles and initiatives around the world.
The commitments in the Plan cover a two year timeframe, from July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2018. Some commitments seek to further advance existing initiatives from previous Action Plans on Open Government. This new Plan also commits to a number of new projects and programs that will advance openness and transparency across the Government of Canada.
Over the course of the next two years, we will be reporting to Canadians on our progress in implementing the commitments in the Plan. In 2017 we will release a mid-term self-assessment report on our progress and we will publish a final self-assessment report once implementation of the Third Biennial Plan to the Open Government Partnership is complete. The OGP will also provide an independent review of our progress through its Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM). With each of these reports, we will consult with Canadians and stakeholders in civil society so that your views are reflected.
4. Consultations on Canada's Third Biennial Plan to the Open Government Partnership
To ensure that Canada's Third Biennial Plan to the Open Government Partnership meets the needs and expectations of Canadians and stakeholders in business, civil society, academia, and other sectors, we undertook a number of public consultation and engagement activities. These activities were conducted in two main phases: an idea generation phase and a consultation on the draft Plan. During these two phases we collected ideas, comments, and feedback through a number of different channels, both online and in person. As you will see below (Figure 1), we had almost equal participation levels through online comments and in-person workshop events.
Figure 1: Participants by Source - For online consultations, all comments and ideas from a single participant (identified by their screen name) were counted as one participant. Based on 535 participants from all sources March 31 – June 30, 2016.
Idea generation phase
This first phase of consultations took place from March 31 to May 15, 2016. We asked Canadians to give us their ideas on how open government should look in the coming months and years. Through open.canada.ca, we provided some guidance on themes participants could use to focus their comments (such as Open Information and Enabling Citizens). Online participants could then use a simple form on our website to submit ideas for commitments they would like to see in the Plan. Participants could also comment or vote on ideas submitted by others. In addition to using the website, participants were also invited to submit their feedback directly to us via our firstname.lastname@example.org email address, or by mail.
At the same time, we conducted in-person consultations to try to ensure we reached Canadians in their own communities. We held public, in-person workshops in six cities: Montréal, Ottawa, Toronto, Edmonton, Victoria, and Whitehorse. We also reached out to the open government community by participating in key events and promoting our consultations. TBS officials had the opportunity to discuss open government at the Canadian Open Dialogue Forum (Ottawa, March 31 - April 1), OKFestMTL (Montréal, April 12), the Canadian Open Data Summit (Saint John, April 27-28), and a roundtable with tech community leaders hosted by Canada's Open Data Exchange (ODX) (Kitchener-Waterloo, May 9). We listened closely to the people we met at these events and recorded notes and observations as part of consultation data. A full dataset of all comments received during consultations on Canada's Third Biennial Plan to the Open Government Partnership is available on our portal.
In addition to the online and in-person activities above, we leveraged social media and digital tools to reach out to a broader audience. On April 6, Minister Brison, along with key representatives of open government civil society, took part in a Google Hangout to discuss the Government of Canada's work and objectives on open dialogue and engagement. TBS, through its Twitter account @TBS_Canada, tweeted about consultation opportunities and events to encourage Canadians to make their voices heard on open government and invited Canadians to tweet using the #opengovcan hashtag to share their thoughts and create their own open dialogue.
The idea generation phase provided us with a significant amount of feedback on how the Government of Canada could become more open, accountable, and responsive to Canadians. We received 1,152 ideas and comments through in-person and online consultations, in addition to numerous tweets and emails.
Consultation on the draft plan
Throughout the initial idea generation phase, our team was hard at work collecting your feedback, comments, and ideas and shaping them into a first draft of Canada's Third Biennial Plan to the Open Government Partnership (2016-18). Once it was ready, we posted a draft Plan for public consultation (under the name Draft New Plan on Open Government 2016-2018) from June 16 to 30 for online comments. We were pleased that our consultation participants took the time to read through the Plan and offer thoughts on how it could be adjusted and strengthened. We received 233 comments during this phase, allowing us to go back to our partners across the Government of Canada and work with them to shape departmental plans for implementing their commitments and, in some cases, strengthen deliverables in the Plan.
Consultation participants – by the numbers
Throughout our consultations, we recorded the number and type of participants that engaged with us. Online participants had the option of providing a username to accompany their comments, but were also able to participate anonymously. We made this choice so that everyone could feel comfortable commenting. Likewise, we asked participants to sign up for in-person consultation events, but we did not verify participant identities.
Participants by the numbers
- Total number of identified participants: 535
- Total number of ideas, comments, and questions: 1,385
- Number of votes on ideas and comments cast online: 127
- Total page views: 12,782
For the in-person consultation events, we took the opportunity to ask participants what sector they represent. As you will see in the chart below (Figure 2), many of our participants actually came from inside government, including governments at the provincial, territorial, and municipal levels. There are both benefits and drawbacks to this large presence of government representatives: it may create the perception that the Government is only speaking to public servants themselves, at the expense of other stakeholders. However, we found that the workshops can provide a useful opportunity for public servants to hear from stakeholders about their concerns and expectations. Nonetheless, for our future in-person consultation efforts, we will seek to expand our audience and reach out beyond our usual networks in the open government community.
Figure 2: In-person participant breakdown – Based on information provided by the 160 participants that attended in-person workshops held between April 15 and May 12, 2016.
5. Gathering and analyzing feedback
Given all of the comments and ideas we received as part of the consultations and all of the various channels participants used to contact us, we tried to be as rigorous as possible in tracking and analyzing the input you provided to us. There are two key elements of our methodology that warrant a more detailed explanation:
Open government workshops
In-person workshops during the idea generation phase were designed to provide a forum for open dialogue that could surface new and innovative ideas that could be included in the Plan. The six workshops we held followed a consistent agenda, usually over two or two-and-a-half hours. The sessions began with a short presentation and a plenary discussion on why participants thought open government is important.
The presentation was followed by a workshop where participants worked together in small groups to answer focused questions. These included questions like "How can we work more effectively with Canadians to develop better solutions?" and "What issues facing Canada would benefit most from open collaboration between governments and people?" Participants discussed these focused questions for 20-40 minutes, recorded their answers on a group worksheet, and reported back to the room at the end of the table discussion.
We then held a plenary discussion where participants could learn from each other and discuss the ideas that had been raised. Facilitators took notes and the session concluded with a short wrap-up in which participants were thanked for their valuable input.Every participant also had an individual comment sheet where they were asked for suggestions and an evaluation of the session itself. Copies of the group discussion comment sheet and the individual comment sheet are included in Appendix B and Appendix C
We tracked everything we heard and every comment we received, regardless of whether it was said at a workshop, tweeted, emailed, or written online. Our team then worked to categorize each comment by theme. We looked at whether the comments would match up to a potential commitment that had already been identified (for example, a commitment on Access to Information or Open Data) or whether they represented a new potential area of work. Each comment was reviewed by at least three people to minimize personal bias and ensure the ideas were categorized consistently. We paid particular attention to ideas that had generated a lot of comments or votes as well as ideas that might not have been as popular, but had the potential to evolve into commitments that could make big improvements for Canadians.
Comments and ideas with the potential to contribute to concrete commitments in the Third Biennial Plan were analyzed to assess whether they aligned with the following criteria:
- Does the proposed activity support the Government's open and transparent mandate commitments, the Speech from the Throne, and/or Budget 2016? Does it relate to one or more of the OGP's Grand Challenges?
- Transformative impact:
- Is the activity ambitious, supporting change to the status quo? Does it help move the Government of Canada further along the open government scale?
- Does the activity improve efficiencies within the Government of Canada, among stakeholders, and/or between the government and stakeholders?
- Audience reach:
- Will the activity have a broad effect on a wide range of Canadians, including citizens, civil society, academia, and industry?
- Public support:
- Have Canadians indicated their support and interest in this activity through public consultations, civil society discussions, or through other means?
- Is the Government of Canada able to implement the activity within expected timeframes and within resource constraints?
The above analysis informed the development of the first draft of Canada's Third Biennial Plan to the Open Government Partnership, and allowed us to work with other Government of Canada departments to figure out how to respond to your needs and expectations. While we couldn't address all input we received, your feedback will continue to inform future work. We have distributed your comments and suggestions to departments and policy leads working in relevant areas and they will be used to guide the implementation of many commitments and to help us continue to work with partners inside and outside the federal government to develop new open government initiatives.
The comments and ideas we received are available here as an open dataset to support third party analysis and to ensure we are accountable for the results of our analysis. While we acknowledge our methodology is not as rigorous as that which would be used in a scientific context, we felt it was robust enough to accurately capture the views of engaged Canadians to provide the guidance we needed.
Based on the methodology outlined above, we developed a list of categories that received the most comments and ideas. These popular categories reflect some of the fundamental challenges and opportunities facing the open government community in Canada and around the world.
In this section, we will explain how your comments and ideas informed the development of our Plan. In some cases, you'll see that comments were incorporated into the Plan as specific commitments or deliverables. In other cases, specific comments we received were not explicitly reflected in the Plan, but may inform our work to implement our commitments. Some ideas were beyond our scope at this time or may be better suited as part of other government efforts. In those cases, we have tried to provide an explanation as to why your comments might not be reflected in the Plan, and what we will do to ensure the priorities you have raised inform our longer-term work to make the Government of Canada more open, transparent, and accountable.
If you provided an idea or a comment and you don't see it addressed in our Plan or in this What We Heard report, you are welcome to contact us at email@example.com and we can provide you with more detail on how we addressed your input and how it could shape our work as we move forward.
A. Open data
Comments received: 252
Make government data understandable to the average user
You told us that open data is an important tool for those who have the skills and tools to use it effectively. However, for many Canadians, it is difficult to understand or analyze raw data in a way that offers meaningful conclusions. You told us that you would like to see government provide more tools and contextual information to allow anyone to use open data effectively.
We have incorporated this feedback into our commitment to Expand and Improve Open Data (commitment 3). We have committed to provide access to high-quality, open data and information from Statistics Canada, which includes hosting online and in-person sessions to increase interaction between Canadians and Statistics Canada analysts and better understand published datasets.
We will also work to provide improved tools that allow you to better use open data to create visual products that provide a better understanding of the data. We have committed to expanding the new Open Maps tool, which allows you to take multiple geospatial datasets and layer them onto a single map so you can compare and contrast different types of data. We will also work to improve the TBS InfoBase tool – a searchable, online database of information on government finances and human resources – expanding the types of data, graphics, and analytics available.
Make data more easily searchable
You told us you want to be able to find the data you are looking for more easily which means making our own Government of Canada open data more centralized and searchable and providing integrated search solutions so you can access the data you need, regardless of which Canadian government holds it.
Searchability is an important aspect of open data and in our commitment to Expand and Improve Open Data (commitment 3), we have committed to develop and refine guidance to government departments on open data, including developing metadata standards to enhance data interoperability and discoverability. We will also work to improve our open.canada.ca site to ensure it provides a user-centric experience, allowing you to more easily find what you are looking for. More broadly, a consistent user experience is being established with Canada.ca to ensure greater access of data for Canadians.
"Make [data] Google-able, understanding that the data is there, you just need to search, then collecting those search terms and, using metadata, translating between government and [the] public."
Federated search – providing a "no wrong door" approach for accessing open data from the provincial, territorial and federal governments – is another important part of our Third Biennial Plan to the Open Government Partnership as per our commitment 16 to Align Open Data across Canada. See the section on Leadership and collaboration across governments and stakeholders for more on this. We will be working to pilot a similar initiative focused specifically on open information regarding corporations in Canada (commitment 12: Improve Public Information on Canadian Corporations).
Release more, high-value data based on input from Canadians on prioritization. Make data open by default!
You told us you want the Government of Canada to focus on releasing datasets that would provide significant value to Canadians and to work with Canadians to prioritize data for release. You want to have a voice in deciding what data should be opened up sooner. In the longer term, you want government data to be open by default, so that the datasets we create and maintain are made open and available to Canadians as a regular part of Government operations.
Making government data open by default is a major aspect of our work on open government. As we indicate in our commitment to Expand and Improve Open Data (commitment 3), we will be publishing inventories of all Government of Canada departmental data holdings. These will help to give Canadians a better idea of what data is currently held by government and will help departments to engage with citizens to ensure they have a say in the prioritization of data for release.
We have committed to working with our partners in governments across Canada to develop a list of high-value, priority datasets for release. This kind of list can push governments to be more consistent about the data they open up, making it easier for Canadians to compare data across different jurisdictions. Additionally, we are also committing to publish departmental targets for the release of open data, which will help you hold us accountable for whether or not data has been opened up in a timely manner.
We are committing to provide access to high-quality, open statistical data and information from Statistics Canada, which should provide Canadians with data on some of the issues that affect them on a day-to-day basis.
Finally, it's also important to note that there are already ways you can help us prioritize data for immediate release. Through open.canada.ca's "Suggest a Dataset" feature, you can suggest the type of data you would like to see opened up on our portal and you can vote for datasets suggested by others. We use the feedback you provide through this tool to support departments as they prioritize data for release.
Release data in real time (or as close as possible)
You told us you want Government of Canada data that is timely and relevant. Historical data can allow for interesting analysis, but for real accountability, data must be up to date and reflect the most recent facts.
Timeliness of data can certainly be an issue for governments. Since open data is still a relatively new reality, departments may not have specific data publishing processes in place, which can lead to burdensome approval processes before data can be published.
There is good reason for such approval processes – governments must also safeguard protected information – we have important responsibilities with regard to security, privacy, and confidentiality. The push to release more timely data can conflict with the desire to be prudent about the data we release, ensuring it would not cause undue harm to individual Canadians or to our collective security. We also want to ensure the accessibility of information for persons with disabilities, and to respect official languages.
We feel that the best way to ensure government data is released in a timely and effective manner is to establish clear, consistent open data policies and practices, taking any ambiguity out of the publishing process. We have committed to provide guidance to departments (for example, on anonymization) to ensure that appropriate processes are in place that will help to standardize data publication, making it easier and faster.
We have also committed to adopt the international Open Data Charter, which includes a principle mandating that data should be timely and comprehensive. We will work with our partners in the Charter initiative to ensure we have the tools and resources to support departments in releasing data that is timely and comprehensive.
There is no doubt that the acceleration of the release of open data will remain a challenge into the future. We would welcome your ideas on how we can make more, higher-quality data available to Canadians in a timely manner.
B. Open dialogue and policy
Comments received: 194
Focus on what citizens and communities want to talk about
"What about people that can't access consultations? Who can't reply online to a survey? There's inequality in that."
"Even though online consultations have a strong risk of missing people, they have an ability to scale that in-person workshops can't achieve."
You told us that you were pleased to participate in consultations on open government and that the Government of Canada should also conduct consultations on subjects of interest to your community.
This included a desire to be engaged on key social issues, such as the environment, job creation, and poverty. You also told us that public engagement should reflect how Canadians want to be engaged so that we reach Canadians and their communities in an effective, efficient and meaningful way.
We have tried to reflect these comments in our commitment on Open Dialogue and Open Policy Making (commitment 20). We have committed to promoting common practices and approaches for open dialogue across the Government of Canada to foster better consultations and engagement with Canadians, and to ensure there is a more direct connection between the input we receive and the policies and solutions we end up implementing. We will share best practices and lessons learned from consultation activities undertaken by government departments.
It is also important to ensure that Government of Canada departments are not only designing consultations based on their own requirements, but on the needs and expectations of the Canadians they want to hear from. This could include, for example, engaging with Canadians to understand what subjects they would like to provide feedback on, or providing the opportunity for Canadians to comment on consultations as they are being developed. We will support departments that engage with Canadians to understand how Canadians want to be consulted, and what policies or issues they want to discuss.
We recognize the importance of providing multiple tools and approaches during consultations. We have tried to accomplish this as part of our consultations on the Third Biennial Plan to the Open Government Partnership by providing both online and in-person options for participation. We used social media and other digital tools to reach as wide an audience as possible while continuing to connect with Canadians in their own communities. We will continue to work across the Government of Canada to adopt innovative in-person and online consultation tools and approaches.
Provide a better platform for engagement, particularly online
You told us you would like the Government of Canada to use improved, interactive online tools and platforms to support consultations. You also told us you would like participants to have a consistent consultation experience, with government departments using a common consultation platform that provides dynamic content and multiple channels for engagement.
We recognize the value of providing a consistent experience for consultation participants, while working to identify innovative ways to design consultations that are responsive to Canadians.
Through our commitment on Developing Open Government Skills in the Federal Public Service (commitment 6), we will ensure public servants have opportunities to build their capacity to use open dialogue to support decision-making. Through our commitment on Open Dialogue and Open Policy Making (commitment 20) we are supporting and promoting the use of new approaches to promote more meaningful engagement.
Support more meaningful dialogue by providing Canadians the information they need, as well as access to government experts
You told us you want to have the information and knowledge you need to engage with government in an informed and meaningful way. You told us you want to have background information or context documents you can react to, so that you can provide more focused, specific input.
In recent consultations, such as those noted above, some informational documents have been provided to start discussions on online forums. As mentioned earlier in this report, our team was pleased to see the detailed, thoughtful, useful comments that came after we posted the draft Plan for review, reinforcing our belief that it is worth investing time and effort to build and share knowledge among our stakeholders, supporting better-informed consultation processes.
We will use your comments on informed consultations to guide our implementation of our commitment on Open Dialogue and Open Policy Making (commitment 20). We will continue to refine our own open government consultation practices to ensure you have the information and knowledge you need to tell us about your expectations for openness and transparency. We will also work with departments to support common practices for open dialogue, including providing information to participants to allow them to engage more meaningfully with government.
Learn more about our deliverables: Statistics Canada – Chat with an expert
The Government of Canada's open data initiative is a crucial step in publishing the information that is important to Canada's social and economic well-being. People need good data and an understanding of how datasets were collected to build a business, conduct research, or make policy decisions.
Statistics Canada's Chat with an Expert sessions build on the Open Data initiative by providing data users and government data curators with an opportunity to participate in a discussion with the experts who actually compile, analyze, and disseminate the information. Through this online chat platform, data users are able to ask questions and get additional explanations about datasets that have recently been published. It's a great opportunity to gain insight into open data.
These chat sessions are also a good tool for Statistics Canada to engage with Canadians on a given topic, as well as receive direct feedback on the publications and reports that the agency produces. This dialogue can help ensure that government data continues to meet the expectations and needs of all users.
C. Access to and preservation of information
Comments received: 104
Enhance the Access to Information Act
We received a number of comments on Canada's Access to Information (ATI) regime. Broadly speaking, we heard that people are enthusiastic about including ATI enhancements as a key priority for open government in Canada. You told us you want to ensure changes to the Access to Information Act are closely aligned to the broader Government of Canada commitment to being open by default, making government information as open as possible, whether on a proactive basis or in response to ATI requests.
From March 31 to June 30, the Government of Canada sought input from Canadians on proposals to improve the Access to Information Act. A separate report has been published offering an overview of input received during that consultation. We will continue to work towards greater openness and transparency as we move forward to revitalize access to information.
Make government information open by default
You told us that openness and transparency need to be built into the way government works. You expect that all government information that is not subject to privacy, security, or confidentiality concerns should be made open by default, published for all Canadians to access and reuse under an open and unrestrictive licence.
Open by Default is one of the four key themes that structures our Plan. While this is a long-term goal, a lot of work will need to happen to get us to the point of being open by default.
Open by default is the lens through which we crafted our commitment to Provide and Preserve Open Information (commitment 4). We have specifically committed to enhance the Open Information Portal on open.canada.ca to improve access to digital publications made available by the Government of Canada. We are currently testing search capabilities of the future portal through the first of multiple phases, consisting of the consolidation of the electronic publications provided by Government of Canada Publications and Library and Archives Canada. Investing in a solution to effectively manage records and documents is another way to set the stage for being open by default.
You also told us we need to be clearer about the scope of open information. What types of information will and won't be included? How do we define what information is most valuable, especially where the value to governments and the value to citizens might differ? We will consider this feedback as we implement our commitment to Develop Open Government Skills across the Federal Public Service (commitment 6), providing government departments with the resources and learning opportunities to help them understand how to make their information more open for the benefit of all Canadians.
Retain government information that is important to Canadians
"The government of Canada should develop and publicize a clear policy on the preservation of digital material."
You told us you want the government to publish clear guidelines on the preservation and retention of digital content. We recognize that it's important not to hold onto information that has no continuing value, since archiving unneeded content can cause digital infrastructure challenges. You told us governments must also be careful not to lose older information that may still be valuable to Canadians if it supports accountability or longitudinal studies, or if it is of historical significance.
Keeping this input in mind, we've committed specifically to develop and publish clear guidelines on the preservation and retention of digital content (see commitment 4: Provide and Preserve Open Information).
Develop strong information management practices and information inventories
You want government departments to have access to effective, common tools that support retention and categorization of the information they create. Comprehensive inventories are needed to support good information management and to allow both Canadians and public servants to better understand the information held by government so it can be prioritized for release.
Your comments have reinforced our commitment to ensuring departments have effective information management tools at their disposal. We have committed to expand the government-wide information technology (IT) solution for managing federal records and documents (a system called GCDOCS). Additionally, departments are expected to soon begin the work of providing a public inventory of all their information holdings. We are also reviewing the Government of Canada's suite of information management policy tools to ensure they foster better information management practices across all departments.
D. Leadership and collaboration across governments and stakeholders
Comments received: 128
The idea of cross-sectoral collaboration ran through a number of the comments and ideas we received. You told us you want the government of Canada to provide leadership and collaborate closely with a number of key partners in open government. These include governments at all levels across Canada, as well as stakeholders in academia, civil society, and the private sector.
Include municipalities in open government and provide open government tools to small local governments
Municipal governments are often the first point of contact between citizens and their public institutions. Municipalities often have data on programs and services that impact the daily lives of Canadians and they must be key partners in open government efforts across Canada. You told us that the federal government should play a leading role to support open government at the local level.
Open government poses particular challenges for local governments. Municipalities often have different policies for tracking, preserving, and publishing data, which means the same kind of data may not be available across multiple cities, even within the same region. Likewise, municipalities often lack the financial and human resources that can be required to support robust openness and transparency initiatives.
Municipal governments are recognized as important partners in our commitment to Align Open Data across Canada (commitment 16). We recognize that there is scope to collaborate more actively with local governments as we design and implement open government initiatives. We will ensure that the feedback you have provided is taken into account as we implement our Open Data Canada commitment and we will seek to increase engagement with government and non-government organizations focusing on open data at the local level including, for example, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities.
Increase standardization of data across Canada
You told us that open data is most valuable when it can be analyzed and compared over time and across geographic locations. This kind of comparison is made possible when datasets are created and published using clear, consistent open data standards.
Data standardization poses a particular challenge in Canada's federal system where many high-value data types (education, health, etc.) belong to the provinces and territories, which each have their own systems and practices. Your comments have helped us to shape our commitments and priorities for Aligning Open Data across Canada (commitment 16). We will continue to work toward adopting common open principles across Canada (consistent with the Open Data Charter). We have also committed to working with provincial, territorial, and municipal partners to develop a common list of high-value, priority datasets for release. While it is not mentioned specifically in our Plan, we will continue to work through existing intergovernmental working groups and communities of practice to support increased data standardization.
"We need [the] federal government to help connect at provincial and local levels as well. We need online civic engagement to be a new way for everyone to help make all of our governments better. Currently we have silo thinking at each level of government."
Allow Canadians to search data from multiple governments via a single portal
You told us you wanted to be able to search data across multiple governments without having to consult multiple data portals. In Canada's last Action Plan on Open Government (2014-2016) we committed to piloting integrated search capability, known as federated search, to allow Canadians to search data from multiple governments through our open.canada.ca portal. This could allow users, for example, to go to open.canada.ca and enter a simple search term like "climate change" and find relevant data from not only the federal government, but also from other governments across Canada. Unfortunately, we were not able to launch this pilot in our original timeframes, but we recognize that federated search is still a priority for Canadians. We are re-committing to piloting a federated search service as part of Canada's Third Biennial Plan to the Open Government Partnership, and we will be working closely with provincial and territorial partners to make it happen. In the future, we hope to work with municipalities as well to federate data search at the local level. For an example of what this could look like, see the common search portal developed by the Government of Québec in collaboration with five municipalities in that province: https://www.donneesquebec.ca/fr/ (site available in French only).
Take leadership at the federal level, pushing provincial, territorial, and municipal governments to go further on open government
You told us that the role of the federal government is not only to work with provinces and territories that are already well advanced in the domain of open government. You would also like to see the federal government providing leadership to governments that have not yet created official open government or open data initiatives.
We will continue to work to raise awareness of the importance of openness and transparency for all governments. We recognize other Canadian leaders in open government – for example, the Government of Ontario has been chosen as one of 15 subnational governments worldwide to participate in a pilot project with the OGP, and the City of Edmonton was recently recognized as Canada's most open city in Public Sector Digest's Open Cities Index 2015.
Engage with Indigenous Communities
Some of our key stakeholders told us they were disappointed that our draft Plan did not recognize the important role Indigenous communities should play in the open government movement in Canada. Canadians need to feel that the personal information they provide to government is used appropriately and judiciously, and this is of particular importance to Indigenous communities.
We made some adjustments to our draft Plan to reflect the important, nation-to-nation relationship that governs our understanding of open data, information, and dialogue as it relates to Indigenous peoples, and to ensure the rights and needs of Indigenous communities are considered when designing open government initiatives.
Engage with partners outside government
You told us that the Government of Canada should look beyond governments themselves for potential partners and collaborators.
We heard, for example, about the enormous potential for collaboration between government and schools, libraries, academics, and civil society. Schools and libraries generally fall under provincial jurisdiction; however, as part of our commitment to work with partners in other levels of government we will seek potential collaborations with a variety of institutions, including through co-hosting public consultation events on best practices for open data and information.
We recognize we could do more to increase the Government of Canada's collaboration with experts and stakeholders outside government. We have already started to increase our engagement with the open government community by participating actively in events like the Canadian Open Dialogue Forum and the Canadian Open Data Summit. Likewise, government departments are seeking to do more to reach out to experts outside government and to enable a dialogue with the government's own experts, including through Statistics Canada's "Chat with an Expert" sessions.
As part of our commitment to Engage Civil Society on Open Government (commitment 19), we are working to establish a permanent dialogue mechanism to ensure civil society can have a stronger role in the development and implementation of our open government plans. We would like to recognize the leadership of a group of civil society champions who have come together to form Canada's Open Government Civil Society Network (the Network). This Network was launched in March 2016 and we have been in touch with its interim steering committee members to open up a dialogue about how we can best include their voices in the development of future open government initiatives.
Learn more about our deliverables: Canada's Open Data 150
The Govlab at New York University launched the "Open Data 500" project to study U.S. businesses that use open government data to generate new business and develop new products and services. Canada's Open Data 150 will build on that model by extending it to Canada and surveying companies here to understand their use of open data.
Our hope is that the data collected for Open Data 150 can help to increase the number of open data companies in Canada, improve access to open data, explore new business models, and build the Canadian open data community.
E. Culture of openness
Comments received: 114
Make departments accountable for opening up more information and being open by default
Canadians recognize that government and its information belongs to them and should be open by default. Some of you told us you want to see more government information made open and available as quickly as possible. Others want government to provide useful information, packaged in a way that is easy to understand and use effectively. The tension between these two goals (any information fast vs. good quality information, when it's ready) is at the heart of our work on open government and open information.
"We want to be the judge of openness. For us, 'open by default' means feeling that our input can be easily heard, and that we could easily and effectively communicate with individual public servants about the data they work on or publish."
We have a number of commitments in our Plan that seek to ensure Canadians can have a say in prioritizing information for release, and that departments have the tools they need to support prioritization as well. Specifically, as part of our commitment to Expand and Improve Open Data (commitment 3), we will develop guidance to help federal departments and agencies set priorities for the release of high-value open data. We have also committed to develop learning opportunities and materials to help departments set priorities for the release of open data and information based on potential public impact and benefit. Finally, we have committed to develop performance indicators on openness and transparency, and to measure and report publicly on departmental progress (commitment 5: Define an Approach for Measuring Open Government Performance). These commitments, among others, will allow us to better meet your needs and expectations when it comes to releasing of open information that is timely, high-quality, and useful.
Move away from culture of secrecy
You told us that you want the Government of Canada to move away from a perceived culture of secrecy. You would like to see public servants take intelligent risks and be more open to sharing information between departments and with external stakeholders. In the spirit of 'open by default', you told us you would like departments to focus on the potential benefits of open information rather than only focusing on the potential risks.
Public servants have a duty to protect sensitive information. We want to ensure our actions would not breach security or reveal Canadians' personal information. We also want to ensure the information being provided is accurate and complete. Openness also requires clarity about what the real risks are – when the release of information could be damaging to privacy or security. Being open means integrating these considerations into our process in a more effective way.
We have sought to incorporate your feedback into our commitment to Develop Open Government Skills across the Federal Public Service (commitment 6). We will work with departments to make sure public servants understand the benefits of open government, including how open data and open information can inform policy- and decision-making, and how to ensure sensitive information is protected through processes that facilitate determining whether information may be disclosed or not.
We have specifically committed to provide government departments with guidance on managing the risks associated with openness, including, for example, guidance on anonymizing datasets (commitment 3: Expand and Improve Open Data).
Being open also means recognizing that errors are sometimes made, and working in constructive ways to solve the problems open data and information may identify.
A culture change of the kind described above will require a change in our way of doing business and our way of thinking about our work. We will also strive to promote open government principles globally to ensure there is a strong international community pushing for similar culture changes around the world, and holding Canada accountable as a leader in open government (commitment 21: Promote Open Government Globally).
Open up communications between public servants and the public
You told us you would like public servants to be more open to speaking factually with Canadians about the work we do. You recognized that this requires support from all parts of the federal public service.
Open communication and open dialogue are important parts of the government's commitments to raising the bar on openness and transparency. We believe that Government information should be available to the public, and that subject-matter experts should be able to speak publicly on their own areas of expertise. In May 2016, the Government of Canada launched its new Policy on Communications and Federal Identity. The new Policy, supported by the new Directive on the Management of Communications, modernizes Government of Canada communications practices to be in line with today's digital environment. It also provides clearer and simplified guidance to officials on the conduct of government communications activities.
Your comments will also be consulted as we develop Open Government Skills across the Federal Public Service (commitment 6) and we will consider including more specific commitments on open communication with Canadians in future open government policy. Here in the Open Government team at TBS, we will continue to strive to communicate openly with everyone who contacts us and to provide you with the information you're looking for in a timely manner.
Collaborate to solve problems
You told us that you want to be able to work with government. You don't only want to provide feedback on proposed ideas, policies, or solutions; you also want to help identify and solve problems facing your community and country.
We have reflected these comments in our commitment on Open Dialogue and Open Policy Making (commitment 20). We can do more to ensure Canadians are involved throughout the policy development process, including identifying and defining problems we face together as a nation. We will work together to implement more innovative participatory approaches, such as co-creation models.
Themes beyond the scope of the plan at this time
F. Open parliament
Comments received: 64
We know that open government goes beyond open data and open information. As the open government community has grown over the last few years, so has the scope of the movement itself so that it increasingly includes concepts like anti-corruption and digital services. One growing focus of the open government movement is democratic accountability and open parliaments.
"I believe Canada can be a world leader in Open Data and Open Government, by endorsing Parliamentary Openness we can truly be at the forefront of realizing a living breathing informed and empowered participatory democracy."
We heard that you would like Canada to be a leader in parliamentary openness, building this theme into our broader open government initiative. While the Plan itself is focused on what the federal public service can accomplish, open parliament initiatives are a major part of the government's mandate commitments on openness and transparency. See, for example, the commitment to expand the Access to Information Act to apply appropriately to parliamentary institutions.
G. Postal code data
Comments received: 51
"+1000 Releasing postal code data is a low-hanging but vital way that #Canada could be more open, today. #OpenGovCan"
You told us that you want Canada Post to make its dataset of Canadian postal codes available as open data. This is not the first time we have heard from some of you about this issue. The postal code dataset is also our most popular suggested dataset on open.canada.ca, and open postal code data is something that was raised during consultations on our previous Action Plan (2014-2016).
Many of the comments we received argued that postal code data provides significant potential benefit to academics, businesses, and civil society organizations. Geolocation data is recognized worldwide as high-value data. Some indicators, such as the Open Knowledge Foundation's Open Data Index, consider postal codes to be an essential element of geolocation data.
In Canada, postal code data is owned by Canada Post, a Crown corporation. While businesses seeking to profit from the use of postal code data are required to pay licensing fees, Canada Post data is available to the general public through a variety of address data and service offerings online (for example, the 'Find a Postal Code' application on Canada Post's website allows users to enter an address and determine a postal code for the given address).
As a Crown corporation, Canada Post operates at arm's length from the federal government and is expected to conduct its operations on a self-sustaining financial basis that does not rely on taxpayer funding. For an annual fee, Canada Post licences the uses of its postal code database products to interested businesses for use under specific terms and conditions. The licensing of postal code data is an important revenue stream for Canada Post, and helps to ensure the accuracy of information for delivery.
We have passed the comments we received in the course of this consultation along to officials at Canada Post, and we will continue to engage with them to ensure we work together to meet Canadians' expectations for both open government and high-quality, reliable postal services.
As noted above, the Government of Canada is conducting an independent review of Canada Post to ensure Canadians receive quality postal services at a reasonable price.
Themes that may be considered a part of other government efforts
H. Data and civic literacy
Comments received: 91
Data literacy – Provide Canadians tools and education they need to use open data effectively
Data literacy is an issue that was raised in consultations on previous Open Government Action Plans and was raised again this year. You told us that data literacy is a very important challenge for Canadians and for government, and that value of open data can only truly be unlocked when people have the tools they need to understand and reuse it effectively.
"Understanding raw data is not for everyone; let people contribute visualisation, and be open to new means to "translate" the raw data into meaningful information for everyone."
You told us you want to see data literacy included in school curricula as a way to engage a new generation of open data users. Changes to school curricula would generally be outside the scope of our Plan as it would fall under provincial responsibility; however, we support skills development in other ways. The Government of Canada continues to develop and launch tools that allow users to effectively visualize and understand data. These tools include things like the Open Maps portal and TBS InfoBase. One challenge we face in government is that many visualization tools do not provide a friendly experience for visually impaired users, which is a requirement for Government of Canada web content. We want everybody to be able to experience open data, and so we have to take the time to develop tools that work for everyone.
We will continue to work with partners inside and outside government to promote data literacy as an important priority. With departments, we will work to encourage not only the release of raw data, but also the development of tools to understand that data.
Civic literacy – Educate Canadians on the value of open government
You told us you want to be able to understand the value of open government: what efficiencies has it created? What problems has it solved? What difference has it made in the day-to-day lives of Canadians? You would also like government to provide more information on the benefits we have achieved so far and the potential positive impacts openness and transparency might have in future.
We believe open government has enormous potential when it is used to shape and inform government policies and services. We will aim to publicly demonstrate the value of open government through annual, public reporting on government departments' progress in implementing openness and transparency initiatives (commitment 5: Define an Approach for Measuring Open Government Performance).
We will also continue to work to provide good examples of innovative, public reuse of open government data and information. We will do this in a number of ways, including through the apps gallery on open.canada.ca, through our participation in Canadian and international events, and in blog posts highlighting initiatives we have learned about. For future open government plans, we will consider including more specific commitments on demonstrating the value of open government initiatives.
Learn more about our deliverables: TBS InfoBase
Infobase is a searchable, online database of information on government finances and human resources. You can use InfoBase to explore Government of Canada operations data by organization, type, year, and more, presented in interactive charts and graphs to make it easier to make comparisons or see trends over time.
The future for Infobase is to make the data more granular and more tailored to individual users' interests. We want this tool to be as relevant and useful for Canadians as possible so you can easily understand how government operates.
I. Open source and co-creation
Comments received: 48
Open up government-developed source code and leverage open source software solutions
"Governments can and should continue to use software where the intellectual property is either owned by a corporation, or that which is explicitly open. However, any government interested in an open agenda, saving money, and encouraging innovation really needs to give a priority to open-source tools and approaches. This doesn't mean that if the right proprietary tool comes in that it isn't worth trading off some freedoms, but it should be a conscious choice."
Some of you told us you would like to see the Government of Canada reflect the principles of open government in its own information technology policies. You told us you would like government departments to increasingly leverage and contribute to open source software solutions. When departments develop code to support government services or programs, you would like them to open up that underlying code.
The Government of Canada does not have a specific policy that promotes either open source or commercial software. Departments are encouraged to use the solution that is right for them, and meets their information technology (IT) needs. Many departments currently use open source solutions and also contribute to open source initiatives. This includes our own open government portal at open.canada.ca, which is built on open source platforms, CKAN and Drupal.
There is potential benefit to opening up source code, as it allows the public to suggest changes that could strengthen code, and to re-use the code. Costing, implementing, supporting, and maintaining IT projects over their full lifecycle is challenging work. As a recent departmental initiative example, Shared Services Canada (SSC) has been working with Government of Canada departments and stakeholders in the software industry to support the development of an SSC Open Source Strategy, which will provide guidance to SSC employees regarding open source software adoption and explore the option of distributing in-house software under an open source licence.
All the comments we received on open source software have been analyzed as part of TBS consultations on the IT Strategic Plan 2016-2020. As part of this consultation, we will consider feedback on how software solutions, including open source, can be best leveraged to meet strategic objectives.
Co-creation of data
You told us that you want the Government of Canada to work closely with individual Canadians, businesses, civil society organizations, and academics to explore the co-creation of datasets. Data co-creation would allow the Government to work with Canadians to identify and collect data that could be of high value to them. For example, the Ottawa Riverkeeper organization allows local residents to sign up to be Riverwatchers, who record data and information on aquatic phenomena and environmental concerns. This information is then available via an app. Riverwatchers have already met with officials from Environment and Climate Change Canada to hear about how Government of Canada practices can support their own data collection.
Co-creation of datasets is still a fairly new idea for the Government of Canada, as our focus so far has been on releasing datasets that already exist or are being created on a regular basis. This idea will be explored during the coming months to understand what possibilities might exist for building dataset co-creation into the current work of government departments.
J. Other issues
The categories above capture a significant portion of the comments and ideas we received during consultations. We've provided some additional information below regarding some other idea submissions we received. These ideas had fewer comments and votes associated with them, but we have decided to highlight them here because they are quite specific, detailed, or innovative, or because they came to us from stakeholders that we think are doing important work as part of Canada's open government community.
You told us that open government has an important role to play in the global fight against corruption. You suggested that, in order to demonstrate leadership on an issue that impacts every corner of the globe, the Government of Canada should implement specific commitments on beneficial ownership transparency, including the development of a public registry of open information on beneficial owners of Canadian corporations.
Currently in Canada, appropriate authorities have the ability to access data and information on beneficial owners to ensure corporations and individuals comply with Canadian laws. Protecting the privacy of Canadians, which is also important, limits our ability to publicly release data or information on beneficial owners. Additionally, beneficial ownership is a shared area of jurisdiction, implicating a number of different governments across the country.
We have tried to respect the spirit of the comments you provided by including a commitment on Improved Public Information on Canadian Corporations (commitment 12). Here, we have specifically committed to launch a pilot project to allow Canadians to search a number of existing federal and provincial business registries through a single, open search tool.
Open Science (commitment 14) is a commitment which aims to continue and grow the work we have started in recent years. You have told us that you expect open science to strengthen scientific integrity and help show how science supports government decision-making; that you value leveraging existing global open infrastructure and meeting international standards; and that in addition to a strong commitment for openness, you want government-funded scientific research and data to be made open and available to the Canadians whose taxes helped support it.
Likewise, the Government of Canada has committed to create a Chief Science Officer, to increase the public availability of data and publications produced from federal Science and Technology (S&T) activities, to develop and implement an open access policy for scientific research funded through grants and contributions, and to engage with Canadians to provide more information on scientific participation opportunities in support of federal S&T activities.
Science data and publications are increasingly being made openly available to Canadians. The supporting systems and policies are being developed. We recognize there is still a long way to go. Adopting Open Science won't fully be complete until it becomes part of our day-to-day business. This is a big task, given extensive and complex range of scientific activities funded by the federal government. We will work to put a plan in place that makes federal government science information open by default, and will implement a pragmatic approach to meet official language and accessibility requirements in line with international open science practices. We will work with our partners in science-based government departments to judiciously define the scope of this initiative, to ensure Canadians have the best access possible to the science their government uses to support evidence-based decision-making.
You told us that you are pleased with the level of breadth and detail in open data on government contracting and procurement activities. However, you think Canada can go further in its commitment to open contracting, ensuring all details of contracting processes are open by default, and requiring corporations working with the government to adhere to strong requirements related to openness and transparency.
Canada is working to strengthen openness and transparency of its contracting data. Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) is piloting the use of the Open Contracting Data Standard as a model to strengthen openness and transparency for their departmental contracting data. PSPC has also committed to collaborate with the Open Contracting Partnership to identify and publish important information on best practices and lessons learned from the department's work on this issue.
You told us that you are concerned that whistleblower protection legislation in Canada has not been significantly updated since 2007. You have asked the Government of Canada to ensure that no federal public servant is made to feel that they cannot come forward when they have knowledge of wrongdoing in their workplace.
While the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act has not undergone recent, substantive changes, legal protections are in place. It is a crime to take disciplinary or retaliatory action against whistleblowers in the public service, and public servants are offered training on their rights and obligations in this regard.
7. Recommendations and best practices for future consultations
As we come to the end of our consultations on Canada's Third Biennial Plan to the Open Government Partnership (2016-18), we have an important issue on our mind: how will we make our next consultations even better? We have committed to continuing to engage with Canadians and with key stakeholders in civil society, business, and academia to ensure that their voices are not only heard in the development of our open government commitments, but in their implementation as well. As we move forward to begin the next two years of work on openness and transparency in Canada, we want to make sure we are providing you, our consultation participants, with the tools, resources, knowledge, and opportunities you need to provide us the same kind of thoughtful, meaningful feedback we have received over the past months.
With this in mind, we have prepared a number of recommendations for strengthening future consultations on open government. Some of these recommendations come from the experiences of our Open Government team, while others come from feedback we received from consultation participants. All in-person participants were specifically asked to comment on what they liked and disliked about the consultation process, and many offered suggestions for improvement. In addition, a number of online participants volunteered suggestions on improving the process. We have tried to include all of your suggestions in the recommendations below.
Many of these recommendations will inform our commitment to develop and promote common principles and practices for open dialogue in the Government of Canada. We will share these lessons learned with other departments and agencies, and encourage them to use our experience to make their own future consultations even better.
- The consultation process should allow more time for commenting. The Open Government Partnership's (OGP's) best practices on consultations suggest that 2 weeks is a minimum threshold for sufficient consultation, and more in-depth consultations should be given a longer timeframe.
- Consultation timelines should be published and publicized well in advance, so those wishing to prepare more detailed submissions have the time to do so. As a best practice, consultation timelines should be publicized at least four weeks before consultations begin.
- Engagement should be an ongoing activity, not restricted to specific periods of time. While the OGP Action Plan cycle provides helpful timelines for more robust consultation on our path forward, we must remember to engage with Canadians in a more permanent, consistent way.
Promotion and communication
- Consultations should be better promoted (through social media, on government websites, etc.) in order to ensure a broad spectrum of participants, particularly from civil society.
- Background and supporting materials should be developed to inform Canadians who want to engage on open government, including materials that illustrate the value of open government to various groups and sectors. This helps raise the quality of dialogue and allow people to start from a level of common knowledge and understanding.
- Our Open Government team should engage more broadly with Government of Canada departments and with other governments across Canada. We should move beyond our list of 'usual suspects' and conduct outreach to identify new and innovative initiatives that can help advance the principles of openness and transparency.
- We should increase efforts to reach communities that are often under-represented in the open government field, such as senior citizens, Indigenous communities, young Canadians, and women.
- Many of the participants in our consultation were federal government employees. These consultations are important opportunities for public servants meet face-to-face with the open government community. Opportunities should also be provided for federal public servants to feed into internal consultation activities, ensuring public consultations focus increasingly on those outside the Government of Canada.
- We should place priority on reaching out to a broad spectrum of civil society in Canada, seeking to include them as true partners in the process of developing open government plans.
- Considering the low number of comments and ideas submitted in French, we should increase engagement with the French-speaking open government community in Canada, including engagement with minority francophone populations outside Québec.
- Government should play a broker role, connecting individuals and organizations across the country with similar open government interests.
- Efforts should be made to ensure that in-person sessions are national in scope and better promoted and attended.
- Participants should be able to sign up for accounts on open.canada.ca, which would allow them to more easily follow conversations they want to participate in, and to receive updates when someone replies to their submitted idea or comment.
Appendix A – Glossary
- Accessibility refers to the ability of all users to have the same or very similar experiences when accessing or using data or information. Users should be able to have the same kind of access to all open government information and data, regardless of any physical limitations (e.g. visual impairment).
- Term used to refer to comments or ideas, received through consultation with Canadians, which are assigned a specific theme or category as part of a feedback analysis process.
- Data interoperability:
- The ability for data to work with other products or systems. In order to be interoperable, data should follow established standards to ensure it is interoperable across a number of different systems or analytic products. Interoperable data can be easily compared over time, across locations, within and between organizations. It can also be easily manipulated to produce visualizations and identify trends.
- Collections of related sets of information showing relationships between categories and variables. Datasets are composed of separate elements but can be manipulated as a unit by a computer. Most commonly a data set corresponds to the contents of a single database table.
- Digital tools:
- In terms of consultation, refers to online or computer-based tools and methodologies used to support dialogue between government and Canadians. For example, see "Google Hangout" below.
- Google Hangout:
- Instant messaging and video chat platform developed by Google. Google Hangouts have been used to support engagement between government and Canadians, allowing Government of Canada experts to video chat with civil society leaders, while a moderator leads discussion and poses questions submitted by Canadians (via email, Twitter, etc.).
- Data about data – Metadata is used to describe or give information about other data.
- Open data:
- Structured data that is machine-readable, freely shared, used and built on without restrictions.
- Open dialogue:
- Providing Canadians the opportunity for two-way dialogue with the Government of Canada on federal policies and priorities.
- Open information:
- Unstructured information that is freely shared without restrictions.
- Page Views:
- Number of times a specific page of open.canada.ca is accessed. Note that number of page views is not the same as number of website users, as multiple page views can come from the same individual.
- Public workshops:
- Organized and conducted across Canada by TBS officials, public workshops are a type of in-person consultation event which is open to any member of the public wishing to attend. They include a brief introductory presentation, small group discussions and presentations, and a larger discussion involving all participants. Public workshops are one element of open government consultations, used in addition to online consultations, social media, and by-invitation workshops.
- Searchability / Discoverability:
- The ability to seek out and find a particular dataset or information resource. Typically associated with the ability to easily find a particular dataset or document using a simple keyword search.
- User-centric design or user-centric development processes ensure that, as programs, products, or services are developed, the needs and expectations of the end user are considered during all stages of development.
Appendix B – Individual comment sheet (In-person workshop)
Below is an example of the individual comment sheets that were provided to participants at in-person consultation workshops.
Individual Comments – AP 2016-18
Canada's Open Government Consultations
The one sector/group that I most identify most with is:
- Federal Government
- Provincial/Territorial/State Government
- Municipal Government
- Individual (no affiliation)
Three words that describe why I am here today:
Open government is important to me because:
One question I would like to see explored in future open government public engagement is:
One practical idea about how to make government more open is:
Ways I would like to participate in the open government initiative in the future are:
- On-line forums
- Online surveys
- Social media
- In-person workshops on particular topics
- Open public meetings
- Commenting on documents online or by email
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?
Not at all
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Appendix C – Group discussion comment page
Below is an example of the feedback sheets that were provided for group discussions at in-person consultation workshops.
Public Workshop Group Comments
Canada's Action Plan on Open Government Consultations
What should be included in the Action Plan on Open Government?
Who should be involved?
How would you like to engage?
What is your group's #1 idea?
What idea generated the most debate?
Appendix D – Overview of consultation activities
An overview of consultation opportunities, including a list of in-person consultation workshops and the text of all ideas and comments submitted online can be found on open.canada.ca. See: Creating Canada's Action Plan on Open Government 2016–18
A full dataset of all comments received during consultations on Canada's Third Biennial Plan to the Open Government Partnership is available on our portal. See: Open Government Action Plan Consultation Data (2016)
Appendix E – Detailed submissions
As part of consultations on Canada's Third Biennial Plan to the Open Government Partnership, the Government of Canada received a number of detailed submissions, including from stakeholders in civil society. A number of these submissions are also available online, and for these we have provided links below. For detailed submissions which were not made available online, we have received the permission of the submitter to reproduce their submission as an appendix to this report. These submissions are not owned by the Government of Canada and are only available in PDF format.
Content provided by external sources is not subject to official languages, privacy and accessibility requirements.
- Comments on Canada's Action Plan on Open Government 2016–18
- Detailed Submission on Canada's Third Biennial Plan to the OGP
- Submission to the draft of Canada's new plan on Open Government
- Detailed Submission on Canadas Third Biennial Plan to the OGP
- Detailed Submission on Canadas Third Biennial Plan to the OGP
- Letter of intent to co-develop commitments for the Open Government Partnership National Action Plan
- Creating Canada's Action Plan on Open Government 2016–18
- Recommendations for Reforming Canada's Access to Information Act
- Idea details: The Open Dialogue Initiative: Making the Government of Canada A World Leader in Open Dialogue
- Moving from Open Data to Open Science – A Response to Canada's Open Government Draft Plan
- Idea details: Detailed submission into helping shape Canada's Action Plan on Open Government 2016–18
- Detailed Submission on Canada's Third Biennial Plan to the OGP
- Canada's draft new action plan on open government 2016 - 2018
- Detailed Submission on Canada's Third Biennial Plan to the OGP
- Detailed Submission: Draft New Plan on Open Government 2016-2018
- New Open Government Plan for Canada, response
- Response to DRAFT: Canada's New Plan on Open Government
- Detailed Submission on Canadas Third Biennial Plan to the OGP
Appendix F – Commitments in Canada's Third Biennial Plan to the Open Government Partnership
Open by Default
- Enhance Access to Information: The Government of Canada will move forward on a first round of concrete proposals to improve the Access to Information Act, informed by the views of Parliament, the Information Commissioner, and consultations with Canadians, and will then undertake a full review of the Act by no later than 2018.
- Streamline Requests for Personal Information: The Government of Canada will make it easier for Canadians to access their own personal information held by the federal government.
- Expand and Improve Open Data: The Government of Canada will increase the quality and visibility of federal data holdings and set measurable targets for the release of open data over the next five years.
- Provide and Preserve Open Information: The Government of Canada will establish government-wide initiatives, platforms, and tools to ensure that open information is discoverable and accessible for use by future generations.
- Define an Approach for Measuring Open Government Performance: The Government of Canada will integrate performance indicators for openness and transparency into a Performance Management Framework for Open Government.
- Develop Open Government Skills across the Federal Public Service: The Government of Canada will support a shift to greater transparency and engagement within the public service through Open Government learning material and opportunities for public servants.
- Embed Transparency Requirements in the Federal Service Strategy: The Government of Canada will develop a new Clients-First Service Strategy that embeds requirements for openness and transparency in the delivery of government services.
- Enhance Access to Culture & Heritage Collections: The Government of Canada will expand collaboration with its provincial, territorial, and municipal partners and key stakeholders to develop a searchable National Inventory of Cultural and Heritage Artefacts to improve access across museum collections.
- Enhance Openness of Information on Government Spending and Procurement: The Government of Canada will increase the transparency of government spending and procurement to hold government accountable for public expenditures.
- Increase Transparency of Budget and Other Department of Finance Information: The Government of Canada will provide access to the datasets used in the Federal Budget each year in near real time and proactively disclose the list of briefing note titles prepared on economic and other matters.
- Increase Transparency of Grants and Contributions Funding: The Government of Canada will provide one-stop access to consistent, searchable data on grants and contributions (Gs&Cs) programs across the federal government.
- Improve Public Information on Canadian Corporations: The Government of Canada will provide searchable information on Canadian businesses that is held in business registries at the federal, provincial, and territorial level.
Innovation, Prosperity, and Sustainable Development
- Increase the Availability and Usability of Geospatial Data: The Government of Canada will make more high-quality, authoritative, and useable geospatial data available in open formats to support better services to Canadians.
- Increase Openness of Federal Science Activities (Open Science): The Government of Canada will take appropriate steps to make the science performed in support of Government of Canada programs and decision-making open and transparent to Canadians.
- Stimulate Innovation through Canada's Open Data Exchange (ODX): The Government of Canada will partner with the private sector to better understand how companies are using open data, and raise awareness of the possibilities that exist for Canadian entrepreneurs to take advantage of the value of open data.
- Align Open Data across Canada (Open Data Canada): The Government of Canada will expand collaboration with provincial, territorial, and municipal partners on further standardizing and harmonizing the delivery of open government data across jurisdictions.
- Implement the Extractives Sector Transparency Measures Act: The Government of Canada will implement the Extractive Sector Transparency Measures Act (ESTMA) that requires the reporting of certain payments made to governments related to the commercial development of oil, gas, and minerals.
- Support Openness and Transparency Initiatives around the World: The Government of Canada will work with international partners to increase the transparency of international development funding, and to share skills and knowledge with developing countries to ensure that everyone can reap the benefits of open government.
Engaging Canadians and the World
- Engage Civil Society on Open Government: The Government of Canada will create ongoing mechanisms for strengthening dialogue with civil society in support of open government activities.
- Enable Open Dialogue and Open Policy Making: The Government of Canada will foster enhanced citizen participation through greater collaboration and co-creation with the public and stakeholders within and across government initiatives.
- Promote Open Government Globally: The Government of Canada will work with international partners to promote the principles of open government around the world.
- Engage Canadians to Improve Key Canada Revenue Agency Services: The Government of Canada will undertake public consultations and engagement to support improved access to high-value, statistical tax data and publications, increased fairness of the rules governing charities' political activities, and better understanding of factors affecting the low rates of benefit uptake.