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ARCHIVED - Getting Government Right - Governing for Canadians

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Developing a Culture of Change

To sustain its programs in the future, the government must develop a culture that supports continual change and improvement. The Public Service of Canada must remain an institution in which all Canadians can take pride. Program delivery must be continually modernized, improved and directed toward the interests of citizens. The government must be able to develop and maintain a coherent vision of its overall policy for Canada. And finally, the government must maintain and enhance its accountability to Canadians and their representatives in Parliament.

The Future Public Service of Canada

Throughout the Public Service, there have been marked efficiency gains, great improvements in the quality of program and service delivery, and significant organizational changes. Much of the success in controlling government expenditures is due to the dedication and contributions of Public Service employees, who have helped Canada prepare for the 21st century by supporting initiatives, providing solid advice to the government, and proposing and implementing innovative solutions. These contributions must be nurtured and supported, enabling Public Service employees to put forth their best efforts in serving the public interest.

The Public Service of Canada must retain andrecruit high-quality people at all levels

The Public Service of Canada must retain and recruit high-quality people at all levels; it must make ongoing investments in training and learning; and it must develop the leadership and management skills required by a modern society. The government is addressing these issues through a series of initiatives and strategies collectively titled La Relve.

Another important element of managing people is building a positive labour relations environment, one in which employees and their representatives can participate in workplace decisions that affect them. As a first step, collective bargaining with the Public Service unions will begin again in 1997-98, after a six-year hiatus. The collective bargaining process itself will be modernized and reformed through joint efforts with the unions.

Just as the Public Service has changed its structures, functions and business directions, so too must it simplify and modernize its management and administrative systems and processes, to make them more efficient and cost effective. A new job classification system, currently in development, will be critical to efforts to reform human resources management. When implemented, the new system will give departments greater flexibility; simplify pay and staffing systems; reduce the cost, complexity and rigidity of the current system; and make it easier for employees to move throughout the Public Service in the course of their careers.

While many efforts to simplify and modernize human resource management are underway throughout the Public Service, they are limited in some cases by current legislation. Some modifications have been made to respond to particular requirements as they have arisen, but it may be time to consider a more fundamental review. Such a review must help transform the federal government so that operational decisions are made in a more business-like fashion, ensuring that the federal government is a vital partner in a competitive economy.

Modernization of Program Delivery

The design and delivery of government programs must be oriented toward the citizen. The strategic use of information technologysupports the provision of affordable, accessible and responsive service

Many initiatives to modernize the delivery of programs and services are underway in the Public Service. These efforts do not focus on cost-cutting alone, but rather on ensuring that Canadians receive an ever-improving mix of government services that meet their needs, and that the government provides these services within a stable expenditure base. Just as the private sector has had to innovate continually to provide goods and services tailor-made for the individual consumer, so must the government tailor its goods and services to the interests of its citizens. The design and delivery of government programs must be oriented toward the citizen, and not toward the needs of the Public Service, the constraints of current management styles or outmoded production processes.

There are many alternatives to traditional departmental structures for delivering programs, and the government is vigorously pursuing those alternatives. Information technology will continue to play a key role in the modernization process. Canadians expect affordable, accessible and responsive service. They expect choices in the way they access or receive services from all sectors of the economy, including government. The strategic use of information technology helps us meet these expectations by providing more flexible service, improving the quality and accessibility of information, and enabling transactions between citizens and government that were not possible a decade ago. Partnerships with provinces, the private sector and non-governmental organizations are another key strategy for moving service delivery closer to the citizen, reducing overhead costs and simplifying the citizen's access to a wide variety of services that may involve many different actors.

Citizen-Centred Program Delivery

The government is exploring citizen-centred program delivery in three primary fields: service clustering, regulatory reform and cost recovery.

Service Clustering

The government will promote clustering services around the needs of citizens. This clustering can occur at several different levels, which include

Co-located and consolidatedprogram delivery responds to citizens needs
  • co-located information referral, in which a centre provides access to and information about a range of services that are delivered by different federal organizations and different levels of government. The long-established and successful Canada Business Service centres are the model;
  • co-located program delivery, in which the services themselves are provided from one location. Our embassies abroad, for example, provide co-located services from several departments and provincial governments to travelling Canadians and to firms interested in business opportunities. These services may also relate to Canada's other foreign policy interests; and
  • consolidated program delivery, in which one agency or department, acting as the agent for others, delivers a comprehensive package of services, somewhat like a retailer distributing products made by a variety of suppliers. The new Canada Food Inspection Agency will be an example of such an approach. Revenue Canada is another example; for many years, it has collected income taxes for most provinces, and is now moving on to collect the new coordinated national sales tax in several Atlantic provinces. The department also acts as an agent for the government in delivering certain social programs, such as the Child Tax Credit, which are implemented through the tax system.

The government is considering going even further, and reorganizing the responsibility for developing programs around the characteristics and needs of citizens, rather than by subject matter. These new agencies for developing and delivering services could be regional or sectoral. There have been interesting provincial experiments, particularly in New Brunswick, that are worthy of further review.

Regulatory Reform

Regulatory reform must improve processes, and assess the way regulationaffects individuals and firms

Regulation plays a vital role in promoting market competition, protecting our environment and safeguarding the public. However, regulatory actions often increase costs for industry and governments, costs that are passed along to consumers and taxpayers. Controlling these costs goes hand in hand with managing more traditional direct government expenditures. Regulatory reform must improve processes, assess the way regulation affects individuals and firms, and consider ways these groups can help minimize negative effects. The government is considering cooperative mechanisms and analytical approaches to ensure that traditional program or departmental boundaries, or government jurisdictions, are not barriers to coordinated, citizen-centred regulatory solutions.

The first round of reform improved the transparency of the regulatory approval process. An extensive review of regulations, completed in 1994, made close to 1400 proposals for reform. Departments have addressed roughly two thirds of these proposals to date, and are continuing to implement others. Progress on regulatory initiatives outlined in the government's November 1994 report, Building a More Innovative Economy, is building on the positive results of this earlier review. The government is taking legislative measures, improving the way it manages regulatory systems and implementing six sectoral initiatives.

Canadians expect better service from government. Increasingly, regulatory authorities are working with stakeholders to develop reasonable performance standards in regulatory programs, which can range from programs for approving drugs or registering pesticide products to programs for inspecting fish processing facilities.

Cost Recovery

Because user charges must reflect the value of the service or privilege provided to clients, cost recovery contributesto responsive government

The government provides many programs for the benefit of all citizens, and others that assist the recipient for public policy reasons. It will continue to finance these programs from general tax revenues. However, there are many situations in which the activities and services provided by the government benefit a specific group, over and above the benefits the general taxpayer receives. The principles of Program Review, applied to all activities of the federal government, imply that the group receiving additional benefits should pay at least a portion of the costs.

Cost recovery is a strategic management tool for rethinking what a department does and how it finances those functions. It goes hand in hand with improving service and re-engineering programs. Because user charges must reflect the value of the service or privilege provided to clients, cost recovery contributes to responsive government. These charges must not be simply an expedient way to raise funds. By providing a way to test market demand, they help departments determine the proper scale of delivery. This, in turn, makes it easier for departments to eliminate overconsumption of "free" goods and to reduce pressures for continued expansion of "free" services.

The government is now preparing an updated set of principles that departments and agencies must use in applying cost recovery. These principles stress the necessity of meaningful and effective consultations with clients and other affected parties throughout the fee-setting process, to ensure that those who pay for the service have an effective voice in its design and delivery. Departments and agencies will also be required to conduct impact assessments to identify all significant potential effects, and to be able to explain to clients how costs are being controlled and why services are being delivered in the manner they are. Both sides will have to make their best efforts to prevent impasses from developing. Although individual ministers are obviously accountable for the application of the charges, processes are in place to mediate any situation where clients believe departments and agencies have not followed these principles.

Alternative Service Delivery

As part of the business planning process, departments and agencies continually re-evaluate the programs they deliver to determine whether alternative approaches to delivering services would better enable the government to achieve its objectives. They could consider a wide range of approaches, including

  • selecting a different federal government organizational option – such as a special operating agency, service agency, Crown corporation or other type of mission-driven entity – that offers a more tailored policy, management and organizational framework that allows the government to focus more clearly on services, streamline operations and improve accountability;
  • devolving federal programs to other levels of government when direct federal involvement is not necessary or appropriate;
  • commercializing products and services when more businesslike approaches – such as revenue generation, employee takeovers, private-sector financing and contracting for services –can provide better value for money, allowing the government to focus on its core roles and responsibilities; and
  • privatizing government services and corporate holdings that have fulfilled their policy objectives.
Alternative service delivery helps governmentprovide services efficiently in a way that responds to Canadians' needs.

Alternative service delivery helps government provide services efficiently in a way that responds to Canadians' needs. The government has made substantial progress in restructuring service delivery and "getting government right." For example,

  • the new National Marine Policy will require the large ports in the national system to become more commercial and financially self-sufficient, transfer regional and local ports to other provincial or local interests, and commercialize the St. Lawrence Seaway and Marine Atlantic Inc. National Ports System ports will be managed by Canada Port Authorities (CPAs) made up of representatives nominated by user groups and governments;
  • several new special operating agencies – such as Measurement Canada, Occupational and Environmental Health Services, and Technology Partnerships Canada – deliver core programs and services in a mission-driven, client-focused, results-oriented and accountable way;
  • effective November 1, 1996, Transport Canada transferred the civil air navigation service to a private-sector, not-for-profit corporation, successfully transferring 6,000 departmental employees to the new organization in the process;
  • the Employee Takeover (ETO) Policy, which the Treasury Board announced in 1996, encourages employees to deliver services from the private sector that they previously provided in the Public Service. These services would otherwise be contracted out on the open market. Certain Parks Canada services will be contracted out to ETO companies in 1997;
  • the sale of CN Rail in 1996 earned $2.16 billion in gross proceeds for the Crown, established CN as a strong player in the North American rail industry and ensured CN's long-term viability; and
  • Public Works and Government Services Canada is outsourcing much of its property management and related services, an initiative that will save the government between $40 million and $50 million every year.

Partnering with other levels of government and the private sector

Partnering helps government reduce overhead costsand duplication on of service.

Partnerships are an important form of alternative service delivery. Partnering with other governments, voluntary organizations and the private sector helps the federal government reduce overhead costs and duplication, and bring services closer to citizens. Some of the most important examples of partnering may be taking place in Aboriginal programs. Aboriginal people and their organizations are taking over an increasing variety of educational, health, community development and housing services and programs that the federal government used to deliver. Other important examples include

  • the Canada Infrastructure Works Program, a model of cooperative program delivery between three levels of government that reaches into every community in the country. The government has proposed a one year extension based on a favourable evaluation of the program;
  • the Canada Food Inspection Agency, which will integrate the federal government's approach to inspecting food and providing quarantine services and will set the stage for a truly national system of food inspection. Legislation to establish the Agency is now before Parliament;
  • the plan, announced in the 1996 Budget, to transform Revenue Canada into an agency called the Canada Border and Revenue Service, to make this essential government service more cost effective and responsive to taxpayers;
  • the new Canada-Alberta Service centres, which will improve access to services by providing federal Employment Insurance benefits and provincial labour market programs and services at common locations throughout the province;
  • agreements that the federal government has signed with Alberta and New Brunswick that transfer responsibility for designing and delivering active employment programs funded from the Employment Insurance Account. The federal government is negotiating similar arrangements with other provinces. These agreements will reduce overlap and duplication, respect federal and provincial roles and responsibilities in labour market activities, and tailor labour market development arrangements to local and regional needs;
  • construction of the Confederation Bridge linking Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, completed in November 1996, which was the result of an innovative financing arrangement, federal-provincial cooperation and private-sector expertise;
  • the recent agreement between the federal government and provinces to restore the financial sustainability of the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), making it affordable for and fairer to future generations. These parties will move the CPP toward fuller funding by accelerating the legislated contribution rate increases, improve the rate of return on the CPP fund by adopting a new investment policy, and slow the growth in costs by tightening the administration of benefits and changing the way some benefits are calculated; and
  • the highly successful "Team Canada" missions and other international trade promotions conducted in partnership with provinces and the private sector.

Governance and Strategic Management

The rapid pace of change in departmental programs and services may have implications for the central coordinating and policy-making institutions of government. These institutions can no longer measure departmental accountability by controlling individual transactions. Nor can the complexity of the interactions between the various components of a minister's portfolio be sufficiently understood from the perspective of an individual department or agency.

Strategic Management Role of Treasury Board

The Treasury Board has existed since Confederation to oversee and control most of the significant transactions of departments and agencies. Individual ministers had to seek the Board's authority to enter into contracts, to implement capital projects, to make contributions or to modify individual programs. While the Board has extensively delegated these authorities over the years, further reform is needed to recognize departmental and ministerial accountability for making policies and delivering programs. However, more attention must be paid to the overall standards of management within the federal government, and mechanisms found to assure Treasury Board that departments maintain Public Service values and achieve their Business Plan objectives.

Treasury Board's role is evolvingfrom detailed control tomore strategic management.

Departments, agencies and Treasury Board ministers are discussing the evolution of the Board's role from detailed control to more strategic management. In this model, the Board, and the Secretariat that serves it, would develop and maintain an effective, government-wide management framework.

This framework would be evolutionary and dynamic. It would focus on strategic directions rather than on transactions; on results, not on process. Such a government-wide management framework would provide the key links between departmental plans, priorities, achievements and accountabilities and the overall strategic direction of the government. It would foster continual improvement in programs and service quality. It would make departments clearly accountable to ministers for their stewardship of public resources, and ministers clearly accountable to Parliament and Canadians for their exercise of public trust.

Portfolio Management

The changes in the public sector and the development of alternative structures for delivering government services have led to another aspect of reform in the public sector: portfolio management. The government is seeking new mechanisms for enhancing the coherence of the policy development and service delivery of each of the departments and agencies making up the portfolio for which an individual Minister is responsible. This coherence can be achieved through shared values, a common sense of purpose, and a culture that encourages collaboration and partnership among the units that make up the public sector.

By regularly exchanging information, views on government priorities and best management practices, members of the various organizations in the portfolio can help develop policy and legislation in a coherent fashion while retaining their independence. Recent interdepartmental and portfolio initiatives have formally provided for cooperative evaluations, so that all parties can jointly determine benefits and effectiveness.

As each minister's portfolio is different, there is no one model for portfolio management. A number of projects are underway to implement the approach. It is clear that coordination and improved communication between deputy ministers and agency heads will be central to the success of these projects. The Treasury Board will also be considering ways of appropriately reflecting the dynamics and interrelationships of ministerial portfolios in the business planning process.

Accountability, Quality Service and the Relationship to Parliament and Citizens

Modernization of the Comptrollership Function

Comptrollership is about vigorous stewardship of public resources, a high standard of ethics and provision for appropriate parliamentary oversight.

Financial control in the federal government is much more than the simple keeping of accounts that the popular image would suggest. The complex task of maintaining systems, information and procedures for managing resources, risk, accountability, verification, and results is the essence of modern comptrollership. Comptrollership implies vigorous stewardship of public resources, a high standard of ethics and provision for appropriate parliamentary oversight. But if managers are to deliver affordable and high-quality services to Canadians, they must have flexibility, incentives and information. Comptrollership is principally the job of managers, but it requires the support of performance and review specialists as well as financial managers.

An independent review panel will review and report on proposals for modernizing comptroller-ship in the Government of Canada. The members of the panel represent public- and private-sector expertise from the financial, legal, executive management and governance communities. The panel will focus on how the comptrollership function should change to ensure that it is relevant to the business and operating needs of the government. It will help the government adopt creative, effective solutions to meet current and future challenges. The panel will help the government achieve the goals of its Financial Information Strategy (FIS), which is intended to lead to a model for financial management and accounting comparable to that used in the private sector. The panel will also help the government ensure better accountability and performance reporting on program results, implement full accrual accounting and integrate quality service principles into departmental operations. In short, the panel will be pivotal in helping government manage its resources more effectively.

The panel will consult widely with public- and private-sector executives, elected officials and other levels of government. It will present the results of its review and recommendations to the Secretary of the Treasury Board and the Comptroller General of Canada in the fall of 1997.

Enhanced Accountability to Parliament

Parliament must have relevant, accurate and timely informationif accountability is to be maintained.

Accountability of the government to Parliament is the cornerstone of democracy in Canada. The government recognizes that Parliament must have relevant, accurate and timely information on its priorities, plans and performance if that accountability is to be maintained.

Since March 1996, the Improved Reporting to Parliament Project has introduced, on a trial basis, innovations in the format of reports made to Parliament as part of the Estimates. These pilot projects are testing the replacement of the existing departmental Part III documents, now tabled with the Main Estimates, with separate reports on departmental plans and priorities in the spring, followed by performance reports in the fall. The first pilot performance reports were submitted in October 1996 by 16 departments, which are submitting reports on plans and priorities as part of this year's Main Estimates. Reaction from parliamentarians, academics, the media and the Auditor General to this initiative has been favourable. The government intends to recommend to Parliament that these pilots be extended government-wide in the coming year if parliamentarians remain satisfied with the information that the 16 pilot reports on plans and priorities provide.

This project is the first phase of what is expected to become an ongoing dialogue with parliamentarians on ways to reform the Estimates process. This reform must, on the one hand, provide the management tools, incentives and flexibility program managers need to efficiently and responsively deliver services to meet the needs of Canadians. Just as important, it must improve the information available to parliamentarians and enhance their understanding of the priorities and performance of government programs so that they can effectively represent their constituents' interests in the funding, design and delivery of those programs through the Estimates and Budget processes.

Quality Service and Performance Measurement

The Quality Services Initiative is strengthening the focus of all federal government programs on improving the quality of service to Canadians and increasing their satisfaction with service delivery. It is based on the principles of client and Public Service involvement, leadership and innovation. It focuses on ensuring that the principle of delivering quality services to Canadians, appropriate to their needs and within the government's fiscal framework, underlies all government initiatives and priorities as an integral part of day-to-day operations. This strategy encourages government organizations to develop and communicate demonstrable service standards that Canadians can use to assess the government's performance, as well as the feedback systems necessary to maintain that quality. The Treasury Board of Canada, Secretariat provides the leadership and implementation framework for the Quality Services Initiative, including service standards. Individual departments are responsible for ensuring that quality service delivery is an integral part of all of their programs.

This initiative builds on a wide variety of work in departments over the last several years. Major progress has been made. Departments are planning for and implementing service standards, measuring performance against those standards to improve the quality of services, and making increased use of direct deposits, information technology, automated queue management systems and other innovations to improve service to clients.

The Secretariat is working with departments to improve the user-friendliness of the Government of Canada Blue Pages and the accessibility and quality of telephone inquiry services. It is also supporting the efforts of various government organizations – such as Natural Resources, Canada's Centre for Topographic Information, the Federal Office of Regional Development (Quebec), and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's Food Research and Development Centre in St. Hyacinthe, Quebec – to have their quality management system certified by the International Standards Organization.

Modernizing program delivery creates an environment where management requires greater flexibility in tailoring services to the needs of citizens. The ensuing increased authority at the local level and greater managerial flexibility, marked by the relaxation of bureaucratic rules and regulations, must be countered by an increased accountability for results. Reporting on the basis of results rather than process will determine the government's capacity to deliver on its commitments successfully. The performance measurement strategy then involves three steps: identifying key expected results for departments and portfolios; improving measurement of performance and related costs; and improving reporting to Parliament.

Accounting for results is a keypart of getting government right.

Accounting for results is a key part of getting government right. To be accountable to the taxpayer, organizations must provide performance information. Such information is also essential for governance – managers use it to make decisions, improve service delivery and enhance the government's broader ability to develop policy.

Effective departmental review – which includes internal audit, program evaluation and other management review activities – helps departments improve management practices, accountability, performance measurement, quality service, processes and systems. A key element in implementing this approach is the government-wide annual report on accountability for results. The report highlights key results commitments as well as review and performance measurement priorities for departments and agencies. This improves transparency for important performance issues. Future reports will improve access to information and strengthen accountability for results.