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Friday, 25 April 2014

What does the Supreme Court ruling mean for Senate reform?

by Jennifer Smith


Today, and speaking unanimously, the Supreme Court of Canada has read the government of Canada and Canadians an important lesson about the Constitution. To wit, it is not the plaything of politicians. They can huff and puff, but they cannot tear the house down. Specifically, they cannot fiddle with the Senate, or outright abolish it, without engaging the provinces.

Photo: In light of the recent Supreme Court decision regarding the question of abolition of the Senate, Jennifer Smith points to three myths dispelled in her recent blog post. Most importantly, this decision determined that Parliament cannot unilaterally abolish the Senate. This is a massive constitutional alteration that would require the agreement of Parliament and the legislatures of all provinces to go through. The decision determined that the Senate is not the plaything of politicians. They can huff and puff, but they cannot tear the house down. To learn more about Senate Reform and to join the conversation, visit the IPAC Impact Blog:

http://ipacimpact.blogspot.ca/2014/04/what-does-supreme-court-ruling-mean-for.html

Three things to know about the Supreme Court decision:
  1. Parliament cannot unilaterally alter the term of appointment of senators or establish consultative elections for the selection of senators. Such changes amount to constitutional amendments that require the agreement of the provinces that together include at least 50 per cent of the population of the country – the 7/50 formula.
  2. The abolition of the Senate is not a reform of the institution, but instead a massive constitutional change that requires the application of the unanimity formula - the agreement of Parliament and the legislatures of all of the provinces.
  3. The Parliament of Canada can eliminate the requirement that a prospective senator own $4,000. of property.

Three myths dispelled by the Supreme Court decision:

The Supreme Court has swept away three misconceptions about the issue of Senate reform.

Myth #1:  Most important is the idea that the government on its own can abolish the Senate. 

The Reality:  No, it cannot.  Senate abolition requires unanimous approval of Parliament and all ten provincial legislatures.

      Myth #2:  Another is the notion that the Senate is a stand-alone institution. 

      The Reality:  As the court points out, it is instead an integral part of the design of the government of Canada as contemplated under the constitution. It is meant to serve as a check on the government-dominated House of Commons and to represent the regions of the country.

      Myth #3:  A third misconception is that the Senate somehow does not belong to the Canadian people. 

      The Reality:  It does. A broad consensus is required to change it.  The court’s decision is the triumph of the constitution. Governments need to work under it, not seek to find ways around it.




Thursday, 24 April 2014

Are political communications too politicized?

by Simon Kiss


Photo: What exactly are political communications? Are they politicized too much? There is a link between the demand for transparency and accountability in Alberta politics today and the increasing importance of political communications. Centralized public relations agencies are engaged to manage responses to these demands. These became more structured under the leadership of Premier Ralph Klein and his chief of staff, Rod Love. Rather than making these communications more partisan, the Klein government attempted to make government communications more political. Aside from a few isolated incidents, there is not a lot of evidence that the Klein government used civil service resources to promote directly the Progressive Conservative Party.  Instead, the Klein government gave a more political role to civil service communications officials to manage controversial issues on the political agenda. To learn more about political communications and to join the conversation, visit the IPAC Impact Blog

http://ipacimpact.blogspot.ca/2014/04/are-political-communications-too.html

Three things to know about political communications:

  1. There is a documented causal chain between demands for transparency and accountability in Alberta and the increasing importance of a politicized and centralized public relations agency to manage responses to those demands.
  2. Measures to enhance citizen participation and transparency in decision-making – e.g. Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, increased access to government sources, and citizen forums – were all subsequently managed by the politicized public relations staff within the government of Alberta.
  3. The shift toward the increasing importance of PR-managed citizen participation coincided with a generalized shift away from competitive party politics and representative democracy. Public consternation about the misuse of government communications is often couched in concerns about the possibility of the manipulation of public opinion. Perhaps we should also be concerned about how the evolution of government communications is related to and constitutes changes in mechanisms that are supposed to enable citizen control over government policy.

Three myths about political communications:

Myth #1:  The politicization of government communications in Alberta was primarily the idea of Premier Ralph Klein and his chief of staff, Rod Love.

Reality:  The bureaucracy and the cabinet had identified limitations in how the Government of Alberta's communications were structured. There are documented proposals for reforms that included a more politicized role for the Public Affairs Bureau as early as 1989 and as late as 1991.  The Klein government picked up reforms that had been circulating for some time.

Myth #2:  The Klein government made government communications more partisan.

Reality:  It is more accurate to say the Klein government made government communications more politicalThe difference is important. Aside from a few isolated incidents, there is not a lot of evidence that the Klein government used civil service resources to promote directly the Progressive Conservative Party.  Instead, the Klein government gave a more political role to civil service communications officials to manage controversial issues on the political agenda.  Most of the communications staff in Premier Klein's Office of Communications came from the civil service, and returned there, after they were finished in the Premier's Office.  Premier Getty, by contrast, hired mostly former journalists to do this job, as did Premier Stelmach. This practice was so admired that Glen Clark’s NDP government in BC sent officials to Alberta to study their model.

Myth #3:  The Klein government spent more money on government communications efforts.

Reality:  While government communications budgets are notoriously difficult to measure, the most comprehensive picture of Alberta's expenditures on communications shows that – when adjusting for inflation – Premier Klein dramatically reduced expenditures on the Public Affairs Bureau upon taking office.  It appears government communications expenditures are a product of general trends in overall government budgeting.  This reflects what is commonly asserted about corporate public relations and advertising campaigns, namely, they are first on the chopping block when a company runs into trouble.

Figure 1: Total budget for the Public Affairs Bureau, adjusted for inflation (2006$), 1979 to 2006



Want to learn more?  Read more from Dr. Kiss in his March 2014 article:  "Responding to the 'New Public': The arrival of strategic communications and managed participation in Alberta."  Canadian Public Administration 57(1): 26-48.


Simon Kiss originally hails from Edmonton, Alberta.  He became interested in the role of the news media in the political process after working for a political party at the Legislative Assembly. His dissertation argued that changes in the provincial economy, the political party system, individual leadership style and the political economy of the media drove important changes in the government's communication and marketing bureaucracy.  This has had deleterious effects in the capacity for citizens to hold their elected officials to account via their representatives. Parallel changes are evident in other jurisdictions in Canada and at the federal level. Today, he continues to write on the role of the media in the political and policy process in Canada.


Thursday, 17 April 2014

What is happening to the Canadian labour market?

by Tyler Meredith

Photo: Do you know much about the Canadian labour market? Do you fear Canada is facing a widespread shortage of labour? In his latest blog post, Tyler Meredith attempts to dispel some of the rumours and set the record straight on the current state of the Canadian labour market. For instance, it is true that there are certain  regions and particular occupations where labour needs are acute, but that is not the case across the board. In addition, it is a fact that as baby-boomers retire, more young people and immigrants will be important contributors to the labour force. Moving forward, we need to be clear about the problems. A lot of our needs stem from improving data collection, and the linkages between labour market actors in order to properly design educational programs, and better understand the needs of employers as they relate to skills. To learn more and join the conversation, visit the IPAC Impact Blog: 

http://ipacimpact.blogspot.ca/2014/04/what-is-happening-to-canadian-labour.html

Three things you need to know about labour market policy:

1.    As Minister Kenney has said on several occasions, we don’t face a widespread shortage of labour. There are regions and particular occupations where labour needs are acute, but we’re not seeing a fast pick-up in wages either.

2.    The retirement of baby-boomers is a major change facing the labour market, but the labour force will still grow over the next decade and a half. Young people will be the most important contributor.

3.    To find the right solutions, we first need to be clear about the problems. A lot of our needs stem from improving data collection, and the linkages between labour market actors in order to properly design educational programs, and better understand the needs of employers as they relate to skills.

Three myths about Canadian labour market policy:

Myth #1: Due to an aging population, Canada faces a looming “shortage” of workers, and a mismatch between available jobs and skills in which there are “people without jobs and jobs without people”.

Reality: While Canada does have an aging population, a lot of the claims about impending “shortages” hinge on long-term projections, which are imperfect. We need better data and deeper analysis in order to understand how employers are responding to demographic and labour market pressures.

Myth #2: New labour force growth will come from immigration.

Reality: Immigration will continue to play an important role, but ensuring younger workers get a good start is critical.

Myth #3: Supporting a more highly educated population is the main path to good, high-paying jobs in the future.

Reality: Nearly 70% of younger workers coming into the labour market already have some form of PSE. This is a major societal accomplishment, and one that has generated a rising standard of living. At the same time, however, we must also ensure that we have a mix of different skills that respond to the demand-side for labour. Substantially increasing attainment beyond this already high level, without looking at the underlying skills that programs produce, runs the risk of increasing the incidence of over-qualification.
  
Tyler Meredith is a Research Director at the Institute for Research on Public Policy, where he focuses on labour market and pension policy issues. Follow him on Twitter @tylermeredith.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Are we getting closer to "Truth and Reconciliation"?

By Chadwick Cowie

From March 25 to 30 2014, I had the opportunity to participate in the final TRC National Event in Edmonton, Alberta. Below are important points to consider when assessing the TRC.



Photo: What is the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC)? The TRC was formed as a requirement from the “Indian” Residential Schools Settlement Agreement signed in 2007. The Settlement Agreement was achieved after years of discussion between the federal government of Canada and survivors of the Residential Schools. The agreement would also bring forth the Canadian government’s official apology for Residential Schools on June 11, 2008. The TRC builds off of principles established in the ‘Statement of Reconciliation’ such as a victim-centred focus, inclusivity, and forward-looking in terms of rebuilding and renewing Indigenous/Canadian relations. Forums have been held across the country, with the most recent one being held in Edmonton. A final report is to follow later in 2014. This Commission seeks to challenge the myths that Residential Schools are in the past, and the minimizing of related intergenerational Indigenous challenges. To learn more about the TRC and to join the conversation, visit the IPAC Impact Blog to join the conversation: 
http://ipacimpact.blogspot.ca/2014/04/are-we-getting-closer-to-truth-and.html

Three Things You Need to Know About The TRC:

  1. 1.    The TRC was formed as a requirement from the “Indian” Residential Schools Settlement Agreement, signed September 19, 2007. The Settlement Agreement was achieved after years of discussion between the federal government of Canada and Residential School survivors. The agreement would also bring forth the Canadian government’s official apology for Residential Schools on June 11, 2008.

  2. 2.    The TRC built off of the ‘Statement of Reconciliation,’ dated January 7 1998. This formulated the TRC’s main principles, which include: victim-centred; public/transparent; inclusive, educational, holistic, just, and fair; and forward-looking in terms of rebuilding and renewing Indigenous/Canadian relations.

  3. 3.    In looking to achieve its principle goals, the TRC held forums across Canada (also known as Turtle Island by Indigenous peoples). Forums were held in Winnipeg, MB; Inuvik NT; Halifax NS; Saskatoon SK; Montreal QC; Vancouver BC; and, most recently, Edmonton AB.  A final report is to follow the public consultations later in 2014.

Three Myths about the TRC:


Myth #1: The TRC has nothing to do with Canadians.

The Reality: The TRC was formed in order to begin healing the Canadian/Indigenous relationships. Such understanding is why the TRC worked to bring both sides of the treaty relationship together and bring change, such as Alberta’s decision to include a more extensive teaching of Residential Schools in K-12 education.


Myth #2: Residential Schools Are ‘In the Past.’

The Reality: The last residential school to close was in 1996. Additionally, intergenerational suffering is a reality for Indigenous survivors and descendants of survivors.


Myth #3: The TRC’s Findings Equals an End to Indigenous ‘Issues.’

The Reality: The TRC’s focus is on one point on a long list of issues that continue to exist between Indigenous peoples and Canada. The TRC was not mandated to look at ‘day schools,’ ‘missions’ (the scientific experiments done on Indigenous peoples), the ‘Sixties Scoop,’ or land usurpation, to name but a few. The Indigenous/Canadian relationship has a long way to go and progress may very well be linked to the TRC’s principles. 

Chadwick (Chad) Cowie is from the Anishinaabeg community of Manominiiking and is currently a Prospective PhD Candidate in Political Science at the University of Alberta. Chad’s academic focus is on Canadian, Indigenous, and Comparative politics – with specific interest in Indigenous/Canadian relations, federalism, and electoral behavior

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Is it worth the trip to Edmonton for #IPAC2014?


Three things to know about #IPAC2014:


1.  This is not your typical bureaucratic or academic conference.  This is a pracademic event designed to engage everyone -- participants and thought leaders -- in real-world discussions about transforming public service and generating positive solutions for our citizens.  You won't find any bores on the floor or sages on the stages at #IPAC2014.  In fact, you won't find many "stages".  Our sessions are built around you.   Depending on the topic and facilitators, forums may involve a variety of different formats, including fishbowls, fireside chats, talk shows, world caf├ęs, Pecha Kucha, and others. Many will be held in public venues to encourage community involvement and attendance.  And we've invited only the most dynamic and thought-provoking catalytic speakers  to lead this discussion -- including a keynote address from Craig Kielburger


2.  This is the largest gathering of public servants, academics, and students in Canada.  We're aiming for over 800 attendees at this year's event, drawing from every province and territory, all sectors of the public sphere, and all academic disciplines.  Edmonton will be the place to be in 2014, when it comes to discussing the top issues confronting public servants in Canada.    

3.  This is the first time in three decades the IPAC Conference has been held in Edmonton.  And do we have a party planned for you!  



Three myths about #IPAC2014:

Myth #1:  No one wants to go to Edmonton in June.  It's cold, dreary and boring.  

The reality:  You haven't seen our city at its best!  #IPAC2014 is being held in downtown Edmonton, in a world-class conference centre just steps from top-rated conference-sponsored hotels, Western Canada's most beautiful river valley, and the country's best nightlife.  In fact, we're so convinced you'll love the city, #IPAC2014 organizers are taking the conference to the streets, hosting sessions throughout the Edmonton region.  (We're even taking folks north, to tour the oilsands in Fort McMurray).  And the average temperature for early-June is 20'C - patio weather!  In fact, you may want to book a few extra days to check out all that Edmonton has to offer.  Bring the whole family -- the kids will love Galaxyland and the Waterpark at West Edmonton Mall.




Myth #2:  Edmonton's too far away and it's far too expensive.

The reality:  Flights to Edmonton are more than affordable (just over $500 round-trip from Toronto), and quick connections through Calgary make it a snap to schedule your travel.  Conference registration rates are well worth the price of admission, and discounts are available for new professionals, academics, students, and volunteers.  Still not convinced?  Alberta is the only province without a sales tax (for now), so a quick shopping trip could be considered a real investment.



Myth #3:  Albertans are rednecks - what could they possibly teach us about public service excellence? 

The reality:  #IPAC2014 offers the most engaging and innovative program ever seen at an IPAC National Conference.  Leading experts from across Canada and the world will join forces with Alberta-based pracademics to deliver over fifty unique sessions.  Rednecks are bound to be there, too.  But we're always more than happy to welcome our southern Alberta neighbours!  #rivalry #WeLoveCalgary   

To learn more about attending or volunteering at #IPAC2014, simply visit: http://www.ipac.ca/2014