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03/10/2016
By:  Columnist, Published on Thu Mar 10 2016

Justin Trudeau’s full court visit to Washington augurs well for Canada’s perpetual task of making an impression on the neighbours in the sprawling mansion. Whether this new coziness can survive a future Republican administration should not obscure the competitive gains being racked up on the world stage by a dashing digital-age leader of what used to be a worthy initiative of a nation. Canada can always use whatever edge it can find.

The U.S. remains the destination for three-quarters of Canadian exports. We are currently leveraging its stronger economic growth as a freebie stimulus policy. It continues to fight the world’s battles against the likes of Daesh.

All good. But we shouldn’t forget that the United States can be a fickle neighbour, even toward a little brother with whom it shares geography and similar values. The latest revival of the softwood lumber issue provides a handy reminder.

So while we definitely want to be better friends with our best friend in the world, we desperately need more friends. These need to be mutually reinforcing goals.

Affection between the prime minister and President Obama aside, long-term economic and political developments in the U.S. are not trending well for Canada. The political ones are obvious. Donald Trump, with his mania for masonry, isn’t the only American politician speaking of erecting walls rather than expanding bridges. Even Hillary Clinton, one should remember, was quick to point an erroneous finger at Canada after 9/11.

Economically, the U.S. recovery is only robust compared to the state of anemia elsewhere. Wages remain stuck and participation in the workforce hovers below 60 per cent. Moreover, Canada simply isn’t as strategically important to the U.S. as it once was. Not unimportant. Just not as important.

Witness oil, the one export we could count on and the main U.S. demand in the 1989 Free Trade Agreement. The astounding rise of U.S. shale production means Canadian petroleum no longer gets a free pass. Our oil exports are heavily discounted. Without shale, Keystone would indeed have been a no-brainer. With shale, Canada, even while remaining the largest foreign supplier of crude to the U.S. carries less weight.

On the border, Canada is apparently making encouraging progress in its 15-year quest for a smoother flow of goods and people. Here’s where positive personal relations between leaders helps. Still, U.S. security anxieties have never abated post 9/11. Today, the longest undefended border in the world is a relic of our school-day imagination, and Congress is likely to be wary. Even on this side of the border, we have yet to hold a full and frank discussion about the sovereignty trade-offs we might tolerate for a leaner border, such as greater information sharing and pooled policing power.

While Canadian prime ministers must always be in the business of finding common cause with our powerful partner, as now is the case with climate change, this should not distract us from the need to diversify into other markets and to build up Canada’s capability to create high-value exports the world wants to buy. Despite a flurry of free trade deals, we have fallen behind competitors in penetrating foreign markets, particularly beyond commodities. We have fewer innovative products on offer from fewer global champions. To succeed globally, Canada needs to think anew about policies that develop our resourceful businesses, to borrow a phrase, and restore confidence in decision-making around resource industries.

Finding the right policy approaches to generate greater, more politically sustainable growth is a key area of concentration for the Public Policy Forum. Canadians have seen good public policy make a difference throughout our history. This was true in building a transcontinental pipeline and St. Lawrence Seaway; negotiating an Auto Pact and Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement; investing in a broad-based post-secondary education system and opening our doors to refugees and immigrants, with their ingenuity and drive.

Imagine in our 2-per-cent growth world that the adoption of smart policies – making us more innovative in knowledge, services, manufacturing and resource extraction – can add even a paltry one-third of 1 per cent a year to GDP. That would translate into an economic pie nearly $1 trillion larger than otherwise would have been the case by our 200th birthday. A trillion dollars can deliver a lot of social good.

So let’s have a good week in Washington making friends and advancing Canada’s interests. But let’s not get distracted from the work back home at manifesting our own destiny.

Edward Greenspon is president of the Public Policy Forum and a former Ottawa bureau chief and Star columnist.

 

03/08/2016

By Marcia Love, Spruce Grove Examiner/Stony Plain Reporter

Friday, March 4, 2016 2:43:07 MST PM

First Nation governments face unique limitations that inhibit their ability to access funding and grants, resulting in a growing need for improvements, according to Canada’s Public Policy Forum (PPF).

The non-government organization released a report earlier this month, which outlined ways to improve access to capital funding from the government in First Nation communities where barriers are faced. It cites an estimated $43.3-billion gap between funding for First Nation and non-First Nation communities.

The PPF consulted with treaty commissioners, bank executives, First Nation chiefs, elders, governments and business leaders to compile its report, Improving Access to Capital for Canada’s First Nations Communities.

Julie Cafley, vice-president of the PPF, said the issue is so complex it is difficult to identify one way to reduce the struggles.

Most public institutions are able to leverage capital by using property as collateral, but First Nation governments are unable to do this.

“Infrastructure deficits are common. Access to cheap loans is rare,” the report says.

These barriers discourage private investment and are the result of chronic underlying socio-economic issues, governance challenges and institutional barriers and biases, it continued.

Even for smaller loans, utility bills with residents’ names may not be accessible by band members because the band pays for this cost, Cafley explained.

The report makes six recommendations, including modernizing the federal-First Nations fiscal relationship, improving First Nation governance processes and capabilities, investing in First Nations’ education and training, fostering and supporting regional co-operation to create a more attractive investment climate, strengthening Aboriginal Financial Institutions, and to improve financial literacy and education opportunities.

“So many of these processes can be complex and confusing for small communities that are trying to access capital, so knowledge sharing is really key,” Cafley explained. “It’s… working with governments, ensuring that we have culturally appropriate financial literacy tools… and ensuring that the communities themselves have champions that can help to spearhead financial literacy.”

She added while there may be capital available, communities can have difficulty finding out where to go and how to “jump through all of the red tape” to access that money.

“Even just the idea of a centralized database that identifies sources of capital or things like that would be important,” Cafley said.

She also noted there is a need to review and modernize the Indian Act.

Overall, Cafley said there is no “cookie cutter approach,” and initiatives and programs need to be developed that might contribute to financial literacy in a different manner.

“There’s a huge need for collaboration… because (the issues) are very complex and there’s lots of issues that overlap each other in terms of access to capital,” she said.

 

The report has been passed on to several government bodies and other organizations, and the PPF will continue to work with its partners on the issues.

03/04/2016

 02/26/2016

Thomas Axworthy 
Huffington Post

During Justin Trudeau’s election campaign and his first 100 days in government, four themes have emerged – infrastructure investment, reconciliation with First Nations, Metis and the Inuit, climate change, and multilateral engagement in foreign policy – areas that converge in the North.

The first 100 days of the new Trudeau government have been heady. The prime minister burst out of the gate in a whirlwind of international activity, ministers received detailed mandate letters on how to implement the Liberal election platform, announcements have been made almost daily, and there is a very distinct change in style and tone from the previous government. The honeymoon has been prolonged and, if the polls are to be believed, it is not over yet.

While political rhetoric can soar, governing, to use the metaphor of Max Weber, is mostly the steady boring of hard wood. Speeches are poetry but implementation is prose. This is where the Arctic comes in: during the election campaign and the government's first 100 days, four distinct themes or priorities have emerged – economic progress through infrastructure investment; reconciliation with First Nations, Metis and the Inuit; climate change; and multilateral engagement in foreign policy. These four areas converge especially well in the North, with the region having the potential to become the sweet spot of implementation of the Liberal government's agenda. Linking these four themes together in a coordinated action plan for the Arctic could demonstrate to skeptics that the Trudeau administration is as serious and skilled at governing as it is at communicating.

In the 2015 campaign, the Liberals released a northern specific platform emphasizing climate change, affordable housing and additional investment in the Nutrition North food subsidy program. Beyond these specifics, the general themes articulated by Trudeau were tailor made for northern public opinion. In 2015, The Gordon Foundation released Rethinking the Top of the World: Arctic Public Opinion Survey, Vol. 2, a survey of attitudes across the circumpolar Arctic, with Canadian sample sizes sufficiently large to allow for the comparison of both northern and southern Canadian public opinion. When asked unprompted to identify the greatest threat to the Arctic, 37 percent of northerners mentioned climate change, with another 10 percent referring to environmental degradation, ice caps melting, etc. Not surprisingly, 86 percent of northerners wanted strong policies to combat climate change. Infrastructure needs were as top of the line in priority as the environment, with 86 percent of the sample emphasizing the importance of infrastructure but with only 28 percent of respondents feeling that current infrastructure met their needs. In defining security, 90 percent of northerners rated environmental security as crucial in protecting the Canadian Arctic, and national or military security lowest at 45 percent. Northerners also favored the co-operative multipolar approach of the Arctic Council, with only 36 percent in favor of suspending co-operation with Russia because of the conflict in Ukraine.

Given how in sync the Liberal campaign was with northern perceptions and priorities, it is not surprising that the Liberals swept all three seats in the North, with impressive results of 54 percent of the vote in the Yukon, 48 percent in the Northwest Territories, and 47 percent in Nunavut – support far above the Liberal Party's percentage of the vote nationally.

Infrastructure Investment

But with values, support and election results in sync, now is the time for the Trudeau government to connect the dots. On infrastructure, the prime minister has promised $60 billion dollars of investment across Canada over a 10-year period, but only $17.4 billion is promised in the first four years of the mandate. With the economy slowing, both the total amount of infrastructure spending and the initial moderate pace should be greatly accelerated.

The North has especially huge infrastructure needs, as outlined in a January 2016report by the National Aboriginal Economic Development Board. Canada's North makes up 25 percent of the global Arctic and 40 percent of Canada's land mass. Because of the distance and the harsh environment, the cost of doing business is significantly higher in the North than in the South. Mines cost two- to three-times more to bring into production than similar projects in the South. One large reason for this is the lack of roads, ports, energy grids and broadband internet access so vital for the digital economy. Water and sewage infrastructure is needed to accommodate populations while preserving the North's as yet unspoiled water resources. But the North also has a significant advantage: most of the territory is covered by land claims settlements, and as part of these settlements there are 20 economic development corporations (EDCs), the for-profit arms of land claims organizations. The Makivik Corporation for the Inuit of Nunavik, for example, has assets of $180 million invested in airlines, rock crushing companies, etc. There is, therefore, significant Indigenous capital to join in the effort to close the North infrastructure gap.

The National Aboriginal Economic Development Board report on the North estimates that every dollar spent in infrastructure returns $11 in economic activity and $11 in additional taxes. The report highlighted that 40 percent of Nunavut citizens are not living in suitable housing, affirming that the Liberal choice of housing in their platform was wise. The Liberals also pledged increases in the northern residents’ tax deduction to help with the higher cost of living in the North. The same rationale applies to business: the next budget should not only implement the personal deduction but also include enhanced tax credits for business with North-specific investments.

The North also suffers from a gap in intellectual infrastructure. As is well known, Canada is the only Arctic nation without a university in its North. To create one will be an arduous process involving negotiations with the three territories, but it is a possibility if built on the strength of the existing community college system. An immediate start to building intellectual infrastructure could be made by assisting northerners to develop their own made-in-the-North policy expertise. There is currently no northern-based think tank. A generation ago, there were few think tanks in Canada as a whole, until the federal government, provinces and the private sector contributed funding to create the Institute for Research in Public Policy, an independent not-for-profit organization. Today we need a similar effort to jointly fund and create the Institute for Northern Public Policy.Reconciliation

Trudeau has recognized that the great unfinished business of Confederation is to develop a true partnership with Canada's Indigenous peoples. Achieving the aim of reconciliation with Canada's aboriginals could be as defining for Trudeau as French-English reconciliation was for his father. The North could be an incubator for such a change: the highest proportion of indigenous populations are in Nunavut with 86.3 percent, the Northwest Territories at 51.9 percent, and Yukon with 23.1 percent. Jointly planning, financing and building infrastructure with aboriginal self-governments is critical to any program on that northern front, a point also emphasized more generally for Canada in a recent study published by the Public Policy Forum, Improving Access to Capital for Canada’s First Nation Communities.

There is also unfinished business to attend to in ensuring that the federal government at last fulfills the commitments it has made in land claims negotiations, a point made strongly by Thomas Berger in his 2005 report on the implementation of the Nunavut land claims agreement. Nunavut is the only one of Canada's three territories without a devolution pact. Yukon was the first to take control of its own land and resources, followed by the Northwest Territories in 2015 – one of the significant contributions of the Harper government to the North's evolution. Nunavut first needs the infrastructure to make resource development possible, but then it must have a new legal agreement with Ottawa giving it control over its own development so that it can benefit from royalties in the future. As Tony Penikett, a former negotiator for Nunavut argued in a public lecture on devolution, Ottawa must stop going through the motions and negotiate seriously. National reconciliation should begin by giving Canada's only Indigenous government equal status with the other territories.

Climate Change

The Washington Post recently ran a story headlined, "Scientists are floored by what's happening in the Arctic right now," referring to new data suggesting that 2015 was the hottest year ever recorded. The trend has continued into 2016; in the Arctic, January 2016 saw the greatest departure from average temperatures of any month on record, with temperatures more than four degrees Celsius above the 1951 to 1980 average in the region. This unprecedented heat wave was accompanied by a new low for Arctic sea ice, over 400,000 square miles below average for the month, and is one more indication that the Arctic is the epicenter of global climate change.

As University of British Columbia scholar Candis Callison writes in How Climate Change Comes to Matter, such shocking figures create "debates not only as struggles over complex and evolving matters of fact but also debates about meaning, ethics, and morality." Sheila Watt-Cloutier, former head of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, certainly broadened the debate by famously framing climate change as “the right to be cold." Following her lead, the Arctic Athabaskan Council filed a petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights requesting a declaration that Canada is undermining the rights of Athabascan peoples by poorly regulating emissions of black carbon or soot. Slowing the rate of global warming is a framework issue for the Trudeau government. Nowhere is it more evident than in Canada's North: one place to start is to recognize the validity of the Athabascan petition and make black carbon or soot reduction a central objective of Canadian policy. Canada's North runs on diesel and what is required in the short term is a crash program to retrofit diesel engines to make them more efficient, as California has done, and longer term to move to a more sustainable energy future.

On climate change and environmental sustainability, the world can also learn from the North. Robert Sandford in Storm Warning cogently argues that the impact of climate change is most often felt through changes in the water cycle with severe droughts or flooding. According to the French Water Partnership, roughly 90 percent of weather disorders on the planet are related to water.

One of the conclusions of the 2015 Paris Climate Change Conference is that water is a connector, not a sector, because climate change manifests itself both powerfully and disastrously in its impact on water. This fact was recognized years ago by the Government of the Northwest Territories in their “Northern Voices, Northern Waters” policy on water stewardship. The GNWT made water preservation integral to environmental health and development goals. Led by former Finance and Environment Minister Michael Miltenberger, the NWT strategy made water a connector long before the Paris Conference. Miltenberger summarized the NWT strategy as follows: "the vision for the water strategy is that the waters of the Northwest Territories remain clean, abundant, and productive for all time." Building on the lead and expertise of northern policymakers, Canada should make water stewardship and its connection to climate change a particular Canadian contribution to restoring the earth’s ecosystem health.Foreign Policy and the North

In its first hundred days, the Trudeau government's foreign policy has been consumed by the debate over the bombing mission against ISIS. Yet Canada will always be a bit foreign policy player in the Middle East. In the Arctic, however, Canada can be a major force and there is an existing multilateral institution – the Arctic Council – tailor-made for the aspirations of the Trudeau government to make a positive difference in the world. The Arctic Council has working groups or task forces on issues like indigenous languages, black carbon, oil spill prevention and response, maritime shipping and navigation and a host more. It is a body both with a commitment to human security and a track record in encouraging Russia to make a positive contribution to world affairs. Created in 1996, the Arctic Council was strongly influenced by Mary Simon, Canada’s first Ambassador for Circumpolar Affairs and a former president of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference. The Trudeau government should re-establish the post of Ambassador for Circumpolar Affairs and provide the necessary resources for Canada to contribute to the multipolar co-operative agenda of the Council.

The conceptual breakthrough of the Arctic Council as an international organization was that it created a new structure involving the nation states plus indigenous representation as "Permanent Participants.” But left out of the blueprint was the question of resources and capacity. Indigenous organizations have a formal status at the Council but they often do not have the resources to fully participate. The Permanent Participants have come together to prepare a plan for the states who make up the Arctic Council to create a fund that would allow them to contribute to all aspects of the Council's mandate. The Trudeau government should champion this plan so that indigenous knowledge and values are present at every stage of the Council's work. We need indigenous values not only in national reconciliation but in international governance as well.

The Trudeau government has made an impressive beginning. It has articulated four overarching themes and so far Canadians are supportive – none more than northern Canadians, whose values and priorities seem so clearly aligned with the Trudeau government's objectives of increased infrastructure spending, reconciliation, climate change adaptation and multilateral diplomacy. If policy implementation indeed is a slow inch-by-inch boring down, the Trudeau government should make a special effort to start this process in the permafrost.

Editor's note: This article originally appeared in Arctic Deeply.

03/04/2016

Beleaguered university has laundry list of expectations for new leader and not much time to find the perfect fit

BY TRACY SHERLOCK, VANCOUVER SUN FEBRUARY 27, 2016

The University of British Columbia — beset by a sex scandal, secret meetings, protests by faculty and more — has been struggling in what should be its celebratory centennial year.

The annus horribilis began with the sudden departure of its new president last summer, but has continued with allegations of interference in academic freedom, the resignation of the board of governors’ chair and the inadvertent release of documents that breached privacy rules. Several students alleged inexcusable delays in investigating sexual assaults and other students protested a lack of transparency and respect in how the university decided against divesting in fossil fuels. And earlier this month, more than 500 professors signed a petition expressing lack of confidence in the school’s board.

The university is operating in a power vacuum. It has an interim president, interim provost, new board chair, new vice-president of external relations and a chancellor who has been there less than two years. The school must find a new president, one capable of both healing the rifts on campus and carrying the university forward.

It is crucial the next president succeed.

“I think a president makes a huge difference,” said Ross Paul, who served as president at three Canadian universities and wrote, Leadership Under Fire: The Challenging Role of the Canadian University President.

While one failed presidency won’t do much lasting damage to UBC’s reputation, two would be devastating, Paul said.

“I think a failed presidency hurts the institution and when it happens twice in a row ... it becomes a crisis,” he said. He says more than 25 per cent of university presidencies fail, something he defines as a presidency that either doesn’t last a first term, or one in which the president isn’t invited back for a second term.

UBC’s search committee recently released the selection criteria for the next president. It’s a lengthy list of expectations, including that he or she, “must be a high-energy, inspirational, and innovative leader who demonstrates strong ethics, integrity, and a relentless commitment to upholding the principles of a world class university.”

Further, the new president should have academic credibility, commitment to diversity, excellent communication and relationship-building skills, financial literacy and management skills, a global perspective, leadership capability, understanding and commitment to indigenous peoples, and values and style. Those eight qualities are just the headings — very detailed criteria are also listed under each, including being “a compelling and inspirational advocate who can engage with, and mobilize, the various complex constituencies of the university.”

It’s a tall order in a field that is not brimming with qualified candidates.

“The job is so huge now that no individual can have all the skills and all the experience needed for all facets of the job. They’ve got to be good at delegation and team building, but they need help,” Paul said.

Martha Piper, who was president of UBC from 1997 to 2006 and who has returned as interim president until June 30, said being president of UBC is one of the most privileged positions in the country.

When asked which of the many qualities required of the next president was most important, she said, “the appreciation for what a magnificent, extraordinary institution it is would be No. 1. ... The other big thing is leadership, however you define it.”

Piper said the president isn’t as important as other factors in shaping a university.

“I actually think that a president has an opportunity to make a difference, but by and large institutions will develop as a result of the people who are in them, much more than the person who is the leader at any one time. By and large, they evolve because of societal pressures, student pressures, faculty interests, the kinds of research that are happening, and where things are headed globally.”

Students — other than those who are politically involved — may not even notice who is in the top spot. Arts student, Meaghan Burko, said she wasn’t aware the university was looking for a new president, and that it hadn’t come up in her classes or sorority. Danielle McCaffrey, 21, also in the arts faculty, did know about former president Arvind Gupta’s departure.

“It does seem like an important aspect of UBC, but I don’t think it is concerning to many students because we do not have a say in who the president is and they don’t necessarily make a presence at the school or any events,” McCaffrey said.

Even the best choice of president may not work out if the board hasn’t done its due diligence and examined its role in Gupta’s departure. Documents released as a result of freedom of information requests about Gupta showed that what appears to be a secret, ad hoc committee of the board pushed him to resign.

Julie Cafley, vice-president at Canada’s Public Policy Forum, researched failed university presidencies for her PhD. She interviewed several presidents, not including Gupta, who had not completed their terms and found “a web of troubled relationships between board members and their presidents.”

“A lack of disclosure, commitment, communication, feedback, and trust appear to plague each of these situations leading to an unfinished mandate,” her research says.

If UBC finds it was mistaken to hire Gupta, or badly managed his first year on the job or his departure, it should analyze those mistakes, communicate them and work to rectify them before hiring another president, said Kris Olds, a global higher-education expert and geography professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“World-class universities sing their praises and own their mistakes. Moving on is more difficult if a consistently defensive posture is adopted by key stakeholders with power, and if mistakes are not publicly owned,” Olds, a UBC graduate, said in a written statement. UBC and its board should commit to being more transparent, he said.

“Discourse about transparency is not enough — a strategic plan with deliverables and deadlines is needed.”

UBC could benefit from a governance review, said both Olds and Alex Usher, president of Higher Education Strategy Associates.

The Advanced Education ministry says it is not considering a governance review and has no role in the selection or hiring of the UBC president. Two board members recently left the UBC board earlier than expected — Kenneth Fung and Birgit Bennett — but it is unknown if they’ve been asked to explain why they quit. Attempts by The Sun to reach them were unsuccessful.

The faculty association has asked repeatedly for an external governance review of the board and suggested without one, the search for a new president is tainted.

There are some relatively simple steps UBC’s board could undertake to restore confidence, Usher said. In addition to a governance review, UBC could join the Association of Governing Boards, an American institution that promotes good practice in running boards, Usher said.

“UBC is one of the very few big universities in North America that is not a member. It’s noticeable,” Usher said.

They could also look to other universities to see how they handle decisions about what should be done in public, and what should be kept secret, he said. In both the Gupta resignation and the divestment decision, there are no publicly available meeting records, if any were taken at all.

“What appears to me on the outside is that there is a lot of stuff goes on at UBC in camera that doesn’t go on in camera elsewhere,” Usher said. “What are other institutions doing that UBC is not that makes them acceptable?”

It would help UBC unite the campus if it temporarily froze the growth of administration staff and discussed how faculty could take on some administrative tasks, Usher said. Paul said there has been “an explosion” in the past couple of decades in the number of assistant and associate deans, legal staff, finance staff and other administrative staff — growth that he says is understandable given new accountability requirements at universities.

Both Olds and Paul said the most important thing UBC can do now is make sure they choose the right person as the school’s next president, even if it means longer time with an interim leader.

Piper said she is committed to leaving June 30 and is “confident” a new president will be named by then. She said the committee is very excited about the quality of candidates identified so far.

It’s important to look for the candidate who is the best fit with UBC, not the most “spectacular” or “impressive” candidate, Paul said.

“It’s not like there is some magic person out there who is going to swoop in and be the guru,” Paul said. “There’s lots of people who could do the job, so make sure you get the one who is best suited to UBC, who understands UBC and its culture. Somebody who is a quick study and who can really learn from all this.”

 

03/04/2016

Cultivating business enterprise in First Nations communities is fundamental to more than their future development. It’s fundamental to the future economic well-being of the country.In B.C., pretty much all major resource extraction and energy proposals involve First Nations communities in some way. Uncertainty over land claims and aboriginal involvement continues to stall potential development and deter investment.

But more than merely unlocking that development by becoming partners in major projects, more First Nations need to become initiators of major business ventures.

Business in Vancouver
March 1, 2016

That requires access to capital, and for native bands in Canada, that presents unique challenges. As pointed out in a new Public Policy Forum (PPF) report, unlike other enterprises in Canada, First Nations can’t use their property as collateral to raise capital because reservation land is held as a collective tribal asset. 

The report also points out that First Nations governance needs to be more transparent and fiscally accountable if bands hope to attract significant outside investment.The new federal Liberal government’s promise to repeal the First Nations Financial Transparency Act, which requires native band administration accounting books to be open to band members, runs counter to that accountability imperative.

PPF report recommendations include investing in First Nations training and education, especially in financial literacy, and strengthening aboriginal financial institutions so they can provide bands and reservations with affordable capital options.

However, the real key to cultivating native business enterprise starts with overhauling Canada’s Indian Act to allow for such fundamental business building blocks as private property rights on native reserves and expanding initiatives like the First Nations Land Management Act, which allows bands to wrest reservation land-use control from Ottawa.

Federal government hand-holding continues to shield native bands from business failures and success and, in the process, continues to suffocate aboriginal entrepreneurship.

03/04/2016

BRUCE JOHNSTONE
Regina Leader-Post
Published on: March 3, 2016

First Nations face a number of challenges and barriers that prevent them from improving economic and social conditions on many of Canada’s 617 First Nation communities, according to a recently released report by the Public Policy Forum (PPF).

While many of the challenges are well documented, such as the gap in education funding and graduation rates, lower income and higher unemployment levels compared with non-aboriginal communities, there are many additional obstacles to creating businesses and economic activity in First Nations, the report said.       

Among the challenges faced by First Nations: property cannot be used collateral, infrastructure deficits are common, and access to capital is limited, all of which discourage private investment on First Nation communities, which make up 96 of the 100 lowest-performing communities on Canada’s community well-being index.

PPF vice-president Julie Cafley said the report emerged from the Ottawa-based think-tank’s roundtable discussion on Enhancing First Nation’s Access to Capital, which was attended by Assembly of First Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde and former prime minister Paul Martin.

Cafley said the problem of lack of access to capital often gets overshadowed by other socio-economic issues, such as poverty, lack of potable water, high rates of crime, violence and substance abuse, which are often symptoms of lack of economic development and employment opportunities on many First Nation communities.

“The (forum participants) didn’t really allow us to get to the discussion of lack of access to capital because they focused on those social conditions … around survival essentially,” Cafley said.

However, the report focuses on the underlying, “multi-million-dollar” capital issues that are preventing First Nation communities from achieving their full potential. “In Saskatchewan, there are some success stories around casinos and indigenous-run businesses that have been enormously successful. So the report is really focusing on those larger capital issues.”

The reports cites “archaic and inconsistent” rules under the Indian Act that restrict First Nation governments from raising capital, such as fewer taxation powers and limited ability to lend or borrow money. “The Indian Act itself needs to be reviewed and modernized to allow First Nation governments to return to have greater control over lands and resources,’ the report said. 

Similarly, the “near-total exclusion” of First Nation government, businesses and individuals from mainstream commercial and consumer credit rating systems “seriously inhibits lending opportunities.” 

The report makes six recommendations to break down barriers to capital, including modernizing the relationship between the federal government and First Nations, improving First Nation governance by increasing transparency and accountability, investing in First Nation education and training, co-operating regionally to attract investment, strengthening aboriginal financial institutions and improving financial literacy.

“There’s a lot that can be done that’s not being done right now,” Cafley said. “There’s no cookie-cutter approach and every community is different, but (the report suggests) how can we help leverage best practices that are happening in other communities.”

 

With the new federal government in Ottawa, Cafley added that “the time has come. We really need to move from talk to action. That’s one of the central themes of our report.”

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03/02/2016

KATHRYN MAY, OTTAWA CITIZEN

Published on: March 2, 2016 

Edward Greenspon, a well-known Canadian journalist, is the new president of the Public Policy Forum, an Ottawa-based think tank.

Greenspon takes over from Larry Murray, the former board chairman who was acting president following the abrupt departure of long-time president and CEO David Mitchell last summer. The appointment is effective immediately.

Greenspon has a long and distinguished career in journalism, most recently at Bloomberg LP where he was the editor-at-large of its Canadian news division. He was an editor-in-chief of the Globe and Mail, an executive at Torstar Corp.’s Star Media Group.

“Ed’s a highly credible policy leader and exceptional communicator,” said Anne-Marie Hubert, the Forum’s current board chair. “I know he’ll excel at combining the best possible thinking with building trust across sectors to contribute to the best policy outcomes for our country.

The Forum was created nearly 30 years ago as an independent, non-government organization with a mandate to improve the quality of government and policy-making by promoting dialogue and collaboration between leaders of all sectors.

“As someone who believes deeply in having thoughtful, far-ranging discussions on the policy problems of our times, I’m thrilled to join the Forum community,” said Greenspon. “I’m excited and proud to advance its collaborative solutions that lead to better outcomes for Canadians.”

The Forum is holding its Atlantic Dinner and Awards in Halifax on Thursday, honouring four recipients for their work in public policy: Ray Ivany president and vice-chancellor of Acadia University; Peter Nicholson, former president of the Council of Canadian Academies; Gerry Pond, chair of Mariner Partners and Chris Power, CEO Canadian Patient Safety Institute.

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01/13/2016

By Selina Chignall | Jan 13, 2016 1:01 pm

TORONTO – Finance Minister Bill Morneau made his third stop on his cross-country pre-budget consultation tour Wednesday at the University of Toronto’s Munk School to hear what experts had to say about boosting Canada’s economy.

Morneau stopped in at the Public Policy Forum conference “Growing Canada’s Economy: Priority Considerations for the 2016 Budget,” which included three panels on innovation, climate change and infrastructure early in a year economists say will be marked by slow growth and uncertainty.

“We were elected on a plan to grow the economy, and we know that we have already started,” said Morneau.

Morneau’s pre-budget message has been hit this week by the static of a loonie straddling the 70-cent U.S. benchmark and oil plummeting to $30 a barrel.  In Toronto today, the rookie minister was accentuating the positive.

Morneau says Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave him a 27-point list to do — including enhancing the Canadian Pension Plan and balancing the budget — while working with the public, civil society and other members of Parliament.

Climate change, infrastructure and innovation are critical challenges in growing the economy, said Morneau, and addressing them creates an ambitious agenda.

“We need to think about how we implement (the agenda), we need to think about what priorites we should put first, and the implications of those priorities … we also need to think about will happen in the long term.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudea was clear that Canada would do more to meet the challenges of climate change, said Morneau, including creating a pan-Canadian climate change framework and being a partner in the global community.

“We do believe a sustainable economy and proactively addressing climate change are not mutually exclusive, but are mutually reinforcing and are a roadmap for us into the future.”

Morneau also underscored the importance of fostering innovation, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) competing in the global marketplace.

“Trade initiatives or initiates to help them do more R&aD are going to be critically important.”

He said that Canada is already one of the most advanced countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, for direct and indirect business research and development investment – but it’s not translating into results.

“We do want to think about how we can better support investments for firms of all sizes, but I mentioned (SMEs). We do see a R&D challenge in that area of that economy in particular. We know they need to secure talent, capital and innovation to secure opportunities in a global marketplace.”

With a sluggish economy, and low interest rates, Morneau says it’s the time to make significant investments in infrastructure. Making smart, targeted investments in infrastructure drives growth in the medium and long-term time frame, he says.

“People understand broadly that those investments at this time is the right idea,” said Morneau.

He also understands that with rapid growth in cities, that all levels of government must create investments in infrastructure that help create sustainable, urban areas.

These issues create a challenge for growth and prosperity.

“It’s not as sunny as we all wish or as sunny as Canadians deserve … we recognize the situation we are living in today is challenging,” he said.

Editor's note: This article originally appeared in iPolitics .

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01/06/2016
KATHRYN MAY, OTTAWA CITIZEN
Published on: December 28, 2015 
 
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should “clarify” the unwritten rules for Canada’s public service and expand the responsibilities of deputy ministers to help public servants resume the role they were traditionally intended to play, says one of Canada’s former top bureaucrats.
 
Kevin Lynch, former clerk of the Privy Council and now vice-chair of BMO Financial Group, argues that deputy ministers’ responsibilities should extend beyond financial responsibility and signing off their department’s books to include the “overall health” of their department to ensure it is doing its job impartially.
 
“It would expand the list of things that deputies are accountable for (to include) a well-functioning department,” said Lynch. “We saw it as an annual health check that deputy ministers should sign off in addition to a financial report on the department.”
 
The recommendation is among the fixes proposed by a blue-chip panel of experts on governance aimed at getting the public service back to its traditional non-partisan role.
 
Along with Lynch, the panel included Jim Dinning, former Alberta provincial treasurer; Jean Charest, former premier of Quebec; Monique Leroux, chief executive` of Desjardins Group; and Heather Munroe-Blum, principal emerita of McGill University
 
The panel looked at reforms for four key players in Canada’s democracy: parliamentary committees, cabinet, the public service and political staffers — or what it termed the “political service.” The panel’s reforms are aimed at rebooting the checks and balances of the four institutions.
 
For the public service, the first thing to do is clarify the “conventions” or unwritten rules underpinning its role on policy advice, as well as carrying out programs and delivering services, says the panel.
 
Lynch said that clarity should come in a statement from the prime minister. He said the statement should be made in Parliament, with all-party support, and would be the benchmark for future behaviour. 
 
After the sponsorship scandal of the Chrétien era, the Conservative government under Stephen Harper passed legislation that beefed up the role and responsibilities of deputy ministers, making them “accounting officers” responsible for the management of their departments. 
 
The panel wants deputy ministers to also annually attest to measures that ensure regular meetings between the minister and deputy ministers, as well as working relationships between the minister, minister’s office and departmental officials.
 
Deputies would also have to attest to the “highest levels of integrity and impartiality” in the department on policy advice, program delivery, regulatory administration and departmental communications. They would have to confirm departments have the policy capacity to deliver the government’s agenda and handle the study of long-term issues.
 
The department would also be expected to consult Canadians and use digital technology to stay abreast of the public’s views when developing policies and programs.
 
Many argue the existing legislation for “accounting officers” covers much of this territory because deputy ministers are responsible for following all Treasury Board policies and the code of conduct.
 
Lynch said the panel was intent that its report, published by the Public Policy Forum, not be shelved without debate so it is taking the discussion on the road. He and other members are touring the public policy and management schools at universities across the country to discuss the proposals.
 
Academics and public management experts have sounded the alarm for years on the deterioration of Canada’s democratic institutions as more power was centralized in the Prime Minister’s Office. Many argue the problems got worse under the Conservative government.
 
Lynch said the panel is proposing “practical” fixes that could be done quickly without changing the constitution and new legislation.
 
A big problem for the public service is the mushrooming army of political staffers led by the PMO, the “political service” that has taken over some of the work of the public service. 
 
Politicians began to rely on staffers for ideas and advice, sidelining the public service. As a result, the public service didn’t use, and thus lost, some of its policy capacity, and deputy ministers ended up more connected to the PMO than their ministers.
 
The panel recommended a new code of conduct for political staff that would clearly spell out the roles and duties of public servants and what political staff can do. It also urged more training and an oversight body for political staff.
 
Trudeau introduced a new code of conduct for staffers in his updated Guide to Ministers.
 
But Lynch said “short-termism” and political parties being in “permanent campaign” mode have changed the nature of the work of the public service and its relationship with politicians.
 
“This is not about going back to the good old days,” said Lynch. “These broad trends are happening regardless and what we have to do is figure out — given that reality — the checks and balances that will ensure (our institutions) work they way they are intended.”
 
Politicians are racing to keep up with today’s rapid, “technology-driven round-the-clock news cycle.” Parties are seen to be always in campaign mode and focus on short-term issues for political gain rather than long-term policies and strategies. Public servants, however, are supposed to be neutral and have no role in campaigns.
 
 “We have drifted into a period of permanent campaigning, which is an American phenomenon …. which is not a good thing for the role of the public service because it doesn’t have a role in a campaign, said Lynch.
 
“Political parties operate less as a government and more as a party for re-election so the more we get into permanent campaign modes, it changes the relationships and not necessarily in good ways.”
 
Lynch argued that once the governance issue is fixed, the next challenge for the public service will be changing the way it does policy in a world driven by big data and analytics. Public servants must learn to manage risk; they will have to become innovative and use more open communications and using social media.
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12/14/2015
KEVIN LYNCH
Contributed to The Globe and Mail
Published Saturday, Dec. 05, 2015 5:00AM EST
 
Kevin Lynch is vice-chairman of Bank of Montreal and former Clerk of the Privy Council.
 
The new government’s recognition that an effective, impartial and permanent public service is a vital institution in Canada’s system of governance is a welcome change. Restoring respect and trust in our public institutions is one of the primary challenges confronting the new Liberal government.
 
The government’s initial steps are all in the right direction – opening up communications, committing to rebuilding the role played by parliamentary committees, signalling respect for the public service and offering a more inclusive approach to governing.
 
In our system of governance, the public service plays a core role and, in these complex and changing times, governments should have two messages for their public services: We have great respect for you, and equally great expectations of you.
 
Whether we always like it or not, today’s reality is a world of pervasive globalization, relentless competition, perpetual innovation, and aging demographics. In this “new global normal,” government’s role and capacities need to evolve to reflect these shifting realities.
 
Ottawa has signalled its clear intent to let the public service fulfill its intended role. But how does the public service renew itself to to meet these expectations? Consider three areas where the greatest scope for public sector reinvention and innovation may lie.
 
First, a strong analytic policy capacity that is both broad and deep is a basic necessity of effective governing in an increasingly interconnected, complex and uncertain world. We need to be bolder in our policy thinking, by positioning ourselves at the leading edge of disruptive trends so we can thrive, and not merely survive. Consensus building on innovative policy directions requires well-articulated analysis, diverse views and spirited public discourse. In all this, the public service has to be capable of being a strong, impartial and innovative voice in these discussions.
 
Policy advice cannot be a monopoly of the public service in today’s world of social media and a multichannel universe. It should add value to other sources in terms of its impartiality, timeliness, analytic quality, global perspective and long-term focus.
 
Value-added policy advice eschews short-termism, a problem that bedevils so many aspects of business, politics and journalism today. It offers needed advice based on “big data” and smart analytics, not anecdote.
 
Second, a risk-management orientation. In a world experiencing a sharp spike in risk and volatility, the smart response by government is proactive – not reactive – risk management. Today’s risks are more systemic, more global, more interconnected and more unpredictable than ever before. For government as well as the private sector, they include technology risk, geopolitical risk, forecast risk, environmental risk, security risk, social licence risk and policy risk.
 
For any institution in a period of change and challenge, short-term risk-aversion paradoxically amplifies risk and long-term pain rather than minimizing it. Effective risk management is a strategy for long-term gain that accepts risk and innovation are correlated. In part, this necessitates attacking the ever-expanding compliance regimes which drown governments in a web of rules, and replacing them with best-practice risk management tools.
 
While challenging in practice, particularly in government, risk management lies at the heart of innovation, which is so central to making government more productive, more connected and more relevant.
 
Third, an innovation focus. In a world where technological innovation is at an inflexion point, disrupting how business is done in sector after sector, government should be at the leading edge of innovation adaptation. It is not.
 
An interesting parallel is the financial world, where financial tech, or fintech, has captured the imagination with its potential to better manage the allocation of capital, reduce payment costs, transform the collection and analysis of data for decision making and broaden accessibility.
 
The tools of the fintech trade are new platform technologies, huge scalability, big data, cloud computing, and customer-centric business models – all applicable to government operations.
 
So why not “govtech”? Many of the core functions of government are equally amenable to such innovations, and offer improvements in costs, productivity, service and the public’s experience of dealing with government.
 
An added benefit of being a leader in govtech would be the enormous export potential for these Canadian firms to market their innovative applications to governments around the world.
 
A re-empowered public service can be a magnet for talent and contribute significantly to Canada’s long-term success as a strong economy and vibrant society. It now has great expectations to meet.
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