Crown Corporation Governance
For more than a century, Crown corporations have occupied a prominent place in our provincial and federal administrations and remain key instruments for implementing economic, social, and cultural policies. Some are true agents of economic and social development. Given their influence, the government assets they control, and the levers at their disposal to play an active role in the economy and reach out to citizens, their actions are widely scrutinized. The issues surrounding some of the largest federal and provincial Crown corporations such as Canada Post, CBC/Radio-Canada, Hydro-Quebec, Hydro One, SaskTel and provincial liquor retailers, are often the subject of sustained and passionate debate.
In recent years – and even months – a spate of dissonant confusion has arisen regarding the governance of Crown corporations in Canada. Whether it is the privatization of Hydro One in Ontario, the process for appointing board governors in Manitoba, or questions regarding compensation for “part-time” work in Ottawa, there is growing awareness of the need to clarify and strengthen the governance models of Crown corporations. While these challenges are not new, they have become acute in an era when governments increasingly insist on accountability, transparency, and openness.
At the heart of all these decisions and questions that persist about governance of Crown corporations remains an important issue—their autonomy. Unlike departments and agencies that are part of the core public administration, Crown corporations have enjoyed greater management autonomy, which is deemed necessary to enable them to make quick decisions, without being subject to undue influence from governments. But how best to ensure that the directions and decisions taken by Crown corporations are consistent with the priorities and objectives of governments? In an era of social media, in which the decisions of our leaders make headlines and expose elected representatives to criticism, what is the best way to intervene and inject control while respecting the relationship and degree of autonomy traditionally granted to Crown corporations?
To address this confusion, the Public Policy Forum led a multi-sectoral partnership to investigate the challenges facing Crown corporation governance. Our final report presents an overview of Crown corporations – their role, function, and evolution of their structure – as well as some suggested paths forward and three recommendations to manage the tension between autonomy and control.
This report is available in English only.
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With thanks to our project partners: