Reassert core ethical values in the public serviceTEST

In October, John Hannaford, clerk of the Privy Council, launched a task force of deputy ministers to review the complex issue of values and ethics in the federal public service.

“The intention is not to reinvent the values and ethics code,” he said at the time. Past principles “are relevant in a number of different contexts – but we have a different context today – we are in a more complex space.”

The task force report, released in December, noted several key challenges contributing to that different context – a large and rapid influx of new public servants, new ways of interacting and building shared values in a hybrid work environment, the prevalence of social media, the drive for inclusivity and generational differences.

Those are major challenges for the public service if it is to ensure that it meets its obligations and retains public trust.

To do so, new ways must be developed to better train and socialize new public servants, encourage ethical leadership to strengthen the code of conduct and encourage its integration into public service culture, especially in this changing environment.

The last time the public service addressed values and ethics seriously was the 1995-96 task force led by John Tait, who produced the report, A Strong Foundation, which informed the development of the public service values and ethics code.

As expected, the ethics terrain has shifted since that time. Ethical breaches are being reported more frequently in the mainstream media. Why? Is the public service more sensitive to breaches or are these cases somehow different than in the past?

These questions raise an even more difficult question: what are the drivers behind these incidents and do they point to a need to reassert core ethical values?

Several noteworthy ethical breaches

Ethical breaches are nothing new. Various commissions have examined questionable ethical behaviour over time. Some breaches were well-publicized while others remained obscure.

One current case involves a senior analyst at the Privy Council Office (PCO) who accused Canada and other countries on social media of aiding Israel in “war crimes and crimes against humanity” in the aftermath of the Hamas attacks in October.

This raises the issue of whether there are, or should be, tougher limits on the use of social media by public servants to express personal opinions publicly regarding federal policies.

The ArriveCAN app in a photo illustration. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Giordano Ciampini

Another case that was the subject of a recent auditor general report concerns the development of the ArriveCAN app. The case is trickier and yet unclear but appears to relate to issues around procurement rules and potential mismanagement.

What was particularly unusual was two senior officials from the Canada Border Services Agency accusing each other publicly of impropriety when they appeared before the Commons operations committee.

Within the traditions of Westminster government, this jeopardizes the desired anonymity of public servants. It may be usual for public servants to testify publicly, but it is not expected to see them accuse each other publicly of mismanagement.

Another case involves a senior RCMP intelligence official who violated the Security of Information Act by disclosing classified material to foreign powers. In addition, a former employee of the Canadian Space Agency was accused of “using his status as an engineer at the Canadian Space Agency to negotiate satellite station installation agreements with Iceland on behalf of a Chinese aerospace company.”

These incidents raise questions about not only criminal behaviour but also loyalty to Canada.

Finally, another investigation was launched by the Canada Revenue Agency into about 600 of its employees who claimed the Canadian emergency response benefit (CERB) during the COVID-19 pandemic. Of those investigated, 185 have been terminated since December for fraudulent claims.

This raises questions about fraudulent behaviour related to maintaining public trust.

Raising important challenges

There are critical assumptions that underlie issues of ethical behaviour – a common vision of values and ethics; collective standards of behaviour that are agreed upon and accepted; and a commonality of purpose in an institution with 375,000 members across the country.

Do these assumptions still hold true?

The December task force report sheds light on current issues as perceived by a selection of public servants. It is limited in scope, anecdotal and conveys opinions, perceptions, beliefs and unfulfilled expectations from selected individual quotes.

Therefore, the report can only infer that the public service is facing significant challenges vis-Ă -vis the practice of ethics or even in achieving a common understanding of ethical conduct.

The report offers no clear answer but it does touch on issues of the bureaucratic environment, including digital transformation and use of social media; increasing misinformation and disinformation clouding ethical judgment; shifting public service composition and demographics (e.g., anti-racism, diversity, accessibility, official languages); and work arrangements that test institutional cohesion.

How can this be interpreted?

Public service values can be imposed or they can emerge organically over time. Either way, sound ethical judgement must be socialized but in different ways.

The risk involved in the former is that the selection of values can create friction because they may not be collectively shared, in which case a culture of enforcement may be necessary.

The second, which represents the natural emergence of values, takes time and effort. They need to be socialized, discussed and tested through, for example, understanding ethical dilemmas.

In the current federal context, apart from the new rules imposed through different governmental initiatives to counter all sorts of discrimination, many of the challenges arise and extend from generational shifts in the understanding of ethics, integrating an increasing number of immigrants and their views, and the role of technology in forming these views.

In other words, both forms are occurring simultaneously.

Generational shifts in ethical judgment are testing commonly held understandings

Generations usually think about ethics differently, especially as they relate to their personal values relative to those who came before. Although institutional and practice codes extend from commonly held collective values, personal values extend from the subjectivity of individuals and their beliefs.

These push and pull relationships can change over time, which has implications for public service values and ethics because often these cannot be anticipated.

First, new recruits may not hold the same beliefs as public servants from previous generations.

Several examples were given in the report but one was quite explicit on this issue: “The notion of respect for people may have been very different 30 years ago. We need to ensure and foster a positive and inclusive workplace. An example of this is providing accommodations for trans or non-binary people, such as gender-neutral bathrooms.”

Normally, training programs are used as a vehicle to help newcomers understand, learn, and embrace expected behaviours. These programs attempt to bridge generational understandings – an issue that the task force report highlighted.

Newcomers want to work differently, which may butt up against previously accepted norms of hierarchy and onsite command-and-control bureaucracy.

Expectations of inclusivity have also shifted, such as how to accommodate or embrace Indigenous approaches to work, which may conflict with hierarchical and top-down authority. Equally, respect for diversity within the public service is testing previously held notions of respect and fairness.

Social media is pushing the boundaries of appropriate communication

Some public servants, especially younger ones, believe they ought to be able to express their personal views publicly on all matters through formal and informal means. This violates the anonymity principle of public servants, although for many that has long been a myth.

Doing this also raises questions about public confidence in the public service to be impartial, fair and even-handed in public decision-making.

Loyalty and impartiality may also be at stake if the personal opinions of public servants, when made public, diverge from governmental policies. Collective agreement is needed on what would replace anonymous service as a co-ordinating principle.

Accommodating new immigrants is challenging traditional ethical standards

Canada has welcomed a significant number of immigrants over the last decade, which has changed the complexion of Canadian society and, by extension, the face of new public service appointments.

Immigrants are joining Canadian society at various stages in their lives and will not necessarily have been socialized through Canadian institutions and Canadian values, beliefs and allegiances before joining the public service.

Their behavioural norms may have been informed by their own culture rather than through Canadian institutions and practices.

For instance, in some cultures, it is the norm to give and accept gifts of significant value when meeting colleagues, private sector representatives or dignitaries. In Canada, it is more structured and regulated. Both sets of values and beliefs will influence each other over time, which will create new understandings of values and ethics.

As expected, time will be needed to properly work out and maintain cohesiveness.

For the public service, the major challenge is this: how to maintain a balance between the expected behaviour of public servants according to a homogenized code of values and ethics that may have shifted, and demographic and attitudinal changes of new recruits that may be in conflict because core values have radically shifted in important ways.

Moving from task force reflections to action

The task force concluded that to improve the public service’s sense of values and ethics, it must reinforce these key messages:

  • The public service is a calling to be professional and nonpartisan.
  • Public trust is earned, which means holding to core values.
  • Respect for people means that workplaces are to be physically and psychologically safe.
  • Public servants must be held to account for poor behaviours.
  • All public servants must expect that the code of values and ethics will be applied consistently through ethical leadership.

There are two ways to influence values and ethics that contribute to a common public ethos for public servants.

First, existing formal codes may need to be revised to adapt to new realities. For instance, consequences for ethical breaches may have to be clarified and made more severe to discourage unwanted behaviour.

Second, training and socialization will have to be revisited. New ethical dilemmas must be identified and discussed openly through formal and informal training activities in a way that stimulates collective understanding.

This creates conditions for public servants to expose different understandings and come to a consensus on collective strategies for mitigating ethical risks.

A modern approach would encompass building a strategy that suits the requirements of a 21st-century work environment characterized by new technologies and remote work arrangements.

The task force report must be reinforced with definitive action on ethical leadership and communications that send clear messages about the essential core values for serving the public good.

The problem with illusory autonomy in Saskatchewan’s education fundingTEST

The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation and the provincial government are at odds over the issue of class size and composition. 

The teachers are on strike after negotiations stalled. They argue class sizes have been slowly increasing over the past several years while student needs have become more diverse and more complex. They and the Saskatchewan School Boards Association say chronic underfunding is to blame. 

The province’s ministry of education does not dispute that the issues need to be resolved but says they ought to be dealt with locally rather than provincially. There is an inherent contradiction in this stance given that the province assumed full control over key aspects of educational funding 15 years ago, ending local autonomy. 

Regardless of how the teachers’ strike is finally resolved, it’s time to strike a new balance in provincial education policy – retaining the good elements of the current centralized approach while allowing local boards to decide on the allocation of funds and to set education mill rates based on the specific needs and priorities of their schools and communities. 

The heart of the dispute is the 2009 provincial decision to set a government-controlled, province-wide education mill rate and establish a province-wide funding formula. 

Now, however, the government is attempting to deflect current issues to local school boards, claiming that while the boards have no authority to set property tax mill rates, they have the autonomy to redistribute some of the funds they get from the government via the province-wide funding. 

This is illusory. Without any provisions for boards to raise their own funds, they have little choice but to starve some areas of education to fund others. 

This illusory autonomy also contributes substantially to the increasing teacher dissatisfaction and burnout as well as a potential decline in the quality of education across the province. 

With more than a decade of evidence about the impact of the loss of local autonomy and the knowledge that autonomy with responsibility improves learning outcomes, it is imperative to explore policy alternatives to address this issue for the long term.  

The concept of local autonomy over education is distinctly North American. It stems from the model of the one-room schoolhouse in the late 19th century, when education decisions (curricular and financial) were made by the local community and funded wholly by property taxes. 

As enrolment grew after the Second World War, education shifted toward centralization, leading to increased provincial control as well as standardized curricula and teacher training.  

By the late 20th century, however, provincial fiscal constraints resulted in an approach geared toward efficiency, consolidation and formula-based funding. The last 30 years have been dominated by public discourse regarding taxation fairness, education equity, funding efficiency and local autonomy. 

Austerity in public education financing is fostering growing inequities in Canada 

Chronic student absenteeism will require serious investment 

In 2006, driven by economic pressures and the aim of establishing a more equitable and consistent tax base province-wide, the Saskatchewan government reduced the number of school districts to 28 (now 27) from 117.  

This amalgamation, which was initially voluntary but was subsequently made mandatory, aimed to achieve uniformity in the property tax base across regions and to enhance governance and service efficiency. 

In 2009, facing political pressure, particularly from rural landowners and businesses, the government removed the local school boards’ authority to set education property tax mill rates, opting instead for a lower, unified provincial rate. 

Then, in 2012, the province overhauled the school-division budgeting process, introducing a new province-wide funding formula alongside a promise of adequate funding. This change stripped school boards of the power to raise local funds for specific needs and initiatives, requiring them to submit zero-based budgets, with no exceptions, to the government.

The mechanism for property taxation stayed the same. Property taxes for education continued to be collected at the municipal level but remitted to the province to be redistributed province-wide. 

According to the 2023 Fraser Institute report, over the past 10 years, while inflation-adjusted per-student spending increased in seven out of the 10 provinces, Saskatchewan experienced a notable shift, moving from the highest per-student spender in 2012-13 to the sixth highest in 2019-20. 

Similarly, it moved from second to sixth in the same period for operational spending. Although the government invested a record dollar amount in 2023, that funding now also includes early learning, child care and libraries, not just traditional education spending.  

Meanwhile, there has been an increase in the diversity of students, including those with special needs, newcomers and those from disadvantaged backgrounds.  

The pandemic heightened the need for more one-on-one student support to address learning gaps. Escalating behavioural problems and much-needed language supports are constantly applying additional pressure to already strained educational resources. 

In addition, with national reports of growing student mental-health needs that first surfaced at least a decade ago and continue to emerge, the recently developed government-initiated one-size-fits-all pilot-project approaches to mediate some of these challenges seem both too limited in scope and at least a decade late. 

The government is wrong to push the responsibility for solving some of these issues down to the school board level, where there are clearly insufficient resources to effectively manage these challenges. By doing so, the province also inadvertently underscores the shortcomings of its own policies. Responsibility and authority must go hand-in-hand. 

Responsibility without authority not only transfers the burden without adequate support but also brings to light the systemic issues within the provincial strategy, revealing the need for a more cohesive and well-resourced approach. 

To effectively tackle the challenges in Saskatchewan’s education funding policies, the provincial government must refine the existing model by retaining its effective elements and overhauling those that have failed. 

The funding policy changes implemented between 2009 and 2012 went too far in terms of centralization – to the point where effective decision-making at the community level was hindered.  

Proponents of returning the funding of at least some of the cost of education to local property taxes say local autonomy allows programs to be tailored to community-specific needs. 

Those who oppose that idea continue to favour a broader, more equitable resource distribution across regions, viewing education as a societal responsibility best managed through centralized mechanisms. 

What is needed now is a hybrid funding model that balances localized decision-making with essential centralized controls. 

Are noisy Canadian classrooms hindering students? 

Assistive technology is failing our students 

A balanced approach would recognize the value of certain centralized provisions while reinstating local authority where it can make a positive difference. It would also combine the strengths of both centralized and local governance, aiming to provide equitable, high-quality education for all students in Saskatchewan. 

Centralized control would play a key role in ensuring equitable distribution of resources across all regions.  

This could include setting minimum funding standards and monitoring to ensure that all students, regardless of their school division, have access to a baseline quality of education. It would also involve overseeing major budget allocations and ensuring adherence to provincial educational standards and objectives.  

Centralized provisions should also include mechanisms for addressing disparities in property values, ensuring that schools in less affluent areas are not disadvantaged. This could involve a system of transparent, supplementary funding to support schools in lower-income regions. 

Simultaneously, local school boards should be empowered with real autonomy, allowing them to make decisions based on the specific needs and priorities of their schools and communities. 

This would include some capacity for local taxation and budgeting, enabling them to address unique challenges such as class size, special education needs and cultural or linguistic programs specific to the needs of their local communities and important to its citizens. 

A revised model could blend the strengths of both centralized and local governance, ensuring equitable, high-quality education across Saskatchewan with room for local context, adaptability and innovation. 

L’émancipation Ă©conomique des femmes est essentielle pour combattre la violence fondĂ©e sur le sexeTEST

(English version available here)

La violence Ă©conomique est un problĂšme qui passe souvent inaperçu au Canada. Il s’agit d’une forme de violence conjugale qui se cache derriĂšre un mur de tabous, des valeurs et un manque de conscientisation. 

C’est aussi une rĂ©ponse frĂ©quente quand on demande aux victimes pourquoi elles ne partent pas : souvent, elles n’en ont pas les moyens. Le manque de ressources financiĂšres est l’une des premiĂšres raisons pour lesquelles les victimes restent dans des relations abusives ou y retournent.  

Les dĂ©cideurs politiques ont commencĂ© Ă  reconnaĂźtre cette forme de violence, qui exerce un contrĂŽle coercitif et limite l’indĂ©pendance Ă©conomique. Les conjoints violents peuvent empĂȘcher les victimes d’avoir leur propre argent ou un compte bancaire, prendre des dĂ©cisions financiĂšres importantes sans les consulter ou accumuler des dettes Ă  leur nom, ce qui les empĂȘche de travailler et les incite Ă  se tenir tranquilles quand il est question d’argent. 

Les notions d’exploitation financiĂšre et de violence Ă©conomique sont souvent utilisĂ©es de maniĂšre interchangeable, mais leur portĂ©e diffĂšre. Alors que la premiĂšre limite les ressources financiĂšres, la seconde englobe un Ă©ventail plus large de comportements, notamment le contrĂŽle Ă©conomique, l’exploitation Ă©conomique et le sabotage de l’emploi. 

Une Ă©tude menĂ©e dans la grande rĂ©gion d’Ottawa par le Centre canadien pour l’autonomisation des femmes et publiĂ©e au dĂ©but de 2021 a montrĂ© les effets de la violence Ă©conomique. Quelque 93 % des victimes n’ont pas accĂšs Ă  leur propre argent. Nombre d’entre elles ne recevaient que des allocations en espĂšces et devaient rendre compte des sommes dĂ©pensĂ©es. En outre, 86 % des personnes interrogĂ©es ont reçu l’ordre de quitter leur travail, ce qui a aggravĂ© leur isolement et leur dĂ©pendance financiĂšre.  

La maltraitance Ă©conomique n’arrĂȘte pas avec le dĂ©part de la victime. Si on ne s’en occupe pas rapidement, ses consĂ©quences nĂ©fastes peuvent perdurer.     

Les partenaires abusifs peuvent utiliser l’argent Ă  mauvais escient ou accumuler des dettes au nom des victimes par la force, la menace ou mĂȘme Ă  leur insu – une pratique connue sous le nom de « dette forcĂ©e ». Les victimes sont tenues pour responsables et paient donc le prix de cette violence longtemps aprĂšs la sĂ©paration. Elles peuvent ĂȘtre obligĂ©es de dĂ©clarer faillite. Une mauvaise cote de crĂ©dit peut les empĂȘcher d’obtenir de petits prĂȘts ou du crĂ©dit, ou encore de louer un appartement, ce qui les oblige Ă  retourner auprĂšs du conjoint violent. 

Le tabou qui entoure l’argent et la violence ne fait qu’aggraver les choses. La violence conjugale Ă©tant dĂ©jĂ  cachĂ©e, les finances se retrouvent encore plus dans l’ombre en raison de la stigmatisation sociĂ©tale qui entoure les discussions sur l’argent. Il est donc plus difficile pour les victimes de demander de l’aide ou de partager leurs expĂ©riences.    

Si tout le monde peut ĂȘtre victime de violence Ă©conomique, les femmes issues de milieux socioĂ©conomiques dĂ©favorisĂ©s, les Autochtones, les personnes racialisĂ©es, les personnes issues de la diversitĂ© des genres et les autres communautĂ©s marginalisĂ©es courent un risque beaucoup plus Ă©levĂ©.  

La violence Ă©conomique est profondĂ©ment ancrĂ©e dans les structures sociĂ©tales et les dĂ©sĂ©quilibres de pouvoir, tels que l’inĂ©galitĂ© entre les sexes et l’injustice Ă©conomique. Ce phĂ©nomĂšne est renforcĂ© par les normes de genre et amplifiĂ© par le patriarcat, le racisme, le colonialisme et le capitalisme, oĂč les hommes (gĂ©nĂ©ralement blancs) dĂ©tiennent un contrĂŽle disproportionnĂ© sur les ressources financiĂšres. 

Les victimes sont confrontĂ©es Ă  l’incrĂ©dulitĂ©, Ă  de la discrimination, et ils revivent leurs traumatismes devant les tribunaux, les institutions financiĂšres et les services sociaux. La crise actuelle du logement, l’augmentation du coĂ»t de la nourriture, le manque de services de garde et les difficultĂ©s Ă  dĂ©mĂȘler les comptes bancaires conjoints font qu’il est encore plus difficile de s’émanciper.    

Lorsque les victimes sont Ă©conomiquement dĂ©pendantes de leur agresseur, socialement isolĂ©es et endettĂ©es, elles n’ont souvent pas les moyens de quitter une relation violente ou sont obligĂ©es d’y retourner. Les pĂ©riodes qui prĂ©cĂšdent et suivent de peu la sĂ©paration sont les plus dangereuses pour les victimes, selon les statistiques ontariennes sur les fĂ©minicides. Pourtant, une victime a besoin en moyenne de sept tentatives avant de rĂ©ussir Ă  quitter, car le systĂšme actuel ne les protĂšge pas. Certaines femmes n’ont mĂȘme jamais l’occasion d’essayer de partir. 

L’autonomisation Ă©conomique au service de la prĂ©vention de la violence sexiste 

Il est essentiel d’inclure l’autonomisation Ă©conomique dans les stratĂ©gies fĂ©dĂ©rale, provinciales et territoriales de lutte contre la violence fondĂ©e sur le sexe afin d’aider les survivantes Ă  reprendre le contrĂŽle de leur vie et de leurs finances.  

Dans son rapport de 2022 sur la violence familiale et conjugale, le ComitĂ© permanent de la condition fĂ©minine a recommandĂ© au gouvernement d’élaborer une stratĂ©gie globale pour lutter contre la maltraitance financiĂšre et Ă©conomique. 

En 2023, le Centre canadien pour l’autonomisation des femmes a publiĂ© un tableau de bord financier sur la violence Ă©conomique qui a montrĂ© l’urgence d’une intervention gouvernementale. Ce tableau de bord classe les provinces et les territoires en fonction de l’existence et de l’efficacitĂ© de leurs politiques. La Colombie-Britannique a obtenu le score le plus Ă©levĂ©, avec un taux abyssal de 36 %, alors que la moyenne nationale n’est que de 17,8 %. 

Le plan fĂ©dĂ©ral visant Ă  mettre fin Ă  la violence fondĂ©e sur le sexe a Ă©tabli une feuille de route pour les provinces et les territoires. Il a dĂ©bouchĂ© sur des accords qui donnent Ă  ces gouvernements la possibilitĂ© de s’attaquer Ă  la violence Ă©conomique dans le cadre de leurs stratĂ©gies respectives. La sĂ©curitĂ© et la sĂ»retĂ© Ă©conomique des victimes sont importantes pour prĂ©venir et quitter la violence, ainsi que pour arrĂȘter le cycle de la pauvretĂ© et de la violence, comme l’ont soulignĂ© des Ă©tudes rĂ©centes.  

Sur la base de ces actions, des changements de politique qui contribueraient Ă  mettre fin Ă  la maltraitance Ă©conomique pourraient inclure :

  • Recueillir des donnĂ©es sur la violence Ă©conomique : les donnĂ©es existantes de Statistique Canada sur la violence conjugale n’incluent pas la maltraitance Ă©conomique. Ces informations sont essentielles pour comprendre l’étendue, la nature et l’impact de la maltraitance et pour y rĂ©pondre efficacement. 
  • Élargir la dĂ©finition de la violence Ă©conomique : le glossaire gouvernemental sur la violence fondĂ©e sur le sexe indique qu’il y a exploitation financiĂšre lorsqu’une personne utilise de l’argent, des actifs ou des biens pour contrĂŽler ou exploiter une autre personne. Cette dĂ©finition ne couvre pas l’étendue des tactiques abusives. Une dĂ©finition plus large est nĂ©cessaire pour que les stratĂ©gies politiques puissent mieux prĂ©venir la violence Ă©conomique sous toutes ses formes. 
  • DĂ©clarer une journĂ©e de sensibilisation : une pĂ©tition demandant que le 26 novembre devienne une journĂ©e nationale de sensibilisation Ă  la violence Ă©conomique devrait ĂȘtre prĂ©sentĂ©e Ă  la Chambre des communes au cours des prochaines semaines. Cette journĂ©e permettrait de mettre le problĂšme sur la place publique, de reconnaĂźtre le vĂ©cu des survivants et de rĂ©duire la stigmatisation et les tabous qui entourent la violence Ă©conomique. 
  • Modifier les politiques bancaires : dans le cadre de son examen actuel, l’Agence de la consommation en matiĂšre financiĂšre du Canada devrait rendre les victimes admissibles Ă  des comptes bancaires sans frais. 

Au niveau provincial et territorial, les gouvernements pourraient :  

  • Allouer des fonds pour un rĂ©tablissement financier rapide aprĂšs de la maltraitance : cette mesure permettrait de s’assurer que les victimes et leurs enfants ne sont pas contraints de retourner Ă  la violence et qu’ils peuvent reprendre le contrĂŽle de leur vie et de leurs finances. 
  • Financer des programmes de logement abordable, amĂ©liorer la protection des locataires et augmenter la capacitĂ© des refuges : cette mesure garantirait l’accĂšs Ă  de l’hĂ©bergement et Ă  des logements sĂ»rs Ă  court et Ă  long terme pour les femmes et leurs enfants qui fuient la violence. 
  • S’attaquer Ă  l’endettement forcé : le projet de loi 41 de l’Ontario aborde cette question dans le cadre de la traite des ĂȘtres humains. Une lĂ©gislation plus large est nĂ©cessaire pour inclure les survivantes de la violence conjugale afin de s’assurer qu’elles ne sont pas tenues responsables des dettes contractĂ©es Ă  la suite de maltraitance Ă©conomique. La loi californienne de 2022 pourrait servir de modĂšle. 
  • DĂ©velopper les conseils sociaux, financiers et juridiques pour les survivantes et leurs enfants : les services doivent ĂȘtre accessibles, tenir compte des traumatismes et ĂȘtre axĂ©s sur les survivantes afin de favoriser un rĂ©tablissement rapide. 

En élargissant et en complétant les stratégies existantes de prévention de la violence fondée sur le sexe, les gouvernements pourront aider les victimes et leurs enfants à briser le cycle de la pauvreté et de la violence. 

Building voters’ confidence in the municipal election processTEST

Cities across Ontario are facing unprecedented housing, transit, and infrastructure challenges at a time when turnout for municipal elections is abysmal – hovering at an average of 36 per cent in the last election cycle. 

At the same time, the policies ensuring the integrity of these elections needs updating to keep up with the changing landscape of local election campaign strategies.  

The process by which city officials are elected matters to how cities are governed and ultimately how the interests of citizens are served.  

Safeguarding local elections from the undue influence of corporations or well-financed interests while ensuring all voices can be heard is the challenge of both city administrators, who run elections on top of their day-to-day duties, and the provincial government that legislates this process through the Municipal Elections Act. 

This presents a two-sided challenge. On one hand, legislation governing municipal elections must be practical to implement on a leaner budget than provincial elections while still being flexible and applicable in each of the province’s municipalities regardless of size, location or other differences.  

But, flexibility cannot be achieved at the expense of consistency or transparency. Local elections, like any elections, face risks such as fraud, the misapplication of campaign finances, and a lack of transparency.  

To reconcile these needs and support public trust in the process, Ontario should consider three areas ahead of the 2026 municipal elections:  

1) Revising and updating the compliance audit process; 

2) Strengthening the enforcement of campaign laws; 

3) Enhancing third-party campaign spending laws.  

A uniform auditing process 

Compliance audits are a way for citizens to raise concerns about candidates or third parties who may have violated campaign finance rules.  

A city-appointed compliance audit committee receives requests to determine if an audit is warranted. The audit itself is conducted by an independent auditor, but the committee of citizens has a say over who gets investigated.  

This process is decentralized and varies widely by municipality. The legislation that sets out the rules leads to confusion about who can submit an application and how the committee should respond.  

The legislation also includes a “good faith” exception that empowers the committee to waive penalties for candidates who have been found in violation of the act (perhaps unintentionally). 

All of this leads to an uneven application of the law across municipalities and cumbersome process wherein the decisions of compliance audit committees are subject to a potential review by and appeal through the courts.  

In practice, this has meant that citizens and candidates may wait years to receive a response to their audit request.  

Offering clearer and more consistent processes is crucial for maintaining the integrity of the electoral process. This could be achieved by: 

1) The creation of a repository of compliance audit cases for municipalities to reference;  

2) Clarity over the role and power of compliance audit committees;

3) Requirements to provide a written rationale for decisions; 

4) Enhanced authority for compliance audit committees to impose modest penalties.

Strengthening enforcement capabilities 

A second challenge is in the scope of authority of municipal election officials.  

Contrary to common belief, local administrators have limited enforcement power when it comes to campaign regulations, especially concerning compliance with election laws. Furthermore, they have fewer resources than provincial or federal election administrators to conduct and monitor elections. While Ontarians routinely express the importance of municipal government in their daily lives, cities often lack the budgetary and human resources to meet the desired level of service provision.  

Despite the best efforts of local election administrators, the self-regulating system for campaign finance laws creates a situation where elections are at risk of not being transparent and fair. While municipal administrators may not have sufficient budgetary or personnel resources at present to take on even more obligations, the province could expand the capacity of compliance audit committees, working in tandem with city administrators, to better enforce campaign finance rules.   

Alternatively, authority over certain matters related to campaign finances could reside with the province, such as Elections Ontario’s compliance division, the provincial ombudsman, or an independent election finance review body. This entity could serve as an arbiter for cases where there is suspicion that election laws have been violated, standardizing the process. 

Enhancing third party legislation 

Our third recommendation addresses the regulation of third parties – individuals, corporations, or unions not running for office but who may influence election campaigns and shape public opinion on policies and candidates through political advertising.   

Consider the alleged connection between home builders and political actors in the last provincial election that may have influenced the political advertising space during the campaign, and, in turn, been rewarded with lucrative building contracts in Ontario’s Greenbelt.  

The decision to grant building contracts on Greenbelt land was eventually reversed, but it reflects the need for the act to protect fairness, ensure a level playing field, and prevent the undue influence of money in local elections.   

The sign is blue and says “Entering the Credit River Watershed. Part of the Greenbelt”. The road is lined with tiny wildflowers that border a swath of tall grass and a fenced-in field that has turned golden yellow. In the distance are a white farmhouse and a few white one-storey buildings on the property. The sky is a deep blue with low cloud cover near the horizon.
An Ontario Greenbelt sign is shown as it’s surrounded by farm land near Caledon, Ont., on Thursday, October 12, 2023. The Greenbelt is a protected area of green space, farmland, forests, wetlands, and watersheds, located in Southern Ontario, Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Changes to the legislation in 2016 attempted to regulate third-party involvement, but there is room to go further. In line with past recommendations made by the Association of Municipal Managers, Clerks and Treasurers of Ontario (AMCTO), we suggest aligning requirements for municipal third-party activity with provincial requirements where campaign spending activities trigger automatic audits at a certain threshold.  

This strikes a balance that ensures third-party voices can participate without exploiting the grey areas of campaign finance laws. 

Additionally, creating a searchable and public-facing repository of registered third parties would enhance transparency and shed light on their involvement and impact in local elections. This, too, would mirror the systems at the provincial and federal levels. 

While limited resources and sometimes arcane legislative parameters lead to inconsistent application of laws between municipalities, some progress has been made. The province has released increased guidance, including training materials and information sessions, for municipal election administrators.  

Reporting and transparency facilitated by associations such as the Association of Municipalities Ontario along with increased advocacy and training offered by associations like AMCTO have provided crucial support to city administrators who are called upon to run elections every four years. 

This progress needs to continue to ensure local elections in Ontario are run consistently, fairly, and transparently. This does not mean a one-size-fits-all solution given the variation in the size and needs of municipalities. Rather by enacting mechanisms that enhance the integrity of local elections, the province can give cities the tools to uphold electoral integrity and address voter disengagement.  

Notre avenir dĂ©pend des infrastructures. Il est temps d’agir en consĂ©quenceTEST

(English version available here)

Le Canada se trouve confrontĂ© Ă  des dĂ©cisions qui vont dĂ©terminer pour une gĂ©nĂ©ration la maniĂšre dont nous construisons, entretenons et soutenons les systĂšmes qui nous permettent de vivre au quotidien et d’assurer notre avenir socioĂ©conomique.

Ces systĂšmes, gĂ©nĂ©ralement appelĂ©s infrastructures, constituent le tissu physique, social et environnemental qui unit le Canada. Ils reprĂ©sentent le point culminant de toutes les dĂ©cisions – et indĂ©cisions – concernant nos prioritĂ©s et nos plans pour l’avenir.

Compte tenu de leur importance, la planification, l’investissement et l’entretien des infrastructures devraient ĂȘtre le fruit d’un processus direct, transparent et fondĂ© sur des donnĂ©es probantes. Le mot clĂ© est « devrait », car la maniĂšre dont nous abordons actuellement les infrastructures semble s’ĂȘtre dĂ©tachĂ©e de la bonne gouvernance et des bonnes politiques.

Il est plus que temps de revenir aux principes fondamentaux des politiques et de l’administration publiques, en solutionnant les problĂšmes grĂące Ă  une planification et une Ă©valuation rigoureuses, appuyĂ©es sur des donnĂ©es probantes.

Plans de gestion des actifs municipaux

L’une de ces stratĂ©gies consiste Ă  utiliser des processus existants, tels que les plans de gestion des actifs municipaux, pour soutenir des investissements stables, fondĂ©s sur les besoins et les prioritĂ©s. Les municipalitĂ©s sont souvent tenues de disposer d’un plan de gestion des actifs pour ĂȘtre admissibles au financement des infrastructures, mais le Canada ne regroupe pas ces plans, et il ne les utilise pas de façon systĂ©matique pour identifier les domaines et besoins prioritaires.

Les gouvernements fĂ©dĂ©ral et provinciaux devraient recueillir, analyser, Ă©valuer et mettre en contexte ces plans municipaux en tant qu’outil holistique dans le cadre de leurs processus d’élaboration des politiques.

À l’heure actuelle, peu de programmes de dĂ©penses en infrastructures ou de dĂ©cisions politiques font l’objet d’une Ă©valuation sĂ©rieuse.

Par exemple, une Ă©tude rĂ©cente rĂ©vĂšle que la grande majoritĂ© des dĂ©penses consacrĂ©es Ă  l’implantation de l’internet haute vitesse n’a pas fait l’objet d’un examen visant Ă  dĂ©terminer leur efficacitĂ©. Cette situation est encore exacerbĂ©e par une vision Ă  court terme visant Ă  rĂ©gler les problĂšmes de politique publique par des solutions axĂ©es sur le marchĂ©.

Il en va de mĂȘme pour la gestion de l’infrastructure des prestations sociales. Des rapports rĂ©cents du VĂ©rificateur gĂ©nĂ©ral indiquent que certains ministĂšres fĂ©dĂ©raux ont, au mieux, une vision incomplĂšte du nombre de personnes Ă©ligibles qui ne reçoivent pas les prestations auxquelles elles ont droit. Au pire, ces ministĂšres ignorent si leurs programmes soutiennent les populations difficiles Ă  joindre, comme celles qui vivent dans les zones rurales ou Ă©loignĂ©es.

MĂȘme si les gouvernements ne savent souvent pas si les politiques atteignent leurs objectifs, on dirait qu’il ne se passe pas une semaine sans qu’on annonce de nouvelles dĂ©penses.

Cependant, ces dĂ©penses sont rarement replacĂ©es dans le contexte des besoins rĂ©els. Il est aussi difficile de savoir s’il s’agit d’argent frais ou d’un rĂ©emballage d’un financement dĂ©jĂ  annoncĂ©, et on ne fournit pas de dĂ©tails sur la façon dont on est arrivĂ© Ă  ce montant. Ces dĂ©penses ne se traduisent pas non plus par des « pelletĂ©es de terre » ou des indicateurs permettant de savoir quand une politique ou un programme donnĂ© atteint son objectif.

Tout le monde devrait s’inquiĂ©ter du fait qu’au Canada, peu de gouvernements, voire aucun, peuvent prĂ©tendre suivre les principes d’une politique fondĂ©e sur des donnĂ©es probantes. L’état de nos infrastructures met en Ă©vidence les consĂ©quences de cet Ă©chec.

Le dĂ©calage entre ce que nous savons devoir faire et ce que nous faisons rĂ©ellement en matiĂšre d’infrastructures est devenu un gouffre qui menace le tissu social, Ă©conomique et environnemental du pays.

Les travaux menĂ©s par l’organisme Good Roads – un regroupement de municipalitĂ©s ontariennes d’entreprises liĂ©es au secteur des transports – ont rĂ©vĂ©lĂ© que, rien qu’en Ontario, il existe un dĂ©ficit d’infrastructures municipales de 34 milliards $ pour la construction, l’entretien ou l’amĂ©lioration de routes, de ponts et de ponceaux. Un rapport de CanInfra Challenge estime qu’à l’échelle du pays, le montant se situe entre 110 et 270 milliards $. D’autres Ă©valuations rĂ©centes suggĂšrent une somme d’au moins 150 milliards $.

Ce chiffre a probablement augmentĂ© de maniĂšre significative au cours de l’annĂ©e derniĂšre puisqu’en 2023, presque toutes les rĂ©gions du pays ont Ă©tĂ© confrontĂ©es Ă  des catastrophes climatiques qui ont dĂ©truit toutes sortes d’infrastructures.

Ce qui est plus grave est que nous ne connaissons pas l’ampleur du dĂ©ficit pour l’ensemble des infrastructures Ă  l’échelle nationale, ni si ce que nous faisons est vraiment utile.

Le budget fĂ©dĂ©ral 2023 n’a apportĂ© que peu de nouveaux investissements dans les infrastructures critiques. Les gouvernements fĂ©dĂ©ral et provinciaux se disputent constamment en matiĂšre de compĂ©tences, de l’énergie au logement, en passant par la santĂ©. Cette incohĂ©rence politique signifie que le fardeau de rĂ©sorber le dĂ©ficit d’infrastructures incombe Ă  l’ordre de gouvernement qui est le moins apte Ă  les financer : les municipalitĂ©s.

Favoriser les projets les plus pertinents

Nous savons comment faire et nous avons les outils pour atteindre cet objectif. Nos gouvernements devront cesser de chercher à constamment vouloir réinventer la roue afin de se concentrer plutÎt sur la direction du navire.

Par consĂ©quent, les Ă©lus et les responsables de l’administration publique doivent s’appuyer sur des stratĂ©gies solides, telles que les plans de gestion des actifs que les municipalitĂ©s sont dĂ©jĂ  tenues de mettre en place, pour investir dans des projets qui mĂ©ritent d’ĂȘtre mis en Ɠuvre plutĂŽt que dans des projets qui sont simplement prĂȘts Ă  l’ĂȘtre.

Les projets « prĂȘts Ă  dĂ©marrer » sont pratiques, mais ils tendent Ă  ĂȘtre dĂ©connectĂ©s de la planification stratĂ©gique Ă  long terme.

Par exemple, vous avez peut-ĂȘtre vu votre municipalitĂ© poser une nouvelle couche d’asphalte et la dĂ©truire un an ou deux plus tard pour installer de nouveaux systĂšmes de gestion de l’eau. En gĂ©nĂ©ral, cela se produit parce qu’il y avait du financement pour paver la route, mais pas pour remplacer l’infrastructure sous la route. Ou, encore, parce que ce financement Ă©tait offert selon un Ă©chĂ©ancier diffĂ©rent.

Un autre exemple est l’investissement dans de grands projets manufacturiers, comme les usines de batteries pour les vĂ©hicules Ă©lectriques, qui va de l’avant sans tenir compte des routes pour transporter les matĂ©riaux, des maisons pour hĂ©berger les travailleurs et des Ă©coles pour leurs enfants, ou encore de la valeur des terres agricoles perdues et converties Ă  un usage industriel.

Tirer le meilleur du renouvellement de nos infrastructures

Foundations ought to be investing in infrastructure

Australia’s infrastructure review: A cautionary tale for Canada

L’antidote Ă  ce type de dĂ©penses irrĂ©flĂ©chies est l’approche plus difficile, mais plus efficace, de favoriser des projets au mĂ©rite. Cela requiert une planification d’ensemble et une prise de dĂ©cision fondĂ©e sur des donnĂ©es, qui reflĂštent nos meilleures ambitions pour le bien public et qui considĂšrent les impacts Ă  long terme.

L’utilisation des plans de gestion d’actifs comme source intelligente et holistique de prise de dĂ©cision fondĂ©e sur des donnĂ©es probantes est essentielle pour l’avenir de nos infrastructures et pour tous les objectifs socioĂ©conomiques que nous espĂ©rons atteindre grĂące Ă  elles.

Toutefois, il existe de grandes diffĂ©rences dans la maniĂšre dont ces plans sont Ă©laborĂ©s, dans leur contenu et dans la maniĂšre dont ils sont maintenus et utilisĂ©s par les diffĂ©rents niveaux de gouvernement. Ils sont largement sous-exploitĂ©s et peu utiles en comparaison au prĂ©cieux mĂ©canisme de planification et d’évaluation des politiques et des programmes qu’ils pourraient et devraient ĂȘtre.

Traiter les plans de gestion des actifs comme un outil essentiel de politique et d’administration publique mettrait fin Ă  la nĂ©cessitĂ© d’avoir des programmes ponctuels et des processus de demandes pour diverses formes d’infrastructures, tels que le DĂ©fi des villes intelligentes ou le Fonds pour accĂ©lĂ©rer la construction de logements.

En effet, nous pourrions prendre des dĂ©cisions d’investissement concernant un large Ă©ventail d’infrastructures en fonction des donnĂ©es, des besoins et de leur impact plutĂŽt que de crĂ©er des bureaucraties entiĂšrement nouvelles pour chaque problĂšme qui fait la manchette.

L’utilisation de plans de gestion des actifs permettrait aux municipalitĂ©s qui n’ont pas la capacitĂ© de dĂ©poser des demandes individuelles de ne pas se retrouver dans un cercle vicieux de dĂ©sinvestissement.

Ces plans garantiraient Ă©galement que les ressources n’aillent pas uniquement aux municipalitĂ©s qui peuvent affecter du personnel Ă  la recherche de financement, alors que ces ressources devraient passer d’un gouvernement Ă  l’autre selon les besoins. Enfin, cela mettrait aussi fin aux dĂ©cisions de financement motivĂ©es par la partisanerie ou le favoritisme, et qui ne sont pas fondĂ©es sur des donnĂ©es probantes.

Tout ceci permettrait Ă©galement de garantir que le financement soit rĂ©parti Ă©quitablement et en fonction des besoins, et qu’une construction ou un dĂ©veloppement donnĂ© mĂ©rite d’ĂȘtre rĂ©alisĂ©. Les communautĂ©s recevraient le financement dont elles ont besoin lorsqu’elles en ont besoin, plutĂŽt que de devoir souscrire Ă  un nouveau programme plusieurs fois par annĂ©e.

Si nous voulons vĂ©ritablement combler notre dĂ©ficit d’infrastructures, les plans de gestion des actifs doivent ĂȘtre modernisĂ©s pour inclure l’énergie, la connectivitĂ©, l’environnement et l’infrastructure sociale.

Ces plans doivent ĂȘtre considĂ©rĂ©s comme prioritaires et relever de la responsabilitĂ© de l’administration publique, et non de consultants. Ils doivent ĂȘtre utilisĂ©s pour recueillir des donnĂ©es prĂ©cises et nuancĂ©es sur l’état rĂ©el des infrastructures partout au pays, afin que les dĂ©cisions concernant la hauteur, le moment et le lieu des investissements soient fondĂ©es sur des donnĂ©es Ă©valuĂ©es de maniĂšre transparente, et non sur des joutes politiques.

Ces recommandations ne devraient pas sembler radicales, mais elles pourraient reprĂ©senter un dĂ©fi pour des gouvernements qui se sont habituĂ©s Ă  prendre les dĂ©cisions d’investissement dans les infrastructures un peu au hasard.

Une bonne utilisation des plans de gestion d’actifs pour rĂ©former l’ensemble des politiques peut et doit ĂȘtre mise en Ɠuvre rapidement grĂące Ă  une collaboration entre les diffĂ©rents ordres de gouvernement et Ă  un engagement en faveur des principes de bonne gouvernance et d’une politique publique saine.

Notre avenir dĂ©pend de notre capacitĂ© Ă  nous dĂ©cider Ă  utiliser les outils que nous dĂ©tenons dĂ©jĂ  si nous voulons nous sortir d’un bourbier infrastructurel que nous avons nous-mĂȘmes crĂ©Ă©. Il est temps de se mettre au travail.

Without fairness and finance, the energy transition won’t be fastTEST

The COP28 climate change talks in Dubai in December ended with a bang.

For the first time in the 30 years of annual meetings, the countries attending the conference finally named the culprit behind global warming that imperils the planet and its inhabitants: fossil fuels. They agreed to “transition away from fossil fuels in energy systems in a just, orderly and equitable manner, accelerating action in this critical decade.”

The signal is clear: the era of fossil fuels is coming to an end. The transition from dirty and dangerous oil, gas and coal to renewables is underway.

U.S. President Joe Biden recently paused approvals of liquefied natural gas exports. The International Energy Agency tells us that for every U.S. dollar spent on fossil fuels today, $1.80 is now spent on clean-energy technologies and infrastructure. Five years ago, that ratio was one-to-one.

Now, we need action from our governments to ensure that the energy transition is fast enough, just and global. Otherwise, we simply won’t succeed at limiting the worst impact of climate change.

Canada must move fast and first

The Paris Agreement of 2015 acknowledges that a transition away from fossil fuels won’t take the same shape in all countries.

As a wealthy country and a major polluter, Canada should be among the first movers. We are the world’s fourth-largest crude oil producer – with a substantial historical responsibility for global emissions – and one of the top five countries responsible for 51 per cent of planned worldwide oil and gas expansion through 2050.

Canada has made significant progress toward reaching its emissions-reduction targets, although it still has a long way to go to do its fair share in the global climate effort.

A legally mandated progress report published late last year shows the government is on track to surpass its interim 2026 target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent below 2005 levels.

But the risk of missing Canada’s 2030 target rises the longer the government delays tackling the bloated elephant in the room: the oil and gas sector. Emissions from fossil fuel companies have been increasing for years even as they declined in other sectors.

The framework released by the federal government for capping oil and gas emissions shows a much-needed recognition that the industry, if left to its own devices, will not contribute its fair share to Canada’s national climate efforts.

However, the current proposal would have regulations become effective only in 2026 – five years after the federal government first promised an emissions cap.

The imperative of a just transition

It won’t be possible to move quickly without working with people to green the economy in a way that is fair and inclusive. All around the world, right-wing actors are agitating to erode hard-won progress and sow misinformation about climate change.

These tactics have proved effective because decision-makers have not championed climate policies such as green job programs and community-owned renewable energy projects that put working people’s interests over those of industry lobbies and shareholders.

Nor have they committed the public funding needed. Instead, countries such as Canada have been prioritizing market mechanisms such as carbon pricing as the solution to climate change.

That’s why it’s so important to ensure that workers and communities are not left behind and that they have a voice in planning their common future. At COP28, the parties agreed to a work program to discuss the way forward on a just transition, which broadens the scope of the limited public conversation we have been having in Canada.

The federal government has watered down the concept to instead focus on sustainable jobs. Proposed legislation is soon to go to the Senate that would require the government to plan and report on the transition’s labour impacts – an important but insufficient contribution to the work program.

When it develops the plan required under the legislation, the government must support regional and local transition efforts through net-zero agreements with organizations and Indigenous, provincial and territorial governments.

A guide created by Sacred Earth Solar, an Indigenous women-led organization, along with other Indigenous and climate groups, highlights how Indigenous communities are already leading the way as the country’s largest renewables owner outside of utilities.

Indigenous nations are on the front lines of the impact of resource development. Their rights and sovereignty are key to a truly just transition.

Proactive policy is needed to remove barriers faced by Indigenous communities trying to achieve renewable energy sovereignty.

There is no transition without finance

Colombia Environment Minister Susana Muhamad said loud and clear in Dubai that our outdated global financial system punishes climate action instead of encouraging it.

A fast and fair transition requires a significant increase in money from the international community to help developing countries get access to renewable energy. Without that support, a phaseout of fossil fuels is unthinkable in lower-income countries with economies that depend heavily on oil, gas and coal.

Developing countries also face interest rates up to three times those of richer nations, which makes upfront investments in renewables near impossible.

The text negotiated in Dubai recognizes the need to address already locked-in climate impacts with adaptation measures – for example, dikes and seawalls, limited development in coastal areas and flood zones, and restoration of mangroves – as well as funding for loss and damage.

Scale-up renewable energy co-operatives to energize the nation

Canada needs to accelerate its transition to renewable energy

Interregional planning is key to Canada’s hopes for successful energy transition

Many Albertans still fine with an oil-and-gas future

Adequate climate finance is not only a question of fairness, it’s what will make or break the transition in the tight fiscal context.

While we are already hearing the calls of the austerity sirens, there is no shortage of money available for Canada to pay our share of these costs, both at home and abroad. Our resources simply need to be redistributed so they are not flowing to fossil fuels and the super-rich, but rather to solutions that will bring tangible benefits to people and communities.

The big political discussion at COP29, to take place in November in Azerbaijan, will be how countries can agree to a new climate finance goal beyond the existing $100-billion-a-year target.

Steven Guilbeault, Canada’s environment and climate change minister, has shown skill in the past two years at building bridges. He will have to work throughout this year’s diplomatic calendar to make an increased collective goal on finance possible.

That means Canada must continue advocating for a multi-layered approach to cover all climate action, including mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage. This is something that developed countries have been resisting.

To prove its commitment, Canada must also reverse the worrying trend of its declining funding for international aid, as well as increase its next climate finance pledge.

No time for cynicism

Cynicism is Ă  la mode. Given the state of the planet, it is an easy reaction to the fossil fuel industry, which is setting our world on fire and being let, until now, largely off the hook. While a convergence of crises threatens Canadians and the world, we still have the chance to limit its worst effects.

Elinor Ostrom, the first woman to win the Nobel Prize in Economics, concluded from her research into governance of common resources that there are no panaceas, only possibilities. Decision-makers will act only when we work together to build a collective counterweight to the fossil fuel industry and its allies who profit from our overheating planet.

It’s up to us to make those possibilities so appealing that leaders have no choice but to seize them.

We must not allow our country to become a news desertTEST

(Version française disponible ici)

The more things change, the more they stay the same, as the saying goes.

Five years ago, I was among those who sounded the alarm about news outlets closing in Canada. At the time, some 260 titles – most of them print weeklies – had disappeared from the Canadian media ecosystem – an alarming decline harmful to democratic health at the local level.

Unfortunately, despite a momentary spike in advertising investment during the pandemic, the bleeding has not stopped in Canada. According to Canadian Heritage, more than 450 newsrooms have closed in Canada over the past 15 years, 63 of them since the COVID-19 pandemic.

These figures, published in 2022, are already out of date. In the past year alone, many more media workers have lost their jobs, especially in the information business. Bell Canada, for example, cut more than 1,300 jobs across the country in June 2023, before announcing in February this year that a further 4,800 jobs would be eliminated, of which less than 10% involved Bell Media,  and 45 regional radio stations sold. Postmedia laid off 11% of its editorial staff. Metroland cut 605 positions by abolishing 71 print editions.

In Quebec, the largest private television network, TVA, laid off almost 800 employees in two separate waves last year. MĂ©tro MĂ©dia, which owned a daily newspaper in Montreal as well as nearly twenty hyperlocal weeklies in the metropolis and Quebec City, ceased operations in the fall. Les Coops de l’information announced 125 voluntary departures. Other buyout programs are taking place across the news industry, but media organizations often stay quiet when they are cutting through early retirement packages and other voluntary departures.

The tally doesn’t include the cuts announced in December at CBC/Radio-Canada, where 800 positions are set to disappear over the next few months. Even the Reader’s Digest Selection, a longstanding publication beloved by Canadians, will disappear in the spring, a sign that nothing lasts forever. For its part, Cogeco has also raised the spectre of newsroom cuts. No corner of the media landscape is being spared.

Les médias locaux, une nécessité démocratique

Canada’s bumpy ride toward a national news strategy

Refonder les mĂ©dias d’information

The Online News Act doesn’t solve the long-term problem for news

Finally, TC Transcontinental’s decision to end its Plublisac flyer distribution service this spring will eliminate a distribution vehicle for dozens of free weeklies in virtually every region of Quebec.

Extending media support

This gloomy summary shows that efforts to save the media industry have not measured up to the crisis.  Faced with the extent of the damage, Ottawa and Quebec introduced tax credits a few years ago to support the production of journalistic information. The measures were intended to be temporary, and their renewal – or elimination – is subject to the goodwill of those who will be sitting in legislative assemblies when they expire.

Under the current aid programs, in both jurisdictions only print media benefit. With the crisis extending across radio and television, access to these tax incentives should be extended to all recognized journalistic organizations, regardless of the medium used to transmit information.

The provincial aid should also include news agencies, which are left out of existing measures despite their essential role in the ecosystem.

Further curbing the exodus of advertising revenues

At the same time as it has been vital to support the production of news, governments should have also curbed the outflow of advertising revenues to foreign companies. Yet it was only recently – after years of crisis – that Ottawa finally took the bull by the horns with Bill C-18, an attempt to give a share of advertising revenues captured by the web giants to news organizations.

Online advertising investment in Canada is currently estimated at just under $10 billion. Nearly 80 per cent of this sum is captured by two American platforms, Google and Facebook, who reinvest only crumbs of this imposing slice of the pie into the Canadian media ecosystem.

While Google signed an agreement to redistribute $100 million to news organizations (a far cry from the initial royalty amount sought by Ottawa), Meta preferred sidestep the law by blocking all sharing of Canadian news content and terminating its piecemeal agreements with several media outlets. It should also be noted that some of these beneficiaries preferred to negotiate with the digital giant themselves, rather than have a one-size-fits-all solution imposed on them.

Rather than trying to recover a tiny fraction of the millions of dollars that have already left the country and the Canadian news industry, decision-makers should be looking at measures to reduce the outflow of ad revenue.

In addition to a tax credit for digital news subscriptions, which subsidizes subscriptions to Canadian media, Ottawa offers a tax credit on advertising investments in these same media. Unfortunately, this measure is not well known and needs to be promoted as a tool available for news outlets and advertisers alike. If this initiative was matched by the provinces, millions of dollars would stay in the country and be reinvested here.

However, companies can also deduct the cost of ads purchased from Facebook and Google, as Cogeco president Louis Audet recently pointed out. He called for the federal tax credit to apply only to advertising spending with Canadian media companies.

In Quebec, the mayor of Longueuil is the latest to propose that Canada Post take over the distribution of local weeklies, an option that must be weighed while considering the Crown corporation’s money-losing situation.

A fundamental choice about the nature of our society

Finally, governments should lead by example. The Coalition Avenir QuĂ©bec’s decision to resume advertising on Meta suggests that the Quebec government seems to have given up in the tug-of-war between Canada and the digital giant.

Rather than capping their advertising investments on these online platforms, governments at all levels should set a minimum threshold to be spent on advertising in Canadian media that reach the citizens they aspire to serve.

Supporting the news media – and Canadian journalism – has become a political, even partisan choice. It should be a matter of consensus, especially since information is now recognized as a public good by many.

There are dissenting voices, even within journalism, when it comes to public support for the news media. Those who oppose government intervention argue that journalists must be able to do their work independently. Public funding, they argue, represents a conflict of interest, real and perceived.

At the same time, nature abhors a vacuum: the disappearance of our media gradually leaves the field open to fake news and misinformation. Many communities have already become news deserts in recent years. Is it better to have journalists assisted by public funds, or no journalists at all?

Investing in our media means better-informed citizens who are more involved in public affairs. It also means choosing to promote our own culture rather than letting it to a free market inevitably dominated by the United States. For Quebec media and those who work in minority communities, it also means supporting an important tool for linguistic promotion.

Il ne faut pas laisser notre pays devenir un désert médiatiqueTEST

(English version available here)

Plus ça change, plus c’est pareil, veut l’adage.

Il y a cinq ans, je faisais partie de ceux qui sonnaient l’alarme Ă  propos de la fermeture de nombreux mĂ©dias au Canada. À l’époque, quelque 260 titres – la plupart des hebdomadaires imprimĂ©s – avaient disparu de l’écosystĂšme canadien, ce qui Ă©tait dĂ©jĂ  alarmant pour la santĂ© dĂ©mocratique au niveau local.

Malheureusement, en dĂ©pit d’investissements publicitaires plus importants durant la pandĂ©mie, l’hĂ©morragie n’a pas cessĂ© au Canada. Selon le ministĂšre fĂ©dĂ©ral Patrimoine canadien, plus de 450 salles de rĂ©daction ont fermĂ© au Canada au fil des 15 derniĂšres annĂ©es, dont 63 depuis la pandĂ©mie de COVID-19.

Ces chiffres publiĂ©s en 2022 sont dĂ©jĂ  caducs. Dans la derniĂšre annĂ©e, de nombreux travailleurs du secteur des mĂ©dias ont perdu leur emploi.  Bell Canada a supprimĂ© plus de 1300 postes au pays en juin 2023 avant d’annoncer, en fĂ©vrier de cette annĂ©e, que 4800 emplois supplĂ©mentaires seraient abolis, dont un peu moins de 10% touchera Bell Media, et que 45 stations rĂ©gionales de radio seraient vendues. Postmedia a mis Ă  pied 11 % de son personnel de rĂ©daction. Metroland a supprimĂ© 605 postes de sa masse salariale en abolissant ses 71 Ă©ditions imprimĂ©es.

Au QuĂ©bec, le plus grand rĂ©seau de tĂ©lĂ©vision privĂ©, TVA, a mis Ă  pied tout prĂšs de 800 employĂ©s en deux vagues distinctes, l’annĂ©e derniĂšre. MĂ©tro MĂ©dia, qui possĂ©dait un quotidien Ă  MontrĂ©al ainsi que prĂšs d’une vingtaine d’hebdomadaires hyperlocaux dans la mĂ©tropole et dans la Ville de QuĂ©bec, a cessĂ© ses activitĂ©s Ă  l’automne. Les Coops de l’information ont annoncĂ© 125 dĂ©parts volontaires. De tels programmes d’attrition ont cours ailleurs, mais on demeure discret sur ces sĂ©parations Ă  l’amiable.

C’est sans compter les compressions annoncĂ©es en dĂ©cembre du cĂŽtĂ© de CBC/Radio-Canada oĂč 800 postes sont appelĂ©s Ă  disparaĂźtre au cours des prochains mois. MĂȘme le SĂ©lection du Reader’s Digest, publication de longue date bien-aimĂ©e des Canadiens, disparaĂźtra au printemps, signe que rien n’est Ă©ternel. De son cĂŽtĂ©, Cogeco a aussi laissĂ© planer le spectre de coupes dans ses salles de nouvelles, signe que la gangrĂšne sĂ©vit partout sur l’échiquier mĂ©diatique, n’épargnant aucun joueur.

Les médias locaux, une nécessité démocratique

La route cahoteuse vers une stratĂ©gie canadienne de l’information

Refonder les mĂ©dias d’information

The Online News Act doesn’t solve the long-term problem for news

Rappelons enfin la dĂ©cision de TC Transcontinental de sonner le glas de son Publisac, vĂ©hicule de distribution de douzaines d’hebdomadaires gratuits dans pratiquement toutes les rĂ©gions du QuĂ©bec.

Élargir l’aide aux mĂ©dias

Ce rĂ©capitulatif morose tĂ©moigne de ce que les efforts pour sauver l’industrie des mĂ©dias n’ont pas Ă©tĂ© Ă  la hauteur de la crise qu’ils traversent.  Devant l’ampleur des dĂ©gĂąts, Ottawa et le QuĂ©bec ont mis en place, il y a quelques annĂ©es, des crĂ©dits d’impĂŽt pour soutenir la production de l’information journalistique. Une mesure qui se voulait temporaire et dont le renouvellement – ou non – est sujet au bon vouloir de ceux qui siĂ©geront dans les assemblĂ©es lĂ©gislatives au moment de son Ă©chĂ©ance.

Malheureusement, les mĂ©dias de la presse Ă©crite sont les seuls, pour l’instant, Ă  pouvoir en bĂ©nĂ©ficier, et ce, aux deux niveaux. Il faudrait Ă©largir l’accĂšs Ă  cette aide fiscale Ă  toutes les organisations journalistiques reconnues, sans Ă©gard au mĂ©dium utilisĂ© pour transmettre l’information.

L’aide provinciale doit inclure aussi les agences de presse, boudĂ©es par les mesures existantes malgrĂ© leur rĂŽle essentiel dans l’écosystĂšme.

Freiner davantage l’exode des revenus publicitaires

En mĂȘme temps qu’il fallait soutenir la production d’information, il fallait aussi freiner l’exode des revenus publicitaires vers des entreprises Ă©trangĂšres. Or, ce n’est que rĂ©cemment – des annĂ©es plus tard – qu’Ottawa a finalement pris le taureau par les cornes avec le projet de loi C-18, dans l’espoir de redonner aux mĂ©dias canadiens une part des revenus publicitaires capturĂ©s par les gĂ©ants du Web.

On estime actuellement à tout prÚs de dix milliards de dollars les investissements publicitaires effectués en ligne au Canada. PrÚs de 80 % de cette somme est accaparé par deux plateformes américaines, Google et Facebook, qui ne réinvestissent que des miettes de cette imposante part du gùteau.

Si Google a fini par signer une entente pour 100 millions de dollars (trĂšs loin du montant initial de redevance envisagĂ© par Ottawa), Meta a pour sa part prĂ©fĂ©rĂ© se soustraire Ă  la loi et bloquer tout partage de contenus d’information canadiens et Ă  rĂ©silier ses ententes Ă  la piĂšce avec plusieurs mĂ©dias. Notons d’ailleurs que certains de ces bĂ©nĂ©ficiaires prĂ©fĂ©raient nĂ©gocier eux-mĂȘmes avec le gĂ©ant numĂ©rique plutĂŽt que de se voir imposer une solution unique.

PlutĂŽt que de tenter de rĂ©cupĂ©rer une infime partie des millions de dollars ayant dĂ©jĂ  traversĂ© notre frontiĂšre, les dĂ©cideurs devraient plutĂŽt se pencher sur les maniĂšres de rĂ©duire la part d’investissements qui quittent le pays.

En plus d’un crĂ©dit d’impĂŽt pour les abonnements aux nouvelles numĂ©riques, qui subventionne les abonnements aux mĂ©dias canadiens, Ottawa offre un crĂ©dit d’impĂŽt sur les investissements publicitaires dans ces mĂȘmes mĂ©dias. Malheureusement, la mesure est peu connue et publicisĂ©e alors qu’elle devrait ĂȘtre mise de l’avant pour en faire bĂ©nĂ©ficier le plus grand nombre possible de mĂ©dias. Si cette initiative Ă©tait aussi reprise par les provinces, cela permettrait que des millions de dollars demeurent au pays et soient rĂ©investis chez nous.

Or, les entreprises qui s’annoncent peuvent aussi dĂ©duire leurs publicitĂ©s achetĂ©es chez Facebook et Google, a rĂ©cemment soulignĂ© le prĂ©sident de Cogeco, Louis Audet, qui rĂ©clame que le crĂ©dit d’impĂŽt fĂ©dĂ©ral ne s’applique qu’aux investissements publicitaires chez des entreprises mĂ©diatiques canadiennes.

Au QuĂ©bec, la mairesse de Longueuil est la derniĂšre en lice Ă  avoir proposĂ© que Postes Canada prenne le relais pour distribuer les hebdomadaires locaux, une avenue qui doit toutefois ĂȘtre soupesĂ©e en raison de la situation dĂ©ficitaire de la SociĂ©tĂ© d’État.

Un choix de société

Enfin, les gouvernements devraient donner l’exemple. La dĂ©cision de la Coalition Avenir QuĂ©bec de renouer avec les publicitĂ©s sur Meta, laisse croire que le gouvernement du QuĂ©bec semble avoir abdiquĂ© dans le bras de fer qui oppose le Canada au gĂ©ant du numĂ©rique.

PlutĂŽt que de plafonner leurs investissements publicitaires sur ces plateformes en ligne, les gouvernements, tous paliers confondus, devraient s’imposer un seuil Ă  satisfaire du cĂŽtĂ© des mĂ©dias d’ici qui rejoignent les citoyens qu’ils aspirent Ă  servir.

Soutenir les mĂ©dias d’information – et le journalisme canadien – est devenu un choix politique, voire partisan. Cela devrait pourtant ĂȘtre un consensus social, d’autant plus que l’information est dĂ©sormais reconnue comme un bien public par bon nombre d’instances.

Cependant, des voix discordantes s’expriment sur l’aide publique aux mĂ©dias d’information : celles qui s’y opposent font valoir que les journalistes doivent pouvoir faire leur travail en toute indĂ©pendance, ce qu’empĂȘcherait un financement public, Ă  tout le moins en apparence.

Or, la nature a horreur du vide : la disparition de nos mĂ©dias laisse graduellement le champ libre Ă  des fausses nouvelles et Ă  la dĂ©sinformation. DĂ©jĂ , plusieurs communautĂ©s sont devenues malgrĂ© elles des dĂ©serts mĂ©diatiques, ces derniĂšres annĂ©es. Entre un journalisme soutenu par des fonds publics – sous certaines conditions – et l’éradication du journalisme, quel est le moindre mal?

Investir dans nos mĂ©dias, c’est choisir d’ĂȘtre des citoyens mieux informĂ©s et plus impliquĂ©s dans les affaires publiques. C’est aussi choisir de promouvoir notre propre culture plutĂŽt que celle, omniprĂ©sente, des États-Unis. Pour les mĂ©dias du QuĂ©bec et ceux qui font leur travail en milieu minoritaire, c’est aussi soutenir un outil de promotion linguistique de premier plan.

In support of a cultural approach to the definition of a Canadian television programTEST

(Version française disponible ici)

A major debate is brewing over Canadian content in television. In February and March 2024, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is organizing a series of workshops across Canada to review the definition of a Canadian program.

Since the enactment of the Online Streaming Act in April 2023, which amended the Broadcasting Act, the definition of a Canadian program has become the subject of criticism by those who would like to reduce its scope to minimize the impact of the changes to the law. Yet the current approach, which favors a cultural rather than an economic perspective, remains the best way to address the issue.

The Broadcasting Act is a cultural law that requires contributions to Canadian content with a view to maintaining and enhancing national identity and cultural sovereignty. The CRTC currently imposes Canadian content obligations only on licensed broadcasters, such as radio and television undertakings. Online streamers, who will be governed by a new registration regime, have no such obligations as yet.

As a result of amendments to the Broadcasting Act in 2023, the commission will soon impose new obligations on the largest online undertakings, such as Netflix, Disney and GAFAM (Google, Apple, Facebook/Meta, Amazon, Microsoft), for programs they broadcast that are covered by the act. These obligations will probably be similar to those currently required of Canadian broadcasters authorized by license, whether they be general-interest services like the CTV network, or video-on-demand (VOD) undertakings such as Rogers On Demand. These new obligations for web giants could include offering a certain percentage of Canadian programs, including feature films, in their catalogs.

Making these programs available to viewers will not oblige anyone to watch them. However, new rules could require a certain visibility or “discoverability” of Canadian programs to make the public aware of their presence.

For an objective definition of Canadian content

To avoid any new requirements, the web giants and major U.S. studios (see MPA-Canada’s July 7, 2023 intervention to the CRTC), supported by Canadian libertarians, are seeking to broaden the definition of a Canadian program. Because they already produce programs in Canada, several U.S. online undertakings and studios want the concept of a Canadian program to be redefined to render the effects of the Online Broadcasting Act null and void.

As a rule, these run-away Hollywood productions are transferred to Canada to benefit from the advantageous value of the Canadian dollar, tax credits offered by provincial and federal governments, and the excellent services provided by technicians throughout Canada.

Although shot in Canada, these productions don’t qualify as Canadian programs because they don’t meet the current criteria for certification. Indeed, American studios and web giants ensure that their programs tell stories in a setting familiar to American viewers, drawing on American creative elements and embodying an American point of view.

To qualify as Canadian, a program must embody a Canadian “point of view” — an element that is admittedly not easy to assess. The simplest way to guarantee this is to require that the creative elements involved in its production be Canadian. This approach, which relies in part on a points system based on the presence of Canadian creative elements, is essentially objective and relatively simple to manage administratively. It avoids a cumbersome process where officials would read thousands and thousands of projects, synopses, or scripts in an attempt to identify a “Canadian point of view” — a judgment that would inevitably be subjective and arbitrary.

To be certified as “Canadian” at present, a program must normally include a Canadian writer or director, a Canadian actor in one of the two leading roles, additional Canadian creators and a Canadian producer. Seventy-five percent of the production budget must be devoted to Canadian individuals or companies (there are certain exceptions to these rules, for example, in the case of an official international co-production). That said, the rules for certifying a Canadian program should not be confused with those for financing, in which case the responsible agencies, such as the Canada Media Fund (CMF), may impose additional requirements.

In principle, there’s nothing to stop foreign studios and online undertakings from abandoning their current practices and respecting the criteria needed to obtain Canadian certification for some of their projects. But at the present time, they prefer to use their lobbying power to change the rules for certifying Canadian content rather than to comply with them.

Requirements that irritate foreign studios

One aspect of the definition of a Canadian program to which they object is the requirement that its producer be Canadian. Wanting to control the nature of the project (and eventually the rights for worldwide distribution attached to it), online undertakings and American studios are generally reluctant to share the management of a project with a Canadian producer.

Another requirement that troubles them is the hiring of a Canadian writer or director. Most of the time, American studios and online undertakings want their compatriots to control the content of a program, to ensure a point of view compatible with their own values. What is more, they prefer that the main roles in the production be filled by actors familiar to the American public, to facilitate its eventual promotion. In addition, as American audiences are not accustomed to watching dubbed or subtitled programs, American companies require, with a few exceptions, that programs be filmed in English. This is a major constraint on the capacity of French-speaking creative elements in Quebec (and elsewhere) to collaborate with American firms.

Creative control of a production, using a quantitative approach, is the best guarantee of the presence of Canadian attitudes, opinions, ideas, values, creativitý and experience, that is, the presence of a Canadian point of view on the screen.

An economic approach to the definition of a Canadian program would place much greater emphasis on the total employment generated by the production and its attractiveness to foreign investors, rather than on the “point of view” expressed by its principal artisans – the writer, director and lead actors. (The economic element is already taken into account in the current definition by the requirement that seventy-five percent of the total production budget be devoted to Canadian individuals or companies).

To believe that Canadian content certification should also encourage foreign investment in our broadcasting system is mistaken. Rather, that is the role of federal and provincial tax credits — like the federal government’s film or video production services tax credit. If Ottawa wants to encourage foreign investment in Canada, it should strengthen the tax credit, and leave the definition of a Canadian program intact. The current approach to this definition, which favours cultural rather than economic objectives, remains the best way to ensure Canadian and Quebec perspectives find their way to air.

ArriveCAN should drive deeper reforms, not just contracting oversightTEST

Auditor general Karen Hogan painted a clear picture of mismanagement around the ArriveCAN app in her recent report, concluding the $59.5-million app did not generate “value for money.” Her inability to determine the total cost of ArriveCAN – owing to poor quality documentation – brought to mind the challenges we faced in our 2022 research on government contracts.

We found that the federal government spent an estimated $4.7 billion on IT contracts in 2021-22 alone, but as with ArriveCAN, the data describing these contracts was incredibly difficult to make sense of.

The newly released report found that departments and agencies involved with ArriveCAN clearly breached government procurement policies in several ways. Documentation from contractors was so incomplete that it wasn’t possible to accurately assess the cost of the app. GCstrategies, the primary vendor, helped the department develop a follow-up competitive contract that it then bid on and won. User testing was incomplete, security protocols weren’t followed.

What should be done in response to the findings? A classic response from Ottawa to this kind of report would be to add more rules, more oversight mechanisms, and more internal processes to prevent more scandals. But following this age-old pattern will all but ensure that failures like ArriveCAN and its IT scandal predecessor Phoenix continue.

The blatant breaches of contract management identified in the AG report are unacceptable. That goes without saying. But the set of rules and processes governing IT in the federal government as a whole need to be revised if we want to get “value for money” from federal IT projects going forward.

Hogan is sitting at a long dark wooden table with a thin microphone in front of her along with a small white nameplate sign, a glass of water and sheathes of paper laid out. She is dressed in black and is listening with an impassive expression.
Auditor general Karen Hogan appears as a witness at a House of Commons standing committee on Public Accounts on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Feb. 12, 2024. The committee is studying the debacle of the ArriveCAN app. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Too dense, too cumbersome

As a starting point, the set of rules and processes governing IT management and contracting are already so dense and cumbersome that they themselves pose a threat to good public management.

Federal government IT teams spend more time on compliance and oversight paperwork than they spend building quality online services. Complex procurement rules and processes also tilt the playing field toward established private vendors whose expertise is in navigating government processes, not necessarily in developing good IT systems and products.

Allegations of threats and lying perturb the federal public service

ArriveCAN jaw-droppers and Sean Boots’s 10 steps for revolution | The Functionary

The federal government needs a digital transformation

Departments often default to outsourcing because contractors don’t have to abide by the complex rules and processes public servants face, allowing them to move more quickly. We’ve learned this in interviews with federal public servants.

Perhaps most concerning, procurement rules and processes favour large IT contracts despite overwhelming evidence that large contracts are likely to fail. It takes so much effort to set up these contracts that public servants are incentivized to “go big” even though extensive research shows that creating several smaller contracts will lead to greater project success.

Reforms to start with

What rules and processes would help the federal government out of its IT mess?

Countries like Estonia, the United Kingdom and the United States have taken clear and deliberate steps to improve their government tech capacity. For Canada to follow in their footsteps, the federal government should rapidly pursue the following reforms:

  • Adopt spending controls that dramatically lower the cap on the size and duration of IT contracts. These measures are frequently and inaccurately confused with contract splitting. Contract splitting involves the intent to circumvent transparency disclosures, competitive bidding, or spending control limits. Breaking large IT projects into smaller, more manageable pieces is simply good practice. Government can more easily dispense with vendors that underperform. This approach also broadens competition for bidders.
  • Streamline HR procedures to hire faster. Among other reforms, adjusting the security clearance process could allow new public servants to start at the “reliability” clearance level instead of waiting months for “secret-level” clearance. This would allow departments and agencies to build in-house teams more quickly for pressing IT needs versus having to outsource the work. Core digital teams could be built to work effectively with vendors when limited outsourcing makes sense.
  • Allow for multidisciplinary teams. They are the secret sauce of world-class digital services. A wide mix of roles – designers, design researchers, software developers, product managers – all work as part of a single team. Government staffing procedures and organizational models still reinforce “monoculture” teams, all made of a single classification. They make it nearly impossible to create teams where public servants in one classification report to managers in another. This is entirely at odds with how modern digital-service organizations are managed.
  • Shift ownership of tech-related intellectual property. Government of Canada policies emphasize that vendors should own the intellectual property of any custom software produced through government contracts. This is a flagrant recipe for paying for similar software over and over. This policy should be reversed as soon as possible so that when the government pays for custom software it owns it.

Who’s in, who’s out, and what’s up in the federal public service? |The Functionary

Canada’s tech policies and priorities aren’t doing enough to make citizens safer online

  • Mandate open-source software across the board. For decades, leading private-sector technology companies have been creating and using open-source software. Canada is years behind its government peers in adopting it. Software that is open source is more secure and higher-quality than software that isn’t. Open-source software is easier to audit and easier to quickly fix when issues emerge, and vendors working on open-source software are motivated to do their best work since the public can observe their efforts firsthand. Governments publishing their software as open-source code also improves public trust and transparency, by showing the inner workings of systems that citizens interact with.
  • Improve cybersecurity and access to modern tools. Public servants work with technology that is often a decade old or more. Outdated software and outdated security approval processes hamper the effectiveness of public servants and put the data of Canadians at risk. Adopting an “approved once, approved everywhere” approach and more permissive use of open source and software-as-a-service tools would make public servants substantially more effective and capable, and would put them on the same footing as the private contractors on which they are overly dependent for digital services.
  • Improve cloud adoption. The Government of Canada has taken several steps backward on cloud adoption. Late last year, it watered down its guidance, from “cloud first” in 2018 to “cloud smart” in 2023. It then announced that cloud specialists across the public service would move to Shared Services Canada (SSC), an eerie repeat of the mistakes inherent in the creation of SSC more than a decade ago. Cloud infrastructure is almost always cheaper and more scalable than traditional data centres when implemented well. This requires application development expertise working closely alongside cloud infrastructure expertise – in a multidisciplinary team rather than siloed away in separate departments like SSC.
  • Improve reporting on IT projects and contracts. The federal government should comprehensively track vendor performance, as we wrote about more than a year ago. Departments should disclose annually the total amount they spend (on a per-vendor basis) on IT and professional-services contracts. Proactively disclosed contracts data should include improvements in data quality and granularity (such as business numbers that would allow observers to more accurately group together contracts from the same vendors). Other countries have addressed similar transparency gaps with tools like the Open Contracting Data Standard. Adopting this standard would help prevent a repeat of the glaring data gaps identified in the ArriveCAN report.

Lastly – and perhaps most importantly – the federal government should hire external technology experts, appoint them as deputy ministers, and mandate them with implementing the steps above. These recruits should not be management consultants or sales VPs. They should be people who have actually built and shipped modern software products and digital services that people want to use.

Several provincial governments have outstanding digital leaders who could serve as inspiration. Unlike the federal public service’s current leadership, which has for the most part never been asked to understand technology, these outside experts will understand why the changes we’re advocating for matter to the quality of government and of service delivery to the public. Without this injection of new leadership, IT failures like ArriveCAN will inevitably continue on as the federal government standard.

What’s at stake in supporting sex workers’ right to healthTEST

If Canada’s commitments to human rights and health care mean anything, they should mean that no one doing legal work does so under conditions that avoidably endanger their health and well-being.

Yet, this is the reality today for sex workers due to a discriminatory legal regime and the pervasive stigma that shapes the actions of law-enforcement officials, as well as policies and attitudes in health and social systems.

In 2014, the former Harper government passed the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act (PCEPA), which is based on an ideological view of sex work as inherently exploitative and which aims to create conditions that would reduce or end the demand for paid sexual services.

Although the act exempts sex workers from prosecution for benefitting from provision of their own sexual services, it criminalizes nearly all related activities, including buying sexual services; communicating for the purpose of selling sexual services; and facilitating, advertising or receiving compensation related to someone else’s sale of sexual services.*

Because this imposes unjustified and avoidable harms and risks on those who practise this legal work, Canadian sex workers brought a 2021 constitutional challenge, which was dismissed last year by the Ontario Superior Court.

That decision will likely be appealed to the Supreme Court. However, with or without a Supreme Court decision, the law should be changed to take a public-health approach to sex work – one that comprehensively protects sex workers’ health, safety and well-being, as the Canadian Public Health Association urges.

In addition, even before any court appeal is heard, some steps can and should be taken by police as well as health and social-service organizations to protect the rights of sex workers – many of whom are Indigenous, minorities or other disadvantaged people – as part of a larger struggle to protect minority rights in a time of rising bigotry.

PCEPA harms sex workers’ health

Evidence over the past decade shows that PCEPA’s provisions impede sex workers’ capacity to work safely. Sex work is not an intrinsically dangerous way to earn money. Sex workers note that violence is unusual and usually stems from a small subset of clients.

But because PCEPA criminalizes the purchase of and communication around sex, it severely constrains sex workers’ ability to screen clients in advance and negotiate terms of service due to fear of police detection – a problem that more than doubles the likelihood of client violence.

The criminalization of advertising for sexual services further reduces sex workers’ capacity to protect themselves by establishing the terms of services in advance. Moreover, the suppression of online content related to sex work makes it more difficult to mitigate the risk of client violence by using online networks to screen potential clients.

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Criminalization also means many sex workers are reluctant to call police for help, which in turn increases the likelihood of experiencing client violence. Indeed, sex workers – particularly Indigenous sex workers – often experience harassment, racism, ridicule, unwarranted intrusion and sometimes physical endangerment from police.

Those who avoid police by relocating to more isolated locations face higher risks of violence and lower access to health services. For migrant sex workers, criminalization and fear of deportation lead to heightened disempowerment and greater risks to their health.

As well, sex workers’ security, access to health services and health outcomes are greatly damaged by stigmatized treatment by police, as well as health and social-service providers.

Stigma is often compounded for sex workers who are migrant, Asian, Indigenous and/or LGBTQ+. Unsurprisingly, many sex workers find that mental and emotional health are the most difficult aspects of their health to sustain.

New Zealand: A better model for sex workers’ well-being

All of these harms could be mitigated by changes to laws and policies.

The benefits that decriminalization would bring for the health and well-being of sex workers in Canada are evident from decades of outcomes in jurisdictions that have fully or mostly decriminalized sex work.

For instance, New Zealand introduced a new legal framework in 2003 that safeguards the human rights of most sex workers, promotes their welfare and occupational health and prevents exploitation. The experience of the past two decades shows the positive outcomes of these policies.

Although the New Zealand model is imperfect in its continued criminalization of migrant sex workers, Canada is overdue to follow suit by fully decriminalizing sex work.

Recent parliamentary critique and legal challenge to PCEPA

Despite the evidence supporting sex workers’ advocacy for legal reform, there has been a blatant refusal by the federal government to remedy unfair laws and their outcomes.

In 2022, the House of Commons standing committee on justice and human rights conducted a mandated review of PCEPA.

The evidence it gathered led it to call on the federal government to “recognize that protecting the health and safety of those involved in sex work is made more difficult by the framework set by [PCEPA] and acknowledge that, in fact, the Act causes serious harm to those engaged in sex work by making the work more dangerous.”

The response of then-justice minister David Lametti wholly ignored that call.

Canadian professions and institutions should act now

Immediate action to improve sex workers’ health and well-being can and should be taken now by police, health and social-service bodies.

This should include policies aimed at better serving people who do sex work; training in non-judgmental, trauma-informed and violence-informed care; and training designed and delivered by sex workers to address stigma and increase understanding.

Sex workers should be at the centre of planning for programs and services that support their health and well-being.

In addition, research funding bodies must do better at producing research on sex work to support evidence-based policy recommendations and interventions to meet the full diversity of sex-worker populations and health needs.

Minority rights matter

Today, sex workers may constitute the occupational category whose Charter rights to “life, liberty and security of the person” are the least protected and most actively obstructed.

Amid a rising tide of intolerance, and sometimes violence, against sexual, ethnic and racial minorities, many other equity-deserving populations have cause to worry whether Canada’s laws and institutions will protect their health and well-being. Protecting sex workers’ rights to health and security is part of this larger, urgent struggle to protect minority rights.

The potential Supreme Court of Canada decision – and any subsequent response by the federal government – will be an important bellwether of things to come.

Until then, Canada’s health, social service and police professionals and institutions have it in their power to do much better today in protecting and serving sex workers.

In taking corrective action now, they would give proof that everyone in Canada – regardless of their legal occupation – has the right to life, liberty and security of the person.

Note to readers: This article has been updated to clarify that PCEPA criminalizes benefitting from the provision of sexual services.

Pour choisir un Ă©tablissement d’enseignement supĂ©rieur, faites confiance Ă  votre instinctTEST

(English version available here)

Des centaines de milliers de jeunes Ă  l’aube de l’Ăąge adulte Ă  travers le pays sont sur le point de prendre l’une des dĂ©cisions les plus importantes de leur vie : le choix d’une universitĂ© ou d’un Ă©tablissement d’enseignement supĂ©rieur pour poursuivre leurs Ă©tudes.

Ils s’adressent gĂ©nĂ©ralement Ă  leurs parents, Ă  leurs amis et Ă  leurs conseillers d’orientation pour connaĂźtre la rĂ©putation des Ă©coles et des programmes qui les intĂ©ressent. Ils consultent les sites Web pour se renseigner sur les conditions d’admission ou les services offerts sur le campus. Ils peuvent mĂȘme consulter le classement des universitĂ©s Ă©tabli par Maclean’s.

En revanche, ils ne disposeront d’aucune information utile sur les retombĂ©es de ces programmes.

Par exemple, les futurs Ă©tudiants ne peuvent pas facilement comparer le taux d’obtention d’un diplĂŽme des Ă©tudiants en sociologie de l’UniversitĂ© Saint Mary’s Ă  Halifax avec celui de l’UniversitĂ© Simon Fraser Ă  Vancouver.

Ils ne peuvent pas non plus Ă©valuer les types d’emplois, les revenus moyens et les niveaux d’endettement des dĂ©tenteurs d’un diplĂŽme de quatre ans en informatique de l’UniversitĂ© de Waterloo par rapport Ă  ceux qui ont obtenu un diplĂŽme de deux ans en technologie informatique du CollĂšge George Brown de Toronto ou qui ont pris part Ă  une formation intensive de 12 semaines en dĂ©veloppement Web de la sociĂ©tĂ© d’enseignement technologique Lighthouse Labs.

Ryan Craig, gestionnaire d’investissements et auteur, Ă©crit rĂ©guliĂšrement sur la nĂ©cessitĂ© de revoir la formule de l’enseignement supĂ©rieur traditionnel en fonction de la population active. Il dĂ©crit le choix d’un programme d’études postsecondaires comme Ă©tant fondĂ© sur « des informations asymĂ©triques ». Les universitĂ©s et les Ă©tablissements d’enseignement supĂ©rieur (et souvent les gouvernements) choisissent soit de ne pas mettre Ă  disposition les donnĂ©es relatives aux rĂ©sultats, soit de ne pas les collecter du tout.

Quand la ministre de l’Enseignement supĂ©rieur s’attaque Ă  l’autonomie des universitĂ©s

Universities must uphold Indigenous rights to self-determine

La cible de francisation des universitĂ©s anglophones pourrait nuire Ă  la qualitĂ© de l’enseignement

Canada’s polytechnics deserve to be recognized

Il ne fait aucun doute que l’expĂ©rience postsecondaire ne se rĂ©sume pas Ă  l’emploi et au rendement Ă©conomique. Mais les futurs Ă©tudiants, qui s’apprĂȘtent Ă  dĂ©bourser des dizaines de milliers de dollars et Ă  s’engager pour plusieurs annĂ©es, ne devraient-ils pas ĂȘtre en mesure d’évaluer la valeur de leur investissement ? C’est particuliĂšrement vrai pour les Ă©tudiants issus de mĂ©nages Ă  faible revenu.

Ces donnĂ©es inconnues quant aux dĂ©bouchĂ©s de l’enseignement supĂ©rieur au Canada n’est pas seulement un problĂšme pour les Ă©tudiants. C’est un grand angle mort pour les gouvernements, qui investissent chaque annĂ©e des milliards dans l’enseignement postsecondaire.

C’est Ă©galement problĂ©matique pour les Ă©tablissements, les employeurs et les planificateurs des systĂšmes de main-d’Ɠuvre, ainsi que pour un public de plus en plus sceptique quant au rendement social et Ă©conomique de l’enseignement supĂ©rieur.

Un nouveau rapport du centre Dais de l’UniversitĂ© mĂ©tropolitaine de Toronto et du Centre de politique publique du Groupe CSA Ă©value la collecte de donnĂ©es et le suivi des dĂ©bouchĂ©s de l’enseignement postsecondaire au Canada.

Le rapport relĂšve un certain nombre de problĂšmes pratiques, voire des incohĂ©rences : les donnĂ©es relatives Ă  l’enseignement postsecondaire sont incohĂ©rentes et souvent inaccessibles d’une province Ă  l’autre. Il n’est pas possible d’établir des comparaisons entre les universitĂ©s et les Ă©tablissements d’enseignement supĂ©rieur ni entre leurs programmes. Les informations sur les rĂ©sultats d’établissements et de programmes spĂ©cifiques ne sont pas disponibles.

L’absence de donnĂ©es sur les compĂ©tences des diplĂŽmĂ©s et leur situation professionnelle signifie que nous ne pouvons pas Ă©valuer la maniĂšre dont les diffĂ©rents types d’enseignement postsecondaire rĂ©pondent aux exigences du marchĂ© du travail – une lacune prĂ©occupante dans notre Ă©conomie en Ă©volution rapide.

Le Canada peut tirer des leçons des États-Unis, de l’Australie et du Royaume-Uni. Ces pays ont tous :

  • Des rĂ©seaux nationaux et des organisations dĂ©diĂ©es Ă  la collecte de donnĂ©es sur l’enseignement postsecondaire et Ă  la production de rapports sur les dĂ©bouchĂ©s ;
  • Des donnĂ©es opportunes et comparables Ă  l’échelle nationale, disponibles auprĂšs d’organismes dĂ©diĂ©s tels que la Higher Education Statistics Agency ;
  • Des outils de transparence pour les Ă©tudiants et les autres utilisateurs qui permettent de comparer les Ă©tablissements et les programmes Ă  l’échelle nationale, par exemple la College Scorecard des États-Unis et ComparED de l’Australie.

La recherche innovante sur la politique de l’enseignement supĂ©rieur est un sous-produit clĂ© pour ces pays. L’exemple des États-Unis, en particulier, dĂ©montre le pouvoir de donnĂ©es solides dans l’analyse et le dĂ©bat sur la valeur de l’enseignement supĂ©rieur et dans l’élaboration des politiques publiques.

Comment les gouvernements et les Ă©tablissements d’enseignement supĂ©rieur canadiens peuvent-ils rattraper leurs homologues internationaux ? Voici quelques recommandations sur la maniĂšre d’amĂ©liorer le suivi des rĂ©sultats dans l’enseignement postsecondaire national :

  • Faire d’un meilleur suivi des donnĂ©es et des rĂ©sultats pancanadiens une prioritĂ© de la politique postsecondaire – avec l’adhĂ©sion des gouvernements et des mandats pour les organismes importants, notamment le Conseil des statistiques canadiennes de l’éducation, le Conseil de l’information sur le marchĂ© du travail et Statistique Canada.
  • DĂ©velopper un moyen d’accĂšs national et ouvert aux donnĂ©es sur l’éducation – par exemple, un service public responsable de la collecte, de la conservation et du partage des donnĂ©es brutes.
  • Utiliser les leviers de financement et de rĂ©glementation du gouvernement pour obliger les Ă©tablissements d’enseignement postsecondaire Ă  communiquer des rĂ©sultats comparables.
  • Relier les donnĂ©es sur les dĂ©bouchĂ©s de l’enseignement postsecondaire aux informations sur le marchĂ© du travail afin de comprendre comment (et si) les programmes d’éducation et les diplĂŽmes rĂ©pondent Ă  la demande des employeurs en matiĂšre de talents dans l’économie.
  • Équiper les Ă©tudiants, les travailleurs et les conseillers, tels que les parents et les professionnels de l’orientation professionnelle, pour qu’ils puissent prendre des dĂ©cisions cruciales en matiĂšre d’éducation en utilisant des donnĂ©es pour dĂ©velopper des outils de navigation numĂ©riques et informer les services d’orientation « de l’apprentissage Ă  la carriĂšre ».

Il est vrai que la question des donnĂ©es insuffisantes sur l’enseignement postsecondaire au Canada n’est pas Ă  l’ordre du jour en ce moment. Mais elle doit l’ĂȘtre. Les enjeux sont tout simplement trop importants pour l’avenir de l’enseignement postsecondaire au pays, pour le dĂ©veloppement de son marchĂ© du travail et, plus important encore, pour que la prochaine gĂ©nĂ©ration d’étudiants soit bien traitĂ©e.

Pour une approche culturelle dans la dĂ©finition d’une Ă©mission canadienneTEST

(English version available here)

Un dĂ©bat de fond s’annonce sur le contenu canadien en tĂ©lĂ©vision. En fĂ©vrier et en mars 2024, le Conseil de la radiodiffusion et des tĂ©lĂ©communications canadiennes (CRTC) organise une sĂ©rie d’ateliers Ă  travers le Canada dans le but de revoir la dĂ©finition d’une Ă©mission canadienne.

Depuis la promulgation de la Loi sur la diffusion continue en ligne en avril 2023, qui a modifiĂ© la Loi sur la radiodiffusion, la dĂ©finition d’une Ă©mission canadienne est devenue l’objet de critiques par ceux qui voudraient rĂ©duire sa portĂ©e afin de minimiser l’impact des changements Ă  la loi. Pourtant, l’approche actuelle, qui privilĂ©gie une perspective culturelle plutĂŽt qu’économique, demeure la meilleure façon d’aborder le sujet.

La Loi sur la radiodiffusion est une loi culturelle qui exige des contributions au contenu canadien pour maintenir et valoriser l’identitĂ© nationale et la souverainetĂ© culturelle. À l’heure actuelle, le CRTC impose des obligations en contenu canadien uniquement aux diffuseurs autorisĂ©s par licence, comme Ă  la radio ou Ă  la tĂ©lĂ©vision. Les diffuseurs en ligne, qui seront rĂ©gis par un nouveau rĂ©gime d’enregistrement, n’ont pas encore d’obligation de cette nature.

ConsĂ©quence des modifications Ă  la Loi sur la radiodiffusion en 2023, le Conseil imposera sous peu de nouvelles obligations aux entreprises en ligne les plus importantes, comme Netflix, Disney et GAFAM (Google, Apple, Facebook/Meta, Amazon, Microsoft), dans la mesure oĂč elles diffusent des Ă©missions couvertes par la loi. Ces obligations seront probablement semblables Ă  celles exigĂ©es en ce moment des tĂ©lĂ©diffuseurs canadiens autorisĂ©s par licence, qu’il s’agisse d’entreprises gĂ©nĂ©ralistes comme le rĂ©seau TVA, ou d’entreprises de vidĂ©o sur demande (VSD), comme illico sur demande de VidĂ©otron. Ces nouvelles obligations pour les gĂ©ants du web pourraient comprendre celle d’offrir dans leurs catalogues un certain pourcentage d’émissions canadiennes, dont des longs mĂ©trages.

Que ces Ă©missions soient mises Ă  la disposition des tĂ©lĂ©spectateurs n’obligera personne Ă  les regarder. Cependant, de nouvelles obligations pourraient exiger une certaine visibilitĂ© ou « dĂ©couvrabilité » des Ă©missions canadiennes pour sensibiliser le public Ă  leur prĂ©sence.

Pour une définition objective du contenu canadien

Afin d’éviter toute nouvelle obligation, les gĂ©ants du web et les grands studios amĂ©ricains (voir l’intervention au CRTC du MPA-Canada du 7 juillet 2023) , appuyĂ©s par des libertariens canadiens, cherchent Ă  Ă©largir la dĂ©finition d’une Ă©mission canadienne. Parce qu’ils produisent dĂ©jĂ  des Ă©missions au Canada, plusieurs entreprises en ligne et studios amĂ©ricains souhaitent que le concept d’une Ă©mission canadienne soit redĂ©fini pour rendre les effets de la Loi sur la diffusion continue en ligne nuls et non avenus.

RĂšgle gĂ©nĂ©rale, ces productions en fuite des coĂ»ts Ă©levĂ©s d’Hollywood sont transfĂ©rĂ©es au Canada pour profiter de la valeur avantageuse du dollar canadien, des crĂ©dits d’impĂŽt offerts par les gouvernements provinciaux et fĂ©dĂ©ral ainsi que des excellents services prodiguĂ©s par les techniciens quĂ©bĂ©cois et canadiens.

Bien que tournĂ©es au Canada, ces productions ne se qualifient pas comme des Ă©missions canadiennes parce qu’elles ne respectent pas les critĂšres d’accrĂ©ditation actuels. En effet, les studios et les gĂ©ants du web amĂ©ricains s’assurent que leurs Ă©missions racontent des histoires situĂ©es dans un dĂ©cor familier aux tĂ©lĂ©spectateurs amĂ©ricains, qui s’appuient sur des Ă©lĂ©ments crĂ©atifs amĂ©ricains, et qu’elles incarnent un point de vue amĂ©ricain.

Afin de se qualifier comme canadienne, une Ă©mission doit incarner un « point de vue canadien » — Ă©lĂ©ment qui, assurĂ©ment, n’est pas facile Ă  Ă©valuer. La façon la plus simple de le garantir consiste Ă  exiger que les Ă©lĂ©ments crĂ©atifs impliquĂ©s dans sa production soient canadiens ou quĂ©bĂ©cois. Cette approche, qui repose en partie sur un systĂšme de points basĂ© sur la prĂ©sence d’élĂ©ments crĂ©ateurs canadiens, est essentiellement objective et relativement simple Ă  gĂ©rer Ă  titre administratif. Elle Ă©vite un lourd processus oĂč des fonctionnaires liraient des milliers et des milliers de projets, de synopsis ou de scĂ©narios pour tenter de dĂ©cortiquer un « point de vue canadien » — jugement qui serait inĂ©vitablement subjectif et arbitraire.

Pour ĂȘtre accrĂ©ditĂ©e comme « canadienne » Ă  l’heure actuelle, une Ă©mission doit normalement comporter un scĂ©nariste ou un rĂ©alisateur canadien, un acteur canadien dans un des deux principaux rĂŽles, quelques autres crĂ©ateurs et un producteur canadiens. Soixante-quinze pour cent du budget de production doit ĂȘtre consacrĂ© Ă  des personnes ou des compagnies canadiennes. (Il y a certaines exceptions Ă  ces rĂšgles, par exemple, dans le cas d’une coproduction internationale officielle.) Cela dit, il ne faut pas confondre les rĂšgles d’accrĂ©ditation d’une Ă©mission canadienne avec celles de son financement, pour lequel les agences responsables, comme le Fonds des mĂ©dias du Canada (FMC), peuvent imposer des exigences supplĂ©mentaires.

En principe, rien n’empĂȘche les entreprises en ligne et les studios Ă©trangers d’abandonner leurs pratiques courantes et de respecter les critĂšres nĂ©cessaires pour obtenir l’accrĂ©ditation canadienne pour certains de leurs projets. Mais Ă  l’heure actuelle, ils prĂ©fĂšrent utiliser leur pouvoir de lobby pour modifier les rĂšgles d’accrĂ©ditation du contenu canadien au lieu de s’y plier.

Des exigences qui dérangent les studios étrangers

Un aspect de la dĂ©finition d’une Ă©mission canadienne qui les interpelle est l’exigence que son producteur soit canadien. Voulant contrĂŽler la nature du projet (et Ă©ventuellement les droits mondiaux d’exploitation qui y sont attachĂ©s), les entreprises en ligne et les studios amĂ©ricains sont gĂ©nĂ©ralement rĂ©barbatifs Ă  l’idĂ©e de partager la gestion d’un projet avec un producteur quĂ©bĂ©cois ou canadien.

Une autre exigence qui les dĂ©range est l’embauche d’un scĂ©nariste ou d’un rĂ©alisateur canadien. La plupart du temps, les entreprises en ligne et les studios amĂ©ricains veulent voir leurs compatriotes contrĂŽler le contenu d’une Ă©mission pour assurer un point de vue compatible avec leurs valeurs. Enfin, ils prĂ©fĂšrent que les principaux rĂŽles soient remplis par des acteurs connus du public amĂ©ricain afin de faciliter la promotion de l’émission. Par ailleurs, ce public n’ayant pas l’habitude de regarder des Ă©missions doublĂ©es ou sous-titrĂ©es, les entreprises amĂ©ricaines exigent, sauf exception, un tournage en anglais.

Le contrĂŽle crĂ©atif d’une production, assujetti Ă  une approche quantitative, est le meilleur gage d’une prĂ©sence d’attitudes, d’opinions, d’idĂ©es, de valeurs, de crĂ©ativitĂ©Ì et d’expĂ©riences canadiennes, voire d’un point de vue canadien sur les Ă©crans.

L’approche Ă©conomique Ă  la dĂ©finition d’une Ă©mission canadienne voudrait que l’on mette beaucoup d’accent sur l’emploi global engendrĂ© par une production et sur son attrait pour les investisseurs Ă©trangers, plutĂŽt que sur le « point de vue » exprimĂ© par ses principaux artisans — le scĂ©nariste, le rĂ©alisateur et les acteurs de premier plan. (DĂ©jĂ , l’élĂ©ment Ă©conomique est pris en considĂ©ration dans la dĂ©finition actuelle par l’exigence voulant que soixante-quinze pour cent du budget total de production soit consacrĂ© Ă  des personnes ou des compagnies canadiennes.)

Croire que l’accrĂ©ditation de contenu canadien devrait encourager aussi les investissements Ă©trangers au sein de notre systĂšme de radiodiffusion est une fausse piste. C’est plutĂŽt le rĂŽle des crĂ©dits d’impĂŽt fĂ©dĂ©ral et provinciaux — comme le programme de crĂ©dit d’impĂŽt pour services de production cinĂ©matographique ou magnĂ©toscopique (CISP) du gouvernement fĂ©dĂ©ral. Si Ottawa dĂ©sire encourager les investissements Ă©trangers au Canada, il devrait renforcer le CISP, et laisser intacte la dĂ©finition d’une Ă©mission canadienne. L’approche actuelle de cette dĂ©finition, qui privilĂ©gie une perspective culturelle plutĂŽt qu’économique, demeure la meilleure façon d’assurer un point de vue canadien ou quĂ©bĂ©cois.

An all-in approach to solving Canada’s affordability and climate crisesTEST

Affordability and climate are compounding, overlapping crises — and people are struggling through them both at the same time. Individuals across Canada are tired of making trade-offs because, when it comes to life’s necessities — housing, food, transportation and a sustainable climate — there should be none.

Solutions that ignore the full picture are no longer acceptable. What’s needed now is a fundamentally different approach to policymaking, one that considers all basic needs because they are all interdependent. The Affordability Action Council (AAC), a collaboration of diverse policy and community leaders, has broken down silos to table a package of “all-in” solutions to help meet Canadians’ basic needs in an integrated way.

On Thursday, February 1, we held a panel discussion featuring three AAC members who explored the group’s main areas of focus — food, transportation and housing — and explained how a holistic approach to policymaking can lead to solutions that lower cost, reduce vulnerability and give people greater control over their lives. The event took place at the Impact Hub in Ottawa and was also live streamed. This podcast is the audio from that discussion.

Access to MAiD should not cater to faith-based interestsTEST

“B.C. Ministry of Health pledges to build a corridor of sin.”

That should have been the headline attached to B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix’s recent announcement that he will instruct Vancouver Coastal Health to make room next to the city’s St. Paul’s Hospital for a dedicated clinical and care space where patients from the hospital can receive “compassionate and dignified MAiD services.”

Canada’s medical assistance in dying law allows adults to receive MAiD if:

  • They have a “serious and incurable illness, disease or disability.”
  • They are “in an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability.”
  • “Illness, disease or disability or that state of decline causes them enduring physical or psychological suffering that is intolerable to them and that cannot be relieved under conditions that they consider acceptable.”

But eligible patients have been unable to have MAiD at St. Paul’s Hospital because the Ministry of Health allows Catholic beliefs and values to dictate the services offered.

The Catholic Church is opposed to MAiD, so patients in St. Paul’s – which receives most of its funding from the public purse – are forced to transfer out to receive the legal end-of-life care they want. Other faith-influenced facilities across the province have also been allowed to do forced transfers.

Dix realized he needed to do something after the story of Samantha O’Neill’s horrifying experience with a forced transfer out of St. Paul’s generated public outrage.

Hence Dix’s proposed plan.

But his “solution” is fundamentally flawed: It is not supported by the public, is unconstitutional and doesn’t address the harms of forced transfers.

Catering to faith-based hospitals that dictate what health care they will and won’t provide is unacceptable to the majority of Canadians. In B.C., only 12 per cent of residents identify as Catholic. Patients served by St. Paul’s are predominantly non-Catholic. Staff are predominantly non-Catholic. The population providing most of the hospital’s funding is predominantly non-Catholic.

Faith-based health facilities shouldn’t prolong patient suffering

Missing the mark on a profound social change with MAiD for mental illness

Dix’s “solution” also fails to remedy the Charter violations inherent in his government’s allowing the Catholic Church control in publicly funded health-care facilities over the beliefs, values, needs and desires of British Columbians.

Nor does it consider the additional suffering caused by transferring fragile, gravely ill patients from one building to another. St. Paul’s patients wanting MAiD will be forced to make a trip down the elevator, through a corridor, then back up another elevator to a new room.

Some patients are not able to be moved. Some are too medically or symptomatically unstable to make the trip. Others are only able to tolerate the journey if medicated to the point of unconsciousness.

This denies them the comfort of having family and friends engaging with them immediately before and as they receive MAiD. For some, the pain from the transfer cannot be controlled so they experience excruciating agony throughout the move.

Dix also fails to consider the harms of forced transfers for others in the Providence Health Care system or other faith-influenced facilities where there is no dedicated space available.

The following description from an experienced palliative-care clinician, who wishes to remain anonymous due to harassment by faith-based MAiD opponents, vividly describes these harms:

Imagine looking around the room you had made feel more like home as you are dying – pictures on the walls, plants, sun filtering through your window. The comforting faces of the nurses, doctors and patient-care attendants who have shared in your care. 

But now you can’t get out of bed anymore – any movement is an agony. The pain from the cancer growing 
 in your abdomen is now a constant. 

You had decided on an assisted death 
 when your suffering was no longer bearable, and you are keenly aware that time is approaching. 

But then, a rupture.

You can’t have it here – in this place, among these people, who have brought you comfort at the end. Your choice to end your suffering is offensive. It is sinful. It is cowardly – at least within those walls. You will be moved. Physical and emotional ties are broken.

You are bundled up, on a stretcher, and the bumps in the hallways make you want to cry out. You suppress a scream. You are taken to a room. Sterile, empty. Not YOUR room. You need extra doses of pain medicine after enduring that trip, making those last moments with your loved ones fuzzy. You forget what you had planned to say. You feel untethered and unsafe. This is not how it should be.

There are two kinds of suffering we experience in this life: unavoidable suffering (the kind that comes from being human, experiencing love and grief) and unnecessary suffering. Moving patients from the place they have chosen to receive palliative care – the place where they are doing their dying – to another location for death itself causes unnecessary suffering and is the antithesis of person-centred care.

At the same time as Dix outlined his plan, he also announced that he had directed Vancouver Coastal Health and Providence Health Care “to implement a patient-centred approach for patients at St. Paul’s Hospital who wish to access MAiD.”

But it is clear that this plan is church-centred, not patient-centred.

It fails to properly balance the interests of faith groups with the wishes and needs of patients who are, by definition, experiencing enduring and intolerable suffering. Bricks and mortar do not have freedom of religion and conscience.

Faith-influenced hospitals must be made to respect the constitutional rights of the people they serve. Dix’s plan needs to be sent back to the drawing board with instructions for a redesign with suffering patients in mind instead of churches.

The B.C. situation is also a cautionary tale for governments across Canada. Forced transfers are allowed in almost every province and territory. Governments allow religious (mainly Catholic) hospitals to refuse to permit the provision of MAiD within their walls by outside clinicians – even to patients who cannot be moved to another facility. This occurs despite the documented harms of forced transfers.

Other health ministers will no doubt face stories like the one that precipitated Dix’s announcement. But they will have to look beyond the B.C. response for reasonable solutions.

Chronic student absenteeism will require serious investmentTEST

Missing a school day now and again because of sickness or medical appointments is normal. Missing more than two days a month on a regular basis puts students on the path to chronic absenteeism.

It adds up quickly and becomes a serious problem, exerting a big impact on children’s learning, overall health and life prospects. Since the pandemic school shutdowns, it has been diagnosed as a prime symptom of “long COVID” in education.

This massive educational disruption has seriously altered the student-attendance picture in Canada, the U.S and the U.K. High levels of students in K-12 continue to miss so much school that they can be labelled “chronically absent” – which can mean future struggles in both the educational system and the real world post-school.

Student absorption in the digital world, heightened parental anxieties over schools as vectors for transmission of COVID and other diseases, and changed attitudes about the value of regular school attendance are among the most often-cited factors.

Conventional approaches to ensuring attendance are no longer enough. Comprehensive, evidence-based student attendance policies are an urgent necessity to reverse this troubling trend. Making that stick will involve multiple fundamental changes affecting school boards, school officials, teachers and parents.

Chronic absenteeism means missing too much school – for any reason – excused or unexcused. It’s now defined as missing 10 per cent of the scheduled time during the school year (around 18 days).

Educational strategies for ensuring full attendance have evolved significantly since the 1960s. School authorities now take a far more progressive, less punitive approach to minimize “skipping school” and it worked reasonably well as long as the vast majority of students and parents supported regular, daily school attendance.

Democratic life and the generational implications of pandemic school closures

Have provinces put schools first during COVID?

A national school food program would do more than feed students

But that consensus shows unmistakable signs of dissolving across a broader cross-section of the school population.

A U.S. school attendance advocacy group, Count ME In, based in Portland, Maine, provides a helpful distinction between “truancy” and “chronic absence.” It rests on the assumption that the number of students regularly missing school is relatively small and can be contained without resorting to more robust policies and practices.

Today, truancy applies only to unexcused absences, emphasizes compliance with school rules and relies on administrative sanctions and remedies. School attendance officers track “chronic absence” with an approach that counts all reasons for missing school (excused, unexcused and suspensions), emphasizes the academic impact of missing school and uses community-based positive strategies.

It’s tough to assess the full extent of attendance in Canadian schools. The data is incomplete and difficult to get from school districts. Only system-wide attendance averages are released, with no publicly reported rates of chronic absenteeism.

Piecing it together involves finding a few examples supported with official and publicly available data. In Ontario, the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board was fairly representative of the first phase of the pandemic. Its overall student absenteeism rate rose to between eight and 14 per cent in November 2022 from three to four per cent in 2020.

In New Brunswick’s Anglophone School District West, the average absentee rate in early 2023 (February to April) hovered around 2.4 days per month for grades 9-12 and around 1.8 days for K-8 students. Projected over 181 school days, that would put record numbers of students in danger of being chronically absent.

In the U.S., the situation is even more dire. Student absenteeism has more than doubled. The national average was 28 per cent in 2020-21, twice the rate of 2018-19, according to data compiled by Stanford professor Thomas Dee. In Michigan, it rose to 39 per cent during the pandemic. More recent data shows some improvement, but some American cities still report absenteeism rates of 40 per cent.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the U.K. Association of School and College Leaders, sees post-pandemic chronic absenteeism as a fundamental problem. That was driven home in a 2023 survey of headteachers in which 81 per cent reported that local attendance support services were inadequate in meeting the challenge.

Proposed plans to improve student attendance and reduce student absentee rates tend to be big on rhetoric and notably lacking in effectiveness. Hollow attendance policy pronouncements merely plaster over a problem that requires a serious investment of time, energy and resources.

It’s time to focus on implementing policies and practices that reclaim students lost to the system since the pandemic.

Here’s a checklist based on research into best practices for policymakers, school districts and principles:

  • Make student attendance a priority: Reaffirm a commitment to full, in-person attendance supported by revamped strategy and implementable policies from school districts down to the school level.
  • Track and report on absenteeism: Activate and improve student attendance “early warning” tracking utilizing student records software. Establish streamlined and manageable reporting requirements for all classroom teachers and include absenteeism data on regular report cards.
  • Step up with visible leadership: Empower district superintendents, principals and regional attendance officers to provide more visible, demonstrative support to classroom teachers.
  • Establish attendance-mentoring hubs: Forge new alliances with attendance-mentoring programs that rebuild trust in student-parent-school relations. These programs demonstrate the positive impact of school participation as well as the enduring value of school attendance.
  • Rebuild student attendance support services: Restore student attendance offices and recruit field officers committed to home visits. Restore some truancy-reduction practices, including warning letters, parent-teacher conferences and denial of academic credits.
  • Implement a robust policy with consequences: Tracking absenteeism is meaningless unless it leads to consequences for students in terms of academic progress and withholding of course credits. Time-limited suspensions might include requirements for mental-health counselling and/or community service. Denying course credits to students missing 20 per cent of the school year (36 or more days) is a defensible policy.

Improving student attendance in post-pandemic times will involve an integrated service-delivery strategy backed by policies with consequences.

To make a dent in the entrenched problem, it will have to engage students, parents and families. It requires a far more proactive strategy.

In certain school zones, it may be necessary to have attendance officers knocking on doors and talking directly to families, finding out why children are missing school, removing barriers to attendance and strengthening ”social connection” with our local schools.

The damage caused by persistent absence is severe, and the longer these high rates continue, the more entrenched the habitual behaviour. Chronically absent students become social casualties, struggling in and out of school, and are more likely to end up in custodial institutions.

Turning the tide will take investment in student attendance support services, but that will produce longer-term benefits for everyone.

L’amĂ©lioration des soins palliatifs passe par de meilleures donnĂ©esTEST

(English version available here)

Si les bonnes intentions et les annonces de financement constituaient à elles seules des solutions viables, le Canada serait un paradis pour les soins palliatifs. 

Plus de cinq ans aprĂšs l’adoption par le gouvernement fĂ©dĂ©ral de son cadre sur les soins palliatifs, les progrĂšs sont dĂ©cevants. Par exemple, en octobre 2023, la SociĂ©tĂ© canadienne du cancer a averti que le Canada Ă©tait encore loin de la meilleure pratique recommandĂ©e, qui est de compter au moins 7 lits de soins palliatifs pour 100 000 personnes. 

Cependant, aussi importants que soient les lits, le systĂšme de soins palliatifs du pays a besoin de plus : une politique nationale globale et complĂšte couvrant les centres de soins palliatifs et tous les autres lieux de soins, y compris les hĂŽpitaux, les centres d’hĂ©bergement et de soins de longue durĂ©e, et les soins Ă  domicile.  

Une bonne politique nécessite également de bonnes données. 

À l’heure actuelle, les donnĂ©es canadiennes prĂ©sentent des limites bien connues qui embrouillent l’image de l’état des soins palliatifs. 

Cependant, un nouveau projet de recherche de Pallium Canada, l’Atlas canadien des soins palliatifs – Édition Ontario, est en cours pour cartographier le paysage et soutenir l’élaboration de politiques fondĂ©es sur des donnĂ©es probantes, dont le besoin se fait cruellement sentir dans ce domaine important. 

Limites des données 

Les chercheurs et les instituts reconnaissent volontiers la nécessité de disposer de meilleures données sur les soins palliatifs.  

L’Institut canadien d’information sur la santĂ© (ICIS) a publiĂ© des rapports Ă  ce sujet en 2018 et 2023. Toutefois, ils prĂ©sentent des lacunes en matiĂšre de donnĂ©es et manquent de dĂ©finitions et de normes communes.  

Ce dernier point entrave sérieusement la capacité des décideurs politiques à comparer les soins palliatifs entre les différentes instances. 

Le rapport de l’ICIS reconnaĂźt cette limite, notant l’absence de « consensus sur ce que signifie recevoir des soins palliatifs et sur les services que cela devrait inclure ». Par consĂ©quent, nous ne pouvons pas utiliser les rapports de l’ICIS pour Ă©valuer la qualitĂ© des soins, car « le fait d’ĂȘtre signalĂ© comme palliatif selon cette mĂ©thodologie ne garantit pas qu’un patient ait rĂ©ellement reçu des soins palliatifs de qualité ». 

La SociĂ©tĂ© canadienne des mĂ©decins de soins palliatifs (SCMSP) a publiĂ© une rĂ©ponse au rapport 2023 de l’ICIS, soulignant les problĂšmes de dĂ©finition qui limitent l’utilitĂ© des donnĂ©es de l’ICIS. 

Elle recommande d’établir des normes et des indicateurs clairs « pour reflĂ©ter la prestation de soins palliatifs de haute qualitĂ© et ces normes doivent ĂȘtre liĂ©es au financement par l’intermĂ©diaire d’AgrĂ©ment Canada ». Le rapport invite les gouvernements Ă  contribuer Ă  ce processus. 

Les universitaires ont Ă©galement Ă©tabli un lien entre ce qu’ils appellent une « courtepointe de prestations » de soins palliatifs et l’absence de « normes formelles et appliquĂ©es ». MalgrĂ© l’introduction du cadre fĂ©dĂ©ral sur les soins palliatifs en 2018, les parties prenantes interrogĂ©es dans le cadre d’une Ă©tude rĂ©alisĂ©e en 2022 ont fait Ă©tat de changements minimes en matiĂšre de recherche et de collecte de donnĂ©es. 

Lacunes dans les données 

À l’exception d’un petit nombre d’institutions, les donnĂ©es fournies Ă  l’ICIS proviennent uniquement des hĂŽpitaux. Cela signifie qu’il manque des donnĂ©es sur les soins communautaires, y compris les soins palliatifs reçus Ă  domicile, dans les hospices, dans les Ă©tablissements de soins de longue durĂ©e et dans d’autres contextes. 

Par consĂ©quent, dans la majeure partie du pays, Ă  l’exception de trois provinces et du Yukon, les donnĂ©es ne permettent pas aux chercheurs de « suivre les patients d’une section Ă  l’autre », car les soins peuvent ĂȘtre dispensĂ©s Ă  domicile, dans des services hospitaliers de soins aigus ou subaigus, dans des Ă©tablissements de soins de longue durĂ©e, dans des hospices, etc. 

Make palliative care a priority in health-care funding negotiations 

Palliative care has been lacking for decades in long-term care 

Lack of palliative care is a failure in too many MAiD requests 

En outre, le rapport de l’ICIS exclut totalement la population pĂ©diatrique. Le RĂ©seau canadien de soins palliatifs pour les enfants a rĂ©agi au rapport 2023 de l’ICIS en soulignant le manque « d’informations sur l’état actuel des soins palliatifs pour les enfants au Canada » et en demandant que des mesures soient prises dans ce domaine. 

Compte tenu des problĂšmes soulevĂ©s par le rapport de l’ICIS, la SociĂ©tĂ© canadienne des mĂ©decins de soins palliatifs ne croit pas que les donnĂ©es justifient la conclusion selon laquelle l’accĂšs aux soins palliatifs s’amĂ©liore au Canada : « Nous ne savons tout simplement pas. » 

La sociĂ©tĂ© a Ă©galement notĂ© que l’expĂ©rience des prestataires de soins palliatifs a rĂ©vĂ©lĂ© « des Ă©carts croissants en matiĂšre d’accĂšs et de qualitĂ©, qui n’ont Ă©tĂ© qu’aggravĂ©s par les dĂ©fis postpandĂ©miques ». 

L’atlas canadien des soins palliatifs 

Pallium Canada propose une solution Ă  ces problĂšmes avec l’élaboration de son atlas. Organisme national Ă  but non lucratif d’éducation et de ressources en matiĂšre de soins palliatifs, Pallium s’est associĂ© Ă  l’universitĂ© de Navarre, en Espagne, pour introduire au Canada la mĂ©thodologie de l’atlas, qui a Ă©tĂ© utilisĂ©e pour cartographier les soins palliatifs dans d’autres pays et d’autres rĂ©gions. 

Les rĂ©sultats d’une Ă©tude pilote ont Ă©tĂ© publiĂ©s en novembre. L’étude s’est concentrĂ©e sur la sous-rĂ©gion Centre-Est de l’Ontario et a utilisĂ© la mĂ©thode de l’atlas pour mettre en Ă©vidence les points forts et les innovations des services de soins palliatifs en vue de leur extension et de leur diffusion. L’étude montre Ă©galement comment la mĂ©thode permet d’identifier les lacunes et les domaines susceptibles d’ĂȘtre amĂ©liorĂ©s afin d’élargir l’accĂšs Ă  des soins palliatifs de qualitĂ©, lĂ  et au moment oĂč cela est nĂ©cessaire. 

L’atlas canadien inclura toutes les provinces et tous les territoires. Des investissements modestes de la part des gouvernements et de la sociĂ©tĂ© civile peuvent permettre Ă  d’autres atlas de fournir des donnĂ©es essentielles aux dĂ©cideurs politiques aux niveaux provincial, territorial et national. 

Pourquoi des données de qualité sont-elles importantes ? 

Une comprĂ©hension plus dĂ©taillĂ©e et fondĂ©e sur des donnĂ©es de l’état des soins palliatifs au Canada est nĂ©cessaire pour soutenir l’élaboration de politiques solides fondĂ©es sur des donnĂ©es probantes. En identifiant ce qui fonctionne bien et les domaines oĂč des investissements ou une attention supplĂ©mentaires sont nĂ©cessaires, des donnĂ©es complĂštes peuvent aider le pays Ă  progresser vers des soins palliatifs plus accessibles et de meilleure qualitĂ©.  

Ce n’est qu’à ce moment que les bonnes intentions et les annonces de financement des gouvernements pourront produire des rĂ©sultats concrets pour les Canadiens recevant des soins de fin de vie et leurs familles. 

Women’s economic empowerment is crucial to Canada’s strategies against gender-based violenceTEST

Economic abuse is a problem that often goes unnoticed across Canada. It is a form of domestic violence that hides behind a wall of taboo, culture and lack of awareness. 

It is also likely to be one answer to the question of why victims “don’t just leave.” They often cannot afford to. A lack of financial resources is one of the main reasons why victims stay in abusive relationships or return to them.   

Policymakers have started to recognize this abuse, which coercively controls and limits someone’s economic independence. Abusive partners can prevent victims from having their own money or account; make big financial decisions without them; or build debt under their names, hindering their access to employment and scaring them into staying quiet about money.    

Financial abuse and economic abuse are often used interchangeably but are different in scope. While the former limits monetary resources, the latter includes a broader range of behaviour, including economic control, economic exploitation and employment sabotage.    

A research study conducted in the Greater Ottawa region by the Canadian Center for Women’s Empowerment has revealed the effects of economic abuse. Some 93 per cent of victims lacked access to their own money. Many only received cash allowances and had to account for money spent. As well, 86 per cent of respondents were ordered to quit work, which led to further isolation and financial dependence. 

Economic abuse doesn’t end when a victim leaves and, if not addressed quickly, harmful consequences can continue.    

Abusive partners can misuse money or build up debt in victims’ names – either through force, threat or without their knowledge – a practice known as coerced debt. Victims are held accountable and thus pay the price for abuse long after separation. They may have to declare bankruptcy and, due to a low credit score, cannot secure small loans, get credit or rent an apartment, which forces them to return to the abusive partner. 

Canada’s gender-based violence prevention strategy 

Gender-equal cabinets have done little so far for women and girls living with male violence 

The taboo surrounding money and violence makes things even worse. With domestic violence already hidden, finances get pushed further into the shadows due to a societal stigma around discussing money. This makes it more challenging for victims to seek help or share their experiences.  

While anybody can experience economic abuse, women from poorer socioeconomic backgrounds, Indigenous, racialized, gender-diverse and otherwise marginalized communities are at much higher risk.  

Economic abuse is deeply rooted in societal structures and power imbalances, such as gender inequality and economic injustice. This is reinforced by gender norms and magnified by patriarchy, racism, colonialism and capitalism, where (usually white) men hold disproportionate control over financial resources. 

Victims face disbelief, discrimination and retraumatization from courts, financial institutions and social services. The current housing crisis, rising food costs, lack of child care and challenges in untangling joint bank accounts make it even harder to break free.   

When victims are economically dependent on their abuser, socially isolated and in debt, they often cannot afford to leave or are forced to return to a violent relationship. Shortly before and after separation is the most dangerous time for victims, according to Ontario’s femicide statistics. Yet, it takes, on average, seven attempts before a victim can leave for good, as the current system fails to protect them. Some women never even get the chance to try to leave.  

Economic empowerment for prevention of gender-based violence 

It is crucial to include economic empowerment in federal, provincial and territorial gender-based violence strategies to help survivors regain control over their lives and finances. 

In its 2022 report on intimate partner and family violence, the federal status-of-women committee recommended that the government develop a comprehensive strategy to address financial and economic abuse. 

In 2023, the Canadian Center for Women’s Empowerment released a financial scorecard on economic abuse that revealed the urgency of government intervention. The scorecard ranked provinces and territories by evaluating the existence of policies that address economic abuse and their effectiveness. British Columbia scored the highest with an abysmal 36 per cent compared with the national average of a meagre 17.8 per cent. 

The federal national action plan to end gender-based violence outlined a road map for provinces and territories. That led to agreements that give those jurisdictions the opportunity to address economic abuse in their strategies against gender-based violence. Economic security and safety are important for preventing and leaving violence, as well as stopping the cycle of poverty and abuse, as recent studies have highlighted. 

Building on these recent actions, further policy changes to help end economic abuse could include:

  • Collecting economic abuse data: Existing Statistics Canada data on domestic violence does not include economic abuse. This information is crucial to understand the scope, nature and impact of such abuse and to respond effectively.    
  • Broadening the definition of economic abuse: The government’s gender-based violence glossary states financial abuse occurs when an individual uses money, assets or property to control or exploit another individual. This definition does not cover the extent of abusive tactics. A broader definition is needed so that policy responses can better prevent economic abuse in all its forms.       
  • Declaring an awareness day: A petition calling for a National Economic Abuse Awareness Day on Nov. 26 is set to be tabled for discussion in the House of Commons sometime in the next few weeks. It would help put the issue in the public eye, acknowledge the experience of survivors and reduce stigma and taboos surrounding economic abuse.  
  •  Amending banking policies: In its current review, the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada should make victims eligible for no-cost bank accounts.  
  • Expanding ​​​​​​​​an intersectional gender-focused approach to the federal national housing strategy.

At the provincial and territorial level, governments could consider: 

  • Allocating funding for quick financial recovery after abuse: This would help make sure victims and their children are not forced to return to violence and can regain control over their lives and finances. 
  • Financing affordable-housing programs, improving tenant protection and increasing shelter capacity: This would ensure access to safe short- and long-term shelter and housing for women and their children fleeing abuse.  
  • Addressing coerced debt: Ontario’s Bill 41 addresses this issue as it pertains to human trafficking. Broader legislation is needed to include survivors of domestic violence to ensure they are not held accountable for debt incurred as a result of abuse. A 2022 California state law on such debt could be a model. 
  • Expanding social, financial and legal counselling for survivors and their children: Services must be accessible, trauma-informed and focused on survivors to help quick recovery. 

By broadening and adding to existing strategies to prevent gender-based violence, governments can help victim-survivors and their children break the cycle of poverty and abuse.