Book Review: Local Government in Practice: Cases in Governance, Planning, and Policy

In some ways 2019 was the year of local government, particularly in an Ontario context: regional government reviews, debate over Toronto City Council composition and the resulting court cases, etc. More attention was on the municipal sector in the past year than in the past decade in a way perhaps not seen since the creation of the Toronto mega-city in 2006.

So, it is timely that a new book for students of Local Government (which is also drawing attention from municipal practitioners – including the author of this blog) was written by Zachary Spicer, Joseph Lyons, and Kate Graham and published by Emond Publishing: Local Government in Practice: Cases in Governance, Planning, and Policy. Zachary Spicer is IPAC National’s newly minted research director. I connected with him to get some background on the writing of the textbook. You will see some some of that background he and his co-authors provided emphasized throughout this entry.

From the text itself: “The aim of the book is to give students opportunities to engage deeply in administrative and policy scenarios designed to test their problem-solving, decision-making, and communication skills…while strengthening their political acuity, ethical purview, and knowledge of best practices.” (xiii)

For students and practitioners alike, continuous learning helps to bridge theory and practice.  One always wonders how to apply the theoretical with real world application. How can we do that effectively? There are texts and articles outlining case studies applying to provincial and federal administration. It stands to reason that case studies should also be developed for the order of government closest to the community, particularly as local governments take on added responsibility despite their varying levels of maturity and expertise.

The three of us have been teaching in UWOs [Western University, formerly University of Western Ontario] local government program for several years… we’re always on the look out for new ways to engage our students and find innovative ways to teach local government. From our experience teaching and working with local governments, we know that practitioners often find themselves in in situations where they must navigate competing interests, ambitious objectives, and many constraints. Cases provide an opportunity for students to experience this complexity in a classroom setting

The book begins with a brief but thorough review of local government in Canada in a bit of a municipal 101—style. It covers some of the various approaches that provinces take in structuring municipal governments and it emphasizes the delicate balance between the administration and the politics of  municipal affairs.

The book then segues into a section capturing an imaginary Election Day at an imaginary City Hall. It accurately and emotionally transports the reader into the mind of a municipal administrator who must think about the implications of imminent political change and what it will mean for their career and how they do their work.  It’s a unique way to position the text; readers will enjoy the experience of imagining local government through the human lens of the municipal civil servant.

We’ve all used cases in our teaching to a certain extent in the past, but we weren’t really satisfied with the state of existing cases. A lot of what was available came from other jurisdictions (mostly the US) or covered fairly high profile incidents or policy areas, where the outcome was widely known. We decided to take a different approach and reach across disciplinary boundaries to use fictional cases to complement real world cases….Creating a fictional case allows the instructor to simulate real world activity, but also embed certain tensions or aspects that real world cases sometimes do not always have. The fictional cases then allowed us to make better connections to key topics and concepts

Each section:

  • introduces a theme;
  • provides an overview how that theme affects the landscape of local government;
  • presents a deeper dive into the theme; and
  • illuminates real issues in local government, using both case studies and fictitious scenarios.

Then the text poses several questions for discussion which could be taken up in a classroom setting.

The case study themes are particularly timely given both legislative emphasis on some of these very topics from the provinces and federal governments, the current municipal fiscal environment and existing issues and concerns being addressed by councils and municipal administrators. Each theme addresses multiple issues within them:

  • Council-Staff Relationship: Changing electoral boundaries, creating a code of conduct;
  • Financials: balancing budgets, user fees in recreation;
  • Planning and Economic Development: condo developments, building sports stadiums;
  • Intergovernmental Relations: meetings with the premier, intergovernmental grants; and
  • Local Policy Making: crafting an arts and culture strategy; regulating private transportation companies.

In terms of settling on cases and themes, we used a lot of what has emerged in our classes over the years. Some are obvious – taxes, financing, planning, etc., but the specifics came from the classroom. In the book we said a lot of the material came from student discussions and it really did. Our students helped us zero in on important topics and shared stories from their own experiences in the workplace that helped inform the themes and cases.

What is also interesting is that the lens applied to the case studies are not just presented from an administrator’s point of view, but also from of the view of municipal elected officials. Take for instance, a scenario which encourages students to put themselves in the shoes of the municipal decision maker: students must take the view of a ward councillor, and develop talking points on the municipality’s budget for an interview with local media.

What I particularly like about the book is that, in setting out how students could prepare for life as a municipal administrator, the authors emphasize the old, “what is the problem you are trying to solve”, adage the most basic yet important question one asks when developing a policy solution. This is an important lesson for students but one that policy practitioners are familiar with as it is essential to tackling any issue, challenge or policy development.  Presenting questions that get to the critical considerations (i.e., options development, risk management and stakeholder impacts) which should inform decision-making is beneficial to learning the public administration craft.

“As the order of government closest to the people, municipalities are vital to the health of our democracy. In Canada, however, municipalities don’t always get the respect they deserve.” (Kristin Good, “Municipalities Deserve More Autonomy and Respect,” Policy Options, November 29, 2019)

These cases and the issues they raise really put into context the importance of municipal administration and the need for engaged, innovative, ethical and dynamic municipal public servants. It’s about time we all paid more attention to the issues within municipal governance and administration. This book helps us do that.


Written by:

Alana Del Greco, IPAC Toronto Board Member

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Book Review: The Public Servant’s Guide to Government in Canada

There’s an old(er) song that goes, “I wish that I know what I know now, when I was younger” (Oh La La by Faces, for those interested in trivia).

If I knew the things I know now back when I was starting out as a Public Servant six years ago, first as a co-op student completing my Master of Public Service at the University of Waterloo, and then when I got my first contract with the OPS, I would have been able to really hit the ground running.

It took years of experiences, coffee chats with experienced professionals and lessons learned from leaders and colleagues willing to pass along their knowledge to know what I know now.

But man, if only I had a book like The Public Servant’s Guide to Government in Canada, I would have had a bit more of a leg up.

It’s a book that every new and aspiring public servant should have in their learning library. Small but mighty in its 108 pages, The Public Servant’s Guide provides lots of tips, advice, and learnings that would take a few years on average to accumulate.

Now, you can’t put a price on the kind of mentorship and experience that comes from years in the public service and it’s a worthwhile investment in your career to learn from your experiences and from others…some things you just have to learn that way to let things really sink through, but it helps to have a bit of help along the way.

Written by Alex Marland, a professor of political science from Memorial University and Jared Wesley, a self-styled “pracademic- a practicing political science and recovering bureaucrat” at the University of Alberta who is also part of our IPAC national community through the Edmonton Regional Group, the book is styled as “an overview and introduction to life in the public service. It connects theory and practice to produce a handy desk reference” and to me, saying its handy is a humble undersell.

Without giving too much away, The Public Servant’s Guide provides an overview of the federal government primarily, but is useful to understanding the provincial government as well. It provides a good overview of the experience of public servant in government administration.

  • It is peppered with tips for new professionals
  • It explains the difference between the public service and political staff in a brief yet holistic way.
  • It outlines some of the management approaches tried and tested in public management such as new public management, and the role of the public service bargain (read: ethics and values)
  • It provides a dos and don’ts on writing briefing notes.
  • It talks about managing your career in the public service.

For those fancying themselves as wonks, there’s a whole chapter dedicated to policy, denotes the prominence of the discipline and why it tends to be a draw for most new professionals and students of public administration.

The Public Servant’s Guide is full of great tips on what you should do to stay informed about happenings in government, to ensure that you are supporting the forward motion of the wheel of government: monitoring government speeches, asking questions, aligning work with your deputy minister’s priorities and government priorities, practicing real time information monitoring to be on top of critical issues of your ministry.

If you buy only one book as a recent grad or new public servant with the limited funds that come from student debt and contract positions, you should buy this one. I wish that I had this guide when I was starting out.

Thank you to University of Toronto Press for providing a copy of the book for us to read and review!


Written by:

Alana Del Greco,

Advisor, Policy | Office of the CAO | City of Brampton

IPAC Toronto Board Member


Looking Back at 2017!

2017 was a year of new beginnings and strategic planning for the Toronto Region Group (TRG) Program Committee.

Our focus has been on increasing internal capacity, recruiting new committee representatives, seeking and building relationships with organizations and institutions to diversify TRG programming and activities. Our progress on strategic planning and capacity building in 2017 will enable TRG to offer more frequent programming, events and resources to our members in 2018.

2017 Themes and Events

While we didn’t set out to deliver programming in a thematic way, as we look back on the excellent events we put on this year – all of them sell outs – a couple of themes emerged.

Transformative practices in government administration:

  • How do we deliver services to those who consume government services in way that is client-focused?
  • The impact of digital transformation of government services on internal practices and capacity

The Future of Public Administration

  • The impacts of technological and demographic changes will have, and are having, on the workplace now and in the future
  • Human-centred design and innovations in the development of policy, the delivery of programs and services? How can the public sector employees encourage organizational change?

Digital Transformation – March

  • Discussion on the opportunities and challenges for Digital with Ontario Cabinet Secretary Steve Orsini, co-founder of UK Government Digital Service Tom Loosemore, Ontario’s Chief Information Officer David Nicholl, and Digital Director Zeena Abdulla.
  • 195 attendees

Service Transformation in the Public Sector – April

  • Key leaders from federal, provincial and municipal government of former and current major service integration projects to shared their knowledge and experiences through case studies. Co-hosted with KPMG at their Adelaide Office. Attendees took advantage of some good food, drink and company to do a bit of networking.
  • 83 attendees

Canadian Political Science Association Conference– May

  • IPAC TRG sponsored sessions at the Canadian Political Science Association’s annual conference held at Ryerson University in May.
  • Exclusive opportunities for IPAC members to participate were made possible through this partnership with the CPSA. Approximately 90 IPAC members were in attendance at both sessions
  1. Café Pracademique: Barriers to Pracademic Collaboration on Basic Income: A fireside chat on the primary differences between the academic and practitioner communities on this issue, the barriers to building a pracademic approach to basic income and how to bridge the divide. Participants focused on marrying practice with scholarship to advance the development and study of basic income (guaranteed annual income) in Canada. Eighty (80) leading practitioners, scholars and students from public policy/ administration worked together in real time to develop a tangible deliverable by the close of the workshop. This event also included a special working lunch “Training Tomorrow’s Public Servants” which explored ways of better connecting public policy schools with public service recruitment and development priorities.
  2. Workshop: Indigenous Governance and Public Administration: Indigenous Governance: From Theory to Practice: Leading scholars and practitioners joined together for a full-day of presentations and dialogue devoted to reconciling Indigenous – government relationships.

Lt. Governor’s Award Ceremony – June

  • The 2016 recipient for the Lt. Governor’s Medal for Distinction in Public Service went to Senator Tony Dean. Lt Governor Elizabeth Dowdeswell said of Senator Dean, “In teaching and writing about public policy for many years, Tony has consistently pushed us to avoid complacency and to strive for a public service that works better for everyone.”

Workplace of the Future – October

  • Exploring the new vision of the future of government workplaces and practical initiatives underway to manage change, attendees heard about the OPS of the Future initiative and changing citizen expectations and what that means with technology. Three case studies from the City of Mississauga, Deloitte and OPS MacDonald Block Reforms & Queen’s Park Reconstruction Project.
  • Approximately 100 attendees

AGM and Tony DEAN – November

  • Each year at the Toronto Region’s Annual General Meeting, we invite the recipient of the Lt. Governor’s Medal of Distinction in Public Administration. This year, we are pleased to have Senator Tony Dean speak with us on “How to Get Things Done in Government – Leadership and Risk Taking”.

National Year of Dialogue

IPAC dubbed 2017 as the “National Year of Dialogue,” as a national organizational priority.

IPAC Toronto Region sponsored sessions at the Canadian Political Science Association Annual Conference on the theme of Indigenous governance and public administration among others. The Program Committee has also been exploring partnership opportunities with indigenous organizations.

Acknowledgement of the traditional territory is an important cultural protocol for many Indigenous peoples, nations and cultures both in Canada and abroad.  Therefore, the Program Committee has instituted this practice when opening and closing its meetings.

Acknowledging territory is only the beginning of cultivating meaningful and reciprocal relationships with First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples and communities. We will continue to work towards reconciliation with our Program Committee events and actions in the years ahead.

Strategic Planning

Consecutively with the TRG Board Strategic Planning discussions, the Program Committee undertook its own strategic planning exercise as part of its efforts to increase its capacity to deliver more engaging, diverse and relevant programming.

As we look towards the next few years, the Committee has established four objectives:

Enhancing Communications

Part of delivering on these objectives is to make sure our networks and members know about what is going on with the regional group by promoting events and creating more consistent social media presence.

We have built up presence on Twitter and have significantly increased the number of followers at our IPAC Toronto handle.  We are also building our presence on Instagram and are consistently live tweeting and posting to Instagram during our events including from the 2017 IPAC National Conference in Charlottetown, PEI!

TRG representatives met with representatives from other IPAC regional groups at the annual conference to share best practices and lessons learned on programming, membership retention and agreed to up- keeping these informal dialogue opportunities.

As we look towards 2018, there are some fantastic events in the works – a little something for everyone. We hope to see you there!

Sabrina Parrotta and Alana Del Greco

Program Committee Co-Chairs

Reach us at

Achieving Citizen-Centric Transformation: Digitizing Government for the 21st Century

What does Digital Government mean to you? For Anne, it’s the peace of mind to know that everything’s looked after for the people she cares for. As a recent applicant of the online Power of Attorney service developed by the UK government, she’s benefitted from the government’s commitment to make digital services so good that people prefer to go online to access them.

Digital is a new and necessary way of thinking about public service delivery according to a discussion with senior public leaders at a recent IPAC – Toronto Region event. At the March 2nd meeting, attendees engaged in a discussion on the opportunities and challenges for Digital with Ontario Cabinet Secretary Steve Orsini, co-founder of UK Government Digital Service Tom Loosemore, Ontario’s Chief Information Officer David Nicholl, and Digital Director Zeena Abdulla.

Defining Digital Transformation

Digital Transformation is focused on “flipping” the traditional public service model from a provider-centric to a customer-centric model. There are already examples of this shift within the Ontario Public Service, including streamlining student loans, reimagining the doctor-patient relationship through telehealth, and crowdsourcing new ways to innovate in the regulatory development process.

More specifically, Tom Loosemore defines Digital transformation as “applying the culture, practices, processes, and technology of the Internet-era to respond to raised expectations from the public”. Based on his experience leading the Digital transformation efforts of the UK Government, he emphasized that the ultimate goal is to make the lives of citizens easier. From making a power of attorney to renewing vehicle taxes to scheduling important visits with loved ones at correctional facilities, the benefits associated with more effective digital service delivery are of utmost importance to the citizens that governments serve. This relentless focus on user needs really pays off. According to the UN’s latest e-government survey, the UK is now ranked first in the world.

Getting Started on Digital

How did the UK get started? An early step in the process was to consolidate several hundred government websites into a single accessible portal on While Digital Transformation is not about fixing websites, providing easy access to citizens is an important first step. The UK Government also identified and digitized 25 of their most important transactional services. Whether it is license applications, tax and permit payments, or benefits collections, Loosemore stressed the importance of conducting extensive user testing and iterative refinements in this digitization process to learn about how new services will actually be used by citizens. A particularly effective method is to watch what people do instead of listening to what they say they would do. It is only when governments understand the user goals and pain points that services can be truly citizen-centric.

Finally, Loosemore touched on the concept of effective teams. He recounted traditional IT delivery methods where teams were spread across several locations, totaling more than 1000 people, and making little progress. Depending on scope, he recommends teams adopt Amazon’s “2 pizza rule”. To facilitate direct communication to improve delivery and reduce challenges teams should be no larger than what two pizzas can feed.

The Shift to Digital

Successfully implementing digital initiatives across government will require coordination and a willingness to take risks. The cultural shift at all levels of the public sector to embrace the agile and iterative nature of successful transformation projects is critical. Alongside this shift in culture, Nicholl and Abdulla also emphasized the critical role stakeholders and end users play in designing, validating, and deploying the digital transformation process. They described the importance of engaging with both front line workers and senior officials when implementing new technologies to improve program outcomes.

Citing a Gartner report, Orsini shared that “the biggest threat to innovation is internal politics and organizational culture which doesn’t accept failure and/or doesn’t accept ideas from outside, and/or cannot change.” While the Digital movement is gaining ground within the Ontario government, significant barriers must be overcome for the public service to achieve true and lasting Digital Transformation.

The good news is that this type of innovation is not a binary change but a collective shift in emphasis towards Digital. And with the transformational leadership in place, coupled with a number of quick wins in recent years, it is clear that the journey towards Ontario’s Digital future is in full swing.

Jerrett Myers is a Senior Manager and Deng Pan and Sarah Wilson are Consultants in Deloitte’s Public Sector Strategy & Operations practice. They can be reached at, and for comment.

The Pieces of a Puzzle

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Looking Back on 2016 and Looking Forward to 2017…

It’s funny how seemingly unrelated events have common threads when you look beyond the immediate headline in front of you. It’s like pieces in a giant jigsaw puzzle – trends, themes, best practices, lessons learned and advice – begin to interlock to uncover a bigger picture. In 2016 I was fortunate enough to have attended, participated in and led several IPAC events and sessions on various topics. From building better public services and evaluating the fit of public administration programs to the needs of tomorrow’s public service, to the opportunities sought by new professionals and millennials, to accelerating innovation in government, the topics were diverse. If you held them up separately they may not paint a cohesive picture but digging a little deeper and putting the pieces together, a picture begins to form.

Here are highlights from some of the events I’ve been a part of over the past year:

  • IPAC Toronto Region’s Building Better Public Services: A Guide for Practitioners book launch explored the challenges facing public services in the 21st century and potential solutions, including the need for systemic cultural change, enhanced governance, evidence-informed policy and program design, and shared approaches to service delivery. One takeaway was that there is good policy-making in Ontario but the story is mixed: we are innovative in some areas but “siloed” in others.
  •  The discussion at IPAC Toronto Region’s Fit or Miss: Preparing, Attracting and Retaining the Next Generation of Public Servants event discussed how well public administration schools are preparing future public servants. Participants expounded on the need to change government culture and move away from a “this isn’t how we do things” mentality towards a culture that manages the risk that could come with using new approaches and new ideas, and embraces agile and innovative thinking.
  •  At the Toronto Region Group Annual General Meeting, IPAC’s Lieutenant Governor Medal of Distinction in Public Administration recipient, Fiona Crean, spoke about accountability and transparency in a presentation on The Role of the Ombudsman. Fiona Crean spoke about the need to change the way we look at policy issues and change the way governments do business to ensure responsiveness to the public and to act as change-makers, leading the way for service improvements.
  • IPAC National along with IBM Canada’s Government Team held a webinar on Can the Millennial Generation Rescue Government? based on IBM’s report of the same name. “Millennials are an attractive change agent for government. Millennials want to contribute to and be an essential part of social change on day one…Millennials are eager to be part of the solution – today. This expectation can leave them frustrated if they are unable to contribute based on the traditional government transformation process.” As a millennial and new professional myself, I can definitely identify with the notion of being a change-maker.
  •  Finally, the Ontario Public Service (OPS) Policy + Conference under the theme of “Accelerating Innovation in the OPS” showcased some innovative tools and methods for policy innovation including PoliHacks, Change Labs and the use of behavioural insights. A key takeaway for me was that we all can contribute to innovating government to improve the way we do our work in the day-to-day -whether it’s by improving processes, fostering collaboration and partnerships, or breaking down communications barriers.

Each of these conversations were about the importance of fostering change-makers, enhancing government processes and procedures, looking around and partnering broadly, re-evaluating what we do and how we do it, being better prepared to tackle complex questions and being more than just responsive to change by thinking about the policy horizon now so we can be ready for what’s to come and perhaps even lead positive change. Answering the question of how we can do this at our own workspaces and in our own part of public sector organization is the real challenge.

New and soon-to-be policy professionals and actors in the broader public sector need to be part of this dialogue on solutions. And perhaps too, there is a bigger conversation about what public service could and should look like in the years ahead. At the heart of this discussion is what it means to be a public servant. Many believe it is a call to service, to do things for the public good, for our communities, our province, and our country. This is our driver, our spark. And if we are empowered and encouraged to be the change, and to be innovative and agile, even in small ways, then that spark gets bigger and brighter and lights a fire which brings about new life in public administration. This is what leads to employee engagement and boosts morale. It helps retain talented people who are passionate about public service and it helps attract a new generation who want to be part of the solution, moving the wheel of government forward rather than just keeping that wheel spinning in place. As we look ahead to 2017, IPAC Toronto Region’s Program Committee is looking to make connections, encourage a cultural shift in public service from “no but” to “yes and”  and plan topical and thought-provoking programming that inspires public servants to be part of bigger conversations. We hope you’ll join us in pulling the puzzle pieces together as we plan our programming for 2017 and beyond. Drop us a line if you are interested in being a part of our team at

As we look at the existing trends and toward horizontal wicked problems to come in the next decade, we know that IPAC members are up for the challenge!

Alana Del Greco is the 2017 IPAC Toronto Region Program Committee Co-Chair and a Policy Advisor with Ontario’s Ministry of Municipal Affairs. She can be reached directly at

The Ontario Wait Times Strategy and Lessons for Large Systems Change

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As the public service aims to create more transparency and accountability, the story of Ontario’s Wait Times Strategy in the acute care sector provides a framework for large systems change.

Melissa Farrell is currently the Assistant Deputy Minister of the Health System Quality and Funding Division at the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care. She oversaw the development of Ontario’s Wait Time Strategy. In this interview, she shares her insights into how the strategy was developed and what lessons from that experience can be used elsewhere.

Before the implementation of Ontario’s Wait Time Strategy (WTS) in 2005, the MOHLTC would often receive letters from the public filled with fear about the potential time patients would have to wait for surgeries. As Melissa Farrell recalls, “There were letters that were coming into the ministry that were saying ‘I have no idea how long I am going to wait…. this is crazy… I am hearing it will be five years.’

While wait times were not this long, the Government still felt they were not at an acceptable level, and should be reduced. In order to achieve this objective, they originally targeted specific services and, importantly, based their strategy on 3 priority activities:

  • Accountability: Deciding which organization is accountable and making sure one person at that organization is accountable
  • Performance Management: Developing the right performance indicators and making them open and transparent to both hospitals and the public. You can’t manage what you don’t measure.
  • Clinical Engagement: Engaging clinicians and administrators in the process of change.

The program included significant funding to increase the capacity of the targeted services, build new IT infrastructure and implement process improvement initiatives to improve throughput.

The result was a dramatic improvement in wait times.

Bringing the Outside In

A key to implementing this large systems change was a concept borrowed from the UK of bringing the outside in, which took the form of a Health Results Team.

Dr. Alan Hudson, a former surgeon and CEO and from the University Health Network and Cancer Care Ontario, was the lead external advisor with the experience and credibility to drive results. Farrell points out that Hudson’s intimate knowledge of the sector proved invaluable. “He could talk to the clinicians about the strategy and get them engaged. He had been a CEO so he could talk to the hospitals about why we were saying they were the accountable bodies for the WTS and he had significant experience implementing IT infrastructure at CCO so he had the capability to give us the best advice on IM/IT projects.”

Developing Performance Targets

The outside in thinking involved the development of expert panels for 5 clinical areas including cancer, cardiac, cataract, imaging services, and hip and knee replacement as well as a separate panel for process improvement. The panels were made up of clinicians, administrators, researchers and other recognized healthcare leaders who were interested in systems change. Each panel had four months to publish a report on what the performance targets should be and how to achieve them. There was a significant effort to engage clinicians in hospitals across the sector to develop the reports through consensus building. Farrell highlights a key instruction from Hudson, “Probably the most important message that he gave to these panels was that if you put anything about dollars within the first 10 pages of the report I am going to throw it out.” This was not about dollars; it was about improving the system. This required achievable targets and a clear understanding of the improvements that were needed in each area.

Within 4 months the reports were finalized and were released to the public. They set clear goals for the system with specific targets for the wait times. The wait times were posted publically online in October 2005 and the public now knew what the wait times were and, at the same time, hospitals could look at each other’s performance data and benchmarks and ask ‘Where am I in comparison to my colleagues?’

Deciding the What, Not the How

Another key to the success of the WTS was the realization that policy makers need to develop the what, not the how. As Farrell highlights, “The policy maker needs to determine the what, but they need to leave the system to determine the how. I think that’s a really important lesson because often we, as policy makers, try to get into the nitty gritty of it, e.g. if we are going to run a pay-for-results program then the funding can only be used for these certain things, but I think the right approach is to let the system figure it out.” It is appropriate for the province to set parameters and enable system providers to deliver locally.

Impact on Wait Time and Beyond

The strategy had a significant impact on wait times and systems performance. By January 2009, the number of annual procedures increased and wait times were reduced in each targeted area – e.g., by 204 days for cataract surgeries for a 66% decrease, by 246 days for knee replacement for a 56% decrease, and by 36 days for a CT scan for a 44% decrease.

The transparency of the targets allows greater scrutiny, providing clear benchmarks to the public so that they can pressure for further improvement or ask why targets in some areas are not being met.

The underlying policy and infrastructure development processes created through the WTS implementation spread to other clinical areas beyond the five services initially targeted. Today the system reports publically real time data on all surgical services, including the much more complicated area of emergency room wait times. Any member of the public can access the info for any type of surgery online.

Key Lessons Learned

The success of the Wait Time Strategy highlights several key lessons which are applicable to any area of policy and program development undergoing large scale reform:

What is the accountable organization and who is the accountable person? What performance indicators can be provided publicly to benchmark service levels? What type of staff and sector engagement strategy is in place? (Bringing the outside in.) Remember to think about the what, not the how!

Currently the Ontario government is realigning health funding through the implementation of Health System Funding Reform and Quality Based Procedures (QBPs). Farrell credits the learning that occurred during the development of the WTS with the success of the QBP implementation. “We could not have done the QBP work if we had not created the foundation through what had been done in wait times, which is really exciting.”

The author, Kevin Nugent, can be reached for comment at:

Using the Power of the Crowd to Trim Red Tape in Food Processing

Crowd-sourcing has been used to finance projects on sites like Kickstarter, to share knowledge on platforms like Wikipedia and to source breaking news through sites like CNN I Report. How can Policymakers leverage the wisdom of the crowd to tackle challenging policy issues or to improve the quality of regulation and public services? Maureen Davey, a Senior Policy Advisor at the Open for Business Branch of the Ministry of Economic Development and Growth, explains how crowd-sourcing is being used to help eliminate red tape and make it easier to do business in Ontario.


A key goal of the Open for Business Branch at the Ministry of Economic Development and Growth is to help improve Ontario’s business climate. Yet, outdated, unclear or redundant regulations can leave businesses with less time and money to conduct business activities, scale up and create new jobs. Recognizing that growing access to the internet and advancements in Digital are creating a new way to help address policy priorities, the Ontario government created the Red Tape Challenge – an online public consultation platform. It is designed to use the wisdom of the crowd to help eliminate red tape and make it easier to do business in Ontario.

From August 2 to September 30, Ontario food processing businesses, industry associations and the public are invited to identify regulations that are unclear, outdated, redundant and unnecessarily costly and suggest ways to fix them. Feedback can be provided online by visiting

Comments received will help lessen compliance burdens, shorten response times and make it simpler for businesses to interact with government, without jeopardizing essential health and safety standards.

Because no one wants to spend time deciphering overly complex regulatory language, the Red Tape Challenge features easy-to-understand descriptions of regulations that currently affect the food processing sector.

During the automotive parts manufacturing consultation, which ended in June, participants commented on more than 230 regulatory issues. The government will publish its final report on this sector by November 30, 2016. Future consultations will focus on financial services, mining, chemical manufacturing and forestry.

The first-hand knowledge and feedback provided by Ontarians working in these industries will help the government improve regulations to better support business.

The Red Tape Challenge is part of Ontario’s Business Growth Initiative, which is helping to grow the economy and create jobs by promoting an innovation-based economy, helping small companies scale up and modernizing regulations for businesses. The goal is to reduce the regulatory burden on businesses while protecting consumers, workers and the environment.

The food and beverage sector contributed over $12 billion to Ontario’s GDP in 2015 — the second largest share among manufacturing industries. By leveraging crowd-sourcing and joining the conversation, citizens are helping the government reduce red tape, supporting economic growth and job creation across Ontario.

To participate, visit


Maureen Davey is a Senior Policy Advisor at the Open for Business Branch of the Ministry of Economic Development and Growth. She can be reached for comment at

5 Reasons Not To Miss IPAC 2016

As public servants, we’re no stranger to acronyms. But here’s one you may not be familiar with: IPAC. The Institute of Public Administration of Canada (IPAC) is a membership-based association of 3,000 public servants, academics, and others interested in public administration, founded in 1947.

Every year IPAC hosts a national conference, in a different Canadian city. This year’s conference, “PRINCIPLES + PRACTICES = POSSIBILITIES” takes place from June 26-29 at Toronto’s Fairmont Royal York Hotel.

If the opportunity to take part in three days of interactive programming related to public policy doesn’t entice you to register, here are five more reasons you shouldn’t miss this year’s IPAC Conference:

  1. It’s the biggest public policy event of the year: More than 500 people, from across Canada, from all levels of the public sector are attending. Bring those business cards. This is networking central.
  2. It’s being hosted in “The 6ix”: Whether you call it Toronto, the T-dot or “The 6ix,” as hometown hero Drake does, there’s a spotlight on T.O. right now, thanks to a slew of summer events like Pride and the TD Toronto Jazz Festival, just to name a few, rolling through our city during #IPAC2016. Toronto is the place to be. It will be a few years before the IPAC Conference returns to Ontario’s capital.
  3. Field Trips: Conference attendees will attend field trips of a lifetime. Get a rare look behind the world-class headquarters of experts in the public and private sector. Some notable mentions: Apple/ IBM, Metrolinx and the Sunnybrook/ Ontario Brain Institute. Register soon. Space is limited.
  4. Rick Miller is our MC: Yes. That Rick Miller. Maybe you’ve heard of him. If you haven’t, this is your chance to see the Dora and Gemini award-winning Toronto-based writer/performer/director in action. How can you not have a good time?
  5. Registration includes a one-year IPAC membership: Membership has its privileges. Like being among the first to learn about cutting-edge public administration theory and practice, networking with peers and access to prestigious research publications and conference events.

So what are you waiting for?

For registration and info about the 68th annual IPAC National Conference.

By Antoinette Sarpong

Landing on Digital: Collaborating for Better Outcomes


As organizations are looking to build digital government capabilities, a local success story offers key lessons in transformation.

Art Daniels is the former Assistant Deputy Minister who oversaw the digitization of the Ontario Land Registry System, through a new model called Teranet. In this interview, he shares his experience on one of the most successful private public partnerships in Canada. Teranet shifted Ontario from a paper based land registry system to online access: increasing revenue, lowering expenses for both the government and businesses and creating a suite of more innovative products.

Imagine having to queue in tents outside a government office to fill out documents. That is what used to occur at land registry offices across Ontario. The former Assistant Deputy Minister who oversaw the digitization of the Ontario Land Registry System Art Daniels recalls, “People don’t even remember how bad it was, in some cases when we had really high volumes we actually put tents out front for people to wait in. We had no space inside for them inside and we didn’t have enough staff to cope with the volumes.”

Fast-forward to today: customers are able to sit in the comfort of their home or office. This provides easier, more convenient access and improves the productivity of the system. This journey to digital service delivery offers important lessons for leaders focused on transforming public services.

The journey begins

When Art Daniels arrived in 1987 at the Ministry of Consumer and Commercial Relations, the land registry system was a very archaic and fragmented organization. It had 55 offices across the province. Customers were required to close their land deal in person and on paper. There were more than 200 million paper documents. That was enough paper, as Daniels points out, “to circle the globe at the equator.” Daniels continues, “Imagine that much paper scattered across Ontario? So when you wanted to search to see if you could own the property or who owned it before and what the mortgages were on it, you had to go to these offices and get these big ledgers out, read them, and write it down. It was a very manual, paper driven process.”

At this time the government and the ministry had just begun to automate its land registry system with a tool called POLARIS (Province of Ontario Land Related Information System). At this stage of the process, it wasn’t customer focused and didn’t allow for remote access. Instead, it wasn’t focused on the back office.

Developing a collaborative model

The system needed reform, so a Cabinet Submission was prepared. The team determined that an in-house solution would cost $100 million and require an extra 1200 staff. Given the state of the economy and the tight pressure on public spending, it was clear that this level of investment was not viable.

At that time the Premier’s council had conducted some research into collaborative models employed by the Province of Quebec in James Bay. Daniels recalls the roots of the system, “They had started this idea that government does not need to do it themselves; they can do it with partnerships and not contracting out but true partnerships: with the government contributing equity, the private sector contributing equity and both providing staff resources. It was called a strategic alliance at that time. It was a great idea. And it was a win-win for both. A total shared partnership.”

Laying the groundwork for success

Prior to engaging in negotiations with the private sector, Daniels and his team established a committee of ADMs to review and assess what a land information system should look like. This group included a range of key ministries: Transportation, Natural Resources and Finance. Daniels points out, “It built a feeling of comradeship and we really appreciated each other’s input. We used them throughout the project to give us insights. So collaboration is really important – one thing government should always do is collaborate with each other.”

The team developed a RFI to determine whether there was any interest from the private sector in collaborating to develop a land information system across Ontario. 75 companies of varying sizes attended the first meeting. Daniels points out the importance of coordination. “We realized it was just too big a group so we asked them to form consortiums.” They merged into two large partnerships that included banks, surveyors, lawyers, and investment firms, with two companies submitting competitive bids.

It took almost two years of negotiations to determine who would be the most effective partner based on what was good for the province and for the citizens of Ontario. Daniels points out the importance of communications on progress with private sector partners. “Normally things in the private sector move a little quicker so it was important to explain to our private sector partners the need for government to carry out its due diligence. It was a very thorough process of negotiating and trying to get the best deal.”

Building flexibility into the process

The first partnerships were with companies that were more akin to venture capitalists (VCs) and not what was ultimately required. The VC investors met the first call for equity but when there was another $25 million due, the economy had deteriorated and this partnership had no way of generating any more money so they defaulted on the call for equity. Daniels and his team had to go out in the middle of all this and find a new partner. In the process he learned something very important. “The partner that came forward originally was a bank. But, when another company saw the bank was interested they said they could do it. They were called Altamira. They looked after pensions and that was the kind of money that we needed. We needed what we called patient money.”

Patient money was needed because Teranet was not going to make an investment return within the first ten years. The investment was initially focused on building a new system: hundreds of millions of dollars into imaging, conversion and Research and Development. As the company automated the processes it received the profits from the electronic services; and this acted as a compelling incentive for sustaining progress.

Navigating transitions in government

Political leadership was critical. Daniels points out, “You need the government to be behind you and you need the opposition too and you need the media to understand it.” Teranet survived through three different governments: the original idea come from the PC Government led by Bill Davis. Under the Liberal Petersen government, the RFPs and the RFIs were developed. Just as the deal was going to be signed, the NDP led by Bob Rae came to power. These transitions required Daniels’ team to regularly brief MPPs and public accounts committees. Daniels was also interviewed by the CBC’s Fifth Estate and by Frank Magazine. Ultimately, the process involved building a coalition of champions.

Significant outcomes from Teranet

In 2003, the Government sold its 50 percent share generating $400 million and that helped the Government to balance its budget. A further $400 million was generated in later stages for the Government. In 2008 Teranet requested a 50 year license extended from 2017 and the government received a further $1 billion. All told, the Government received about $2 billion from its investment.

The initiative also created over 1000 new jobs in Ontario in the first years and reduced the land registry operating cost by over 1/3 (to $20 million). Daniels summarizes: “It saved money, reduced the size of the public service, offered more products and services; in short, it was everything you want in value for money considerations”.

Key lessons learned

This transformation has a range of lessons for public sector leaders. This includes the importance of selecting the right partners and prioritizing patient capital. Understanding the need for value added services for key customers is crucial. Daniels explains “Understanding the customer was not just the person that we saw in the land registry office over the counter. You follow the customer where they go so you can give them the services they need.”

Daniels highlights the very important role played by establishing trust and credibility in the process, promoted by effective leadership. “The private sector partners understood my role as the government and we understood their role as the private sector.  We wanted both to win, that’s important, you got to have a person leading these things who believes in partnership, who wants to trust their partners and who also does the due diligence to get a good deal.”

Today, the government remains the regulator, obtains the fees and approves any new product development, although Teranet conducts the research and product development. Teranet has built products for the land registry, for surveyors to prepare maps electronically, for realtors to sell property, and for banks to offer mortgages. The process also enables the government to generate $50 million each year on revenues and royalties. And what’s more – there’s no more queuing in tents outside government offices. A win-win indeed.

The author, Kevin Nugent, is a recent graduate of the Masters of Arts in Public Administration program at Carleton University. He can be reached for comment at:

Claiming Our Space: Women in the Public Sector

Claiming Our Space: Women in the Public Sector

By: Lexie Halls, MPPAL


Unless and until women are represented equally in society and within public sector leadership roles, we will continue to deprive ourselves of the brainpower of half of the world’s population.  There is a growing body of research that argues that not only is women’s equal participation in leadership roles beneficial to them, but to men and society in general, as well as being economically and socially beneficial to the country and the global economy.


It has been well established that governments that include women in decision-making capacities are more competitive globally, more creative in policy-making and achieve higher financial results (OECD, 2014 & UNDP, 2014).   The Worldwide Index of Women as Public Sector Leaders reports that although women represent about 48% of the employees in the public sector they represent less than 20% of those in leadership roles (UNDP, 2014).


Canada is heading in the right direction, but could do better

In 1996 Jocelyne Bourgon, the first woman to be appointed Clerk of the Privy Council, reported that progress had seen women in federal deputy minister roles increase from 17% to 30% in only six years.  Today the number of female federal deputy ministers and assistant deputy ministers has increased to roughly 35%, a small increase for almost two decades (Evans et al., 2011).


The importance of women in decision-making and leadership roles in the public sector is not just an employment issue of relevance to women.  It is a global issue, one that is inherently tied to the systems and cultural context found within society.  By including women in decision-making and leadership roles the public service of any country will be more reflective of its population, it will be better equipped to make policy decisions that affect all of society and it will act as a role model for closing the gender gap in society (United Nations Development Program [UNDP], 2014).  The value of having women involved in public policy making is profound.  Although Canada has made some good progress, seeing the number of women in the Core Public Administration Executive group of the Federal Public Service rise from 33.8% in 2003 to 46% in 2013, there is work to be done.  Canada has made great strides in improving the equality of women worldwide and our continued role as leaders in the global community is imperative.


Getting it right: Where to focus?

Governments play a leading role in promoting equal rights and gender equality and are well positioned to strategically provide a “more systematic and whole-of-government approach” to implementing gender-equality in policies, law and decision making (OECD, 2014, p. 3).  It is imperative that governments create clear, public-sector wide strategies to achieve gender-equality particularly in senior level positions.  These strategies need to be supported by targets and reporting processes that will hold departments accountable to the organization-wide goals; this will help to create a systematic process for achieving the goal that will continue to be sustainable throughout all economic climates (OECD, 2014).  Canada can be proud to say that 45% of its senior public service leaders are women.  Australia and the United Kingdom are the only G20 countries that come anywhere close to that at 37% and 35%, respectively (Ernst & Young Global Management, 2014).

Research from Ernst & Young Global Management (2014) points to the importance of mentorship and role models for women in the public sector; as more women are visible holding senior level positions the workforce and society will become more used to this, seeing it as the norm.  Men also have a role to play.  When they are supporting and promoting women in leadership roles, and can be seen to do so, this will help facilitate change.  An inclusive culture is mandatory in order to achieve diversity within the public sector and to harness the power that accompanies it.   Mentorship functions have been shown to improve women’s upward mobility in the public sector (OECD, 2014) and should be a primary strategy in Canada’s public service.


Also important is legislation and policy that facilitates gender-equality in the workforce, a willingness within society for a cultural shift toward gender equality, and global partnerships that support the common goal (UNDP, 2014).  Perhaps one of the most important factors in implementing gender-equality legislation and employment equity policy and practices, is the culture of the organization, the unspoken codes of conduct that employees abide by.  No amount of laws or legislation will be effective if the dominant culture is one of resistance to gender-equity.  There is much support for the notion of forcing a gender-neutral environment via policy and legislation until it becomes natural, until people are used to seeing gender-equality at all levels of the public sector, but especially at senior, decision-making levels.


As we have seen over the last 50 years in North America, gender norms and societal expectations can and do change.  Only five decades ago women were temporary figures in the workplace; destined to be married and leave the workforce for the role of wife and mother.  Fifty years later, women are filling around half of jobs in the public sector.  By taking concrete steps, including establishing the right vision and strategy and backing up the plan with the appropriate set of resources, I’m hopeful that in the next fifty years women will enjoy parity with men in the senior roles they hold. Although Canada has made some good strides towards gender–equality in the public service, there is more work to be done.



Lexie Halls is a graduate of the Master of Public Policy, Administration and Law program at York University. She has worked for over fifteen years in the public sector, currently with Veterans Affairs Canada acting in a Senior Policy Analyst role. Lexie can be reached at