Analysis in UBC Press & Samara Election Series - We’ve Got Some Catching Up to Do: The Public Service and the 2015 Federal Election

Just 20 days after the 2015 Federal Election, UBC Press and Samara Canada have released 57 expert election analyses, written by 66 academics. This was an impressive feat that involved great leadership from the editors (Alex Marland and Thierry Giasson), the Press and Samara. Apparently, efficient and rapid academic publishing can be done!

I contributed an analysis of the treatment - or rather lack of treatment - of the issue of public service renewal in the election. You can find my analysis on page 92 of the pdf, available here.

The gist: in this election, the public service was largely ignored, except where the parties fought for votes in Ottawa ridings and where public servants stepped into murky partisan territory. Oh right, and during that time when former PM Stephen Harper talked about banning niqabs in the public service. Not much of a robust conversation, a problem, I argue, given the reduced policy capacity in our federal public service and the essential role the public service plays in our democracy.


Forced to tweet in both languages, ministers lose their impact

Fellow OII-er Elizabeth Dubois and I published an op-ed in the Globe today analyzing the Official Languages Commissioner's decision that all Ministers should tweet equally in French and English. We argue that in their official capacity as Minister, that is, speaking for their department, bilingualism is both sensible and required under Canada's Official Languages Act. But as an individual MP, there may be good reasons to tweet unilingually (if say, your constituents are predominantly French, tweets in English may be odd and pointless), and there are no legal restrictions demanding the MP does otherwise. The issue: Minister's accounts are often a mix of "ministerial tweets" and "individual MP tweets". The neat and tidy categories of communication that were at play when the Official Languages Act was created have collapsed in the digital age. The Commissioner's ruling doesn't account for this, but rather attempts to apply old rules to a new context. This op-ed outlines why this approach is a problem, and suggests that a hybrid approach to regulating a Minister's tweets would better account for the new, digital media environment.

Check it out here.

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New article with Helen Margetts in Policy & Internet: Governments and Citizens Getting to Know Each Other? Open, Closed, and Big Data in Public Management Reform

Citizens and governments live increasingly digital lives, leaving trails of digital data that have the potential to support unprecedented levels of mutual government–citizen understanding, and in turn, vast improvements to public policies and services. Open data and open government initiatives promise to “open up” government operations to citizens. New forms of “big data” analysis can be used by government itself to understand citizens' behavior and reveal the strengths and weaknesses of policy and service delivery. In practice, however, open data emerges as a reform development directed to a range of goals, including the stimulation of economic development, and not strictly transparency or public service improvement. Meanwhile, governments have been slow to capitalize on the potential of big data, while the largest data they do collect remain “closed” and under-exploited within the confines of intelligence agencies. Drawing on interviews with civil servants and researchers in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States between 2011 and 2014, this article argues that a big data approach could offer the greatest potential as a vehicle for improving mutual government–citizen understanding, thus embodying the core tenets of Digital Era Governance, argued by some authors to be the most viable public management model for the digital age (Dunleavy, Margetts, Bastow, & Tinkler, 2005, 2006; Margetts & Dunleavy, 2013).

Available at 

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IRSPM Pre-Conference Workshop on Data Visualization

Evert Lindquist (University of Victoria) and I are hosting a pre-conference workshop on data visualization in the run up to this year's International Research Society for Public Management conference (Ottawa, April 8-12th). The workshop will be held on April 8th at the Canada School of Public Service, from 1:30 to 4:30. Registration is free. 

We have a great panel of speakers, discussing social network analysis and visualization, user experience testing and border security, expenditure analysis, Geomatics and Arctic research, and more. After our panel we'll break into a discussion on the skills and research needed for data visualization to become a more mainstream technique in the study and practice of government.

You can register here, but move fast - there's only a few spots left.

More info below:

The Data Visualization Movement: Implications for Public Management 

April 8, 1:30 – 4:30 pm
Hosted by the Canada School of Public Service
Canada School of Public Service
373 Sussex Drive, Ottawa

Based on a growing interest about the possibilities of visualization techniques to inform policy development and engagement with elected leaders and citizens, this workshop considers how visualization techniques have been applied to the various domains of public management practice, such as policy development, service delivery, budgeting, and central monitoring, and in various policy sectors, such as environmental and land regulation, and intelligence and security. Practitioners and proponents of these techniques argue that, regardless of cognitive and learning styles, we have always been visual thinkers, and digital technologies have only accelerated the extent to which citizens and leaders alike can analyze and represent complex problems, design and convey approaches for addressing such problems, and improve analysis and dialogue. The first part of the workshop will be comprised of presentations from practitioners describing their experiences with selected visualization techniques, animating a dialogue with participants about take-up, value-added, limitations, and future potential. The second part will move from the practice of visualization to the study and teaching of visualization. The goal of the workshop is two-fold: for participants to outline an agenda for research in this area and to consider whether the emerging mix of visualization techniques should or could be more assiduously reflected in the curricula of MPP and MPA programs and in professional development programs of public service institutions.

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"Internet renforce le pouvoir de la société civile" - Interview in Le Monde

Le Monde interviewed me about trends in digital democracy, as discussed in a report I prepared for the Council of Europe's World Forum for Democracy, which I'm participating in over the next few days. You can find the article here.

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Interview in The Globe & Mail: Is democracy at risk?

In the run up to the Trudeau Foundation's 10th Anniversary Conference, the Globe & Mail took a look at threats to our democracy in this past Sunday's edition. The article drew on interviews with three members of the Trudeau community, Michael Pal, Kent Roach and I.


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New publication: Paper for the Council of Europe's World Forum for Democracy

The Council of Europe will host the World Forum for Democracy from November 23rd-29th in Strasbourg. The forum's theme is "Re-wiring Democracy: connecting institutions and citizens in the digital age". The Council invited me to prepare an Issues Paper to anchor the discussions at the Forum. The paper is titled "Exploiting the Web as a Tool of Democracy: New Ways Forward in the Study and Practice of Digital Democracy", and can be downloaded here.

I'm attending the Forum and will be the plenary respondent for the session "Alternatives for Representative Democracy". They have lots of interesting speakers on board, so I'll be sure to share anything useful I come across during the Forum.

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