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Wednesday, 18 November 2015

An Interview With Professor Matti Siemiatycki, Author of "Public-Private Partnerships in Canada: Reflections on twenty years of practice."

Q: What are two distinct characteristics of Canada's current PPPs? 
Canada’s P3 model has a number of features that are unique. 
1) The main feature is that the project delivery functions that are included in the model are
quite varied. Typically, project delivery models include design, build, finance, operations
and maintenance features. Canada’s P3s model tends to be more selective of what parts
of the project delivery bundle are included. This gives the governments’ greater
flexibility when utilizing P3s. 
2) A second feature is Canada’s P3s typically don’t include a new revenue stream and do
not implement user fees. This means that Canadian P3s tend to be more stable and less
prone to forced renegotiations or collapse because risk is allocated to parties best able
to manage it. P3s are also not a replacement for government money as it is seen as a
procurement strategy not a funding strategy. 
Q: What are three challenges/critiques of Canada's current PPPs?

1) There are questions about the extent to which PPPs actually deliver value and value for
money. In reality, P3s are not a cheap way to deliver infrastructure. Transferring risk is
its value, especially in regards to construction. A question raised in debates is how much
are we paying as a premium to transfer risk to the private sector partner. Currently
there are no detailed studies on the comparisons of risk. This was highlighted in the
auditor general of Ontario’s 2014 report. 
2) Public and stakeholder engagement in the P3 process is challenging. Community groups
have a hard time engaging in P3 planning processes due to the high level of
confidentiality of commercially sensitive information. 
3) Typically, P3s have average architecture and design. There are concerns raised about
whether we can come up with P3 models that promote design excellence. Public
buildings delivered through P3s are the types of facilities that will often be main
community hubs and we want these to be truly exceptional. Canada is trending upwards
in regards to this and many agencies are starting to encourage high quality design.  
Q: Are there any examples of current PPPs you find particularly significant in shaping Canada’s PPP model? 

On the transit front, the Canada line in Vancouver was the largest transit P3 done in Canada
and the first to use a design, build, finance, operation and maintenance P3 model. It set the
tone and demonstrated the potential of P3s. However, it is important to highlight that there
were tradeoffs to this project and lessons learned. During the planning process there was
controversy over community access to key documents necessary to meaningfully engage in the decision-making, and how risk was managed during construction. Another example of a recent P3 is the Ontario construction of the PanAm athletes’ village. It demonstrated a broader partnership approach between Waterfront Toronto, Infrastructure Ontario and a private sector partner, pushing boundaries of how P3s can work. 
Q: What predictions do you make on the future of Canada’s PPPs? 

1) I see P3s going in a number of different directions. The promise of P3s being on time
and on budget is powerful. There is currently a political boost and drive to get more
infrastructure built and this is put in jeopardy when projects go over budget or are
delayed. P3s from a technical planning and political perspective provide the capacity to
deliver projects on time and on budget and there is strong incentive and interest to
continue down this path. A couple of outstanding questions relating to his are: How
much of an insurance premium are we paying to stay on time and on budget? Can we push to get models where the architecture, design and community benefits are exceptional? I believe there are ways to do this and we are starting to learn lessons from the past. 
2) We will see a wider diversity of models used due to the variety of different projects that
are using P3s. For example the design, build and finance model may be used in cases
where it is not feasible for the private sector to operate the project. And we will see an
increase in partnerships to develop large mixed-use buildings where the public and
private sectors both own space in a shared facility. The full suite of models will be
3) In the medium term, the series of agencies that are PPP agencies such as PPP Canada,
who have a mandate to deliver infrastructure through PPPs will expand their mandate
and morph into infrastructure and procurement agencies capable of delivering
infrastructure from a broader suite of models. They will have the capacity to deliver
both PPPs and traditional procurement effectively. 
Further reading: 
Dr. Matti Siemiatycki is an Associate Professor in the Department of Geography and Planning
at the University of Toronto with research interests in transportation policy and planning,
infrastructure finance and delivery and community and regional planning.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Do You Know What it Takes to Become a Leader?

Andy Stuart

In defining leadership, experts regularly publish articles focusing on the most important traits of leaders. However, in this discourse, a significant gap exists on the various processes and activities one engages in to become a leader. To become a leader, individuals must develop leadership awareness, engage in leadership education and reflect upon their personal development.
Three Things Everyone Should Know about Becoming a Leader:
1. Leadership awareness occurs with engagement in our community. It is from these experiences where we start to formulate broad ideas about leadership. Unfortunately, we are likely to gain an understanding of what ineffective leadership looks like as we are more in tune with behaviours or actions that offend us.  Conversely, when you do experience the exceptional leader this is your opportunity to take notes – what precisely is it they do so well?
2. Leadership education builds upon the broad ideas gained during leadership awareness. Education does not have to be a formal degree or diploma. In fact, the most effective method is personal engagement with leadership articles, books, websites, blogs and workshops. Ultimately, what matters most is a desire to learn and gaining exposure to an array of leadership philosophies.
3. Reflection is critical to becoming a leader. The ability to honestly evaluate your own actions, decisions and behaviours and acknowledge external feedback is the key to moving from leadership education to being a leader.  All of the knowledge or wisdom in the world without self-awareness is for naught.  
Three Myths about Leadership:
Myth #1: Natural leaders are born with specific personality traits destined for leadership.
Reality: No one is born a leader. True leaders are continually aware of their words and actions, engage in ongoing education and constantly reflect upon their leadership.
Myth #2: Rigorous education leading to a degree in leadership alone can create a leader.
Reality: Education is only one component of creating a leader. As there are no natural born leaders, everyone must learn leadership but without awareness and reflection the learned material may sit idle or be misapplied.
Myth #3: Once you are recognized as a leader that is the end of your developmental journey.
Reality: No one is perfect and even those who are considered great leaders need to be aware, learn and reflect in their quest for self-improvement.
Further reading:
Day, D.V., Fleenor, J.W., Atwater, L. E., Sturnm, R.W., & McKee, R.A. (2014). Advances in leader and leadership development: A review of 25 years of research and theory. The Leadership Quarterly, 25(1), 63-82.

Andy Stuart is a police officer in British Columbia and recently graduated with a Masters in Public Administration from the University of Victoria.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Research Use Capacity in Provincial Governments

Creso Sa
Daniel Hamlin

Three things to know about research use capacity in provincial ministries:

1. For decades, researchers have indicated that the use of high-quality research has the potential to enhance the effectiveness of public policy.   Yet, research use has remained stubbornly minimal at provincial levels of government where many of Canada’s most critical policies on healthcare, education, and economics are formulated. Understanding the factors that bolster provincial capacity to use research in the policy process is important for increasing research use.

2. Although research use capacity in provincial ministries appears to be generally low, some ministries have undertaken initiatives to enhance capacity in recent years by developing research use coordination strategies, including forming research steering committees, creating researcher in residence positions, and implementing ministry-wide training programs.

3. Other important capacity building efforts include appointing civil servants with research expertise to leadership positions as well as developing working relationships with academic researchers at local universities.

Three myths about research use capacity in provincial ministries:

Myth #1: Governments don’t care about research.

The Reality: Civil servants across provincial ministries share a general interest in using research to inform decision-making. However, civil servants are often uncertain how to apply research findings to their specific contexts.  

Myth #2: Vast resources are needed for governments to invest in research capacity

The Reality: Larger provinces may have greater financial resources. However, smaller provinces without large operating budgets may be tighter knit communities and able to develop relationships with local researchers for accessing and generating locally relevant research.

Myth #3: Governments don’t care about the views of academics

The Reality: Governments need to act with available information, and their decisions reflect a number of factors beyond what is known about the problem. Moreover, civil servants may not have well-developed channels for gaining access to scholars. However, deliberate initiatives aimed at developing on-going relationships appear useful for creating enduring partnerships with scholars.  

Further Reading:

Sá, C. & Hamlin, D. (2015). Research use capacity in provincial governments. Canadian Public Administration, 58(3), 1-20.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

What is a Meeting? Municipal Councils and the Ontario Ombudsman

Andrew Sancton, Professor of Political Science at the University of Western Ontario

Municipal councils are generally required to hold their meetings in public. In order to meet these requirements they need to know the definition of a “meeting”. In Ontario in recent years there has been much confusion about this. Similar confusion might well spread to other provinces.

Three things to know about the definition of meetings of municipal councils:

1. Statutory definitions of such meetings in Canadian provinces only refer to official meetings, but judges have extended the definition to include less formal “retreats” and “strategy sessions” where councillors “materially advance” the course of municipal business.  In certain specified circumstances councils are allowed to meet in camera.

2. “Sunshine” laws in many US states prevent state legislators and municipal councillors from discussing public business with each other outside formal meetings.

3. The Ontario ombudsman has applied the spirit of American “sunshine” to his rulings about informal meetings of municipal councillors in Ontario.

Three myths about the Ontario ombudsman’s definition of meetings:

Myth #1: The ombudsman must have had some Canadian statutory or judicial bases for his decisions that groups of municipal councillors meeting together to “lay the groundwork necessary” for the advancement of municipal business are conducting illegally closed municipal meetings.

The Reality: There is no statutory or judicial basis for the ombudsman’s position on this matter.

Myth #2: What the ombudsman decides on this issue doesn’t matter because he has no authority to invalidate municipal actions or to impose penalties and his decisions only apply in Ontario.

The Reality: Municipal councillors who have been condemned by the ombudsman have suffered loss of reputation and, in some significant cases, have been unable to be re-elected.  Others have become very nervous about any conversations with their colleagues. Councillors in other provinces wonder if similar rulings might one day be made in their provinces. 

Myth #3:  We would all be better off if local politicians held all their discussions about public business in public.

The Reality: Highly debatable!  If this is true, should we not extend the same logic to meetings of federal and provincial cabinets and party caucuses?

Further Reading: 

Sancton, A. (2015), What is a meeting? Municipal councils and the Ontario ombudsman. Canadian Public Administration, 58: 426–443

Andrew Sancton is the author of numerous books and articles about municipal politics and institutions, most recently Canadian Local Government: An Urban Perspective 2nd edn (Toronto: Oxford University Press, 2015)

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Delegated Administrative Authorities

Mark Winfield
York University

My new study published in the September 2015 edition of Canadian Public Administration “Public Safety in Private Hands Revisited: the Case of Ontario’s Technical Standards and Safety Authority” examines  Ontario’s experience with the use of delegated administrative authorities as models for the delivery of public safety and consumer protection regulatory functions.

Three things you should know about the use of delegated administrative authorities: 
1. What are delegated administrative authorities (DAAs)?
DAAs are private, non-profit corporations, usually established by statute, for the purpose of assuming regulatory functions or delivering services previously carried out by government agencies. They are governed by boards of directors, a minority of whom are appointed by the delegating government. 
2. How widespread is their use?
Since their first appearance in the early 1990s, DAAs have come to be the option of choice among provincial governments for the delivery of any new regulatory functions that may be required, and for many existing but low-profile regulatory activities. They are particularly prevalent in areas of “technical” safety related regulatory functions such as amusement rides, elevators, and fuel handling and storage.  Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia have been especially enthusiastic in their embrace of the model. 
3. What are the key concerns about the DAA model?
The performance of DAAs as safety regulators, particularly Ontario’s Technical Safety and Standards Authority (TSSA) has been the subject of ongoing concerns from legislative officers, non-governmental organizations and the media. Criticism of the DAA model has been reinforced by a number of high profile regulatory failures on the part of the TSSA, most notably the 2008 Sunrise Propane explosion and fire in Toronto. The model has also been criticized for the potential for conflicts of interest in its governance structure and weak accountability and oversight structures.
Three myths about DAAs
Myth #1: “DAAs are working effectively and efficiently as regulators of public safety
and consumer protection” – Ontario Commission on the Reform of Public Services 2012.
The reality: Serious concerns have been raised repeatedly about the performance of DAAs as public safety and consumer protection regulators by Ontario’s Auditor General, committees of the Legislative Assembly, non-governmental organizations and the media.    
Myth #2: The Government of Ontario believes that the existing DAA model “is an effective service delivery model that provides regulatory oversight while improving regulatory efficiencies. It is consistent with best practices for accountability and governance.” – 2012 Ontario Budget.

The reality: While remaining publicly  steadfast in its support of the DAA model, in practice the province has adopted legislation that has significantly strengthened its oversight and control of the TSSA and other DAAs, with the implication of substantial concerns within government about their performance and accountability and governance structures.

Myth #3: DAAs allow ministers to avoid responsibility for regulatory failures

The reality: A key factor in Ontario’s decision to dramatically revise the legislative framework for its DAAs was the recognition that ministers would be held accountable by the legislature, media and public for what were seen as regulatory and management failures, regardless of the service delivery mechanisms in place.  These risks of political exposure prompted the establishment of much tighter oversight and control structures than originally had been put in place.  

Further Reading:
Winfield, Mark (2015) “Public Safety in Private Hands revisited: The case of Ontario’s Technical Standards and Safety Authority”. Canadian Public Administration 58(3): 444-467.
Dr. Mark Winfield is an Associate Professor with the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University and Co-Chair of the Sustainable Energy Initiative. His latest book is Blue-Green Province: The Environment and the Political Economy of Ontario.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Access to Abortion in Canada

By: Rachael Johnstone and Emmett Macfarlane
Our new study, “Public Policy, Rights, and Abortion Access in Canada,” in the latest issue of the International Journal of Canadian Studies, presents a look at the legal and policy landscape of access to abortion services across Canada.

Three things everyone should know about abortion access in Canada:
1. It varies wildly depending on where you live
From publicly and privately-delivered services in many urban areas in Quebec and Ontario to none at all in Prince Edward Island and many rural areas across the country; access is sporadic – particularly for low income women.
2. The constraints on abortion services are numerous 
Factors range from funding, different gestational limits in each province, medical regulations, the availability of physicians willing to perform the procedure, and fear of social stigma, harassment and violence faced by both doctors and women seeking services.
3. Progress is still being made
Just this year New Brunswick finally eliminated some of their excessive and unnecessary limits on access, including the requirement that women obtain referrals from two doctors, and Health Canada recently approved RU-486, a safer and more effective form of medical abortion.

Three myths about abortion access in Canada:
Myth #1:  That there is unlimited “abortion on demand” in Canada.

The reality: See above!

Myth #2:  That the famous 1988 Morgentaler decision by the Supreme Court of Canada recognized a Charter “right to abortion”
The reality: The decision was limited to the constitutionality of the now defunct criminal law  – most of the judges refused to engage in the question a whether the Charter included a right to abortion, something that, as a matter of constitutional law, remains unsettled to this day.
Myth #3: Rights challenges are the best way forward to improve access.
The reality: Post-1988, much of the progress on improving access has been the result of administrative or jurisdictional challenges and – most importantly – organized political pressure on governments from pro-choice and reproductive justice groups.

Rachael Johnstone is an assistant professor at the Bader International Study Centre at Herstmonceux Castle, U.K., Queen’s University.
Emmett Macfarlane is an assistant professor of political science at the University of Waterloo.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Performance Measurement: Delivering on its Promise?

By John Grundy

Three things to know about performance measurement

1. Performance measurement is at the centre of public sector reform initiatives across a range of jurisdictions. It involves establishing performance measures and benchmarks, tracking organizational activity and publicly reporting results.

2. Performance measurement is the basis for gauging the achievements of third party organizations contracted to deliver an increasing range of public services.

3. A large body of public administration research calls into question several tenets of the performance measurement movement.

Three myths about performance measurement

Myth # 1: Performance measurement necessarily enhances transparency and accountability.

Reality: Many studies show that organizations often seek to ‘make the numbers’ in ways that may run up against the norms of equity, due process or quality service delivery. Performance measurement may actually worsen the problems of transparency and accountability that it intends to resolve.

Myth # 2: Performance measurement leads to unequivocal information about organizational activity.
Reality: Measured outcomes are often the result of influences other than organizational activity, including chance. This is especially the case in social service settings where results tend to be co-produced by various actors, and cannot be easily credited to any one source. Performance measurement initiatives often simply side-step this issue of causality.

Myth # 3: Performance measurement will enhance staff efficiency and performance.

Reality: Research paints a more mixed picture. Increased organizational efficiencies may be accompanied by the eroded morale of staff. Workers in third party service organizations often face job insecurity if performance targets are missed, and undue administrative burden given the performance reporting requirements of often multiple government funders. These conditions may undermine efforts to recruit and retain highly skilled workers.

Performance measurement is therefore much more than a neutral administrative exercise, and both its benefits and shortcomings warrant greater attention in public deliberation over how governments coordinate public service delivery.

Further reading:

Brodkin, E. 2011. “Policy work: Street-level organizations under new managerialism.” Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory 21: i253–i277.

John Grundy is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the School of Occupational Therapy at Western University.  His research focuses on public policy and public administration, with a focus on labour market policy implementation.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

From #PhDToGov: Chance A. Minnett Watchel's Story

Chance A. Minnett Watchel. Research Analyst, Alberta Justice and Solicitor General

Brief Bio

I am originally from Southport, Queensland, Australia, but grew up in Dawson Creek, BC. I completed two undergraduate degrees at the University of Calgary in English and political science, respectively, then went on to earn an MA in Canadian politics at Brock University before returning to Calgary to pursue a PhD in political science. I am currently in the fourth year of a PhD at the University of Calgary and am also a research analyst with Alberta Justice & Solicitor General (JSG).

What did you hope for in terms of employment as you completed your PhD?

I was dead-set on an academic career all throughout my MA and into the first half of my PhD, right up until I started preparing for my comprehensive exams. It’s easily one of the most stressful periods a graduate student can go through and it seemed to amplify all the fears and worries I’d tried to push aside about a future career in academia, job prospects, external funding competitions, etc. I’d heard former professors and PhD candidates who’d graduated years before me tell me things were rough when they first headed onto the job market, but it’d be better when I finally got there. It doesn’t actually seem to have gotten any better, however, and that really worried me. Sitting down with my dissertation supervisor for a good discussion on the subject, I decided I needed to not simply have a ‘Plan B’, but I needed to adequately prepare for both career paths equally.

What was your first post-PhD job?

I haven’t gotten one of those yet as I’m still completing my PhD! I have, however, worked as a research analyst for Alberta JSG since June 2014. I wouldn’t say it’s an unorthodox route, working outside the university while completing a graduate degree, but it’s certainly not one that’s encouraged as there’s the potential to get distracted from your dissertation. Doing both at the same time definitely demands effective time management and personal planning.

Why did you choose an alternative-academic career path?

I started my current position knowing that, whichever route I end up ultimately taking upon completion of my PhD, both my experiences in school and in the public sector will help me in the future. The critical thinking, research, and writing skills you learn during your education are invaluable, but they don’t always translate well outside an academic setting. Working in government is definitely related to my education, but it’s not the specific intent of it. Most often, the question you’re asked when someone finds out you’re in a PhD program is, “Oh, are you going to teach and research when you’re done?” That’s a fairly reasonable expectation of someone with a social sciences graduate degree. Completing a PhD is akin to completing an apprenticeship; it’s meant to set you up for a specific career path. A tenure-track position is not an easy one to get, though, and I didn’t want to get to the end of my PhD only to realize it wasn’t the correct path for me. I wanted options, and I wanted my experiences to reinforce each other and set me apart, regardless of whatever I end up choosing in the future.

What do you do now?

Besides the typical long evenings pouring over journals and books for my dissertation research, I’m a research analyst for Alberta JSG on a very specific project. I’m working on Alberta’s Reforming Family Justice System (RFJS) Initiative, the goal of which is to make Alberta’s family justice system open, responsive and cost-effective, and put the needs of children and families first while assisting families with the early and final resolution of disputes. The project doesn’t simply aim for small technical changes to policy and processes, but also looks at making changes to how we, as people, recognize and deal with certain kinds of problems. It’s multi-sector and multi-level change that is happening around the world.

Prior to this job, reform was simply the subject of study in my readings and my work. Now, I’m an active participant in the process. I get to look at what’s been done in other jurisdictions, how those changes have worked, what Alberta has done/is currently doing, and how we might integrate good practices in other jurisdictions into our own in the most appropriate way. Having this job has really helped clarify much of what I’ve been studying over the past decade. I’m a policy person, first and foremost, so I have a solid understanding of theories of the policy process. Working in this environment, though, I can see how much more complex the process actually gets. It’s definitely given me new ideas for my dissertation research.

What’s the most challenging part about a pracademic career?

I haven’t personally encountered too many issues, but because I split my time between graduate school and work almost evenly I find that I miss out on a lot of things in both areas. I’m never intentionally left out of anything, but if there are impromptu meetings and important decisions made, I often find out after the fact. That’s just the way my schedule works. Shifting between the two workspaces on a near-daily basis, I always feel like I need to catch up.

What most surprises you about your job?

I was surprised at how easily the skills I learned in graduate school transferred over. My job is primarily research, writing, and relaying information to others in various formats – that’s essentially grad school in a nutshell. What’s not always so simple is understanding how to sell those skills to an employer. We can talk at length about our research and the methodological approaches we use, but if you can’t make that relevant to what you’re going to do for an employer, they’re never going to give you the opportunity to work for them.

What advice or thoughts do you have for graduate students and post-doc students in transition now?

There are two things I’d suggest to graduate students and post-docs looking into transitioning between academia and public service. First, have at least an introductory understanding of a broad range of methodologies. You don’t have to master them all but versatility, a willingness to take on different kinds of projects, and to learn new ways of doing things makes you an attractive candidate. If you’ve got a good foundation, you can learn on the job. Second, use your research skills to get a leg up on your competition. I was only tangentially familiar with the project when I applied for my position, but some background research on the project, similar projects in other provinces, and the Government of Alberta’s HR website allowed me to do two things which I think got me the job: speak competently about the subject matter and relate to the interviewers in their own language.

Applying for positions with governments is actually easier than you’d expect because of the public nature of it all; all the human resources information is publicly available. The Alberta Public Service Competency Models – the specific characteristics government employers are looking for in exceptional employees – are right at applicants’ fingers. You can literally use them as a guide to sell yourself and your skills to future employers. Having those competencies available really allows you to make good resumes and cover letters better. Instead of simply talking about how much you know about policy change, for example, you can talk about the broader system impact changing a certain policy might have, how you might actually go about making change, how it can benefit other departments or how you might collaborate with them, and how you can minimize or anticipate negative, unforeseen consequences resulting from any changes you might make. When you know what your employer is looking for, it’s much less like you’re trying to venture off into the unknown. Instead, you know exactly where you’re going, how you’re going to get there, and you can explain why you belong there.