Tan Sukhera 00:00
Hello, everybody. Welcome to Canadian regulatory fireside chats. Now, before the pandemic, gr folks used to get together on Fridays, especially at like around lunch and network and they would learn from their peers troubleshoot different issues, brush up on different tips. But unfortunately, because of the pandemic, it’s kind of a thing of the past now, and it’s really in the spirit that we started Canadian regulatory fireside chats. So there’s been a massive lack of information out there, especially in our social media feeds about the fantastic work that people in our space are kind of up to. And we’re proud to be part of the solution. And this series is meant to be a platform for champions of industry, from government relations, policy regulatory environments, to be able to share their take on best practices, overcoming challenges and educating others. Now if you’re a fan of the chats, please feel free to like, share and join into the conversation. Now it’s time to take a look at some of the housekeeping rules. So for those who don’t know, it’s a 30 minute session, there’s a q&a in the chat so you can actually locate that now in your zoom call there. The recording will be shared after the event and if you’re someone who likes to live tweet, the hashtag is hashtag fireside chats. And you can always tag us at no it gn o w it. Now, if you’re interested in becoming a speaker, you can always send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. There’s always different topics and industries. And really the goal is to just try and share as much insights as possible. And on that note, I’m your host tansa kara, I’m the VP of insights for node Inc. And we always are trying to improve and so we’re here to learn and always welcome your feedback. Now this talk is powered by Noah Inc. And for those who don’t know, we’re a media regulatory and business intelligence company. We use AI and machine learning to actively search federal, provincial and municipal government sources of information online. This includes the Hansard parliament, the Bizet’s different gazettes, committees, debates, requests for consultations, the different regulatory bodies, all the different government agencies, live video feeds and more, you can always visit www.att.com for more information. Now it’s my favorite part of the talk where I get to introduce our speaker for today, Episode 13. from platform to policy. Today, we’ve got Claire seaborne with us. Claire seaborne has a decade of experience in advising public officials and private businesses on policy and legal matters. Now over the past three years, she’s been a senior advisor at the Government of Canada, first to the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and then to the Minister of infrastructure and communities. Previously, Claire practice law at a leading national law firm McCarthy tetrault LLP, where her practice focused on litigation, public and regulatory law and cross border disputes. Claire is studying political science at the University of British Columbia common law at the University of Ottawa is a qualified lawyer in Ontario, British Columbia, England and Wales. Now without any further ado, take it away, Claire.
Claire Seaborn 02:47
Thanks tan and the team at Nellis for this really timely post election chat on how to take a political promise and turn it into government practice. Today, I’m going to be focusing exclusively on the federal government in Canada. So in 2018, I joined the federal government was called at the political level as a senior policy and legal adviser to a federal cabinet minister. And suddenly, it was my job to turn political promises into government practice. And that’s when I realized nobody ever taught me how to do this. Not in any of my degrees. I studied High School civics, I did a degree in political science, and I have a law degree. And despite all those degrees, this just wasn’t something I learned. And that’s why I chose this topic to share with all of you today. We’re going to start my presentation here. So this is what I learned. And I suspect that many of you did to the three branches of government and the legislative growth process, how to turn a bill into a law and all the steps required. But what about political promises that don’t involve laws at all? Actually, when you look at most political platforms, well over half of the promises made don’t involve modifying or creating any new legislation. in any form. They’re actually policy promises, regulations, action plans, or other policy tools that don’t involve the House of Commons. So really, what I wanted to do today was talk about what are the steps in what’s called the policy process. So what I’ve done is broken this down into six steps. And it’s important to note that these six steps don’t always happen in this order. They usually do but not always. Sometimes some of the steps happen in parallel, and sometimes some of them are skipped all together. But this gives you a rough sense of how political promises are turns into government practice. So I’m going to go through each of these six steps and as I do so, I want to use an example a real life example from the Liberal Party 2019 platform and That is the commitment to plant 2 billion trees over the next 10 years. So let’s start with step one, the promise. So a political promises usually made in a written election platform. But it can be made by the winning party at any point, either during the campaign or while in government. It could be in a media response, during an interview, or even in just a tweet. So just to turn to our trees example, the prime minister who at the time was leading the Liberal Party during the 2019 election, tweeted that they committed to plant 2 billion trees. Shortly afterwards, the Liberal Party’s platform was released. And there on the right, you’ve got the text from the platform. So this is all that we know about this promise at this point, it’s just a couple of short paragraphs. But there’s some really key details in there. So the commitment is to plant 2 billion trees is over 10 years, there’s the promise that it will create at least 3500 seasonal jobs. And there’s some hints there about what the policy objectives are for that particular promise, fighting climate change preserving wildlife, and also includes planting trees in urban areas. So at this point, you know a little bit about the promise, but not a huge amount. And this is our starting point. And I guess I’ll add before I move on, that, at least for the Liberal Party since 2015, they’ve made over 400 political promises. According to the PTO mandate tracker, it’s likely a lot more than that, to be honest, because that’s sometimes called promises grouped together or not, regarding an individual project is more of a national policy. But in any event, the point is, there’s a lot of these out there that is responsible for the party in power to be implemented. Okay, so step two. So now the party has won the election, and they want to implement their province, what happens first, the next step is that the center of government, the Privy Council office, which is the department that advises and works under the Prime Minister’s Office, they then delegate that promise to a responsible department. So it’s like when you’re in any meeting, nothing gets done unless someone is tasked with doing the task. So you need to make sure you’ve got the department that is leading that initiative, or working on that initiative in concert with other departments. So I just challenge you to write down on a piece of paper, how many federal departments, agencies and crown Corporation, do you think there are to choose from in the federal government right now? I’ll give you one second just to write that down. And then I’ll tell you the answer. So what we’ve got up here and in the text is the text of the mandate letter. So the way that the center of government delegates, these different political promises is by writing a letter to each of the cabinet ministers, indicating which promises they’re responsible for. So for the trees example, I have here the exact sentence from the Minister of natural resources at the time minister Reagan’s mandate letter, which says, With support from the Minister of Environment, and climate change, operationalize this commitment to plant 2 billion trees. So this key text here that says with support from means that the Minister of Environment climate change at this time, Jonathan Wilkinson, was responsible for supporting minister Reagan in implementing that promise. But minister Reagan is the lead minister responsible for that promise. So the answer to the question, how many federal departments and agencies are there over 200. So there’s a lot to choose from. And it’s really important if you’re trying to track a political promise that you have a really clear idea of which department it is that is leading the initiative. And you’ll see why as I go through each of these steps. So once you’ve got a responsible department, the civil servants in that department are going to start the design process. And that’s when they may consult with members of the public and often with experts to start to figure out what should this policy actually look like, and how should it be implemented. And one thing they might do is look across government to see what has already happened but similar, or where they can copy or work together with other departments. And I’ve included here some of the text, showing that there are actually a lot of federal departments that before this initiative, were responsible for planting trees. You’ve got the disaster mitigation fund as infrastructure Canada for low carbon economy fund at environment and climate change, the higher highway of heroes campaign, which was funded by the Department of Defense, and I can tell you there’s actually more so there’s multiple federal departments that before this initiative came in, we’re already planting trees. So you can bet that the natural resources, civil servants were talking to them about what worked and what didn’t and and how their program has different program outcomes than the ones that are already being implemented in other departments. The last thing I’ll point out on this slide is the candy graph. So this is a graph, the natural resources handed out showing how they affect the plant the 2 billion trees over 10 years. And it shows that actually only a few trees are going to be planted in the first number of years. And it will be a huge ramp up over time. So that means we’re not expecting to see the same number of trees being planted every single year over the 10 years, it’s a small number to start, and then it actually steadily increases. And this in this particular policy area was because of the need to acquire saplings and worked closely with nurseries to make sure you actually have the seeds, the seeds and saplings required in order to plant the trees. And so you can see from the mandate letter that the center of government contemplated that the natural resources minister would work with the environment minister. But what they didn’t contemplate the time is that actually, we would also have to work with the Minister of Agriculture in order to work with those those nurseries. So you don’t see this commitment in the Minister of Agriculture, his mandate letter, but in fact, as time went on in the design process, that department actually became a part of this initiative. And Ben plays a really important role. And so on to the next stage. So cabinet. So at this point, you’ve got the minister, that is responsible minister, oh, Reagan, who’s got a pretty good idea of the, of how the policy is going to be designed, he will have usually seen what’s called a memorandum to minister or an MTF, which is when the civil service provides their advice on how the policy should be designed. And sometimes that minister will even sign off on that memo for decision and say, yes, this is this is my understanding of how the policy would be designed. And that’s only a couple of pages long within that responsible departments. The next step is that the minister responsible has to present that proposal to their cabinet colleagues, and get buy in from the other cabinet colleagues in order for it to move forward. And to do that the department drops was called a memorandum to cabinet or an MC. And this is often a multi 100 page document. Sometimes it’s short, 20 pages or so. But I’ve seen ones that are quite long, that then the responsible minister presents at the cabinet table. The way cabinet works and a lot of people don’t realize this is that there’s actually a committee process, as well as a full cabinet meeting. Not every cabinet meeting is a meeting of both cabinet. So each minister sits on multiple cabinet committees. And it’s only the Prime Minister that does not attend any Cabinet Committee meetings and just attends the full cabinet meetings and cabinet sets during the weeks that our House of Commons is sitting. So during a sitting week, you would have a meeting of multiple of the cabinet committees. And you would have usually one of the full cabinet meetings that that week. So minister Reagan in our trees example would present this item to I’ve got a list here of what the cabinet committees were as of it during the last mandate. So in this case, that would have been the committee on economy and environment. Minister Reagan sits on that committee, so does minister Wilkinson. So he would present that item, and the other ministers would have an opportunity to weigh in on whether they think that the design is right, the delivery is right the program objectives are properly being met. And only when the there is consensus at that Cabinet Committee will then move to a meeting of full cabinet. And sometimes that happens the same week. But way more often it is the next week or two weeks later or three weeks later, whenever you can find time on the full cabinet agenda. And once the Item passes full cabinet, then the Privy Council office issued what’s called a record of decision or an R o v, which says this is the decision that’s cabinet that cabinet made regarding this memorandum to the cabinet. Now therefore there’s policy cover, it’s called for that particular item or political promise to move forward. So you know, just the cabinet process alone I could talk about for a long time. And you know, it’s a lot of people don’t know very much about it. And that’s because of cabinet confidence. There are important rules about these documents being kept secret, so that ministers can speak freely and can contemplate options that as the scrutiny of the public until they’re ready to present, how they plan to implement a promise to the public at a later stage. Alright, so the next stage that we have is the funding and drafting stage. So now we have policy cover by the cabinet. And next what we need is the money. So in the case of the trees, it would be a funding decision that would need to be made by the Minister Find it. Sometimes funding decisions are not actually for more money, they could be to reallocate existing money, they could also be to dismantle of an area of governments and actually spend less money. It’s anything that impacts the purse strings of the federal government, the finance minister needs to sign off. So the responsible minister writes a letter to the Minister of Finance and says, I have policy cover for this particular item, I would like this many dollars in order to implement it over 10 years, in this case, with the presence over 10 years, so they need to indicate that the what’s called the fiscal profile for that money, the fiscal profile is how much money is anticipated to be spent during each year that the policy is being implemented in order for finance to properly budget for each fiscal year. So I thought that grass there again, because of the money for the trees, the 3 billion for the trees, you wouldn’t actually be spending a 10th of the funds in the first year, it would be a slow ramp up, where you’d spend a small amount of the money in the initial years, and then it would steadily increase over time, as the recipient of the funding would spend the money and submit receipts to the government. And then the government would then have to, to, to pay a back control program. So usually, funding decisions are made what’s called during the budget cycle. So every year we have a budget process. So the responsible minister will group together all of their funding requests, and submit them to the finance minister. And then the decisions are made during the budget. But sometimes ministers can submit what’s called an off cycle request, which is when they submit an a one off request for a funding decision, not during the budget process. During just for the example on the trees, during the pandemic, there was no budget in the year 2020. So instead, in the fall of 2020, finance released a fall economic statement. And that’s when they issued a series a funding decision. And that’s when the funding decision happened for the 2 billion trees. So this is the first time since the political promise that the public starts to see how this policy is going to be implemented. And this is the first time that the promise goes from being a purely political promise to something that the Government of Canada has decided to do. So here I have it, the text from the follow economic statement, we can see a few more details here than we saw in the in the Liberal Party’s platform, instead of $3 billion, we’ve got 3.1 6 billion we have again over the 10 years. And then you start to see the kinds of organizations and orders of governments that would be eligible for the funding, indigenous communities, municipalities, non governmental organizations. So you start to see some of the policy details come to light. So I’ve called this step the funding and drafting stage because sometimes with a political promise, no funding is required or funding decisions required at all. So for example, regulation. So at this stage, the promise would go to the Department of Justice to draft the regulations, or if it’s a bill to become a law, then the Department of draft justice would draft the bill to be introduced in the House of Commons. Okay, that’s fine. The oversight stage. This is probably the least understood death of all of the policy sets. This is when the Treasury Board Secretariat, which is a central agency provides. So for second thoughts on a policy promise, very similar to how the Senate in our legislative process provides sober second thought on bills. So Treasury Board received submissions from the responsible minister with literally every detail of how this policy is going to be implemented. This is the longest version of the document describing how this policy will be implemented. And it includes a lot of detail on risk assessment on how exactly the money would be spent, and on the program objectives that we would anticipate to see as a result of this program. The Treasury Board is actually a committee of cabinet ministers sit on the Treasury Board, and I advise the minister who sat on that on Treasury Board, but it’s unlike any of the other cabinet committees because they provide this oversight function at the very end of the policy process. Before any money can leave the federal government doors they need to get to the Treasury Board approval. So there’s anyway these loans Commission’s are surveyed, the Treasury Board will will see that submission and it will be approved by Treasury Board. And then finally, we can get to the implementation of the policy. So it’s a lot of stuff before we get to implementation, and this implementation stage could, from the public’s perspective, feel like just the beginning. This is when we have the call for applications, or we have an application guide that is posted, or in the case of a regulation, you have the regulation being published in the Canada Gazette for pre consultation, and eventually for final consultation with coming into force. And in the case of negotiations with other orders of government like a province, this may actually just be the start of when the federal government is launching into negotiations with a province on a particular item. So what feels like a late process a late step in the process for folks inside government can often feel like an early stage in the process for the public, and can lead to a lot of frustration on the public’s front of why something is taking central such a long time. So to turn to our trees example, this is when Natural Resources Canada would issue a call for applications. In this case, they did an early expression of interest. And they published this handy map with all of the organizations that they anticipate to fund for early tree planting for those first couple of years as they ramp up their tree planting initiatives with the provinces and territories, indigenous communities, municipalities, and nonprofits. So that’s my time for today. I really look forward to your questions. And please send me a tweet or a DM if you don’t get your questions answered today. I’ve got my Twitter handle on the bottom. And I really hope this was helpful. Thanks so much.
Tan Sukhera 21:41
Awesome. Well, there you have it, folks from platform to policy. Thank you so much, Claire, that was really insightful, informative talk. It’s time now to spend the last five minutes of this call in the q&a. So let’s take a look at some of the questions that have been coming in. And we’ll start with number one. How long does this entire process usually take?
Claire Seaborn 22:05
That’s a great question. I would say like the legislative process, it could be anywhere from a couple of weeks to many years. So in the case of the Serb, which happened during the pandemic, I saw that policy just feed right through all of these steps. And it really happened in a matter of three to four weeks. And that happens when some of those steps are sort of truncated or skipped, which can be necessary in some cases. But that definitely happens at the expense of other promises moving through the process. And then the trees example I gave today, you know that one because of the pandemic and those delays took a year and a half to get to the point of call for applications. So anyway, like the bill, it can really vary anywhere from few weeks to two to multiple years.
Tan Sukhera 22:51
Well, it looks like that’s our time for today. Well, actually, no. There’s one more question here. What is the role of a policy advisor within the responsible minister’s office in this process?
Claire Seaborn 23:03
Oh, that’s a great question. That’s literally my job. So your job as a policy advisor is to advise the minister on the policy on the implementation and taking the minister through all of these steps. So it’s like being a middle person between the public service and the minister as they make their decisions. And that policy advisor also gives the minister advice on the political implications of, of their particular province. So just to give an example, under the truth, say, for example, the trees did not include any urban tree planting whatsoever, and the trees were only in rural areas. Perhaps the Public Service says that is the most cost effective way to get to 2 billion trees is only to plant the trees in rural and remote areas. It may be the political adviser, the policy adviser to the minister who says, but then the members of the public won’t be able to see the trees, and they won’t be able to enjoy them in urban areas. And doesn’t that disadvantage people who live in densely populated urban communities that actually need clean air and need trees? And so that might be a piece of advice that that policy advisor gives the minister and if the minister agrees, then they can push back on the public service and say, actually, I think some of the money should be spent on trees and cities. And that’s the kind of influence that a policy advisor can have on there.
Tan Sukhera 24:26
There is another question that’s come in, does this advice come only from the policy advisor? Or is there a whole cadre of people who contribute to this advice?
Claire Seaborn 24:37
It is 1000s of people in the public service that contribute to this advice. So they’re an infrastructure Canada, which is set apart and I worked for most recently there were about 500 staff, and you know, about 100 staff that work on policy matters and help Shepherd policy proposals through the process that I just described. So all of that, all of those individuales would be working to prepare the documents that I was describing that then go up are reviewed by the political adviser and are ultimately decided on by the Minister. And like I said, there’s lots of coordination with other other levels of other departments within the federal government and other orders of government, and a lot of coordination with other ministers offices to. So, you know, federal government is a very large team sport, that’s for sure.
Tan Sukhera 25:26
So there’s another question here. How about the creation of a new agency like the water agency that has been promised? Does it mean that steps 123 and then after legislation instead of TV?
Claire Seaborn 25:40
Okay, interesting question. The creation of a new department often does involve legislation, but it also would involve funding, it would involve policy decisions. So I would say all of the steps are going to be required. The example let’s use an example that’s already happened, because the Water Agency is still in progress. The Canada infrastructure bank, that’s a new federal crown corporation that was created, it was promised in 20. In the 2015. election, legislation was introduced during that mandate that the 2015 mandate, the legislation came into force in 2017. And the institution was set up, that the creation of that particular crown Corporation would have gone through the legislative process, but also the cabinet process, the funding decision process, the Treasury Board process, and then in fact, as a crown Corporation, it has to report to the Treasury Board every single year to show how it is meeting its different policy objectives. So you know, similar for crown Corporation, and I think that’s a great example, or any new agency as a great example of when you have a legislative, the legislative process and the policy process working together in parallel.
Tan Sukhera 26:54
Fantastic, well, if that’s all the questions, and I just want to take another moment to say thank you so much, Claire, that was an awesome talk and I could see that there’s a whole lot of attendees for this that would have benefited from this and we’re gonna make sure we get the recording around as well. One last time. Could you please plug your handle if anybody wants to send a tweet out or message
Claire Seaborn 27:16
sure it’s just my full name that Claire seaborne so send me a tweet and, and thank you so much, Shannon, for the whole team that Noah has been doing great initiative here. Thank you. Take care everyone. Have a great afternoon. Bye.