It will not take very long to describe the state of development of open government in Quebec (a province of Canada).
There is none. Not a thing!
Therefore, I am tempted to end this mission here.
Uh. Why talk, when there’s nothing to say?!
But I’m eager to earn 200 Edgeryders additional points!
These 200 points will be well-deserved, because I have spared no effort during the past year to bring change in this area.
In this mission, I will briefly describe, through my own eyes,
what has been done so far in Canada;
my open government vision
open government government projects that I identified, that occurred in connection with my interventions.
I note here in this mission both official initiatives and other efforts, which are more in line with analysis, draft projects, or mere attempts at bringing some change.
1) EARLY STAGES OF OPEN GOVERNMENT IN CANADA
There are initiatives, early stages of open government in Canada, but they occured in most cases outside the province of Quebec. English Canada, that is to say, the nine predominantly Anglophone provinces of Canada, are nicknamed the “Rest of Canada”, ROC, as opposed to Québec.
All of the OFFICIAL open data / open government initiatives occurred in the ROC, with the exception of one - from the City of Montreal -, whose open data initiative is extremely recent. The launch of a new open data portal http://donnees.ville.montreal.qc.ca was announced on October 27, 2011 (http://montrealtechwatch.com/2011/10/28/montreal-open-data/).
AT THE MUNICIPAL LEVEL, the following ROC cities have turned open data: Calgary, Edmonton and Medecine Hat (Alberta), London, Ottawa, Toronto, Mississauga, Windsor (Ontario), Nanaimo and Vancouver (British Colombia). There might be recent initiatives not listed here. If we include Montreal, this gives us a total of about a dozen open data cities. There are 5,600 cities in Canada, 393 of which have a population of 100,000 and over, according to the 2001 census (ref. http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/91f0015m/2007008/t/4054804-eng.htm)
Which leaves us with no open data city in 10 Canadian provinces and territories: Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Yukon, Northwest Territories, and Nunavut.
Canada is a magnificent country, stretching from coast to coast, from Atlantic to Pacific ocean. The dozen or so of open data cities, I see them as oases of openness, in an ocean of culture of silence and secrecy. There is still room for improvement…
AT THE PROVINCIAL LEVEL, 16 months ago, in October 2010, Premier Jean Charest of the government of Quebec appointed Henri-François Gautrin, Deputy House Leader, to lead an analysis about the potential of Web 2.0. Ideas and comments from citizens were collected on this public consultation site: http://www.consultationgautrinweb2.gouv.qc.ca. His final report was due on December 15, 2011. But it has been postponed at a later (unconfirmed) date. This report should include recommendations on open government: transparency, participation and collaboration.
In October 2011, the Gautrin group participated to a conference on democracy, members of parliament and traditional media: http://www.assnat.qc.ca/fr/actualites-salle-presse/nouvelle/actualite-24303.html
The Gautrin group produced a very good video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0lUQA5FmXM ― as good as the video created for the launch of Open Government Partnership in New York. (created by Chalifour http://www.chalifour.net/blogue/2011/11/16/gouvernement-ouvert-rapport-gautrin-quebec) But there is no open government official policy yet in Quebec. No announcement has been made in this area.
One government institution, among the hundred departments and agencies of the Government of Quebec, is preparing an open data project (thanks to the persuasiveness of Edgeryders participant Jeff00720, Jean-François Gauthier, http://ca.linkedin.com/in/jeanfrancoisgauthier from Loran Technologies).
The government of British Colombia launched on July 19, 2011 Canada’s first provincial open data site, DataBC, http://data.gov.bc.ca “We are changing our approach to governing by putting citizens at the centre of our web services and making government data and information more freely available,” said Premier Clark. “Open government is about sharing information and giving British Columbians more opportunities to participate in decisions that make a difference in their lives.” http://www.newsroom.gov.bc.ca/2011/07/open-data-signals-new-direction-for-bc-government.html
I love this video of Christy Clark, where she talks about open government in British Colombia. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3pq6V40uQYY For me, this video is the equivalent of images of the first men who walked on the moon. It was the first time I saw a Canadian prime minister talk about these issues. I am glad a woman prime minister took the lead.
In March 2011, Government in the Lab reported in its newsletter http://govinthelab.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Newsletter-OpenGov-March2011.pdf that Christy Clark committed herself to becoming “the most connected and responsive prime minister in Canadian history”.
Between March and July 2011 (less than 5 months), Ms. Clark succeeded in leading the province of British Columbia to an open government policy.
Government projects should not last more than three months, recommended Beth Noveck on March 2nd, 2011, at the Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics (ETHI) of the House of Commons of Canada. “If possible, promote innovations that can be implemented within 90 days or less. Requires organizations to act more quickly discouraged bureaucracy and encourage the creative brainstorming and innovation.” (ref http://govinthelab.com/testimony-before-the-standing-committee-on-access-to-information-privacy-and-ethics-of-the-canadian-parliament-2)
I do not like comparisons, but I cannot help thinking that it has been 16 months since the province of Quebec has been conducting analysis on open government. During all this time testing and analysis were undertaken, nothing really tangible happened. We are still awaiting the announcement of initiatives and projects. Meanwhile, another provincial government managed to reach sensational results in just a few months, with little budget, and small teams.
It is worthwhile to note the leadership of Ms. Clark. She made an open government promise. Once elected, she said, ‘I promised this, let’s do it.’ And no objection failed, everyone in her government followed her. British Columbia has developed the right formula that works and gives positive results.
I keep repeating that higher spheres leaders should articulate their vision for public management to be more modern, more transparent — more open government — and better connected by a judicious use of virtual environment and new (disruptive) technology. Leaders should formalize, legitimize innovations and support, promote them. This is what is doing the Premier of British Columbia.
As for the Premier of Quebec, and the rest of his ministers, they have not uttered a word about open government yet. I would like to be there when it comes out of the Premier’s mouth! It has been 16 months that teams are actively working on these issues, but there has not been a single press conference from the highest levels, to highlight this work. Do these things matter? One can wonder…
Two articles about open government were published in Le Devoir in november 2011. To my knowledge, this was the first time that these issues were covered by traditional media (newspaper) in Quebec.
- Gouvernement ouvert: Le Québec ne manque pas d’exemples à suivre
- Gouvernement ouvert: Assemblée nationale fermée?
AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL. There are 308 members of parliament at the Canadian federal level, compared to 125 in Quebec. I try to get to know a maximum number of deputies whenever there is a change of government. But for the federal level, the country is so vast that it seems beyond a citizen’s reach, hardly possible to influence on any decision.
The announcement of an open data 12-month pilot period for Canada’s national open data site, http://data.gc.ca/, was carried out by Stockwell Day on March 17, 2011 (http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/media/nr-cp/2011/0317a-eng.asp). The next day, he announced an extension to open government (http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/media/nr-cp/2011/0318-eng.asp). 24 new data sets were released in the portal, and 33 other data sets have been added by various departments.
This news has not been carried over by the Francophone newspapers. Very few Quebecers are aware of this initiative. Also, what does this mean in practice? Few citizens know. What the government is doing in this area has not yet been defined. On December 6, 2011, Tony Clement launched an online consultation on open government and invited Canadians to participate (http://www.tbs-sct.gc.ca/media/nr-cp/2011/1206-eng.asp). Deadline for citizen participation is January 16, 2011.
I participated to the first Tony Clement’s Twitter townhall about open government on December 15, 2011. Elizabeth Thompson quoted participants in this article: http://www.ipolitics.ca/2011/12/16/tony-clements-twitter-town-hall-storified/,
2) MY OPEN GOVERNMENT VISION
My vision of open government is an hybrid partnership ― a transnational integration bridging separate culture and national identities. I believe it would provide an unparalleled instructive and explorative opportunity to develop open government throughout the world.
I do not exactly know yet how to go about breaking cultural regulation (acculturation). I spend my time wondering about how the Anglosphere and Francosphere could become like communicating vessels. It could be achieved if the Francosphere were seen as being “strong”, if there was equality between the two spheres.
For the past five years, I did my best to become a living bridge between Anglophones and Francophones. I even edit my blog ― L’Ère du temps ― in 2 languages, which is not even the case of several government institutions. Osmosis attracts me. It is defined as the movement of solvent molecules through a selectively permeable membrane into a region of higher solute concentration, aiming to equalize the solute concentrations on the two sides. I would like to apply this biological system to the open government sphere. I would like to see open government information travel from English to French (and other languages), and vice versa.
De-facto acculturation of members of my community, through assimilation to a (supposedly) world culture, and negation of cultural identity, I am tired to have to abide to it. For years, I had to actively negotiate the boundaries of cultural separation, assimilation and exclusion, on a daily basis. Therefore, I long for solutions of fusion, inclusion and so on.
I believe that the transnational hyperspace should be an expression of different and evolving cultures and languages. I see that if social media allows for new notions of connectivity, communication and interaction, social media therefore produces and diffuses new cultures. I would like to extend this to open government. Therefore, I came up with the Open Government and Francophonie project: a majority of Francophone States (39) and nearly 1000 of their cities ― a critical mass of governments ― were to get involved in a multilateral partnership.
I often talk about transcendance and consciousness. I aim at ultimately creating a transcultural metamorphosis, transcending different worlds and realities.
Read more my vision of open government http://edgeryders.ppa.coe.int/share-your-ryde/mission_case/longing-open-government
3) MY EFFORTS TO BRING OPEN GOVERNMENT IN MY WORLD
To sum it up, my efforts boil down to having written hundreds of letters ― several emails a week and dozens of tweets a week ― to members of the National Assembly of Quebec. I discussed over the phone or met in person a few of them. I also published blog posts, and hundreds of tweets about the lack of open government in Quebec and Francophonie.
I know from experience that behaving like an old scratched gramophone usually works. Repetition over time of the same message leads me to believe that I have some influence.
Not quite enough, apparently, since there is not yet an open government in Quebec, and that my project was not successful. In fact, I realized, with some horror in the heart, that I might have created even more blocking? The final response from my MP, Jean-Paul Diamond, ‘There is no solution’, was so negative and strong that it destroyed all hope.
This ended any further attempt. The fence has become impassable.
Over the past year, I insisted about bringing the Francophonie into an open government multilateral partnership. Francophonie here, Francophonie there! It’s in my mind, in my heart, and on my lips.
I contacted elected members of parliaments and government managers of several governments: Quebec, Canada, Ontario, British Columbia, French Republic, Belgium, Senegal, United States, Louisiana, Maine; and of these organizations, Association des parlementaires de la Francophonie, Association des maires francophones, Open Government Partnership.
In collaboration with John F Moore Government in the Lab, I created in December 2010 the Open Government and Francophonie Project.
By approaching the Quebec government with this project, it allowed me to meet in person the Deputy House Leader Henri-François Gautrin and his team. In February 2011, Mr Gautrin sent us his consultation paper and asked us what we thought about it. There was no question of open government in this document.
FIRST INFLUENCE EFFECT: I have not succeeded to interest the government in our project, but at least I can see the many discussions that John F Moore and I had with the group Gautrin over the subsequent months allowed to influence this team. The principles of open government philosophy have been integrated with brio by the Gautrin group. I have not read the final report yet, but I have no doubt they did a good job. The video I used as supporting evidence. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0lUQA5FmXM
SECOND INFLUENCE EFFECT: The Parti Québécois promised to turn the government of Quebec into an open government. See this document, Cahier d’animation Changeons la politique http://t.co/3qZtiwIH Because I told about my struggle with the government of Québec and the City of Trois-Rivières (Innovation et développement économique) to MP Dave Turcotte, I had many opportunities to talk to him about open government (several phone calls, numerous emails and tweets): he developed an understanding of these issues and communicated them to the party leader and other team members. With this document, Dave Turcotte became the first francophone MP in the world to lead on open government issues. (Hey, I am proud!)
I opened eyes to many people, my actions contributed to raise awareness, I’m sure. I scared many many many members of parliament and many many many government managers, I’m sure of this too!
Considering the amount of effort that I had to deploy, for so few tangible results, I find it pretty scary. Citizens that want to bring change must have total endurance, foolproof perseverance, to successfully make move forward the complex machinery of a government. It’s almost inhuman to ask as much to one frail individual.
The most difficult thing to accept is that there is no financial benefit for me: I had to export my knowledge and skills in Europe to find work (with the Council of Europe, this Edgeryders project). In all cases, a big thank you to the people of the Council of Europe, you have all my gratitude, first for seeing in me something of value, and second, for encouraging me to talk about my vision and projects.
I sincerely keep hoping that more open government and consolidation of multilateral partnerships will be developed soon. (J’aimerais ben ça en faire partie. Euh, #justsaying.)