Web­site will track com­mit­ments in man­date let­ters for Lib­eral min­is­ters

Truro Daily News - - Canada -

THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Peo­ple look­ing to know how the Lib­er­als have fared on ful­fill­ing their prom­ises — as well as how far they have to go — can now visit a web­site the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has set up to track the tasks Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau as­signed to his cab­i­net min­is­ters.

“Cana­di­ans should have the best tools pos­si­ble to hold us ac­count­able,” Trudeau said in a state­ment Tues­day ac­com­pa­ny­ing the re­lease of the web­site.

“We want Cana­di­ans to know ex­actly what we’re do­ing and help drive progress on is­sues that mat­ter most to them.”

Soon after his Lib­er­als won their ma­jor­ity gov­ern­ment in 2015, Trudeau de­cided, in an un­prece­dented move for a fed­eral gov­ern­ment, to pub­lish the tra­di­tion­ally se­cret man­date let­ters writ­ten to cab­i­net min­is­ters.

Now, the Privy Coun­cil Of­fice has launched a web­site track­ing the 364 com­mit­ments found in those man­date let­ters, al­low­ing peo­ple to check whether a spe­cific pledge has been met, is on track, is go­ing through chal­lenges or, as in the case of elec­toral re­form, has been aban­doned.

The man­date letter tracker, which will be up­dated about ev­ery two weeks, also re­vealed that a prom­ise to give com­pa­nies that hire younger work­ers for per­ma­nent jobs a one-year break on em­ploy­ment in­sur­ance pre­mi­ums is no longer be­ing pur­sued.

“Based on re­search con­ducted by the Depart­ment of Fi­nance, it was de­ter­mined that this was not the most ef­fec­tive or ef­fi­cient way Prime Min­is­ter-des­ig­nate Justin Trudeau and his wife So­phie Gre­goire-Trudeau lead the new Lib­eral cab­i­net to Rideau Hall in Ot­tawa on Nov. 4, 2015. The fed­eral gov­ern­ment has launched a web­site to track the 364 com­mit­ments Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau out­lined in man­date let­ters to his cab­i­net min­is­ters.

of spend­ing public re­sources to cre­ate jobs for young peo­ple,” the web­site ex­plained.

Nei­ther is a com­mit­ment to re­move the GST on new cap­i­tal in­vest­ments in all af­ford­able rental hous­ing.

“The gov­ern­ment con­cluded, based on re­search and ev­i­dence, that there were more ef­fec­tive ways of en­cour­ag­ing the con­struc­tion of af­ford­able rental hous­ing,” the web­site said.

The Privy Coun­cil Of­fice, which is the bu­reau­cracy that sup­ports the prime min­is­ter, de­signed the tracker and asked each depart­ment

to eval­u­ate its progress, with an of­fi­cial ac­knowl­edg­ing there was some back-and-forth on how to clas­sify things.

“It was a con­sen­sus among sev­eral play­ers,” said the gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial, who briefed re­porters on the con­di­tion of anonymity.

So, the of­fi­cial ac­knowl­edged, the process was not devoid of pol­i­tics, es­pe­cially since the pri­or­i­ties in the man­date let­ters were set by Trudeau and, ul­ti­mately, min­is­ters are re­spon­si­ble for meet­ing the com­mit­ments.

The of­fi­cial also said there will likely be those who dis­agree with

in­di­vid­ual as­sess­ments.

One ex­am­ple might be how the man­date letter tracker deals with the com­mit­ment to re­form the Ac­cess to In­for­ma­tion Act, which al­lows peo­ple to pay $5 to re­quest gov­ern­ment doc­u­ments rang­ing from brief­ing papers and in­ter­nal au­dits to ex­pense re­ports and in­ter­nal cor­re­spon­dence.

The man­date letter to Trea­sury Board Pres­i­dent Scott Bri­son said the leg­is­la­tion, which has been widely crit­i­cized as slow and out of date, should be changed so that it “ap­plies ap­pro­pri­ately” to the of­fices of all cab­i­net min­is­ters, in­clud­ing the prime min­is­ter.

The Lib­er­als have been de­nounced for backpedalling on this part of their prom­ise to re­form the act, but the man­date letter tracker did not men­tion this.

In­stead, it grouped all re­lated re­forms un­der a more gen­eral com­mit­ment to a more open gov­ern­ment, which it de­ter­mined to be right on track.

Speak­ing gen­er­ally of the kinds of dis­cus­sions that took place be­tween de­part­ments, the Privy Coun­cil and the PMO, in or­der to ar­rive at a con­sen­sus, the of­fi­cial said: “Some might be a bit more con­tro­ver­sial.”

Still, the of­fi­cial stressed that trans­parency was the goal of the ex­er­cise and pointed out that when it came to the prom­ise to re­form the way Cana­di­ans vote in fed­eral elec­tions, the man­date letter tracker goes out of its way to be clear.

The man­date letter pro­vided to Maryam Mon­sef when she was min­is­ter for demo­cratic in­sti­tu­tions tasked her with set­ting up a spe­cial par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee to lead con­sul­ta­tions on elec­toral re­form, in­clud­ing the options of ranked bal­lots and pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion, as well as manda­tory and on­line vot­ing.

Tech­ni­cally, Mon­sef did meet that com­mit­ment, but the of­fi­cial said it would have been mis­lead­ing to not also men­tion the orig­i­nal goal of elec­toral re­form is no longer on the ta­ble.

“I think if this was too rosy, I don’t think it’s cred­i­ble,” said the of­fi­cial.

“Ul­ti­mately, it is go­ing to be up to Cana­di­ans to de­cide whether it’s cred­i­ble or not.”

CP PHOTO

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