The National Citizens Alliance (NCA) supports the empowerment of Canadians during and after federal elections. During elections, the NCA supports an electoral system that promotes the greatest competition between political candidates and parties, and fair and equal election laws. After elections, the NCA supports the empowerment of the public to influence federal decisions that have significant impact on some or all Canadians.
Currently after federal elections, the federal government consults Canadians on a variety of issues that affect them. Federal regulatory policy in various Acts of Parliament and protocols of government departments and agencies established this consultation practice. For example, subsection 77(5) of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (1999) requires a 60-day public consultation after publication of notice.
The government’s consultation of the public may take the form of discussion papers and forums, 30 and 75-day comment periods, consultation questions, online surveys, in-person meetings, review hearings, video conferences, face-to-face meetings, and pilot projects involving public training and tools for meaningful public participation. In addition, the government may use mailing lists to inform Canadians, and it offers and provides freedom of information through requests.
The government’s approach toward public participation is limited to inform and consult the public. There are no mechanisms or protocols for public involvement, collaboration, or empowerment in government decision-making, barring government-initiated referendum, which would give the public greater and even final binding say over political decisions. Currently, even after consultation, there is no guarantee that the opinions expressed by Canadians have any influence on government decisions.
One source of the Canadian government public participation model is the International Association of Public Participation (IAP2). This organization promotes the practice of public participation in government and the private sector.
The NCA observes that the consultation process is not consistent for every federal department or agency. For example, the government consultation portal shows past and current public consultations in the areas of health and environment but none in the areas of national defense, foreign affairs, foreign policy, social, seniors, or elections.
The National Citizens Alliance supports the following policy statements on public empowerment after federal elections:
● Create the Public Empowerment Act to establish guidelines and standards for public participation in decision-making for all federal government departments and agencies
o The Public Empowerment Act will ensure that Canadians have final binding say over governmental decision-making on most issues and/or policies that have significant impacts on their lives. This public empowerment may be applied locally, regionally, and nationally, and it may take the form of citizen juries, referendum, or delegated decision-making to a relevant impartial citizen group. The NCA will consider a number approaches for the public to make a significant decision, including online voting and public petitions.
o To determine the impact of significant decisions, government departments and agencies will conduct social, environmental, and cost/benefit impact assessments. To ensure the objectivity of these assessments, the Auditor General will be required to do random audits on all impact assessments. In addition, the public will have opportunity to file complaints to the Auditor General Office about possible assessment wrongdoing by government departments and agencies.
o The impact of an issue and/or policy by government will be based on local, regional, and/or national impacts, and their comparison.
o Assessments will consider local, regional, and national issues, as well as short-term, mid-term, and long-term impacts.
o The magnitude and impact of any issue or policy will determine the extent of public consultation. For examples, certain issues relating to national security require sensitivity and privacy, and issues relating to national prosperity such as pipeline development require that the interests of all Canadians and the national economy carries the highest and most significant weight .
o The Public Empowerment Act will establish protocols for public involvement, collaboration, and empowerment that include participatory decision-making processes, citizen advisory committees, public workshops, and citizen juries.
● Encourage transparency, inclusion, and accountability in governmental decision-making
● Encourage participation and provide opportunities for relevant stakeholders and the public to have a meaningful and productive involvement in government decision-making, while limit special interest groups from hijacking the process
● Empower the public through legislation including citizen-initiated referendum, citizen-initiated legislation, public vote on legislation before the House of Commons, and citizen-initiated constitutional amendment
● Allow the public the opportunity to initiate a recall of any elected official, subject to at least 40% electorate support, in order to affect government decision-making and hold government officials accountable
● Require a by-election to be held within 60 calendar days if a Member of the Parliament crosses the floor by joining a party (other than the party he was elected under) or becomes an independent
● Establish Canadian People, a non-partisan agency comprised of a cross-section of Canadians from all provinces and territories, designed to empower Canadians by giving them a voice in government appointments
● Foster a governance culture of public participation and influence” through collaboration, participation, and empowerment of the public after elections
The National Citizens Alliance believes that the Canadian people have sovereign authority over political affairs, and that Canadians have a right to substantial say over governmental decisions that have a significant impact on their lives. Consultation and information alone do not provide an effective or sufficient avenue for Canadians to exercise their political authority. The NCA will work with any party willing to create a culture that truly supports public participation in government
The NCA welcomes feedback on its policies. Please send policy feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org