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NCB Governance and Accountability Framework

Introduction

Ministers Responsible for Social Services, representing the Government of Canada and Provincial and Territorial governments, with the exception of Quebec1, have jointly agreed to develop and implement the National Child Benefit (NCB). The National Child Benefit is an innovative and progressive approach for investing in Canada's children. The effective implementation and ongoing management of the National Child Benefit requires a continuation of the spirit of collaborative partnership between the Government of Canada and provincial/territorial governments that has characterized its development.

This framework is intended to outline the partnership process that has guided the development of the National Child Benefit and which Ministers now wish to see reflected in the implementation and ongoing management of the program. This process emphasizes transparent and open communications between partners, de-emphasizes formalized, bureaucratic agreements between orders of government, and accentuates accountability to the general public.

This framework, read in conjunction with other NCB documents, records the key agreements, understandings and operating guidelines that govern the partnership between the Government of Canada and the provinces and territories on the National Child Benefit initiative.

Objectives and Operating Principles of the National Child Benefit

The objectives that partners have agreed to for the National Child Benefit are:

  • to help prevent and reduce the depth of child poverty;
  • to promote attachment to the workforce; and
  • to reduce overlap and duplication.

The Government of Canada and provincial and territorial governments have also agreed on the following operating principles to guide development and implementation. They have agreed that the National Child Benefit:

  • will be a partnership between the Government of Canada and provincial/territorial governments;
  • will require a significant, incremental and permanent investment by the Government of Canada, as well as appropriate and complementary provincial/territorial investments benefiting children in low-income families;
  • will be developed through a staged approach, with the initial investment representing a starting point to a more significant investment in the future – an investment that is sufficient to remove benefits for children from the welfare system;
  • will see provincial and territorial governments reinvesting social assistance funds – made available by the Government of Canada’s investment – in low-income families with children in a manner consistent with National Child Benefit objectives;
  • will see the provinces and territories exploring whether incremental funds can be devoted to the provincial/territorial component of the National Child Benefit, fiscal resources permitting;
  • will not result in the reduction of the overall level of income support for families receiving social assistance;
  • will move toward simplified administration and delivery of children’s benefits by governments, and simplified receipt of benefits for families with children: and
  • should be considered one of a number of measures that will need to be employed as part of a comprehensive approach to child poverty.

The National Child Benefit is the foundation for a broad-based, multi-sectoral approach to ensuring that all of our children have a strong start in life. It is one of a number of strategies being developed within the context of the National Children’s Agenda.

Partnership between Governments

The Government of Canada and provincial and territorial governments have pledged to work together in developing and operating a coordinated system that will deliver the National Child Benefit. This partnership is characterized by:

  • Cooperation: building on methods which have been successful to date, governments will aim to reach decisions through negotiations and discussions, based on mutual respect and a spirit of cooperation, leading to consensual resolutions;
  • Openness: governments will work in an open and transparent manner in the development and operation of the National Child Benefit;
  • Flexibility: in keeping with the objectives and operating principles of the National Child Benefit, each jurisdiction has the flexibility to develop programs and services and deliver them in a manner which best responds to the needs and priorities of its communities;
  • Evolution: building on experience and progress as the National Child Benefit is implemented, processes of working together within the partnership may be adapted as needed to achieve the goals of the initiative;
  • Accountability: Governments have entered into this partnership to secure better lives for Canada’s children and to enhance and promote program effectiveness, information sharing and learning. In assessing our progress, governments will emphasise accountability to the public.

Governance and Accountability Roles

The effective management of the National Child Benefit will require ongoing, timely and responsive decision-making that takes into account the range of perspectives held by the partners. There will be ongoing discussion and decisions needed on issues such as funding,

design work on next installments, development of accountability and performance reporting, program delivery and related technical issues. Reflecting the processes that were established during the design and development stage of the initiative, decision-making and accountability will flow from the following mechanisms:

  • Federal/Provincial/Territorial Ministers Responsible for Social Services: The forum of federal, provincial and territorial Ministers Responsible for Social Services shall constitute the principal mechanism for governance of the National Child Benefit. The Ministers will provide the overall strategic policy directions for the program at the national level; monitor and assess all aspects of implementation; identify areas of potential concern and seek solutions; and adjudicate and resolve disputes where required.
  • Federal/Provincial/Territorial Deputy Ministers Responsible for Social Services: Federal, provincial and territorial Deputy Ministers Responsible for Social Services are delegated responsibility for general management, implementation and operation of the program under the direction of Ministers.
  • Federal/Provincial/Territorial NCB Working Group of Officials: The role of a federal, provincial and territorial NCB Working Group of Officials will be to support the mandate of Deputy Ministers and Ministers with respect to the National Child Benefit. This includes identifying, addressing and finding solutions for emerging issues.

Problem Solving

Promoting and contributing to an environment that seeks solutions to program problems, differences in perspectives and any other issues of concern will be the responsibility of all partners in the process. This is best achieved by an approach based on mutual interest and trust, and by working together in a manner that prevents problems from arising.

During the design and development stage of the initiative, the consensus approach has been effective, and the partners commit to building on this experience. Key ingredients in this approach are transparency in the actions of all partners and open, timely communication between partners.

Problem-solving mechanisms:

When issues arise, a number of processes are available to arrive at acceptable solutions. Issues can be referred for resolution to the F/P/T NCB Working Group of Officials, to F/P/T Social Services Deputy Ministers, or to F/P/T Ministers Responsible for Social Services. The body selected for referral will remain optional, but the partners will endeavour to identify potential areas of concern in a timely fashion and seek resolutions using the most efficient and constructive route.

Some issues may be resolved through bilateral processes where appropriate. Bilateral agreements will be communicated and made available to other partners.

Partners agree and commit to using these problem-solving mechanisms before enacting alternative approaches. 

Accountabilities

Within the context of this Framework, a number of general accountabilities are recognized including accountability for the effective management of the National Child Benefit by the government partners and the ensuing accountability for program effectiveness to the public. A primary goal of this Framework is to emphasize processes that focus on the accountability to the public for program effectiveness and that minimize administrative reporting.

Government to government:

The partners have committed to the parameters of the National Child Benefit initiative as reflected in the official decisions of Federal/Provincial/Territorial Ministers Responsible for Social Services. These commitments are summarized in the public information paper The National Child Benefit: Building a Better Future for Canadian Children (September 1997).

Each level of government undertakes to make provisions for the level of information sharing as agreed to by the partners and required for program management and implementation, as well as for program evaluation, including statistical and related data.

Reporting to the public:

Reporting to the public is an integral part of the accountability framework. Ministers commit to providing, at least once a year, a report on the performance of the National Child Benefit initiative. Each government commits to provide the data for this purpose.

The report shall include data on Government of Canada investments made in the Canada Child Tax Benefit and beneficiaries; provincial/territorial reinvestments and any incremental investments, and beneficiaries; and results and outcomes achieved.

The partners commit to working toward a focus on program outcomes as the primary goal of reporting, recognizing that outcomes will become better measurable as program investments increase beyond initial levels.

The partners support the importance of evaluative and analytical work to ensure the appropriate and reliable measurement of program outcomes. The partners recognize the importance of ensuring that data provided for purposes of public reporting is open to public scrutiny.

Commitment to Continual Improvement

Evaluation, feedback from stakeholders and the public, and flexibility to adjust the National Child Benefit over time are important characteristics of the initiative that will ensure it remains relevant to changing economic and social circumstances.

This framework recognizes that the ongoing development and the evolution of the National Child Benefit may necessitate periodic review and updating of this statement by Ministers.


March 12, 1998

1 Quebec, while agreeing with the basic principles of the National Child Benefit, has not taken part in the development of the initiative because it wishes to assume control of income support for the children of Quebec. Consequently, any reference to joint federal-provincial-territorial positions in this framework does not include Quebec.

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