The Mandate Letter Tracker and the Results and Delivery approach
Ministerial mandate letters
In November 2015, the Government of Canada publicly released ministerial mandate letters for the first time. These letters, from the Prime Minister to each minister, outline overall expectations as well as more specific policy objectives for respective ministers.
These letters highlight the importance of all ministers making a contribution to government-wide commitments, like strengthening the middle class and improving outcomes for Indigenous Canadians.
The letters also underline the values that should inform the Government’s work, like transparency, collaboration and a commitment to evidence. The mandate letters direct each minister to track and regularly report on progress against their commitments, assess the effectiveness of ongoing work, and invest resources to achieve results for Canadians on things that matter.
Methodology for creating the Mandate Letter Tracker
The architecture for the mandate letter data set forms the basis of the Government’s reporting through the Mandate Letter Tracker. In developing the tracker, the following approach was applied:
- The list of mandate commitments was built using the bullet points in the ministerial mandate letters. In cases where one bullet included two distinct actions, two commitments were created.
- Ministerial mandate letters are occasionally updated, for example as a result of a change in a minister’s responsibilities or to respond to shifting contexts. The mandate letter data set reflects commitments made in all ministerial mandate letters, irrespective of whether a commitment was removed from a subsequent mandate letter in the course of a change in minister or change in responsibility. The current and original mandate letters can be found here.
- Where two or more ministers were asked to work together on a commitment, this is considered one commitment and the status and comments reflect the efforts of all the relevant ministers.
- Note that broad commitments mentioned in the main body of the letter for all ministers such as “Grow our economy, strengthen the middle class” were not tracked as part of this exercise but remain essential guidance for all ministers.
- One additional commitment, to ensure that a fixed percentage of funds is devoted to experimenting with new approaches to challenges and measuring the impact of programs, was taken from the introductory text of the President of the Treasury Board of Canada mandate letter.
- The tracker is updated regularly. Major milestones are reflected in the comments and the statuses are updated, as required.
- The current version of the website should be considered a beta website. The functionality of the website will be enhanced over time. The Government will continue to collaborate with the design and research communities to (re)imagine the presentation, usability, and overall user quality of the website.
- The website provides the following information for each commitment:
- A shortened descriptive text of the commitment;
- The mandate letter date associated with the commitment;
- The government priority associated with the commitment;
- The minister(s) responsible;
- The completion status (Completed – fully met; Completed – modified; Actions taken, progress made; Actions taken, progress made toward ongoing goal; Actions taken, progress made, facing challenges; Not being pursued);
- Up to five links to other relevant information pertaining to the commitment; and
- Comments on progress.
- The definitions used for the completion status are as follows:
- Completed – fully met: the Government of Canada has taken all reasonable actions required to fulfill the commitment as indicated in the original mandate letter.
- Completed – modified: after careful analysis the Government of Canada has slightly modified the approach to this commitment while maintaining its essence.
- Actions taken, progress made: progress toward completing this commitment is unfolding as expected.
- Actions taken, progress made toward ongoing goal: This status reflects commitments in the mandate letters which are intended to guide ministers’ work. An example is “Advance human rights, gender equality, peaceful pluralism and respect for diversity internationally.” While specific actions can be taken, or deliverables are expected to be achieved that reflect this guidance, the commitment has no anticipated completion time and is intended to inform the on-going work of the minister and their department.
- Actions taken, progress made, facing challenges: progress toward completing this commitment is going slower than expected and the Government of Canada is working to resolve challenges.
- Not being pursued: after careful analysis the Government of Canada has decided not to pursue the commitment.
About the Results and Delivery Unit and approach
The Government is committed to delivering real and meaningful results for Canadians. Fulfilling mandate letter commitments is essential but not sufficient. The Government’s goal is improve outcomes for Canadians, which means reporting on short, medium and long-term results. The Government is implementing a results and delivery approach. This approach builds on existing best practices in Canada and globally. It is characterized by three activities:
- Defining program and policy objectives clearly (i.e., What are we trying to achieve?);
- Focusing increased resources on planning and implementation (i.e., How will we achieve our goals?); and
- Systematically measuring progress toward these desired outcomes (i.e., Are we achieving our desired results and how will we adjust if we are not?)
The approach means measuring and reporting not just Government activities but also the Government’s impact on the things that matter to Canadians. This results and delivery approach will help ensure that the Government is having a positive impact on Canadians and that it is on track to implement its commitments.
The results and delivery approach is based on careful planning, performance measurement, solid empirical evidence, and more open collaboration with stakeholders and Canadians.
This approach will help ensure that the Government is better able to report, and be accountable for, the actual results it delivers and the impact on Canadians. This transparent approach will ensure Canadians understand the goals of the Government, what is being done to achieve them, and how well it is doing.
To reflect the Government’s focus on keeping its commitments to Canadians and measuring them, the Results and Delivery Unit (RDU) at the Privy Council Office was established. The RDU supports efforts to monitor delivery, address implementation obstacles to key priorities and report on progress to the Prime Minister. The RDU also facilitates the work of Government by developing tools, guidance and learning activities on implementing an outcome-focused approach.
In addition, the Government developed a new Policy on Results, which sets out the framework for how departments achieve and report results. It outlines requirements for performance measurement and evaluation in federal organizations, establishes a framework for public reporting on results across government, and supports the effective allocation of resources. Each department prepares a Departmental Plan, which provides information on their plans and expected performance over a three‑year period. These plans can be found here. In addition, the TBS InfoBase provides interactive infographics and data on federal finances, people management, and results.
- View the blog from the Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet for Results and Delivery in the Privy Council Office on the Results and Delivery Unit.
- View the blog from the President of the Treasury Board on the Open Government Portal.
- View Results and Delivery Unit: Lessons for Canada with Sir Michael Barber, Delivery Associates, and Matthew Mendelsohn, Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet (Results and Delivery).
- Review Departmental Plans to find out what the departments are planning to achieve in the next fiscal year, including the results, indicators of success, targets and recent data.
- Check out the Treasury Board Secretariat Infobase to the find interactive infographics and data on federal finances, people management, and results.
- Learn more about the Policy on Results, which sets out the framework for the results individual departments need to achieve.
Contact the Results and Delivery Unit at RDU-URL@pco-bcp.gc.ca.
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