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Where can I find more information on what the Government of Canada is doing on an issue? How will this help me prepare for my meetings with officials?

The Issue

Have you watched the Speech from the Throne or read the Budgets and Mandate Letters?  You should!

A good starting point in preparing for a discussion with officials is to understand the Government’s current position on the issue. The Speech from the Throne, Budget and Mandate Letters help present the elected Government’s focus. By having an idea of what is “top of mind” for officials, you may find it easier to present your idea and tailor your message to what the Government has committed to achieving for Canadians.

Speech from the Throne

When an elected government begins its term and summons Parliament, it sets out the broad goals and directions of the government and the initiatives it will undertake to accomplish those goals through a Speech from the Throne. For example, the last Speech in 2015 opened the 42nd session of Parliament and highlighted five commitments: growth for the middle class, open and transparent government, a clean environment and a strong economy, diversity is Canada's strength, and security and opportunity.

Mandate Letters to Ministers

The Prime Minister assigns direction to each of his Ministers through a Mandate Letter outlining their goals. Combined, the current Ministers have more than 427 commitments in their Mandate Letters that cover 12 priorities identified by the government. You can track the progress on these commitments through an online tracker

Federal budgets and economic statements

The annual Federal Budget and economic statements lay out the proposed funding for programs and initiatives the Ministers’ departments will work on to achieve their results. Combined, the Speech from the Throne, Mandate Letters and Budgets help set the marching orders for Ministers. These documents will help give you an idea on what is top-of-mind for the officials you might meet with.

The Government

Did you know there are 156 federal organizations across 25 portfolios, 32 Ministers and more than 270 thousand federal public servants? The Government is big and this means that you might have to pitch your message a few times, in different ways, to different audiences. It is easier to do this when you understand who the players are and what their role is. It is also important to remember that some issues fall under provincial and municipal responsibilities, rather than the federal Government.

Government structure

It is important to keep in mind that Canada has three levels of government: federal, provincial and municipal. Some responsibilities are not federal (for example, university tuition is a provincial matter). At the federal level, some issues might require new legislation. To learn more about an issue, you could read proposed bills and take a look at the different arguments for and against the bill by visiting Legisinfo. You can also keep tabs on what Parliament is discussing through the Debates (Hansard).”

Federal Departments and Agencies at a glance

The Government’s day-to-day operations are maintained through a network of 156 portfolio organizations that includes 20 Ministerial departments and many other agencies and crown corporations. Departments publish their Departmental Plans as well as their Departmental Results on an annual basis. You can also access more than 330 thousand free public reports and publications, stay up to date on what the Government is doing by following news releases and official statements or check out open source data on government budgets staff and results which are available on GCInfoBase.

Reports (House of Commons & Senate Committees)

Canada has a “Westminster” style system modelled from the United Kingdom. In our system, the executive (Cabinet) must maintain the confidence of the representative body (the House of Commons). The executive initiates policy and has the authority to introduce new laws. The Legislature (Parliament) passes the laws and exercises a function of scrutiny and supervision. To help inform this decision-making process, the House of Commons and Senate Committees often study issues, lay out recommendations, and publish briefs or stakeholder testimonies in public reports.

The Stakeholders

If you are interested in a specific topic, chances are that someone else is too! What information is already out there from key stakeholders? What are their perspectives? A number of federal ad hoc bodies and committees produce regular reports to Parliament on important issues. Government also holds public hearings with key stakeholders. Consider searching through these great resources to better understand the narratives and perspectives of different stakeholders on the issue.

Ad Hoc Bodies

In some cases, the government creates adhoc bodies to report to Parliament or to the Government of Canada on specific issues. These include Advisory Commissions and Investigative Commissions, including Commissions of Inquiry and other commissions, such as the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. These ad hoc bodies often produce publicly reports that could help you understand the different perspectives on an important policy issue.

Advocacy Groups and Think Tanks

Not-for-profits, advocacy groups and think tanks often release reports on important issues facing Canadians. These reports can help you understand the varying perspectives on a particular issue. Some think tanks that you may have heard of it include Canada 2020, Canada’s Public Policy Forum, Canadian Council of Chief Executives, and the Conference Board of Canada, just to name a few. Stakeholders can also meet with Parliamentarians, officials and Ministers to discuss their issues. These meetings are registered under the Lobbying Registry.

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