In the new Parliament’s first week in session I was honoured to outline some key improvements planned for increasing the effectiveness of the federal government. You can read my first remarks in the House as the Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board below:
Joyce Murray (Vancouver Quadra)
Madam Chair, I will be using about 10 minutes of my time to make remarks, and then 5 minutes for questions and answers.
I am pleased to rise today on behalf of the government to address a priority of the Treasury Board and the entire government, and that is the importance of evidence-based decision-making, an issue that was raised earlier by the President of the Treasury Board in this debate.
That brings me to making a couple of remarks before I get into the discussion. I would like to congratulate the two ministers who are at a committee of the whole for the first time in their positions. I would like to congratulate all of the new and returning members on both sides of the House for being here. I look forward to a constructive and positive working relationship in the interests of Canadians, as we move forward in this 42nd Parliament.
Evidence-based decision-making is vitally important to Canadians, and it is vitally important to good decision-making by government. That is why it was explicitly set out in our Liberal platform in the recent election.
I will give members a couple of examples of where we committed to restore evidence-based decision-making. One was the restoration of funding for the Experimental Lakes Area, which is an important world-leading facility for research and the understanding of the potential collective and individual impacts on our important freshwater waterways in Canada.
Another is a commitment to restoring funding for ocean science and monitoring, which, as a British Columbian, I know is extremely important to our wild salmon, to understanding the impacts on the ecology of our oceans and riparian areas. It will be important as we move forward to implement the recommendations in the Cohen commission report on the Fraser River sockeye salmon.
I also want to speak today about the importance of evidence-based decision-making in my riding of Vancouver Quadra. When the mandatory long-form census was cancelled, I heard from many people across the riding, especially people from the University of British Columbia. I would like to take a moment to congratulate the university on its 100th anniversary. This important research and learning facility ranks frequently in the top 40 of such institutions around the world.
The government has an ambitious plan for bringing real change to Canadians, and we want to make a fundamental change in how evidence is used to effectively deliver on our commitments.
Canada, as a member of the Group of Eight, the United Nations, and the Group of Twenty, needs a strong evidence-based decision-making process to support and promote its views at the international table.
The Canadian government has access to detailed levels of information for over 1,600 government programs, which includes spending and performance data. We will use this evidence to make decisions that meet the needs of Canadians and achieves value for money. That essentially means that our job of serving Canadians will be done cheaper, faster, and better, with good evidence and with science and facts. Countries look to Canada to set this example, and we are excited to be raising the bar.
The government is also establishing new performance standards, improving the use of evidence and data in program innovation and evaluation, and accelerating and expanding open data initiatives.
The Government of Canada is proud of the many scientists in its ranks who do such important research on agriculture, forestry, biology, and the oceans, as I have mentioned, to name just a few. We take pride in the work that government scientists accomplish. Canadians look forward to hearing Canadian scientists speak about their research, share their results, and make it more accessible.
Our government will use evidence to drive innovation. We are committed to setting aside funding to test and evaluate new approaches to solving problems in government service delivery.
Specifically, as I mentioned, we have restored the mandatory long-form census. As well, we are improving the quality of publicly available data in Canada, and we are developing an innovation agenda which is necessary to the flourishing of Canada’s economy in the future.
Collectively, these measures are giving the Government of Canada and our communities key information that we need to best serve Canadians.
Our commitment to the use of evidence extends beyond internal data. The most important evidence comes from Canadians themselves. We will use the feedback we get from Canadians through the extensive consultations we do to ensure we are making the right decisions with the biggest impact.
Without accurate and reliable data, the government cannot review the $100 billion in tax expenditures each and every year to ensure that program spending continues to meet the needs of Canadians.
We also want to share information, so that provincial and municipal governments can plan ahead and be effective. Everything from transit planning to housing strategies to support for new Canadians becomes much easier when people have data at their fingertips.
I am proud that our government is open to working with organizations and asking others for help. For example, we want to harness this expertise and knowledge and learn how we can use the research that the David Suzuki Foundation has undertaken to guide us when creating our climate change strategy. That is why Dr. Suzuki was one of the many delegates that the government invited to attend the climate change conference in Paris. There were representatives from all levels of government, along with indigenous leaders, non-governmental environmental organizations, business leaders, and youth. I am proud that we are restoring the tradition of having members of civil society contribute their ideas, knowledge, and data to making better decisions at these conferences on climate change.
Our government is also committed to meaningful engagement with Parliament and parliamentarians. This means providing Parliament with the evidence it needs to make the right decisions. To support this commitment, we are increasing the information value of our documents on spending. Aligning the estimates and budget processes, improving public accounts reporting, and providing Parliament with costing analyses for all of the legislation will give parliamentarians real access to spending and performance information. This will truly enable parliamentarians to do the jobs they are elected to do on behalf of their constituents, and that is to scrutinize the government’s spending.
I am proud of the improvements that we have committed to. The process is already under way. The President of the Treasury Board is working very hard on a number of these initiatives.
I appreciate the privilege of speaking to the important matter of evidence based decision-making in this committee of the whole.