The Harper government continues to receive its fair share of criticism due to an allegedly deceptive, citizen suppressing and counter-factual policy agenda. The Conservative party, somewhat unsurprisingly, is being slandered as too conservative.
It is worth noting, therefore, last week the government updated a policy initiative which is neither conservative nor partisan. Canada's Action Plan on Open Government was released on April 11th and is a mildly impressive document which could be the foundation for dramatically improved information sharing and citizen engagement. Following the lead of a Democratic administration in the U.S. and a Conservative/Liberal government in the UK, the Harper Government has given more flesh and force to its commitment to open data, open information, and open dialogue.
The action plan, for example, calls for a web 2.0 citizen engagement platform which federal agencies will use to conduct consultations. The action plan encourages expansion of the government's single-window approach to federal datasets. And, among several other commitments, the document commits to Canada's participation in the International Aid Transparency Initiative, which once fully implemented will make information about Canadian aid spending easier to use and compare.
For most folks interested in the world of Open Government, the action plan doesn't go far enough fast enough. The document talks in terms of multi-year cycles, reviews, directives, and licences. The "plan" could be lamented for being short on details and is structured in such a way so as to carry a faint scent of old dusty bureaucracy.
But, for a government often criticized for being too conservative, let's give credit where credit is due. The plan, Canada's upcoming participation in the Open Government Partnership Conference in Brazil, and Canada's already existent government data portal, are all great initial steps which can lead to transparency in governance, citizen empowerment, and massive synergies resulting in major efficiencies in public service delivery.
Whether it be through an ability to hold bureaucrats feet to the fire or a capacity to co-create government programs based on the wisdom of crowds, a lot has already been gained by open government globally.
Canada's Open Government Action Plan is a document which Canadians of various political stripes and of varied interests can get behind and benefit from. With the government's release of the plan and meeting of the Open Government Partnership from April 17-18, Canadians should strike while the iron is hot, express their support, and keep the momentum going. Let your opinions be known about this initiative. After all, that's kind of the point.