07/15/2016 12:10 EDT | Updated 07/15/2016 12:59 EDT

Taking Public Policy Online Gives Canadians A New Voice In Politics

stevanovicigor via Getty Images
Person Taking Picture of Canada Flag with Digital Tablet Computer, Vintage Tone Retro Effect

As a candidate, Justin Trudeau and his team promised Canadians Real Change. In just eight months, we got a lot of significant changes in government policy from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his ministers:

  • Ottawa no longer has the power to revoke the citizenship of terrorists.
  • A law that says the government should balance the budget and reduce the debt is effectively scrapped.
  • Financed by deficits, additional and bigger subsidies are available for provinces, territories and municipalities, indigenous communities, students, veterans, researchers and educators, arts and culture professionals, select families, environmental groups, and poor countries.
  • Canada will see their immigration intake increase to 300,000 a year, as more spaces have been allocated for parents, grandparents and refugees.
  • Our men and women in the military and the foreign service will be in more nations around the world in peace keeping roles, starting with Latvia and maybe Columbia.

These changes in policy have not gone unnoticed. Prime minister Trudeau and his ministers have promoted them aggressively, while the opposition parties have politicized and made big issues out of them equally as aggressively. And media coverage has been good. In the months to come, more changes in policy will come, and we will hear about them.

But there has been a transformative change or addition in government process that we have not heard much about and we should celebrate. That is the digitization of public policy development.

We have e-petitions in Parliament now. Internet users can create an online petition calling on the government to take action on virtually anything, and, provided that the petition meets certain requirements, the government will have to respond.

The government is doing more online consultations than ever before. Internet users can provide input on the development of major policy items, including but not limited to: Environmental regulatory frameworks, legalization of marijuana, future of immigration, future of defence, big energy projects, innovation agenda, open government, accessibility for disabled Canadians, official languages, and so on.

Internet users can provide input on even arcane and technical policy items that the general public probably don't care about.

Under the leadership of the Liberals, our federal government is investing in digital staff and infrastructure (Conservatives have done so as well, but not to this scale and depth). We are catching up to corporations in how they listen to and engage customers to manage issues, drive innovation and build loyalty, and to governments in other countries in how they listen to and engage voters to manage issues, develop policy and build loyalty and databases as well.

Eighty-seven per cent of us Canadians are online, and the Liberal government are finally opening an increasingly wider channel for us to provide input. A majority of the input will probably be ignored, but the fact that we can provide online input is a positive step for the average Canadian.

This current level of digitization of public policy development is only the beginning. Those seeking to influence public policy should still think about coffees with MPs, but they must adapt and digitize advocacy efforts as well.

Follow HuffPost Canada Blogs on Facebook


Trudeau's Historic Washington Visit