Following the lead of other provinces, such as Alberta, Wynne wants residents to know what their cabinet members are doing - or supposed to be doing.
There's been much talk about Open Government, globally - in fact, there's an emerging Open Community looking to support governments, empower citizens and bridge the gap between all levels of society so that this open thing can work.
Partly, it's about transparency - when governments are closed, they are less accountable and therefore more likely to do things not in the public interest.
Being open is about more than that, though - it's about expanding opportunity.
What generally happens when these mandate letters get out is that Government Relations folk will work their contacts, get inside scoop on what to expect and can then tailor their clients' outreach to line up with and benefit from a given Minister's marching orders. It gives them an unfair advantage over people who can't call up just the right person for a coffee.
Opening up the sausage like this allows for more people to see what's being done and why; this helps set expectations at the Ministerial level, demonstrates what course-corrections are being taken (and therefore, lessons that have been learned). It also helps more people see where their opportunities, or opportunities for their partners/friends, may lie.
For instance - I know that Toronto City Councilor candidates Andray Domise and Terri Chu are very interested in youth entrepreneurship centres for more marginalized communities in the city; these centres could be developed in partnership with libraries, schools or Toronto Community Housing to make use of existing space.
Now, thanks to the Ministry of Research and Innovation's Open Mandate letter, I know that Minister Reza Moridi has been tasked with:
- building on Ontario's progress in connecting high-growth firms to sources of capital by establishing
- focus on sectors with a strong culture of innovation, such as life sciences, advanced manufacturing, cleantech, and information and communications technology
I know a ton of Virtuous Schemers inside and outside the Ontario Public Service who will be excited (though jaded, thanks to the clay layer of entrenched management that is stifling dynamism within the OPS) by this:
Supporting initiatives led by partner ministries to help increase innovation within the public service and broader public sector — and provide new opportunities for Ontario’s innovators and entrepreneurs. You will provide input on areas such as improving the effectiveness of the government procurement system, Open Government and implementation of the Youth Jobs Strategy.
And this is just one Ministry. If I can think of connections and opportunities for partners across the board out of this letter, imagine what everyone else can do when/if they have a chance to read these.
One thing I would like to see, however, to increase the value of these Open Mandates:
- content broken down into tight bullets with sector flags on them, maybe aggregated in a portal with search-term navigability.
Dense text turns people off, meaning they lose opportunities to develop solutions that work for everyone. Making it easy for people to track down what bits touch on their sector/demographic and who to contact for follow-up would really help in bridging the gaps between citizens and public servants.
The important thing, though, is that this is happening. The backroom instructions received by Ministers are being brought to light, which is a great thing.
Props to Team Wynne and Deb Matthews in particular for doing this - it's what leadership is.