Ministerial Mandate Letters Help Detail Expectations For Canadian Government

New Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, has released the Ministerial Mandate Letters he submitted to his Cabinet Ministers (H/T The Frogheart Daily).  They outline PM Trudeau’s expectations for his ministers, which focus a great deal on collegiality with members of Parliament outside of the Liberal Party and being open and transparent in their dealings.

But the letters also outline priorities and goals for the ministries.  As Science is part of the job title for two different Ministers, these letters help define which areas of science and science policy will fall under which Minister.  Other Ministers have science and technology responsibilities (I’ve described these in a separate post) and you can check out their letters as well.

The new Science Minister, Kirsty Duncan, was given the following priorities in her letter:

  • Create a Chief Science Officer mandated to ensure that government science is fully available to the public, that scientists are able to speak freely about their work, and that scientific analyses are considered when the government makes decisions.
  • Support your colleagues in the review and reform of Canada’s environmental assessment processes to ensure that environmental assessment decisions are based on science, facts, and evidence.
  • Support the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour in efforts to help employers create more co-op placements for students in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and business programs.
  • Support your Ministerial colleagues as they re-insert scientific considerations into the heart of our decision-making and investment choices.
  • Lead the establishment of new Canada Research Chairs in sustainable technologies, working with the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development.
  • Work in collaboration with the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard and the Minister of Environment and Climate Change to examine the implications of climate change on Arctic marine ecosystems.
  • Examine options to strengthen the recognition of, and support for, fundamental research to support new discoveries.

The following paragraph from the letter outlines Trudeau’s philosophy with respect to the role of science in this government.

“We are a government that believes in science – and a government that believes that good scientific knowledge should inform decision-making.  We believe that investments in scientific research, including an appropriate balance between fundamental research to support new discoveries and the commercialization of ideas, will lead to good jobs and sustainable economic growth. As Minister of Science, your overarching goal will be to support scientific research and the integration of scientific considerations in our investment and policy choices.  Support for science is an essential pillar in our strategy to create sustainable economic growth and support and grow the middle class.”
It’s worth noting – because it often gets lost – that this philosophy sees scientific knowledge and scientific considerations are but one input into policy and decision making.  Inform, not dictate.
It’s also worth noting that the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development (MP Navdeep Bains) is mentioned just once in the Minister of Science letter.  Looking at the letter sent to Minister Bains, it would seem that PM Trudeau sees science in this portfolio in service to economic development and innovation.  The role as outlined in the letter:

“As Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, your overarching goal will be to help Canadian businesses grow, innovate and export so that they can create good quality jobs and wealth for Canadians.  You will achieve this goal by working with provinces, territories, municipalities, the post-secondary education system, employers and labour to improve the quality and impact of our programs that support innovation, scientific research and entrepreneurship.  You will collaborate with provinces, territories and municipalities to align, where possible, your efforts.  I expect you to partner closely with businesses and sectors to support their efforts to increase productivity and innovation. You will work closely with the Minister of International Trade to help Canadian firms compete successfully in export markets.”
Perhaps reflecting previous governments, where a science minister would usually be on a lower level of the cabinet and designated Minister of State (insert portfolio title here), the Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development will lead a team that includes the Minister of Science and the Minister of Small Business and Tourism.  That said, only one of the priorities from the letter (listed below) directly involves the Minister of Science.
  • Restore the long-form census and update legislation governing Statistics Canada to reinforce the institution’s independence.
  • Improve the quality of publicly available data in Canada.  This will require working with Statistics Canada, the President of the Treasury Board and other departments and agencies to develop an Open Data initiative that would consider big data and make more of the data paid for by Canadians available to the public.
  • Develop an Innovation Agenda that includes:
    • expanding effective support for incubators, accelerators, the emerging national network for business innovation and cluster support, and the Industrial Research Assistance Program.  These investments will target key growth sectors where Canada has the ability to attract investment or grow export-oriented companies.  You will assist the Minister of Finance to ensure tax measures are efficient and encourage innovation, trade and the growth of Canadian businesses; and
    • working with Regional Development Agencies to make strategic investments that build on competitive regional advantages.  For those communities that have relied heavily on one sector in the past for economic opportunities, investments that support transition and diversification may be appropriate.  Communities that have relied on traditional manufacturing are likely to require specific strategies to support economic growth.
  • Support the Ministers of Environment and Climate Change and Natural Resources in making strategic investments in our clean technology sector.
  • Support the Ministers of Natural Resources, Environment and Climate Change, Indigenous and Northern Affairs, and Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard in making investments that will make our resource sectors world leaders in the use and development of clean and sustainable technology and processes.
  • With the support of the Ministers of Finance and International Trade, develop appropriate investments and strategies for the auto sector to adjust to Canada’s potential participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
  • Support the Minister of International Trade in the development of programs to support Canadian businesses to increase their exports, expand the range of their trading partners, and adjust to, take advantage of, and prepare for, the implementation of new trade agreements.
  • Support the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness in a review of existing measures to protect Canadians and our critical infrastructure from cyber-threats.
  • Support the Minister of Science in establishing new Canada Research Chairs in sustainable technologies.
  • Increase high-speed broadband coverage and work to support competition, choice and availability of services, and foster a strong investment environment for telecommunications services to keep Canada at the leading edge of the digital economy.
  • Work with the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs and the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour to promote economic development and create jobs for Indigenous Peoples.
  • Work with the Ministers of Public Services and Procurement and National Defence to ensure the identification of industrial benefits for Canadian firms, including in the Naval and Canadian Coast Guard fleet renewal and the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy.

Clearly other issues and events on the ground will affect what these ministers end up doing.  And the level of detail in these letters will be fleshed out in future meetings between the Ministers, their deputies and other government personnel.  But the letters serve as a useful measuring stick once the next comes around.

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One thought on “Ministerial Mandate Letters Help Detail Expectations For Canadian Government

  1. Pingback: Setting a tone for Canadian science, now what about science and a culture of innovation? | FrogHeart

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