having faced the challenges of the covid-19 pandemic, canadians now find themselves facing even more challenges that affect their daily lives on almost every front.
these include a strained economy, a warming planet, a resource-strapped healthcare system and transforming workplaces.
for policymakers, there are no easy, ready-made answers. the political environment at the end of the pandemic and in the post-pandemic era poses new obstacles to effective policy-making – unless we adapt.
our new environment is characterized by three key elements.
a trio of challenges
a recent survey found that more than half of respondents agreed with the term “events”.
furthermore, policy makers are grappling with increasingly complex and interrelated challenges that require coordinated and sustained intergovernmental efforts.
Finally, the cumulative effects of global issues like climate change mean that we also face a more uncertain political environment in which long-term planning is increasingly difficult.
published by the new , where I hold a leadership position, suggests that this outlook will make it harder for governments to implement effective programs and policies when the imperative to answer critical questions is greater than ever.
Any delayed or ineffective effort to strengthen the financial security of Canadians, including the provision of affordable housing, risks further eroding public trust and undermines future public engagement and outreach efforts.
Langford, British Columbia, announced grants to help buyers cover down payments on two-bedroom condos worth up to $450,000. a langford condominium building is under construction in this photo. the canadian press/chad hipolito political constraint
Canada’s current approaches to policy development have been under strain for some time.
many canadians struggle to access pharmacare and mental health services — up to half of canadians .
ours and leaves too many part-time, temporary and self-employed workers behind.
there is a general consensus on the challenges ahead of us and the goals we want to achieve. what’s been less understood and little changed for decades is the mindset, culture, and tools decision makers have to successfully achieve their goals.
Here are three opportunities for policy makers to consider.
1. focus on the long term
many of the problems we face today are the consequences of a prevailing mindset marked by a short-term approach and a failure to fairly take into account the needs of people – especially the most vulnerable – in the decisional process.
climate change is a good example, ready to bear the highest costs of insufficient action today.
refocusing on the long-term impacts of choices made today and how they affect different communities requires a shift in mindset, as well as thoughtful engagement of more diverse perspectives. Done well, meaningful engagement can not only lead to better program and policy outcomes, but also help rebuild trust in public institutions, especially among marginalized communities.
2. Respond faster to emerging issues
the gap between an emerging policy issue and a policy response increases as the challenges become more complex and their impacts more uncertain. Emerging technology is changing human behaviors at record speed, making it difficult for regulators to rely on traditional tools to protect citizens while fostering innovation.
traditional models of policy-making cannot anticipate a series of complex challenges. digital platforms like uber and airbnb are an example.
they escalated so rapidly a decade ago, disrupting sectors, before policymakers could develop regulatory frameworks that take into account medium- and long-term issues such as city streets and a reduction in .
implementing regulatory innovation practices, which create space for experimentation for policy makers, can help bridge the gap between emerging issues and policy responses.
Taxi drivers demonstrate against Uber at a rally on Parliament Hill in February 2016. The Canadian Press/Adrian Wyld 3. expand collaboration
the most pressing strategic challenges are complex and cut across departments and jurisdictional boundaries. yet policy solutions are rarely designed with this in mind. traditional policy-making tools restrict and limit the possibilities for solutions and potential breakthroughs.
there is a need for vastly improved data sharing and collaboration across government and trusted partners to understand difficult issues.
for example, a key challenge in ending homelessness is getting an accurate picture of how many people are experiencing it. to this end, the bc data innovation program has been developed .
A woman speaks to the crowd during a protest against Vancouver’s removal of a homeless encampment from downtown east sidewalks in August 2022. The Canadian Press/Darryl Dyck
using administrative data for the first time has allowed the BC government to generate an estimate of the number of people experiencing homelessness. this evidence base leads to better policy decisions and service delivery.
a new environment calls for new approaches to policy-making that more effectively navigate the complexities of today’s world. many of our fundamental policies and programs were designed decades ago and have remained largely unchanged.
we know what we have to do. now is the time to review how we do it.
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