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Participating in Federal Public Policy: A Guide for the Voluntary Sector
The Public Service
The Public Service is the third and largest component of the executive branch of government. The Public Service puts public policy into action. In Canada, this means supporting the activities of the government of the day. Public servants devise options for action, ministers decide on a course of action from among these options and public servants then implement the decision. Because of their ability to influence operational decisions concerning policy, it is beneficial for voluntary sector organizations to build relationships with public servants.
While access to politicians can generate support for ideas, the bureaucracy is "where it happens." Expanding working relationships with public servants beyond your areas of interest can also be beneficial, as is maintaining relationships with people you know working in government.
The changing nature of the Canadian workforce has meant that many public servants change jobs frequently. The 1990s left a hole in the middle management of the bureaucracy and, in attempts to modernize, the public service moves its best performers from one executive position to another through programs such as the Accelerated Executive Development Program. Keeping in touch with bureaucrats who understand your issues could give you additional support in other departments not considered by your organization. In some cases, voluntary sector representatives may even serve to link one department to another and one official to another.
A final note on government departments - don't assume that departments or bureaucrats know what's happening in other federal departments or other levels of government. While there are an increasing number of "horizontal issues" on which departments work together, the size of the bureaucracy makes it difficult for coordination.
For more information on working effectively with public servants, see Module 4.
The legislative branch
The legislative branch, composed of the House of Commons and the Senate, is responsible for introducing, considering and passing legislation.
The House of Commons
The House of Commons is the major law-making body. Each of the country's constituencies or ridings elects one Member of Parliament (MP). When MPs are elected, in addition to serving as their constituency's representative in Parliament, they typically have one or more of the following roles as well: Minister, Member of Cabinet, Member of Cabinet Committee or Member of Parliamentary Committee.
For current government bills visit: http://www.parl.gc.ca/common/ Bills_House_ Government.asp?Language=E
No bill can become a law unless the Senate has passed it. The Senate usually has 105 members who are appointed by the Governor General on the recommendation of the Prime Minister.
Your organization will want to be aware of the laws and legislations that potentially impact on your issues, as well as any recent court decisions, especially in the Supreme Court. Your organization should be watchful of pending issues affecting policy concerns of the government as well as where specific items are on the policy agenda. This information would help to form the basis for building your case and provide options to decision-makers.
In addition to sitting in the House of Commons, MPs have many other responsibilities including parliamentary committees. An important part of the work accomplished by the House of Commons and Senate goes on outside the chambers themselves in parliamentary committees. Parliamentary committees investigate policy issues and evaluate proposed legislation. There are many types of parliamentary committees (such as standing committees, special committees and legislative committees) and each has a different composition and function. These committees have members from all parties and it is important to create relationships with members from all parties. Getting the support of members of the opposition and the majority party will help your organization better influence public policy. For more information on existing committees, visit http://www.parl.gc.ca and click on "committee business."
For more information on working effectively with Members of Parliament, see Module 4.
For information on the Canadian justice system visit: http://canada.justice.gc.ca/en/ dept/pub/trib/index.html
The Canadian system of government depends on a dynamic relationship among its three branches - the Executive, the Legislative and the Judiciary or Courts. The Legislature has the power of making, altering and repealing laws. The Executive is responsible for administering and enforcing the laws. The Judiciary has the task of settling disputes according to law - including disputes about how the executive and legislative powers are handled. Independent courts are the hallmark of a strong democratic society.
The basic role of courts in Canada is to help people resolve disputes fairly, whether the matter is between individuals or between individuals and the state. In the process, courts interpret and establish law, set standards and raise questions that affect all aspects of Canadian society.
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|Last Updated: 2019-11-15|