Worst Case Scenarios
Although the development of an accord has considerable potential to produce a more constructive relationship between the voluntary sector and the federal government and of the national level with the local level of the sector, it also has possible negative consequences. The worst case scenario of an accord is that no machinery is developed within government or the sector to coordinate or monitor responses so that government practices and attitudes toward the sector do not change. The lack of response combined with the high expectations of change that are likely to be generated during the engagement stages may produce significant strains and set the relationship back to the poor state that it was in during the early 1990s.
There is also a certain risk that a change of government could result in an abandonment of the accord, but there is sufficient time before a general election to produce some positive results and generate strong support across the public service, making it more difficult for a new government to ignore it.
Perhaps the most damaging result for the national leadership of the sector arises from an inability to effectively engage local and regional levels. If those outside the immediate circle of the Voluntary Sector Initiative (VSI) do not see the relevance or benefit of a national accord, and if they sense that the leadership is wasting its time in pursuing one, the lasting perception may be that the leadership is out of touch with the sector as a whole.
What both the best and worse case scenarios reveal is that the voluntary sector and government have somewhat different stakes in the implications of an accord. Indeed, in many respects, the voluntary sector leadership has more at stake than does the federal government given its ongoing efforts to build a strong and cohesive sector. Although the potential benefits of an accord far outweigh the risks, the voluntary sector will need to ensure that its interests are respected and accommodated. In moving through the stages of accord development and implementation, there is much the sector can learn from the experience of other countries, but the particular dynamics of the voluntary sector and government in Canada need to be recognized.