Making Policy: A Guide to How the Federal Government Works

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Making Policy: A Guide to How the Federal Government Works

The purpose of this guide is to provide you with an up-to-date overview – and inside perspective – of how the federal government works, with particular reference to the policy and decision-making process, and suggestions for how to you can contribute to it.

Available in English and French.

Description

Making Policy: A Guide to How the Federal Government Works

The purpose of this guide is to provide you with an up-to-date overview – and inside perspective – of how the federal government works, with particular reference to the policy and decision-making process, and suggestions for how to you can contribute to it. Our perspective is based on forty years of work as a policy and strategy consultant to departments, central agencies and external stakeholders, plus continuous monitoring, and contributions from you, the reader.

This edition incorporates the changes made by the Government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau since coming into office in November 2015.

Diagrams, text and cartoons are combined to describe the government’s organization, roles, powers, inputs, deliberations, and outputs. We map the territory by following the policy-making process from the formation of the Government’s agenda to Cabinet decision-making and implementation by departments. Our focus is on the centre of the federal government: the Prime Minister, Cabinet and central agencies.
Most Canadians know little about how federal policies are made. Our school civics courses tend to focus on the visible institutions such as Parliament and Senate. We can watch Question Period in the House and follow press stories about government but have little idea of what actually happens inside government. The resulting misconceptions erode trust and participation in our governments. Why does this happen? There are several reasons.
For the most part, the organization and processes of the federal government beyond Parliament are not legislated or defined in any constitutional document. The prime minister of the day can change them at any time. Government agencies are wary of defining something ‘official’ about the process of decision-making that may create expectations for due process.

Policy and decision-making processes happen in an environment that is as much a dynamic marketplace as a planned system. It has rules and expectations for roles and process, but these can be abbreviated or altered by the Government to suit the task at hand. It is always in the throes of important changes – particularly in priorities, funding and responsibilities – and usually without much public notice.

Only a few people are in the room when Cabinet Ministers consider and decide on the proposals brought to the table by their colleagues. Many with that experience leave the government and make their living by trading that knowledge carefully.

Making Policy: A Guide to How the Federal Government Works

Available in English or French.