Louis Sebert: Progress on Transparency and Accountability Initiatives

Delivered on March 8, 2018

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to update this House on our government’s progress in advancing our mandate commitments for increasing government transparency and accountability.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to announce today our government’s release of an Open Government Policy. The Open Government Policy was developed based on input we received from Northwest Territories residents through a public engagement campaign, as well as collaboration with GNWT departments, and research on Open Government initiatives in other jurisdictions. I would like to thank the Standing Committee on Government Operations for their work to review and provide feedback on the Open Government Policy, which enabled us to improve it for the benefit of our residents.

This Policy represents an important step toward openness and transparency by providing definitions, principles and a framework to guide the development of directives, guidelines and tools that will allow our government to fulfill its commitment to openness in a more consistent and predictable way. This will improve the way our government shares information and data with the public, and how we engage with the public to ensure residents have the meaningful opportunities to provide input on government decisions that affect them.

All Ministers are accountable under this Policy, Mr. Speaker, and will ensure that their departments and agencies implement its provisions for open data, open information and open dialogue.

Mr. Speaker, the concept of Open Government is not a new idea for the Government of the Northwest Territories. The principles of accountability and transparency that guide Open Government are consistent with those that guide our consensus system of government, including the importance of collaboration and participation from all Members through Standing Committees to strengthen our government policies and programs.

Government departments have been doing their part for years through public engagement and other information and data sharing initiatives, including the regular publication of reports and release of information on government decisions and activities.

 The Open Government Policy will bring all of the existing practices and ideas across government together and help us to establish clear and consistent approaches across government. This work has already begun and will be coordinated by an Open Government Steering Committee of senior government officials.

This work includes, for example, identifying the information and data departments already released and finding ways to make it more accessible to the public; coordinating with other government initiatives aimed at increasing government openness, such as the review of the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the Service Innovation Strategy; developing guidelines for a consistent approach to public engagement; and developing processes to report on progress on the of implementation of Open Government.

One of the first new actions is the launch today of an Open Government website that acts as a central location for Open Government initiatives and links to the various data, information and public engagement resources across government.

Our government has made progress on a number of other initiatives in support of improved accountability and transparency. I am pleased to announce that before the end of this sitting, we will be, by March 15, launching a new web portal with information for residents, businesses and organizations on how to file an appeal or complaint related to a government decision or action. This will fulfill our government’s mandate commitment to make residents aware of the mechanisms available to appeal government decisions.

As Members know, Mr. Speaker, we are also in the process of drafting legislation to establish an ombudsperson office in the Northwest Territories, following consultation with the Standing Committee on Government Operations. An ombudsperson would be an independent officer of the Legislative Assembly who would investigate complaints about the administrative fairness of government practices and services, and provide an additional venue to ensure fair, reasonable, and equitable government administration. We plan to introduce proposed legislation later this year.

Mr. Speaker, I continue to believe that increasing government accountability and transparency by improving the way we share data and information and engage with residents is an ongoing process, not a destination. We continue to make progress to this end through these initiatives, as our government remains committed to continuing to improve way we do business to fulfill our mandate commitments and advance the priorities of this Legislative Assembly through the remainder of our term.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.