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Campaign for Government Transparency – Take the Pledge!


I came across an interesting new initiative launched by Jennifer Bell over at Visible Government the other day. The campaign website is and was started to encourage federal government transparency. It challenges both candidates and voters to take a pledge for the upcoming federal election.

Candidates are asked to commit to five key improvements in government transparency, they are as follows:

  1. Support reforms that increase government transparency and accountability.
  2. Make campaign promises specific and measurable, and report progress on promises and their metrics at least semi-annually.
  3. Publish the content of his or her daily schedule, including meetings with lobbyists and special interest groups.
  4. Support reforms allowing free access to scientific and survey data gathered by government institutions.
  5. Support reforms that make it easier for Canadians to obtain government information they have a right to know.

The campaign also calls on voters (measured separately) to register their support for the goal of increased transparency in their federal government.

When asked why she started this initiative, Jennifer Bell from Visible Government said:

“Few Canadians believe campaign promises, and even fewer know what their governments do on a day to day basis. Our goal is to open up government and let citizens see what their taxes are paying for”. Per capita, Canadians are the most web-savvy people in the world, yet our federal government isn’t using web 2.0 technologies to open up government to Canadians; It’s time to change this”.

I couldn’t agree with her more. As of September 25th, 2008,  51 candidates have signed up and 130 voters. What  I find particularly interesting, although not surprising, is that the candidates that signed up are either from the Green Party or the NDP.

How many Liberals so far? One. How many conservatives? Zero.

You’d think they’d have someone tracking the blogosphere for these kinds of things. Perhaps they do, but are focusing on responding only to big political blogs, which usually just beat their own drums or regurgitate campaign promises. Real democratic initiatives start small and are grassroots and organic in nature, like this one. They should not be ignored. For starters I challenge, David McGuinty (liberal) and Elie Salibi (conservative) from my Ottawa South riding to take the pledge. Let’s see if they are really listening…

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  1. bob ashley

    Thanks for spotlighting an important ethical concept in transparency.

    Trouble with number 2 is it sounds like a dead ringer for bureaucratic authorship. Campaigns never trade on measurables, nor should they. This is administrative jargon, not political. Rather, the quintessential campaigners in the likes of Obama, King, the Kennedy’s, Churchill always aim to inspire through expansive visions, alluring, if amorphous dreams, and the Garden sentiments, not yardsticks.

    I think the current usage of the word transparency is rather superficial, predictably confused with “visibility”. Transparency, meaning to “see through” is about puncturing the visible to get through to the layers of processes, motives, ideologies, analysis, options, pathways, alternatives which ultimately produce the final outcome, the visible residue.

    Transparency doesn’t command, “Show us what you’re doing!”. Rather, it says, “Let’s see THROUGH YOU, into your thinking, your motives, your attitudes, all that which drives you to do what you’re doing.”

    A good example would be show and tell all the processes (including pitfalls), all the ideas retained (and discarded) which went into policy DEVELOPMENT, not the visible policy itself. Transparency permits us to see the dead ends as well as the advances. Transparency permits us to see the FIRST draft of a policy, with all its warts, not just the final polished one.

    This is idealistic, of course. Ideal transparency would be self-defeating in the current environment of media schools of sharks for whom faults signal bloodbaths to devour in news frenzies. There is little media or public tolerance for error or exploration or lateral thinking which may go nowhere.

    Full transparency, by definition, must not throw up any filters which exclude seeing our frail mortality, our self-defeating hubris, our tragic missteps, indeed our humanity. That’s the transparency, we’re asking to see in King Lear, Hamlet, and/or Othello. A bold thesis might venture, “Transparency is human affairs is just a synonym for tragedy!” Or, how about, “The manifest principle which exposes every political scandal is fully realized transparency.”

    Thanks for provoking thought. The whole idea, right!



  2. Well said Bob. If there’s one thing I would like to see an initiative like this accomplish, its to get people thinking…and perhaps even one day, have them start asking questions that will force candidates to change their “visionary” approach.Thanks to the incredible publishing platform that social media brings to the table, initiatives like this can actually reach quite a number of relevant people. It’s no news to many of us that have either worked in government or have government as a client (as in my case) that PROCESS is valued more than OUTCOME. Clearly, it should be the other way around. That being said as you allude to, transparency demands a focus on PROCESS, which takes away from measuring the OUTCOMES. A bit of a catch-22, unless you believe that both can be accomplished effectively at the same time…

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