Disaggregated data key to ensuring representative workplaces, say experts, as PMO skirts Black staff statistic

Partial data on political staffer diversity, with a very low response rate:

A recent Hill Times survey seeking to understand the demographics of staff on Parliament Hill found that, among a small pool of respondent MP offices, 42 per cent of staff identified as a visible minority, while 5.3 per cent identified as Black, but a comparison to cabinet offices, including the Prime Minister’s Office, isn’t possible after a separate survey was circulated by the PMO that excluded a specific category on staffers who identified as Black.  

Instead, results from the PMO, which are said to include responses from a little more than 560 staffers across all cabinet offices and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s (Papineau, Que.), offered an aggregated percentage of staff who identified as “racialized/visible minority/a person of colour.”

But truly addressing gaps in diversity and representation requires being willing to talk about the numbers and breaking them down, “particularly along racial lines,” said York University professor Lorne Foster, as barriers to inclusion—and their solutions—are unique to different groups.

“In education for instance … a large number of the visible minority category are doing quite well in school, but when you disaggregate the data you find that South Asians do well, but Blacks don’t do well,” said Prof. Foster, who is director of York’s Institute for Social Research. 

Moreover, ensuring a truly representative workforce means going beyond just “diversity by the numbers” to look at occupational mobility, who holds senior positions of power, how diversity is being harnessed and empowered, and how diverse perspectives are being integrated into organizational frameworks, he said.

“If you don’t have that disaggregated data, you really don’t know where the gaps are and you really cannot get to any problems or vulnerability, or even develop constructive workplace policies. You know, there’s an old saying, it’s been said a million times but it’s worth noting again: what gets measured gets done,” said Prof. Foster, noting “consistent” calls from the Black community, and others, for disaggregated data across various issues and sectors. “It’s the only way to comprehensively deal with problems that have been with us for centuries.”

“By staying away from those numbers, putting their head in a hole, then they’re actually preserving their own interests, but it really doesn’t do anything for an inclusive and empowering society and the representative society that we all want and we all talk about,” he said.

Recent widespread anti-Black racism and police brutality protests have put a spotlight on diversity and representation among Canada’s public institutions.

Last fall, The Hill Times collaborated with The Samara Centre for Democracy and researchers Jerome Black and Andrew Griffith to analyze more than 1,700 candidates running for the Liberals, Conservatives, NDP, Greens, and the People’s Party in 2019. Compiled through candidate biographies, media articles, social media and the like, it found 16.5 per cent of candidates were from a visible minority group, with 2.8 per cent identified as Black, and 3.7 per cent as Indigenous.

Of the 338 MPs elected, roughly 15.1 per cent belong to a visible minority group—within that, five MPs, or 1.5 per cent, are Black—and almost three per cent (10 MPs) are Indigenous. Within Mr. Trudeau’s 36-member cabinet, seven ministers (19.4 per cent) are a visible minority, just one of whom is Black, and one is Indigenous. 

Mr. Griffith similarly spoke to the need for disaggregated data, noting that, through his research, when it comes to political representation, often “South Asians tend to be overrepresented in relation to their share of the population, whereas Blacks are underrepresented and Filipinos are underrepresented.”

While there may be seen to be “less everyday racism in the street” in Canada as compared to the U.S., the story is reversed when it comes to institutional racism and systemic discrimination, said Prof. Foster, with far more instances of Black people in positions of power, as elected officials and otherwise, south of the border.

“It’s really quite remarkable and distinctive in terms of its difference with the Canadian scene,” he said, noting that within Canada’s federal public service, the highest-level Black public servant is the assistant deputy minister for Immigration, Refugees, and Citizenship Canada, Caroline Xavier, who was appointed in February and stands alone at her level. 

Just as important as elected officials are the staff who support them—the people at the table or behind the keyboard when laws are being drafted, debated, amended, and passed.

Low response rate, aggregated categories cloud survey findings 

To conduct its survey, The Hill Times reached out to a total of 386 offices on Parliament Hill, including all 338 MPs, all opposition leader offices, House leaders, Whips, research bureaus, 36 ministers’ offices, and the PMO. In reaching out, it was indicated responses would be reported on in aggregate with other like offices. 

The survey was voluntary, and based entirely on self-identification by staff. Offices were asked for a total count of full-time staff (both on the Hill and in riding offices), a gender breakdown (male, female, or non-binary), and how many staff identify as a visible minority, Black, or Indigenous. Offices were also asked about their hiring practices, namely: what they’ve done to ensure diversity in hiring and whether approaches were being reconsidered. For ministers’ offices and the PMO, an extra question was included regarding how many EX-level staff—a Treasury Board Secretariat designation that refers to the senior-most level of ministerial staff, like directors and chiefs of staff—identify as Black or Indigenous.

Questions were sent to offices by email on June 16 and 17, with a deadline of June 29 to respond.

It’s important to note that, along with being based on self-identification, the survey did not capture part-time staff, students, or interns—a decision contested by at least one office, noting an increased level of part-time staff due to efforts to provide flexible work arrangements. 

In the end, excluding cabinet and the PMO, The Hill Times received 38 responses from 36 MP offices, the Liberal research bureau, and the Liberal Whip’s office. Among MPs, 26 of the 36 respondents were Liberal, six were Conservative, three were NDP, and one Bloc Québécois, for a total response rate of about 10 per cent.

Based on Elections Canada’s riding assessments, of those MPs who responded, 27 represent urban ridings, five represent urban/rural ridings, and four represent rural/urban ridings. 

One MP office that responded declined to provide a gender breakdown, and another declined to provide a breakdown of Black or Indigenous staff. In turn, percentages for those categories were calculated using modified total staff counts. 

In all, these 38 offices reported a total of 212 full-time staff, of whom 119 identified as women (57.2 per cent), 88 as men (42.3 per cent), and one as non-binary (0.5 per cent), and 89 identified as a visible minority (42 per cent). Eleven staff identified as Black (5.3 per cent of the adjusted total), while five identified as Indigenous (2.4 per cent).

Graph created with Infogram

Reacting to The Hill Times’ findings from MPs, Mr. Griffith said he was “surprised” at the “very high percentage of visible minority staffers,” but stressed it’s hard to draw conclusions as the results don’t reflect “the total universe of MPs and their staff” due to the small sample size and self-identifying nature of the survey. Mr. Griffith also hypothesized that MPs from more diverse ridings—namely, urban ridings, which 75 per cent of MP respondents were—may be more likely to have diverse offices. 

The results are different when it comes to cabinet and the PMO.

Though The Hill Times reached out to these offices individually with a similar set of survey questions, only one minister’s office responded directly, and in doing so, declined to provide a specific breakdown of Black or Indigenous staff.

Instead, The Hill Times understands the PMO circulated a different, voluntary survey among ministers’ offices, with responses collected and aggregated by the PMO before being emailed on the evening of July 3. 

While these findings in ways present more data than was sought—providing insights into language, disability, and LGBTQ2 diversity among political staff—they also lack one of the two key aspects The Hill Timessought to understand, specifically: how many political staff identify as Black. Instead, numbers were provided for staff who identify as “racialized/visible minority/a person of colour” as one combined category. 

“As many of the offices you surveyed have a smaller number of staff, information shared detailing individual’s race and gender by each office could very much identify individual staff. So to ensure the privacy of individuals is maintained, we asked Minister’s Offices to share information in a manner that was both anonymous and voluntary,” said PMO press secretary Alex Wellstead in an email. 

“With that in mind, we sent a confidential survey to staff to help collect information on the diversity of our team.”

Graph created with Infogram

In all, the PMO reported a response rate of 82 per cent to its survey, with a little more than 560 respondents from all ministers’ offices, including the PMO. The Hill Times was only provided the aggregated, total percentages for each category.

Of the total, 24.7 per cent of staff identified as racialized/visible minority/a person of colour and 3.4 per cent identified as Indigenous; 51.2 per cent identified as male and 48 per cent as female; 2.3 per cent identified as a person with a disability; 15.8 per cent identified as LGBTQ2; 68.5 per cent identified English as their first language, while 23.8 per cent said it was French, and 6.2 per cent identified another language as their first.

Graph created with Infogram

Among senior staff in the PMO and ministers’ offices (directors, senior advisers, chiefs of staff) who responded, 19.1 per cent identified as racialized/visible minority/a person of colour and 1.9 per cent identified as Indigenous; 57.4 per cent identified as male and 42.6 per cent as female; 3.1 per cent identified as a person with a disability; 11.7 per cent identified as LGBTQ2; 71.6 per cent identified English as their first language, while 24.1 per cent said French, and 2.5 per cent identified another language. 

Graph created with Infogram

Picking out the PMO specifically, the office reports that 29.9 per cent of its staff self-identified as racialized/visible minority/a person of colour and 1.1 per cent as Indigenous; 52.9 per cent identified as male and 47.1 per cent as female; 3.4 per cent identified as a person with a disability; 12.6 per cent as LGBTQ2; and 69 per cent identified English as their first language, while 25.3 said French, and 4.6 said another language.

“As all our offices are always striving to provide a safe and healthy workplace, and one where employees feel valued and be treated with dignity and respect, this information will also help us continue our work toward a more diverse and inclusive workplace,” said Mr. Wellstead.

“We are committed to creating a workplace that truly reflects the full diversity of our great country and we will continue to recruit, retain, and train diverse staff from across Canada. The current conversations around systemic racism and discrimination in our society have made it even clearer that we need to continue this work,” said Mr. Wellstead. 

“We will be offering opportunities for staff to participate in future confidential and voluntary surveys to better understand our team later this summer. Topics on this survey will include greater granularity on demographics, mental health in the workplace, the impacts of COVID-19, systemic inequalities, education and training, and more,” he said, noting the upcoming survey would use Statistics Canada’s list of visible minority groups. That list includes “Black” as a distinct group.

The Hill Times reached out to Diversity, Inclusion, and Youth Minister Bardish Chagger’s (Waterloo, Ont.) to speak with the minister about diversity on Parliament Hill but was told she was not available by filing deadline.

Source: Disaggregated data key to ensuring representative workplaces, say experts, as PMO skirts Black staff statistic

Journalists inherit ‘institutional blindspots’ that cloud coverage of race in politics, says media expert

From the Hill Times, Erin Tolley on blindspots, myself on diversityvotes.ca and others:

Increasing the diversity of newsrooms isn’t a cure-all for improving political coverage of racialized people, says a media expert, who argues that journalists often end up inheriting the institutional blindspots of the outlets they work for. 

“Even journalists of colour sometimes will produce coverage that differentiates and treats white and racialized subjects differently,” said Erin Tolley, political science professor at University of Toronto, in a phone interview. “Journalists are a product of the institutions that see whiteness as a norm. It’s not a problem of individual journalists.” 

Prof. Tolley spent four years surveying the mainstream media’s coverage of race in politics with data from the 2008 federal election, including how its depiction of non-incumbent, visible-minority candidates’ viability compared to non-incumbent, white candidates. 

“White, straight men are still seen as people who deserve to be in institutions of power, who naturally fit into those roles. … [Journalists] come at stories about racialized subjects with a different standard,” she said. “They present the white, non-incumbent candidates as more politically viable, more qualified to win, than racialized non-incumbents.” 

These unconscious biases towards visible-minority candidates tend to disappear from coverage, she said, when they occupy political office. 

Andrew Griffith, former director general at Citizenship and Immigration Canada during the Harper era, echoed Prof. Tolley’s assertion that improving diversity within one’s ranks doesn’t necessarily translate into a diversity of thought, particularly when the culture of the institution in question might promote conformity. “You had management teams that had a degree of diversity, but the corporate culture is about conforming. Did those diverse people bring a diverse perspective? You didn’t necessarily see that,” Mr. Griffith said of his own experience in government. 

Since retiring from public service, Mr. Griffith has now developed a tool with Mirems—a company that monitors and translates coverage from ethnic media sources—aimed at providing context about how issues are being covered in diaspora communities. The online tool is at Diversityvotes.ca. For journalists, he said, it can serve as a resource to deepen their understanding of the complexity of ethnic communities and to demystify perceptions that there’s a monolithic ethnic vote. “There’s a diversity with the diversity, and simply labelling or assuming people within a community are representative of an entire community is dangerous,” Mr. Griffith said. 

When confronted with their biases, Prof. Tolley said, journalists she interviewed—who spoke on the condition of confidentiality—tried to explain away differences in their framing of a candidate’s electability. For example, she observed that non-white candidates were more seen as long-shot candidates compared to their white counterparts. They insisted that any differences stemmed from a candidate’s level of experience, not stereotypes, even as she pointed out that those factors had been controlled for in the research. (The findings were published in her book, Framed: Media and the Coverage of Race in Canadian Politics.)

The Canadian Press style guide’s—the definitive handbook that many reporters have copies of handy—section on race illustrates how journalists are instructed to think about the subject of racial stereotypes, Prof. Tolley said. In both the previous and latest editions of the guide, one measure for determining whether it’s “pertinent” to mention a person’s race is if one is reporting on an “accomplishment unusual in a particular race.” Thinking of issues of race in those terms, she said, shows “some outdated thinking about race and racial characteristics. In defending CP’s standards, the guide’s editor, James McCarten, told her in an interview for the book that the word “unusual” may not be the right word, but he stood by the guideline, saying, “journalism oftentimes is all about firsts” and “historically relevant” events. 

Efforts to deepen coverage of race, politics 

Ryan McMahon, the host of Canadaland’s Thunder Bay podcast series, said that his Anishinaabe identity, coupled with the privilege of not immediately being seen as Indigenous because of his skin colour, informs his approach to reporting on issues of race. 

In setting out to tell the story of why Thunder Bay has the highest hate-crime rates in Canada and why there’s deep distrust in the city’s institutions, Mr. McMahon said, the “one thing” the podcast got right was getting someone like him to report on the city. Having firsthand exposure to the subtle ways that racism manifests itself, he said, helps in identifying and effectively naming racism. In his hometown of Fort Frances, Ont., for example, it was “rare” to see a “brown face” behind the cash register. 

“The way I experience racism is very different than someone who is visibly native. I can walk down the street and not be identified as Indigenous, so my experience is very different,” Mr. McMahon said. “[Racism in Canada] is often quiet, but aggressive, unspoken. … The kind of racism we’re talking about isn’t necessarily a Nazi skinhead, KKK apologist. It can often be an unconscious ignorance, with deeply held misperceptions. People hold on really tightly to stereotypes.” 

The groundwork laid by journalists such as Mr. McMahon and Toronto Star’s Tanya Talaga in chronicling the systemic racism in Thunder Bay that underpins its public institutions—and the national conversation that followed—helped open up the space for The Globe and Mail to establish a temporary presence in the northwestern Ontario city earlier this year. The paper had also done extensive coverage of Adam Capay, the Lac Seul First Nation man who spent about four years in solitary confinement. 

David Walmsley, The Globe’s editor-in-chief, explained in a staff memo that temporarily setting up shop in Thunder Bay, in an election year, presents this country a “chance to look inward and to encourage improvement in areas where we all know improvement needs to be made.”

Having spent more than a decade reporting on Indigenous issues, veteran Hill reporter Gloria Galloway was among the first reporters assigned to live for a couple of months in Thunder Bay, as part of the paper’s effort to deepen its coverage of the systemic racism in the city. The Globe does not have an Indigenous reporter on its staff, so it had a “limited pool” to choose from for the first stint, Ms. Galloway said. 

That The Globe, the country’s national newspaper, still doesn’t have an Indigenous columnist or staff reporter is a reflection of how the “markers” for improving diversity don’t appear to have moved much in Canadian media, said Mr. McMahon, who added that there are a bunch of journalists who are closer to the story. He said he’s been disappointed by The Globe’s coverage of Thunder Bay, pointing to the first piece released that gave an extensive overview, in interactive form, of the issue, with interviews from a cast of characters in the city. “So far, we’ve seen a Thunder Bay 101 piece. I understand why they had to do that, but it was a surface-level piece, a collection of stories that other journalists have already told,” Mr. McMahon said.

Ms. Galloway acknowledged that there’s a “huge learning curve” that comes with reporting on Indigenous issues, as a white woman. But, over time, through her reporting, she said, she’s developed a “sensitivity” to covering issues of race and has developed friendships and earned the respect of Indigenous peoples: “Every year, I’ve learned how much more I don’t know.”

Ms. Galloway said The Globe’s decision to dedicate resources to cover Thunder Bay was not an “insignificant financial commitment” for the paper, particularly in an election year. “I was pulled out of the Ottawa bureau for months. Losing a body in Ottawa for us is very difficult,” she said.

But there was an acknowledgment that shining a light on the situation could help elevate the issue to become part of the election discussion. “We’re not activist journalists, but certainly, there’s a sense in The Globe culture that shining a light on things that are wrong and having corrective action is [important],” Ms. Galloway said. 

Though Ms. Galloway is retiring next week, having decided to take a voluntary buyout, she said, the paper is committed to having a presence in Thunder Bay through the summer and fall. 

Source: Journalists inherit ‘institutional blindspots’ that cloud coverage of race in politics, says media expert

Top 100 Most Powerful and Influential People in Canadian Government and Politics, 2016

From The Hill Times, the diversity highlights of their Top 100:

The Top 100 list is a reflection of power and influence today. Following the election and with a change in government, it’s quite a different list from the previous eight. There are 58 new names. Thirty on the list are women, including 10 among the Top 25 [30 percent]. That’s six more than last year, primarily because Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appointed women to powerful positions within cabinet. There are also six visible minorities on the list [six percent], double from last year, and two indigenous people.

Source: P AND I WINTER2016 | hilltimes.com

Ministers had no objection to niqabs in public service last March | hilltimes.com

Ongoing interest in my study (Religious Minorities in the Public Service):

But at the time Mr. Clement made his remarks as he and other Cabinet ministers were reacting to the court decision in Ms. Ishaq’s case, several of the ministers said their opposition to the wearing of niqabs only pertained to citizenship ceremonies, not in the public service.

Canadian Press reporter Joan Bryden and other journalists questioned the ministers about Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s comment then that wearing the niqab was contrary to Canadian values and “rooted in a culture that is anti-women.”

“That is what the prime minister said and that is a point of view that one can hold,” Ms. Bryden reported Mr. Clement as saying at the time. “That doesn’t mean that you can impose that view in the workplace or in the private sphere. The one place where I think we have a right and an obligation to stress Canadian values is the act of obtaining one’s citizenship.”

As the election sparks flew again this week over Mr. Harper’s view on the niqab, the department that oversees the public service on his behalf, Treasury Board Secretariat, said in response to questions from The Hill Times it does not have “any data or other information pertaining to niqabs” or any complaints about women wearing them in the public service.

The election campaign research by Mr. Griffith might back up a statement to The Hill Timesfrom the head of the Canadian Council for Muslim women, Alia Hogben, that it is likely no Muslim women in the public service wear niqabs.

…Mr. Griffith prepared a brief paper on the topic based on data he obtained from Statistics Canada from an inquiry last April, when his curiosity was piqued after Mr. Clement’s comments after a change Citizenship Minister Jason Kenney ordered for a legal manual citizenship judges must abide by.

Federal Court Judge Keith Boswell ruled last February the change, which required citizenship judges to reject citizenship applications from female candidates wearing niqabs if they refused to show their faces at two successive ceremonies, was unlawful because it violated an existing regulation that requires citizenship judges to administer the oath of citizenship “with dignity and solemnity,” and “allowing the greatest possible freedom in the religious solemnization or the solemn affirmation thereof.”

The Harper government appealed the ruling, failed in a bid to get the Federal Court of Appeal to overturn Judge Boswell’s ruling and also failed in an attempt to get the Federal Court of Appeal to stay the ruling during an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

Mr. Griffith’s paper  included a wider comparison of religious minorities employed in the federal public services and the public services of British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec. Quebec was the lowest at 2.1 per cent, compared to 6.2 per cent in the federal public service, 8.7 per cent in Ontario, 6.8 per cent in B.C. and 6.2 per cent in Alberta.

Source: Ministers had no objection to niqabs in public service last March | hilltimes.com

Citizenship: getting the balance right | hilltimes.com

My piece in The Hill Times regarding transition advice should there be a change in government (entire article given paywall):

With a federal election upon us and a possible change of government, what are the policy changes an incoming government may wish to consider, and which policies may it wish to keep?

The Conservative Government made “citizenship harder to get and easier to lose.” Residency, knowledge and language were all tightened (with reduced administrative discretion to waive language requirements and an exhaustive residency questionnaire introduced), fees more than quintupled, credit for pre-Permanent Resident time was ended, and citizenship revocation was made easier.

Some of these changes were overdue and needed. Any new government should maintain the tougher residency requirements (particularly the requirement to be physically present). Similarly, administrative measures to ensure integrity (rotating test questions, more consistent language assessment, filing Canadian tax returns) or improving efficiency (abandoning incomplete applications, simplified one-stop decision-making model) are sound and enhance the meaningfulness of Canadian citizenship.

However, a new government would likely seek to overturn other changes, based upon testimony during the 2014 Citizenship Act hearings and campaign commitments.

An early symbolic signal would be to reduce the $530 fee back to $300 (the $100 fee of almost 20 years ago being unrealistic), with consideration for hardship cases (e.g., refugees). A second change would be to abandon any current revocation cases for dual nationals before the courts, and announce the government’s intent not to launch any further cases.

The writing of a new citizenship guide that offers a more balanced interpretation of Canadian history, society and government could be achieved administratively. Ideally, this would build upon some of the strong points of Discover Canada (e.g., emphasis on history, role of the Crown and democratic institutions, military, rights and responsibilities, Quebec context), balanced with greater emphasis on social history, rights of women, Charter equality rights, arts and culture, and a reduced Monarchist flavour, along with more inclusive language. This should be accompanied by revising material handed out during citizenship ceremonies, including the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

However, other changes could only be achieved through legislation. These include abolishing the “intent to reside” provision (requiring applicants to declare that they will continue to reside in Canada) given possible ambiguities in interpretation, restoring pre-Permanent Resident time credit towards citizenship residency requirements for some groups (e.g., international students), abolish testing 14-17 year-olds for knowledge and language given they would have been in the school system, restoring the Governor-in-Council role for revocation in cases of fraud or misrepresentation rather than only the Minister (or at least provide for oral hearings), and removing the revocation provision for dual nationals convicted of terror or treason, given that it creates two classes of citizenship and is likely unconstitutional.

In addition, any incoming government (and the public servants advising them) need to reflect on the government machinery and organizational weaknesses of Citizenship and Immigration Canada. While CIC is organized to deliver stable levels of new immigrants (about 250,000 annually), the citizenship program has been subject to recurring backlogs (over 300,000 in 2013), delays and uneven delivery (the number of new citizens has fluctuated between 113,000 and 263,000). While some reflects political direction, some is intrinsic to citizenship being a secondary priority, with less resources and management attention.

An external review of CIC’s management structure (shift from a functional to business-line model?) and governance needs to be done to ensure stronger management and oversight of citizenship.

Service standards of one-year for citizenship acquisition with regular public reporting are needed.

Apart from the question of whether an incoming government will appoint a strong minister (history suggests that Minister Kenney was an exception), there is also the question of whether citizenship will be a priority in relation to immigration and refugee policy.

Whatever changes a new government chooses to pursue, comprehensive public consultations and a willingness to entertain opposition suggestions (and in the case of legislation, amendments) should be an essential part of building consensus and ongoing support for whatever approach an incoming government pursues.

Previous governments made citizenship too easy to get and too hard to lose. The Conservative government redressed that imbalance. Hopefully, a new government will be able to achieve a new balance, maintaining the increased integrity bequeathed to them, but making needed adjustments to reinforce a more inclusive and welcoming approach to citizenship.

Source: Citizenship: getting the balance right | hilltimes.com (behind paywall)

Some 33 federal ridings with more than 50 per cent visible minority population up for grabs on Oct. 19 | hilltimes.com

Further to the analysis in my book, Multiculturalism in Canada: Evidence and Anecdote, this Hill Times article provides polling results in these ridings along with some riding vignettes that provide colour to the somewhat dry stats:

Based on the transposition of votes analysis conducted by Elections Canada, which shows the results for the new ridings had the boundaries been in place in the 2011 election, Conservatives would have won 17 of the 33, and the NDP and the Liberals would have carried eight each. The analysis also indicated that in 20 of the 33 ridings, the margin of victory for the winning parties would have been 10 per cent or less.

In the Oct. 19 election, there are a total of 338 ridings up for grabs, 30 more than the last election, to reflect the population increase in the country between 2003 and 2012.

Most national polling numbers last week indicated that the three major national parties were in a statistical dead heat. If this trend continues, the next government will be a minority government in which every seat will count.

A Nanos poll on Thursday showed that the Liberals had the support of 31 per cent of decided voters, with the NDP and Conservatives tied at 30 per cent and the Green Party at six per cent.

According to an online national poll by Innovative Research of 2,121 Canadians conducted between Sept. 4 and Sept. 10, the three national parties were running neck and neck with the NDP support at 31 per cent, Liberals at 30 per cent, Conservatives at 28 and the Green Party at six per cent.

In the 33 ridings where the visible minority population is more than 50 per cent, the online poll indicated that the Liberals were leading the pack with 36.6 per cent, the Conservatives next with 33 percent, the NDP at 22.3 per cent and the Green Party at 7.1 per cent.

In an interview last week, Mr. Griffith said the strategic significance of the 33 ridings in this election is evident from the fact that the national party leaders have frequently visited the GTA and Vancouver areas in recent months.

“Leaders seem to be spending a fair amount of time in these ridings. It’s part of every party’s electoral strategy,” said Mr. Griffith.

For those interested in the riding list taken from my book: Visible Minority Ridings and Religious Minority Ridings.

Source: Some 33 federal ridings with more than 50 per cent visible minority population up for grabs on Oct. 19 | hilltimes.com

Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias one year later: What I heard

My reflections on my book one year later, and what I heard from others:

In promoting my book, I spoke with a variety of groups, including former deputies, policy analysts, students, academics and journalists.

The limited feedback I received from the political level indicated that I had achieved my goal of balancing government and public servant perspectives.

From these discussions, particularly with more senior officials, it was clear that there was a relationship issue, for which both sides shared responsibility. But it was striking that the theme of mutual distrust and suspicion permeated most levels with direct experience in working with the political level.

Equally striking to some was that the relationship, and the overall approach did not change once the government obtained a majority in 2011.

Some pointed out that I over-simplified the ideological divide, as public servants in economic departments have more conservative views than those in social departments. Others questioned whether it was values, rather than ideology, but did not disagree on the divide.

Others acknowledged that the public service had not adequately prepared for the transition by not understanding the ideological and values roots of the government.

Some expressed frustration at providing advice that was routinely discounted or viewed as disloyal, and questioned how it was possible to provide advice when the government’s world view was so at odds with their best, professional advice, even acknowledging their implicit biases.

Most were pessimistic that a change of government would necessarily change things for the better, as the success of the Harper government in implementing its agenda and controlling the message was not lost on the other parties.

Those with longer memories warned against nostalgia for “the good old days,” noting that they were not as good as portrayed.

It was unclear the degree of which the relationship issue was being discussed within and among departments, or whether the Destination 2020 initiative, a more comfortable process discussion, overshadowed a more fundamental re-examination.

Policy arrogance and innocent bias | hilltimes.com. (pay wall)

What happened to Kenney’s cracking down on birth tourism? Feds couldn’t do it alone | hilltimes.com

From my piece in the Hill Times (pay wall) on birth tourism or “anchor babies:”

But it is clear, that allegations of abuse play to the value Canadians attach to fairness, and fits into the overall government message and politics of cracking down on fraud.

But the evidence we have is clear: there is no business case to inconvenience millions of Canadians, for whom a birth certificate may no longer be sufficient identification, and cost taxpayers significant amounts to address a tiny problem.

Alexander’s spokesperson recently stated, refreshingly, that decisions will be “informed by facts,” rather than anecdotes.

What general lessons can we draw from this?

First, anecdotes drive identification of policy issues.

Second, rhetoric runs ahead of evidence.

Third, the provinces provided the most effective brake on anecdote-driven policy given that any workable response required their cooperation. Contrast this to the Citizenship Act changes, where the government had no need to be flexible.

Fourth, funding implications and provincial constraints ensured evidence trumped anecdote.

What happened to Kenney’s cracking down on birth tourism? Feds couldn’t do it alone | hilltimes.com.

Canadian authors on why people should read their books – Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias Makes the Hill Times Top 100 List

A nice way to end the year, being one of the 11 authors quoted in the top 100 list:

Andrew Griffith, author of Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias: Resettling Citizenship and Multiculturalism. “We’re human beings. We’re a combination of our background, our training, our professional experience, so we actually have a fair number of built-in biases and views that we don’t normally think about. So it’s almost for the public servant at the individual level and the public service at the collective level, to know thyself and to know the limits of what just saying you’re part of the impartial neutral public service doesn’t make you automatically impartial and neutral. You actually do have your biases and you have to find ways to be more open with yourself in terms of when you’re providing advice or when you’re thinking through an issue, okay, am I being objective here, or is my objective analysis being coloured by some of the biases that are part of me. It’s a hard process to do.”

via Canadian authors on why people should read their books | hilltimes.com.

Former CIC mandarin says several public policies came from minister’s anecdotes | hilltimes.com

Article from Hill Times today on the occasion of my book launch. Open event, The 3 Brewers, Bank and Sparks, today between 5 and 7 pm. Look forward to seeing many Ottawa-based people there. Best price for paper version of book ($15, HST and shipping included).

Andrew Griffith offers an insider’s account about the major cultural shift in the public service when the Conservatives formed government back in 2006.

When the Conservatives won government in 2006, the federal public service was not prepared for the ideological change to public policy-making, says a former top mandarin and author of the new book Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias: Resetting Citizenship and Multiculturalism.

“One of the funny things about the relationship between the political level and official level is that we’re both equally certain in our own truth,” said Andrew Griffith, a former 30-year veteran of the public service, in an interview with The Hill Times. “A party comes in, they’ve developed a platform, they’re absolutely convinced they’re right and that they have the truth and they were elected on that platform and, similarly, we in the public service are convinced that we’re absolutely right, we have the studies, the research, the evidence—how can anybody disagree with us?”

Mr. Griffith, a former director general at the Canadian Heritage Department who worked on multiculturalism policy, is launching his new book in Ottawa on Sept. 23 at The Three Brewers, 240 Sparks St., from 5 to 7 p.m.

He moved over to the Citizenship and Immigration department when Jason Kenney (Calgary Southeast, Alta.) was named the minister in 2008 and took the multiculturalism files with him. Using his experience with implementing multiculturalism and citizenship policy, Mr. Griffith wrote an insider’s account about the major cultural shift in the public service when the Conservatives formed government.

“In this particular transition, the perspective, or worldview, of both sides was so different. We had the Calgary crowd—by and large the Conservative Party wanted smaller government, less government intervention and was more skeptical of the power of government to actually do good,” Mr. Griffith told The Hill Times in a phone interview last week. “We live in the Ottawa bubble, Central Canada, and, by and large, civil servants are small ‘l’ liberals. You know, you don’t join government because you want to shrink it generally, maybe the people in Finance do, but, generally speaking, the people who join government have a belief in the power of government to do good. It doesn’t mean they’re big government people, it’s just a different world view.”

Mr. Griffith said the differing worldviews “sharpened tensions” between the public service and the new government.

“Previous transitions hadn’t had, I don’t think, such a sharp tension. I don’t recall that during the Mulroney government, because, again, it was more of a Central Canadian government,” he said. “They came with strong ideas and knew what they didn’t like.”

In the case of multiculturalism and citizenship policy, he said, the Conservative government’s worldview was a complete departure from that of former prime ministers Pierre Trudeau, Brian Mulroney, and Jean Chrétien.

“They didn’t like much of the traditional approach in multiculturalism and everything like that, sort of the old-style focusing on visible minority issues. On citizenship, it was very clear they wanted a stronger reference to Canadian history, military, Crown, etc., and so the way they would come at the issues is we’d have a meeting, and they’d say, ‘Here’s what we want,’ and we’d initially figure it out. In many cases, it appeared very foreign to us in terms of what we knew about Canada, so it took us time to absorb it and react to it and find a way to say, ‘Now we understand it so we can actually work with you,’ ” he said.

Mr. Griffith said several of the policies generated were based on anecdotes that the minister or his staff would bring back and attempt to fix.

For example, in Policy Arrogance, he outlined that in the case of making changes to citizenship rules around “birth tourism”—or dealing with people who planned trips to Canada so that their baby would be born on Canadian soil and be granted automatic citizenship—anecdotes “trumped” evidence he said, because there was very little data to begin with.

“The minister admitted that he did not know the extent of the problem even as he made the case to crack down on birth tourism,” Mr. Griffith wrote. “Officials struggled with this lack of hard numbers as stories emerged in the Quebec and B.C. media.”

Mr. Griffith wrote that the CIC later engaged with medical associations and hospitals to “ascertain the extent of the issue,” but did not consult with provincial health systems that would have allowed them to see how many births were paid or not paid through the public system for which citizens and permanent residents are eligible.

“Such analysis would help quantify the extent of the issue, and help inform cost-benefit analysis of any change to citizenship legislation to align Canadian policy with other jurisdictions that no longer allow automatic citizenship upon birth,” Mr. Griffith wrote. “In developing policy and program advice, the paucity of data and analysis made it hard to provide advice on the likely impact of any policy changes. More, the minister’s wishes for early implementation meant there were limits to appropriate due diligence.”

Mr. Griffith told The Hill Times that public servants couldn’t discount Mr. Kenney’s anecdotes, however, because he went to at least 20 community events three weekends out of four.

“His anecdotes had a reasonable amount of weight,” he said, noting that officials did not take the anecdotes wholly; as the people Mr. Kenney was seeing was not entirely representative of the Canadian population.

“He was more in touch with the communities than we were. Our evidence tended to be large-scale research and surveys, which are very valid, and his evidence tended to be anecdotal, but it was such a large base of anecdotes that it was something that we actually had to take into account.”

When it came time to rewrite the citizenship guide, Discover Canada, the public servants working on it “didn’t get it right at all,” so the ministerial and political staff “actually wrote it for us” and the department went from there, Mr. Griffith said.

“Normally that isn’t done,” he said, adding that later, the minister’s office would have “a challenge session” going through each page one by one. “We were able to understand why they wanted it and the why is actually more important than the what because if you understand the why, then you can figure out a way to make it work. It would be difficult at the beginning … and then as you got through those discussions, you could get to more pragmatic ‘okay, now that we understand what you want, we can move in this direction.’ It served as a bit of a dance.”

Mr. Griffith said that while he was “never afraid” to give advice under these circumstances, his four years at Citizen and Immigration Canada was a “real learning experience.”

Writing that experience down “was actually satisfying and cathartic,” he said.

“My intent was actually to provoke a bit of a discussion initially within the public service about the relationship issue between the government and the public service because my sense was that we didn’t manage the relationship very well at the beginning,” Mr. Griffith said about writing the book.

“We weren’t responsive enough to the change in direction of the government so we appeared obstructive at best or resisting or even disloyal perhaps to the incoming government so I think there were some lessons learned for the public service in terms of how we manage that transition that hopefully by having a more open discussion about how we actually deal with a situation where we have an incoming government that has a very different worldview from our worldview in a way that actually doesn’t exacerbate tensions, but actually sort of helps develop a more normal working relationship.”

There was a difficult line between the public servants giving “fearless advice” and putting into practice the “loyal implementation” role, he said.

In the end, Mr. Griffith said, he felt at CIC that public servants were able to balance both, despite going through the “Kübler-Ross stages of grief and loss—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance—in dealing with the traumatic challenge to their role, as well as to the long-standing consensus between previous Liberal and Conservative parties on citizenship and multiculturalism issues.”

Mr. Griffith told The Hill Times that, for the most part, Mr. Kenney was “actually quite good” at listening to advice, although “he wouldn’t necessarily accept it.”

While he couldn’t say whether this was widespread in other departments, Mr. Griffith said politicians are likely more drawn to anecdotes than scientific evidence and statistics because they are people’s people.

“This government is more ideological than previous governments. This government does tend to discount evidence. This government does actually tend to cut things that do provide evidence, like the census. All that’s on the public record,” Mr. Griffith said.

“How it works in individual departments, I’m not close enough to know that. I do know from some people that yes, some ministers are more receptive to listening to advice but again that always gets run by ‘The Centre’ [the PMO]. In the end, whether the minister listens or not is almost less important than whether ‘The Centre,’ i.e. the PMO, listens to it,” Mr. Griffith said.

As for whether things will change if and when a new government is elected, Mr. Griffith said it would likely be easier under a non-Conservative government.“My sense is that this Conservative government situation with the public service is probably fairly unique,” he said, noting that if the Liberals or NDP formed a government, they would likely have more confidence in the public service. “But either way, the public service has to be prepared to respond to whatever decision Canadians make at the polls. That’s always the bottom line in terms of the loyal implementation part.”

Bea Vongdouangchanh, The Hill Times, 23 September 2013

Former CIC mandarin says several public policies came from minister’s anecdotes | hilltimes.com.