Shifting Gears: A Transformative Approach to Government Deficits

Could it be that a transformative approach to government deficits might offer us greater sustainability? Do you mean that the old ways of doing things aren’t going to work for us anymore?

The Mowat Centre and the School of Public Policy & Governance released Shifting Gears: Paths to Fiscal Sustainability in Canada. In reading through the Executive Summary, I was delighted to read the following:

The need to define fiscal sustainability strategies for the long-term provides Canadian governments with an opportunity to examine the choices they face through a “transformative lens,” choosing short-term investments that are likely to re-shape the way government works to ensure fiscal sustainability over the long-term. Government actions to achieve fiscal sustainability fall into three broad categories.

First, governments can increase revenue through higher taxation or user fees.

Second, governments can cut program spending, either through targeted initiatives or across- the-board restraint. Most OECD governments have embarked down the path of program cuts.

Third, governments can change how they operate and how they deliver public services. Efforts under this third umbrella include modernizing government operations through new governance relationships and new financing mechanisms, and by introducing breakthrough technologies and allowing individual citizens more control over how they access public services, with less intermediation by government institutions.

Wow! How exciting to hear others talking about citizen-based solutions, clever applications of technologies, new financing strategies and a fundamental questioning about how public services are delivered.

It sure looks and sounds like social innovation to me.

I couldn’t be more excited about the types of recommendations that I am reading in this report, but it begs the question…. who is going to lead this charge inside government?

Given the incredibly siloed approach to government, who sees it as their mandate to lead this transformative approach? And perhaps more interestingly, just how does one expect that the culture inherent inside government would be capable of engaging in citizen-led solutions? As it currently stands, the word ‘consultation’ is simply a formality used to justify the direction that they want to go anyway.

I am delighted to see that the Mowat Centre is working on these issues and it is a natural lead into the Ontario Nonprofit Network‘s Recommendations to Foster Social Innovation that were submitted in September 2010.

It is a juicy question…. how do we bring a DIY culture and citizen-solutions into government policy and programs?

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