Access Nova Scotia opens more doors

When people talk of service integration in Atlantic Canada, Service New Brunswick often comes to mind. This provincial crown corporation has been lauded in both industry and academe alike for its innovative and integrative service models both within the province and externally via partners such as CGI Group Inc.

Next door, in an encouraging example of friendly neighbourhood rivalry, the Province of Nova Scotia is aggressively pursuing its own transformational path. Rather than a crown corporation, Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations (SNSMR) was formed in 2000 to become the lead department for improving access to government information and services for businesses, individuals and municipalities.

This ministerial mandate and integrated structure has enabled SNSMR to make investments in both technology and process re-engineering to ensure its systems meet or exceed government and client expectations. The department includes four units: program management and corporate services, municipal services, assessment services (becoming a separate agency in 2008), and Access Nova Scotia.

With its new brand emphasizing a “no wrong door” philosophy, Access Nova Scotia deploys a multi-channel delivery network to manage more than 13,000 external client interactions daily across either one of more than 50 physical locations or the province’s call centre. In addition, citizens routinely go online to gather information about programs and services and a growing number of transactions are migrating to this channel.


Access Nova Scotia, a unit of nearly 700 employees, is guided by its vision of being a recognized leader and innovator in service excellence while ensuring public safety and security: how best to pursue this vision is the task assigned to the strategy and innovation branch.

This group is empowered to not only craft Access Nova Scotia’s current strategic planning framework, but also develop longer-term capacities for relationship building and change management across all provincial departments and levels of government.

Nancy MacLellan, executive director of strategy and innovation, acknowledges the departmental model has served Access Nova Scotia well by fusing both program ownership and delivery processes within a single entity.

A commitment and strong leadership at both the ministerial and deputy ministerial levels have sustained the necessary investments and restructuring over the past seven years, yielding a robust platform for integrated service delivery.

Beyond existing service offerings, the strategy and innovation team also thinks longer-term, identifying new opportunities to both achieve efficiencies internally and improve outcomes externally.

Access Nova Scotia’s service architecture is central to a provincial commitment to ease regulatory and compliance costs of companies. The premier has endorsed a pledge to reduce the paperwork burden of business by 20 per cent by the year 2010, and a steering committee of six key departments is working under the leadership of the Treasury Board minister to ensure this target is achieved.

Having a single department house Access Nova Scotia and the municipal relations unit also facilitates co-ordination across both government levels. A province-wide partnership with SAP Canada Inc. provides a common platform for shared technology and support services and a municipal e-government network facilitates grassroots strategies to leverage this common platform through collaboration.

This single structure also enables both levels of government to focus on policy and service holistically in order to strengthen capacities for all communities, both large and small.

Similarly, SNSMR partners with Service Canada in many areas, most notably on the sharing of vital events information. The province already showcases an innovative inter-jurisdictional model for businesses, the Nova Scotia Business Registry, a fully streamlined process for business registration and reporting with Canada Revenue Agency and the Worker’s Compensation Board of Nova Scotia.

This fall, the deputy minister of SNSMR, Greg Keefe, is hosting the third national meeting of federal, provincial and territorial deputies responsible for integrative service efforts across the country.

Keefe will also moderate a question and answer session with some of his deputy colleagues from other Canadian jurisdictions, as part of the Dalhousie – IPAC Nova Scotia symposium on service transformation taking place in Halifax on November 14 and 15.

This event itself is a collaborative initiative between SNSMR and Service Canada meant to deepen the conversation on cross-jurisdictional service delivery and what governments in Canada can and must do – on their own as well as collectively. For more details visit

Jeffrey Roy is associate professor in the School of Public Administration at Dalhousie University. He can be reached at

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