Western Canada roundup

By: Sandford BorinsCo-author David Brown and I are back from our road trip in western Canada discussing Digital State at the Leading Edge and have some news and insights to share with you.In Saskatchewan, the Wall government has begun a selective purge of the senior public service, announcing that eight deputy ministers will be leaving government, and it is anticipated that there will be more changes moving down the executive ranks. The government Web site has changed very little so far, but insiders join me in predicting a major revamp (Saskatchewan's new government?) soon.As everyone awaits a spring election in Alberta, the Liberal and NDPWeb sites show some signs of election readiness, but the Progressive Conservative site doesn't. Given that the prospect of change is in the air, expect the media and cellphone videocams to be following gaffe-prone Premier Ed Stelmach and Liberal leader Kevin Taft very closely for clips to be posted on YouTube.In the Yukon, discussion centred on the affordability of broadband and availability, particularly in far-flung regions of the territory, of cellphone coverage.In British Columbia, the government is moving forward with a comprehensive plan for data sharing within government to improve services and to support policy-relevant research. The question in my mind is how the process of public consultation will be structured so as to allay fears and make the strongest possible case for the benefits of joined-up service delivery and policy-making.The tour also provided several opportunities to touch base with public administration academics. As a former president of the Canadian Association of Programs in Public Administration I'm deeply interested in the academic community's progress.The most exciting institutional development is that the University of Regina's Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policyis working with the University of Saskatchewan to establish a second campus in Saskatoon, with the prospect of new faculty hires in Saskatoon, and electronic links to make courses available in both places.I heard presentations from John Langford at the University of Victoria, who is studying service delivery; my co-author David Brown who is starting on a dissertation at Carleton University about the office of the federal CIO; Kathy McNutt at the University of Regina, who is using a Web-crawler to analyze the nodality of Canadian government Web sites in a number of policy areas; and Cosmo Howard at the University of Victoria, who is analyzing the use of technology by Australia's now-defeated Howard government which, like Ontario's Harris government, aimed at extending control in the provision of social benefits. I'm particularly impressed that this group includes new researchers from a variety of backgrounds. David Brown came to academics after a career at the executive level in the federal public service. Kathy McNutt recently completed a Ph.D. in communication studies at Simon Fraser University and Cosmo Howard a Ph.D. in political science at the Australian National University. These diverse perspectives will definitely enrich Canada's community of public administration scholars.

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