The 10th Lac Carling Congress may have been a watershed event. It marked the emergence of municipalities as the project directors who are taking citizen-centred service delivery beyond the conceptual stage – to a work in progress.
Answers have begun to emerge at the municipal level to questions that have plagued participants at Lac Carling for years: How can we demonstrate a compelling case for interjurisdictional service alignment? How can we get politicians and the public to pay attention?
How can we develop structures on which to build service transformation? A groundswell of activity is beginning to build at the municipal level.
Not all of it has been initiated by the municipalities themselves, but the results are visible there at points of service delivery.
A program here, an initiative there – not enough momentum yet to be broadly noticeable, but perhaps enough to show that a new era is coming.
Among the signs:
A couple of projects are beginning to provide models for how interjurisdictional service delivery can work.
Some of the technological foundations necessary for service transformation are being addressed collaboratively.
New service delivery structures are being created that are saving money and attracting political support.
It was appropriate that these trends surfaced at Lac Carling X, where the theme was “Applying What We Have Learned” and where the 35 municipal delegates represented fully one-quarter of the total government contingent.
Since municipalities began sending significant numbers of representatives to Lac Carling three years ago, they have let it be known that they were eager for action.
Both formal sessions and informal conversations showed how municipalities are discovering their role in creating the edifice of citizen-centred service – not necessarily as planners or architects, but as the developers, construction crews and interior designers who turn concepts into concrete.
Lessons From Projects
Municipalities have been involved with all three of the best-known interjurisdictional projects of recent years – BizPaL, the Seniors Partnership and eContact.
eContact has stalled for lack of funds and leadership, but the others appear to be providing models that could be applied to future projects – and, significantly, are attracting long-awaited political attention.
BizPaL (www.bizpal.ca) is a permit and licence identification system.
Integrated into municipal Web sites or portals, it gives business owners and entrepreneurs a single point of contact so they can find out what permits and licences their businesses will need from municipal, provincial/territorial and federal governments.
BizPaL has become the standard-bearer for interjurisdictional projects in recent months. No fewer than seven sets of co-ordinated news releases have been issued since December 2005 about BizPaL, led by its creator and champion, Industry Canada.
Most of the releases have announced new partners in the initiative.
BizPal is now offered by:
Whitehorse and seven other municipalities in the Yukon;
Saskatoon and the Province of Saskatchewan, which has plans to expand the service to Regina and Moose Jaw;
The Region of Halton, Ontario, and two of its towns, Halton Hills and Milton, with the nearby City of Burlington soon to join them;
The City of Ottawa;
Natural Resources Canada, which recently created BizPaL Plus, a pilot project to help natural resource businesses engaged in wind power development and mineral exploration in British Columbia, and mineral exploration in the Yukon, by providing information on government approvals and other requirements.
BizPaL won a Public Service Award of Excellence announced as part of the National Public Service Week activities in June.
Industry Canada’s BizPaL Secretariat and its partners from across Canada won in the category of Excellence in Citizen-focused Service Delivery.
“It’s really energizing to be involved with a project like this,” says Jane Kralick, senior project officer with the BizPaL Secretariat in Ottawa. “It’s breaking new ground.”
The model works partly because it delivers services and benefits at the municipal level, where they are most visible, without demanding municipal investment to sustain it.
Participants such as Ralph Blauel, technology director for the Region of Halton, and Frank Mayhood, manager of IT for the City of Kamloops, report that BizPal has produced genuine improvements in service delivery. Mayhood told a Lac Carling X plenary session:
“The process mapping that we went through exposed all kinds of interesting ways to redress redundancies in our organizations.
We’ve already made some changes in our business processes to reduce the burden on businesses.
There are opportunities for that across all of the jurisdictions.”
BizPaL also works because it standardizes back-end processes and taxonomy while providing flexibility to partner organizations to adapt the service to meet local needs.
“The key part of the BizPaL project in my mind is that we’ve managed with this technology to separate branding from delivery,” Mayhood said.
“We can maintain our own identities and still participate in a shared delivery process.”
More growth is targeted.
The 2006 federal budget allocated $6 million over two years to the expansion of BizPaL, and provincial partners are also contributing to its cost.
There is no uncertainty over the commitment to BizPaL.
Seniors Portal Using a similarly successful model – top-down funding, bottom-up service delivery – the federal and Ontario governments have revived the Collaborative Seniors Portal Network.
They have established a pilot project involving 20 municipalities, which they hope will be a model for delivery of information about services for senior citizens across the country.
“I think this might be the critical mass that we’re looking for,” Joanne Harrington, director of the Seniors Cluster at Veterans Affairs Canada (on secondment to Treasury Board Secretariat CIO Branch) said in an interview at Lac Carling X.
The 20 small, rural Ontario municipalities will each be allocated their own pages within www.seniorsinfo.ca.
Aside from finding people to manage the content of their pages, the municipalities are not paying to participate in this project.
Funds come mostly from the Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration, with some help from Veterans Affairs Canada.
“With this pilot project, families and caregivers in those communities are going to have access to standardized information across federal, provincial and local community programs and services,” Harrington said.
As with BizPaL, the driving force behind the Collaborative Seniors Portal Network is a federal department with spending clout and a vision for collaborative service delivery.
The initiative had been largely invisible since 2003, when a seniors’ portal was established in Brockville, Ont., but Veterans Affairs spent most of 2005 developing a new business and technological architecture for the portal.
Ontario followed suit, and by November last year had developed a five-year plan and a framework that they were ready to offer to small municipalities.
“Any other province should be able to pick this up and replicate it because it was done in a generic way,” said Walter Bilyk, director of technology and business solutions for the Community Services I&IT Cluster, which supports the seniors portfolio in the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration.
The ministry has developed a five-year plan to expand the portal, and the project has at least some degree of political support – a letter from Citizenship and Immigration Minister Mike Colle helped recruit the 20 municipalities – but the future of the Collaborative Seniors Portal Network will largely depend on Veterans Affairs.
The federal department has a 12-month budget in place for the portal network and is working on its long-term strategy, Bilyck said, adding, “There is a renewed interest by the federal government to move this across the country.”
The Way to Authentication
It is often said that casual conversations at Lac Carling are as important as the formal sessions. At Lac Carling X, delegates from the municipal and federal levels of government started to talk seriously for the first time about finding a mutually workable way for citizens to be identified, authenticated and authorized to obtain government services and carry out transactions.
“You’ve got to admit that, from the taxpayers’ point of view, if they know they can buy their dog licences with the same certificate that they use to file their income taxes, that’s a good use of their money,” Gerry Matte, information technology manager with the Municipality of Sannich, B.C., and president of the Municipal Information Systems Association of British Columbia (MISA BC), remarked at lunch on Monday to Maureen Tapp, director general of the Assessment and Benefit Services Branch of the Canada Revenue Agency.
Tapp did, indeed, agree, and so did other federal officials who attended an ad hoc meeting with MISA representatives later that afternoon.
Ottawa has wanted to have such dialogue for a long time, according to one of the participants in that meeting, Nancy Desormeau, director general, enterprise partnership management, Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC).
Desormeau is directing the transition of Secure Channel and its authentication system, ePass, to a utility model in which government departments will pay the private sector to facilitate transactions on their network.
She told a Lac Carling session on the day of the meeting with municipalities, “I can remember back in 1999-2000 when a group of us were putting the early plans together for the federal government’s online initiative, we talked about some of these things.
“We looked at all the pieces of information you might use to prove the identity of a citizen in an online environment, and quickly came to the realization that the federal government doesn’t own very many of those things.
It is another level of government that issues birth certificates and drivers’ licences and so on.
So how could we link with other levels of government to provide identity for some of the programs we need federally?”
Until recently there was no municipal organization to which Ottawa could address that question.
Now there is: The opening of Lac Carling X witnessed the announcement that the first directors’ meeting of MISA/ASIM Canada had taken place the day before, on Saturday, May 13.
This is one of two new municipal organizations formed to advance the citizen-centred agenda (see sidebar).
Since the Lac Carling discussions, MISA/ASIM Canada has begun talking with the federal government about how to implement mutually compatible and affordable authentication systems.
In British Columbia, Gerry Matte is spearheading the development of a MISA/ASIM Canada authentication project within the umbrella of the Public Sector CIO Council.
On the opposite coast, Daya Pillay, manager of e-Commerce & Web services for Halifax Regional Municipality, treasurer of MISA Atlantic and a board member of MISA/ASIM Canada, is involved with a potential authentication project under discussion between PWGSC and the Nova Scotia government.
Municipal Reference Model
MISA/ASIM Canada is also organizing a project to revive the Municipal Reference Model. This is a standard to define and categorize municipal programs and services, and could be an enabler for more interjurisctional projects such as BizPaL.
The reference model has a long and complex history.
It was initially developed in the early 1990s by a group of Ontario municipalities under the auspices of MISA Ontario, with assistance from consulting firm Chartwell Inc.
Chartwell later worked with the Ontario and federal governments to develop versions of the model for them.
The federal version, called the Governments of Canada Reference Model, was one of the standards behind Industry Canada’s development of its Business Transformation Enablement Program, the methodology that guides the services-mapping process used for BizPaL.
One of the first decisions of the new MISA/ASIM Canada Board of Directors was to authorize a project, under the organizational leadership of MISA Ontario, to bring the old Municipal Reference Model up to date and make it available to any municipality to help align services and overcome redundancies with other levels of government.
Roy Wiseman, CIO of Peel Region in Ontario, and municipal co-hair of the 2006 Congress, and others who are leading this project hope that it can be accomplished in about a year.
Shared Services Municipalities in several provinces are participating in shared service initiatives that could cachet to the collaboration brand.
One of them was described at Lac Carling by Holly Fancy, director of strategic initiatives with Nova Scotia’s Office of Economic Development, and Bob McNeil, director of technology & communications with Cape Breton Regional Municipality.
Under a public sctor licensing agreement initiated in 2000, Nova Scotia has purchased 86,000 user licences for a SAP enterprise-resource-planning system.
It is providing licences at nominal charge to public sector organizations throughout the province. Municipalities representing about half the province’s population, including Halifax Regional Municipality and Cape Breton Regional Municipality, have signed on.
Fancy said the agreement has reduced the total cost of software ownership by millions of dollars for the province’s public sector. McNeil said it has brought “amazing” changes to business processes – such as a reduction in accounts payable staff at the regional municipality to one person from 12 – and has given the municipality access to world-class software that otherwise would have been unobtainable.
“We really believe in one taxpayer,” McNeil said.
“We always look for the winner to be the taxpayer.
In this case, the taxpayer won a lot.”
Similar agreements are being implemented in Alberta and Manitoba.
The growth of 3-1-1 systems, another form of advancement in infrastructure, is helping to make citizen-centred service delivery tangible.
Calgary, Gatineau, Quebec, and Windsor, Ontario, have implemented such systems, which rely on a single telephone number for public access to non-emergency municipal services, backed by CRM technology that encourages the alignment of services and tracks their delivery to citizens.
The broader significance of 3-1-1 is that it has set a new standard for municipal service delivery that has caught the public’s attention and is beginning to be championed at the political level.
An example can be seen in the City of Toronto, which is to launch a 3-1-1 system late in 2007 that will include the conversion of the Metro Hall Council Chambers into a call centre – with political support.
“We have had six of the most visibly conservative councillors working with staff for the past 18 months building a movement, really, for 3-1-1,” Sue Corke, deputy city manager for Toronto, told the Congress.
The 3-1-1 implementation calls for the collaboration of 14 service delivery divisions and, since Toronto is Canada’s fourth-largest government, mirrors the experience of service-delivery integration across provincial ministries, Corke noted.
John Davies, executive director of information technology for Toronto, cited the 3-1-1 project as an example of how service issues tend to rise to the political level faster in municipalities.
“Since councillors are involved with project and policy decisions that affect the services we provide, there is more awareness of electronic service delivery in the municipal sector than there might be at the higher levels of government,” Davies observed.
The accumulated trends and initiatives visible at Lac Carling X have given municipal delegates confidence that their hands-on approach is helping to lay the foundation for citizen-centred service.
MISA/ASIM Canada President Kevin Peacock of Saskatoon said: “Municipalities are playing a leadership role, rather than being the guys at the end of the queue.
We need to be the ones to move the agenda forward, because it is at the municipal level where the citizen feels that he touches government first and foremost.” Gerry Matte of MISA BC commented: “The municipal governments are now raising issues to the more senior governments.
The difference I see between now and five years ago is that, then, they would have had to be persuaded that we need to talk.
They don’t need that persuasion any more. In fact, their eyes light up.”
The newly self-confident municipal view was expressed most succinctly by Georganne Dupont, manager of information systems for the Town of Airdrie, Alta., and president of MISA Prairies.
Asked what role municipalities have assumed in government transformation, she said simply, “We’re the doers.” 068044
Lawrence Moule (email@example.com) is co-editor of Municipal Interface, the national professional journal of the Municipal Information Systems Association.