Forum roundtable explores joint service delivery in Canada and other countries

Tony Dean, School of Public Policy and Governance, University of Toronto

The Forum of Federations sponsored a roundtable in Ottawa on October 21, 2011 on the theme Joint Service Delivery in Canada and Other Federations. The event was attended by some 30 participants from the federal, provincial, territorial and municipal governments, and leading Canadian academics and researchers in public management and governance.

The presentations demonstrated that joint service provision can range from coordination of delivery by different departments/agencies in one or more governments to real or virtual co-location and/or the integration of multiple channels (e.g. in-person, telephone, online). Some initiatives have focused on bundling services associated with ‘life events’ such as births and deaths. Others have led to the consolidation of transactions for certain sectors business, for example. A more recent development, notably in the United Kingdom, is the introduction of "wrap-around services,” where the focus is on multiple-needs clients in the human services and justice sectors and collaboration among service providers at the community level.

Efforts to join up services within single governments face a number of challenges, including ‘turf protection,’ concerns about reduced budgets and staff, and privacy protection. Interjurisdictional collaboration raises additional issues. For example, governments may be concerned about loss of visibility and recognition for their longstanding programs. That said, participants learned that, particularly in Canada and Australia, a number of initiatives have led to coordination or joint delivery of services on the part of federal and subnational governments (in some cases including municipalities). In most cases, leadership has come from the senior public service (and not the political level), progress has been incremental and the extent of multilevel collaboration achieved to date varies across the country.

Citizen expectations of accessible and timely service have been key drivers of both kinds of service delivery transformation. A number of participants stressed that clients will expect further improvement in this regard e.g. to allow certain transactions from mobile devices. The search for cost savings has also been a factor behind moves to integrate services, and this could become more important as governments continue to reduce their budgets. In this regard, participants expressed divergent views as to whether the present fiscal climate can be expected to bring significant further progress on joint service delivery, including between jurisdictions.

For further details about the presentations and discussion, see the report prepared by John Langford and Leslie Seidle. Read Report

The Ottawa roundtable is part of a Forum of Federations comparative project examining the current status and future directions of joint delivery of public services in federal and quasi-federal countries, with a focus on initiatives involving the federal (or national) and subnational levels of government. To spearhead the project, it commissioned Tony Dean (former Cabinet Secretary, Government of Ontario) and Marie Boutilier (University of Toronto) to prepare a background report covering experiences in Canada, Australia, Germany and the United Kingdom. Read Report

Joint Service Delivery Event Oct 21, 2011. Ottawa,Canada

Conference presentations and related materials:

Tony Dean / Marie Boutilier
Kenneth Kernaghan
Karen Jackson (Service Canada)
Guy Gordon (Institute for Citizen-Centred Service)
Nicholas Gafuik (Manning Centre for Building Democracy)
Richard Steele (Service Ontario)
Pierre Rodrigue / Myriam Cyr (Services Québec)

Joint Service Delivery Event Program

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