Hangout with Canada’s New Prime Minister


The swearing in of Canada’s new government today marked a passing of the torch to a new generation. It also saw a huge value shift as traditional Liberal priorities such as International Development, Democratic Institutions, and Science were recognized as full Ministries. In a Cabinet that was remarkable as Canada’s first with gender parity – an equal number of men and women as Ministers.

And one of his first actions as Prime Minister? To reach out to Canada’s youth by participating in a Google Hangout with students from across Canada.

In his post-swearing-in statement, Prime Minister Trudeau said,

“We will shine more light on government to ensure it remains focused on the people it is meant to serve. Openness and transparency will be our constant companions, and we will work to restore Canadians’ trust in their government and in our democracy. We are committed to the highest ethical standards and applying the utmost care in the handling of public funds.”

Hopefully, this represents the way that the government will again welcome Canadians into their government.


It’s come and gone. And at the end, the new Prime Minister told the students who participated that, “I’m really glad that one of my first actions as prime minister is to reach out to grade school right across the country. Politics is never supposed to just be just a speech politicians give that everyone else listens to. It’s about dialogue and conversation.”

If you’re curious about what Justin Trudeau’s first hour as Prime Minister was like, watch the Hangout below.

TweetChat with Tony Clement about Open Government in Canada

Tony Clement, Canada’s Treasury Board President and the man in charge of introducing Open Government principles to the Government of Canada, is taking his talk where the online community is – on Twitter. On Thursday, December 15, he’ll be hosting moderated TweetChats in English and French as part of the government’s consultation about Open Government.

TweetChat: Where and When

The English TweetChat will run from 5:00 to 5:45 p.m on December 15. The hashtag for the English session is #opengovchat. Because it is a moderated discussion, the host account will be @TBS_Canada, not @tonyclementcpc. The Minister will be providing answers, but they will be typed by staff members.

A French language chat will be conducted an hour earlier, from 4:00 to 4:45 p.m. EST. The hashtag for the French session is #parlonsgouvert and discussion will be hosted by @SCT_Canada.

Canada’s Open Government initiative

Canada’s Open Government initiative consists of three elements:

  • open data, making data available in machine readable formats
  • open information, proactive disclosure about the work of government; and
  • open dialogue, providing citizens with greater opportunity to have a voice in government decisions. Web 2.0 technologies will be used in this initiative.

The Canadian government has been making steady progress on this initiative throughout 2011. In March, then-Treasury Board Minister Stockwell Day announcedtwelve-month pilot project with the launch of an Open Data portal. In June, the newly re-elected government reaffirmed its intent to proceed with Open Government. On September 19, Foreign Minister John Baird signalled Canada’s intent to join the International Open Government Partnership. On November 16, current Treasury Board President Tony Clement announced that completed access to information requests now will be posted online. Then, a big announcement on November 22: Tony Clement unveiled the Guideline for External Use of Web 2.0, the reference document that will be used by Canadian Public Servants in deciding whether they should or shouldn’t. On December 2, Clement announced the addition of 4,000 data sets to the Open Data Portal.

Now, it’s our turn to have our say

Finally, on December 6, Clement initiated a public consultation on Open Government. The consultation runs from December 6 to January 16. You can see the questions they government is asking and offer your input online. During the consultation, the government is posting what they’ve heard so far. And they have promised a final report in March 2012.

The Minister’s TweetChat this week also is part of the consultation process. I plan to participate. If you care about achieving a more open government, I hope you too will participate.


Interested in diving deeper into gov 2.0 and open government?

Alex Howard writes about Defining Gov 2.0 and Open Government

Australian Senator Kate Lundy’s keynote address The Path to Open Government: The Pillars of Gov 2.0

Jesse Brown interviews Tony Clement about Open Government in Canada.





Springtime for Government 2.0 in Ottawa?

Now that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has been re-elected with a majority government, Canadians can begin to expect him to pursue some longer term objectives.

So, it was a pleasant surprise to read these commitments in the Government’s first post-election Throne Speech:

Canadians rightly expect fairness and accountability in the full range of government institutions that serve them. … Our Government will also support the efforts of the Public Service to modernize the way it works so that it can continue to provide the highest standard of service to Canadians. …. Our Government will also ensure that citizens, the private sector and other partners have improved access to the workings of government through open data, open information and open dialogue.

This is a reaffirmation of the move toward Government 2.0 that was signalled with the launch in March of and At that time, described three initiatives the Government of Canada was taking:

  • Open Data, which is about offering Government data in a more useful format to enable citizens, the private sector and non-government organizations to leverage it in innovative and value-added ways.
  • Open Information, which is about proactively releasing information, including on government activities, to Canadians on an ongoing basis. By proactively making government information available it will be easier to find and more accessible for Canadians.
  • Open Dialogue, which is about giving Canadians a stronger say in Government policies and priorities, and expanding engagement through Web 2.0 technologies hasn’t been updated since it’s launch. The front page still features the March 18 initial release and statement from then-Minister Stockwell Day. However, in light of the Throne Speech reference and New Treasury Board President Tony Clement‘s recent interview endorsing the Open Data initiative, we should start to see updates and news of further initiatives.

I’m going to follow this closely and write about it more often. I hope that you’ll follow along with me and join the discussion.

And if you are interested in this area, you also should subscribe to two other bloggers who are reporting on Canada’s open government initiatives:

John F. Moore, Canada Commits to Open Government in “Speech from the Throne”

Richard Akerman, Open Data Statement in Canadian Digital Economy Strategy Update



Connect2Canada: a community for Canadian ExPats in the United States


Here’s an example of how to use social media effectively. The Canadian Embassy in Washington is using social media to reach out to and bring together the community of Canadians in the United States.

Under the banner of Connect2Canada, the Embassy has established a Website hub, a Twitter stream, a Facebook page, podcasts, a presence on YouTube, and, of course, a traditional mailing list. They also publish stories submitted by Canadians living in the United States. And they offer a comprehensive list of Canadian Expat groups and Canada-US groups along with a calendar of upcoming events relating to Canada in the United States.

c2cConnect2Canada has drawn in more than 43,000 people who have registered, subscribed, followed or friended Connect2Canada in it’s various social media manifestations. The Website alone receives more than 7,000 unique visitors and in excess of 16,000 page views per month. That’s pretty good for an initiative that has never been advertised or promoted in mainstream media. Connect2Canada has been promoted primarily online and at face to face events.

And Connect2Canada doesn’t just broadcast information. The Embassy staff responds to comments and questions on Twitter and Facebook. In fact, the stats on unique visitors and page views were drawn from DM responses to questions I put to Connect2Canada on Twitter.

Connect2Canada. A good case study of the effective use of social media by government.

Now Serving – Social Media Breakfast in Canada

Since Bryan Person organized the first Social Media Breakfast in Boston last year, the concept has caught on and been introduced in cities across the United States.

Now, the Social Media Breakfast concept has been brought to Ottawa, Canada’s capital, by Rob Lane, Ryan Anderson and Simon Chen.

The first Social Media Breakfast in Ottawa was a great success, drawing a standing room only crowd. Mark Blevis , Melany Gallant , Stacey , and Simon Chen covered it in posts and pictures .

The second Social Media Breakfast Ottawa will be held on July 15. The guest speaker (and host) will be Rob Lane, founder and President of . (If you’re interested in attending this event, register on Eventbrite .)

SMB Ottawa co-founder Simon Chen sat down with me to talk about the Social Media Breakfasts – what they are, the upcoming event with Rob Lane and who attends these events. By the way, I thought it was interesting that Simon got the idea to bring the Social Media Breakfast concept to Ottawa while he was following the Twitter stream discussing the Boston Social Media Breakfasts.

Watch the complete videoof my discussion with Simon Chen below.

Agency Link wants to improve the way that companies select public relations firms

Competitive pitches for new business. They’re the bane of any agency or firm that must participate. And they’re also an unavoidable fact of life.

Public relations practitioners get up every day looking forward to doing great work for their clients. But in order to get the opportunity to do this, we first must win the confidence of those clients.

This is best done by developing a reputation for doing outstanding work and the network of people for whom we have done this who will then call us directly or provide us with referrals. In this situation, the battle is nearly won by the time that you hear the words, "I have this challenge that I’d like your advice on…"

However, not all relationships originate in this way.

Competitions: Costly and Capricious

Many potential clients, especially large corporations and governments, feel they need to conduct formal competitions for their business.

The way these competitions are run is highly idiosyncratic. Short list. Long list. With creative presentations. Without creative presentations. Proposal only. Proposal plus presentation. Budget revealed in advance? Maybe. Maybe not. A blind competition in which you do not know the identities of the competitors? More often than should be the case.

And costly. Boy, does it cost a lot to win a competition. A determined firm will pull in a team to research the client, the client’s industry and the client’s competitors. Brainstorm(s) will be held to develop ideas. A formal proposal will be prepared. Artwork and mock ups will be created for visual, physical and Web elements of the program. Cost quotes will be obtained and a budget prepared. All of this will be pulled together into a bid package. Then a PowerPoint will be prepared to support the team presentation, which will itself be rehearsed. Finally the team will get a chance to present their ideas to the client.

All in all, thousands and probably tens of thousands of dollars worth of time and direct expenses are invested in a competitive bid. So, it’s only natural that communications firms pine for a simple bid process that is fair and transparent.

Agency Link says it can be better

Now, a new firm, Agency Link , wants to get into the middle of the selection process with a promise to help clients find the PR partners who best meet their needs.

Agency Link offers a range of services, including audits and evaluations of existing client-supplier relationships, assessments of RFPs, assistance with search and selection of PR firms, and contract negotiations. Agency Link will work for the clients, not the PR firms. And they have published a Code of Conduct to reassure both clients and PR firms that they will conduct themselves in a fair and transparent fashion.

This is a new concept in Canada. And most PR firm heads I know are quietly supportive of Agency Link, hoping that it will deliver on the promised of a more effective selection process for those clients who use its services.

Agency Link is the brainchild of two co-founders, Stan Didzbalis and Sheila Corriveau . Both Stan and Sheila have extensive experience as PR firm principals and on the client side. Stan was the founder of BenchMark Communications, which he grew to over 50 consultants before he sold it to Omnicom. Before establishing his agency, he worked in communications at two bluechip corporations, IBM and Inco. Sheila is a former CEO of Porter Novelli in Canada. Her corporate experience includes leadership roles in several communications functions at The Dynacare Health Group.

Interview with Stan Didzbalis

I caught up with Stan Didzbalis this week in Toronto. He took a few minutes to talk to me about what Agency Link is up to.

Stan told me that there are two sides to Agency Link’s business. "One is to help clients find the right agency fit – whether it be a public relations agency, a digital marketing agency, an investor relations firm. … The second part of our business is a consulting practice. We consult with clients to help them optimize their agency relationships and get the best that they can out of their agencies."

The benefits to agencies? According to Stan, "We hope to take some of the inconsistencies out of the search process. We hope to eliminate cattle calls. We really want our clients to minimize the agency churn. The best way we can do that it to educate the clients on how best to utilize an agency resource."

Here. Here. I’ve gotta wish Stan and Sheila total success in achieving these objectives.

You can watch the video of my interview with Stan Didzbalis here.