The first step a newly elected Prime Minister takes on the road to governing is choosing the members of cabinet and giving them their marching orders. Prime Minister Trudeau set to this task with zeal when he was first elected in the autumn of 2015, and surprised many by making the mandate letters public. The CD Howe Institute asked a number of experts to draft their versions, and this post offers a slightly longer version of the mandate letter I wrote for the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development published by the Institute.
All Canadians have a right to live the life they value with dignity.
As Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, your actions should be governed by this principle, and directed to three concerns:
promoting economic well-being and ensuring that those facing challenging circumstances are able to fully participate in our society with dignity;
fostering equal opportunities and inclusion for all, regardless of family background, gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation;
enhancing economic and social resilience, whether Canadians live in families or on their own.
With these in mind, I will expect you to work with your colleagues through established legislative, regulatory, and Cabinet processes to deliver on your top priorities.
The Canadian federal government should enhance the human and financial capital of children in less wealthy families, enhance market incomes of lower paid workers, and enhance the security of working incomes by adapting three existing programs to new realities: widening their scope, making them more flexible, and making them easier to obtain.
The changing world of work is also a changing world of pay, a world that will likely lean toward greater wage rate inequalities, lower or stagnating incomes for the bottom 40 percent, and greater income insecurity for the broad majority.
I suggest three changes to current public policies that take incremental, but important, steps toward fostering capital accumulation among children from less wealthy families, increasing market incomes earned from that capital for the working poor, and finally enhancing income security for the broad majority.
These policies lean toward encouraging inclusive growth, in which the benefits of the new world of work and pay are broadly shared.
In this post I discuss the first policy proposal, which is:
Enhance human and financial capital by making community colleges tuition-free, and making the Canada Learning Bond more flexible
I have a new job! During the 2017 calendar year I am the “Economist in Residence” at Employment and Social Development Canada. I report to the Deputy Minister of this very large federal government department responsible for the major threads in Canada’s social safety net—insurance, investment, and income distribution that enhance capabilities and opportunities promoting the freedom Canadians have to lead the lives they value.
Jean-Yves Duclos is the Minister responsible, and his mandate letter is full of challenges, not least of which involves leading the development of a Canadian “Poverty Reduction Strategy,” and improving the Employment Insurance program to reflect the changing nature of work.
I report directly to the Deputy Minister of Employment and Social Development Canada, and my position is formally structured as an “interchange” with the University of Ottawa, where I will return in 2018. You can think of me as being on “loan” from my university to the public service.
The “Economist in Residence” is a new position in this department, but is modeled on a longstanding program at the Department of Finance called the “Clifford Clark Visiting Economist.” This program invites outside experts to visit the Department of Finance and work on relevant public policy issues that depend on department priorities, and also mesh with the visitor’s skills and interests. My appointment is an instance of another department doing something similar, at least for one year.
The Canadian public service is organized very differently than in the United States, where political appointments lead to a major churning of senior levels as each new government starts its mandate. This does not happen at all to the same degree in Canada, leading to greater continuity among senior management and a non-partisan basis for hiring and promotion. Some people see this as a great advantage, fostering a professional public service, but others also note some downsides, stressing the importance and value of renewal.
My job description asks me “to provide rigorous and objective advice on a range of key policy issues.” This is a refreshing opportunity, and it is exactly what I intend to do. Indeed, rigorous and objective advice is the tone I have tried to set on this blog, so if you are curious to know more about me—where I stand, how I think, what I’m interested in—feel free to read on!