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CBNC Cit Cent Federalism Cover

Crossing Boundaries (CB) was a Canada-wide, multi-stakeholder research initiative that lasted eight years and went through four major iterations. In that time, CB involved many hundreds of elected and public officials, Indigenous organizations, stakeholders, journalists, and academics from across the country in a national dialogue on e-government. These were the early days of online services and governments were excited about the possibilities. Using a variety of engagement processes, CB generated over 40 studies and reports on issues ranging from e-democracy to online service delivery to privacy in the information economy. (To view some CB publications, go to Changing Governance or Policy, Politics and Governance Series.)

Don co-founded and co-led CB, first as a co-chair, then as CEO. In these roles, he planned and facilitated many of the events and projects, oversaw the preparation of materials for them, and was the principal writer of many of the published reports.

Crossing Boundaries I (July 1999 – December 1999)

The project began as a series of roundtables held in the Parliament of Canada and co-chaired by Don and Reg Alcock, a Member of Parliament. The goal was to examine the impact of information and communications technologies on government and democracy in Canada and to consider what would be included in a viable model of “e-government.” About 30 MPs attended the sessions and, as is clear from the final report, Crossing Boundaries: Privacy, Policy and Information Technology, the discussions were lively and the prospects promising.

Crossing Boundaries II (April 2000 – April 2001)

 In the spring of 2000, a second series of roundtables was held on Parliament Hill to build on the findings from the first round. While the project was co-chaired by Alcock and Don, this time the participants were not only MPs, but senior public servants, journalists, academics, and representatives of public-interest organizations. There was general agreement that the new technologies were fundamentally changing government and governance. With the support of several federal departments, Alcock and Don used the summer to visit all 10 provincial capitals to report on the “e-government” sessions in Ottawa, and to discuss ways that Ottawa could cooperate with the provinces on the issues. They met with over 250 senior provincial and municipal officials and elected members of the legislatures. The co-chairs then published their findings in Opening the E-Government File, a widely circulated discussion paper on e-government, which then became the impetus for a national conference on e-government in Ottawa from March 28-30, 2001. Over 400 people attended. This was the concluding event for CB II.

Crossing Boundaries III (May 2001 – December 2003)

Following the conference, a growing group of federal departments agreed to fund a third round of Crossing Boundaries, co-chaired by Alcock and Don. The process began with a second cross-country trip, this time to invite other governments to join CB III. Eight provincial and territorial governments agreed, along with an impressive list of private sector sponsors. As a result, the two co-chairs went onto conduct a series of international consultations, host several parliamentary working sessions, organize over a dozen Ottawa-based and regional forums, and concluded the project with a second national conference in Ottawa in 2003. This phase of CB also included the development of a CB website, two national surveys, and five major publications. In the summer of 2003, Reg Alcock left CB and was replaced by the Hon. Tony Valeri, House Leader in the Paul Martin Government.

Crossing Boundaries IV – The National Council (2004 – 2007)

 At the conclusion of CB III, Don drafted a proposal to make Crossing Boundaries a permanent entity – a “National Council” that would provide ongoing leadership on e-government issues. Within a few months, eight federal departments and all 13 P/T governments had agreed to join the new organization. The Crossing Boundaries National Council was incorporated in January 2004 with some 40 members, including senior public servants and elected representatives from each of the provinces and territories and the federal government, as well as representatives from territorial and municipal governments and Indigenous peoples. The Council was co-chaired by a federal minister – Tony Valeri – and a provincial deputy minister – Dan Bader, Deputy Minister of Municipal Affairs from the Government of Alberta. Don was named President and CEO of the Council. Along with his existing responsibilities, his new duties included planning meetings of the National Council, overseeing the development and implementation of its projects, updating its members on the Council’s work, and soliciting feedback on its progress.

Getting to Ground CBNC Vol 4 Cover
2007 Progressive Governance for Canadians

During fiscal years 2004–05 and 2005–06, the National Council’s budget was nearly $2 million. At the end of this period, the Council had completed 11 major projects, which included over 40 roundtable sessions across the country and directly engaged some 1200 members of the public policy community on e-government issues. The new Council also released about 20 publications. (To view many of the CB publications, click here.)

Unfortunately, the momentum was cut short by events. Following the defeat of Paul Martin’s Liberal government in January 2006, Minister Valeri resigned as co-chair of the CB National Council and was replaced by the Hon. Rona Ambrose, the new Conservative Minister of the Environment. However, the new Conservative government abruptly introduced changes to the rules on federal contributions that effectively prevented the Council from accessing the funds that federal departments had committed to it. The following summer, a decision was made to dissolve the Council. Between October 2006 and March 2007, Don formed a small working group to help him write Progressive Governance: What You Need to Know, a book-length study of the learning from Crossing Boundaries, which also served as the project’s final report. The document was released at a national conference in Ottawa in April 2007, jointly sponsored by Crossing Boundaries and Canada 2020. This was the concluding event for Crossing Boundaries.

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