This toolbox has been designed to help voluntary organizations to participate in the Canadian public policy development process. We are aiming this toolbox primarily at organizations that do not have full-time government relations staff, however we expect that some of the tools and resources will be helpful to all organizations who want to participate in the various aspects of policy development/ government relations, etc.
As well as an introduction to the government and the policy development process, this toolbox provides resources on effective policy development, information gathering, advocacy, becoming involved in the process, and more.
By going from beginning to end, you can use the contents as an introduction to and resource on becoming involved in effectively participating in the public policy development process. Or, if you are already familiar with the process, you can click on any of the other section links to get more detailed information on particular aspects of effective policy development and government relations. Each section contains links to further information in the form of links to other Web sites and to lists of resources that have been collected specifically for this toolbox.
Organizations might want to use some or all of the sections in board, staff, and/or volunteer training over a period of time, or they may assign different staff or volunteers to review one section each and report back on how the information can be best used by their organization. Where organizations belong to associations of like-organizations, different sections could be handled by different organizations, each becoming expert on a different section and mentoring the others.
A policy, as defined by Pal is a course of action or inaction chosen by public authorities to address a given problem or interrelated set of problems. Atkinson observes that "policy is a theoretical construct. It is a course of action, yes, but action that is anchored in both a set of values regarding appropriate public goals and a set of beliefs about the best way of achieving those goals." The idea of public policy assumes that an issue is no longer a private affair. Policy analysis, Pal says, is the "disciplined application of intellect to public problems." It reduces to one question: what are we going to do about the problem in view?
Glen Milne, in his book Making Policy: A Guide to the Federal Government's Policy Process, describes policy "…as intention and direction. Policy directs, but does not consist of, operational programs and details."
In the best case, public policy, and public policy development should be driven by a vision of the future that builds the capacity of our society to achieve a safe, healthy, and prosperous, country. It must be recognized, though, that although all our political parties would embrace those themes, the specific policy directions they choose to achieve them may differ widely. So, from government to government and from jurisdiction to jurisdiction we must accept that people with good intentions can differ profoundly on the policies needed to achieve common goals. This produces the dynamic tension between the stakeholders in policy development, and it is from this tension, and the consensus building that accommodates it, that strong policy is developed.
For those who are new to public policy development, we have assembled a collection of case studies profiling different aspects of policy development in a number of jurisdictions. It might be useful to review some of these just to get a feel for the process.
For links to case studies on policy development, click here.