PACP Committee Report
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The Honourable Shawn Murphy, M.P.
Standing Committee on Public Accounts
House of Commons
Pursuant to Standing Order 109 of the House of Commons, I am pleased to respond on behalf of the Government of Canada to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Accounts’ report on Chapter 1, "Gender-Based Analysis," of the Spring 2009 Report of the Auditor General of Canada, tabled in the House of Commons on April 14, 2010.
It is my first communication to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts as Minister for Status of Women, and it is important to affirm my strong belief in and support for gender-based analysis (GBA). GBA is a key analytical tool that enables Government decisions and actions to provide equal benefits to Canadian women and men, in all their diversity.
I would like to thank the members of the Committee for conducting a review of the Auditor General’s chapter on GBA. The Government of Canada committed to conducting GBA in 1995, and recognizes the importance of continuing to enhance the practice of GBA across all departments and agencies. Once again, at the UN Commission on the Status of Women that took place in New York this past March, countries from around the world commented on GBA in Canada as a best practice which is being replicated by many. While we are extremely pleased that Canada is receiving well-deserved recognition for its accomplishment in this area, we are equally cognizant that its effectiveness rests on sound implementation in our institutions. The work of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women, the Auditor General of Canada, and that of your Committee has ensured that the commitment remains at the forefront of our Government’s priorities.
The Committee can rest assured that the Government of Canada is fully committed to GBA. The Government is confident that the Departmental Action Plan on Gender-Based Analysis’ (GBA Action Plan) aims to accelerate the integration of GBA is making progress. Since the tabling of the GBA Action Plan, Status of Women Canada (SWC), with the support of the central agencies, has been working with departments and agencies to fulfill the expectations regarding the application of GBA and the creation of GBA framework elements. Much of the work corresponds to the themes of accountability, communication and reporting that emerge from the Committee’s recommendations, and I am pleased to address these themes in this letter.
The Committee highlights the importance of accountability mechanisms, and differing roles and responsibilities as a means of further implementing GBA across Government. Great strides have been achieved in implementing the GBA Action Plan’s commitment of clarifying the accountability mechanisms in place, including the roles and responsibilities of Status of Women Canada, the Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS), the Privy Council Office (PCO), the Department of Finance and other Government departments and agencies. The GBA Action Plan underscores that GBA is a shared responsibility across the federal Government, with responsibility for performing and documenting the analysis and accounting for results resting with individual departments and agencies, with Deputy Heads being accountable for its implementation.
The central agencies’ approach to the challenge function, including the incorporation of gender considerations in policy development, is based on flexibility, and responds to the particular context of Government business. Central agencies note that the challenge function occurs through an iterative process, the results of which are provided in advice to Ministers constituting a Cabinet Confidence. Given the confidential and time-sensitive nature of the proposals, instituting a formalized, documented challenge function would not inherently improve policy development and would expend significant resources. The challenge function ensures that decision makers have access to the best and most relevant information possible.
SWC plays a leadership and capacity building role in implementing the GBA Action Plan. As the recognized promoter and knowledge broker of GBA, SWC provides expert advice, tools and support to departments and agencies. SWC looks forward to supporting those departments and agencies less experienced in implementing GBA, including but not limited to those subject to the GBA Action Plan. Encouraging GBA’s further implementation requires dedication and commitment from all federal departments and agencies, especially those who have not yet implemented GBA, and where gender impacts of programs, policies and legislation may seem less obvious.
The Committee also noted that communicating the Government’s expectations with respect to GBA is an important part of advancing GBA practice. In order to maintain the momentum achieved to date in advancing the implementation of the GBA Action Plan, SWC and the central agencies are working collaboratively to communicate the Government’s expectations in delivering on the Plan. Panel presentations are taking place, the GBA Interdepartmental Committee meets regularly, and tools are currently in development. Moreover, SWC and central agencies are committing to taking additional steps to delivering clear messages on the technical support available (i.e. guidance, tools) for departments through existing commitments in the GBA Action Plan.
The Committee’s commitment to the implementation of GBA is welcomed, and SWC will provide the Committee with an interim status report on the progress made in implementing the GBA Action Plan in December 2010. The Government has noted the continuing improvement in advancing the GBA Action Plan in departments and agencies. Positive results from a survey undertaken by TBS and SWC in 2009, which was conducted to collect information to respond to your Committee’s questions, reveal increasing capacity in departments’ awareness and application of GBA, GBA organizational framework development, and GBA training.
In addition to the interim status report, existing mechanisms such as the Departmental Performance Report and Report on Plans and Priorities will serve as a further basis to provide regular updates on the progress achieved over the years.
I would like to thank you again for your careful attention to and work on this very important subject. On behalf of the Government of Canada, I would like to thank the Committee for its Report and for the opportunity to respond.