A Federal Government - Voluntary Sector Accord: Implications for Canada's Voluntary Sector


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Learning from Experience, Respecting Differences

Newfoundland's Strategic Social Plan

While the Newfoundland government and voluntary sector have not set out to reach an "accord," they have found ways over the past five years to work together to the mutual benefit of both.18 A key actor on the voluntary sector side was the Community Services Council(CSC) of Newfoundland and Labrador, which for more than a decade had been advocating for the establishment of a Strategic Social Plan for the province in annual meetings with the Social Policy Committee of the Newfoundland Cabinet. While the CSC does not officially or formally "represent" the voluntary sector in the province, it has demonstrated a co-operative and collaborative approach and a leadership role in pursuit of its mandate which centres on social development research, planning and service provision.

Beginning in 1988, with its first briefs to the Cabinet's Social Policy Committee (which in the 1990s was attended by the Premier), the CSC brought to government the key messages of the importance of the voluntary sector, the strong link between economic and social development, and the need for a social plan to support both. In spite of its persistent articulation of these messages, when the 1992 Throne Speech announced the government's intention to develop a strategic social plan, the CSC was caught somewhat by surprise. In 1993, the Executive Director of the CSC, Penelope Rowe, was invited by the province to join a strategic planning group whose other members were deputy ministers. By 1996, a public consultation paper had been prepared, with consultation to be overseen by a Social Policy Advisory Committee, on which Rowe also sat. The engagement process included not only consultations within the public service, but stakeholder sessions and public dialogue in meetings that took the Committee to all parts of the province, including remote, isolated communities. Its report on the consultations was released in 1997.

The first Strategic Social Plan (SSP) was issued in 1998, and recommended a shift to early intervention and prevention approaches in social policy, place-based development, and extensive community-capacity building.19 One of the strategies to accomplish these goals is the creation of regional steering committees whose membership includes local health and education institutions, along with community services organizations, and whose responsibilities are to apply the Plan to their own communities and make recommendations to the provincial government on particular regional initiatives that would meet the goals of the SSP. Demonstration project funding began to flow shortly afterward as well. Outstanding issues as of late 2000, according to Rowe, centred on how these regional steering committees would relate to provincial government departments and how communities would be engaged in their operations. A government commitment that will follow as part of the SSP is to undertaken a social audit, drawing on community, regional, and provincial accountability measures.

Although not an official compact or accord, the process of developing the Strategic Social Plan and its unfolding shifts in both policy process and substance have combined to give voluntary organizations a more significant role in establishing social goals for the province, and in helping to meet these goals through their own increased capacity.

Notes

18. Information on Newfoundland's Strategic Social Plan were drawn from a presentation by Penelope Rowe to Queen's University's First Annual Conference of the Public Policy and Third Sector Initiative, delivered October 21, 2000 and entitled "Newfoundland And Labrador's Strategic Social Plan: Forging a New Model for Collaborative Government-Third Sector Action", along with press releases from the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, dated from 1997 and 1998.

19. See Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, People, Partners and Prosperity: A Strategic Social Plan for Newfoundland and Labrador (St. John's, 1998). Available at http://www.gov.nf.ca/ssp/


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