Ontario Newsroom

Open Government Keynote

Archived Speech

Open Government Keynote

Office of the Premier

Hello, Bonjour, Ahnee, Bojoo.

I want to acknowledge that we are on the traditional territory of the Algonquin and Anishnaabe Peoples.

I wish to recognize the long history of First Nations and Métis Peoples in Ontario, and show respect to them today.

Thank you, Deb, for that introduction.

It is a pleasure to be here today with Joe from the Open Government Partnership, Kevin from Facebook and Edwin from the OECD.

I want to thank Don and Tim from Canada 2020 for hosting this event.

And I want to thank all of you for making the time to be here today to be part of this important conversation.

For years now, Canada 2020 has been an advocate for more open government, and I am pleased to be here today to speak about what the Ontario government has accomplished -- and what we intend to do next.

[Depuis plusieurs années déjà, Canada deux-mille vingt défend l'avènement d'un gouvernement plus ouvert, et je suis heureuse de prendre la parole devant vous, aujourd'hui, pour parler de ce que le gouvernement de l'Ontario a déjà accompli dans ce domaine et de ce qu'il prévoit entreprendre.]

I know that you have already heard from Minister Matthews -- who has been working diligently and passionately to advance our commitment to open government and better engage both citizens and organizations.

Today, I want to highlight some broad steps we are taking to support our ambitious plan to increase and improve the ways in which citizens interact with the government of Ontario. And I want to let you know what you can do to help.

[Je veux vous présenter aujourd'hui quelques-unes des mesures phares que nous avons prises pour soutenir notre plan ambitieux visant à développer et à améliorer les possibilités d'interaction entre les citoyens et le gouvernement de l'Ontario.]


Ontario was once a collection of small agrarian communities and towns -- everyone knew everybody else in their community.

Politicians ran their constituency  offices out of their homes.

People had direct access to their politicians.

But, over time, our communities have grown and it has become harder to stay connected.

I got into politics partly because I didn't believe that government was engaged or responsive enough to the needs of communities.

So I'm excited about what digital technology can do to help us reconnect.

[Je suis notamment entrée en politique parce que j'estimais que le gouvernement n'était pas suffisamment à l'écoute des besoins de la population et qu'il n'y répondait pas de manière satisfaisante.]

Technology is not an end in itself, but it does offer us a way to bring people together and to help our government better serve the people of Ontario.


15 years ago, the barriers we faced in opening up government were both institutional and physical.

In an analog Ontario, there were real limits to engagement.

So I consider myself lucky to be Premier at a time when the technology has developed to the point where open government's potential can be realized.

My end goal is simple: I want Ontario to become the most open, transparent and digitally connected government in Canada.

[Je veux que l'Ontario devienne le gouvernement le plus ouvert, le plus transparent et le plus branché au Canada.]

Openness and transparency can manifest in different ways. It might mean allowing government scientists to speak freely about their work and their findings -- or it might mean increased citizen engagement in policy development.

Open, transparent, digitally connected: it's good for our democracy.

It can mean better public services and a stronger economy.


In Ontario, we have defined open government in three ways: Open Dialogue, Open Data and Open Information.

[En Ontario, nous avons défini un gouvernement ouvert de trois façons : une information ouverte, des données ouvertes et un dialogue ouvert.]

Open Dialogue projects, like BudgetTalks, are including more Ontarians in the decision-making process.

Open Data means making data publicly available so that citizens and organizations can work together to create solutions that government has not traditionally delivered -- or hasn't even thought of.

And Open Information means making it easier for citizens to access government services and key information that helps them better understand how their government works.

It's my hope and my belief that Ontario can truly lead the way in all these areas.

We all know how exciting it is to live at a time when new technologies and fresh ideas can be harnessed to create powerful change.

What we need to do is bring that spirit of change to government.

To re-imagine what's possible for governments in this interconnected world, to find new ways to inform and engage the people we represent, and to reach out to a new generation of digital entrepreneurs and public servants who will help to deliver that change.

[Nous voulons trouver de nouveaux moyens d'informer et de faire participer la population que nous représentons, et de miser sur la nouvelle génération de fonctionnaires et d'entrepreneurs compétents dans le domaine numérique, qui nous aideront à réaliser cette transformation.]


Yesterday, Minister Matthews talked about some of the ways we're working to do just that -- about our Open Engagement projects that are leading the way in inclusive dialogue.

She talked about how citizen, community, stakeholder, and business feedback is shaping government policy in new ways.

The truth is, government has not always been good at listening.

So today I want to highlight an engagement project that I personally advocated for, and that means a great deal to me.

First, though, I'll give you a bit of background.

For decades, legislators have invited people from across the province to participate in a discussion over public finances.

In fact, we have a time-honoured tradition of the finance committee travelling all across Ontario to meet with folks face-to-face.

That practice is almost as old as the Budget itself.

In addition to all that travel, the government has long welcomed written submissions from interested parties.

But with all that information collected and acted upon behind closed doors, some had come to view the process as exclusive rather than inclusive.

People started seeing it as truly open only to well-organized and politically connected groups.

I want to fix that.

I want to make this process more transparent and more open -- to better engage people in meaningful discussion.

As a platform, the Internet offered a way forward. As a modern-day commons, the Internet allows us to meet people where they are.

The reality of our world is that, more and more, people prefer to interact online.

With that in mind, in 2015, the Province launched Ontario's first digital town hall.

BudgetTalks -- an interactive, real-time platform -- brought new voices to the conversation.

We had nearly 1,000 new ideas and comments shared. It went fairly well.

We proved we could do a good job of fostering a discussion online.

[Parlons budget -- une consultation interactive en temps réel -- a permis à de nouvelles voix de prendre part à la conversation.]

However, it was clear we still had work to do. For instance, we weren't as successful as we could have been at showing people how their participation actually affected public policy.

This year, our government unveiled an improved platform.

We introduced more ways to exchange and discuss ideas within different topic areas.

The response was enormous. More than 1,700 ideas were put forward.

Some 4,300 comments were offered. And more than 53,000 votes were cast on those ideas.

We also wanted to show that those comments and votes and ideas had real meaning.

For instance, Ontarians made it clear that they wanted us to continue investment in areas like transportation, health care and education.

We are. And we highlighted that alignment directly in our Budget.

And there were original ideas that came directly out of BudgetTalks that became government policy.

For example, replacing the traditional lighting we have along our highways with energy-saving

L-E-D lights.

Ontario is already using L-E-D lights on all new conventional lighting, but as a result of this push from the public via BudgetTalks, we will now launch a pilot project to test replacement of

L-E-Ds on high mast lighting on highways.

So, very soon, those driving along the 401 by Renforth Drive might notice a change in lighting -- a change for the better.

Now, look: It would be naïve, at best, to believe that putting a process online would automatically mean people will naturally start agreeing with each other on what to do.

Or with the government. But that's not what we're aiming for.

What we want to achieve with this process is dialogue.

A conversation that Ontarians can feel a part of, and one that can show them that meaningful change does happen when people engage.

That's the point to all this: citizens taking part in their democracy, and opening the doors that have felt closed to many of them for so long.

[Il s'agit justement de l'objectif : amener les citoyens à participer à leur démocratie et à ouvrir les portes qui ont longtemps semblé ferméesà beaucoup d'entre eux.]

And I know we can always do better.

Next year, we'll work to reform the Budget consultation process further, so that we can be even more inclusive, and so that even more people have a role in shaping government policy.


Being an open government doesn't end there.

There is a tremendous amount of data created and collected by government, and we think a great deal of it should be put to good use.

That's why, through our Open Data Directive, we have reached out for feedback from those people most interested in using that data.

To make that happen, we leveraged an existing online collaboration tool.

Ontarians were able to go online and use our collaboration document to help inform the directive that now governs release of the data they are looking to use.

The goal was simple: The Open Data Directive is designed to maximize public access to data. That's it.

We now have the means to share data with the people.

And the way I see it, that means we have a responsibility to share it.

The Directive applies to data that's created, collected and managed by all Ontario ministries and provincial agencies.

And it is a binding document that sets out key priorities and mandatory requirements for publishing open data for the public.

The Open Data Directive comes into force today. This is a really exciting milestone for us here in Ontario because it marks the start of a new era for open data in the province.

This isn't an overnight journey, but it sets a solid foundation in place for an open by default approach to government data from this day forward.

[La directive sur les données ouvertes entre en vigueur aujourd'hui. Il s'agit d'un événement mémorable pour nous en Ontario parce que cela marque une nouvelle ère en matière de données ouvertes dans la province.]

To make sure that happens, the government of Ontario is now required to make all data public that's not subject to certain legal, privacy, security or confidentiality exemptions.

So far, we've released 400 data sets. Some of the most popular are, not surprisingly, things that matter day-to-day to millions of Ontarians.

For example, you can now go online and use Google Earth to instantly download a map of highway traffic cameras -- or local carpool lots.

Researchers, app developers and others are also already using the information we've provided to build apps for specific commercial uses for industries that need trusted data every day.

For instance: the Gridwatch app, which was developed by EnergyMobile right here in Ottawa. It allows users to track Ontario's electricity grid hour-by-hour as well as plant-by-plant. Anyone can see how much power is being generated and by what fuel type.

You can even track carbon emissions.

Or Map Your Property, an app that's useful for folks in real estate, urban planning or engineering in and around Toronto.

It provides zoning and regulatory information, and shows things like environmental protection areas in 10 different municipalities -- all in interactive maps. It was also developed by a team right here in Ontario.

As I said at the beginning, being open needs to be about more than just improving the way government works or is perceived.

It needs to improve people's lives.

That's why my top priority as Premier is to create economic growth and jobs.

And it's why Open Data is so encouraging.

It is unleashing new economic forces and enabling new opportunities for people across Ontario.

[Ma priorité absolue, en tant que première ministre, est de stimuler la croissance économique et de créer des emplois. C'est pourquoi les données ouvertes sont porteuses de tant de promesses. Elles permettent l'émergence de nouvelles forces économiques et offrent de nouvelles possibilités aux Ontariennes et aux Ontariens.]

We're excited to know about all the ways the data we're releasing will continue to be used.

We even encourage folks to tell us when they use our data by including the hashtag #openOn.

Because we want more Ontarians to know when this information is easily accessible.

We're happy with what we've been able to do with the release of open data.

But we're so eager to do more that we'll need the help of people and organizations who are willing to come forward and engage with us.

We want to continue to engage the community in a conversation about the data they want so that we can prioritize it for release.

So you're all a big part of this process -- not just making information accessible, but making it useful for Ontarians in their everyday lives.


Open information was a huge part of our thinking with this year's budget in another way.

In our 2016 Budget, we looked for ways to fundamentally rethink how the Government of Ontario delivers digital services in order to meet public expectations.

It's the third major plank in our plan -- not merely to be more open, but to translate that openness into citizen accessibility.

During the last decade, the explosion of digital technology has revolutionized entire industries -- from transportation to sales.

Already in Ontario, nearly 90 per cent of people use the Internet regularly to shop, find information, learn new skills and socialize.

It's understandable that we expect to connect with our government in the same way we connect with anything else: anytime, anywhere, and on any device.

We want to meet those expectations. It's not enough to simply put existing processes and information online.

We have to fundamentally rethink how government programs and services are delivered in Ontario.

[Il ne suffit pas de mettre en ligne les données et processus existants, nous devons repenser en profondeur la manière dont les programmes et les services gouvernementaux sont fournis en Ontario.]

We know we need help and guidance on this.

Because, frankly, it's not the kind of change that government is accustomed to making. It is going to require a change in our culture.

So we'll be looking for help from outside experts who have done this sort of thing before.

For example, we'll be partnering with people who have experience championing digital transformation in government..

This year, we will release Ontario's Digital Government Action Plan.

It will unveil a vision for transforming government online, including creating a new digital service office -- led by a chief digital officer -- to drive change across government.

We will certainly be active in helping to cultivate the talent in the Ontario Public Service, and finding new talent outside of government to help us achieve our goals.

We plan to work with groups like CivicTechTO and Open Data Ottawa to engage civic-minded technologists.

And through internships and developmental opportunities, we'll reach out to Ontario's colleges and universities -- who are helping to educate people with the skills we need.

I recently undertook a trade mission to California where I met with the large Ontarian and Canadian expat community leading the way in Silicon Valley. 

Students with the skills we need are leaving the University of Waterloo and our other institutions to work down south. 

I am appealing to those people working in the tech sector, who have a passion for civic duty, to come and transform the way government interacts with citizens.

Internally, we will be hosting speaker sessions, training sessions and ongoing engagement to make members of the Ontario Public Service part of the process.

 We won't be able to better engage with the people we serve without the help of the public service.

Our Action Plan will serve as a public roadmap for Ontario's digital transformation -- something everyone all over the province can look to so they know what we're planning to do.

This plan will set out new organizational standards -- and empower the next generation of digital talent.

It will push government to deliver the best possible citizen experience.

It will focus on identifying digital projects that can have the greatest impact in making government easier for people - and improving how you engage with our government online.

[Nous nous efforçons déterminer les projets numériques les plus susceptibles de rendre le gouvernement plus accessible à la population et d'améliorer la façon dont elle communique avec le gouvernement en ligne.]

And by showcasing our commitment to digital innovation, it will attract a new wave of investment in the IT sector -- and that's good for our economy.


To do this, we need to build a leading government web platform.

We know that citizens don't see, or particularly care about, the structure of government.

When looking for benefits information, they don't care whether it's the Ministry of Health or the Ministry of Children and Youth Services providing the service, they just want to get the information as painlessly and as quickly as possible.

We're breaking down those barriers as we build Ontario's new website at Ontario.ca -- a searchable single destination for government information.

So far, we've migrated 9 of 28 ministries over to the site.

Next, we plan to focus our attention on the public services that Ontarians are the most eager to access online -- like health care, post-secondary education and transactional services through ServiceOntario.

For instance, we will bring all of Ontario's fragmented health information online into a world-class, one-stop website for Ontario healthcare information for patients and families, providers and practitioners.

Based on customer feedback, we will continue to redesign some of Service Ontario's key services to make them simpler and easier to use.

And we'll make it easier for students to understand their student grant eligibility and make it easier to apply for those grants -- making the absolute most of our recent decision to overhaul student financial assistance in Ontario so that more young people are getting the right information, the upfront financial supports and the certificates or degrees they'll need to succeed.

These projects are just the beginning. We want to go further.

We will examine big digital changes as well.

Like exploring additional ways to put patients first and giving Ontarians better electronic access to their personal health information.

And creating a single online digital identifier so Ontarians can seamlessly access services and information online.

We'll release further details about the projects in the coming months, but this gives you a flavour of what we want to achieve.

To accomplish our goals, we need to fundamentally reform the culture of government.

I'll pause here to focus on that last point, because culture change is no small task.

We have to remember that, as a government, we have, in some ways, a monopoly on the services and information we provide.

In the private sector, people vote with their wallets or their feet -- but when it comes to your driver's licence or health card there's no other supplier.

Historically, within government we have tended to work in silos -- expecting citizens to do business with us on our terms.

That fact can lead to a degree of complacency within government.

Why not just keep things the way they are? Why go through the challenge of reform if there is no threat prompting action?

Our goal -- my goal -- is to change that, to encourage and set in motion a radical rethink.  

We need to do a better job of working collaboratively across government to meet citizens' expectations.

Citizens are right to expect a lot from their government, and we should be constantly looking for ways to meet those expectations.

We want to make life easier for people. And we must design government digital services that will put people first, that are user-friendly, and that are simple and straightforward so that, given the choice, people prefer to use them.

[Nous devons concevoir des services numériques gouvernementaux qui placent la population au premier plan et qui sont suffisamment conviviaux, simples et directs pour que, face à un choix, les gens optent toujours pour ces services.]

This can't simply mean placing existing information, or even processes, online.

It means we need to fundamentally re-think how we deliver government to people here in Ontario.

As I've laid out here today, we need to harness new technology to create meaningful change.

We need to change -- because to be anything but a digital-forward government right now means you are simply not delivering the best-possible government to your citizens.

This process started as a big idea: to use technology to find new ways to inform people and engage them in government.

And the more we do this -- the more we put technology to work for people and government -- the more ideas we'll have.

The more we'll start thinking of new ways to make meaningful change.

And the more innovative and effective government will be.

And, ultimately, the more innovative and dynamic our society will be.

We know that digital changes will lead to economic growth across the province.

For example, the sharing economy has significant potential to drive economic growth, productivity and innovation.

Sharing-economy platforms grow more quickly than traditional businesses, due to the rapidly evolving technology that typically enables them.

In the coming months, the province will launch a more targeted consultation to help determine the best approach for Ontario moving forward, including exploring ways to further enable home-sharing and allow greater flexibility for ride-sharing.

We know that digital means a stronger economy.

Better public services.

And a stronger democracy.

[Nous savons que le numérique signifie une économie plus forte, de meilleurs services publics et une démocratie plus solide.]  

It seems like a big task, but we can do it.

We are doing it.

You are all doing it.

And it's working.

Thank you for helping to lead this change.