eDemocracy Report Highlights Shortfalls of Federal Budget Consultation

Digital Public Engagement Lessons for 2021  - Blog header-3

For Immediate Release: April 20, 2021

A major report released today outlined key budget recommendations from a coast-to-coast public engagement process. The findings of the report were shared in a February meeting with Minister Freeland and her staff, and show ordinary Canadians support the Minister’s desire for a strong child care system and other key green initiatives. But the findings show that a meaningful consultation process around this historic budget would have resulted in a much more broadly supported answer to the fundamental budget question: How do we pay for it?

In February, 2021 a group of social enterprises, individual donors and national foundations launched a national budget consultation process to answer the question: What set of fiscal policies should Canada adopt to achieve the goal of creating one million jobs while hitting the 2030 Paris target? Unlike the federal government survey (whose results were never released) this eDemocracy budget process enabled participants to selectively invest in a range of policies from universal childcare to green industries. Importantly, participants were also able to make trade-offs to balance the budget and decide if - and how - Canada should cover the net costs of these significant investments.


“We undertook an independent public engagement because we wanted Canadians to have the meaningful opportunity to get involved in this once-in-a-lifetime budget,” said Ethelo founder John Richardson. “The federal government's own survey, unfortunately, didn’t include a single number or any opportunity to compare and contrast the potential of different expenditures in terms of their ability to meet policy objectives. It was flawed from the outset.” 


The national eDemocracy budget process combined the expertise of a roundtable of economists from across the political spectrum, with a crowd-sourced democratic analysis provided by more than 2000 people from across the country. The results were weighted by political party and geographic location, to ensure representative results. Similar processes have been used by more than 100 local governments across the country, but never by the federal government.


The results of the report show that Canadian’s would not hesitate to increase taxes on the wealthy and take significant steps to close corporate loopholes, if that was the price of balancing the budget while reducing GHGs or creating jobs. There was strong aversion to the government’s strategy of “debt financing” to balance the budget. There was however clear support for a range of social programs including child care and affordable housing, and even stronger steps towards a green economy. Canadians would have spent significantly more on green initiatives than the 2021 federal government commitment.


“The government needs to move beyond using digital engagement as a - to be blunt - pre-election public relations exercise, to regarding the public as the source of intelligent analysis worthy of deep listening,” said Richardson. “Ordinary people know what policies they want, and they know how to balance a budget. When given the right tools and information, they can come up with innovative and sensible solutions. This is what democracy needs to look like in the 21st century.”


Project coordinators Ethelo and the eDemocracy Network are calling on the Government of Canada to more meaningfully engage with Canadians coast to coast as this budget is rolled out and to begin a deeper process of engagement in advance of future budgets. They are also inviting Canadians to get involved in helping to shape future independent public engagement processes to ensure that all voices are heard. 


Project coordinator Corporate Knights has undertaken a detailed economic analysis, comparing the eDemocracy results with the federal budget which can be found on their website.


For more information:

Read the full Build Back Better Report

Visit the online Build Back Better Engagement



The Build Back Better budget consultation was a project of:

  • Ethelo Decisions
  • eDemocracy Network
  • Corporate Knights
  • Trottier Foundation
  • McConnell Foundation
  • Individual donors from coast to coast.
April 20th, 2021 | | 0 Comments