Editor's Remarks / Un mot du rédacteur
I am honoured to address you for the first time as Editor of the Canadian Journal of Program Evaluation (CJPE). As a former Book Review Editor and Associate Editor of the journal, I am tackling my new responsibilities with a solid sense of all that has been accomplished thus far and great enthusiasm for what is to come next. I want to thank Robert Schwartz for his leadership during his 7-year tenure; his influence and impact on the Journal’s quality and reach will be felt for years to come. I have the privilege of being accompanied on this journey by a skilled and dedicated editorial team made up of Emily Taylor, Astrid Brousselle, Jill Chouinard, and Jane Whynot, four women with considerable combined experience in evaluation, academia, government, and consulting. Two student volunteers have recently joined our team: Hélène Lévesque and Michelle Naimi. Their contributions are already much appreciated. We are grateful for the support and advice of our continuing and new Editorial Board members who have all made a 3-year commitment to the CJPE starting this year. Thank you!
Linking Evaluation and Spending Reviews: Challenges and Prospects
The global financial crisis in 2008 was a significant watershed for governments everywhere. Diminished prospects for growth coupled with continuing demands for government interventions and chronic constraints on resources, prompted in part by the widespread adoption of variants of neo-liberalism (constrain resources to limit spending and shrink governments), have created fiscal environments where rationing expenditures among programs and policies is chronic and even acute.
The Role of Evaluation in Spending Review
The role of spending review is to identify savings options that enable governments either to find fiscal space for priority new spending or to cut aggregate spending. Spending review has been extensively used by governments around the world in the wake of the global financial crisis in 2008, and many governments are now seeking to institutionalize spending review as a permanent part of the budget preparation process. The effectiveness of spending review is critically dependent upon the quality of its information base—that is, of the expenditure analysis and performance indicators that can assist in the search for savings options. Evaluation is an essential part of this information base. However, ensuring that the potential of evaluation to inform spending review is realized will require considerable reflection on the design, selection, and conduct of evaluations.
Linking Evaluation to Expenditure Reviews: Neither Realistic nor a Good Idea
It is frequently assumed and not contested that evaluation should play a significant role in budgeting and, more specifically, in expenditure reviews. This article argues otherwise: that evaluation is neither fit nor designed to play such a role. Rather, if there is a desire by budget officials for credible evidence on the performance of interventions, then they need to invest in a different form of evaluation, namely, expenditure evaluations, separate and distinct from ministry-based evaluation.
Strategic Evaluation Utilization in the Canadian Federal Government
Given the potential of the federal program evaluation function to inform decision-making at the highest levels of government, this project sought to investigate the nature and extent to which program evaluation findings are used as part of spending reviews and other reallocation exercises in selected government organizations. The multiple case study design used in this investigation included a qualitative content analysis of evaluation reports published between 2010 and 2013, as well as a series of key informant interviews conducted with evaluation staff and program managers. The findings show very little evidence of strategic evaluation utilization by organizational leaders. This is thought to be due to a few key factors: (a) the requirements of the 2009 Policy on Evaluation that was in effect at the time of the study; (b) the program-level focus of the evaluations; and (c) the public nature of the evaluation reports.
Expenditure Reviews and the Federal Experience: Program Evaluation and Its Contribution to Assurance Provision
Various forms of assurance are being demanded by different constituencies in the federal public administration. One form of assurance is that of financial accountability, and spending reviews are an essential input to processes that contribute to federal budgetary and expenditure management decisions. Program evaluation has also been an important contributor, but it may be the case that this federal function is overextended in that contribution. It may be time to consider removing this responsibility and attaching it to other functions, thereby affording the function to better focus on what it does best: contribute to program improvement, including effectiveness. This would also mean a shift in evaluation culture to one of learning, rather than accountability.
Sunshine, Scrutiny, and Spending Review in Canada, Trudeau to Trudeau: From Program Evaluation and Policy to Commitment and Results
This review surveys experience with evaluation practices in the government of Canada since the mid-1960s, particularly with respect to spending reviews, concluding that there is little reason to expect any direct link from ongoing evaluation practices to cabinet decisions. The renewed commitment to evidence-based decision-making announced by the new Liberal government is unlikely to change this conclusion. The introduction of deliverology as a support function centred in the Privy Council Office shifts attention from policy formation to implementation and program delivery, with important emphasis on innovation and adaptation. But the crucial challenge still rests in achieving greater public access to information and greater inclusiveness in decision processes. For academic leaders in public administration, attention now should shift from terminological and doctrinal disputes to anticipating the important consequences of machine learning and artificial intelligence for education and future professional practice in public policy.
Regards sur l’expérience de la Commission de révision permanente des programmes au Québec
This paper focuses on the work done by the Commission de révision permanente des programmes (CRPP) in Quebec. Based on a literature review, we present: 1) a description of the CRPP including the context surrounding its creation, its approach, the content of its reports as well as its recommendations; and 2) a portrait of the influence of the CRPP by exploring whether or not government decisions have taken its recommendations into account. The findings that emerge from our analysis lead us to conclude that the recommendations of the CRPP have not fully been implemented, but that they had an influence or a symbolic role in relation to the recent budget cuts undertaken by the government. They also contributed to the institutionalization of a new permanent spending review mechanism. In our discussion, we raise a number of questions, including the nature of the work of the CRPP and the linkage between review exercises and the evaluative function within government.