21 October 2008

Harper Govt 2007 "Public Consultations" on Reform - P2

This is the second of what will be six parts investigating the Harper government's "Public Consultations on Canada's Democratic Institutions and Practices." Part I can be found here.

In this post, I focus on the call for tender for this government-funded project and the two organizations which ended up being awarded the contract.

The call for tender

The call was published January 9, 2007, revised January 15 and closed January 31. Unless you know a particular tender is in the works, you would be hard-pressed to put together a decent proposal in time.

Under the Nature of Process is the following:

The public consultations will consist of deliberative citizen forums as well as a large sample national telephone survey. Deliberative processes are designed to delve beyond top-of-mind approaches and provide a detailed understanding of citizens' considered perspectives on complex issues. They take a sample of citizens that is roughly representative of a cross-section of the larger population; have them learn about an issue in an objective/impartial manner....

The resulting report will identify priorities, values and principles which Canadians believe should inform democratic reform. It will also provide an assessment of the views of citizens regarding various options for change. [My emphasis.]

The items stressed will feature in my future analysis of the actual process undertaken in these "deliberative citizen forums," particularly in light of the conclusions in the investigators' final report.

Also among the project requirements listed in the call for tender is a telephone survey and workbook for participants. The outcome of the survey is to provide "detailed information about the views of Canadians" on the state of Canada's democratic institutions and practices.

The workbook should enable participants to "educate themselves on the issues" and guide them through "a number of scenarios so that different broad courses of action for each issue or series of issues can be discussed. Participants are thus confronted with choices which serve to focus their views."

As I comb through the workbook, I'll be assessing the (choice of) content/issues and its framing.

Another section to highlight in the call for tender is Some of the Mandatories.

Er, "some"? If there are other mandatories, why aren't they included in the call for tender?

Any, moving along, I come to a point where I begin to suspect the fix - well, one of them - is in:

Bidders MUST submit proposals that are jointly prepared and submitted by a) one or more independent research organization(s) ("think-tank(s)") and b) one or more firm(s) that is/are principally dedicated to public opinion research. Bidders MUST clearly demonstrate that each of a) and b) have experience within the last two years conducting research related to governance and/or democratic reform and/or citizenship issues.

Further into that section there's a reference to "Annex A of the request for proposals," but I can't find an online version of that RFP.

Cost of project: Including expenses and GST, no more than $900,000.

Project Principal Investigators

The winning bidders for this project were COMPAS Research and the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.

COMPAS Research

It didn't take much reading before I hit on something which elicited "ahhAHHahh" - in suitable rising crescendo.

Our experience with the [Financial] Post taught us a lot about designing research to help a client’s bottom line.... Today, COMPAS is a research partner to CanWest, Canada’s largest media company. CanWest’s many assets include the National Post, Ottawa Citizen, Vancouver Sun, Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal, and Montreal Gazette, as well as the ... Global Television Network.

Frontier Centre for Public Policy

FCPP is a self-described prairie-focused, Winnipeg-based think tank. Without looking further than a Google search of the company name, which conveniently spits up a list of organizations and groups which use FCPP as their primary source of information, I'm guessing this think tank does research which skews to the right, maybe even the far right.

A short visit to the FCPP website (it was all I could stand) supports this view. For example, under Aboriginals, one finds this enlightened title on a recent publication: "Ask not what your country can do for you..."

Under Environment, their policy would move away from the "'command and control' style of regulation and towards the use of markets and property rights."


There's likely a lot more which could be uncovered about the tendering process and the two organizations which were the investigators of this government-funded study. But I'll leave that to others to do.

Next up: The methodology of the forums and survey, including recruitment and payment to participants.

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