The Crossing Boundaries National Council

The Crossing Boundaries National Council

The Crossing Boundaries National Council (the Council) is a not-for-profit national forum whose mission is to foster the development of Canada as an information society through a more citizen-centred approach to government and governance.

The Council helps Canadians and their governments understand and prepare for the Information Age by promoting debate and action on the special challenges and opportunities it poses for them.

The Council is co-chaired by the Hon. Rona Ambrose, Minister of the Environment, Government of Canada and Dan Bader, Deputy Minister, Municipal Affairs, Government of Alberta. It is made up of about 40 members, including senior public servants and elected representatives from each of the 10 provinces and the federal government, as well as representatives from territorial and municipal governments and the Aboriginal community.

How the Council Works

The Council pursues its mission through two broad strategies: Consultations and Working Group Projects.


Consultations include both Research and Consultation Initiatives and National Discussions.

Research and Consultation Initiatives include a variety of multi-stakeholder processes. They aim at building consensus around issues of concern to the Council and assume various forms, including online consultations, roundtable processes, conferences, workshops, etc.

National Discussions are launched by the Council on a yearly basis. They have two main goals: to arrive at a shared understanding of the issues around the topic area; and to propose practical steps that could be taken by the Council members and/or their governments to help resolve them. Each national discussion is carried out over the course of two or three Council meetings. Between those meetings the Council uses a variety of means (pilot projects, working groups, roundtables, online consultations, etc.), to engage citizens and stakeholders from the relevant areas. Approximately one half day is dedicated to a national discussion at each of the meetings where it is discussed. At the final session, members are expected to agree upon a set of practical recommendations, which are then published and which Council members are expected to take back to their respective governments.

Working Group Projects

The Council oversees a series of working groups on topics that are selected for their ability to demonstrate or test specific ways to improve government or governance in the 21st century, especially through the innovative use of new technologies. These projects are meant to be practical in nature and to complement or support specific initiatives under way in governments across the country. In this way, the working groups are supposed to act as a champion for change and a spokesperson on the issues that they are addressing. Projects benefit from the Council’s profile, experience, networks and influence. The leverage it brings is supposed to help managers overcome obstacles on the path to success. A key goal is to demonstrate that collaboration between governments can lead to specific gains in a number of areas.

How was the Council created?

Since 1997, the Crossing Boundaries initiative has fostered a national dialogue involving elected officials and public servants from across Canada and around the world on the impact of information technology on government, democracy, and citizens. The Crossing Boundaries III National Conference was held in Ottawa, May 7-9th, 2003, bringing the final phase of this research and consultation project to a close. For more information on past Crossing Boundaries initiatives, visit the Crossing Boundaries III archive.

At the conference it was agreed that the Crossing Boundaries Political Advisory Committee should explore the prospects for transforming Crossing Boundaries from a research and consultation project into a national forum. A new kind of forum was proposed that would promote dialogue and experimentation aimed at helping Canadian governments make a successful transition from the Industrial to the Information Age.

In response, the KTA Centre for Collaborative Government (the KTA Centre) launched a cross-country consultation involving all three orders of government and Aboriginal organizations. The goal was to determine interest in and support for establishing such a council. The response was been enthusiastic and the Crossing Boundaries National Council was officially launched in January 2004.