Sarah Schacht

Sarah Schacht

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Canada, Eh?

January 23, 2010 , , , ,

Oh, Canada, my almost-home and almost-native land.  If the 48th parallel had been ditched for the 47th, I’d likely be a Canadian citizen right now.  Instead, I grew up American and watched a lot of Canadian TV as a kid.  I can do a fairly good Canadian accent when pressed, and appreciate a good dill pickle-flavored potato chip. I can sing the Canadian national anthem because all my extra-curricular activities as a kid involved teams from Canada.

That said, I’m decidedly American.  I have what the Canadians consider an unusually ballsy approach to citizen engagement; I’m more a fan of becoming the government than protesting it. I think, if you’re smart, passionate, and skilled—run for public office and replace someone who isn’t.  This isn’t normal in Canada.

Fine with me. I really respect the work that my Canadian peers are doing lately. From Web of Change’s world-rocking network, led by Canadians, to David Eaves, to the David Suzuki Foundation, to David Hume’s work in the BC government on civic engagement. (If you’re noticing a trend, yes, many open government leaders in Canada are named David.)  Canadians are taking real steps towards opening up their government towards civic inclusion and transparency.

Some of my American colleagues from the other Washington think I’m refering to them whenever I mention BC.  Conversations will go on for 20 minutes when they think I’m referencing their city, only to be shocked when I clarify, “No, I’m talking about British Columbia, not the District of Columbia. Not everything is about the Beltway.”

And so, here I am, in Canada again, fresh of a great concert at the Orphium Theater in Vancouver, and great conversations with my Canadian colleagues.  I’m determined to make Canada’s voice a strong one at Open Gov West because I believe their voices are crucial to creating real open government standards and policies that are flexible enough to adapt to various governmental configurations.  It’s also necessary because we need collaboration across boundaries, like the 48th, because many of the challenges we face as governments cross our borders.  —From pine beetles taking down our forests, to being able to mobilize in a regional disaster, to CO2 emissions, the issues we face don’t care about what side of the border you’re on.

So, it’s incredibly important that we work together on open government initiatives and open data standards—that work serves as the basis for our governments and our citizens to work together against our common challenges.

…And this is why I’m so excited to have the likes of Eli van der Giessen and Campbell McDonald, and David Hume, and David Eaves on Open Gov West’s convener team. I’m thrilled to have my Canadian counterparts on board with OGW—what they’ll bring to the conversation will be so important.

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