Chapter 4. Transparency, citizen consultation and accountability

This Chapter looks at the extent to which the Government of Canada is transparent and consultative in its approach to gender equality policy development. A transparent government is critical to building citizen trust and, together with citizen consultation, can underpin evidence-based gender policy-making and improved gender policy results. Canada has taken steps forward in this regard in recent years, and can strengthen this through increased transparency in relation to GBA+ and embedding more systematic and meaningful citizen consultation in the policy development process.

This Chapter also considers scrutiny mechanisms in relation to the government’s actions and decisions to achieve greater gender equality. Accountability for the government’s actions on gender could be strengthened if the Parliament of Canada and the Canadian Office of the Auditor General build on their successful interventions in the area of GBA+ and incorporate a greater gender perspective in broader aspects of their work.


4.1. Introduction

Openness, transparency and accountability are fundamental to ensuring Canadians’ trust in their government. This chapter looks at recent developments in this area and assesses the extent to which openness, transparency and accountability are sufficient to support the delivery of gender equality outcomes.

4.2. Openness and transparency

In the December 2015 Speech from the Throne and the March 2016 Budget, the government committed to raise the bar for openness and transparency. Canada’s Open Government Commitments (2016-2018) are structured within four priority areas; open by default; fiscal transparency; innovation, prosperity and sustainable development; and engaging Canadians and the world.

4.2.1. Transparency

Improving the transparency of policy-making processes is a current area of focus for the Government of Canada. As indicated in Section 3.3.2., this commitment is underlined by the online publication, for the first time, of the Mandate Letters from the Prime Minister to all Cabinet ministers. A further example is provided in relation to forthcoming publication of Charter Statements (see Box 4.1). These milestones will ensure that Canadians can better understand the Government’s priorities and have the necessary tools to hold government accountable in relation to its commitments1.

Box 4.1. The Minister of Justice and Charter Statements

The Minister of Justice committed to tabling new “Charter Statements” to accompany proposed bills relating to her area of responsibility. These are prepared to help inform public and parliamentary.

Charter Statements outline some of the key considerations that inform the review of a proposed bill for consistency with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. In particular, a Statement identifies Charter rights and freedoms that are potentially engaged by a Bill and provides a brief explanation of the nature of any engagement, in light of the measures being proposed. A Statement may also identify potential justifications for any limits on the rights and freedoms a bill may impose. Gender implications raised by a Bill are included in the Charter Statement.

Furthermore, legislation introduced on June 6, 2017 made the Minister’s existing practice a legal duty that extends to all government legislation.

Source: (Government of Canada,(n.d.)[41])

Transparency is particularly relevant in the context of GBA+. New policies go through the Memorandum to Cabinet process for approval, and are routinely subject to GBA+ at multiple stages (as explained in section 3.2). However it is not current practice in Canada for these GBA+ documents to be made available to the public – even after the deliberative phase of policy-making has been completed. This reflects the cautious application of the principle of respect for “Cabinet confidences”, which is a keystone of governmental policy-making in Canada as in many other OECD countries.

The absence of proactive disclosure of GBA+ analysis can give rise to a situation where non-governmental stakeholders are unable to form a view on the quality, rigour and relevance of GBA+; nor can they draw upon the findings of high-quality GBA+ work and factor it into their own independent research. In addition, government officials themselves cannot readily access GBA+ related to Cabinet proposals undertaken by other departments, as part of the Cabinet process, which inhibits shared-learning. Addressing this lacuna in transparency and open government has the potential to boost the quality and credibility of the GBA+ approach.

The PCO – the authority on matters of Cabinet confidence – notes that the principle of Cabinet confidence applies to policy advices and submissions, and that there is nothing to prevent departments from releasing GBA+ analysis relating to final and announced policies introduced by governments reports (as distinct from the Cabinet memoranda which include advice to government). This could provide factual analysis as well as a short narrative on the impact of GBA+ on the proposal. Indeed, a similar approach is already applied in the case of environmental assessments. The Cabinet Directive on the Environmental Assessment of Policy, Plan and Program Proposals states that when a policy, plan or programme is approved, departments and agencies are tasked with preparing a public statement of environmental impact which are all accessible to the public through the Canadian Environmental Assessment Registry2.

It is recommended that, in keeping with the government’s adoption of open government principles, GBA+ analysis of final policy decisions be routinely published – either in full or in a streamlined format – at an appropriate phase in the policy cycle, to support a more informed and inclusive debate about policy options. In this regard, the 2017 Gender Statement and the 2018 Equalities Chapter, marked important steps forward. Both included a GBA+ of the government’s budget decisions, providing summary information from the GBA+ that were utilised for budget decision making. The 2018 Equalities Chapter also highlighted examples of room for improvement in Budget 2018 GBA+ and committed to publish GBA+ of all budget items starting in Budget 2019.

To further improve transparency in this area, it would be useful for the TBS and SWC to consult with PCO and issue explanatory guidelines regarding the latitude that is available to departments to publish factual GBA+ materials related to announced decisions. Analysis should be presented in a way that is clear and easily understood by all stakeholders including SWC, federal departments, parliament and civil society. The government may wish to develop an online repository where generic gender based analysis and gender-related considerations can be filed for ease of access.

4.2.2. Citizen consultation

Heightened engagement with societal stakeholders is a major trend in modern public governance. According to the 2017 OECD Recommendation on Open Government, it is considered “critical to building citizen trust and is a key contributor to achieving different policy outcomes in diverse domains” (OECD, 2017[42]) .

In line with developments across OECD countries, the government of Canada has increased citizen consultation efforts in recent years. Stakeholders from a broad range of civil society organisations (CSOs), including specific gender equality advocacy groups, report a general improvement in their engagement with government via consultation mechanisms. Some recent examples of good practice in relation to citizen consultation by the Canadian Government are highlighted in Box 4.2.

Box 4.2. Good practice example of citizen engagement in Canada

Employment Insurance Service Quality Review (EI SQR)

Employment Insurance (EI) is a foundational element of Canadians’ social safety net and provides temporary income replacement to eligible workers facing job loss, caregiving responsibilities, and sickness, along with maternity and parental leave benefits.  In 2015, challenges accessing EI services were causing stress and frustration for many citizens. In response, the government launched a Service Quality Review (EI SQR) nationwide consultation process. This was led by three members of Parliament. Consultations took place in summer 2016 and included site visits, town hall meetings and an on-line survey. The breadth of the consultations undertaken by the Panel was very extensive. Government officials administering the EI programme were encouraged to participate in the on-line survey to ensure their perspective and experiences were also considered. A summary report of feedback received through these consultations was made publicly available. The Review Panel also used the information gleaned from the consultations to develop a number of recommendations to improve the quality of service for the EI program. These recommendations were discussed with stakeholders and further refined.

Source: (Government of Canada,(n.d.)[43])

Innovation, Science and Economic Development Department gender consultations

The Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development decided to undertake a consultation exercise in 2016 to better understand how it could develop policies to improve gender equality. The department started the exercise by identifying a set of experts who could help with the consultation by acting as engagement leaders. The group consisted of 50% women and 50% men and included a number of stakeholders such as social innovators, venture capitalists and aboriginal business leaders. These engagement leaders undertook consultation events throughout Canada using their own networks. The department found that the information obtained from the consultation exercise was different from what they usually hear. The views challenged the department to think about new initiatives for women, and different groups of women, e.g., that would encourage more entrepreneurs. The department reported that the consultation has informed more inclusive policy development and recent budget proposals.

Source: (Government of Canada, 2018[44])

It’s Time: Canada’s Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence (GBV)

In 2017, the Government of Canada launched It’s Time: Canada’s Strategy to Prevent and Address Gender-Based Violence. The strategy builds on current federal initiatives, coordinates existing programs, and sets the foundation for greater action on GBV. Through roundtables, meetings, surveys and online submissions, Canadians from various backgrounds (such as Indigenous women, individuals from LGBTQ2 and gender non-conforming communities, young women, women with disabilities, men and women working to end GBV, and newcomers to Canada) shared their experiences and insights. In June 2016, the Minister of Status of Women formed an Advisory Council to serve as a forum to exchange views, share practices, and discuss research related to GBV. A broad range of members were selected for the Advisory Council based on their expertise in violence prevention, LGBTQ2 issues, cyber violence, sexual violence, violence against people with disabilities, violence against Indigenous women and girls, best practices for engaging men and boys, and the criminal justice system. 

Source: (Government of Canada, 2017[45])

The government can build on recent improvements through engaging in more systematic citizen consultation and ensuring it is meaningful for citizens. In particular, departments can build structured channels for stakeholder consultation; and create opportunities for citizen input into economic policy and GBA+, which are currently regarded as limited.

The OECD 2017 Recommendation of the Council on Open Government sets out that government should “grant all stakeholders equal and fair opportunities to be informed and consulted and actively engage them in all phases of the policy-cycle and service design and delivery”3. It is particularly useful for consultations to begin at the early stages of the policy and budget-making process, when stakeholders still have an opportunity to influence policy design. In addition, the development of feedback mechanisms from departments to citizens in relation to their engagement can help give stakeholders an understanding of the value and relevance of the consultative exercise.

Some stakeholders within public administration spoke of citizen consultation being a “luxury” in a time-constrained work environment. For their part, many CSOs, including gender equality advocacy groups also have logistical and resource issues which constrain their participation in consultation exercises. Some CSOs noted that in order to justify and sustain their engagement, it would be helpful to have a clearer sense of the role, purpose and serious intent of these consultations. Giving CSOs adequate notice of consultation events, support in relation to travel costs and flexibility in terms of how input is delivered (e.g. by videoconference) can help ensure stakeholders have equal and fair opportunities to engage. Specific efforts should be dedicated to reaching out to the most relevant, vulnerable, underrepresented, or marginalised groups in society.

Civil society perspectives have the potential to enrich the quality and the responsive character of gender-responsive, inclusive policy making. CSOs and gender equality advocacy groups often have detailed knowledge of the social and cultural barriers to gender equality and to empowering women and girls, particularly with regard to understanding the intersectionalities that are an important feature of the policy landscape in Canada. More systematic consultation with CSOs would allow government policy development to benefit from the knowledge, views and skills of these stakeholders from the outset of the policy development cycle. Rather than being considered a luxury “add-on” to policy making, structured consultations and feedback mechanisms should in general be factored into the processes and timeline for policy development. Broad-based consultation at the beginning of the each government mandate on gender implications of proposed policy directions could help overcome the time constraints of preparing individual policy proposals (as proposed in Section 2.2.5).

In addition, international experience points to the potential benefits to be obtained from ensuring that independent work to promote gender equality is adequately valued and resourced, to ensure that civil society perspectives can play an effective role in inclusive policy making (see Box 4.3). In this respect, the Budget 2018 measure providing $100 million funding over five years for the Women’s Program in order to support initiatives that build the capacity of equality-seeking organisations represents a positive step forward.

Box 4.3. Development funding for women’s organisations in the case of the Netherlands

The long-term sustainability of women’s empowerment work depends, to a great extent, on the existence and capacity of women’s organisations dedicated to the gender equality agenda. This was recognised by the Dutch Ministry of Development Cooperation and in 2008 it dedicated EUR 82 million to the third of the Millennium Development Goals – promoting gender equality and empowering women.

The funding was targeting towards women’s rights and civil society organisations to improve the position of women worldwide over a period of four years. A study by the Association for Women’s Rights in Development on the impact of the funding, found that it; expanded the outreach and coverage of their work, helped launch new programmes, strategies and initiatives, strengthened their movements and their ability to influence the gender perspectives of other movements and resulted in advocacy successes, including holding onto past gains and preventing the adoption of policies detrimental to women and other marginalised groups.

Source: (Batliwala, Rosenhek and Miller, 2013[46])

Given its leadership role and mandate on gender equality and related issues, it may be advisable to for SWC to establish an advisory panel of experts from civil society, based on the clear and transparent criteria, to help inform strategic choices. This approach would help bridge the gap between government and civil society, help root the actions of SWC in local realities and foster trust in society that views and interests of diverse gender groups are respected. Some international examples are provided in Box 4.4.

Box 4.4. Use of expert panels for dialogue with civil society

Spain’s Council for Women’s Participation

In Spain, the Council for Women’s Participation was established by article 78 of the Constitutional Act 3/2007 of 22 March. The Council is made up of representatives from central, regional and local government as well as women’s advocacy organisations. Its role is to channel women’s participation in public policy development in relation to the principle of equal treatment and opportunities for women and men. The Government of Spain consults with the Council during the development of the Equal Opportunities Strategic Plan. The Council sets up working groups which focus on different elements of the draft Plan and agree specific amendments aimed at its improvement.

Source: Government of Spain 2018

Sweden’s Gender Equality Council

A Swedish Gender Equality Council, convened by the Minister for Gender Equality, has existed since 1982. The Council is made up of representatives from over 50 nationwide organisations that work with gender equality issues. Parliament members are also part of the Council. It convenes three to four times a year and serves as a forum for information, discussion and consultation on current gender equality issues. In spring 2014, the Government's work with the Beijing Platform for Action was presented at the meeting of the Gender Equality Council.

Source: (Government of Sweden, 2014[47])

Ontario’s Stakeholder Roundtables

The Ontario Ministry of the Status of Women (MSW) plays an important role across the Ontario Public Service in applying gender analysis to many government actions, and in encouraging partner Ministries to consider gender impacts when developing policies and programs. MSW has created Stakeholder Roundtables so that it can work closely with external stakeholders, partners and experts and receive regular feedback and analysis of the gender impacts of government actions. For example, the Ontario Roundtable on Violence Against Women has been providing advice to the government on initiatives to address gender-based violence since it was established in 2015. The Roundtable is made up of over 20 provincial organisations directly and indirectly involved in violence prevention, public education, human rights and service provision to survivors.

Source: Ontario Ministry of the Status of Women 2018

Australia’s National Women’s Alliances

In 2010, after an extensive consultation, the Australian Government funded six National Women’s Alliances by the amount of $2 million Australian Dollars over three years, a step that signalled a new direction in forming collaborative relationships between women’s organisations and the government. This included, for the first time, representation of Indigenous women under their own National Women’s Alliance. These six National Women’s Alliances (the Alliances) represent almost 120 women’s organisations. They bring forward the views, voices and issues of Australian women and, in particular, women from marginalised and disadvantaged groups. The Alliances take the lead in ensuring that the voices of as many women as possible are heard, especially those who in the past have found it difficult to engage in advocacy and decision making. The Alliances are made up of a mix of issues-based and sector-based women's groups each with a distinct focus and a strong capacity for networking and advocacy activities.

Source: (Australian Government,(n.d.)[48])

4.3. Accountability for gender equality through the parliament and the supreme audit institution

4.3.1. The Parliament of Canada

The Parliament of Canada is composed of the Senate, whose members are appointed by the Governor General on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, and the House of Commons, whose members are elected by citizens in general elections. In the most recent election, a record number of women were elected to the current (42nd) House of Commons. However, women still represent just 28% of members. With the decision to appoint a gender equal Cabinet (see Section 1.2.1), the number of women among remaining “back-bench” members is relatively low; and arising from this, committees in the House of Commons are heavily male-dominated. For example, there are just two women on the 12 member House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance (FINA).

Despite the low level of women’s representation, the agenda of gender equality and inclusion is a top-level political priority in Canada, and there are strong advocates for this agenda among members in both houses. Parliamentary stakeholders report an increasing interest, among parliamentarians more generally, in the distributional impact of policies.

Parliament’s role in gender accountability

The parliament’s committees are responsible for reviewing the detail of new and existing legislation and for monitoring the activities of government by conducting reviews of, and inquiries into, programmes and policies, expenditure and appointments. The House of Commons Standing Committee on the Status of Women (FEWO) has the broad authority to study work related to the status of women (House of Commons Canada,(n.d.)[49]). Bills can be referred to the FEWO Committee, although there is no requirement for its involvement in studying bills on a systematic basis, especially those that are not explicitly seen as dealing with the women’s issues. The Committee also has autonomy to conduct its own studies. Overall, the Committee is not bound by specific Orders of Reference that determine its work programme, however Committee members have taken a strategic approach in deciding what work to cover. When not dealing with legislation, the Committee has chosen to focus its study on three key areas; gender-based assessment, gender violence and women’s economic security.

Beyond FEWO, some parliamentary committees also incorporate a gender element into their work programme. For example, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Accounts and the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights have recently examined the implementation of GBA+ in their respective areas. Also in March 2017, SWC tabled an interim progress report on the implementation of GBA+ to the Public Accounts Committee, to be followed by a final report in 2018.

However, in general, a gender perspective is not mainstreamed through parliamentary committee work, as in other jurisdictions, such as Sweden and the EU (see Box 4.5). Where committees have shown interest in the gender impact of legislative proposals (including those not having an explicit link to gender issues but which may implicitly reinforce remaining inequalities), uncertainty about the boundaries between the principles of transparency, parliamentary scrutiny and the respect for Cabinet confidences, has inhibited full engagement with the factual GBA+ material (see Section 4.2.1 above). The limited incorporation of a gender perspective in committee scrutiny has led to a feeling among CSOs and gender equality advocacy groups that gender issues are often overlooked by parliamentary committees.

It would appear that parliamentary accountability for gender equality and impact is not as robust or systematic as it could be across the wide spectrum of legislative proposals. Giving FEWO a strengthened mandate that includes examination of the gender impact of different legislative proposals (beyond those directly linked to women’s issues) could help address this. Improved transparency on GBA+ relating to new legislation and policy proposals (as discussed in Section 4.2.1) would also facilitate this more in-depth accountability function.

A strategic approach where FEWO focuses on legislation that is significant and impactful would help ensure that legislative proposals stand up to challenge for the extent to which they are gender-sensitive. In undertaking this work, there is scope for FEWO to strengthen collaboration and coordination with committees responsible for reviewing the bill, feeding in its assessment in a timely manner.

In addition, parliamentary committees should also be encouraged to mainstream gender considerations in their work (for example, through scrutinising the GBA+ assessment associated with legislative proposals they are examining).

Box 4.5. Gender mainstreaming in parliamentary committee scrutiny


The Swedish Parliament (Riksdag) introduced gender mainstreaming in 1994. This means that a gender equality perspective should be taken into account by the Rikstag and its committees in all scrutiny of the executive.  All new legislation should be accompanied by an analysis of the impact they will have on men and women. Thus, when parliament committees are examining legislation, they are able to take into account its impact on men and women and use this information to make a more informed decision when they vote on whether or not the proposal should go ahead. Gender has also been mainstreamed into budget scrutiny, with the Committee for Finance examining the annual budget for gender equality aspects as a matter of course. 

European Union

The European Parliament’s 2003 resolution on gender mainstreaming committed it to incorporating a gender equality perspective in all policies and activities (European Parliament, 2003[50]). The Committee on Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (FEMM Committee) is the main body in charge of promoting gender equality and gender mainstreaming in all the parliament’s policy and legislative processes. It coordinates a Gender Mainstreaming Network, which is composed of parliamentarians from each parliamentary committee who are responsible for bringing gender mainstreaming into their committee work. A practice of using “gender mainstreaming amendments” to integrate the gender aspect in the reports of other committees was also introduced at the beginning of the 7th legislative term and continues to be applied.

Source: (European Parliament, 2016[51])

Committee evidence-gathering and gender balance

Parliamentary committees often call on experts to give written and oral evidence that will help them hold the government to account publicly for its policies and their implementation. These experts provide an important source of external input into parliamentary scrutiny and, ultimately, public policy.

Although FEWO regularly engages with civil society, gender equality advocacy groups and other stakeholders, there remains room for improvement when it comes to witnesses giving evidence to parliamentary committees as a whole4. On the one hand, the gender balance of committee witnesses is influenced by extent to which there is gender equality among experts in a particular field. However, on the other hand, gender equality advocacy groups report that they are often unaware of committee calls for evidence, and even when they submit evidence, they get few invitations to participate in committee hearings. For example, some gender equality advocacy groups expressed disappointment that the FINA Committee does not routinely seek their inputs on public finance or economic issues, although such groups feel that they have relevant expertise.

Ensuring a degree of diversity among experts who give evidence to committees, in terms of gender, but also ethnicity, sexuality, disability, etc., helps to ensure that policy making is fully informed by the range of experiences facing Canadians, and that persistent policy gaps are highlighted and exposed to challenge.

Parliamentary committees could consider additional steps to engage more proactively with a diverse set of stakeholders, representing interests of both women and men from various backgrounds in the consultation process. This may involve publicising calls for evidence more broadly and in a standardised manner (including also social media); considering alternative ways to gather evidence; setting milestones for increasing the proportion of witnesses from underrepresented groups of society; and monitoring progress under these headings. The Parliament of Canada might learn from the efforts of the Scottish Parliament in this area (see Box 4.6).

Box 4.6. Improving gender and representation among committee witnesses in Scotland

The Scottish Parliament’s Committee Office commissioned the parliament’s information centre (SPICe) and an academic at the University of Lincoln to examine the diversity of committee witnesses and make recommendations on how the diversity of evidence heard by committees might be better recorded, and how it might in some instances be enhanced by engagement with a broader range of voices. The research was published in February 2018 and identified the following possible actions for parliament:

  1. Producing guidance for committees on the processes of selecting witnesses and issuing calls for written evidence.

  2. Producing guidance for organisations providing witnesses to committees.

  3. Improving (online) access to documentation for (particularly first-time) witnesses.

  4. Improving support for (particularly first-time) witnesses.

  5. Careful assessment of the representativeness of “representative” bodies.

  6. Consistent recording of the gender of witnesses (and, potentially, other protected characteristics), which would provide valuable information.

  7. Recording informal meetings and similar events in the reports of enquiries.

  8. Ensuring that there is sufficient time in each enquiry, where possible, for written evidence to be considered before the selection of invitees to give oral evidence.

  9. Exploring the potential benefits of emerging technology as a tool to increase witness diversity.

  10. Providing feedback to the witnesses.

  11. Monitoring the impact of these changes.

Source: (Bochel and Berthier, 2018[52])

The Library of the Parliament of Canada and gender equality

The Library of the Parliament is the main information repository and research resource for the Parliament of Canada. It provides parliamentarians with news, reference, research and analysis services so that they have the information they need to examine the issues of the day, consider legislation and hold the government to account. In line with this, the Library is responsible for providing parliamentarians with research capacity and data to support their work the area of gender equality.

The Library has been relatively proactive in the area of gender equality. For example, in advance of the Government of Canada’s 6th annual GBA+ Awareness Week, the Library released a publication on “Gender-based Analysis Plus in Canada”. In recent years, the Library has expanded its ability to respond in area of gender equality. Library staff have also produced a number of research publications on gender issues, and have been encouraged to apply a gender lens to all of their publications, including legislative summaries of private members’ bills. Furthermore, Library staff aim to be cognisant of the need for gender balance when providing potential witness lists for committees.

4.3.2. Office of the Auditor General of Canada (OAG)

The Office of the Auditor General of Canada (OAG) provides parliament with objective, fact-based information and expert advice on government programmes and activities, gathered through audits. It carries out three main types of legislative audits: financial audits, performance audits and special examinations.

In April 2008, the FEWO Committee recommended that the OAG examine the implementation of gender-based analysis in the federal government (House of Commons Canada, 2008[53]). In response, the OAG undertook focussed audits in relation to gender-based analysis in both 2009 and 2015. These helped shed light on its application across government (see Section 3.2 for details) and also helped mobilise action on the part of key stakeholders to drive improvements. For example, in response to the 2015 audit, SWC, the PCO and TBS tabled the Action Plan on Gender-based Analysis (2016-2020)5, committing to identify and assess barriers to GBA+ implementation, enhance capacity-building tools and training, and develop monitoring and accountability mechanisms.

Having developed this work stream, the OAG is now one of few supreme audit institutions across the OECD that have conducted audit of gender-based analysis. The strong public and political response to these audits, relative to other audits by the OAG, has been notable, with parliamentary committees holding multiple hearings to discuss the findings. The OAG has shown itself to be a key driver of progress in relation to the application of gender-based analysis, and its continued involvement through focused audits in this area would support the quality of GBA+. These audits could be strengthened if the OAG were able to freely access the GBA+ assessments accompanying policy proposals. The OAG does not currently have access to Cabinet confidences, however, access to the précis accompanying Treasury Board submissions would also allow the OAG to assess fully if TBS is performing its challenge role. Expanding the scope of GBA+ audits to cover implementation and evaluation steps (as is the case in Andalusia in Spain, see Box 4.7) would give greater insights into the extent to which GBA+ is maintained throughout the policy cycle. In light of the independence of the OAG and the need to prioritise its operations in light of resources available, a stronger and clear legislative footing for gender equality institutions and processes – as proposed in Section 3.2 of this report – would strengthen the rationale and the impetus for the OAG to re-orient its operations in this direction, as distinct from standalone or ad hoc exercises.

Box 4.7. Gender audits in Andalusia, Spain

Law 18/2003 on Fiscal and Administrative Measures made it compulsory to promote gender audits within the Andalusian Public Administration. Since this time, the Andalusian Regional Government Administration has understood and designed its own gender audits as tools to assess the progress achieved in implementing its gender responsive budgeting strategy.

In 2013, as part of its gender responsive budgeting (GRB) strategy, the Government launched a new series of gender audits. The specific objectives pursued by these audits are to:

  1. Assess the extent to which the objectives assigned to budget programmes classed as gender-relevant (“G+”) have been attained;

  2. Analyse and measure the extent to which gender mainstreaming has been implemented in budget planning, implementation and accountability;

  3. Assess the strategies carried out by the managing centres to implement the methodology and achieve their targets; and

  4. Identify best practices and make recommendations to strengthen GRB within the Andalusian Public Administration.

These audits are undertaken by the Gender Budgeting Impact Commission, established as part of Law 18/2003. The audits aim to identify progress achieved, lessons learned and insights into how the implementation of gender-relevant budget programmes could be further improved so that they meet their objectives. Draft gender audits are put out for public consultation for a specific length of time in order to take account of any feedback from citizens.

Source: (Andalusian Regional Government Administration, 2014[54])

The OAG could also build on their successful interventions in the area of GBA+ through greater incorporation of a gender perspective across other areas of its work. Ideally, performance audits where there is a gender perspective would be able to consider the extent to which policies and programmes delivered the gender objectives originally anticipated. The OAG could learn from the Austrian Court of Audit in this regard (see Box 4.8).

Box 4.8. Gender dimension to performance audit by the Austrian Court of Audit

The Austrian Court of Audit is the supreme audit institution for Austria, responsible for both financial and performance audits.

Internal guidelines specify that each performance audit should consider complementary questions in the area of gender equality. This includes questions such as:

  • Is the gender objective relevant?

  • Is there sufficient gender-specific data?

  • How appropriate is the level of ambition for measures and indicators?

  • What is the impact on society?

  • Are women and men appropriately represented in the governing bodies?

For example, an audit of “Agricultural Investment Subsidies and its Outcomes” as part of Austria’s rural development programme found that gender equality was not systematically covered by the programme, just 30% of the monitoring committee members were women (despite rules of procedure aimed at gender balanced representation), gender specific investment needs were not analysed despite women predominantly having smaller farms than men, and programme data was not systematically reported and analysed from a gender perspective.

Other recent ACA audits with a gender perspective include: Gender Health in Austria (2015), Compensatory Allowances under Pension Insurance (2015), The Introduction of Outcome Orientation in Selected Federal Ministries (2016), and Gender Aspects in Income Tax Law (2017).

Source: Austrian Court of Audit 2018

In the longer term, as more gender performance objectives become embedded in the programmes of government, the OAG would ideally be able to integrate gender considerations into more, or even all, of its performance audit work, in the same way that an environmental perspective has been integrated in its performance audits, known as the "4th E" (see Box 4.9). This would help enable the OAG fulfil its commitment to contributing, through its audit work and consistent with its mandate, to the federal government’s implementation of the SDGs, including Goal 5 relating to Gender Equality6.

Any development in this respect would need to be accompanied with appropriate guidance, communications and training to ensure that it does not become a mere tick-box exercise.

Box 4.9. Performance audit in Canada and the “4th E”

The Auditor General’s responsibilities regarding environmental matters increased with the creation of the position of Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development (CESD) in 1995. The CESD is responsible for monitoring sustainable development strategies of federal departments, overseeing the environmental petitions process, and auditing the federal government’s management of environmental and sustainable development issues.

Economy, efficiency, and effectiveness have always been known as the three E’s of performance auditing. In 1995, amendments to the Auditor General Act added a fourth E: the environment.

When conducting an audit, the auditor may ask the following questions:

  • Has money been spent with due regard to economy?

  • Has money been spent with due regard to efficiency?

  • Are procedures in place to measure and report on the effectiveness of programmes?

  • Has money been spent with due regard to the effects on the environment?

The 4th E is contained in section 7(2)(f) of the Auditor General Act, which establishes the OAG’s mandate to conduct performance audits and report findings to Parliament.

Source: (Office of the Auditor General of Canada,(n.d.)[55])


[54] Andalusian Regional Government Administration (2014), PROGRESS IN THE ANDALUSIAN GRB INITIATIVE: GENDER AUDITS, (accessed on 17 May 2018).

[48] Australian Government((n.d.)), National Women's Alliances | Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, 2018, (accessed on 17 May 2018).


[52] Bochel, H. and A. Berthier (2018), SPICe Briefing: Committee witnesses: gender and representation, (accessed on 17 May 2018).

[16] Bohnet, I. (2016), What works: Gender Equality by Design, Harvard University Press.

[23] Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA) (2016), Because its 2016! A National Gender Equality Plan, (accessed on 12 December 2017).

[6] Canadian Institute for Advanced Research & Vancouver School of Economics (2016), Earnings Inequality and the Gender Pay Gap,

[10] Catalyst (2017), Women In Male-Dominated Industries And Occupations,

[62] Congressional Budget Office (2016), CBO's 2016 Long-Term Projections for Social Security: Additional Information,

[59] Downes, R., L. Von Trapp and S. Nicol (2016), “Gender budgeting in OECD countries”, OECD Journal on Budgeting 3,

[27] EIGE (2018), Spain – Structures,

[51] European Parliament (2016), Report on Gender Mainstreaming in the work of the European Parliament - A8-0034/2016, (accessed on 17 May 2018).

[50] European Parliament (2003), European Parliament resolution on gender mainstreaming in the European Parliament (2002/2025(INI)),

[29] Flumian, M. (2016), “What Trudeau’s committees tell us about his government | Institute on Governance”, Institute on Governance, (accessed on 21 January 2018).

[5] Goldin, C. (2014), “A Grand Gender Convergence: Its Last Chapter”, American Economic Review, Vol. 104/4, pp. 1091-1119.

[8] Government of Canada (2018), Budget 2018: Equality + Growth, A Strong Middle Class,

[7] Government of Canada (2018), Budget Plan + Growth,

[44] Government of Canada (2018), Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada -,

[33] Government of Canada (2018), Mandate Letter Tracker: Delivering results for Canadians, (accessed on 10 February 2018).

[38] Government of Canada (2018), Policy on Results, (accessed on 17 May 2018).

[57] Government of Canada (2017), Budget 2017: Building a Strong Middle Class,

[45] Government of Canada (2017), Fact Sheet: It’s time to pay attention,

[24] Government of Canada (2017), Multilateral Early Learning and Child Care Framework -, (accessed on 11 December 2017).

[34] Government of Canada (2017), Results and Delivery in Canada: Building on momentum,

[56] Government of Canada (2016), Fall Economic Statement 2016,

[17] Government of Canada (2016), Increasing Recruitment of Women into the Canadian Armed Forces.

[41] Government of Canada((n.d.)), Charter Statements - Canada's System of Justice, 2018, (accessed on 17 May 2018).

[43] Government of Canada((n.d.)), Employment Insurance Service Quality Review Report: Making Citizens Central, 2017,

[19] Government of Finland (2016), Government Action Plan For Gender Equality 2016–2019,

[60] Government of Iceland((n.d.)), Gender Budgeting, 2018, (accessed on 16 May 2018).

[20] Government of Spain (2014), Plan Estratégico de Igualdad de Oportunidades 2014-2016,

[47] Government of Sweden (2014), Sweden's follow-up of the Platform for Action from the UN's,

[65] Government of Sweden (2007), Moving Ahead: Gender budgeting in Sweden,

[53] House of Commons Canada (2008), Committee Report No. 9 - FEWO (39-2) - House of Commons of Canada,

[26] House of Commons Canada (2007), Report of the Standing Committee on the Status of Women: The impacts of funding and program changes at Status of Women Canada, (accessed on 23 January 2018).

[49] House of Commons Canada((n.d.)), FEWO - About, 2018, (accessed on 17 May 2018).

[36] IMF (2017), Gender Budgeting in G7 Countries,

[11] Mahony, T. (2011), “Women and the Criminal Justice System”, Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 89-503-X, (accessed on 17 May 2018).

[13] McInturff, K. and B. Lambert (2016), Making Women Count: The Unequal Economics of Women's Work, | Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, OXFAM Canada, (accessed on 01 January 2018).

[2] McKinsey Global Institute (2017), The power of parity: Advancing women’s equality in Canada, (accessed on 16 May 2018).

[4] Moyser, M. (2017), Women and Paid Work, Statistics Canada, March, available online at:

[15] OECD (2017), Behavioural Insights and Public Policy: Lessons from Around the World., OECD Publishing.

[28] OECD (2017), Building an inclusive Mexico : Policies and Good Governance for Gender Equality, OECD Publishing.

[42] OECD (2017), Recommendation of the Council on Open Government,

[1] OECD (2017), The Pursuit of Gender Equality: An Uphill Battle, OECD Publishing, Paris,

[32] OECD (2016), Open Government The Global Context and the Way Forward, OECD Publishing.

[31] OECD (2016), “Open Government: The Global Context and The Way Forward”, (accessed on 25 January 2018).

[25] OECD (2015), “Delivering from the Centre: Strengthening the role of the centre of government in driving priority strategies”, (accessed on 21 January 2018).

[37] OECD (Forthcoming), Budgeting in Austria.

[39] OECD (Forthcoming), Budgeting Outlook 2018.

[58] OECD (Forthcoming), Budgeting Practices and Procedures Dataset.

[64] OECD (Forthcoming), Governance Guidelines for Gender Budgeting.

[3] OECD (forthcoming) (2018), OECD Economic Surveys: Canada, OECD Publishing, Paris.

[30] Office of the Auditor General Canada (2016), Implementing Gender-Based Analysis, (accessed on 24 January 2018).

[55] Office of the Auditor General of Canada((n.d.)), The Environment and Sustainable Development Guide, 2018, (accessed on 17 May 2018).

[22] OXFAM Canada (2017), Feminist Scorecard 2017: Tracking government action to advance women’s rights and gender equality, (accessed on 11 December 2017).

[35] Schratzenstaller, M. (2014), The implementation of gender responsive budgeting in Austria as central element of a major budget reform,

[63] Sharp, R. and R. Broomhill (2013), A Case Study of Gender Responsive Budgeting in Australia,

[12] Status of Women Canada (2017), It's Time: Canada's Strategy To Prevent and Address Gender-based Violence, Government of Canada, (accessed on 01 January 2018).

[14] Status of Women Canada((n.d.)), The History of GBA+ Domestic and International Milestones.

[61] Swedish Fiscal Policy Council (2016), Finanspolitiska rådets rapport 2016,

[18] The Victorian Government (2018), Safe and Strong: A Victorian Gender Equality Strategy. Achievements Report Year One, (accessed on 17 May 2018).

[40] UK National Audit Office (2016), Sustainability in the spending review,

[21] United Nations (2016), “Concluding observations on the combined eighth and ninth periodic reports of Canada*”, (accessed on 11 December 2017).

[9] Wells, M. (2018), Closing the Engineering Gender Gap,


← 1. For example, Oxfam Canada has recently developed a Feminist Scorecard which they use to review actions taken and progress made against government commitments to gender equality. For more details see

← 2. See -

← 3. For more detail, see 2017 OECD Recommendation of the Council on Open Government:

← 4. The approximate gender breakdown provided by the House of Commons for committees is 33% female witnesses and 66% male witnesses. The Senate reported that approximately 34% of witness salutations in the first session of the 42nd parliament were female (Library of Parliament 2018).

← 5. See

← 6. See the Sustainable Development Strategy for the Office of the Auditor General of Canada: 2017–2020 -