Better Evidence Conference

Shaping the future of data-driven and evidence-informed decision making to improve the lives of Canadians.

At a time when Canada is facing far reaching challenges—from affordability to climate change to global stability—unlocking the power of data and evidence is essential to build better outcomes for all Canadians.This was highlighted at the Better Evidence Conference, organized by Blueprint and the Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy at the University of Ottawa.

The sold-out Better Evidence Conference convened top experts and decision-makers to discuss shaping Canada's future through people-centered, data-driven and evidence-informed policy. Over 200 delegates from government, civil society and academia engaged in conversations related to:

  • Trends with how data and evidence are used in Canadian government decision-making
  • The role of leadership, culture, and systems in overcoming barriers to use data and evidence
  • Actionable strategies for Canadian governments to strengthen evidence-informed decision-making.

Check out the follow-up conference report here

Hosted by
White Blueprint logo
February 5th, 2024
University of Ottawa
Desmarais Hall, Room 4101
55 Laurier Avenue East

Read our report

About Our Speakers

Hon. Jean-Yves Duclos

Minister of Public Services and Procurement

The Honorable Jean-Yves Duclos is a Canadian economist, Member of Parliament and is currently Canada’s Minister of Public Services and Procurement. Jean-Yves Duclos was the president-elect of the Canadian Economics Association and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 2014. In 2015, Jean-Yves Duclos was elected to represent the riding of Quebec in the House of Commons. He has previously served as President of the Treasury Board and Minister of Health, and Minister of Families, Children and Social Development.

Anil Arora

Canada's Chief Statistician

Anil Arora is the Chief Statistician of Canada and a sought-after speaker and thought leader. He has led significant transformational initiatives throughout his career, with experience and partnerships spanning all three levels of government, the private sector and international organizations, including the UN and the OECD. Anil is currently the chair of the OECD committee on statistics and statistical policy, Vice Chair of the bureau for the conference of European Statisticians, and the Chair of the High-Level Group on the modernization of official statistics.

Dr. Cindy Blackstock

Executive Director, First Nations Child & Family Caring Society of Canada

A member of the Gitksan First Nation with 25 years of social work experience in child protection and indigenous children’s rights, Dr. Cindy Blackstock is currently Executive Director of First Nations Child & Family Caring Society of Canada, Associate Professor & Director of FNCARES (First Nations Children’s Action Research and Education Service) at University of Alberta and Professor in McGill’s School of Social Work. Her promotion of culturally based & evidence informed solutions has been recognized by the Nobel Women’s Initiative, the Aboriginal Achievement Foundation, Frontline Defenders and many others.

Sahir Khan

Executive Vice President, Institute for Fiscal Studies and Democracy

A public finance executive, teacher, advisor and speaker, Sahir is the co-founder and Executive Vice-President at the Institute of Fiscal Studies and Democracy at the University of Ottawa. His work focuses on budgetary and financial analysis, reporting and organizational performance. Previously, he has served in the federal government as the Assistant Parliamentary Budget Officer and at the Privy Council Office, where he provided the Prime Minister with advice on budget, economic, tax and expenditure management.

Matthew Mendelsohn

CEO, Social Capital Partners

For over 25 years, Matthew has designed and implemented public policy solutions that work in practice, and advised governments, organizations and elected leaders on ways to improve economic, social and democratic inclusion and impact. He was a Deputy Minister with both the Government of Canada and Ontario, the founding director of the Mowat Centre at the University of Toronto, a senior advisor with Boston Consulting Group, and a professor of politics and public policy at Queen’s University and Toronto Metropolitan University.

Ima Okonny

‍Chief Data Officer, ESDC

Ima has over 23 years of experience in the field of data and is passionate about helping organizations develop the capabilities required to ethically and intentionally unleash concrete business value from data. She has extensive experience with building the evidence base through the development of analytical databases and tools, implementing departmental data reporting and release strategies, data management, data privacy protocols and with forward-looking policy development and research. Ima has an educational background in Mathematics, Computer Programming and Public Management and during her time with the Government of Canada, she has received several nominations and awards for her leadership and results.

Catherine Scott

Assistant Deputy Minister, Settlement, Integration and Francophone Affairs, IRCC

Catherine Scott was appointed Assistant Deputy Minister, Settlement, Integration and Francophone Affairs at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) in March 2022. Prior to this, she spent a decade working at Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) on both labour market and social policy issues. During this time, she led a significant renewal of the federal homelessness program as part of the National Housing Strategy. Catherine led extensive consultations to develop the first Government of Canada social innovation and social finance strategy. She has also managed the Foreign Credential Recognition Program and launched the first federal initiative to support capacity-building in Black Canadian communities.

Catherine has also worked for the Commissioner of Official Languages, the Privy Council Office and the Department of Canadian Heritage.

Anne White

‍Director, Energy Efficiency and Technology, Natural Resources Canada

Anne White is a curious and ambitious public servant. She enjoys building outcomes-based partnerships that align industry, governments, and relevant stakeholders on targets and enable joint accountability. Previously, she was a Senior Policy Advisor with the Privy Council Office and until recently was a Government Innovation Fellow with the Harvard Kennedy School of Government’s Government Performance Lab. She holds a Masters degree in Public Administration and Public Affairs from the London School of Economics and Sciences, as well as an undergraduate degree in Honours Business Administration from the Richard Ivey School of Business in London, Canada.

Catherine Adam

Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, ESDC

Catherine is the Senior Assistant Deputy Minister of the Strategic and Service Policy Branch at ESDC. Prior to her current role, Catherine was the Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet for Intergovernmental Affairs Policy with the Privy Council Office and the General Director of Social Policy and Federal–Provincial Relations at the Department of Finance. She has extensive experience in social and economic policy issues in Canada including labour markets, income security, early learning and childcare, health, Indigenous programming and policies and intergovernmental affairs.

Yaprak Baltacioğlu

Former Secretary, Treasury Board

Retiring from public service in April 2018, Yaprak was one of Ottawa’s most seasoned deputy ministers and served as a trusted advisor to four Prime Ministers and numerous ministers. Yaprak has served as the Secretary of the Treasury Board, Deputy Minister of Transport Infrastructure and Communities, Deputy Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Deputy Secretary to Cabinet, Operations. She is currently a Director on many boards such as Deloitte Canada and Chile, CSA Group, MDA and CNL. She is also an Order of Canada member and a Distinguished Fellow at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, as well as Chancellor of Carleton University.

Miles Corak

Professor of Economics, City University of New York

Miles Corak is a professor of economics with The Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and senior scholar at the James M. and Cathleen D. Stone Center on Socio-Economic Inequality. In 2017, he was the Economist in Residence at Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC). Much of his research involves comparisons across countries with a focus on labour markets and social policy. He is currently working on issues dealing with social mobility in Canada and other countries, and the meaning and measurement of equality of opportunity.

John Lavis

Director, McMaster Health Forum

John supports policymakers and stakeholders to harness research evidence, citizen values and stakeholder insights to strengthen health and social systems. He founded and continues to direct the McMaster Health Forum. He is Co-Lead of the Global Commission on Evidence to Address Societal Challenges, the COVID-19 Evidence Network to support Decision-making (COVID-END), and Rapid-Improvement Support and Exchange (RISE). He holds a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Evidence-Support Systems. He is Co-Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Evidence-Informed Policy and Professor in the Department of Health Evidence and Impact at McMaster University.

Tyler Meredith

Founding Partner, Meredith Boessenkool & former Economic Advisor to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Management consultant, think tanker, and senior economic advisor to the Prime Minister, Tyler brings nearly two decades of experience at the intersection of economics, public policy and politics. Meredith has been a key thought leader supporting the domestic economic and social policy agenda of the Justin Trudeau government. He has worked on all aspects of the government’s social and economic agenda, from financial sector and tax policy to the design of the Canadian cannabis market, to the negotiation of the 2017 health accords.

Shannon Proudfoot

Reporter, Globe & Mail

Shannon is a feature writer in The Globe and Mail's Ottawa Bureau. She loves the hidden complexities and human side of politics and big news moments. Shannon is fascinated with how social class figures in public life are - or, more often, how we ignore it. Before joining The Globe, she was the Ottawa bureau chief for Maclean's and wrote for Sportsnet magazine, Postmedia News and the Ottawa Citizen.

Sean Speer

Editor at Large of The Hub & former Economic Advisor to Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Sean is editor at large at The Hub. He is also a senior fellow at the Public Policy Forum and the University of Toronto's Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy. Speer previously served as senior economic advisor to former Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Julia Anderson

Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Partnership for Women and Children's Health

Julia has over 15 years of senior and executive level experience in international development, not-for-profits, civil society, human rights and gender equality. In 2019, Julia spearheaded the shaping of a renewed collective vision by Canada’s global health sector that resulted in a $14-billion, 10-year investment by the Government of Canada. As CanWaCH CEO, she continues to champion bold, innovative - and even disruptive - approaches to advancing the health and rights of women and girls around the world.

Karim Bardeesy

Executive Director, The Dais

Karim Bardeesy is the Executive Director of the The Dais, a public policy and leadership think tank at Toronto Metropolitan University. He is a public service leader who has worked for a better democracy, a more educated and engaged population, and better public policy throughout his professional career. He was previously Deputy Principal Secretary for Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and served as Executive Director of Policy for Premiers Wynne and Dalton McGuinty. In the past, he also has worked as a journalist, including with The Toronto Star and at The Globe and Mail. Prior to teaching at TMU, Karim also taught leadership at the University of Toronto.

Honey Dacanay

Director-General, Digital Policy, Treasury Board Secretariat

Honey is a policy leader with expertise in public sector renewal and governance reform. She works with government leaders to create enabling conditions for digital transformation to succeed. She has led large-scale policy and governance reform efforts in the Governments of Ontario and Canada, most recently with Service Canada and their agile governance pilot. She also co-founded the Ontario Digital Service and led the teams that enshrined the province’s digital standards into landmark legislation, streamlined governance, and removed line department and Treasury Board policy and process barriers to its implementation.

Louise Levonian

Chair, Better Evidence Council

During a multi-decade career of public service, Louise has become an expert in fiscal and economic management. Previously, Louise served as Deputy Minister of ESDC and as the Chair of the Labour Market Information Council. She also served as the Chair of the Board of Management and Renewal Sub-Committee on Public Service Engagement and Workplace Culture, helping to build a world-class Canadian public service. Before joining ESDC, Louise held leadership positions in the Department of Finance, the Treasury Board Secretariat and the Department of Transportation.

Karen Myers

President & CEO, Blueprint

As Blueprint’s co-founder and leader, Karen leads a diverse team of researchers to develop innovative solutions that enable evidence-informed design and delivery. Over the past 20 years she has a developed a strong reputation for delivering real-world solutions to even the most complex social and economic challenges. Prior to founding Blueprint, Karen was a research director at SRDC and a senior policy advisor with the Ontario Government. Karen holds a PhD in Sociology from the University of Toronto and a Master of Public Administration from Queen’s University.

Paul Rochon

Executive Advisor, Deloitte & former Deputy Minister of Finance

Paul was Deputy Minister of Finance from 2014 to 2020. Prior to this appointment, he held a number of senior positions in the federal government such as Deputy Minister of International Development and Associate Deputy Minister of Health. Paul has extensive experience in budget making, financial and economic management, and policy development at the highest levels of government in Canada. He is a trusted negotiator, having led and concluded negotiations internationally at the G20, as well as in Canada in the context of federal provincial agreements.

Peter Wallace

‍Senior Advisor, Boston Consulting Group, former Secretary of the Treasury Board at Government of Canada

Peter shares his experiences of a 40-year career across all levels of government. Peter recently retired as the Secretary of the Treasury Board for the Government of Canada in late 2021. He previously held senior leadership roles at the City of Toronto (City Manager), and the Province of Ontario (Secretary of the Cabinet). He also served as Deputy Minister of Finance, Energy, and Cabinet Office - Policy in the Government of Ontario. As well, he is an independent trustee for the University Health Network.

Topics Explored

Opening Remarks: State of evidence in Canada

A fresh and insightful synthesis that summarizes Canada’s strengths as well as where it can learn from international peers with respect to data and evidence in government decision-making. The remarks will frame key questions that drive the conference agenda, and outline what’s at stake for public leaders and Canada’s future when it comes to smarter use of data and evidence.

  • Karen Myers, CEO of Blueprint 
Panel: Evidence in Action - How data & evidence strengthen the policy cycle

How have data and evidence been used effectively to address pressing challenges? Where can they be better leveraged at different stages of the policy cycle? This panel will feature leaders’ perspectives in shaping the use of evidence and data across strategy, program design and service delivery, drawing on real-life examples from several policy domains.

  • Julia Anderson, CEO, Canadian Partnership for Women and Children's Health
  • Miles Corak, Professor of Economics, City University of New York and 2017 ESDC Economist-in-Residence
  • Catherine Scott, Assistant Deputy Minister, Settlement, Integration and Francophone Affairs, Immigration Refugee Citizenship Canada
  • John Lavis, Director, McMaster Health Forum & Co-Lead, Global Commission on Evidence

Moderator: Anne White, Director, Energy Efficiency and Technology, Natural Resources Canada

Panel: Advancing better data & evidence – What are the building blocks?

Getting to better data and evidence isn’t just a technical question. This panel will offer a broader lens on the essential building blocks—the nature of knowledge, systems and leadership—required to unlock the full potential of data and evidence by ensuring the right evidence is available at the right time for decisions.

  • Anil Arora, Chief Statistician of Canada
  • Matthew Mendelsohn, CEO, Social Capital Partners
  • Ima Okonny, Chief Data Officer at ESDC
  • Peter Wallace – Senior Fellow, Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, Senior Advisor at Boston Consulting Group and Former Secretary of the Treasury Board

Moderator: Honey Dacanay, Director-General, Digital Policy, Treasury Board Secretariat

Question Time with Minister Duclos

Drawing on his decade-plus career in public life, Hon. Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Public Services and Procurement, will share insights from his efforts to advance better data within the Canadian federation, through the Pan-Canadian Health Data Strategy, the Early Learning and Childcare Framework and beyond.

  • Hon. Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Public Services and Procurement

Moderator: Karim Bardeesy, Executive Director, The Dais

Spotlight: Evidence in action with Dr. Cindy Blackstock

Knowing better means we should be doing better, especially when it comes to children. Evidence of discrimination, however, does not always instigate immediate change in government policy. What does it take to compel change in federal policy? What evidence is needed and how is it generated? What have been successes and challenges of the policy change process? With an ongoing case before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, Dr. Cindy Blackstock will join us for a discussion on the importance of good data, for good evidence, for better policy making.

  • Dr. Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director of First Nations Child & Family Caring Society of Canada and Professor, School of Social Work, University of McGill

Interviewer: Shannon Proudfoot, Reporter, Globe & Mail

Fireside chat: Ways forward - Realizing the potential for data and evidence

What are the data and evidence needs of Ministers and senior leaders—and are they well served? What is their role in building an “evidence culture” and practice? In a candid fireside chat, speakers will bring a clear-eyed perspective about these issues, how they different across partisan lines and offer concluding thoughts on whether the smarter use of evidence can help restore public trust in government.

  • Paul Rochon, Executive Advisor at Deloitte and Former DM of Finance
  • Sean Speer, Editor at Large of The Hub and Former Economic Advisor in PMO;
  • Tyler Meredith, Founding Partner at Meredith Boessenkool and Former Economic Advisor in PMO

Moderator: Yaprak Baltacioğlu, Former Secretary of the Treasury Board

Closing remarks

Bridge together key topics discussed throughout the day and close the event.

  • Louise Levonian, Chair of Better Evidence Council and Former Deputy Minister at ESDC