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Reflecting Canadian values

Values are critical. They provide guideposts for how Canada can move forward as a society, how we can orient ourselves during challenging times, how we can inspire our citizens and how we can be confident that the policies and programs we recommend and the path we choose will reflect the vision of our citizens.

The Canadian Index of Wellbeing (CIW) is rooted in Canadian values.

It begins with the belief that our cornerstone value as Canadians is the principle of "shared destiny": that our society is often best shaped through collective action; that there is a limit to how much can be achieved by individuals acting alone; that the sum of a good society and what it can achieve is greater than the remarkably diverse parts which constitute it.

From this cornerstone principle of shared destiny and collective action, and from extensive public consultations with Canadians, a number of core consensus values informed the development of the CIW: fairness, diversity, equity, inclusion, health, safety, economic security, democracy, and sustainability.

A key challenge has been to ensure that the indicators that the CIW uses to measure wellbeing, reflect these values. Indicators are literally just that - they are designed to indicate or point toward fundamental social objectives. They are also an explicit tool that can be used to stimulate discussion about the types of policies, programs, and activities that will move Canada closer and faster toward achieving a higher state of wellbeing, and give Canadians tools to promote wellbeing with policy shapers and decision makers.

From the very beginning, via a national dialogue led by the Canadian Policy Research Networks (CPRN), we asked Canadians questions about what mattered to them and their families; about their aspirations for their communities; and about the types of information they felt would help them understand whether things were getting better or worse, and who to hold to account for this.

Canadians said quite clearly that their top priorities for quality of life were: primary and secondary education, health care access, a healthy environment, clean air and water, social programs, responsible taxation, public safety and security, job security, employment opportunities, a living wage, balanced time use, and civic participation. These common themes cut across regions, social backgrounds and various demographic characteristics. Most importantly for the CIW, Canadians told us that quality of life should be monitored more systematically, uniformly and comprehensively.

The feedback provided by Canadians was distilled by the CIW's Canadian Research Advisory Group (CRAG) into a framework with seven, and then later, eight domains, calibrated from Canadian values. The framework was later presented and discussed at two rounds of pan-Canadian stakeholder consultations and a national conference of Canadian leaders. These consultations confirmed that the CIW had faithfully transformed core values into thematic domains, and that the domains were indeed rooted in consensus Canadian values about what really matters.