Table of Contents
This is my second report to the Prime Minister since I became Clerk of the Privy Council in July 2009. Over the past 18 months I have had the opportunity to travel to many different parts of Canada, meeting public servants doing many different jobs. I am always impressed by their energy, passion, knowledge and skills, and by their dedication to the service of Canadians. I am proud to count myself among them.
Since becoming Clerk, I have seen the Public Service consistently rise to meet the challenges of the day—from extraordinary efforts on behalf of Canadians hit hard by the financial crisis to recent efforts to assist Canadians in the crisis-stricken regions of North Africa.
Public servants helped lessen the impact of the global downturn on Canadians through our work with successive governments to foster a robust financial regulatory system and a solid fiscal foundation for the country. They also acted quickly and effectively to implement the stimulus measures contained in the Government’s Economic Action Plan.
The financial crisis highlighted the interconnectedness of today’s economies and ongoing shifts in the geopolitical balance. Domestic issues too are increasingly complex and “horizontal” in character. Canada’s aging population, for example, has implications not just for health care, but for consumer spending, labour markets, immigration and more. Such issues cannot be addressed in isolation or by governments acting alone. They require the coordinated efforts of many players in Canada and work with partners abroad.
We are in a period of fiscal restraint. As part of efforts to return to balanced budgets we will be called on to improve our efficiency and deliver better services to Canadians with fewer resources.
This will require us to take a hard look at what we do and how we do it. While not the principal aim, I expect that these efforts will result in reductions in the size of the Public Service.
Canadians cannot meet challenges at home and abroad without a strong contribution from the federal Public Service. How well we do our work matters—not just to the Government but to our fellow citizens.
As new people enter our workforce and new technologies shape our workplace, the way we do our work will change. We must continue to adapt and innovate if we are to meet the future needs of Canadians.
This report looks back to what we have done and ahead to the challenges we face as public servants. In it, I
- highlight some accomplishments of the Public Service over the past year;
- assess progress on renewal;
- outline the future direction I see for the Public Service; and
- set out specific priorities for deputy ministers and for all public servants.
The past year saw noteworthy accomplishments by many thousands of federal public servants, working in organizations large and small. Here are but a few examples of the kinds of things our colleagues have been doing.
Sustaining an effort that began in 2009, public servants worked closely with colleagues in provincial, territorial and municipal governments to implement the stimulus measures of the Economic Action Plan, and they did it with remarkable speed and effectiveness.
Federal public servants delivered Employment Insurance benefits, supported affected industries and facilitated infrastructure improvements across the country. These measures are making a difference to millions of Canadians today, while leaving an enduring legacy for future generations.
In June, Canada hosted the G8 and G20 summits. On both occasions, public servants made a major contribution to the success of these initiatives and organized these two major international events back to back, something that had never before been done.
At the G8, world leaders focused their attention on critical global peace, security and development challenges. They committed themselves to the Muskoka Initiative, which will help save the lives of women and children in the world's poorest countries. At the G20 Summit in Toronto, the leaders of the world’s advanced economies committed to fiscal plans that will at least halve deficits by 2013 and stabilize or reduce government debt-to-GDP ratios by 2016. There was also progress on reform of the financial sector and international financial institutions. Such high-profile events help demonstrate Canada’s leadership in the world community.
We have recently seen significant upheavals in a number of North African regimes and the potential for more in the region. In response to these events, we have helped secure safe passage for Canadians in affected areas and contributed to international sanction and relief measures.
Canada’s security and development efforts in Afghanistan have brought great credit to the men and women of the Canadian Forces and to employees from the many federal departments and agencies that supported our whole-of-government efforts there. Their work in both Afghanistan and here in Canada is a testament to our ability to come together to meet common challenges. During my visit to Kabul and Kandahar in January 2011, I had the opportunity to meet many colleagues and was struck by the truly integrated work they are carrying out so far from home.
When renewal became the top management priority for the Public Service in 2006, there were concerns over the demographics of the institution and its capacity to attract talent. Since then measurable progress has been made across what we defined as the four pillars of renewal—Integrated Planning, Recruitment, Employee Development and Workplace Renewal.
The results of those efforts over the past several years include the following:
- Deputies and their management teams have greatly increased their focus on people management.
- Departments and agencies are doing a better job of integrated planning, linking their plans for human resources to broader business plans.
- Recruitment is much more systematic and the quality of people entering the Public Service is as high today as it has ever been.
- There has been visible progress in areas such as individual learning plans and performance discussions.
- We have begun to modernize our 40-year-old pay and pension systems.
- Initiatives such as the Common Human Resources Business Process have made personnel operations more streamlined and more efficient.
The renewal of the Public Service over the last five years has also increased the diversity of our workforce. Persons with disabilities and Aboriginal Canadians are now well represented in the Public Service, and women now make up more than half the Public Service. The representation of visible minorities has also increased significantly, though it is still not in line with numbers in the larger Canadian workforce.
Canada’s linguistic duality continues to be respected in the Public Service. Yet there is more to do to ensure that citizens receive quality services in both official languages and to create work environments conducive to the use of both official languages.
Renewal will always be a work in progress. The important message is that much has been accomplished, thanks to the efforts of both managers and employees across the country. But there remains much to do.
I believe that we are entering a new stage in the evolution of public service. Almost every issue facing governments today is multi-dimensional; almost all involve many players and an overabundance of information. This complexity presents a challenge to the traditional Westminster model of individual ministerial authority and accountability.
Today, we do our jobs in an environment of increased transparency and a 24/7 media cycle. While we have always been accountable for the effective stewardship of public monies, the oversight regime is now more complex, including multiple agents of Parliament and increasingly active parliamentary committees.
The demographic make-up of the Public Service will continue to shift—more than half our workforce has entered since the year 2000. This new generation of employees comes with new energy, skills and expectations. Making the most of their contributions and the rich diversity of their backgrounds, experience and ideas will be critical to success in the years to come.
To meet these many challenges, the Public Service must get better at dealing with complexity. This will require new approaches to creative and collaborative problem solving. It will mean working with other levels of government, the private sector, civil society and citizens themselves. All of these players are demanding a larger role in public policy and in the design and delivery of programs and services.
As we move forward, we must continue to take advantage of new technologies. The Internet and Web 2.0 have become integral to the personal lives of most public servants. Within the Public Service, we have begun to adapt to and better use Web 2.0 tools. But we can do more to take full advantage of the opportunities they present for more efficient service delivery, faster knowledge and information sharing, and more effective collaboration.
In adapting to meet these new realities we will be guided by the enduring values of the Public Service—respect for democracy, respect for people, integrity, stewardship and excellence. They will continue to define our role and our duties as public servants. A strong values-based approach to our work will make it easier to deal with complexity. It will also support efforts to create a culture of innovation and intelligent risk taking in government.
The members of the Prime Minister’s Advisory Committee on the Public Service offer the Prime Minister an external perspective on the major issues affecting the Public Service.
The Committee’s fifth report is annexed to this report. In it the members reaffirm the vital role the Public Service plays in serving Canadians and the Government. They underscore that, in today’s complex and changing world, the imperative for renewal remains as strong as ever.
The Committee’s report calls for:
- transforming processes, systems and culture, using proven technologies to provide better service to Canadians and build more modern administrative services across the Public Service;
- investing in long-term thinking—one of the Public Service’s most important responsibilities; and
- examining the oversight regime, with a view to reducing multiple reporting requirements without sacrificing accountability.
The Committee’s valuable analysis and recommendations should be read in conjunction with this report. They show how public service issues and concerns resonate with people from across the country, and they remind us of the value of external advice on matters that affect all Canadians.
Canadians need—and expect—a high-performing Public Service that can deliver results in a fast-changing world.
Whether renewal efforts are aimed at the workforce or the workplace, the goal is to achieve excellence in all aspects of our business—in management, in policy, in program and service delivery, and in regulation.
Excellence will be demonstrated differently across the many business lines of government. But in all cases it will mean a focus on results and on adapting and responding to a complex environment.
Canada’s Public Service is well regarded internationally for organizational performance and for high-quality financial management. We have invested significantly in our capacity in this area. We now plan against declared strategic objectives, measure and report results, and understand and apply the principles and practices of modern public sector management.
The task now is to build on our strengths in these areas and identify those functions that government needs to do and those that are best carried out by others. When others can do the tasks, we will have to be open to, and adept at, moving from doing this work ourselves to partnering with others who do it on our behalf.
Particularly in this period of fiscal restraint, managers have a key role in leading employees and managing for performance excellence. To do this, they must be able to plan effectively and ensure that staff focus on priorities. They have to be able to engage staff in finding better ways to deliver services. They must keep employees motivated in the face of uncertainty and collaborate across departmental lines to achieve shared objectives. They need to think beyond current preoccupations to ensure that they have the capacity to address future priorities as well.
As the Prime Minister’s Advisory Committee emphasizes in its current report, in today's complex environment it is critical that the Public Service maintain the capacity to deliver high-quality, long-term policy advice. While much of our work will have specific goals and shorter time horizons, we must always be able to think in broader terms about the larger, longer-term policy issues affecting our country.
Excellence in policy means bringing evidence and analysis to bear in the development of advice to government. Mere information—from whatever source—is no substitute for knowledge and analytical rigour.
Policy excellence is also about collaboration. Because issues today are so complex and interdependent, we have to get better at working horizontally, with colleagues in other organizations and outside the boundaries of the Public Service.
Strengthened engagement with other levels of government, academia, think tanks, non-governmental organizations and citizens will help improve the quality of our advice and lead to better results for Canadians.
The role of the Public Service in providing professional, non-partisan policy advice to ministers is a strength of Canadian democracy. This role is central to our Public Service values.
The best policy advice is of little value if it is not matched by solid implementation. Excellence in service and program delivery means taking clear policy direction from ministers and translating it into meaningful results for Canadians.
A decade ago, Canada was seen as an international leader in service delivery through initiatives such as Government On-Line. But we have lost momentum. In this digital world, our “vertical,” department-by-department approach to service delivery is more than just inefficient—it is failing to meet Canadians’ expectations for one-stop, single-window services.
We have an opportunity today to reclaim the leadership role we once enjoyed in program and service delivery. By increasing standardization and the interoperability of systems, we can simplify and modernize the delivery of our programs and services. Using a whole-of-government approach, we can lower costs while improving the quality of service to Canadians. We will be able to offer them the timely, high-quality services they have come to expect in every other facet of their lives.
Effective regulation is an essential responsibility of government. Regulation is critical to the health and safety of Canadians, the protection of the environment, the smooth functioning of the economy, and the safeguarding of our individual rights and freedoms.
Excellence in regulation is a matter of understanding and balancing stakeholder interests. It is about effective risk management and ensuring a reasonable cost of compliance for those who are regulated. Increasingly, it means working closely with regulators in other jurisdictions to streamline and standardize processes and requirements. It also means being transparent in decision making and communicating effectively with stakeholders and citizens.
The recently announced U.S.-Canada Regulatory Cooperation Council and Red Tape Reduction Commission are two government initiatives that through our support will lead to more effective regulation for Canadians.
These areas—management, policy, program and service delivery, and regulation—are core Public Service responsibilities. We have to deliver in all these dimensions of our responsibility if we are to meet the expectations of the Government and of Canadians.
In recent years, deputy ministers and central agencies have been asked to deliver on measurable priorities outlined in annual Public Service Renewal action plans. This approach was effective in sustaining progress on the four renewal pillars of Integrated Planning, Recruitment, Employee Development and Workplace Renewal.
Going forward, our renewal activities can now be captured under the broad themes of Engaging Employees in the Excellence Agenda, Renewing the Workforce and Renewing the Workplace.
I have spoken on a number of occasions about how I see excellence as exemplifying a shared commitment to sustaining a culture of high performance in the Public Service.
In the months to come, I want deputies and all managers to be more explicit in their pursuit of excellence. I want them to set clear renewal goals, work at improving organizational capacity to achieve those goals, and foster the pursuit of renewal objectives at every level of their organization.
Excellence starts with a capable and motivated workforce aligned with the goals of the organization. The people who make up the Public Service today bring commitment, expertise and experience. Maximizing their contributions will be essential to achieving results for Canadians. This requires solid workforce data and planning, tailored recruitment and targeted investment in employee development to meet specific organizational needs.
A commitment to renewal means a commitment to supporting and developing current employees, and to making the best possible use of the skills and talents of all. I also encourage all employees to take an active role in their own professional development: create opportunities to engage and share with peers, connect with mentors, and seek out opportunities for stretch assignments.
Excellent management, at the deputy level and throughout the organization, will enable our employees to aim high and succeed. Our goal should be to transform performance, set high standards and expect our employees to meet them.
A modern, healthy workplace supports greater productivity, a more engaged workforce and better results for Canadians. Deputies and managers have a responsibility to create workplaces that support the well-being, wellness and productivity of our employees.
Following my last report I consulted with public servants via GCPEDIA for views on how to renew the workplace. I heard a number of ideas, which I shared with deputies. Most of these rightly point to the need for culture change in the Public Service. We need to nurture a more performance-oriented, collaborative and innovative culture by, for example, taking greater advantage of Web 2.0 tools to deliver on our business.
I know we still have significant room to improve internal administrative systems and everyday business processes. We also need to improve our ability to plan, at every level of the organization, and assess progress made. Clarity of goals helps align efforts and improve results. We need to strengthen our capacity to deliver, to see a project through from idea generation to meaningful results that can be evaluated.
Finally, all of our work must continue to be firmly rooted in Public Service values. They are the solid foundation on which we will build the Public Service of tomorrow.
Deputies are being asked to report by February 1, 2012, on their efforts and accomplishments in support of renewal. In particular, they will report on the achievement of excellence in their organizations under the following themes:
- Engaging Employees in the Excellence Agenda
- What renewal goals have they set to enable them to achieve excellence across their business lines?
- What is their organizational capacity to achieve these goals, and what actions have they taken to address any gaps?
- How engaged are their employees, and what steps have they taken to increase engagement?
- Renewing the Workforce
- How effective is their organization at managing people, performance and knowledge? How are they incorporating diversity into their organizational culture and supporting the use of both official languages? How are they improving?
- Renewing the Workplace
- How have they have fostered planning, collaboration and new ways of working in their organizations?
It is up to all of us to capitalize on the past five years of investment in renewal and to focus on creating the Public Service of the future. To do this we will have to change how we work and how we relate to one another, without losing sight of our traditional values and our vocation of service to Canada.
In making excellence our watchword, we will build on the commitment and the professionalism that have long characterized Canada's Public Service. It is our responsibility to show Canadians that their investment in us is being repaid in stronger public institutions that serve their needs more effectively and more efficiently.
I have seen what we can accomplish when challenged. While I will continue to hold deputies accountable, I am challenging all public servants to look for ways, large and small, to improve on our ability to support and strengthen our great country. The engagement, creativity and collaboration of all public servants are needed if we are to achieve our goal of excellence.
Every public servant can contribute to our renewal and I encourage each one to do so.