Remarks for Wayne G. Wouters for the 2010 Privy Council Office Town Hall Meeting

September 13, 2010

Check against delivery


Hi Everybody! I hope that everyone had a good summer and some time off.

There are also some new faces in the crowd. I would like to take this opportunity to greet those of you who have joined PCO recently.

I took a little time off but to be honest with you, I am glad to be back, and I am ready to roll up my sleeves again.

The House of Commons will return next week on September 20th and it will be a busy fall session.

I want to take some time this morning to talk about the progress we’ve made since our last Town Hall, our priorities in the year ahead, and how we can work together as a team.

Year in Review

I have been in the job for over a year now and I find it incredibly rewarding.The job is demanding, but I must admit I am having a lot of fun.

Above all, it is a true honour and privilege.

Collectively we’ve faced a lot of challenges and opportunities over the last twelve months. I would like to take a few moments to talk about some highlights.


Let me begin with the Economic Action Plan — the EAP for short.

As you all know, the EAP was designed and implemented in response to the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

We worked with departments, provincial, and municipal governments, to deliver the largest stimulus package in our history.

Under tight time frames, we adopted a government-wide approach, moving swiftly and doing a bit of re-engineering along the way. 

By streamlining decision-making without compromising due diligence or accountability, we created much needed stimulus spending in a very timely fashion.

Ultimately, our approach met with success and received praise and recognition of the IMF, the OECD among others.


The Government of Canada’s response to Haiti was remarkable.

Not only for the speed with which we mounted our disaster relief effort, but also for the circumstances under which it took place.  

CIDA and DND, supported by PCO and other government departments, distributed and delivered aid to stricken Haitians.  Canada was the first to land a cargo plane full of supplies following the earthquake.  

In the midst of this horrible humanitarian crisis, we also witnessed something heartening.

The Government’s decision to match donations by the public inspired Canadians to give generously, in a way that we have perhaps never seen before. 


We made history twice last year! Like the EAP, the roll-out of our first national vaccination program—the H1N1 vaccine—was a Canadian first. 

PCO worked with the Public Health Agency of Canada, Health Canada and provincial, city and municipal governments to inoculate as many Canadians as possible. 

Although the WHO has declared the H1N1 pandemic over, it does not mean that the virus has gone away.

It may circulate for years to come and re-emerge. As we approach cough and cold season, the lessons we learned will be valuable going forward.

2010 Olympic and Paralympic Games

Last year wasn’t all about responding to crises and heading off chaos!  We had some good fun too.

We invited the world—and the world came to our very successful winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The Games were historic not only for the phenomenal and record setting Canadian medal count!  But also for how well they were received the world over.

Our games were peaceful, safe and showcased the best Canada has to offer.

G8 and G20

Continuing on Canada’s place in the world, we also hosted two very successful G8 and G20 summits back to back, a major undertaking from a substantive, logistical, communication and security standpoint.

Many development and peace and security issues were addressed by G8 leaders.

Our signature deliverable was the Muskoka initiative, by which we pushed forward a major G8 response to improve maternal and child health, raising a total of US$7.3 billion in new funding.

Through Canadian leadership, G20 leaders in Toronto addressed critical economic issues.

For instance, we are very proud of the fact that G20 leaders adopted targets that will see advanced economies at least halve their deficits by 2013 and stabilize government debt-to-GDP ratios.

Canada’s bid for a Seat at the UN Security Council

I had the opportunity to visit the Canadian Permanent Mission to the UN in New York in July and I am continually impressed with the work that they do.

As you know, we are working hard to secure a two-year term on the UN Security Council for 2011-2012.

Canada’s involvement in the UN is longstanding and I am confident that as a member of the Security Council Canada would make a meaningful contribution with respect to the funding, organizational and management challenges the UN faces and the fulfillment of UN objectives.

The election will take place in mid-October. Should we win, this will require a significant additional effort from PCO, working closely with PMO, DFAIT and other key departments.

Leading the Public Service

In addition to supporting the Prime Minister and Government in meeting its priorities and accomplishing its objectives, PCO provided guidance and leadership to the public service.

We continue to see significant transition in the senior ranks of the public service. 

The Deputy Ministers’ Committee on Public Service Renewal, chaired by Marie-Lucie Morin, engages public servants and external audiences at all levels on the importance of leadership and renewal.

We supported the Prime Minister’s Advisory Committee on Public Service which offered an astute assessment of the state of the public service and the challenges and opportunities it faces. 

And, I issued my first annual report as Clerk to the Prime Minister in which Public Service Renewal in the current environment and my commitment to renewing the workplace was outlined.

Building a Better PCO

This past year, PCO has done more than simply commit to workplace renewal, we put it into practice.

We launched the Innovation Campaign last spring and in doing so, we made PCO history by participating in our first social media facilitated exercise.

As Tim Sargent noted in his update, we asked you for your thoughts on how to make PCO a better place to work, and you delivered!

Our campaign generated ideas covering HR, our corporate culture and IT.  We discussed work-life balance, how to become a greener organization and in the process we posted 350 comments and cast 1282 votes! 

As all of you can attest, the campaign yielded a lively, enthusiastic and wide-ranging discussion.

The Innovation Campaign could not have unfolded as it did without the facilitation of web 2.0 enabled tools.

Thinking of the 17th annual report to the Prime Minister, and tools with which we work, we gave the PCO website a bit of a makeover. It now proudly carries a sharper and more user friendly design and lay out.

Continuing along these lines, we launched

One of our intentions in launching this website last March was to better inform public servants and the public as a whole on the history and role of the Privy Council Office and the duties of the Clerk. was also meant to promote and showcase the scope of responsibilities fulfilled by public servants, and their contributions to Canadians. 

Finally, the website serves as an interface between the Head of the Public Service, public servants and the public.  You may be surprised to learn that people do write in voicing their views on all sorts of things.

In sum, we covered a lot of ground since our last Town Hall.

Key in our accomplishments have been our professionalism, our ability to work across multiple levels of government cooperatively and collaboratively, and our capacity to create new systems in a seamless and timely fashion.

Over the next 12 months, we will need to come together once again and meet more challenges.

Before the next Town Hall, we will support the Government in the implementation of its fall legislative agenda and in managing what may be a feisty House of Commons.

We will facilitate the presentation of Budget 2011.

And we will complete the Administrative Services Review; and the PCO Strategic Review. 

Looking Ahead

Fall Session 2010 in the House of Commons

In the months ahead we have a lot to accomplish.

In terms of supporting the Government we will facilitate the introduction and management of new “profile bills.” 

These will coincide with the Government’s roll-out of specific priority initiatives and correlate with specific themes such as justice, security or immigration.

We will provide procedural support in assisting in the passage of Government bills, and over 60 private members’ business items currently before Parliament. Our jobs will be made more challenging as we move closer to a federal election.

Additionally, as committees become more investigative in nature, and place greater emphasis on the production of papers and witnesses, our role in monitoring and assisting the management of parliamentary committees will be more critical.

Last but not least, we will continue to support the Government’s democratic reform agenda which includes an emphasis on Senate and electoral reform.

The Economy

In addition to facilitating the management of the House this autumn, we have an economy to direct and a Budget to prepare for.

Canada has fared much better than many other countries including our G7 counterparts, through this recent recession. 

However, we must continue to exercise caution.

As a trading nation, we are often buffeted by the uncertainties and turmoil in the economies that surround us.

Global economic recovery is proceeding but is not yet self-sustaining.

Growth in the United States, while picking up, is slow and uneven. As yet, we are unsure whether global private demand is sufficient to sustain recovery.

Despite these external factors, we have reason to be optimistic.

Budget 2010 introduced measures that will reduce the deficit and pave our way back into the black.

One of the measures introduced slowed the growth in program spending in the areas of national defence, international assistance and operating expenditures (salaries and operating budgets).

Another budget measure is facilitating the wind-down of the temporary aspects of the EAP—this alone will cut the federal budget deficit by nearly half between 2009-10 and 2011-12.

In addition to these measures, we have resolved to utilize expenditure management tools to ensure government spending is efficient, effective and targeted to the priorities of Canadians.

Key among these expenditure management tools are the Strategic Review and the Corporate Asset Management Review.

PCO Strategic Review

As many of you know, the strategic review process requires all departments, on a four-year cycle, to assess all of their programs and operations and to identify the lowest-priority and lowest-performing five per cent for reallocation.

This year is PCO’s turn and we have completed our review of 100 per cent of our activities and in doing so have been very mindful of leading by example. 

In order to achieve our reallocation target, we have assessed our business models and identified transformations that will generate cost savings, and change our business model. 

For example, we are examining the implications of a paperless cabinet system. At this point, we have only committed to conducting the review, but I think it has some interesting possibilities.

PCO’s strategic review will be presented to Treasury Board ministers, as part of the broader leadership exercised by PCO.

In particular, we are leading a new review of administrative services that was announced in Budget 2010. I will come back to this review in more detail later on. 

Public Service Renewal

Strategic Human Resources Plan

I hope you all know that we have a brand new PCO Strategic Human Resources Plan for 2010-2013!

All PCO branches have provided valuable ideas for the plan and I thank you for your collective input.

I would, however, like to make specific mention of our HR staff and thank them for their hard work and overall contribution in designing such a high calibre plan. 

If you haven’t already seen it, it makes great and informative morning bus-ride reading!

I would like to call your attention to one of the exciting initiatives we will be rolling out over this coming year. 

Today, we are drawing names for the Job Shadowing Lottery, an initiative adapted from the Portal to Your Ideas Campaign. 

Job Shadowing is fun for both the shadower and the shadowee.  You should try it!

It also speaks directly to the importance of mentoring and coaching and the value we place on creating a learning culture and knowledge sharing environment.

Public Service Values and Ethics

There is a strong connection between our continued emphasis on public service renewal, and our commitment to public service excellence in a climate of fiscal constraint.   

These complementary objectives stem from the values and ethics that define our public service.

Now, perhaps more than in the past, we must nurture, foster and promote these values and ethics within the public service.

Because these values are the very foundation of our public service, they must persist.

We must ensure that we impart them to those who are brand new to the job market, as well as those who may be joining us from the private sector, and are new to the Public Service.

When you think about it, everything we do here at PCO speaks to our values and ethics, beginning with your essential role in posing the challenge function.

We are very much like other federal government departments in this regard.

For us, the difference lies perhaps in the breadth of our responsibilities and the scope, scale and implications of issues we manage. 

It is probably safe to say that most of us chose the public service because we believe in dedication to the public good and commitment to excellence.

Whether we serve within Canada, or are posted with CIC, Foreign Affairs or DND outside the country, accountability and transparency are paramount in our activities.

As public servants, we believe in respect for the Canadian taxpayer.

In a public environment where we are at times subjected to intense scrutiny, and serve a citizenry that is informed, astute and engaged, our values and ethics serve as a GPS that guides in everything we do.

In fact, the Government will table a new Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector in Parliament in the fall of 2010.

PCO Code of Conduct

We are so keen on values and ethics in PCO, that in our spare time, we decided to come up with our own code!

Ok ... it was not exactly our idea ... it is mandated by the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act.

To speak to the unique personalities and mandates of individual departments and agencies, the Act stipulates that:

“Every chief executive shall establish a code of conduct applicable to the portion of the public sector for which he or she is responsible.”

Krista Outhwaite, our Values and Ethics Champion, will be supported by members of the Human Resources Advisory Committee, a Council of Advisors, and a working group in leading this effort for PCO.

In the near future, they will be initiating what we hope will be a rich and engaging dialogue, and seeking your feedback. 

A Code of Conduct is effective only when individual public servants engage in understanding its impact.

Fearless and Evidence-Based Advice

We all know that playing the challenge function, on a full-time basis, as we do here can be ... well ... challenging.

The provision of impartial, non-partisan and evidence-based advice is, has always been, and will remain, the mandate of all public servants.

We must do our utmost to present our elected representatives with accurate and timely information to ensure that they have the best background possible upon which to base their decisions.

In the service of Canadians, as you have always, I ask that you continue to present the best policy and program options that you can. 

Canadians expect no less of us, and we expect no less of ourselves.

Know that the advice you provide may not always be accepted.

This should not affect your commitment to offer clear choices, including choices that are sometimes tough, and choices that may not be easy to sell.

Workplace Renewal

Integral to public service renewal is the modernization of the workplace.

As many of you know, I take the opportunity to emphasize workplace renewal whenever I can.

In my view, it is tied directly to the long-term health and strength of the public service.

By renewing the workplace we will remain relevant to Canadians, continue to provide excellent service to citizens, ensure that we give our elected officials the best advice possible and stay competitive as an employer.

Workplace renewal is also central to a competent, confident and creative public service. 

It encompasses everything from upgrading our aging IT systems, to the structure and layout of our buildings and offices, to the paper we put in our printers and the way we print our documents.

A year ago, I didn’t expect to be tweeting, or reading the news on my iPad, or thinking about apps. But here I am.

Over the past five years we have witnessed provincial governments forge ahead, boldly and successfully experimenting alternative and improved service delivery.

We are watching carefully as British Columbia sets the standard on the education front, and Ontario makes in-roads with health care services.  Other countries, such as Australia, are taking this very seriously and doing the same.

While Social media and web 2.0 tools such as the NRCan wiki and GCPEDIA are facilitating workplace renewal by nurturing a learning culture, serving as a vehicle for knowledge transfer and creating a central repository for corporate memory, they are also improving the quality of our work.

As was stated in the 17th annual report, workplace renewal speaks to how we work, where we work, the tools we work with and what work we should be doing. 

ASR (Administrative Services Review) and Better, Faster, Smarter Service for Canadians

As many of you know, we have also initiated some further work towards service improvement and innovation, and I am pleased with the attention devoted to this.

Service Canada on the front lines with respect to disability pensions, social insurance and the Federal Student Work Experience Program,  and the Canada Revenue Agency in areas such as taxation and child benefits, are both examples of important service providers with well established track records and broad client bases.

But we must do more, we are falling behind.

Government On-Line (1999-2006) and Service Canada (2005) had positioned us as one of the world leaders in service delivery, but we have lost momentum.

Our service offerings no longer meet the expectations of Canadians, particularly with the growing appetite for online transactions where citizens do not need to repeat the same information to myriad departments and agencies.

This chasm speaks to the public environment I referenced earlier and the overall climate we are working in.

In 2008, for the first time in nearly a decade, the GOC’s service satisfaction rating slipped (Citizens First 5, 2008). 

To regain the edge we once held vis-à-vis service delivery, we will have to move swiftly and demonstrate tangible results.

The traditional vertical approach (department by department) to service delivery is not client sensitive.

Our approach must be government-wide and our adjustments must be comprehensive and strategic while demonstrating tangible results.

This is why we have undertaken the Administrative Services Review.


Under the leadership of Daniel Jean, the ASR has been reviewing the Government’s administrative functions and overhead costs in order to simplify processes and delivery mechanisms to improve access to government services and reduce costs of program delivery. 

The Value Proposition, a strategy to enhance the quality of services to Canadian citizens and businesses while delivering them at lower cost, embodies the ASR and its expected outcomes.

It also offers a tremendous opportunity for the Government to demonstrate leadership, in-house, on its digital strategy.

The ASR functions as a horizontal lens though which we view our approach to the service we provide to Canadians as well as to IT, finance, human resources, real property management and disposal, better known as our internal enabling functions.

The evolution of business practices and technology allows us to simplify, standardize and consolidate our infrastructure, such as data centres. 

It will also allow us to modernize our systems such as email so that public servants will be able to keep the same email address throughout their career, regardless of which department or agency they serve.

These processes will also allow us to improve the effectiveness of our infrastructure and services while offering them at a lower cost.

Additionally, the modernization of our infrastructure and services will permit us to focus on our core functions, and position ourselves strategically to meet the demographic challenges that are looming on the horizon. 

Since May, Daniel and his team have spent hours engaging deputy ministers ADMs, the Federal Regional Councils and the three prominent Canadians (Paul Tellier, David Emerson and Carol Stephenson) who act as his external advisors.

Daniel and I have also met twice with the PM and ministers Flaherty and Day and there are more discussions scheduled this fall.

The ASR report will offer advice to ministers in the context of Budget 2011. I can say that I am impressed by the progress the ASR team has made since its inception and by how much has been accomplished in five months.  

I am excited by ASR and its proposals. I believe that it can revolutionize the business of government.

How we can work best as a team

As analysts, officers, advisors, or whatever your title may be, you do daily, at a macro level, what the ASR team has been doing furiously through the summer. 

You work brilliantly as a team. You make things look effortless—this is your strength.

We will need your high level of professionalism and you will once again need to operate in the tempo characteristic of PCO through the fall and winter months and in the year that lies ahead.

I will be looking to all of you to collaborate with and support your colleagues. 

I also ask you to take the time to mentor others and share your mistakes—we all make them and we can all learn from them. 

Don’t forget the work-life balance, you have tough jobs and you do them well.  Finding an equilibrium will only make you better.

Remember that public service is both an honour and a privilege.

Continue to do your job with pride, recognize the importance of the advice you provide and stay true to yourselves.

Closing Remarks

I am as impressed today, if not more, with PCO as I was on the day I started.

I am still enjoying the job

It is a privilege to work here with you day in and day out. 

Thank you for the amazing work you do, your professionalism, your energy and drive and your honesty.

Thank you for your time and thank you for listening and keep up the good work!