Nineteenth Annual Report to the Prime Minister on the Public Service of Canada

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Table of Contents


I. Introduction

Canada’s Public Service has always played a critical role in improving the lives of Canadians and securing our country’s future. As we embark on the changes to our organizations announced in Budget 2012, we do so from a position of strength. And, as we navigate this important period of transition, the stewardship of this vital institution takes on even greater importance.

In my role as Clerk of the Privy Council and Head of the Public Service, I have been fortunate again this year to see public servants in action both across the country and abroad. Through these interactions I have gained an even deeper appreciation of our daily challenges and successes, and of the professionalism with which our colleagues fulfill their roles. Our Public Service continues to inspire me and I remain convinced that Canada’s Public Service stands among the best in the world. It is because of this pride that I never miss an opportunity to share our accomplishments and innovations with my counterparts, both domestically and internationally. All public servants can take pride in our collective achievements.

II. The World in Which We Serve

These are remarkable times in which to be a public servant. As a nation, we are living through a period of significant transformation. Internationally, we are witnessing the emergence of a new, more complex global architecture, as traditional economic and political power wanes and re-forms around emerging nations and alliances. Canada’s role and influence in these changes cannot be taken for granted. 

Many advanced nations are wrestling with enormous levels of debt and slow economic growth. In their efforts to restore national balance sheets, many have embarked on rigorous austerity programs that are having dramatic impacts on their public institutions and their citizens.

At the same time, the traditional relationship between government and citizens continues to evolve. Enabled by instantaneous communication and collaboration technologies, citizens are demanding a greater role in public policy development and in the design and delivery of services. They want greater access to government data and more openness and transparency from their institutions.

In some countries, social media have even helped drive regime change, as we saw with the uprisings against authoritarian rule that spread across North Africa and the Middle East this past year. The new political order in the Arab world is still taking shape.

Canada, too, saw its share of dramatic events. Last spring, devastating floods hit Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Quebec’s Richelieu Valley and wildfires destroyed much of the community of Slave Lake, Alberta. In response, thousands of Canadian Forces and RCMP members worked tirelessly with local officials to evacuate those in harm’s way and preserve homes, roads and vital infrastructure. In the months following these disasters, federal public servants have been collaborating with their provincial and municipal counterparts to help affected Canadians rebuild their lives.

Strengthening the Relationship with First Nations
Through a Joint Action Plan launched in June 2011, the Government of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations have committed to working together to improve the long-term prosperity of First Nations in key areas such as education, governance, and economic development. The historic Crown–First Nations Gathering held this past January and attended by the Prime Minister, ministers, members of Parliament, public servants, and several hundred chiefs, helped lay the groundwork for future reforms.

While some public servants worked quickly to help citizens deal with unforeseen events, many others helped chart the nation’s future course. For the first time in seven years, the Government has a majority in the House of Commons. The Public Service has a valuable opportunity to support the Government in developing longer-term approaches that will help Canada address its significant and enduring challenges—whether related to the economy, Canada’s aging population, or its role on the world stage.

Canada’s future growth and prosperity are the focus of a number of key initiatives that we have advanced over the past year. Public servants are working closely with their counterparts in the United States on two major joint initiatives: the Beyond the Border agreement, a new long-term partnership that will strengthen and deepen economic and security links to our most important partner; and the United States-Canada Regulatory Cooperation Council to better align the regulatory approaches of our two nations.

Canada’s Economic Leadership
The International Monetary Fund and the Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development both forecast that Canada will have some of the strongest economic growth in the G7 over the coming year. The World Economic Forum rated our banking system as the strongest in the world for the fourth consecutive year, noting that this is due in large part to our regulatory and supervisory framework for the financial sector.

Canada’s economic leadership was recognized when Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney was named Chairman of the G20’s Financial Stability Board in November 2011.

We also worked hard to strengthen Canada’s trading relationships with important and emerging economies. Free trade agreements were finalized or brought into force with several partners in Latin America, and progress is being made in negotiations with some fifty countries, including those of the European Union and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, as well as Korea.

Canada has weathered the recent economic downturn better than our G7 counterparts, but unpredictability remains. We cannot be complacent: Canada must be positioned to compete with the fastest growing and strongest economies.

Canada must continue to address its own fiscal challenges if its economy is to remain on a solid footing, and the Public Service will do its part.

III. Our Evolving Institution

When I looked back on my previous annual reports and those of my predecessors, I saw a remarkable continuity in the observations and guidance that each offers. While the reports span nearly 20 years, the forces driving change—increasing globalization, ongoing technological advances, fiscal pressures, the changing fabric of Canadian society, and citizens’ rising expectations for better and faster services delivered at a lower cost—are recurring themes. Is this because we have failed to react and respond? Not at all. These forces have fuelled the continuous and purposeful renewal of our institution.

The Public Service remains strong because we continue to adapt to our ever-changing context to meet the needs of Canadians. As a result of the renewal efforts launched in 2006, business and human resources planning is better integrated and more rigorous, a dynamic cohort of new public servants has joined our ranks, deputy heads and their management teams have put people management front and centre, and we have modernized many of our administrative practices and systems.

A Time of Change
“In every country, public sector institutions are undergoing change. This is also unavoidable in Canada. Indeed, change is essential if the Public Service is to become a more productive, leaner and more relevant institution, and if it is to remain a career of choice for talented young Canadians.”  —Sixth Report of the Prime Minister's Advisory Committee on the Public Service

The reality, however, is that the changes unfolding in society are outpacing the adjustments that we have been making within the Public Service. This makes it increasingly challenging for us to remain in step with the post-industrial, networked society we serve.

Although no other organization in the country can match the breadth and objectivity of our policy expertise, we are one of many sources of advice available to the Government. We must use the advantages of our wide networks, the range of our experience, and our ability to integrate diverse perspectives in order to distinguish ourselves in a crowded policy marketplace.

We have moved toward more citizen-focused service delivery.  For example, Service Canada provides single-window access to a wide range of Government of Canada programs and services.  However, citizens still have to navigate their way through multiple channels to find many of the services they need.

And while we have updated many of our management practices, we must find ways to reconcile vertical accountability and ways of working with an increasingly horizontal and collaborative world.

We have already made some real progress in our campaign to modernize the way we work and serve Canadians:

  • More than 80 of our federal organizations use Web 2.0 technologies and social media to share accurate and timely information or to collect data and engage citizens. For example, Canada Border Services Agency uses Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to engage directly with Canadians on border-related issues. The Agency has even created Twitter accounts for all ports of entry, making it fast and efficient for Canadians to receive border wait-time updates.
  • The Government expanded its commitment to Open Government through three main streams: Open Data (making greater amounts of government data available to citizens), Open Information (proactively releasing information about Government activities) and Open Dialogue (expanding citizen engagement with Government through Web 2.0 technologies).
  • The Red Tape Reduction Commission recently released a series of recommendations aimed at easing the regulatory compliance burden on Canadian businesses. To support the work of the Commission, the Community of Federal Regulators set up an online collaboration tool and more than 1,000 regulatory employees used it to share their ideas for reducing red tape.
  • Shared Services Canada, launched in August 2011, is a new common-service organization that will consolidate the resources and personnel for more than 60 internal email systems, 300 data centres, and 3,000 electronic networks. This whole-of-government approach will enable us to modernize our systems, as well as improve efficiency and help lower the cost of our services to Canadians.

And deputy heads have also reported on their organizations’ progress against the renewal objectives set out in my Eighteenth Annual Report. I am pleased to note that departments and agencies are actively creating the conditions for our institution’s future success. Processes are being streamlined, resource-sharing is reducing costs, and employee engagement efforts have increased. Examples of some of the promising initiatives taking place across the Public Service are available on my website.

But we have much more to do, and we are being asked to carry out our mission with fewer resources. Instead of letting this hobble us, it must spur us to explore new ways of working.

We must focus on the results we want to achieve on behalf of Canadians and open our minds to different approaches to delivering on our mission. We must continue to push ourselves to experiment and take intelligent risks. If we can do this, I am convinced that we will be able to do more than ever with the resources that will remain.

IV. Pursuing Excellence in the Public Service

As highlighted above, the world is changing in fundamental ways, and the Public Service must change with it. Moving forward, the key question we must ask is not whether our institution is the right size, but whether it is working in the ways it must to meet the demands of a new age.

To continue to achieve excellence across all our core functions—policy development, program and service delivery, regulation, and management—we must understand the requirements of the future and align our organizations to meet these needs. In the coming year, deputy heads will be asked to report back to me on how they are positioning their organizations for the future.

Implementing Budget 2012

Engaged Employees
The recently conducted 2011 Public Service Employee Survey (PSES) showed that in spite of the uncertainty facing our institution, public servants remain very engaged and committed to their work: 82 percent of employees like their jobs and 94 percent are willing to put in the extra effort to get the job done.

Budget 2012 lays out an ambitious agenda for Canada. I am very proud of our colleagues from across the Public Service; the excellent advice and support they provided to the Government has helped to chart a bold course for our nation.

Budget 2012 also ushers in a new era for our institution. I am equally proud of how professionally and rapidly the Public Service supported the Government to develop options and prepare for deficit reduction. In spite of the real stresses on individuals and teams that this kind of change brings, our senior leadership provided its best advice to ministers; public servants continued to carry out their daily responsibilities with dedication and professionalism; and managers began to prepare for the changes to come.

I am confident that we will see this same level of professionalism and sensitivity in implementing the decisions that have been made.

Success will be measured not only by reaching the reduction targets. Our goal must be to build a stronger and more adaptable institution that is able to meet the demands of the future, even while we adjust to smaller budgets and a smaller public service.

Over the next few years, departments will have to embrace innovative ways of delivering on their core business responsibilities. By working collaboratively across our organizations and beyond, streamlining our processes, and taking advantage of new technologies, we will be able to provide Canadians with better services at a lower cost. This means we must carefully consider the skills and competencies that our workforce will need to help us achieve this, and use these to guide our decisions as we implement Budget 2012.

As we carry out the challenging work of reshaping our organizations, we will work hard to find new opportunities for those employees whose positions are affected. We will strive to make the best possible use of planned retirements, departures and new vacancies to minimize the impact of reductions.

Investing in People
“Through this process of change, it is essential to continue recruiting talent… to ensure a continuous stream of leaders for the decades to come. It is also necessary to sustain investments in employee training and development, to ensure that the Public Service maintains the capacity to do its job even as the total size of the workforce is shrinking.”
Sixth Report of the Prime Minister's Advisory Committee on the Public Service

We must also continue to develop the competencies needed for an evolving Public Service. Professional development should not stop during times of fiscal restraint. And, during the months ahead, our recruitment will be targeted to fill key skills gaps and carried out with a view to the broader, longer-term needs of the institution. But the reality is there will be fewer jobs.

Those whose jobs are affected will be treated with respect and according to work force adjustment agreements that we committed to with their bargaining agents.

Those who leave us for new lives outside the Public Service will have our sincere gratitude for the contributions they have made during their Public Service careers.

The Public Service of the Future

Although the core work of the Public Service will not fundamentally change in the years ahead, how we work must. The Public Service of tomorrow will be defined by a number of key characteristics—achieving excellence in all that we do will require our institution to be collaborative, innovative, streamlined, high performing, adaptable and diverse.

Collaborative

The people who make up today’s Public Service bring together a wealth of expertise and experience. They carry out their work in all regions of our vast country, as well as overseas. By embracing more collaborative ways of working together, we will be able to tap the collective intelligence and energy inside our institution to deliver better results for Canadians.

We must also deepen our engagement with a broad network of external partners: other nations, other levels of government, the private sector, civil society, and citizens themselves.

Policy Built on Shared Knowledge
The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) has been experimenting with an Open Policy Development Model that uses social networking and technology to leverage ideas and expertise from both inside and outside the department. A recent full-day event convened 400 public and private sector participants and produced a number of open policy pilots, e.g., an emergency response simulation involving consular officials and a volunteer community of digital crisis-mappers.

DFAIT is also using GCConnex, the Public Service’s social networking site, to open up policy research and development to public servants across departments.

I am confident that the Public Service can take a lead role in galvanizing the collective power of our society to tackle the large and complex issues Canada faces. To do this well, we will need to hone our skills as network-builders, facilitators and partners.

This collaboration will be our springboard for developing the professional, broad-based and creative advice that will serve the greatest range of citizens’ needs.

Collaboration is also essential to our ability to provide integrated, citizen-centred service. We have taken important steps toward that goal through Service Canada, which provides citizens with single-window access to a broad range of government services. However, to achieve service delivery excellence we must strengthen our partnerships with other levels of government and non-governmental organizations, and actively involve the citizens who will use these services in their design and delivery.

Innovative

New Flexibilities, Old Habits
The recently tabled Report of the Review of the Public Service Modernization Act revealed that despite the availability of a range of new staffing flexibilities, we have been reluctant to let go of old approaches, leaving some of the legislation’s potential benefits unrealized.

Doing new things in new ways comes about only by trying. We must couple creativity with courage and start to work in fundamentally different ways. We must resist the urge to create layer upon layer of rules and processes to shield ourselves from every possible error. This has been our tendency in the recent past. It cannot be our approach in the future.

As author William Gibson observed, “The future is already here, it’s just unevenly distributed.” Across our vast enterprise, public servants are already devising creative ways to do a better job and get better results. We need to shine a light on these trailblazers so that we can all learn from their experiments and build on them. Managers and senior leaders can foster innovation—large and small—by encouraging their teams to ask how their work can be done better, test out new approaches and learn from mistakes.

So much innovation in the 21st century is being made possible by well-developed communication technologies. Yet many public servants are frustrated by a lack of access to the Web 2.0 and social media tools that have such potential for helping us transform the way we work and serve Canadians. Public servants should enjoy consistent access to these new tools wherever possible. We will find a way to achieve this while at the same time safeguarding the data and information in our care.

I also encourage departments to continue expanding the use of Web 2.0 technologies and social media to engage with Canadians, share knowledge, facilitate collaboration, and devise new and efficient services.

Streamlined

Shared Services Canada
Created in August 2011, Shared Services Canada will streamline and reduce duplication in the Government’s IT services by managing this infrastructure at the whole-of-government level.  This will produce savings and make IT more effective and reliable across the Public Service.

Citizens today expect services to be easily accessible, fast and flexible. Public servants need administrative processes and systems that enable rather than hinder their work, while still supporting accountability.

Unfortunately, neither our external nor internal services are hitting this mark. In both cases, we need more than process improvements to meet these expectations; we need to fundamentally transform the ways in which we deliver services and administrative support in our front and back offices. By pooling efforts and resources across departments and deliberately standardizing many of our processes and systems, we will be able to drive innovation and get better value for money.

Our technology infrastructure is the backbone of our operations and services. We have made progress in enterprise-wide management of such things as pay and pension services, and now the creation of Shared Services Canada has ushered in a new era for our internal systems and services. By taking advantage of our size, we will be able to deliver streamlined, cost-effective and more secure email, data and network services to all departments. This whole-of-government approach will free up resources for higher value work. We need to adopt a more standardized approach for other key common services, such as human resources and finance.

High performing and adaptable

In a world where social media can swiftly propel an issue into the spotlight, our lead-time for advice and decision making is shorter than ever. The Public Service must be as adaptable as the world is changeable. Organizations and individuals alike must be agile.

Building Our Performance Management Capacity
Important work is being done to help our managers build their performance management capacity. The Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer has developed an online Performance Management Tool and the Canada School of Public Service offers a Performance Management for Managers curriculum.

Moving forward, we need to experiment with more nimble workforce models that will allow our knowledge workers and specialists to contribute where and when they are needed rather than only where they are located. We must also continue to identify the tasks and functions that others outside our organization are better placed to carry out.

Boosting productivity across our organizations will also be key to achieving excellence in our core functions. Rigorous performance management is an essential element—all leaders and managers need to focus on getting the best out of their people and other resources. We must develop, encourage and expect excellence from public servants at all levels. And managers themselves must lead by example.

In the months to come, I expect all managers to keep their teams focused on the important work we do by setting high standards for individual performance, and expecting employees to meet those standards. All employees should have a performance agreement with their supervisor.

The demanding period ahead will also be an important time to recognize employee excellence—in achieving results, demonstrating organizational values, and being innovative. Recognition comes in many forms: through positive feedback, new challenges, learning opportunities, awards, or public recognition.

Diverse

Welcoming, respecting and valuing diversity in the workplace makes good business sense. Different perspectives enrich our understanding of issues and inject new energy and creativity into our work.

Through our renewal efforts, we are working hard to build a Public Service that reflects and benefits from the rich mosaic of backgrounds that make up our nation. I am very pleased with the 2011 Public Service Employee Survey (PSES) results which show that the majority (88 percent) of public servants believe that in their work unit, every individual, regardless of race, colour, gender or disability, is accepted as an equal member of the team.

The 2011 PSES also revealed that the vast majority of public servants feel comfortable using the official language of their choice as they carry out their work. We must not let up our efforts to nurture workplaces that support the use of both official languages, even as we tackle reductions.

Moving forward, Public Service leaders need to continue to capitalize on the diversity of our organization—to draw out talents and ideas, and to recognize what and how diversity contributes to the workplace. This will result in productive and fulfilling work environments, improve our ability to attract and retain great employees, and enable us to better serve Canadians in both official languages.

V. Our Enduring Public Service Values

Our strong and enduring Public Service values will help us navigate the challenging transition we are undertaking.

The new Values and Ethics Code for the Public Sector, which comes into effect in April 2012, renews our deep commitment to a professional, non-partisan, highly ethical public sector. Respect for democracy, respect for people, integrity, stewardship and excellence define the federal public sector and set a high standard for the behaviour of all public servants. 

Non-partisanship and impartiality continue to be at the heart of the Code. They are the source of the trust and confidence that successive governments and all Canadians must have in our ability to serve the public interest rather than personal or private interests.

Respect for these values over many generations is the reason we are one of the most highly regarded public sectors in the world. Even as we look to the future, we must protect, nurture and pass on this proud part of our past to the next generation.

It is not enough for public servants to simply be aware of these values; they must fully commit to them and bring them to life in all of the work they do on behalf of Canadians. I expect Public Service leaders and managers to engage their employees in a recommitment to these essential values through ongoing dialogue about real workplace issues.

VI. The Road Ahead

I am very proud of what the Public Service has accomplished to date and of the vital role we play in serving the Government and the country.

We have a unique opportunity to be part of something important—the chance to shape our institution for a new age. Although the road ahead will not be easy, I am confident that, guided by our enduring values, we will join creativity with courage and continue to take the bold steps needed to transform Canada’s Public Service.

We owe it to Canadians and to ourselves to take on this challenge.

Annexes