Making Connections and Meeting the Challenge: E-Government and the Public Service of Canada

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Remarks by Mr. Mel Cappe
May 3, 2000 

Check Against Delivery


  • Thank you. Pleased to be here at ADM Forum again
    • Planning Committee picked one of my favorite subjects
    • popular topic these days
    • many diverse views – Frank Ogden last night
  • At outset, clarify how I see E–Government
    • begins w+ith digitizing information
    • leads to delivering services – but certainly doesn’t end here
    • interactive tool for engaging citizens in the development of policies, programs and services
    • leading, ultimately, to E-democracy
    • as well as promotion of e–everything, and
    • effect on economy and society
  • Why we want E–Government
    • relevance – responds to the needs of Canadians in a knowledge-based economy and society (KBES)
    • economic and social imperative – both a driver and a lever
    • for the PS – great potential in whole range of areas, including recruitment, retention and learning
  • Key messages today
    • E–Government is here to stay
    • need to act now – or miss an unprecedented opportunity
    • everyone has a role to play
  • Know you are all busy people – full day jobs
    • but, reality is E–Government is integral to everyone’s job
    • offers all of us – but ADMs in particular – tremendous opportunities
    • opportunities evident in recent trip to Washington
    • also note that Canada recently made a substantive contribution at the OECD on using information technology to strengthen government-citizen connection

Where We’ve Come From – Some Personal Reflections

  • Before I talk about where we are going on E–Government, want to share a few personal reflections
  • Always been convinced E–Government was inevitable
    • but about nine months ago something happened that showed no turning back
    • E-mails at work from my mother
  • Reinforced how ubiquitous the Internet is – universal dial tone
    • young and old alike, Net catching on like crazy
    • citizens want to deal with us on-line
  • Come a long way since the early E–Office (memory typewriters and early fax machines) and small steps towards E–Government
    • 1987 – sending my first e-mails at CCAC
    • 1988 – got my first luggable
    • 1995 – setting up "Green Lane" on Info Highway
    • this year -  NETFILE income tax refund in 7 days; registered on-line for Forum

Where We’ve Come From – Strong Commitments

  • Government of Canada interest in "Electronic issues" – dates back 6 years already
    • 1991-92 – first Web presence – departments and programs
    • 1994 – Information Highway Advisory Committee
    • 1997 – SFT set out vision for connectedness
    • 1998 – national, six-pillar connectedness agenda launched
      • one pillar is citizen-centred electronic service delivery
      • focus on access, e–commerce, etc.
  • October 1999 – Speech from the Throne
    • goal for the Government of Canada to become a "model user of information technology and the Internet"
    • by 2004, "be known around the world as the government most connected to its citizens, with Canadians able to access all government information and services on-line at the time and place of their choosing."
  • 7th Annual Report – I said to the Prime Minister

    "Modernizing service delivery has been a priority for my predecessors in their role as the Head of the Public Service. This continues to be a major priority for me, with a particular focus on better serving Canadians in our increasingly digital world."

Where We are Today – Digitizing Information and Modernizing Service Delivery

  • Where is the Public Service of Canada on E–Government today?
  • Getting better at digitizing information
    • most federal departments/agencies have web sites, but not organized by subject/service, or linked to each other
    • National Post (April 29) – re: Government of Canada site

      "In addition to providing information on all federal government programs and services, searchable by department, the Government of Canada site is chock full of content on Canadian history, facts and symbol – complete with interactive quizzes to test your knowledge."
  • Beginning to make inroads to modernize service delivery – to deliver services in ways that make sense to Canadians
    • much work already underway in departments to modernize service delivery
    • now need to refocus efforts, reallocate resources, to bring E–Government lens to what we do, how we do it and how we mobilize our people to get there
  • A few pockets of innovation
    • On-line auctions – last fall’s successful, well-received on-line auction of two bands of the Radio Spectrum
    • The Leadership Network’s site – four star rating from Sympatico Magazine (
  • Need to bring it all together – two initiatives aimed at doing this
  1. Service Canada
    • aiming for single window access to government services, by telephone, the web and face-to-face (
    • multiple channels, always be a backdoor
  2. Government on Line
    • SFT initiative – more from Minister Robillard later today
    • first milestone – December 2000 all departments on-line presence, information on programs and services and key forms
    • Call Letters to all Deputies

Moving beyond Information and Service ...

  • E–Government not just about providing information and service electronically
    • but technology and electronic service delivery certainly transforming how we work together
    • and are leading to other generations of E–Government
  • Citizen Engagement
    • Ultimately, to use E–Government to engage citizens in an interactive way to develop policies, programs and services
    • Currently, in policy area, still primarily at information stage, one-way. Policy Research Initiative’s web site is an on-line resource centre with more than 1000 policy links for researchers.
    • Work has begun to develop a policy framework and pilot projects in the area of electronic citizen engagement
    • Some early projects include NRCan’s year-long, on-line conference to exchange information on pipeline reliability, and the Rural Dialogue
  • E-Democracy – New Canada Elections Act (Bill C-2) foresees the possibility of electronic voting – Bill still before Parliament

... Towards E-Democracy

  • Come a lot further than we realize, in a lot less time, from E–Office to E–Information to beginnings of E–Service
    • still long way to go before E–Democracy
    • could take as much time as we want, if we want to wait for others to tell us what to do and how to do it
    • or, we can act now and define our own agenda
  • Difficult because tendency to want to know where we’re going before we start
    • technology changing too fast for typical 5-year planning cycle
    • true, there are some very fundamental technical issues
    • but this is not just a technical problem – it is ultimately about better government
  • Need to go forward the best we can and learn as we go
    • opportunities to draw on lessons learned in other countries
    • but also for the Public Service of Canada to do it in a positive, Canadian way

Some Issues to Consider As We Move Forward

1.  The "Digital Divide"

  • in U.S., one of key concerns – gap between those who have access to, and can use, electronic tools and those who don’t
  • in Canada, SFT said focus is on building the highest quality of life for all Canadians – this means ensuring all Canadians have access to E–Government
  • Canadian practitioners and researchers working to narrow the "digital divide" (eg.  SchoolNet, Community Access Program)
  • should recognize E–Government can present opportunities
    • breaking down geographic barriers
    • making access to service not dependent on being mobile (e.g. Canada Gazette)
    • making service available when convenient for citizens
    • providing bilingual services

2.  Privacy and Security

  • trust that when we give and get information over the Internet, that no one else has access – private, confidential, secure transaction
  • citizens want to be aware and accept how information on them will be used, shared across government and safeguarded/managed over time
  • we are different from the private sector – so we have different responsibilities in advising Ministers on safeguarding the public trust

3.  The Policy, Legal and Regulatory Framework

  • need to be well-positioned to advise Ministers on the policy, legal and regulatory frameworks for E–Government
  • need to do so in step with technical approaches
  • virtual goldmine of exciting policy research and development
  • for example:
    • will our traditional policy and legislative tools allow us to achieve E–Government goals? (e.g. administrative, tax, infrastructure, trade, etc.)
    • how E–government can help us communicate and consult more effectively with Canadians?
    • how will E–Government affect the advice we provide to Ministers on policies and regulatory approaches? (e.g. achieving Canadian content in an E–Government world; communicating Canadian culture via the Internet)
    • Bill C-6 an early success in this area

4.  Implications for Governance

  • in a post-structural era – E–Government is the epitome
  • another virtual goldmine of work here
  • organizational designs driven by networks and partnerships
  • structure, hierarchies, roles and relationships, decision-making processes
  • accountability when clustering services
  • design of portals

5.  Time and Expectations

  • technology shrinks turnaround times and makes instantaneous response possible – increasing marginal value of a nanosecond
  • perception that creates additional demands on workload
    • true, in one sense
    • but also opportunity to let go of some of our traditional ways of doing things
    • e.g. by putting simple information on-line Justice Canada has saved each HR officer 25 calls per day
  • should we clarify what citizens can expect, or change our backrooms?
  • risk losing sight of one of the most important functions of the bureaucracy — due consideration

6.  Last issue ... Getting our Own House in Order

  • start with the basics – can’t send e–mail to all PS employees
  • systems issues – although departments are using more of same basic systems, often customized but not all interoperable
  • TIMS will have to deal with connectedness within the PS
  • also, silos within and between departments that affect our ability to present information in ways that are meaningful for Canadians
    • must make horizontal mechanisms work better and work faster
    • build bridges, not empires
    • collaborate interdepartmentally
    • collaborate with other levels of government, inside and outside Canada
  • took 10 years to get Blue Pages listed by subject - can’t take another ten years to put on-line!
  • related issue – corporate presence – market our services as an institution - brand clarity is important

Where are we going?

  • Where will we be on E–Government 10 years from now?
    • we will have moved way beyond digitizing information
    • to delivering services electronically in an integrated way
    • to using electronic means to engage citizens in the development of government policies, programs and services
    • we will be closer to E–Democracy
  • For example, after seeing a live show at the NAC – because we will always need live shows – I might stop in the lobby to:
    • check to verify that the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency has correctly calculated my income tax and deposited the refund into my account. (If I disagreed with their assessment, I would file an appeal.)
    • renew my drivers’ licence
    • send an e–mail to my local Councillor complaining about my recycling pick-up
  • Or wouldn’t it be nice if:
    • an already busy mother notified one level of government that her new bundle of joy had arrived and the SIN number, passport, birth certificate and health card were all delivered
    • when you move, you only have to tell the government once, and all your household addresses were changed – from taxes to utilities, or
    • when you retire, your pension and other programs kick in automatically
  • Only half the picture – what you won’t see will be even more important
    • working horizontally
    • fewer departmental silos
    • different backrooms
    • no distinction between headquarters and regions
    • lines between policy and operations will dissolve
    • effective integration of information technology with other government functions


  • Three messages
    • E–Government is here to stay – it’s more than just digitizing information but we still have more to do here (E–HR)
    • Urgency – clear commitments to E–Government, beginning with service delivery and moving toward E–Democracy. E–Government is also a top priority for me and each of your Deputies. We need to act now.
    • E–Government will happen with or without you. But, you have a tremendous opportunity to lead the way and guide how it can happen.
  • ADMs – privileged position to really make your mark – rare, exciting opportunity to make a big difference in the future of Government in Canada, and the future of Canada
    • E–Government – can’t be done centrally, no one person can stay on top of it
    • TIMS will provide leadership
    • as leaders in the PS, ADMs have a key role to make these changes happen
  • E–Government is a powerful tool which is helping us transform the Public Service of Canada – to make it an employer of choice
  • Four public service values take on new meaning
    • democratic, professional, ethical and people values
  • E–Government is encouraging us to look more closely at how we manage people, and develop leaders at all levels (and not just in technical areas):
    • delegate, collaborate and manage a certain level of risk – we are working in a grey zone
    • trust and give our employees latitude to address the challenges and generate solutions
    • empower our employees to speak for the Government of Canada, not just their own department/program
    • liberate potential
    • promote ideas and entrepreneurialism
    • encourage thinkers, dreamers and doers
  • reinforces the other basics of good management that Minister Robillard will emphasize – modern comptrollership, accountability, information management
  • How does this link up with what we are doing on recruitment, retention and learning?
    • need to recruit the next generation of workers – a diverse pool of talent which has grown up in digital world
    • need to make sure our employees learn how to operate in the new digital world
    • need to make sure we are creating workplaces where new ideas are valued and nurtured
  • As ADMs, your leadership, support and enthusiastic participation is essential
    • review of collective management said you wanted to get more involved in the corporate agenda
    • here is an opportunity for us to work together
  • E–Government is forcing us to think about many key issues in this new digital world. As Tod Johnson, Chairman and CEO of Media Matrix Inc., recently observed:

    "With motion pictures, it took 30 years before someone thought of doing a close-up. On the Internet, we probably haven't discovered the close-up yet."
  • With your leadership and support, we will make the right connections, and meet the challenges of E–Government
  • I look forward to your views and questions. Thank you. Merci.