Remarks by Mr. Mel Cappe to the National Joint Council Seminar

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September 14, 2000
Victoria, British Columbia

Check Against Delivery


  • Pleasure to be here
  • You know that the Clerk of the Privy Council wears many hats - Secretary to Cabinet, DM to PM, and Head of the Public Service
  • My role as Head of the Public Service is particularly special to me when I talk to audiences both inside and outside the public service
  • because of the importance of an effective public service to Canada and Canadian individuals this has an impact on the economy and on society in general
  • because of the important people issues that will define how well we fulfil our mandate to the Government and to Canadians in the future
  • Since becoming Clerk I have focused a lot on a management agenda designed to ensure Canada has the public service it needs for the 21st century
  • The reason is simple:
  • Public Service has to remain a strong, representative, professional and non-partisan, national, bilingual institution to provide Canadians with highest quality service into the 21st century
  • an effective Public Service is vital to Canada's interests, including a strong economy, staying at the leading edge of the knowledge revolution, and building the highest quality of life for Canadians
  • The Government recognized this very clearly and in a historic way when it committed to a focus on the recruitment, retention and learning of its skilled workforce in last year's Speech from the Throne
  • no Canadian Speech from the Throne has ever had that kind of reference to the Public Service - ever
  • And it is important to point out that this was not just some throw-in
  • it was part of a comprehensive set of commitments to build a dynamic economy, underlining the value we bring to this country
  • So, my message this evening is
  • we all need to work together in shaping the Public Service into a modern, respected workplace of choice and it takes the contributions of unions, employees and managers. It won't happen without you.
  • I believe that fundamentally our objectives are the same, and we can work for the good of Canadians.


  • There is much activity already underway in departments, in central agencies, with unions, but we need to go further still
  • last year's Public Service Employee Survey was a significant step in making clear the issues that we have to resolve-
  • three Deputy Minister committees have devoted much time and study to recruitment, retention, and learning and development issues and have identified both short and longer term actions to address concerns
  • The years of large-scale growth, followed by years of minimal hiring and then by years of downsizing, have cast a demographic shadow over us today
  • It is clear that we have never faced the kind of recruitment challenge we do now
  • More than that, we need to build a workforce that is fully capable of working with the new technologies that are changing how we work and even many of our policy and program choices
  • our Public Service is at the forefront of connecting Canadians to their Government and, indeed, in seeing Canada connected world-wide
  • We are all knowledge workers now. We need to think hard about what it will take to recruit and retain the new generation of knowledge workers to fill current and expected gaps.
  • who will take us well into the next century
  • who will thrive in the new citizen-centred, collaborative environment that keeps evolving
  • But just as importantly
  • we need to create an environment that gets the best possible contribution from all employees, no matter when they were hired, no matter what jobs they hold or aspire to. We need to provide the opportunity to let them develop as individuals.

Being an Knowledge-Based Employer of Choice

  • To do that, I am committed to us becoming an employer of choice
  • That is to say, we must promote a positive work environment which is a source of pride for both employees and Canadian citizens alike
  • Getting there means understanding the new world of our knowledge-based workplace
  • Fact is, we have always been oriented to knowledge work, whether policy or science or law, etc.
  • now even traditional operational and program administration jobs are becoming more obviously knowledge-oriented
  • blue collar workers are more than ever adapting to new techniques and technologies
  • Our people have more latitude than ever to make independent decisions, to draw on information from many sources to make choices, to apply new technologies, to do more than simply follow the rigid directions of a manual or a higher-up's orders
  • in the new direction we are going, leadership is not just a responsibility for a few people we have to develop and encourage leaders throughout our organizations at all levels
  • in that new direction, we have to build a workforce that is fully representative of the rich diversity of Canadian society today
  • Representativeness is important, not only because it is right that the Public Service mirrors the Canadian population, but also because we see better outcomes as a result of the different perspectives that diversity brings
  • All this is to the good - All of it can only reinforce our important role in Canadian life and target it to places where we can make a unique or special difference
  • also fits with what we need to do to attract and retain new employees - and to respond to the workplace concerns of today's employees that stand in the way of success
  • So, our task is relatively straightforward - reinforce our traditional strengths and update some practices - right?
  • wrong
  • we're not the only players in the "making a difference" sweepstakes today
  • Provincial and territorial governments, First Nations governments, the voluntary sector and even parts of the private sector all offer jobs where a person can feel they make a real difference in the life of our society. Competition is fierce.
  • other governments face much the same recruitment and retention challenges as we do
  • we have no reason for any complacency at all

Modernizing the Public Service

  • So, we have to recognize that building a stronger, renewed Public Service won't happen by accident, by luck or by lack of competition
  • will take a hard look at what we need to create a truly modern workplace
  • means some fundamental changes to old, slow and rigid ways of organizing and working
  • For example, I appreciate that Universal Classification Standard implementation raises challenges for employer, employees and bargaining agent alike
  • but you have already done a great deal to bring about change in how we value work in this organization and how we pay people fairly and equitably
  • UCS can help us attract and retain skilled, dedicated people throughout our departments and agencies
  • We will keep moving ahead on it
  • The kind of structural change typified by UCS has to be matched by strong efforts on recruitment, retention and learning
  • As I mentioned, in October 1999, three DM Committees started work on Recruitment, Workplace Well-Being and Learning issues
  • All departments responded to a call letter I sent by identifying issues and outlining the many initiatives that have already been taken or will be taken at the departmental level, and by highlighting where they need system-wide assistance
  • Each committee has taken a thorough look at the issues we face and the work that has been done to get a sense of priorities and best practices
  • these have been reflected in the three reports of the committees which you can find on my web-site
  • many actions can be taken now and I encourage you to get involved
  • The consistent lesson of all these reports is that we cannot approach recruitment or retention or learning as isolated areas
  • what we do in one has to involve and be reinforced by what we do in the other two
  • I want them hand in hand, not chasing each other
  • I know that all of them are also taking into account the other analyses taking place
  • Such as the Perinbam Report (Action Plan on Visible Minorities) that led to our recent and clear commitments to build a diverse workplace, and the work of the Task Force on an Inclusive Public Service
  • will, no doubt, take into account the response to the Fryer Report, since all our strategies have to take into account the legitimate role of employee bargaining agents
  • and our determination to maintain respect for linguistic rights and the merit principle in all we do
  • All this is leading us to a coherent approach to the people issues that will define our future success
  • will also enable us to identify changes and options where we will get the best results from any new investments we make
  • I want to stress this point about results
  • to get support for addressing our recruitment, retention and learning priorities from the Government we need a clear, intelligent strategy to get coordinated results over the long haul
  • We are well on the way to that, not as one big approach for the whole government, but by ensuring that departments see these issues as the priorities they are, and that they have the support that will lead to results

Making Changes - It Goes Both Ways

  • Clearly a major set of challenges before PS managers
  • but the need for reflection goes both ways in this room
  • there is a real need for different thinking, thinking that reflects the workforce we are building and the workplace climate we need to create
  • to get there we all have to be more flexible and be committed to partnerships
  • Suggest that PS bargaining agents also have to take stock of their own roles in promoting a workplace that genuinely reflects the interests and concerns of the new generation that will be joining us

Conclusion -- Retaining and Celebrating our Values

  • But this is not all about change
  • our core values will continue to guide us
  • so will our commitment to work with bargaining agents to resolve issues based on mutual respect and a shared commitment to Canadians and public service
  • We all understand that people are the key to that Public Service
  • and that our challenges are about making changes that work for the people who make up the Public Service -- those already with us and those we want to attract and keep in the years to come
  • All of us, managers, unions and employees alike, have a role in making that change happen
  • the NJC will be an essential forum to make that progress real and effective
  • it will be where we develop much of what needs to happen and will provide an opportunity where consensus can be built
  • So, I look forward to hearing the results of this seminar and your work in general
  • Thank you