Head of the Public Service Award Ceremony

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Notes for an Address by Mel Cappe Clerk of the Privy Council, Secretary to the Cabinet and Head of the Public Service

Ottawa, Ontario
December 10, 2001

Check Against Delivery


  • Good afternoon.
  • The Head of the Public Service Award Ceremony is one of those events that I truly look forward to.
  • I find this ceremony to be inspiring.
  • This is the time that we get to meet and hear the stories of men and women who have done exceptional things, truly remarkable things, in terms of serving their country. It is particularly gratifying in this unusually demanding environment that we had in the last year.
  • As we gather here today, the level of service Canadians expect from their government is very high, and the way we deliver that service is changing rapidly.
  • The policy issues for which the government needs our advice are increasing complex and fast-moving.
  • And at a time when we need to recruit thousands of skilled, diverse and talented employees, the Public Service is facing competition from others.
  • These are demanding times but we do have a formula for success. What we offer as an employer is an organization that demands:
  • excellence in policy;
  • excellence in service delivery; and,
  • excellence in valuing and supporting people.
  • When you hear the citations that will be read in the minutes to come, you will be hearing the stories of how these honourees consulted widely, considered carefully and collaborated with stakeholders to deliver the best policy advice to the government.
  • You will learn of how this year's recipients put innovative technology and talented people to work, delivering the best possible level of service to Canadians.
  • You will understand how valuing and supporting people can lift an entire organization to a whole new level of effectiveness.
  • There is a fourth category for the Head of the Public Service Award - another element in our formula. It is a subtler category, where results can be very hard to measure. Yet it is just as honourable and perhaps more important to recognize.
  • That category is values and ethics.
  • Values such as empathy, courage and the ability to earn the trust of others in a challenging environment are called for now, perhaps more than at any other time since most of us have been in the workforce.
  • That's why I am delighted that this year's recipient of the John Tait Memorial Award for Values and Ethics demonstrated all of these values, and did so so well.
  • Though they won their awards in four different categories, as you hear their stories and read through your programmes, you will no doubt notice the one quality they all have in common -- people who have demonstrated leadership.
  • Leadership is not reserved for supervisors, managers or executives. Leadership does not require a formal title. It requires the courage to innovate, to challenge the status quo. It requires people skills to inspire and try to lead co-workers and team members:
  • Like leadership, the Head of the Public Service Award is not limited to one level of the organization or any one department or agency;
  • This award is unique in the Public Service in that we encourage any employee to nominate any other employee; and,
  • This is a powerful approach that has yielded a remarkably diverse list of recipients for each of its four years.
  • I am proud to report that this year's recipients are no exception. These awards are important because recognizing excellence, whether it's a genuine thank-you or a formal awards program like this one, ensures that those who perform at the highest level know how much we value their ideas and their effort. This motivates all of us - their example also helps us to retain good people and attract new members to our teams.
  • Recognizing excellence also helps us transform one success story into a much larger pattern of success.
  • This is how a learning organization takes the best ideas, the best practices, and passes them on, multiplying their impact over time.
  • In short, recognizing excellence is one of the surest ways to consistently bring out the best in our employees and their teams.
  • As such, excellence is a key goal of our efforts to modernize human resources management within the Public Service.
  • As recipients of the Head of the Public Service Award, you have taken concepts like "excellence", "innovation", "leadership" and "values" and actually translated them into meaningful actions in your daily work. This also adds meaning to all of our work.
  • You have earned this award, you have earned the admiration of your colleagues, and you have earned the genuine appreciation of the government of Canada and the people it serves.
  • Let me ask all of the recipients here today to please stand now and take a well-deserved bow.
  • We have also some previous recipients of the award from previous years here.
  • Now, it is fitting that we are having this ceremony today as it is also United Nations International Human Rights Day.
  • Since September 11th, there is, in Canada, a renewed appreciation of the essential role that the Public Service of Canada plays in ways that benefits all Canadians.
  • It is remarkable how when this country is faced with a national challenge, the contributions of Public Servants become all the more needed, more visible and even more valued.
  • The tragic events of September 11th have drawn into sharp focus the vital role of Canada's Public Service in protecting what is most valuable to Canadians - our safety, our security, our health, our borders and our shared values.
  • Why? Because what we do for Canadians, for our employees, and for people in other countries is very real and has an impact.
  • We share a set of values and ethics that point us all in the same direction and that is honourable - we can be proud of it.
  • In small and big ways, public servants have demonstrated that they are flexible, effective and responsive to the needs of Canadians.
  • So, I am especially delighted that today I will also be presenting Commendation Awards to Public Servants for their extraordinary contribution to those who were affected by the tragic events that occurred in the United States on September 11th.
  • As well, I would like to recognize all Public Servants who performed their duties well when serving others and those who volunteered to help others by fund raising, by providing assistance with accommodations, transportation, clothing, food etc.
  • We can take immense pride in who we are and what we do and what we've done.
  • You are the reason why the Public Service of Canada is one of the finest in the world.
  • I am proud to be a Canadian and very proud to be a Canadian Public Servant.
  • Thank-you, very much.