Leadership Forum Awards Dinner

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Remarks by Mr. Mel Cappe to the Arthur Kroeger College of Public Affairs

February 6, 2002


  • Thank you very much. I am glad to be here this evening for such an interesting and valuable event.
  • I see that the organizers have a flair for strategic planning and have carefully scripted this dinner:
  • I have been carefully placed between the appetizers and the main course;
  • Which says to me that we share a mutual interest in making my comments succinct and to the point.
  • When I was thinking about what I was going to say tonight, I was reminded of one of my favourite philosophers - Yogi Berra - who said "the future ain't what it used to be" and "its tough to make predictions - especially about the future".
  • The thoughts of this great philosopher are particularly appropriate to the theme of this conference, which is pursuing economic competitiveness and social cohesion - essentially, having it both ways. I came across a cartoon in the New Yorker recently that did a pretty good job of summing up what it was like before this post-modern period. A man is sitting around with a group of other wealthy men in an exclusive club when he turns to the others and says, "Money doesn't trickle down unless there's a damn leak".
  • We are all post-modern now. We all agree with the hypothesis of having it both ways, but what does it really mean and how do we achieve it.
  • With that in mind, I have one key message tonight:
  • We need to foster leadership across all sectors of society, private, public and voluntary sectors, to improve Canada's quality of life.
  • This is a challenge, however, and one that was made clear in another New Yorker cartoon. A wealthy man was sitting around his home watching the business report and the stock market reports on his big screen TV with his kids when all of a sudden the kids turn to the father and say, "Eight years of unprecedented expansion, and yet the kid sector has failed to participate".
  • Well, the dinosaurs may be extinct, but remember, they lasted a very long time.
  • Being post-modern, we need to look into the production function of the integration of economic and social issues.
  • To make that point, I want to cover three main issues:
  • The importance of leaders who see beyond traditional boundaries;
  • The importance of the voluntary, private and public sectors to Canadian society; and
  • How the Government of Canada and our Public Service are building a stronger relationship with Canada's voluntary sector.

The Importance of Leadership

  • When you look at the best of leadership in Canada's three major sectors today, you see that the boundaries are being challenged:
  • Increasingly, corporations are expected to strive to exercise social responsibility;
  • As an aside, just recently, I was at the CSR Conference where Deputy Ministers and Corporate Heads were each given 8 minutes to talk about what they do. What struck me was that almost 20% of the corporate leaders spoke about the volunteer work they personally do in their communities;
  • And the voluntary sector is increasingly being recognized for its important economic contribution, its key role in developing public policy and its importance in creating a strong and healthy country;
  • Indeed, on the day the Romanow interim report comes out, we see our health system being viewed not only by Canadians, but by others, as well, as a key element of our country's competitive advantage.
  • I know that for some of you, when you hear statistics you might be reminded of that cartoon where a man is watching the news on TV and the broadcaster announces, "Meaningful statistics were up one-point-five percent this month over last month" but I do like statistics that tell a story;
  • The 2000 National Survey of Giving, Volunteering and Participating revealed that almost 91% of the Canadian population made donations - either in-kind or financial- during the year 2000 and almost 80% gave of their time to assist others. Canadians gave almost $5 billion and volunteered over 1 billion hours. That number of hours is the equivalent of 549,000 full time jobs or roughly the equivalent of the labour force of Manitoba;
  • Earlier this week on the National, there was a long story on volunteerism and how it was an integral element of the social safety net.
  • Last year, during the International Year of Volunteers (IYV), I spoke to the RCMP about IYV and was told that they could not do all that they do without the help of the over 75,000 volunteers that they rely on;
  • And I know that CCRA, CIDA, Health, HRDC and many other federal departments could not get along without the voluntary sector organizations who deliver many of their programs;
  • This is not the thousand points of light idea of President George Bush. This is really on-the-ground program delivery;
  • From our earliest history, we have come together. Canada was built on people and communities coming together to raise barns, to build shelter, to conquer hard winters and to develop our communities. And we all know that Canadians can be counted on to step up during times of crisis - from floods, to ice storms, to the events of September 11th. The real value that distinguishes Canada is our collective response;
  • I've talked about the importance of leadership to a variety of public service audiences:
  • I've said to my government colleagues that we need to nurture "les fonctionnaires sans frontières" officials who can see the big picture beyond their own department or branch or job.
  • And this is important for leaders in all sectors. We need "leaders without limits".
  • The kind of people who can "think big, think ahead and think people":
  • It means creative minds who are not afraid to have and share a vision and who are able to adapt to changing worlds;
  • It also means leaders who look for ways to work with others to achieve more than any of them could individually;
  • My experience is that people who are capable of seeing past their own organizational and sector boundaries are usually people who are also good at the other elements of leadership.
  • I would be remiss in the AK School of Public Administration to not talk about the context we face within the federal public service.
  • Like all large organizations we face the pressure to do more things and to do them better.
  • We face issues with no simple answers:
  • Such as addressing the impacts of globalization, so that Canada is well positioned;
  • Or the changed international security environment in the wake of September 11th;
  • Like many organizations, we face a massive generational shift in our workforce:
  • We are beginning to replace a generation that we hired in the 1960s and early 70s who are coming closer to retirement.
  • The Government needs to recruit and then retain, young people like many of you here tonight, to become the kind of workplace that reflects Canada's diversity.
  • The Government of Canada wants to be an employer of choice:
  • That's why we are promoting a leadership style that encourages both a change in culture and a culture that encourages change.
  • We want the best and the brightest to work in the Public Service of Canada.  If you are looking for a challenging career that will stretch your abilities and constantly push you to be the best that you can be, then I would urge you to consider a career in the Public Service

The Importance of Collaboration Among the Sectors

  • My view on the question of the day is that in Canada social cohesion is a competitive advantage.
  • I won't go through all the arguments made to support that view, since I'm sure they've all been raised here today.
  • However,
  • As we develop our policies and as we design and deliver programs and services to Canadians, we take as given, the need for collaboration between a private sector, a voluntary sector and a public sector that are vibrant, flexible, diverse, responsive and savvy;
  • All three sectors must work together;
  • An event like this is a good example of that interaction. Or one can look at the make-up of the various selection committees and advisory committees for the awards given out tonight to see the involvement of companies such as Microsoft and EDS together with people from other sectors to discuss issues and to share their different perspectives;
  • The idea is to get the strongest mutual understanding and awareness;
  • To get all the ideas and rationales and concerns on the table.
  • We need to talk with each other, not just to each other to build the constructive, continuous dialogue that will enable us to make better decisions.

How the Government of Canada and Our Public Service Are Building a Stronger Relationship with Canada's Voluntary Sector

  • The Government of Canada and the private sector have worked together in one way or another for a long time:
  • This reflects the private sector's awareness of the impact of public sector decisions on its interests and vice versa.
  • Until recently, the relationship between the Government of Canada and the voluntary sector has been largely service delivery based. It has been primarily a series of relationships between individual government departments and individual voluntary sector organizations.
  • We know that voluntary sector organizations and stakeholder groups are the building blocks of civil society and help to represent the views of citizens in the public policy process. A challenge for us is to broaden and explore new ways to consult and engage groups and individual citizens in the future. Polls have shown that Canadians believe that citizens, better educated and more informed than ever before and served by technology that is both flattening and democratizing, must have a greater say in the public policy process.
  • At the same time, the Government recognizes that it must build a "citizen focus" in all its activities, programs and services to ensure that they resonate and are meaningful to all Canadians.
  • The Government is committed to this and to strengthening the link with the voluntary sector, as evident in the Accord between the Government of Canada and the voluntary sector launched on December 5th of last year:
  • The Prime Minister, in his message at the front of the Accord said AI believe that this Accord is the blueprint for a strong and vibrant relationship between the voluntary sector and the Government of Canada. As such, it will show us how we can continue to work together to build a better country";
  • it identifies common values, principles and commitments that will shape future practices.
  • This Accord, itself, is the culmination of a lot of hard work and strong leadership on the part of many voluntary sector members and government members. Without the leadership qualities of Minister Robillard and that of the original members of the Voluntary Sector Roundtable Panel on Governance and Accountability such as Ed Broadbent our own Arthur Kroeger, this new relationship would not have emerged.
  • We have here, an example of 3 Canadians who each have successfully demonstrated and provided leadership across the public, private and voluntary sectors in their own way.
  • The Accord challenges both sectors to change:
  • The Government will need to take a closer look at how it carries out policy dialogue, so that we are truly open to the voices of the voluntary sector. We must also look at the impact of our policies, programs and legislation on the voluntary sector;
  • On the other hand, the sector needs to continue to find ways to let the voices and views of all sector organizations be heard. It must identify and bring to the attention of government, emerging issues in the sector.
  • Some have asked why we need a signed Accord. Why can we not just agree that we will treat each other better in the future? But as the great motion picture producer and industry pioneer Samuel Goldwyn said, "a verbal contract isn't worth the paper it's written on".
  • This can, however, all be achieved:
  • We can look ahead to a day when public sector leaders take voluntary sector voices into account in policy and program development throughout the government as a matter of course;
  • When processes encourage and expect dialogue across sectors as the accepted way of doing business;
  • When leaders recognize the need to move between the public, private and voluntary sectors, for their own career development and for the good of their organizations.
  • What will it take to achieve this new and more vibrant relationship?
  • A lot of it will come down to the actions of "leaders without limits".


  • I know how important a good dinner is to active minds:
  • And since there are so many active minds here, I am particularly attentive to the hour;
  • So let me conclude with a few thoughts.
  • There is now an increasingly common awareness that a healthy Canada depends on the best possible collaboration between all three sectors of society. We need all sectors to be vibrant, strong and effective:
  • To share their views;
  • To be more and more involved in contributing to the decision-making processes;
  • To address the major challenges facing all Canadians and that can help to ensure that Canada's values are reflected in world affairs.
  • That underlines the importance of the message that I set out at the beginning of these remarks:
  • We need to foster leadership across all sectors of society to improve Canada's quality of life;
  • That is leaders who find opportunities for collaboration with others;
  • Leaders who can both articulate their vision and thoughtfully entertain other perspectives.
  • I salute the individuals and the organizations being honoured tonight for the leadership, their contributions and for their commitment. They are examples of leaders without limits.
  • Thank you.