The 2006 PCO Townhall Meeting

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Notes for Remarks at 2006 PCO Townhall Meeting by Kevin G. Lynch

Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet

Ottawa, Ontario
September 6, 2006


Good morning, and welcome to the 2006 PCO Townhall meeting. Such an annual get-together of all employees provides a unique opportunity to reflect back, and look ahead, both as an organization and as a team --- to re-confirm our common human resource and management values, to strengthen our networks and to set ourPhotograph: Kevin G. Lynch at the PCO Townhall Meeting objectives and goals for the year ahead. Combining it with the launch of the 2006 PCO Charitable Campaign underscores the commitment of our employees to public service for Canadians, and to charitable giving in their communities. On behalf of everyone, I want to thank all those who organized today's events for all their efforts.

We are very fortunate to have the Prime Minister of Canada here today to launch this inaugural gathering. His participation and remarks are indicative of how much he values the work and dedication of Canada's public servants, and the importance he attaches to Public Service renewal. I want to begin my remarks today by giving you my thoughts about this important institution of government - the Privy Council Office, and each of you who make it such a special place to work.

Although I've worked with the PCO throughout my thirty year career in the public service, this is the first time I've worked in PCO. You have been very warm in welcoming me, and extremely kind in supporting me during my six months as Clerk, and I thank you.

I must also confess that you really have to work in PCO to understand the extraordinary breadth and scope of what you are called upon to do in PCO. Whether it is dealing with national security and intelligence, Canada's role in a very challenging world, supporting the Cabinet system, advising on machinery of government, senior appointments and public service renewal, legislation and House planning or providing advice to the Prime Minister on key issues on a 24-7 basis, you are at the heart of government in the very demanding and complex global environment which is now a part of our daily life in the 21st century.

And all of that is what PCO does on a day-to-day basis. As well, since last January, we have seen the arrival of a new Prime Minister and a new Cabinet. They came on the scene with a new agenda, new ideas and new ways of doing things. In many countries and organizations, this kind of wholesale change would cause major difficulties and take months of adjustment. But I'm proud to say that Canadian public servants in general, and the people of PCO - each and every one of you -- rose to the challenge and succeeded at every level. The competence, professionalism non-partisanship and dedication of public servants are really highlighted during transitions, and are worthy of the highest praise.

The People of PCO

Since taking on the role of Clerk of the Privy Council in March 2006, I have had the opportunity to meet with most of you in the course of my visits to all the PCO secretariats. In every case, I have been struck by the diversity of backgrounds of the people who have chosen to take the PCO challenge and embrace some of the most demanding positions in Canada's public service. Notwithstanding this diversity, a number of common characteristics among PCO employees are also evident.

First, all of you are high achievers. Whether it is support staff, analysts in policy branches, communications or corporate services, I have been struck by the many talented people we have been able to attract to the Privy Council Office. Many of you were highly respected staff members at other government departments or agencies before coming here. Others have come here directly from university, where you were among the best and brightest that our country has produced. Still others have made the jump from the private to the public sector, bringing with you different perspectives and brands of expertise.

Second, all of you share a deep commitment to a strong and effective public service in Canada. This is not just because you are employed in the public sector, since many of you could be doing equally well in the private sector. But all of you recognize that public sector employment provides it's own unique rewards, not least of which is the opportunity to work in an interesting and fulfilling environment that offers the chance to make a real difference in the day-to-day lives of Canadians. This is not a role to be taken lightly and in my discussions with PCO staff, many of you have cited this as the number one reason why you've chosen to work here.

Third, all of you show strong dedication to your work. It's no secret that working in the Privy Council Office is not a 9-to-5 job. Governing in the 21st century requires a 24-hour-a-day commitment, and that means that we, who provide such a vital support and advice-giving role, must be prepared at all hours of the day or night to deal with problems as they arise. Consistently, day after day, the people at PCO are called upon to deliver timely, effective and accurate information and support to our elected officials. And time-after-time, you have met the challenge. Indeed, a task that would be often considered going above and beyond the call of duty in many other jobs inside and outside government is "business-as-usual" for the team at the Privy Council Office.

The Role of PCO

PCO, as an institution, occupies a unique role and responsibility in the structure and functioning of the Government of Canada. Our task - providing high quality, non-partisan policy advice to the Prime Minister's Office, ensuring the smooth functioning of the government's day-to-day operations, supporting the Cabinet system and co-ordinating longer-term planning including public service renewal - provides us with both challenges and opportunities on a daily basis.

"Challenging" is a key function of our role within the structure of government. We must always be mindful of the need to ask questions, to probe a little more deeply and to provide a sounding board for our colleagues from other departments and agencies who are proposing new programs or policies or operations. It is an essential part of what we do, and it is something we must do very well.

At the same time, we can never forget that PCO, as part of the government structure, is not immune to the need for change. Like all government institutions, we must be prepared to adapt to new realities and to seek out ways to do our jobs better and more efficiently.

With this in mind, I have undertaken several steps over the past few months to ensure that PCO returns to its core functions and provides effective, and focussed, support to the Prime Minister.

First, we have significantly reduced the number of secretariats in PCO and transferred their functions and staff to departments who would be more effectively served by their expertise. This process is now complete and as a result, we have a clear strategic focus and our functions are better aligned with the core responsibilities of the Prime Minister. Along with this is a clearer distinction between PCO's roles and responsibilities, and those of government departments.

Second, we have restructured PCO's management committees, making them more effective and representative of the work that needs to be done to support the Prime Minister and Cabinet, and to manage the Privy Council Office and its employees.

Third, we are developing a new Human Resources Plan for PCO, which I believe will make us a more effective employer and workplace of choice for our employees. And an annual Townhall meeting, of which this is the inaugural, is part of our emphasis on our people. You have a difficult job, and you are doing it very well.


In conclusion, let me say a few words about PCO priorities looking ahead.

First and foremost, we must emphasize excellence, leadership and teamwork in everything we do. Canadians should expect nothing less than excellence in their public service and we should demand nothing less from ourselves. Second, we will strive for excellence in how we support the government in developing and implementing its policy objectives, and in responding to the challenges of the day. Third, and this is a priority I have emphasized since I became Clerk of the Privy Council and Head of the Public Service, is the importance to us, and Canadians, of public service renewal.

I believe in public service. I believe it really matters for our country. Renewal is not just an issue for executives, but for all employees of the federal public service regardless of where they work or what jobs they hold. All of us have a stake in ensuring that the public service is strong, vibrant and dynamic, both now and in the years to come. And the Canadian public equally has a stake in this outcome, as it is they who benefit from an excellent public service.

PCO must play a leadership role in making public service renewal both a priority and a reality. It will require a combination of innovative thinking, practical common sense, and collective commitment by senior managers. To mobilize these efforts, we've established a new Deputy Ministers' Committee on Public Service Renewal, chaired by Margaret Bloodworth. We're making public service renewal a key element of all Deputy Ministers' mandate letters. And, with Margaret Bloodworth's leadership and the support of Nicole Jauvin, Wayne Wouters, Ruth Dantzer and many others, we're committed to make renewal a reality.

Colleagues; a forecast I feel very secure in making is that the year ahead will be busy, demanding, challenging, at times amazingly hectic, at no time, boring. But, it will also be rewarding because you are uniquely placed at PCO to make a difference. That is what public service is all about.

Thank you.