Government On-Line and Service Improvement Initiative: Awards and Recognition Event

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Remarks by the Clerk of the Privy Council
And Secretary to the Cabinet

January 19, 2007
Ottawa, Ontario

Good afternoon everyone, it's a pleasure to be with you today.

I want to thank Wayne Wouters, Secretary of the Treasury Board, for the invitation to be a part of this awards and recognition event. More importantly, I want to add my voice of congratulations to the individuals, departments and agencies we're here to recognize. As public servants, we need to take more time to recognize and celebrate the achievements of our colleagues from coast to coast and across all our departments and agencies.

I very much appreciate the opportunity to join with others in acknowledging the tremendous success of both the Government On-Line and Service Improvement Initiative.

These projects, which were launched in 1999, have helped to transform the way Canadians interact with their federal government, and continue to do so. By making government information, services and programs much more accessible through the use of information technology, we have changed how we serve Canadians, for the better.

Achieving these two initiatives required a tremendous amount of work and dedication from literally thousands of people across the Government of Canada. Their efforts represent public service at its best. They required leadership, innovation, risk-taking and teamwork.

As a result of this commitment, you have made a real difference by making government more accessible and effective for many Canadians. And I must admit a certain amount of personal satisfaction in seeing the success of the Government On-Line initiative.

As a deputy minister at Industry Canada in the late 1990s, I recall how the growth of the Internet and the information technology revolution were beginning to transform not only business, but the business of government. Our objective in those days was to make Canada the most connected country in the world, whether through programs like SchoolNet, or the Community Access Program, or Computers for Schools, or the development of broadband to help foster electronic commerce.

An integral element in the "Connecting Canadians" strategy was Government On-line. It was developed by the TIMS Committee of Deputies, with great leadership from a number of CIOs, including Michelle D'Auray and Linda Lizotte-MacPherson. It was launched as a tool to improve access to government services for Canadians. The fact that the Government of Canada now ranks at, or near the top, internationally in terms of on-line government services is further evidence of your success.

As you know, since I was appointed Clerk of the Privy Council last March, I have placed a significant amount of emphasis on the importance of excellence, leadership and teamwork in the renewal challenge facing the public service.

The progress that has been achieved to make government more accessible and improve service delivery is a practical, measurable example of how public servants play a positive role and can make a difference in the lives of Canadians. And we can do more .using ICT and the Internet to further transform both the "back office" of servicing government and the "store front" of providing services to Canadians.

To achieve such ongoing innovation and excellence in the delivery of public service, we must ensure that Canadians continue to have a strong, professional, committed public service. This challenge of renewal is a very real one in a public service that is ageing, like the rest of the Canadian population and, at the same time, is facing unprecedented competition for talent with unemployment at its lowest levels in decades. In short, we face an enormous task in not only attracting highly skilled new recruits, but also retaining the talented and skilled people who are already a part of our team.

To make public service renewal a reality, we need a targeted, pragmatic approach that delivers concrete results. The approach we are currently developing focuses on five main areas.

First, we need to rethink our recruitment process. As I mentioned, in a period of high employment, the public service faces unprecedented competition in attracting the best and brightest of our young graduates. This means we cannot sit back and wait for these men and women to approach us. We need to be much more pro-active in our recruiting efforts and to showcase the many exciting and challenging career options available within the public service.

Second, we need to take a new look at how we develop and nurture the talent within our ranks. That means putting more emphasis on management development and managing for excellence in everything we do. This means a more personalized approach to career development and better use of development programs and the School of the Public Service.

Third, we need to seek new ways to retain our existing staff. It's no secret that the era of employees joining a company with the intention of having a job for life is long over. Today's well-educated and connected worker values rewarding professional experiences over long-term job security. As a public service, we need to recognize this and provide a more flexible work environment, create greater opportunities to move within and across departments and agencies, and attract a more diverse workforce to help better understand the needs of Canadians.

Fourth, we need to improve our management toolkit. That means giving managers the tools they need to do their jobs effectively. That means reducing the web-of-rules that impedes risk management and discourages personal initiative within a value-based and accountability-driven system.

Fifth, and perhaps most importantly, we need to focus on leadership and leadership development. To help in successfully meeting the ongoing challenge of public service renewal, the Prime Minister announced last November the formation of the Advisory Committee on the Public Service. This Committee, which is made up of nine eminent Canadians with experience in both the public and private sectors, will provide advice on how to help ensure Canadians are served by an excellent federal public service, distinguished by its non-partisanship, its professionalism, its effectiveness and its values.

Over the past year, I have traveled across the country to meet public servants from coast to coast. I have been profoundly impressed with the dedication, commitment and professionalism of our public servants, who serve Canadians well, both at home and around the world.

You, and your colleagues across the country, represent the best in public service. Each and every one of you understands the value of serving your country and your fellow citizens to the best of your ability.

You should be proud of what you do. Today is a small recognition of it.

Thank you.