Fall 2008 ADM Forum

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Remarks by Kevin G. Lynch
Clerk of the Privy Council, Secretary to the Cabinet and Head of the Public Service of Canada

November 5, 2008
Ottawa, Ontario


I would like to thank the co-chairs of the ADM Forum organizing committee, Patrick Borbey and Deborah Windsor, for their kind introduction.  Margaret Bloodworth and I are very pleased to join with you at the Fall 2008 ADM Forum.

We would like to make tonight as informal as possible, with as much interactive dialogue as possible, and as much networking as possible across our ADM community, notwithstanding my 2½ hour PowerPoint presentation.

But before I prattle on endlessly about productivity, demographics and globalization, and send you fleeing to the bar, which appears to be priced by Rob Wright to help solve his fiscal challenges, and is now closed anyway because we're public servants and having a good time is a bad thing, I want to recognize the impending retirement of Margaret Bloodworth.

Retirement of Margaret Bloodworth

As the Prime Minister indicated last week, Margaret has elected to retire – I'm not quite sure who was eligible to vote – after more than 36 years of dedicated, committed, non-partisan, principled, excellent public service.  She is, quite simply, our ideal of what a public servant should be, and should do.

Lawyer by training, public servant by choice, leader by nature --- Margaret has been the Deputy Minister of three departments (Transport; National Defence; and Public Safety), the National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister in tumultuous global times, the Associate Secretary to the Cabinet and the Chair of our Public Service Renewal Committee of Deputies, the driving force behind renewing our public service.  She possesses great wisdom, she has acquired unique knowledge, and she cares deeply about what it means to be a public servant.

We will all sorely miss Margaret the inspiring leader, Margaret the exceptional public servant, and Margaret the friend and colleague --- and none more so than I.  Please join with me in expressing our appreciation through a hearty round of applause.


I also want to express my appreciation to the organizing committee of the ADM Forum for the focus on Afghanistan, and the spotlight on what our whole-of-government approach to the mission means.  We have not only 2500 Canadian Forces personnel at any one time in Afghanistan, but now close to 100 public servants from DFAIT, CIDA, RCMP, CSE, CSC and other departments --- all proudly serving their country, and all making a real difference, for Canada and Afghanistan, in extremely difficult and dangerous circumstances.

Tonight we have 12 colleagues here who have served in Afghanistan.  They are: Arif Lalani, Glen Hodgins, Megan Foster and Karen Foss from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade; Dan Faughnan from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service; Major Patrick Robichaud, Master Corporal Tomas Larson, Captain Julie Jalbert and Major Jason Langelier from the Canadian Forces; Rick Reimann from Correctional Service Canada; and George Saibel and Timothea Gibb from the Canadian International Development Agency.  We owe them our gratitude and thanks, and again let's express our appreciation through a warm round of applause to our men and women serving in Afghanistan.

The Changing Context

Now, much has happened since the last ADM Forum in April, 2008.  Three events in particular merit highlighting, as they will shape the changing context in which we work.

First, Canada.  We had an election on October 14; a new Cabinet was sworn in on October 30th; the 40th Parliament in the history of our country will begin on November 18th, a Speech from the Throne (SFT) will be presented on November 19; and, an Economic and Fiscal Update by the Minister of Finance will be tabled during this Fall session.

You are all busy with transition briefing for new and returning ministers.  This is a very important period in helping your Ministers and their offices getting up and running, getting briefed on their departments and issues, getting ready for the opening of Parliament and beginning working on government priorities.  Thank you for how well you exercised the fundamental principle of restraint during the election campaign, and for your work on transition – the non-partisan, professional public service is often at its finest in transitions.

Second, the United States.  After an extraordinary election campaign --- in terms of the length and cost of the battle, the scope and import of the issues debated, both to Americans and the world, and the prevalent sense of change, in ways both clear and obvious, and more subtle and seismic --- the U.S. has chosen a new leader, President-elect Obama.

For Canada, no relationship is more important and more complex than that with the U.S.  And changes in Administration are key moments when the relationship can be rebooted and recalibrated, and put on a basis of common interests rather than shared grievances.  Part of the fabric of the special relationship is not just government-to-government but also department-to-department, military-to-military, official-to-official links, and I know you will play your important part as the engagement with the new Administration unfolds.

Third, internationally.  The worst global financial crisis in generations, and the weakest global economy we've faced since the early 1990s, is a reality the world now needs to deal with.  The U.S. sub-prime mortgage crisis began a year ago August.  For much of the last year it slowly but steadily gnawed at financial institutions, not only in the U.S. but also in the U.K. and continental Europe that had put large amounts of these toxic assets on their balance sheets.  Losses were large, mortgage lending became much more expensive, overpriced housing markets went into tailspins and housing and consumer spending sagged.

Then came September.  And with a speed and intensity that no one foresaw and no one working today has ever experienced, global financial titan after titan failed or were bailed out (Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Fannie Mae and Fannie Mac, AIG, Washington Mutual, etc.) and the global financial system effectively froze.  In response, governments in the U.S., the U.K. and elsewhere are now doing things they have never done before to prevent systemic gridlock.  Because, if banks don't lend, houses don't get bought or sold, firms can't finance inventory and production, workers get laid off, and businesses don't have money for expansion and investment.

Canada did not suffer heavily from the first round of the global financial crisis because our regulatory systems are more rigorous than the U.S., U.K. and Europe; our banks are better capitalized and less leveraged; and, we largely avoided the worst excesses of the sub-prime mortgage fiasco.  But we, like the rest of the world, are now being impacted by the second round effects as the global financial system is not efficiently intermediating credit --- spreads are large, lenders are becoming risk averse, and credit is scarce --- and this is rapidly impacting on the “real side” of economies.  We have, as part of the G-7 commitment to stabilize the international finance system, done our part to support, on commercial terms, our financial institutions who were being buffeted by global forces.

And this global financial crisis is now significantly affecting the real economies of the U.S., U.K., France and Germany, and everybody who trades with them, including Canada.  Forecasters are daily marking down their growth projections for all countries.  The only silver lining for us in a dark global cloud is that Canada is expected to do relatively the best among industrial countries, although all will have much weaker economies over the balance of this year and next than anyone expected.

To state the obvious, dealing with the global financial crisis is an absolutely key priority for the international community.  The Department of Finance, the Bank of Canada and the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) have been on the front lines of devising the Canadian responses as part of a coordinated G-7 approach to stabilize the global financial system.  The next step will involve the leaders of the G-20 countries at an extraordinary meeting in Washington, on November 14 and 15, along with their Finance ministers.  And where we go next to rebuild the international financial system will dominate international summits for the coming years.

To further state the obvious, dealing with the fiscal and economic impacts in Canada of the resulting global economic slowdown will be the key domestic priority of the government.  Federal/provincial/territorial Finance Ministers met on November 3 and will meet again in December.  The Prime Minister will hold an initial meeting of First Ministers on November 10 on our economic challenges, to be followed by a second meeting in January. 

And all of us should be very conscious of how significantly this will impact on the business of government and the priorities of the government.  In an important speech on October 29th to a joint session of the Empire Club of Canada and the Canadian Club of Toronto, the Minister of Finance observed that “…while Canada may be doing better than most, we must still prepare ourselves for the challenging times we face now and in the period ahead.”  The Minister of Finance underscored the importance of keeping spending in check and practising restraint, including departmental spending, Strategic Reviews, Crown corporations, and the growth of public sector compensation and equalization.

In short, fiscal restraint and economic adjustment challenges are the twin realities of the period ahead.  In this context, I know I can count on all of you to manage programs and resources effectively and with restraint.

Public Service Management

A key part of efficient and effective management is how we manage our human resources.  I want to make several concluding points about how we, as senior public service leaders, manage better collectively in the context of public service renewal.

First, performance management.  We have spent considerable effort over the last two years in fundamentally revamping our approaches to performance management for the DM and Associate DM community.  The 2009 Clerk's Report will set out this new performance management system.  The Prime Minister's Advisory Committee on the Public Service and the Committee on Senior Level Retention and Compensation both have rated it as best practice in both the public and private sectors.  They also believe that we now have to institute this same degree of rigour, quantification, transparency, respect and feedback throughout our executive ranks.

The Deputy Minister community, led by the Committee of Senior Officials (COSO), has decided to implement a similar, rigorous approach to performance management across all our EX ranks.  After all, a high performing executive cadre will drive excellence throughout the public service.  Working with your DM, all of you in the ADM community will be key to efficiently implementing this important change.

Second, the ADM Forum.  The Forum was begun in the 1990s to help create a better sense of community among ADMs as we were coming out of the program review days.  I think it served this purpose well, but it is now time to repurpose the ADM Forum, in line with how we have repurposed DM committees dealing with our collective senior level management of the public service.

It is timely to move the ADM Forum more to a model like DM Retreats, where we collectively deal with the key issues of the day, whether they be human resources, operational, programs, management or service delivery.  Such an ‘‘ADM Retreat''  would likely need to be of a somewhat longer duration, more structured, more interactive, annual, and ‘‘less optional'' for ADMs, as well as preserving the networking dinner which is an important element of community strengthening.  Such a Retreat would also be a clear recognition that, given the size and complexity of the Public Service of Canada, to serve Canadians well, we need to work together even better at senior levels on the major challenges we face.

Third, public service branding.  This is crucial to both our recruitment and retention objectives.  In looking at the various new models of public service management across Westminster countries, our observation is that the more we sell ourselves as being “almost like” the private sector, the more we confuse our brand and sell ourselves short.  We are not almost like the private sector; we are fundamentally different.  We shouldn't blur the distinction in our branding, we should sharpen it.  Of course, we will use the best management tools the private sector offers, but these are the means to do our fundamentally different job, they are not the end in themselves.  New models of management have at times mixed up these means and ends; they have confused efficiency with purpose.

So, whether it is in our recruitment messaging, our internal messaging, our management courses, whatever, we need to rebrand ourselves --- we are not the private sector without a bottom line, we are the public service with a very clear but different bottom line --- making a difference for Canadians and for Canada.


To conclude, I wanted to draw your attention to our new approach to recruitment through job fairs, and how this relates to branding. 

As part of our four job fair pilots across the country this fall, we have been testing this rebranding.  The recruitment presentation used in these job fair pilots is now available on pco-bcp.gc.ca, jobs.gc.ca and canada.gc.ca, and hopefully soon on all department job sites as well.  It underscores this message of our distinctiveness as public servants and that we are Canada's most national employer with thousands of different, and meaningful career possibilities.

Thank you again for your commitment to the public service, and your warm welcome this evening.