Sharing Public Service Renewal Results at Environment and Climate Change Canada

Environment and Climate Change Canada is highlighting the exceptional work of its public servants through story telling. These stories showcase the positive impact their work has on Canadians and the public service. Documenting these successes is part of the Department’s mandate to report on Public Service renewal results to the Clerk of the Privy Council.

Stories can help inspire change. They create a connection between the work done every day and the work culture that helps the Public Service thrive and deliver outstanding results.

The following are some stories from Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Follow #GC2020 on Twitter to find out what other departments are doing.

 

  • #iwantasciencejob

    Issue
    Under Blueprint 2020, the Federal Science and Technology Community raised many issues concerning the development and management of the government's scientific capacity across science-based departments and agencies.

    Action
    In 2016, these departments and agencies worked together to propose a series of projects that, once implemented, would contribute significantly to the management of the science community in an agile and collaborative approach. The Recruitment of Science Graduates from Universities - #iwantasciencejob - was one of these projects.

    The object of this experience was to develop a recruitment model that identifies and attracts high-potential science graduates and professionals. The “normal” way of staffing was challenged at every corner. This would be done by modernizing recruiting strategies and leveraging modern and innovative assessment tools to better evaluate among others soft skills and to accelerate the staffing process. Establishing the set of competencies desired in public service scientists was a key point of discussion, as well as the proposal to not add classification levels on the job advertisement.

    The working group developed a creative and enticing job advertisement where traditional sentences were eliminated on the job poster. This was focus-tested by university science students. The recruitment strategy focused on opportunities to contribute to government priorities vs. the traditional “streams” and classifications used to advertise jobs. Social media helped get the word out. The slogan #iwantasciencejob was used to make the poster more modern in the 21st century. In the end, 3833 applicants sent in their resumes from across Canada.

    Once the applications were in, they needed to be assessed. The assessment plan focused on assessment methods that would effectively and efficiently evaluate the qualifications of applicants. Research of online assessment tools was undertaken to determine the most cost-effective tools for the type of qualifications we were assessing and the large candidate pool. The Public Service Resourcing System (PSRS) questions were designed to facilitate candidate referrals later in the process. An expanded screening board report from the Public Service Commission (PSC) that included the education fields – allowed the team to screen over 3800 candidates in less than two hours (traditional method would have taken an estimate of two weeks by at least two full-time personnel). The PSC unsupervised internet test helped to partially assess judgement and reasoning for $600 (no labour costs or administrative burden) right in the PSRS platform. Following this, successful candidates were invited to complete a self-assessment, validated by references through an automated reference-checking service via a contract with VidCruiter. Once the initial pool of candidates was established, hiring managers will have the flexibility to assess additional merit criteria according to their current needs.

    Impact
    Overall, feedback from candidates on the process was positive. They found communication to be responsive and informative. Candidates and referees had positive comments about the online reference checking platform. Some candidates expressed that they would have liked to know upfront the approximate amount of time they would need to complete certain assessments (i.e. self-assessment). 

    Originally, the plan was to complete the process by May 2017. However, the volume of applicants was three times as many as were expected. As such, a pause was taken to re-evaluate and adapt the assessment plan. Overall, the process took five months from the time of posting to creation of the inventory.      

    Like in all experiments, the team was able to list lessons learned as well as decide on points to experiment further. Overall, the project to date has been a success. Feedback received during the recruitment process from the interdepartmental working group, candidates, and references were very positive – citing that the process was well-managed and efficient.

    Overall, the automated reference checking application (VidCruiter) worked wonderfully. It met the needs and allowed for efficient ways to gather references for well over a thousand candidates. Online assessment was found to be an efficient way to gather quality information on applicants. Having an expanded Screening Board Report that included education of candidates and other application information enabled assessors to pre-screen candidates in a fraction of the time versus the traditional method of printing and reading individual applications and transcribing a “yes” or “no” on a spreadsheet.

    With the lessons learned, the team has now moved to a new experiment. The #iwantanofficeadminjob campaign was launched in November 2017. So far, Environment and Climate Change Canada is looking at another successful recruitment campaign.

  • Success story: Indigenous engagement in wildlife research at Environment and Climate Change Canada

    Issue
    Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) recognizes the significant contribution that engaging with Indigenous Peoples can make to the conservation and protection of wildlife in Canada. The meaningful engagement of Indigenous communities in wildlife research supports the Government of Canada’s long-term objective of reconciling the Crown’s relationships with Indigenous Peoples. Indigenous engagement in wildlife studies at ECCC also addresses various national and international policy commitments (e.g., 2020 Biodiversity Goals and Targets for Canada), as well as legal obligations (e.g., Species at Risk Act Comprehensive Land Claims Agreements). To date, Indigenous engagement in wildlife research has proven highly beneficial by providing unique local-scale information, identifying emerging research priorities and allowing for the meaningful involvement of Indigenous resource users in decisions and issues that affect them. Indigenous knowledge is also particularly critical to understanding the impacts of climate change and informing sound environmental management.

    Action
    Indigenous communities across the country have made significant contributions to the research activities conducted by ECCC’s Wildlife and Landscape Science Directorate (WLSD). The projects described below highlight these important benefits.

    Using community-based monitoring for understanding polar bear predation of eider duck eggs
    Inuit in Arctic Canada use common eider ducks and their nests as a source of meat, eggs and down. In recent years, Inuit from Cape Dorset, Nunavut, noticed that the prevalence of polar bears visiting eider duck colonies to eat eggs was increasing. In response to the issues raised by the community, ECCCscientists developed a community-based research project to understand the drivers of increased predation of eider duck eggs by polar bears. Through a collaborative partnership with the Cape Dorset Hunters and Trappers Association, it became evident that changes to sea ice dynamics have resulted in a lengthening of the ice-free season in Hudson Strait, forcing polar bears onto land earlier for their summer fasting period.  This meant that bears were now coming on land when eiders were in the vulnerable stage of nesting rather than after the nesting period was completed when adults and young birds could move away from predators. The Department now has a better understanding of some of the cascading effects that a changing climate will have on wildlife in the Arctic, and how that may affect the subsistence practices of the Inuit who live there. Foundational to the work done in Cape Dorset to address this issue, was a long-standing and trusting relationship developed between ECCC scientists and Inuit community members.

    Indigenous engagement in Peary Caribou Knowledge Assessment to inform Critical Habitat Identification
    As part of the requirement for a federal Recovery Strategy for Peary caribou under the federal Species at Risk Act, scientists at ECCC developed a Knowledge Assessment to inform the identification of critical habitat. The approach recognized the importance of the co-application of both scientific and community knowledge, with Indigenous communities and Hunter and Trappers Organizations involved in joint project planning from its earliest phases. Engagement of local communities was critical to the success of this project, as knowledge shared by Indigenous community members provided information on changes in the abundance and distribution of Peary caribou and their movement routes over time. This knowledge, gained through year-round Inuit experience in arctic landscapes, filled many critical information gaps on Peary caribou habitat use, as aerial surveys for Peary caribou conducted by scientists occur during summer only and cover a relatively small area. Further discussions with communities regarding past and current threats to Peary caribou allowed ECCC scientists to adapt their methodology to address Indigenous perspectives on caribou habitat requirements and population changes over longer timeframes. This collaborative approach also generated community support for protection of critical habitat in the north that addresses the need to protect important areas for feeding and calving, as well as areas in between that allow for seasonal movement of the caribou. ECCC scientists are working to maintain relationships built out of this process to ensure the best outcomes for Peary caribou conservation.

    Strategic Partnerships Initiative
    While conducting research and monitoring in various parts of the country, ECCC officials heard very clearly from local community members that Indigenous peoples often feel left out of the science being conducted in their own backyards. Generally, a lack of opportunities for meaningful engagement and a lack of communication between western scientists and local community members contribute to poor relationships between governments and Indigenous communities. In order to help address this, a collaborative initiative involving various Indigenous communities, employers, education providers, and federal/provincial/territorial government agencies was launched. The Strengthening Indigenous Employment in Environmental Monitoring Program is a training-to-employment and business development project that supports access of Indigenous peoples to local jobs in environmental monitoring, and contributes to strong ecological stewardship in their communities. The program operates under the Strategic Partnerships Initiative, which is a Government of Canada funding program that also leverages additional funding and expertise from a range of partners. The program braids Indigenous knowledge and western science, while linking to new and existing community-based monitoring initiatives (e.g., Northwest Territories Water Stewardship Strategy). Another key objective of the program is to facilitate the establishment of innovative Indigenous-led business ventures, such as social enterprises. Knowledge shared through this program will also help to inform future monitoring program design, and will assist in providing additional opportunities for Indigenous individuals to be involved in multi-year monitoring programs, particularly in large and remote landscapes.

    Impact
    The three case studies presented above illustrate the important contributions that Indigenous Peoples are making to wildlife research and monitoring at ECCC. Indigenous community members have contributed to these initiatives in various ways, including acting as research partners, collaborators, field guides and environmental monitors. Indigenous Peoples are uniquely positioned to offer knowledge and expertise that can enhance the outcomes of environmental research carried out by ECCC. Indigenous knowledge is a source of year-round local and historical information that can improve scientific research on wildlife by adding site-specific information, bringing attention to wildlife conservation or environmental emerging issues highlighting relational information between ecosystem components, detecting anomalous events and capturing environmental change. In addition, the meaningful engagement of Indigenous Peoples in wildlife research activities can increase the efficiency of these activities through the identification of priority issues in need of research, the establishment of optimal sampling strategies and the provision of logistical support and safe access to field sites. In some cases, the participation of Indigenous communities in wildlife research can also enhance the social acceptability within Indigenous communities of scientific research activities through collaboration and mutual learning. The examples outlined above not only demonstrate the great value of collaboration, but they also address ECCC’s mandate for the protection of the natural environment, align with the Speech from the Throne by seeking to advance nation-to-nation relationships with Indigenous peoples, and support the federal government commitment to job creation and broad-based prosperity. Additionally, they respond to Truth and Reconciliation Commission Calls to Action by contributing to eliminating education and employment gaps and developing culturally appropriate curricula.

  • A project for youth by youth - Environment and Climate Change Canada’s youth engagement framework

    Issue
    Across the federal government, youth engagement is becoming a major priority. Whether this engagement is on climate change and the environment, or other topics, engaging youth in a meaningful way promotes an engaged citizenry and a dynamic civil society.

    Action
    After witnessing the appointment of the Prime Minister’s Youth Council and Minister McKenna’s interest in engaging youth on issues under her mandate, Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) identified a Director General to be Youth Champion in 2016. To inform the department’s approach to youth engagement, the Youth Champion created a Youth Advisory Committee of young employees at ECCC; a working group was also established to develop a departmental approach to youth engagement (an ECCC Youth Engagement Framework).

    The framework provides a mechanism for meaningful youth engagement that fosters a culture of environmental stewardship, creates opportunities for Canadian youth to contribute to departmental policies, and facilitates youth participation in civic matters and the public service.

    When drafting this framework, students and youth across all branches of ECCC collaborated through tools such as GCpedia and GCconnex. The working group built upon recommendations from the Centre of Excellence for Youth Engagement, and evolved the framework over time to incorporate feedback from the ECCC Youth Advisory Committee, as well as youth who were engaged by department in World Environment Day festivities and ECCC’s Youth Summit on Climate Change.

    Once drafted, the framework was presented by working group members and the Youth Champion to ECCC’s Executive Management Committee (EMC). The advice and considerations from external youth organizations, young employees at ECCC, and EMC was incorporated into a revised version of the framework.

    Impact
    This revised version with refined objectives, themes and mechanisms for youth engagement was presented to EMC in October 2017, and was ultimately approved for implementation. ECCC is now working to establish a youth engagement unit that will work to foster a culture of meaningful youth engagement and empowerment at ECCC. Young employees and youth champions at ECCC will continue to play a pivotal role advising on, advocating for, and including young Canadians in environment and climate change action at ECCC.

  • World Environment Day youth ambassador activity: Microgrants and the use of social media

    Issue
    World Environment Day, which takes place on June 5th, is a worldwide celebration of the environment and a time to promote environmental awareness. The department would like to involve youth in World Environment Day, but without the long processes for grants which could discourage youth involvement.

    Action
    Microgrants are an innovative method to finance projects. It is low-value grant payment to a recipient in a low-risk venture with minimal controls by the department. This allows the department to flow funding to worthy recipients in an efficient and low-risk way.

    In advance of World Environment Day, the department developed a plan to support youth events on World Environment Day. A group of six youth ambassadors was identified. The department supported their work through weekly teleconferences, the creation of a Facebook group, and the option of microgrants to support their planned event. Criteria were established for whether the events should be funded. The event had to involve youth, relate and support the World Environment Day theme of connecting with nature, and reference key environmental topics such as climate change.

    The team responsible for this project worked to ensure these microgrants met the criteria set. They achieved this by making youth ambassadors aware of funding opportunities through social media and the teleconferences. The team also created a PDF form which would show whether the project met the criteria

    Impact
    Out of seven applications six were processed. $50,000 was set aside for these projects, but only $5000 needed to be spent due to the cost effectiveness of these projects.

    There were some lessons learned from this experience as well. The funding was extremely cost effective and could support a number of events for World Environment Day.

    The use of social media and microgrants were effective in mobilizing youth ambassadors for World Environment Day. These tools have great potential for use in the future plans of the department.

  • Use of a drone to identify and evaluate critical sage thrasher habitat

    Issue
    Sage Thrashers are songbirds with relatively long legs and tail. They are the smallest of the thrashers, and are endangered. Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) hoped to deliver on its mandate for recovery of the species as its legal responsibility to do so. Finding the birds so their habitats can be protected demanded a more cost-effective method than traditional ground-based surveys. ECCC identified sites for recovery centered on historic locations of birds from naturalists. But with climate change, the Sage Thrasher is likely to disperse north to suitable habitat in large landscapes where few “birders” reside. The method used to assess the habitat must be standardized and independent of human assessment ensuring that it is done fairly and without judgment.

    The challenge was to provide an unbiased, landscape-level method for identification and evaluation of the protection of critical habitat as defined in the recovery strategy. The nest bushes were obviously larger, elliptical and surrounded by bare ground.

    Action
    To face these challenges it was decided to use Drones to view and photograph the habitat from above. The use of drones is beneficial; they can fly in winter and outside of the typical field surveys without disturbing breeding birds. They also provide an unbiased method to evaluate landowner and partner protection of critical habitat.

    ECCC was happy to have a proper team in place to refine the question and approach. They collaborated across two reporting units, the Habitat Assessment and Data Management and the Species at Risk Recovery teams, and with outside experts. The botanist knew where to sample the range of Critical Habitat expression; the statistician knew the variables to collect for future standardization in prediction and confidence; the biologist knew the method to test the drone; the landscape analyst provided the spatial accuracy and visualization needed to link drone and ground-based methods; the technology experts had a deep understanding of ecology; the manager had the legacy data, the vision for a landscape-level approach and secured the funds.

    The field work was completed in the spring of 2017. In March, the drones flew over the habitats, and in June, the results, the ground-truth, were analyzed. A peer-reviewed journal publication of the results and implications is in preparation. A proposal is submitted to expand the work beyond known critical habitat to potential conservation areas in the Okanagan, which is a focal area for the Canadian Wildlife Service.

    Impact
    The results of the March 2017 drone-derived, point-cloud based orthomosaic imagery, provided proof for an unbiased method to identify and discriminate high quality Sage Thrasher nesting habitat. These could be expanded over a larger landscape and provide evidence for evaluation of the protection of critical habitat. The drone results correlated strongly with nesting habitat ratings gathered by traditional ground-based plots in the same locations. These results had impact in the peer review journal publication. The data from the 1990’s are now discoverable by the public and researchers.

    What’s next? An expansion of the work conducted in March 2017 would further test the efficacy of the drone technology in identifying Sage Thrasher nesting habitat. It would also provide a cost-effective tool for surveying and identifying future candidate critical habitat polygons for this species. The new work has many benefits. Pre-drone flight prep work will include stratifying new (un-surveyed) areas which can subsequently be verified using drone technology and post-flight image and data processing. Also, based on this information, previously un-surveyed and larger areas can be surveyed for high quality Sage Thrasher nesting habitat and potential candidate critical habitat such as Kilpoola, and the western part of the White Lake valley. In this way previously un-surveyed locations can be much more quickly assessed in comparison to the effort required by traditional ground-based methods.

    Furthermore, areas which have previously been identified as candidate critical habitat for Sage Thrasher can be evaluated for current condition, as well as areas that are currently disturbed, degraded or impacted by grazing or other activities which in turn cause deterioration of high quality Sage Thrasher nesting habitat. This information may prove to be very helpful in deriving best practices recommendations for minimizing or mitigating the impacts of cattle grazing and other activities on potential Sage Thrasher critical habitat.

  • Spotlight on supercomputing: ECCC takes a leap in high-performance computing to improve weather and environmental forecasting

    Issue
    Replacing a sophisticated scientific and technological infrastructure such as a high-performance computing system is a complex project in itself. To do it in a Government-wide period of fundamental changes (e.g. establishment of Shared Services Canada (SSC)), with emerging information technology security threats, rapidly changing technologies, adds to the complexity and provides good examples of management practices and leadership skills in a context of change and uncertainty.

    Action
    In May 2016, after four years of work between Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) and Shared Service Canada, an 8.5 year contract worth more than $430 million was signed between the Government of Canada and IBM Canada Ltd. to design, build and host a high performance computing (HPC) solution. An additional year of work was required to convert and migrate all operational applications to the new supercomputing infrastructure employed by the Meteorological Service of Canada. Since September 6th, 2017 all weather and environmental analysis and forecasts are running on this new system. This milestone is the result of a joint, sustained effort over several years by experts at the Canadian Meteorological Centre, Science and Technology Directorate, and Shared Services Canada along with the vendor, IBM Canada.

    The HPC systems gather meteorological data from various satellites, radars and monitoring sites and perform hundreds of trillions of calculations per second using mathematical formulas to produce accurate forecasts and cutting-edge weather and climate models. It replaced the Canadian Meteorological Centre's current IBM supercomputing capacity.

    What worked well and what didn’t?

    This milestone is the result of a joint, sustained effort over several years by ECCC experts at the Canadian Meteorological Centre, Science and Technology Directorate, and Shared Services Canada. Communication, planning, and teamwork are cornerstones of any major project, especially for a project of the scale, complexity, and importance of the HPC project. For example, hundreds of complex data integration and data processing systems comprising millions of lines of computer code had to be migrated from the old computer system to the new one. The HPC project also constitutes the first multi-year, very large scale ECCC project undertaken in partnership with SSC, and owes much of its success to the emphasis placed on communication and planning by the project team.

    Partnerships with other national meteorological and hydrological services (e.g. US National Weather Service, Germany DWD, and UK Met Office), the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecast (ECMWF), as well as other organizations such as the Swiss Supercomputing Facility and the National Centre for Atmospheric Research (US NCAR), played an important role over the course of the project. On account of these rich partnerships, Canadian experts were able to access various other HPC systems in order to validate that ECCC codes functioned properly on any vendor system, removing a potential source of bias. The successful completion of the HPC project could not have been achieved without the sustained, effective collaboration between ECCC and SSC. As well, the vendor, IBM Canada Ltd., has been integral to the success from day one. This partnership model, and the lessons learned throughout the lifetime of the project, will serve as important examples for future project management teams.

    Impact
    This major upgrade will allow, in the coming years, to put in place new innovative solutions and technological transfers from Research and Development into Operations, supporting the continuous improvement of the meteorological and environmental forecast services offered to Canadians and to other federal and provincial government agencies, users and partners.

  • Breaking through the consultation noise: Federal Sustainable Development Strategy outreach and public consultation techniques

    Issue
    Cutting through the communications clutter to reach out and capture the attention of your stakeholders is a challenging experience. Every three years the Sustainability Directorate undertakes a legislated, formal 120-day consultation exercise with stakeholders on the Federal Sustainable Development Strategy (FSDS). For the draft 2016-2019 FSDS our approach generated an 11-fold increase in the number of submissions we received from stakeholders and Canadians over previous strategies.

    Action
    We expanded the use of modern technology, improved and broadened the reach to the Canadian public, particularly GBA+ (gender-based analysis plus) populations, and implemented a more iterative feedback process to obtain input throughout the consultation period rather than just at the end.

    We looked at our consultation and engagement process from three angles, using a variety of tools that allow for flexibility and responsiveness to respondents’ circumstances throughout the consultation period. Our philosophy was:

    • Tier 1:  Drive traffic to the Strategy
    • Tier 2: Inform stakeholders and Canadians about the Strategy and solicit comments
    • Tier 3: Monitor and engage in discussion with them

     

    We did that by sending informational emails to almost 3000 of our external stakeholders, placing articles in GCConnex for an internal to Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) audience and holding more than 40 targeted informational Webinars. If a Yukon audience wanted a webinar at 7 p.m. EST, we were there. If a company wanted us to talk to their managers, we were on it. If youth from across the country wanted to webinar over the lunch hour, we organized it.

    We put out information on Facebook and Twitter, boosting some Facebook posts aimed at those in more rural areas, women and youth. And people commented, liked and shared our information—a lot.

    We provided “pass-along cards” to the regions and to ECCC employees attending conferences/stakeholder meetings to hand out to stakeholders to encourage them to comment on the strategy. We held face-to-face meetings.

    And we developed an FSDS electronic strategy that allowed people to filter information and more easily get to the issues of most interest to them. Once there, they could readily comment by using the electronic comment box that appears on every page. As a matter of fact, most of our consultation input came directly to us through this channel. People attended the webinars; learned about the FSDS; had a demo on how to use the site and then went there to read and comment.

    Impact
    At the close of consultations on June 24, 2016, we received more than 540 comments from a broad range of stakeholders such as the general public, industry, professional associations, Indigenous organizations, governments, business representatives, academics and environmental non-governmental organizations. As well, people liked us a lot on Facebook and Twitter--almost 900 posts/replies to posts, 3000 shares and 11,000 likes, with a reach exceeding 400,000 people.

    Their comments had an impact. Based on what we heard, the FSDS changed from five broad goals to 13; from talking about soil quality to sustainable agriculture, air quality to safe and heathy communities.

    And we are keeping the conversation going, with regular webinars on sustainable development topics, increased social media presence and refreshing the FSDS with new information so that people have a reason to return.

    So, if you want the latest news on sustainability, follow us on Facebook and Twitter #FSDS #SustainableDevelopment #Sustainability, and “Like” us!  Share with your friends.  And, above all, look at the Strategy.

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada’s (ECCC) Respect Day

    Issue
    A respectful workplace is essential to a well-functioning workplace, and Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) has been ‘walking the talk’ by organizing annual “Respect Day” events and activities.

    Action
    ECCC’s third annual Respect Day was organized on November 28, 2017. It raised awareness of the importance of respect in the workplace, and encouraged discussions between managers and employees, and provided tools and resources to promote more respect in the workplace.

    In 2015, ECCC created the first Respect Day as a joint management/union initiative to address common concerns following the 2014 Public Service Employee Survey. The Respectful Workplace Committee was launched and is co-chaired by an Assistant Deputy Minister and the National President of the Union of Health and Environment Workers. This committee identifies and recommends departmental strategies, policies, and activities to strengthen and promote respectful workplace practices to improve workplace quality of life of all ECCC employees. Regional committees have also been established to encourage local activities while contributing to a consistent national approach.

    To ensure ECCC continues on this positive path, the Deputy Ministers announced on November 28, 2017 that a Respect Liaison Officer (RLO) role has been created. This position reports directly to the Deputy Minister and is a neutral advisor to senior management on workplace issues. The RLO helps to foster engagement among managers and employees on the prevention, mitigation and resolution of challenges related to respect.

    The services of the RLO are available to all employees and managers in the NCR and to the regions, and provide a safe space for people to raise and discuss issues. The RLO complements existing workplace resources, such as the Office of Conflict Management.

    Collaboration between management and unions has been critical to the success of the Respect initiative at ECCC, and in building a culture of respect that remains with us every day of the year.

    Impact
    A Public Service that embodies a respectful workplace is one where diverse, different, and uniquely talented individuals feel included and valued. This can improve working relationships, problem solving and conflict resolution. This has direct links to other government-wide priorities such as improved mental health, and is key to our values and ethics as public servants.

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