Clerk’s remarks at the ISED inclusiveness symposium


April 6, 2017
Check Against Delivery

Thank you, John. These sessions and opportunities to talk to public servants are very important to me in getting your ideas and feedback.  

I know you had unconscious bias training this morning and there’ll be a tendency to look at me as one of those old, white, male, Anglophone figures in the public service, which I am. I am also a baby boomer.  I’m unapologetic about that. I bring all kinds of other sides and experiences with me. I lived a good part of my life with a German family. My daughter is Korean and is discovering her roots. In fact, we will be going there later this year. My family has also been dealing with mental health issues.

We must think of each other not in terms of organizational charts, titles or even the current job we hold, but as human beings. We are in a “people business” and I think that’s a very valuable part of the conversations today.

The Government has put together a complicated and broad portfolio around economic growth in this country - where will the wealth and opportunity and employment of the future come from? You have a very busy minister, supported by two other ministers and a very busy Deputy Minister, supported by two other ministers, who have in one portfolio now pieces around financing business. You also have the science, research, technology institutions, and the regional development agencies, and the core parts of the department that have been around for a long time. It is a tremendous opportunity to align those pieces.

The Government, as you can tell, having tabled the second budget just last week, is very committed to keeping Canada’s place in the world and creating those jobs and those opportunities for people like my son and other young Canadians by finding where the wealth and opportunity is going to come from in a changing world.  

I want you to recognize you are in a very cool part of the federal government at a very interesting time in our country’s history. Thank you for the work that you do.

As a country and as a public service, we are on a journey where diversity is not enough.  In fact, diversity is a foundation where it is important to be representative and inclusive. Diversity without inclusion isn’t going to get us where we want to be as a country. The really important part is the inclusion, which means everybody feels they are heard, their ideas and worth are valued and they are part of conversations shaping policy, services, workplace, well-being, etc.

Everybody - all generations from baby boomers to millennials, must feel when they come to a workplace like ours that they are valued and they are listened to and they make a difference  and that’s not easy.  It is a challenge in society. It’s something Canada does relatively well, but it’s still a work in progress. We still have people that are not fully included in the Canadian journey, and we are working on that as a society.

It is not easy in an organization like the federal public service, made up of a quarter million people in 300 different organizations, each of which has different mandates and business lines, and requires a certain degree of structure, process, and hierarchy to do its job. It is organized vertically with accountability through 30 ministers to Parliament and the people of Canada. This is not an easy thing to do, and we need your voices and your ideas on how to do that.

This country is embracing a conversation about mental illness, wellness, and well-being that began with the Kirby Report and a Commission. I think we have made enormous progress as a public service as the largest employer and the largest workforce in the country, but there is so much more we can do.

We have started to come to the end of the first phase, which we will look back on as the easy one that is taking the stigma out, naming problems and issues, and having honest conversations about mental health and mental wellness.

Now, we are moving to the hard part, which is actually doing something about it. There are ties to management practices - bad management practices are part of the root causes of stress in the workplace and mental health issues.  How do we deal with those? Mental health issues are entangled in our grievance and recourse processes. How do we disentangle them and move people into wellness support systems? How do you create conditions for people to be resilient and healthy when the work just keeps coming?

Canadians’ expectations are more, faster, better, and that’s only going to increase. We have to constantly think about how we do our business, re-examine policies, work processes and institutions. What we do, does not change very much. We support governments and we deliver services to Canadians. How we do it, however, has to change. We have to keep up with the expectations of Canadians. They want to get their services on mobile devices, 24 hours a day; 7 days a week. They want it in a very personalized and customized manner. Ministers need to cycle through policy debates and advice in half the time that they did 10 years ago.

The pace is fast; the volume is hard. Lots of people out there are contributing to these debates about policy programs and services. My cliché is anybody with a cell phone and a Google account is a policy analyst now, and they are contributing to those debates. It is a very good thing for a democracy, but at the same time, it is a very challenging thing for the traditional role of the public service in supporting ministers and elected governments. So we are going to have to be creative about how we work. We talk a good game about innovation and we are doing important things. For me, looking forward, the bigger challenge is not going to be creating cool start-up clusters in the Toronto-Waterloo corridor -- I'm very confident we’ll do that -- it’s, can we take institutions like Canada Post or the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, or the Public Service of Canada in the broader sense, and make it more innovative, more nimble, more service-oriented, better able to use technology to empower people. Let people focus on what’s really important to Canadians. Innovation in a public sector space, in the open goldfish bowl of contested politics, that’s hard, but I think we’re going to get there.

There is an important place for us to demonstrate leadership and make the call and take the decisions and turn talk about inclusion into intent and actually follow through, but we can’t coast off of what we used to know or what we learned. We need your feedback, ideas, creativity and suggestions.

I would like to thank you in advance for everything that we are going to put you through in the next year as the department responsible for the innovation agenda of the Government of Canada.

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