Remarks by Michael Wernick, Clerk of the Privy Council, at a special event to mark International Day of Persons with Disabilities


Photo of Michael Wernick, Clerk of the Privy Council, speaking at a special event for International Day of Persons with Disabilities on December 3, 2018
International Day of Persons with Disabilities – December 3, 2018

December 3, 2018
Michael Wernick, Clerk of the Privy Council

Check against Delivery

Good afternoon. It is an honour and a pleasure to be back again to close this very inspiring and innovative event.

I know that today you have heard from some very capable, committed and amazing Canadians who have been working hard over the past year to make the Pubic Service accessible and inclusive.

I was here one year ago and told you that 2018 would be an interesting year. It was a truly historic year with some real milestones, one of which was, of course, Bill C81, the Accessible Canada Act. It is one of those moments when a law passes through both Houses, gets Royal Assent, and bends the curve of this country’s history. Other such milestones that come to mind are the Official Languages Act, and the Charter of Rights.

Canada will never be the same after that legislation is passed. It is a huge accomplishment and I know that many people in this room have helped shape it. Other milestones were the creation of the Office of Public Service Accessibility, the development of a more formal strategy for the public service, and the appointment of Yazmine [Laroche] as Deputy Minister, Public Service Accessibility—and I will take credit for this one although it was an obvious choice. I was looking for somebody who would lead the public service in getting ready for the implementation so that we would be off and running on the day the legislation comes into effect. I feel very confident that we will be ready on that day. I want to thank Yazmine for her leadership, which has been there for years and is now more formalized.

We are now into the kinds of conversations that are much more nuanced, detailed and granular about how to fulfill all the promise and potential that this legislation brings. Patrick [Borbey, President] was here today and I want to acknowledge his leadership of the Public Service Commission.

You play such a key role in the search for and the onboarding of talent for the public service. I heard some of the panel discussion, and I must say that I do not know if Patrick’s job is going to get easier or harder—but I suspect it will be harder. However, for young public servants in this room and young people out there in the schools, these are going to be the best of times. We are already experiencing a national labour market shortage.

Every conversation with an economic sector is about where to find talent. It is incredible, whether it concerns airline pilots, engineers, or auditors. We are going to be in a public service labour shortage for the next ten years. All of us baby boomers are leaving at a rate of 9,000 or 10,000 per year. I predict that there will be 30,000 new public service jobs in the next three to four years.

That makes for an updraft, not just of people coming in, but of promotion and advancement and moving people around. We have to work hard at developing the skills and the talents of the people that are already here who are in mid-career or moving towards the end of their career. A lot of focus is on learning, mentorship, the internal marketplace, and getting the right person in the right job at the right time. There is so much opportunity if you are one of the younger public servants.

We also have to be very attentive to that talent development and talent management. I want to send the message that you have all the signals and encouragement you could possibly ask for—from the Prime Minister of Canada, the Cabinet, the Head of the Public Service, and your deputy minister community. It is now really up to all of us to work together on the very specific granular detailed policies and programs that will give life to the promise and the potential of a truly inclusive public service.

We have to be very attentive to issues around talent, but also to issues around harassment, discrimination and recourse. There is no place in the public service of 2019 for harassment and discrimination. We know that public servants with disabilities have been excessively represented among public servants who have had to deal with those issues.

We are moving to a more digital platform, both in the way we serve Canadians and the way we deal with each other. However, those digital platforms have to be inclusive and accessible to all Canadians. While there is great potential, there is also the risk of leaving people out. I know we have people that are committed to finding solutions to this, but in the spirit of “nothing about us without us.”  We encourage these dialogues and conversations. I suspect that the conversation in 2019 is going to be between the people that care about accessibility issues and are involved in the implementation of the act, and the middle management community.

There are roughly 5,600 executives. There are about another 11,000 to 12,000 frontline supervisors/managers. They are the people that make the hiring and promotion decisions. They are also the ones who create the work environment and the work culture. There is a lot that you can do. I have to take responsibility in terms of tone from the top, but it is middle management leadership that is going to make or break the success on any of these issues. I would encourage you to think about ways to build bridges to the national managers’ community, to APEX, to the management communities, and the young leaders’ communities in your departments or agencies across the public service.

They are going to be the real change makers and the people who make a huge difference. I hope that in a year from now, a lot of us will look back with some satisfaction at more milestones and accomplishments. There will be more to do—there always is—and there will be more conversations about the public service.

I do not want to finish without mentioning that as Canadians, we must be very proud of our public service. We face challenges, and we have real problems from time to time, but our public service is recognized as the best in the world. That is not just my opinion. It is the evaluation by independent think tanks who rank public services around the world.

They looked at over 30 public services in the world and the one that ranked number one is this one. The public service that ranked number one in the world on openness and transparency is also this one. The one that has the highest representation of women in its senior leadership ranks is ours – this public service. The country in the 98th percentile of over 160 countries on the effectiveness of its public sector is this one.

We have a lot to be proud of, but it is not a time for complacency. One of the reasons why we are so good is that we are not complacent. We are always looking for ways to do and be better. That is what events like this one are all about and I want to thank you for your contributions over the past year.

I look forward to 2019, and to taking stock a year from now as well. I wish you all the best for the holiday season.

Thank you very much, meegwetch.

Pictures of this event are available on-line.

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