Operating context and key risks

Operating context: conditions affecting our work

There are economic and political trends, both in Canada and globally, that demand fast-paced responses by the Government of Canada. PCO’s advice to the Prime Minister and Cabinet on emerging issues must be produced on time and meet the highest standard of precision, discretion and thoroughness. PCO’s emphasis is on effectively and quickly responding to issues and policy challenges facing the Government.

PCO leads the federal public service in turning analysis, advice, consultation and engagement into choices that Cabinet can act upon. This enables the government of the day to deliver its priorities to Canadians. PCO must be consistently effective in fulfilling its responsibilities. These include providing logistical support to Cabinet, coordinating Cabinet committees, shaping government policy and ensuring that Cabinet decisions are properly implemented.

PCO also supports the Clerk in his role as Head of the Public Service. The Clerk leads a professional, non-partisan, merit-based Public Service that provides continuity from one government to the next. The Clerk sets the priorities for the Public Service as a whole to deliver the Government’s agenda. The Clerk works with senior leadership to ensure that the Public Service has the necessary policy, management and human resources capacity. High-quality programs and services for Canadians must be designed and delivered in a manner that is consistent with public service values and ethics.

PCO continues to invest in its workforce, systems and processes to enable it to meet the challenges of a complex and rapidly evolving operating environment. 

To effectively deliver on its roles and responsibilities, PCO will:

  • Provide advice and support that is timely, sound, evidence-based, and non-partisan;
  • Respond with agility to issues that arise on a daily basis;
  • Work in partnership with other departments and agencies to serve the Government; and
  • Strive for professional excellence.

Key risks: things that could affect our ability to achieve our plans and results

Risks Risk response strategy Link to the department’s Core Responsibility Link to mandate letter commitments or to government‑wide and departmental priorities
Risks to the Policy and Legislative Agenda

Description:
  • International and domestic macroeconomic developments, direction changes in trade partner countries as well as global events (e.g., polarization of political landscape, conflicts and natural disasters) may require the Government to adjust its priorities.
  • Changes in the political and public environments, and complex multi-stakeholder interests could result in delays in reaching consensus on reforms, implementing legislation and delivering programs by optimal timelines and could result in cost over-runs.
  • Insufficient attention to internal and external relationships at both the strategic and operational levels could result in deterioration of reputation and relationships with other government departments, stakeholders and communities (e.g. youth, Indigenous Peoples, women, LGBTQ2 community).
  • Monitoring and providing advice on domestic and international events, emerging issues, evolving political contexts that could affect Canada’s interests and providing timely advice on best course of action;
  • Coordinating and providing advice on government-wide  legislative priorities;
  • Aligning resources to effectively and efficiently manage the legislative process;
  • Leveraging expertise from other departments, partners, independent experts, and the private and public sectors to ensure policy development includes diverse views and options for producing high-quality results; and
  • Establishing, managing and building relationships with government entities, stakeholders, and communities for subject matter areas that are new and/or present significant challenges in developing policy and responding to evolving issues.  
Serve the Prime Minister and Cabinet Priority 1: Support the Prime Minister and portfolio ministers in advancing the Government’s priorities and delivering results for Canadians.

Priority 2: Support the deliberations of Cabinet and its committees on key policy initiatives, coordinate policy planning and provide non-partisan advice.
Risks to delivering quality and timely service, advice and support.

Description:
  • Increased demands, pace and workload surges mean an increasing burden and dependence on existing resources and talent.
  • Challenge to maintain, grow, and attract  critical expertise to meet workload demands
  • Demographic changes facing the leadership of the Public Service impact the ability of the Public Service to effectively serve Canadians.
  • Diminishing the impact of this risk on the workforce by understanding and helping to manage cumulative change impacts for people, processes and technology; this would facilitate progress and foster a culture of continuous improvement (e.g. knowledge transfer, HR and succession planning);
  • Identifying critical expertise and implementing succession programs; and
  •  Leveraging information management tools and technology (IM/IT) to maximize contribution of workforce and timeliness of interventions.
Serve the Prime Minister and Cabinet
Internal Services
Priority 1: Support the Prime Minister and portfolio ministers in advancing the Government’s priorities and delivering results for Canadians.

Priority 2: Support the deliberations of Cabinet and its committees on key policy initiatives, coordinate policy planning and provide non-partisan advice.

Priority 3: Strengthen PCO’s internal management practices.
Risks to Security and Emergency Management

Description:
  • The expectations for rapid responses to the unpredictable nature of security and emergency events could result in security coordination and response gaps.
  • The challenge to appropriately anticipate, react and respond to emerging or rapidly evolving domestic and international events could negatively impact the Government’s capacity to promote Canada’s interests domestically and abroad.
  • Accidental or intentional dissemination of sensitive material may negatively impact Canada’s interests.
  • Engaging early and regularly with lead security agencies and providing fora to share critical information, advice on security requirements, and best practices across relevant departments and among allies;
  • Maintaining and enhancing security and emergency management tools for prevention/mitigation, preparation, response and recovery with particular emphasis on cybersecurity and the provision of timely assurances to Canadians; and
  • Regularly reviewing response plans to incorporate lessons learned from actual events and exercises with the government’s wider security and intelligence community; this would maintain or enhance coordination, interoperability, efficiency and effectiveness in security or emergency events.
Serve the Prime Minister and Cabinet
Internal Services
Priority 1: Support the Prime Minister and portfolio ministers in advancing the Government’s priorities and delivering results for Canadians.

Priority 2: Support the deliberations of Cabinet and its committees on key policy initiatives, coordinate policy planning and provide non-partisan advice.

The risks associated with the delivery of PCO’s priorities in 2018–19 can be categorized in the following three areas.

Risks to the Policy and Legislative Agenda

Constant change in political and economic conditions domestically and internationally means that PCO must ensure that advice and support on policy development are timely and effective in safeguarding Canada’s interests. This can be challenging as PCO is expected to deliver expertise and support on a wide variety of areas while also managing the legislative agenda and parliamentary issues, and providing advice on machinery of government changes and Senate and Governor in Council appointments. PCO will mitigate risks to the policy and legislative agenda by monitoring emerging developments closely, coordinating efforts with identified partners and stakeholders, and aligning its resources to maintain a high quality of advice and support.

Risk to Delivering Quality and Timely Service, Advice and Support

Increased workloads and shorter timelines risk straining PCO’s existing resources.  The expertise, skills and competencies PCO requires in order to fulfill its roles and responsibilities are also changing. To address these challenges, PCO will maintain a culture of continuous improvement (e.g. modernizing technology), by implementing effective succession planning actions for critical skillsets, leveraging technology and by exploring ways to deliver on expectations in a sustainable fashion.

Risks to Security and Emergency Management

 Domestic and international events that could affect Canada’s security interests require a rapid and effective response. PCO maintains cooperative and coordinated relations with the security communities and partner department. This advances the ability to provide a thorough response to security and emergency events. Mitigation of this risk will include providing an effective level of security for its physical spaces, people and assets while delivering its priorities. PCO will continue to monitor events and implement security policies, plans and procedures to minimize risks due to security or emergency events. PCO will continue to take corrective measures as necessary and ensure employees maintain an appropriate level of training and awareness of security and emergency management measures.

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