Quote of the week
“…thinking government is necessarily the solution to a problem is outmoded thinking these days…”
— President of the Treasury Board, Tony Clement
Tony Clement, the President of the Treasury Board, made it clear in a recent interview that his mandate to lead Strategic Operational Review is partly driven by a belief that government must radically change to meet the needs of the 21st century. And so must the public service.
The interview will be published in the September edition of Canadian Government Executive magazine.
Clement argues that it is outmoded to believe government can solve all our problems, stating that “Canadians, based on the research I have seen, are looking for a more targeted approach.”
That targeted approach will come from working more closely with other sectors. To get there, Clement suggests government needs to play the role of convener that “convenes various other aspects of society; whether it be NGOs or private sector, other people that can bring solutions to a problem.”
As to the public service itself, in his view it has two main functions. The first is “implementing policies that have been sanctioned through elections and through a party’s platform” and the second is as a generator of ideas and solutions for what he calls “changing times and changing challenges.”
When I asked if he believed government as an institution lacked credibility with Canadians, he defended the public sector, noting that “the public has also seen that inefficiency and lack of results can occur in the private sector too.”
He added that “one should not tar with a brush any particular sector but realize that sometimes there are limits to what government can do and limits to what the private sector can do.”
Clement believes that government as it now works can’t meet the needs of Canadians and that it needs to change to reflect changing times. Society, he argues, is constantly changing. “It’s never static, the demands and expectations change, the experiences of the public change, and what they expect of us…It’s probably unrealistic to expect that things are ever going to remain the same.”
I think many would agree: in the public sector, things may never be the same.