Opinion
August 22, 2012

A good time for change

Quote of the week

“There are always excuses for not changing.”

    — Kevin Lynch

Editor’s Corner

It is of course difficult to sum up a conference such as the IPAC 2012 event that ends today.

Its theme, not surprisingly, was change. The host province was Newfoundland.

Robert Thompson, the head of the government of Newfoundland’s Executive Council, reminded public servants present that even growth – a welcome change for Canada’s youngest province – can bring challenges that affect public sector resilience.

And while most public servants face resilience challenges due to cutbacks, in Newfoundland the prosperity has brought its own problems including rural-urban migration, labour shortages, and disparity.

A Newfoundland ADM noted to me that these must be responded to with a policy approach that includes robust data collection so politicians can make informed decisions. Interestingly, one of Thompson’s priorities is to improve policy capacity.

Kevin Lynch, speaking on innovation, also commented on policy development, arguing that public servants need to be filters for information from other sources. Their job is to turn data into knowledge that leads to policy outcomes.

And while Lynch’s views on innovation will be familiar to CGE readers, it’s worth noting that he did remind public servants that in these times of change they must avoid complacency. He said that the public sector is too attached to the status quo, adding that it is better to change when times are good than when they are not.

What about the role of government in a changing world? Ross Reid, DM of the Newfoundland Voluntary and Non-profit Secretariat, said that in his view, government increasingly needs to steer as a facilitator, regulator and funder. In this role it needs to support community-based organizations that are not afraid of change, but simply want to be part of it.

And, one could add, through their work ease the pressure of the public service.

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