Quote of the week
“These are remarkable times in which to be a public servant.”
The Clerk of the Privy Council is bang on in the Nineteenth Annual Report to the Prime Minister on the Public Service of Canada. Wayne Wouters has got the perfect balance between telling it like it is and being positively forward thinking about how to manage the challenges being faced by federal public servants.
A main message is that the public service has survived – and will continue to do so – by evolving to meet current conditions and directions. Yet, he does not mince words: the “reality, however, is that the changes unfolding in society are outpacing the adjustments that we have been making within the Public Service.”
Echoing Don Drummond’s point in CGE (http://cge.itincanada.ca/index.php?id=16815&cid=311) that the public sector needs to worry less about how big it is and more on figuring out what resources it needs to get the job done, Wouters notes that “the key question we must ask is not whether our institution is the right size, but whether it is working in the ways it must to meet the demands of a new age.”
He admits that implementing Budget 2012 downsizing will not be easy, but reminds managers that they have a responsibility look ahead and help build a new public service that is more collaborative, innovative, streamlined, adaptable and diverse.
For policy wonks looking to be told that the big bad government doesn’t understand or value them and that the good old days of their policy advice being accepted without question will return, the Clerk is clear: there are lots of other places that offer good advice to governments, and public servants must learn to “integrate diverse perspectives in order to distinguish ourselves in a crowded policy marketplace.”
Bottom line: the Clerk has got it right. The world out there is changing, and the public service’s primary task today is accept it, figure out what that means, and prepare itself to remain relevant in the years to come to both its political masters and Canadians.