Speaking Points for The Honourable Scott Brison President of the Treasury Board of Canada at APEX

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May 31, 2016


Thank you Mr. Vermette for the kind introduction.

I’d also like to congratulate tonight’s award winners on their important contributions to the public service.

I have immense respect for the important work of our public servants.

I loved my team at Public Works, and yes Yaprak, I love my team at TBS.

What I’ve come to realize over the years is that you’ve chosen public service for the same reason I chose to be in politics.

We want to make a difference in the lives of Canadians.

And we ARE making a real difference. But we want to do more.

We’re faced with the challenges and opportunities of this century: climate-change, income inequality, an aging population, global refugee migration, revolutionary technologies, including automation and robotics.

How can we better develop solutions, seize opportunities, and put ideas to work?

How can we deliver better results for Canada?

A Culture of Respect for and within the Public Service

I am excited to be working on some of the Prime Minister’s top priorities: establishing a culture of respect for, and within, the public service, and modernizing the way the federal government works to meet the needs of Canadians.

We know how dedicated and professional the Canadian public service is, and we formed government with the commitment to give you and your employees the respect you deserve.

Respect starts with trust.  We trust you and know you have Canadians’ best interests at heart.

Without you, we can’t do what we need to do, and what Canadians have asked us to do.

We were elected with a strong mandate to implement an ambitious and progressive agenda.

To get it done, we need a fully engaged, committed and professional public service.

We’re fortunate to have one of the best public services in the world.

To meet the needs and expectations of Canadians in the years ahead, we need to be a workplace of choice for the best and brightest of this generation, and the next generation.

We face important challenges in meeting that goal.

Healthy Workplace

In the most recent Public Service Employee Survey, the number of employees who said they had experienced harassment and discrimination is unacceptably high.

I know you all take these findings very seriously. And I know you’re already acting on them.

Your performance agreements now reflect the corporate priority of a healthy workplace.

This includes promoting mental health and fostering a workplace that does not tolerate harassment or discrimination and where all employees are respected.

Mental Health

There is strong momentum and widespread interest in coming to grips with mental illness and wellness.

We’re continuing to work with bargaining agents to make progress.

Today, I am pleased to welcome the 2nd report of the Joint Task Force on Mental Health’s Technical Committee.

The Report is another important step forward in this area. It will give us a clearer blueprint for action.

Soon, the Government will also bring forward a mental health strategy to advance and protect the psychological health and safety of employees.

We will work with partners like APEX on implementing this strategy.

Your leadership on mental health is crucial.

Diversity / Inclusion

Diversity and inclusion are important to building a healthy workplace.  A workplace of choice.

Diversity isn’t a challenge to be overcome or a difficulty to be tolerated.

It’s a tremendous source of strength.

I see it around our Cabinet table.

The challenges governments face in the 21st century are more complex than ever before.

To get the best solutions, we need a diversity of views, experiences, backgrounds, orientations, and ideas.

The Prime Minister’s leadership on gender parity and diversity are having ripple effects in corner offices and boardrooms across this country, and in governments around the world.

One of the key priorities for all ministers is to ensure that women, Indigenous Canadians and minority groups are better reflected in positions of leadership, through the appointments we make.

Indigenous Peoples – our youngest and fastest growing demographic – present an enormous potential.

400,000 Indigenous youth will be entering workforce age in the next 10 years.

If they are empowered to enter the public service with the skills they need to compete and succeed, better policy, more effective leadership and a more inclusive society will result.

Public Service Renewal

We must also do a better job of attracting young people to the public service.

This generation is among the most talented, educated and globally connected ever.

And they want to do more than make a living, they want to make a difference.

Today’s experienced public servants can be invaluable mentors to the next generation.

But to attract and integrate a truly diverse workforce, we need to change how the government operates.

We’ve come a long way to support parents in the workplace in balancing work and family life.

We need to do more to ensure that people with disabilities can more easily find meaningful work in the public service thanks to workplace accommodation programs across departments and agencies and fairer hiring practices.

I’d like to speak with you about what diversity and progress has meant for me as a Canadian, not simply as a politician.

It’s pretty amazing for me how much social progress I’ve seen in my lifetime for the LGBTQ in Canada, and the public service.

I was born in 1967.

Homosexuality was a crime until 1968.

In the late 1990s, I remember debate on same-sex marriage and pension benefits in the House of Commons.

In 2005, I was part of a government that made equal marriage the law of the land.

I remember in 2004, when I became Canada’s first openly gay Cabinet minister… then in 2015, when I became the 2nd openly gay Cabinet minister.

I have lived and enjoyed the dividends of social progress.

But the work is far from over.

With a renewed sense of purpose and collaboration, we can achieve great things.

Ultimately, our government is more effective when it reflects Canada’s diversity.

Government Culture Focused on Results and Delivery

This Government has put forward an ambitious agenda and is committed to delivering real change and meaningful results to Canadians.

To deliver on our commitments and drive real change for Canadians, we are implementing a new results and delivery approach.

No matter how great a policy idea is, if the implementation isn’t done well, we won’t get the results we need.

And results are what Canadians expect of their government.

They want high-quality programs and services with a real, positive impact.

And they want effective and efficient use of tax dollars.

All of which requires a culture focused on results and delivery.

But the current system focuses more on process and activities than on results and delivery.

Our current system of Program Alignment Architectures is overbuilt and lacks flexibility.

We have too many performance indicators, with too few that actually tell us how a department is doing.

Evaluation is taking stock and making sure resources are aligned with our priorities and delivering the intended results.

For the most part, it lacks flexibility and responsiveness to user needs or emerging priorities.

That’s our challenge. Now, here’s where we need to go.

We need to focus programs on making a proactive difference in people’s lives.

And that’s what our government’s results and delivery approach is all about.

To deliver better results for Canadians, three steps are crucial:

  • First, being clear about the goals for programs and policies – what are we trying to achieve?
  • Second, having a very detailed implementation plan – how will we achieve our goals?
  • And third, systematically measuring and assessing our progress – are we achieving our desired results and how will we adjust if we are not meeting our goals?

We need to do away with unnecessary reporting and create an easily understood, simplified results framework that tells people what the department actually does and the results it’s achieving.

We need to give evaluation flexibility so that it can best support experimentation and innovation in departments.

Delivering better results can make your work as executives easier and more meaningful.

Our results and delivery approach will make it more likely we will succeed in achieving our goals, like growing the middle class, tackling climate change and improving the well-being of Indigenous Canadians.

Our results and delivery approach will help us have a positive impact on Canadians and will make sure we are on track to implement our commitments.

Culture of Innovation

To maximize results, we must also create a culture of innovation and intelligent risk-taking.

We must not be constrained by how things were done in the past.

Right now, our culture rewards those who play it safe.

We need to create incentives for innovation and tolerance for failure.

If we are afraid to fail, we will never succeed.

When our employees come to us with new ways of doing things, let’s not close the door on them.

Let’s give them the opportunity to develop their ideas.

Let’s reward them for daring to take risks – intelligent risks. Let’s not punish those who try.

We need to set the tone at the top.

We need to ask ourselves a number of questions:

  • How can we incent creativity, and entrepreneurial thinking?
  • What rules are standing in the way?
  • How can we create a culture of intelligent risk-taking?
  • How can we help make sure those ideas are brought to market, or simply shared across departments and even other governments?
  • How can the best ideas and practices from the private sector make their way into public service, and vice versa?

I had the privilege to see many of the federal public service’s own innovations at the Blueprint 2020 Innovation Fair organized by PCO last month.

I know we have a strong foundation to build on.

Open and Transparent Government

Just like we shouldn’t be afraid to innovate, we shouldn’t be afraid to open ourselves and our organizations.

By being open, we are inviting the diversity of views that will make our decisions and our work more reflective of Canadian society and more responsive to the needs of its citizens.

By being transparent, we’re giving citizens the tools – the information – that they need to engage fully and meaningfully, and to hold us to account.

We’ve made a commitment to raise the bar on openness and transparency.

We won’t pretend it will be easy. But it’s the right thing to do.

I’m counting on your leadership to change and modernize the culture within public service.


I believe it is an exciting time to be in government.

I’ve been in politics 19 years. I’ve been elected an MP seven times.

Since 2004, the media has been calling me “the youngest member of Paul Martin’s Cabinet”.

But since November 2015 when the new Cabinet was formed, they have referred to me in the same breath as Ralph Goodale and John McCallum as one of the old war horses.

And you know what? This old warhorse is more excited now about our potential to make a difference, about what we can accomplish for Canadians, than I’ve ever been before.

Public service is a noble calling. It’s a unique opportunity to help our fellow citizens.

Changing the culture of the public service is key to realizing that vision.

As leaders you have a big role to play.

The public service is full of dedicated, professional people.

I look forward to working together to make a positive difference, and deliver real results for Canadians.

Thank you.

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