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Twenty-First Annual Report to the Prime Minister on the Public Service of Canada

[PDF 5.7MB]

Table of Contents

  1. Letter from the Clerk to the Prime Minister
  2. Canadian Cataloguing in Publication Data
  3. I. Introduction
  4. II. The Year in Review
    1. Serving Canadians
      1. Improving Access to Information and Services
      2. Serving During Times of Crisis
    2. Securing Canada’s Place in the World
      1. Facilitating Trade and Economic Growth
      2. Securing Canada’s Future
      3. Supporting Our Neighbours
    3. A High-Performing Public Service
      1. A Fair, Equitable and Consistent Approach to Performance Management
      2. Modernizing Disability and Sick Leave Management
      3. Improving Performance and Productivity Across Departments and Agencies
  5. III. Public Service Modernization
    1. BluePrint 2020
      1. Innovative Practices and Networking
      2. Processes and Empowerment
      3. Technology
      4. People Management
      5. Fundamentals of Public Service
  6. Concluding Thoughts
  7. Annex A: Public Service Modernization from 2009 to 2014
  8. Annex B: By The Numbers: A Demographic Profile of the Federal Public Service for 2013
  9. Annex C: Report of the Prime Minister’s Advisory Committee on the Public Service
  10. Annex D: Videos

I. Introduction

Since becoming Clerk of the Privy Council and Head of the Federal Public Service in July 2009, I have had the privilege of reporting on the challenges and achievements of Canada’s Public Service. I am proud to deliver my fifth Annual Report to the Prime Minister on the Public Service of Canada.

Canada’s Federal Public Service:

The largest employer in Canada, with approximately 262,000 employees, it is also the country’s most diverse workforce, including administrative, scientific, engineering, medical, and enforcement professionals, among others.

As a vital national institution, the Public Service actively contributes to enhancing our nation’s economic prosperity and resilience, while protecting Canada’s national interests. This report reflects on notable achievements over the past year to serve Canadians at home and abroad and secure Canada’s place in the world.

The report also highlights ongoing efforts to modernize and position the Public Service of Canada to remain a world-class institution, capable of skillfully anticipating and responding to the evolving needs of Canadians and the Government. We have already made significant progress in this regard, and intend to maintain this momentum so that our organization becomes more dynamic, agile and flexible.

We live and work in a world connected by technology and reshaped by globalization, where issues move across borders and around the world in a nanosecond.

Serving with Excellence

In July 2013, Colonel Chris Hadfield retired from the Canadian Space Agency after serving as an astronaut for over two decades and as a member of the Canadian Armed Forces for 25 years.

Colonel Hadfield was the first Canadian to operate the Canadarm in orbit and the nation's first to walk in space. On his most recent mission, in 2013, he served as Commander of the International Space Station, completed numerous science experiments, and connected with millions via social media.

Canadians increasingly expect seamless, integrated services, and they want these services delivered in a convenient way across both new and traditional channels.

Positioning the Public Service to be agile and well equipped to serve Canadians and the Government in such a complex and evolving environment requires a commitment to continuous improvement. The engagement of employees—at all levels—is critical in this regard.

In June 2013, I launched Blueprint 2020, engaging directly with public servants in an unprecedented variety of ways across Canada and around the world—complementing traditional town hall gatherings with more modern social media technologies to hear from public servants.

Truly modernizing the Federal Public Service is only possible if we tap into the creativity of our employees, who have a keen understanding of where there are opportunities for innovation.

Employees responded, offering unfiltered and fresh ideas on how to transform our institution. What we have heard so far shows that public servants are immensely proud of the role they play in improving the lives of Canadians, and care passionately about Canada and the Government, and shaping an organization that is equipped to serve Canadians, now and into the future. We are responding to what we have heard, in departments and at the whole-of-government level, on the key priorities coming through the engagement process.

Collaboration and dialogue are integral to continued innovation and modernization. The journey can and must continue.

II. The Year in Review

Serving Canadians

The Government of Canada delivers extensive services in both official languages that have a direct impact on the lives and well-being of Canadians—in all regions and at all stages of their lives.

Improving Access to Information and Services

Service Innovation: Access to Government of Canada Services Online

Instead of remembering multiple usernames and passwords, Canadians can now sign in using their identification from their financial institution or credit card through SecureKey Concierge. Launched in late 2012, this enables Canadians to access services in over 20 departments and agencies, including Service Canada and the Canada Revenue Agency.

Ensuring that we continually assess whether services are being delivered to Canadians in the most efficient and effective way possible is critical. This past year, we took a number of steps to make it easier for Canadians to access information and services.

In 2013, significant steps were taken to make passports more secure and convenient for Canadians. Passport Canada began issuing ePassports, which have security features that make the passport even more tamper-proof. Eligible applicants also have the option of applying for a 10-year passport, meaning Canadians will not have to renew their passports as frequently. Over time, passport services will expand to more Service Canada centres in communities across the country, and Canadians will ultimately be able to apply for a passport online.

Agroclimate Impact Reporter

The information contained in Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Agroclimate Impact Reporter enables producers to plan for potential disasters and make preparations to withstand unfavourable weather events.

We also enhanced access to Government of Canada data and information through the Open Data Portal, As noted by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Canada has the highest number of data sets on a centralized open data portal of any OECD country. To date, there are approximately 190,000 data sets available—collections of non-personal data that can be freely used, reused and redistributed by anyone. This enables Canadians to access information and develop apps on a number of topics, ranging from energy use statistics, to drug and vehicle recalls, to drinking water advisories.

We also took steps to shift to electronic publishing and to establish a single one-stop website for Canadians, making it easier for Canadians to access information online, without having to navigate through a myriad of websites. Service Canada, in collaboration with other departments and agencies, launched—a simple and intuitive government-wide site that replaces over 1,500 separate websites, powered by a modern Google-based search engine.

Shifting to Online Service Delivery

In 2013, Fisheries and Oceans Canada launched a National Online Licensing System for fishing licenses, enabling fishers to renew and pay for fishing licenses electronically.

Departments and agencies are continuing to look for opportunities to lever technology to deliver services to Canadians. As of June 2013, over 76 percent of Canadians had taken advantage of the Canada Revenue Agency’s electronic filing services, demonstrating the convenience of electronic tax filing.

Departments and agencies are also using social media to connect with Canadians. Statistics Canada, for instance, uses social media to provide Canadians with the latest information on social and economic conditions, while the Canadian Food Inspection Agency uses social media to advise Canadians about food recalls and safety.

Serving During Times of Crisis

We are proud of the critical role of the Public Service in supporting Canadians and communities when emergencies and disasters occur, and helping to prevent future disasters.

Responding to Natural Disasters

In June 2013, rising floodwaters in Alberta required the rapid mobilization of resources and deployment of emergency response teams to the region. Public servants and members of the Canadian Armed Forces played a key part in the relief effort, actively working with municipal and provincial governments and emergency responders to ensure assistance was provided in a coordinated and efficient manner.

Following the tragic train derailment in Lac-Mégantic, Quebec, in July 2013, federal public servants gave expert advice to first responders; set up mobile outreach services to provide access to programs and services, including Employment Insurance, Canada Pension Plan, Old Age Security, and passports; and supported the response, recovery, and decontamination efforts.

Public servants are also working to prevent or reduce the impact of natural disasters on Canadians. In consultation with the provinces and territories, public servants are supporting the development of a revised National Disaster Mitigation Program to reduce the impact of future natural disasters, such as the floods in Alberta, helping to save lives and minimize the economic and environmental impact disasters have upon communities.

Securing Canada’s Place In The World

The Public Service makes significant contributions to Canada’s success in a competitive world. This past year was no exception—public servants advised on and worked hard to implement the ambitious agenda for Canada laid out in the Economic Action Plan 2013 and the Speech from the Throne.

Facilitating Trade and Economic Growth

In 2013, Canada was one of the top growing economies of the G-7. Canada’s international competitiveness was further strengthened with the historic agreements-in-principle on a Canada-European Union Trade Agreement and a Canada-South Korea Free Trade Agreement. The agreements will provide Canada with preferential market access to the European Union’s more than 500 million consumers, representing annual economic activity of almost $17 trillion, and build closer economic ties with the Asia-Pacific region. I am proud of the Public Service’s work to secure both agreements and am confident they will pay off for generations to come.

Implementing the Canada-United States Beyond the Border Action Plan

The modernization of border crossings under the Beyond the Border Action Plan is reducing wait times and will increase the reliability of just-in-time shipments, and decrease fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. This will be augmented by coordinated investment plans by Canada and the United States at small and remote ports of entry, as part of the first joint Canada-United States Border Infrastructure Investment Plan.

This past year also saw the conclusion of 10 foreign investment promotion and protection agreements—more than in any previous year. In addition, Canada entered into two new tax treaties, bringing the total number of such treaties to 92. These agreements will help prevent tax evasion and facilitate the conduct of business and the movement of individuals internationally.

Significant progress is also being made to strengthen trade, travel and security between Canada and the United States with the implementation of the Beyond the Border Action Plan. Almost a million Canadians are saving time as members of the NEXUS trusted travellers program. This represents an increase of approximately 50 percent since the Beyond the Border Action Plan was announced. In addition, the Government of Canada and the United States recently launched a pre-inspection pilot of truck cargo to expedite the flow of legitimate trade and travel while ensuring border security and integrity.

Working Together to Monitor the Oil Sands

Through the Joint Canada-Alberta Implementation Plan for Oil Sands Monitoring Program, Environment Canada and Government of Alberta scientists are working together to undertake rigorous environmental monitoring in the oil sands region to understand the cumulative environmental effects of the oil sands industry.

The information collected is available on the the Canada-Alberta Oil Sands Environmental Monitoring Information Portal, which enables Canadians to access maps of the Alberta oil sands and up-to-date data collected by scientists in the field, along with scientific analysis and interpretation of the data and results.

We have also been advising the Government on responsible resource development, to enable Canada to capitalize on its natural resources advantage, while protecting the environment. As part of this, we have been working to make our regulatory system more competitive, efficient and effective, with predictable and timely review processes for major projects, strengthened environmental protection and enhanced consultations with Aboriginal peoples.

We made significant progress in developing a new policy framework for producers and processors in the agriculture and agri-food sector. This past year saw the launch of Growing Forward 2, and a $3 billion investment over the
next 5 years by federal, provincial and territorial governments to support innovation and enable Canadian agriculture producers to respond to market trends, here in Canada and abroad.

Recognized for Innovation

In 2013, the Public Service was recognized by the Institute of Public Administration of Canada for its work in improving the regulatory process for major resource projects—identifying systemic bottlenecks and providing a solid evidence base to support legislative and policy improvements.

In addition, we are continuing to support key decisions around investments in infrastructure that keep our economy moving. A significant example is a new international crossing between Windsor, Ontario, and Detroit, Michigan. The Windsor-Detroit trade corridor is the most important trade conduit with the United States, handling 30 percent of Canada-U.S. trade carried by truck. Approximately 2.5 million trucks carrying over $100 billion in trade used this corridor in 2012.

Securing Canada’s Future

In addition to facilitating trade and economic growth, public servants have supported the Government’s efforts to invest in Canada’s future, by advising on knowledge creation and commercialization, and learning, skills development and training.

In particular, we provided advice on the creation of the Canada First Research Excellence Fund, which will help post-secondary institutions in Canada excel in areas such as science, technology and innovation—creating long-term economic advantages for Canada, and helping Canadians succeed and prosper in a global economy.

Supporting Excellence

The Government of Canada is the largest single contributor to sport in Canada, providing funding for initiatives to support high-performance athletes and to promote sport participation among all Canadians.

Sport Canada was responsible for the organization and coordination of Government of Canada activities at the 2014 Sochi Olympic and Paralympic Games. Public servants were on site in Sochi providing support to the federal delegation and liaising with consular services, working with the Canadian Olympic Committee, the Canadian Paralympic Committee, and Own the Podium. A few public servants even participated!

Notably, we advised the Government on the reform of First Nations elementary and secondary education, including a historic agreement between the Government of Canada and the Assembly of First Nations to reform the First Nations K-12 education system through the First Nations Control of First Nations Education Act and new investments of $1.9 billion. The Act will ensure stronger and more accountable education systems on reserves and will result in better outcomes for First Nations students. Aboriginal peoples are the fastest-growing demographic group in Canada. Their full participation in Canada’s economy is critical to the future prosperity of the country.

We also advised on measures to help Canadians get the skills and experience they need to get quality jobs through apprenticeship programs, and skills training programs focused on youth, Aboriginal people, persons with disabilities, and older workers wishing to remain in the workforce.

Supporting Our Neighbours

Beyond our borders, public servants promote Canadian values abroad, often playing a critical and leading role in responding to international crises and conflicts.

This past year, we supported the Government of Canada’s emergency relief efforts following Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, and worked with partners and allies for peace and security in areas such as the Middle East and Mali.

This year also represents the return of Canadian Armed Forces personnel from Afghanistan, concluding a mission which began over a decade ago. Since October 2001, more than 40,000 members of the Canadian Armed Forces and public servants have been deployed to Afghanistan to work with allies and the Afghan Government.  Since 2011, Canada’s engagement in Afghanistan has focused on four key priorities: investing in the future of Afghan children and youth through development programming in education and health; advancing security, the rule of law and human rights; promoting regional diplomacy; and delivering humanitarian assistance.

Rapid Response to Typhoon Haiyan

In November 2013, Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines, setting off landslides, knocking out power in several provinces, and cutting communications in the country's central region, before making landfall in Vietnam and Laos. Thousands of lives were lost and an estimated 11 million were affected.

Public servants were critical to the rapid response. Within days of the typhoon, the Government of Canada had deployed the Disaster Assistance Response Team, committed humanitarian assistance to the region, and matched donations by individual Canadians to registered charities.

A High-Performing Public Service

Ensuring that we have a strong and high-performing Public Service means that we must continue to create the conditions that enable employees to perform at their peak.

A Fair, Equitable and Consistent Approach to Performance Management

We are enhancing our approach to performance management to ensure that excellence at all levels is encouraged and recognized. This means having specific and timely performance expectations and feedback for all employees.

Although performance management has been happening in federal departments and agencies, particularly for executives, inconsistent approaches have been adopted, and employee performance has not always been linked to business objectives and expected behaviours. We are working to change this.

As of April 1, 2014, all departments and agencies are to have performance agreements in place for their employees as part of an ongoing process of providing feedback and evaluating employee performance each fiscal year. For managers, this means establishing clear performance expectations and providing regular feedback to employees. For employees, this means they will know how they are performing, what they are doing well and what they need to do to improve. Excellence needs to be nurtured and celebrated.

Modernizing Our Disability and Sick Leave Management System to Respond to the Needs of All Employees

We are also committed to improving the wellness of federal employees. Our current approach to managing disability and sick leave is out of step with leading practices, as employees must wait 13 weeks to become eligible for long-term disability, or exhaust all of their banked sick leave, whichever is longer. This can cause problems for those with serious illnesses, as many public servants do not have enough sick leave credits and could face financial hardship before becoming eligible for long-term disability. And even for those who do have enough sick leave, the current system does not offer adequate case management and return-to-work support. We can do better.

We are changing this, and are committed to working with bargaining agents to develop and implement a disability and sick leave management system that is modern, comprehensive, and responsive to the needs of all employees. A short-term disability plan will provide employees with access to active case management including wellness, prevention and rehabilitation services, and seamlessly connect sick leave with long-term disability benefits. This would provide fair and comprehensive sickness and disability coverage for all federal employees and help them return to work when they are able to do so.

Improving Performance and Productivity Across Departments and Agencies

Improving How We Do Business

Employment and Social Development Canada is modernizing and streamlining the delivery of Employment Insurance, reducing processing costs by approximately 40 percent.

We continue to improve performance and productivity across all of our organizations in an effort to reduce costs and support the Government’s priority to return to balanced budgets. Today, the number of federal public servants represents a lower proportion of the Canadian population than it did a decade ago. We are proud of the professionalism demonstrated by all of our employees as we implemented the Government’s deficit reduction action plan. Thanks to the dedication and creativity of public servants, we were able to manage recent reductions fairly, and minimize the impact on our people and services to Canadians. We will continue to strive to increase productivity and results.

This past year, we finalized the reform of public sector pensions. These reforms will see plan member contribution rates gradually increase, bringing the public service pension plan’s employer/employee cost-sharing ratio to 50:50 by 2017–2018. For employees who joined the public service pension plan on or after January 1, 2013, the age of retirement has been raised from 60 to 65.  We are confident that these changes will ensure an affordable and sustainable public service pension plan.

In addition, in March 2014, changes to the Public Service Health Care Plan were approved, further to negotiations between the government, bargaining agent and pensioner representatives. The changes, which include increases to pensioner cost-sharing and eligibility, and benefit enhancements for all Plan members in the areas of psychological services, laser eye surgery, and sleep apnea devices, as well as elimination of the annual deductible will support the health and wellness of employees and retirees, while at the same time ensuring that the Health Care Plan remains affordable, sustainable, and comparable to plans outside of our sector.

As detailed in Annex A, we have made, and continue to make progress to standardize and consolidate support functions. In 2014–2015, federal departments and agencies will operate using common human resources business processes. With a standard approach to delivering HR services, all employees, whether they are in Rankin Inlet, North Battleford, Rimouski or the National Capital Region, will use the same business processes, ensuring we are well positioned to improve services for employees, increase self-serve options, and reduce costs. We are also continuing to make progress to modernize the employee pay system, the largest payroll system in Canada, which carries out approximately 8.9 million transactions on an annual basis. Planning for this transition was complex, but an innovative and effective solution was found, and we are seamlessly transitioning to a new system with no financial impact on employees.

Significant progress is also being made to modernize how we manage information technology across departments and agencies. Shared Services Canada, which provides IT services to departments and agencies in Canada and abroad, is on track to consolidate 63 different departmental email systems into a single, outsourced, enterprise-wide system by March 2015, a move that will improve service and realize over $50 million of annual savings beginning in 2015–2016. Shared Services Canada is also moving forward to consolidate and modernize data centres, from over 485 to fewer than 10 that are resilient, secure and energy efficient. They are also consulting extensively with the private sector to identify the most cost-effective approach for procuring a single enterprise network. A common network will ultimately support enhanced network security and collaboration between departments.

In addition, Shared Services Canada is now responsible for the procurement of end-user devices and associated software (e.g., standardized office suite software such as word processing, spreadsheets, presentation graphics) for federal employees. By consolidating how we procure items such as software and moving towards enterprise-wide licenses, the Government of Canada will leverage economies of scale and reduce duplication, ultimately reducing costs.

Departments are also continuing to reduce administrative costs and improve how they do business. In keeping with the Economic Action Plan 2013, public servants continued to find alternatives to travel, reducing departmental travel expenditures by $42.7 million on an ongoing basis, beginning in fiscal year 2013–2014, and leveraging videoconferencing technology and other remote meeting solutions. This is illustrated, for example, by the National Managers’ Community’s plans to hold its first-ever virtual national forum in 2014.

In keeping with best practices in other jurisdictions, we have taken significant steps to transform how we do business and reduce costs, while providing services to Canadians and advising and delivering on an ambitious agenda, at home and abroad. While there is more to be done, I am grateful for the continued leadership, dedication and professionalism of all public servants, who have been instrumental in improving how we do business.

III. Public Service Modernization

All organizations must focus on renewal to remain efficient, effective, and relevant. The Public Service is no exception and is continually assessing how it can serve Canada and Canadians more effectively.

As we modernize the Public Service to meet the evolving needs of Canadians, we need to retain a clear understanding of our values, our traditions and our roles as public servants. These are a source of pride and excellence in serving Canadians. 

BluePrint 2020

In June 2013, I launched Blueprint 2020, a government-wide dialogue on a vision for a world-class Public Service, equipped to serve Canada and Canadians now and into the future.

This unprecedented and historic national process engaged employees across departments and agencies—in all regions, at all levels and in all functions—in a dialogue about the future of the Public Service. Never before have we consulted public servants so broadly, both in person and online.

Employees responded with enthusiasm, overwhelmingly validating the Blueprint 2020 vision as a guide to help transform the Public Service to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow. Their feedback clearly indicates a great passion for serving the country.

Small Changes, Big Impacts

Building the Public Service of tomorrow won’t happen overnight—true transformational change takes time, and depends on every individual taking action. Changes, big and small, can have a real impact.

The quality and quantity of ideas generated to improve how we work are impressive. Forward-looking suggestions were shared, ranging from small, incremental recommendations for changing how we do business in individual units and departments, to large-scale, enterprise-wide solutions that will increase our efficiency and effectiveness and improve how we serve Canadians.

Employee input is already having an impact. Departments are launching their own change agendas linked to their individual mandates and have begun implementing enhancements identified through the dialogue. We are doing the same for the Public Service as a whole. Later this spring, I will be articulating the first round of government-wide priorities for the ongoing modernization of the Public Service in Destination 2020, the overarching report on the Blueprint 2020 engagement process. This will focus on the following crowdsourced priorities:

Innovative Practices and Networking

Fresh Perspectives, New Ways of Working

In 2013, deputies on the Deputy Ministers’ Committee on Social Media and Policy Development paired up with reverse mentors—junior public servants who served as full members of the Committee—to explore new approaches to developing policy advice in the Public Service by leveraging social media. This practice continued when the Committee received a new mandate to examine policy innovation more broadly, and was renamed the Deputy Ministers’ Committee on Policy Innovation.

The Committee operates on an open, inclusive basis, sharing all meeting materials on GCpedia (including meeting minutes), hosting interactive discussions on Twitter and GCconnex, and crowdsourcing its discussion papers. These practices enable public servants across the country to engage, and help the Committee put its vision into action and bring new perspectives to the table.

As the Prime Minister’s Advisory Committee on the Public Service observed (see Annex C), one of the challenges of global competitiveness facing Canada today is the importance of long-range thinking about systemic issues such as an aging population, energy, infrastructure and the environment. They noted that this requires continued investments in research, planning, and longer-term policy development to address the needs of the country.

Similarly, our dedicated employees want to develop innovative approaches to better serve Canada and Canadians, and enhance public access to information for Canadians. They are looking for ways to facilitate responsible risk-taking in making changes, with appropriate mitigation.

Providing employees with opportunities to innovate is critical to our success. Going forward, we will look for opportunities for public servants to learn and try new ways of working and serving Canadians more effectively, ensuring Canadians have access to the information and services they need, when they need them.

Processes and Empowerment

Employees have told us that they are equally concerned about internal red tape as Canadians were about external red tape prior to the successful Red Tape Reduction exercise. Public servants are looking for the reduction of unnecessary burden in internal processes, and provided many ideas on to how to streamline business processes, including approvals.


We heard from public servants across the country that technology is a key enabler of the excellence of the Public Service. The smart use of social media to build trust and employee engagement and to enable an open and networked government is important. Technology is seen as critical to facilitating communication, collaboration, information sharing, e-learning, and service delivery.

As we move forward, we will focus on identifying IT solutions that enable employees to innovate and improve how they work together—in departments, and across the government—and to connect with Canadians.

People Management

Public servants recognized the importance of people management to a high-performing productive workforce. They expressed a strong desire to access a diverse range of learning opportunities, and noted that new strategies are needed for managing and recognizing performance. They also pointed to the need for improved recruitment and staffing processes to respond more quickly to changing priorities.

Going forward, we will foster an agile and high-performing workforce, focusing on performance management, leadership development, and enhancing learning opportunities.

Fundamentals of Public Service

Building on Our Strengths

A proudly bilingual, non-partisan institution, guided by our enduring Public Service values, committed to serving Canada, Canadians and the Government with excellence, integrity, and pride.

Employees across the country expressed a strong desire to profile the Public Service’s dedication to serving Canadians with excellence, and bolster our commitment to diversity, official languages and public service values and ethics.

Concluding Thoughts

As you have noted, Prime Minister, the dedication, competence and integrity of our Public Service are both unrivalled and a critical asset. The Public Service of Canada is among the best in the world. Blueprint 2020 has shown that we have a shared vision of the Public Service of the future, and, in many areas, are already on track to serve Canadians effectively and efficiently in the digital age. More than that, Blueprint 2020 has shown that collaboration and dialogue are part of our culture, and key to innovation and modernization, and that more needs to be done.

We are responding to what we have heard. Departments have already come forward with initiatives to improve how we do business, and I will do the same, highlighting my key priorities for the Public Service in Destination 2020 later this spring.

Thank you to all public servants, for their dedication, innovation, and support.

Cultural Shift

There is no looking back. We have taken engagement and dialogue across the Public Service to a new level. The journey will continue.