I would like to begin by thanking the Saskatchewan Regional Group of the Institute of Public Administration of Canada (IPAC) for their very kind invitation to deliver this second annual Vanier Lecture. I should also like to congratulate the Saskatchewan Region of IPAC for the wonderful initiative they have taken in establishing such an annual lecture, to be delivered each year by the winner of the Vanier medal. I hope that other IPAC regional groups may follow your very good example.
I am sensitive to following in very large footsteps. For the Vanier medal, of course, the former winners of which include those two illustrious sons of Saskatchewan, Al Johnson and Tommy Shoyama, for whom the University of Regina’s Graduate School of Public Policy is now, happily, to be named. To find myself in such company is something that passes all understanding.
But I am also standing in large shoes, as far as this lecture itself is concerned, because last year’s inaugural lecture was delivered by Peter Aucoin of Dalhousie University, for whom I, like so many others, have the very highest respect.
To stand here before you this evening is therefore a very great honour indeed. But it is also an exciting opportunity to reflect aloud with you about some of the important current challenges for the profession of public service that the Vanier medal is intended to celebrate. I want to consider some of the ways in which we can reclaim trust in public service by renewing our moral contract with public sector employees, with elected leaders, and with the citizens of Canada.
My remarks this evening will be in six parts. After describing what I call the “existential” crisis the public service has been going through for over 25 years, I will review two conceptual frameworks that can help us to think about the factors that influence trust in government and in the public service. Then I will talk about three of the “drivers” of public trust those frameworks suggest: service delivery, management and leadership, and values and ethics. And I will conclude with some final thoughts on reclaiming trust by renewing our moral contracts.
A special calling – and its existential crisis
In the spirit of celebration appropriate to a Vanier lecture, I’d like to start by reminding ourselves that public service is a noble calling. Some of you may remember the celebrated passage on this theme from the conclusion to A Strong Foundation, the report of the federal deputy minister Task Force on Public Service Values and Ethics (better known as the “Tait Report”), published in 1996. If not, perhaps you will allow me to recall its words.
Public service is a special calling. It is not for every one. Those who devote themselves to it find meaning and satisfaction that are not to be found elsewhere. But the rewards are not material. They are moral and psychological, perhaps even spiritual. They are the intangible rewards that proceed from the sense of devoting one’s life to the service of the country, to the affairs of state, to public purposes, great or small, and to the public good.