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Committed to improvement, dedicated to service, proud of success

 "Public service work tends to be invisible unless something goes wrong," said Shirley Hoy, former Toronto City Manager, one of the jurists for the 2014 IPAC/Deloitte Public Sector Leadership Awards. "So it's nice to have a way for public service organizations across the country to be recognized when they tackle serious problems in creative and cost-efficient ways." Social Services Deputy Minister for Saskatchewan, Ken Acton, agreed, commending "… the dedication each entrant showed to making a difference and improving programs and services for those they serve. The commitment came through in every finalist."


In the end, it's the ability of public sector organizations to make real lasting changes—changes that not only optimize the resources at hand but provide templates for sector-wide improvement—that make the awards finalists so special every year. "It was amazing how broad ranging and deep some of these projects were, many affecting a complete turnaround in organizational cultures," noted Deborah Newman, Ontario Deputy Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities. "Those types of projects present best practice learning opportunities for all public service organizations."


If it seems like the jury couldn't say enough good things about the awards initiative and the exciting projects they saw submitted, it's true. They were unanimous in their praise for the innovation on display in this year's entries, and for the genuine difference the submitted projects have made in the lives of Canadians. And when you read about the finalists and winners in this year's categories—federal/provincial; municipal; and health/education—we're sure you'll agree.

Federal/Provincial/Territorial – Gold winner
Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities
Establishing the Ontario College of Trades


Ontario's previous trade apprenticeship and certification system was large, complex and hard to navigate, featuring over 150 trades with considerable variability in rules, skills and training provided. A 2007 review led to a goal of transforming and modernizing how trades are governed in Ontario. Just two years later, an Act was introduced to establish an all-trade self-governing institution—the Ontario College of Trades and Apprenticeship. By 2013, the college was up and running, moving Ontario to the forefront of Canadian approaches to managing apprenticeship and certification systems. Now in its second year of operation, the college—by developing strong relationships with industry stakeholders and the government—has succeeded in delivering considerable benefits to consumers, employers, workers in the trades, and Ontario's economy as a whole.



"In order to be up to the leadership challenge of public service, you need to be prepared to undertake some pretty bold initiatives—the kind that actually transform the way we design and deliver programs and services. The way the college has been designed, it reaches out to the public and to its own membership while being financially independent, which is a very innovative approach. For other provinces looking to transform the trades, you can't just have government drive an initiative through. You have to work closely with all parts of the industry and get the critical mass to move forward. We've received some criticism, but we believe this model has long-term viability and that it could work in other jurisdictions as well."


– Marie-Lison Fougere, ADM, Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities


Federal/Provincial/Territorial – Silver winner
Canadian Space Agency

France's space agency (Centre national d'études spatiales—CNES) was looking for a new mid-latitude launch site for science missions. Seizing the opportunity to build on mutual synergies, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) entered into a partnership with CNES to conduct a joint balloon program based in Timmins (Ontario), which proved an optimal site. Approved by the executive committee in the spring of 2012, the program not only provided France with a new launch base, but Canada with access to CNES' deep experience and worldwide network of regular stratospheric balloon flight opportunities. On a tight timetable and strict budget, the project—Stratos—was completed, with the first launch in September 2014, carrying the first two Canadian payloads.


"The key to this whole initiative was partnership. We worked with a number of different groups—including France's CNES, the city of Timmins, private industry, the Ontario government and several arms of the federal government to get this done in less than two years, and it's been a real success. It was a new way to do things, leveraging external expertise and involving senior scientists, industry and academia. Compare this to the past, where a test started in 1990 and took five years to get results. We're transforming our sector into a space innovation group, so this project was a timely example of what leadership and collaboration can accomplish."


– Jean-Claude Piedboeuf, Director General, Space Science and Technology, Canadian Space Agency



Federal/Provincial/Territorial – Bronze winner
Department of the Executive, Government of the NWT
Single Window Service Centres

In the Northwest Territories, many remote areas are accessible only by air, seasonal winter roads and ice crossings, making it a real challenge to effectively deliver government programs and services to residents. In response, a new service-delivery model—six pilot project offices called Single Window Service Centres (SWSC)—were initiated across the NWT to provide service to even the remotest community through a single window. Using local staff and operating in ways that respect Aboriginal culture, the initial offices were an outstanding success. There are now 18 SWSCs across the NWT, which include in-home visitation to the elderly and those with mobility or language barriers. The SWSCs are a landmark example of effective decentralization of government programs and services, and several southern jurisdictions have inquired about adopting the model.


"I think leadership means sharing a vision with a team then providing that team with the information, knowledge and methods they need to execute on it. We had our vision, but in execution, we knew we had to think out of the box to meet the unique requirements of our geography and culture. For example, we made sure to be inclusive in hiring and training local people. We didn't exclude based on education, and with the right support, many are not just "working out" but excelling. We know our communities and the people who live there, and we incorporated that knowledge into our execution model to get this project done."


– George Morin, Regional Manager, Government of the Northwest Territories 

Municipal – Gold Winner
Ville de Repentigny
Skate Plaza

In 2011, 25% of Repentigny's population—more than 20,000 people—was in the age category of 10 and 30 years old. One of the most popular activities for these young adults was skate boarding, which was taking place in a variety of public spaces. To respond to the needs of this vital age group—many of whom were considered marginalized youth—the city took the bold step of developing a new recreational facility: Skate Plaza. In a truly collaborative effort, city officials and managers listened to interested youth and consulted skateboard enthusiasts. Opened in September 2013, Skate Plaza—the largest such facility in the Montreal region and second largest in Quebec—is making a real difference in the community. It's attracting and developing a range of young skateboarders, from novices to experts, and helping them become part of the fabric of city life. 

"As a city, we need to look after all the needs of our citizens, including life and leisure. We know these things change over time, and we've always monitored trends and kept an open mind about new solutions. Sometimes you have to go out of your comfort zone to meet the needs of today and tomorrow, and that's how we approached this project. As a result, we've not only demonstrated a strong and successful approach to working with marginalized youth, we've also shown the kind of long-term, tangible value that can result—in our case, the Skate Plaza facilities themselves, which benefit the entire city. Innovation is finding new ways to resolve problems, but leadership is being first out of the gate to implement solutions and show others how you did it."


– Audrey Laland, External Communications Advisor, Ville de Repentigny


Municipal – Silver Winner
City of Toronto
Graffiti Management Plan

Toronto—in consultation with numerous city stakeholders—implemented a plan designed to eradicate graffiti vandalism while encouraging graffiti art and artists. Previous focus on enforcement, removal and eradication had proven ineffective, with buildings being consistently re-vandalized. Under the new initiative, illegal graffiti continues to be removed, but there is now wide support for graffiti and other street art that adds vibrancy and artistry to city streets. There is also a support program for street artists to install graffiti art on the walls of underpass structures within the city and on traffic signal controller boxes. The plan has been a great success, demonstrating a commitment to inclusiveness and building relationships between police, the street art community and youth in general.



"There were a lot of conflicting ideas to deal with in this project. Street art and graffiti artists said 'this is legit,'—and some was—but we knew much of it was simple vandalism. We needed to protect the public who have been victimized by graffiti vandalism while supporting and encouraging real street art. Once we developed a compelling vision and began operationalizing specific measures, the initiative really fell into place. Public service is by nature risk averse, but leadership is about creating a bold framework and enabling people to respond within that framework. It's risky to be out there trying new things, but sometimes that's the only way to effect real change."


– Elyse Parker, Director, Public Realm Section, Transportation Services 

Municipal – Bronze Winner
he Corporation of the City of Guelph
Open Government

This project was about transforming local government to tackle a range of emerging, complex, contemporary problems, including energy security, environmental sustainability, well-being, affordable housing, economic rejuvenation, youth unemployment and unrestrained suburban sprawl. To this end, Guelph city council unanimously approved an open government action plan championed by senior leadership and co-produced from its initial stages by staff, engaged citizens, local businesses and community stakeholders. Open government redistributes responsibility across the community, creating government that is "open by default" and a community that "participates by nature." This new culture and related initiatives have increased civic participation, improved municipal services and led to more community-based public policy. Guelph is now sharing its open government experiences and practices with a number of jurisdictions, including Toronto, Edmonton, Burlington, Cambridge, Durham Region and the BC government.


"I believe this is a critical time for public service revitalization in Canada, if not beyond. The word 'shift' comes up for me—a shift in how we lead, which sometimes means opening up and actually letting go of old modes of leadership, hierarchy and top-down efforts. There's a new generation and new power paradigms emerging that are specific to this digital age. We need to renew and revitalize how the public service responds and participates in this rapidly evolving medium. For me, it's sink or swim. Will you embrace innovation fully or watch from the sidelines? We're embracing it."


– Ann Pappert, Chief Administrative Officer, City of Guelph


Healthcare/Education – Gold Winner
Southern Health-Santé Sud
Aboriginal Health High School Internship Program

The Aboriginal Health High School Internship program introduces local high school students of First Nation and Métis descent to the healthcare system. Both an investment in future human resource needs and a way to promote healthier communities, this program helps young Aboriginal people explore careers in healthcare. It encourages them to graduate from high school and achieve the post-secondary credentials needed to obtain employment. And Southern Health-Santé Sud is ready to employ Aboriginal youth, who will help fill a gap in the skilled labour force. The program has been highly successful. For example, over 80% of the students who have attended the program are still in school or have graduated from grade 12 (S4), and six youths have been hired from the program.



"Leadership and being innovative is about motivating others to be creative. For rural areas, this type of program is definitely needed. There isn't much out there for Aboriginal youth, and this really gives them something to work with and goals to work toward. The initiative drives creativity and innovation in both directions. It opens our eyes to the needs of our people, and it connects people to the solutions we're making available. We have human resource needs, and our Aboriginal population is a growing potential workforce. If we apply the creativity to pull these threads together, we can combine community and healthcare needs to sort out a wide range of issues."


– Holly Leost, Regional Director Aboriginal Employment, Southern Health-Santé Sud

Healthcare/Education – Silver Winner
Royal Victoria Regional Healthcare Centre
MY CARE Transformation

In 2007, Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH) had just received a damaging review, had a $1 million deficit and felt employee engagement was at an all-time low. With a new expansion and 600 new employees on the way, an organizational culture transformation was an absolute necessity going forward. This came in the form of a methodical, prescribed excellence strategy—undertaken in partnership with healthcare consultants the Studer Group—designed to create a high-performance culture leading to better care at lower cost. Highly successful, the initiative hardwires prescriptive practices and behaviours to ensure excellence is part of everyday operations, with improved patient outcomes and satisfaction as a result. Results include a substantial drop in patient wait times, a reduction in paid staff sick leave from 6.2% to 3.9%, and a jump to 94% in overall patient satisfaction.



"In the hospital sector, though available resources are diminishing and costs are rising, public expectations around quality and access remain high. We knew we had to be bold and creative to keep providing services effectively. We did our homework and implemented the hard solutions we felt we needed—and it's working. It isn't rocket science. Any public sector organization should be able to do it. It's about setting the right vision, mission and values, then leading from the top to ensure constant focus on clear, sustainable priorities. For us, it's called My Care—a commitment to putting the patient at the centre of the whole healthcare process—but the concepts could be just as transformative in an educational or civic setting."


– Janice Skot, President & CEO, Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre 

Healthcare/Education – Bronze Winner
Ontario Drug Research Policy Network
Ontario Drug Research Policy Network

Despite the exponential growth of drug therapy options, there remains relatively little reliable data around patient benefits, making it difficult to decide which drug therapies warrant funding coverage. In 2008, the Ontario Drug Policy Research Network (ODPRN) was created to respond rapidly to policymakers' need for relevant scientific research to inform policy decisions. Following extensive dialogue with policymakers, ODPRN researchers developed a sophisticated approach to standardizing data extraction and analysis algorithms for provincial administrative claims, enabling them to rapidly generate high quality research. This research has informed drug therapy funding policy decisions for the benefit of Ontarians, in areas including opioid utilization, blood glucose test strips and proton pump inhibitors. ODPRN believes their successful approach to evidence-informed drug policy could be a template for jurisdictions around the world. 

"Before we came along, policy decisions weren't always based on data, and when they were, it was data that was cobbled together. It simply wasn't a scientific process. This initiative has created a structured, streamlined process. We get strong information that's scientifically valid and accurate. Policymakers can make reference to that, and it gives them a leg to stand on when explaining their funding decisions. Moreover, we've really shown that researchers and policymakers can work together and have a profound and direct impact on both the healthcare system and on the people that system serves.''


– Muhammad Mamdani, Ontario Drug Policy Research Network