Rules and processes in Canada’s public service ‘overly complex’ and developed ‘from top down’, public servants say

By on 28/01/2016 | Updated on 25/09/2020
Scott Brison is president of the Treasury Board

Processes and rules in Canada’s public service have been created “from the top down” and are “overly complex”, incoherent and inconsistent, according to public servants who took part in Canada’s Blueprint 2020 initiative.

The initiative was brought to life by former top civil servant Wayne Wouters in 2013.

The former clerk of the Privy Council and secretary to the Cabinet launched Blueprint 2020 – a draft vision for what Canada’s civil service should look like by 2020, and asked all civil servants for their views and ideas on how to get there.

Read more: Interview: Wayne Wouters, Government of Canada

More than 110,000 people responded and in 2014, a set of priority actions for how to modernise and improve the government workplace, better join up departments and increase citizen engagement were published in ‘Destination 2020’.

Now, a performance report of the Treasury Board Secretariat, which oversees the operations of the federal government as a whole, said that “public servants who engaged in the Blueprint 2020 exercise reported that many rules and processes are overly complex, that they are developed from the top down and in isolation, and that they tend to lack coherence and consistency.”

Read more: Interview: Janice Charette, Clerk of the Privy Council and Secretary to the Cabinet, Government of Canada

The secretariat said in the report that “rules to ensure sound stewardship and accountability … must be reasonable and must improve the experience of those who are obliged to adhere to them.”

It said it “established a tiger team to take a bottom-up approach to identifying issues and deriving solutions.”

This multi-disciplinary team, according to the clerk’s website, used a mixture of social media and roundtables to “engage public servants and identify some of the biggest specific irritants.”

Scott Brison, president of the Treasury Board, said: “The Government is committed to being transparent, open and accountable to Canadians.

“My mandate is to lead the management agenda for the government and restore a culture of respect, openness, and transparency within, and for, the public service.

“I look forward to working closely with the public service in the coming months and years to deliver results for Canadians.”


This story was corrected on 28 January to reflect previous inaccuracies. The earlier version of the story stated that officials viewed Blueprint 2020 as a ‘top down’ and ‘overly complex’ exercise when what these comments were in fact referring were rules and processes throughout the whole public service.

See also: 

Canada’s Treasury Board president Scott Brison promises action plan on mental health by March 2016

What can public servants expect from Canada’s new government?

New minister predicts ‘golden age’ for Canada’s public service and condemns public attacks

About Winnie Agbonlahor

Winnie is news editor of Global Government Forum. She previously reported for Civil Service World - the trade magazine for senior UK government officials. Originally from Germany, Winnie first came to the UK in 2006 to study a BA in Journalism & Russian at the University of Sheffield. She is bilingual in English and German, and, after spending an academic year abroad in Russia and reporting for the Moscow Times, Winnie also speaks Russian fluently.

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