In The News

Published on: June 16, 2015
Public service and management issues don’t typically get much mention in election campaigns, but both the Liberals and NDP are promising to change the work of Canada’s public servants and the relationship with their political masters.
The Liberals proposed a package of reforms for a “fair and open government” that would invariably affect the work of public servants. At the same time, the NDP is calling for reforms aimed at restoring the deteriorating relationship between politicians and public servants.
“If we had one strong recommendation, it would be to let public servants think again, to speak again and for politicians to actually listen to their sage advice,” said Ottawa Centre NDP MP Paul Dewar.
Both parties promised to unmuzzle scientists and return to evidence-based policy advice, two of the big issues for the 17 federal unions.
Neither party, however, proposed a new set of ground rules or a Charter for the public service that some experts have argued is needed to protect the neutrality of the public service. A charter for the public service was recommended by the Gomery inquiry into the sponsorship scandal that cost the Liberals the 2006 election.
A number of the measures in the 32-point plan to “restore democracy” that Liberal leader Justin Trudeau announced Tuesday would impact what public servants do and how they deliver services to Canadians:
– amend the Access to Information Act to open up more information, including in the PMO and ministers’ offices, as well as administrative institutions that support Parliament and the court,
– expand open data and give Canadians easy access to their personal information,
– ban partisan government ads using public funds and appoint a commissioner to oversee advertising,
– appoint a chief science officer to ensure scientific analysis is used in policy and decision making,
– make Statistics Canada independent and restore the mandatory long-form census,
– set performance standards for services offered by the federal government, complete with streamlined application processes, reduced wait times and money-back guarantees, and
– create individualized, secure online accounts for Canadians who want to access all their government benefits and review key documents.
Ralph Heintzman, University of Ottawa professor who wrote a paper on the need for a new Charter for the public service, said the Liberal plan is a “good start” and its commitment to evidence-based policy-making will be “very welcomed” in the bureaucracy. He said the Liberals are also the first party to put a focus on service to Canadians in an election platform.
But he said both parties have yet to address the key issue dogging the public service — the confusion over its role in a rapidly changing world. He argued the Liberals’ ban on partisan advertising will help stop the politicization of communications in government.
“When we have the Prime Ministers Office ’24 Seven’ propaganda videos now on every department website, that is a much bigger issue and much more corrupting for the public service, that indicates the need for a definition on what is the boundary between politicians and non-partisan public servants,” said Heintzman.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper came to power on the back of the Gomery inquiry into the sponsorship scandal, promising to restore accountability and transparency in government. The reforms of his signature Federal Accountability Act were aimed at public servants and other public officials, which many argued created a culture of fear and a “web of rules.”
The Conservatives didn’t implement most of Justice John Gomery’s recommendations, which were aimed at rebalancing power imbalance between MPs, prime minister and cabinet.
“When we talk about the cult of accountability, we’re not talking about politicians and senators. We’re talking about public servants. The FAA and other measures brought in by the Harper government focused on the accountability of unelected officials, not politicians,” said David Mitchell, president of the Public Policy Forum.
But Ottawa South Liberal MP David McGuinty said the Liberals’ measures will improve the accountability of politicians while creating a much-needed “attitudinal change” that will restore trust and respect between public servants and politicians.
“The starting point is to stop brow-beating and, frankly, intimidating public service. A degree of fear permeates the ranks of the public service at all levels that is not helpful and does not allow us to get the best out of the public service,” said McGuinty.
The NDP’s reforms for the public service include a Public Appointments Commission, stronger protection for whistleblowers and a code of conduct for ministers and their political staff as recommended by the Gomery Commission to stop political meddling and “ensure culture of respect.”
Gomery singled out ministerial aides in his report, arguing their roles should be clarified in a code and the jobs professionalized to ensure they don’t meddle in the work of public servants.
The NDP would also rein in temporary help agencies and the amount of work outsourced to contractors.
“It’s time for a new improved relationship between government and the public service,” said Dewar.
“Beyond changing specific policies, what is really needed is a change of attitude. Past governments, especially this government, distrusted and disrespected the public service. An NDP government would revitalize and strengthen the public service’s capacity and restore the trust and respect they need to do their jobs in the interest and service of all Canadians.”
TORONTO — The Globe and Mail
Published Wednesday, Jun. 17, 2015 3:00AM EDT
Ed Clark, the retired bank president and mastermind behind the privatization of Hydro One, has quietly moved to a new job advising Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne on business issues, including finding other revenue sources for the cash-strapped province, according to senior government sources.
The Liberal government is desperate for money and needs to meet strict targets laid out in its spring budget. It announced an $8.5-billion deficit this year, but has promised to decrease that to $4.8-billion next year and present a balanced budget for 2017-18.
The province has one of the largest subsovereign debts in the world.
There were no new revenue sources announced in the budget, so Mr. Clark will be trying to identify some. He is also looking at regulatory changes,such as his council’s recommendation to allow the sale of beer in 450 grocery stores. This squeezed some more money out of the system and opened it up to small craft breweries.
Mr. Clark, 67, is the former chief executive of Toronto-Dominion Bank. His new role as the formal adviser to the Premier is to be officially announced soon. But one source says he has already started, focusing his efforts at the Ministry of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure, where he has bureaucrats searching for new sectors for investment.
Liberal governments in Ontario have a close relationship with TD bankers. Don Drummond, the former chief economist for TD, advised former premier Dalton McGuinty’s government on harmonizing the provincial sales tax with the federal goods and services tax. Later, he was commissioned to do a major report on the province’s finances.
Mr. Clark was appointed head of the Premier’s Advisory Council on Government Assets in April, 2014. A year later, his council released its report, recommending that the government sell 60 per cent of Hydro One, which is estimated to earn $9-billion for the government. However, $5-billion of that will pay down debt and $4-billion is to go to transit.
But that’s just a drop in the bucket, as Ms. Wynne has not only promised to balance the books but to spend $130-billion on transit and infrastructure.
It is not clear yet how Mr. Clark’s new job is to be structured – whether he will have a mini-secretariat as he did when he worked on the review of the assets and work for free.
The government gave out $6.8-million in contracts to consultants to help Mr. Clark and his team with the privatization of Hydro One and also on how to get more money from the beer-retailing system. The NDP uncovered the payments through a freedom-of-information request and criticized the government for the expense. It is not clear what the consultants did and there was no explanation as to why the government didn’t use public servants to advise the council.
Mr. Clark is well respected and influential. He has worked in the public service and also as an adviser to both federal and provincial Liberal leaders. His son, Bert Clark, is president and CEO of Infrastructure Ontario, the provincial Crown corporation that enters into partnerships with the private sector to build infrastructure.
It is clear that Ed Clark and Ms. Wynne have a lot of respect for each other.
In April, just after he delivered his assets sales report, he was honoured at the Public Policy Forum Dinner in Toronto. Ms. Wynne, who played host, praised his work, calling him “the wonderful Ed Clark.”
“He knows the public sector,” she said. “He knows the private sector and his knowledge and wisdom will be essential to our efforts to build Ontario up.”
In his speech that night, he talked about the “huge paradox facing today’s public service.”
“Demand for government services is growing rapidly, driven in part by our aging population,” he said. “But its capacity to act is constrained. A shrinking labour pool and, in turn, a slowing domestic economy are putting downward pressure on its revenue streams.”
He said there was a growing divide between “what governments can afford to do and what they have promised to do.” He suggested that the public service must be more creative.


Contributed to The Globe and Mail
Saturday, May. 16 2015, 3:00 AM EDT

Michael Sabia is president and CEO of the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec.

I recently shared a stage in Toronto with some impressive leaders: former bank CEO Ed Clark, media and arts mogul Peter Herrndorf, lawyer and First Nations activist Roberta Jamieson and youth education advocate Hannah Godefa.

What sets them apart as leaders? They all think differently about what they do. They question. They innovate.

Thinking differently. That’s the point. Why? Because of the world in which we live, the nature of the challenges we face. Innovation and creative destruction are the motors of our times. And technology is setting a pace of change unlike anything we’ve seen before.

In this world, innovations destroy businesses as fast as they create new ones. Think of 3-D printing: Its consequences are revolutionary, affecting everything from the manufacturing of airplane engines to regenerative medicine.

In this world, the only way to harness change, the only way to lead, is to think differently.

That applies as much to government as it does to business or anything else. But here’s the paradox. At a time when creativity is relentlessly driving change in so much of our world, many would limit governments to managing their way through, rather than working with others to solve problems.

It started in the 1980s and ’90s, when we decided governments needed to become “more like businesses,” adopting the metrics – and vocabulary – of corporations. Citizens became “clients.” Compliance replaced creativity.

The job of government was defined in terms of its “efficiency,” and the emphasis was placed on the minimal “must do” instead of the aspirational “can be.”

Of course, governments have to demonstrate good stewardship of public resources. But if all they do is count change, it limits their ability to effect change. The fact is when big problems arise – whether it’s a financial crisis like 2008 or a tragedy like Lac-Mégantic – people’s first instinct is to look to government for a solution.

Yet opinion researchers tell us that people are increasingly disappointed with our collective response to the issues that matter most: income inequality, health care for the elderly, climate change and so on. They’re withdrawing from public affairs and wondering whether we still have the ability to tackle big challenges, to do big things.

That’s important, because big, pan-societal issues like climate change are not going to yield to individual effort. There are no apps for them. We still need institutions that can bring together ideas and organize responses big enough – and comprehensive enough – to make a difference.

So what to do?

The answer is not to turn the clock back to a time when government thought it could solve a problem unilaterally. It is not about bigger government versus smaller government.

It’s about different government. This is about government moving away from a manager’s obsession with doing things better to a leader’s focus on doing better things. Think of fostering innovation, being open to new ideas, encouraging experimentation, rewarding risk-taking. And, frankly, accepting failure as a condition precedent to success.

The good news is that there is lots of creative thinking coming from our leaders – especially at the local level. Case in point: Medellin, Columbia. In 1992, it was labelled as one of the most dangerous cities in the world. Today, it’s one of the world’s most innovative in its urban planning, architecture, transportation systems, libraries and schools.

Here in Canada, there is the Winnipeg Boldness Project, a neighbourhood-based, early childhood development initiative. Government, non-profit foundations and aboriginal leaders are coming together to address a complex social issue, one child at a time.

There are many other examples, such as the creativity driving Boston’s Office of New Urban Mechanics or the mission of New York’s Innovation Delivery Fellows to implement new ideas.

Of course, these are all small steps. But they are a start. Today, progress comes incrementally: step by step, sometimes including a step back, until you make a breakthrough, then another. There are no silver bullets, no once-and-for-all solutions.

Fortunately, today’s young people excel at this. They’re used to working collaboratively, interactively, iteratively, across networks. They know to tackle problems through an open-source world.

Governments need to catch up, to operate differently. That means to put a priority on imagination, invention and innovation.

And it starts by thinking differently.

This commentary is adapted from a speech delivered at the Public Policy Forum’s 28th annual testimonial dinner in April.

A roundtable discussing food insecurity in the North brought government and organizations together
Elaine Anselmi
Northern News Services
Published Saturday, March 14, 2015
One of three roundtables titled Food Insecurity in Northern Canada came to town last week, fostering a discussion on the important topic that affects everyone. 
The series of roundtables are hosted by the Public Policy Forum, a non-government organization with a mandate to improve public policy across the country by acting as a bridge between various levels of government and NGOs.
The first roundtable was held on Wednesday, in Yellowknife, which will be followed by one next week in Iqaluit and then Ottawa. Once the three roundtables have wrapped up, the forum will produce a report on the different perspectives on food insecurity.
"We know how much individual and community health are interdependent," said Gilmour.
"There is certainly a strong link between harvesting country food and food security and we know that poverty is a compounding factor. This isn't news, in the sense that these are known."
Until all three roundtables have been hosted, Gilmour said no specifics on the conversation at the meetings would be given - as per the forum structure, contributors engage freely without direct attribution.
In Yellowknife, Gilmour said approximately 15 people were at the table. Participants were federal government, GNWT, local organizations including The Centre for Northern Families and NWT Senior's Society, and national organizations including as Food Banks Canada.
"We're there to listen," Gilmour said.
"By convening a diverse group and listening carefully, then we feel much more able to compose an accurate report of what strategies to combat food insecurity seem to be working and where there may be space for greater alignment."
The roundtable was held in conjunction with the Department of Health and Social Service's Weaving our Wisdom conference, taking advantage of the already-planned gathering of various people, said Dr. Andre Corriveau, chief public health officer.
"One of the important ways to stay healthy is having good, healthy food," said Corriveau.
"Access to healthy food is a challenge in the North and parts of the country where cost is a barrier for people in terms of healthy foods."
One of the topics of discussion was self-sustainability and producing more within the territory, rather than trucking it up - though Corriveau said there wasn't one single focus discussed within the issue.
"It was about having a combination of initiatives that would over time diminish food insecurity in the North," said Corriveau.
"I think they hopefully will crystallize the Northern voices around this issue and provide some suggestions about what are the best ways to go forward to address the issue in a more sustainable way."
To speak on how food issues relate to older adults, Barb Hood, executive director of the NWT Senior's Society took part in the roundtable.
"It is our chief priority and our strategic plan, tackling issues around cost of living which do include food security and the cost of food throughout the territory," said Hood.
"It has been our chief priority through the last few years."
Going into the roundtable, Hood said her hope was to discuss supports for those who are no longer working, such as seniors.
"We know poverty is quite prevalent with people on fixed incomes," said Hood.
"They're not necessarily able to purchase food that is nutritious and good."
Coming out of the roundtable, Hood hoped the report that would follow would strongly reflect the territory's voices and concerns.
Hood said, "Nothing is attributed to individuals but the voices of people in the Northwest Territories will be reflected in the report and I feel confident that the people at the table did contribute on many levels."



Speech by Allan Rock

President of the University of Ottawa

April 14, 2015

Check against delivery.


Thank you very much for coming today. I am delighted to be a guest of the Economic Club of Canada.

I want to speak to you today about the future.

About the challenge of maintaining, in that future, our standard of living and our quality of life.

And about the crucial role that Canadian universities are playing in the national effort to meet that challenge.

But first, allow me a brief reference to my past.

Over a decade ago, I served as Canada’s Minister of Industry, a portfolio that affords the occupant a panoramic view of our economic performance, including our challenges.

I quickly learned that one of the most urgent of those challenges was our standard of living, which had then been in decline relative to the United States for two decades.

Simply stated, Canadian incomes were considerably lower than in comparable households in the United States. The explanation was low productivity undermining our competitiveness.

A major factor in all of this was under-investment by Canadian business in research to discover newer and better products and processes.

Research fuels innovation. Innovation – harnessing the market potential of new ideas - drives productivity. Productivity is key to competitiveness which, in turn, determines our standard of living and ultimately our quality of life.

At that time, in the early 2000’s, we were ranked a lowly 14th in the OECD for the percentage of GDP spent on research and development.

And despite significant government investments in public R&D, we had not, by the time I left in 2003, closed the innovation and productivity gap between Canada and our competitors.

Today, investing in research to fuel innovation is more essential than ever.

Because we live in what New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman describes as:

… A hyper-connected world where, for innovation-driven, global corporations, the mantra is now: imagined here, designed there, manufactured elsewhere, sold everywhere.

Well, how are we doing, more than a decade after my time in Industry?

  • Canada invested less overall in R&D in 2012 than it did in 2004.
  • Russia, India, Taiwan and Brazil have leapfrogged ahead of us.
  • Canadian business spending on R&D is now less than 1.0% of GDP –  near the bottom in the OECD; and
  • The Canada–U.S. per capita income gap was three times in 2012 what it was in 1980.

In short, the challenge now is the same as it was when I was in office. How do we make Canada more innovative, more productive, and more competitive? How can we invent that future?

Well, I’ve spent the last seven years as president of a university. The view from where I now sit is less panoramic, but it still looks out over the innovation landscape.

What I see in universities makes me more optimistic than I was 10 years ago about our prospects for progress. And what’s more, I don’t have to attend Question Period every afternoon!

My message here today is that if our universities are given the tools they need, and if they build stronger relationships and new partnerships with industry, they can be the centrepiece of a national strategy to overcome the performance gaps holding us back. Universities can help make Canada the most innovative country in the world.

Canadian universities contribute to our innovation efforts in four principal ways that we must build on going forward in order to improve the lives of all Canadians:

First, we graduate the highly qualified people that are essential to a more innovative Canada;

  • Second, our research is crucial to discovery and innovation across all sectors of the economy;
  • Third, in partnership with business and industry, we are increasingly commercializing that research to ensure that innovations get beyond the campus to the marketplace; and
  • Fourth, we foster in the next generation an entrepreneurial spirit that is conducive to an innovative economy.

 1. Highly qualified people

Let me start with education.

Because we’re not going to get where we want to go without highly qualified people to lead in every segment of the economy.

And here, there is both good and troubling news.

Canada leads the world in the percentage of our population with post-secondary education, which includes both colleges and universities.

Among OECD and G20 countries we rank first in the proportion of 25-64 year-olds – 53 % – in this category. This gives usa big advantage.

This progress has been achieved through the focused efforts of provincial governments, like ours here in Ontario.

Ten years ago, then Premier Dalton McGuintyestablished the goal of having 70% of high school students go on to earn post-secondary credentials, an ambitious target that we are close to achieving.

Under Premier Wynne’s leadership, the government’s commitment to post-secondary education remains strong, for which we are grateful.

But we have fallen from 5th to 17th when it comes to the number of 25 to 34 year-olds who have completed a university degree.  

Other countries are investing further and fasterin university enrolment. We are going to need a high number of both college and university grads. On the university front, we are letting our competitive advantage slip.

And let there be no doubt about the quality of the education on offer in our universities.

The newest teaching technologies are making the basics accessible on line so that classroom time is spent on active learning and creative problem-solving rather than taking notes.

And students engage increasingly in experiential learning, applying theory to reality with enriching results.

We offer:

  • co-op placements,
  • community service learning,
  • mentoring and internships,
  • volunteer opportunities
  • study abroad programs, and
  • Undergraduate participation in sophisticated research.

Our graduates leave campus with the intellectual skills needed to compete and win.

At the University of Ottawa, we recently evaluated the effectiveness of our teaching by measuring learning outcomes among our graduates. The findings, validated by a third party, showed that over the course of their studies, our students significantly improve their critical thinking and analytical reasoning skills. In fact, we rank among the top 4% in North America on this.

And by the way, don’t listen to those who claim that four years on campus is a waste of time and tuition. Canadian university degrees are leading to remunerative careers.

Professor Ross Finnie of the University of Ottawa partnered with Statistics Canada in an unprecedented study to link our graduates to their tax records. He followed the earnings of bachelor-level graduates on a year-by-year basis after graduation, tracking graduates from 1998 through to 2011. Results were analyzed by area of study as well as year of graduation.

The study found surprisingly strong outcomes across the board, including for graduates from arts and social sciences.

The findings are especially important at a time when studying the arts and humanities is falling out of favour. Many students no longer see an undergraduate degree in history or political science as the foundation for a viable career path. This new research suggests otherwise.

For example, social sciences graduates tended to start with average earnings of $40,000 immediately after graduation, but these grew substantially, almost doubling to an average of just under $80,000 during the period under study. And remember—these data were taken directly from individual tax returns, not simply averages.

And let’s not forget that graduates from the arts and the humanities are crucial to our innovation future.  

Canada also needs innovation in public policy, like social programs, governance and foreign relations. With their critical thinking, communications skills, understanding of human behavior, graduates in the humanities and the arts will help make Canada more innovative in the global marketplace.

Canadian universities also make an important contribution to our economic future by attracting international talent: faculty and students who will help us invent our future, or return to their own countries as friends and ambassadors for our interests there.

Recent investments from the government of Canada have helped us draw on this international supply of talent, including new scholarships for graduate and post-doctoral students.

2. Research

While the first part of our basic university mission is learning, the second is discovery. And here, Canadian universities have a remarkable record of achievement.

In Canada, the higher-education proportion of public R&D is twice the average in OECD countries. Canadian universities and teaching hospitals spend $12 billion a year on research, in every field of endeavour.

Every university makes an important contribution. Here in Toronto, we think of course about U of T. But York University is another leader: for example, for its research on refugee issues. 

And Ryerson’s Digital Media Zone is one of Canada’s largest business incubators.  

OCAD University does research that is at the heart of the new economy, in art, design and media.

Some of Canada’s most research intensive universities have formed a strategic alliance called the U15 Group.

The U15 is home to almost half the university students in Canada, and almost three-quarters of full-time PhD candidates.

The U15 Group advocates with government, partners with industry and collaborates internationally, in order to strengthen our country’s capacity for innovation.

At the University of Ottawa, we rank among the top ten research-intensive universities in Canada, and have been internationally recognized in fields like neuroscience, cardiology, stem cells and photonics, but also philosophy, linguistics and public policy. We are ranked second in Canada, after only the University of Toronto, for research intensity in health and in science.

On pourrait qualifier notre campus de « société distincte » si on le compare à d’autres grands campus au Canada, car nous sommes aussi la plus grande université bilingue français-anglais au monde. Tout ce que nous faisons, nous le faisons dans les deux langues. Notre population compte 43 000 étudiants : de ce nombre, 14 000 sont inscrits dans des programmes offerts en français, et 2000 autres étudiants sont inscrits au régime d’immersion en français.

Our mix of languages, cultures and perspectives creates an unconventional environment conducive to game-changing ideas. We are a place where physicists work with neuroscientists to understand stroke, where business analysts work with doctors to improve patient care in emergency rooms. As we like to say, “We defy the conventional”. 

Now all of this Canadian university research represents a significant public investment. Is it worth it?

Some criticize university research as too often without practical application. Where’s the return on investment, they ask. What practical difference are you making in the lives of people?

Well, you can decide for yourself: Across the campus, just as at other U15 universities, our scientists are working on:

  • using viruses to fight cancer
  • new ways to store energy,
  • techniques for growing artificial skin for burn victims,
  • improving dialysis for kidney patients and,
  • in our Brain and Mind Institute, harnessing the brain’s remarkable ability to heal itself.

So let there be no doubt: public investments in the research enterprise at Canadian universities bring important returns, a fact recognized by the Government of Canada when it announced the creation last spring of the Canada First Research Excellence Fund, investing $1.5 billion over the next decade to fund research projects chosen following a national competition and focused in strategic areas.

3. Commercialization

Let’s turn to the third way Canadian universities are helping us meet the innovation challenge. We help bring new discoveries to market, and turn new ideas into economic activity.

But is the pace of commercialization sufficiently brisk? Again, where’s the return on the public investment?

To that I say two things.

Consider, first, a comparison of Canadian university licensing results from 2003 and 2013. Although these figures reveal only a narrow aspect of our commercialization performance, they provide an indication of progress on that front:

  • Over the ten year period to 2013, the number of inventions disclosed per year in Canada increased by 50%.
  • The number of new patents filed annually more than doubled;
  • The number of  university spin-offs increased by 20%; and
  • Licensing income increased by 40%.

So we are going in the right direction.

My second response to those looking for return on investment is that Canadian universities are among the world’s leaders in the number of partnerships with industry, and the “out-sourcing” by the private sector of its R&D function.

According to the 2012 State of the Nation Report from STIC, Canada ranks seventh among 40 comparator economies with respect to business funding of R&D on campus, with a ratio twice that of the U.S.

What does this mean?

While the private sector lags seriously in its own R&D investment, the money they do invest is in large part put to use on our campuses.

By investing in campus research infrastructure and capacity, you are ensuring that when the private sector turns to us for help, we are able to respond.

Equally important is building stronger relationships and finding new ways to work together. This was one of the key lessons from a conference the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada organized last year.

They heard from experts from Israel and Germany - two of the most innovative countries in the world - about how their success is tied to the depth of the relationship between their universities and their industrial sector.  

We are working on deepening those relationships here in Canada. 

The University of Ottawa has submitted a major proposal for funding from that new Canada First Research Excellence Fund to which I referred. We joined in making the proposal with the University of Toronto, Institut national de la recherche scientifique, University of Sherbrooke and Queen’s University, as well as with 45 industrial partners and more than 20 national and international academic institutions and government organizations.

The proposal involves photonics – harnessing the power of light – to enable new manufacturing processes with extraordinary quality that will allow mass customisation, rapid manufacturing and zero-fault production.

It also includes elements that will lead to stronger relationships with our industrial partners, including seconding staff from companies to work with us on campus and hiring new university researchers with a passion for applying the latest developments in ways that will help companies. We want to improve the flow of talent between companies and universities. 

4. Fostering the entrepreneurial spirit

Now allow me to say a few words about the way universities are creating a new generation of enterprising young Canadians.

Earlier I talked to you about how much teaching and learning have changed. One reason for this is because today’s students have changed. In meeting and talking with students I see a new level of ambition for themselves and for Canada. They don’t simply want to get a degree and get a job. They want to develop new products and create their own jobs. And at Canadian universities they are doing just that.


The University of Ottawa’s Entrepreneurship Hub, or E-Hub, helps students bring their ideas to life. It is available across the campus, to students in every faculty, from Medicine to Law, from Arts to Education.

The E-Hub defines entrepreneurship as much more than learning what it takes to start a business or social enterprise. It looks to help students become problem solvers and to see change and uncertainty as a source of opportunity.

Start-Up Garage

Our Start-up Garage program, about to enter its sixth season, provides a boot-strap summer cohort program for student entrepreneurs that has launched over 40 student-led companies.


A connected initiative is the University of Ottawa Makerspace, which provides students with training and access to equipment like 3D printers and scanners, laser cutters and other state-of-the-art tools. It’s a casual but structured workspace, where people can meet and collaborate on projects in computing, machining, robotics, technology, or digital and electronic art.

Around the world, the maker movement is empowering individuals and teams to develop innovative solutions to real-world problems, using their imagination and their own two hands. One of the most exciting advantages of the movement is its capacity to respond to humanitarian needs with cost-effective solutions, including producing inexpensive umbilical cord clips for hospitals in Haiti.

Let me give an example of a project that is coming to life at our Makerspace. One of our students has been working with a heart surgeon at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario to transform a two-dimensional scan of a tiny heart into a life-size model using a 3D printer. This exact replica of a tiny human heart will allow surgeons to practice the most delicate surgery on a life-like model, so as to better prepare for challenging operations.

In the U.S, makerspaces are beginning to attract the involvement and support of major corporations. Companies see them as new way to boost innovation. They encourage their employees to use them or submit ideas. I’d love to see the same thing happen here.


So where do we go from here?  No one actor can meet our nation’s innovation challenge alone. But I insist that Canadian universities are playing a vital part.

With sustained public support and ever deeper relationships with the private sector, universities can do more of what we already do so well:

  • produce highly qualified people;
  • attract international talent;
  • conduct ground breaking research;
  • partner with industry; and
  • instill an entrepreneurial spirit in those who are leaving to start their careers.

And what is the message to other actors?

To the business sector, I say look to us for solutions, but also look for new ways to exchange, to partner and to strengthen Canadian innovation.

Let’s make the walls between us more porous.

And help us help you!

Hire a co-op student. Become a mentor. Fund a student start-up.

To alumni and friends of Canadian universities: philanthropy will also play a major role in supporting our mission. Your gifts have an impact on the future of our country.

Next month the University of Ottawa will launch the most ambitious fundraising campaign in its history: Defy the Conventional: the Campaign for the University of Ottawa. We will be looking to alumni, to businesses and industry to contribute as we secure the future of this major Canadian asset.

To government, both federal and provincial, never doubt that your investments in post-secondary education are wise and worthy. I encourage the provincial government to continue its investments to widen access and improve quality, upon the federal government for sustained investments in research, and I encourage both to spend on improving our university infrastructure.

My purpose here today has been to underscore the importance of innovation as we seek to achieve the full potential of our people. I hope that I have persuaded you of the importance of that cause, and that Canadian universities are key players in the effort.

I hope too that this challenge will merit public discussion. This year’s election campaign will of course focus the attention of Canadians on difficult issues like security and terrorism and the painful fallout of our long recovery from a global recession. But there must surely also be scope in that campaign for setting forth a positive vision for our future.

I want to emphasize that improving our nation’s innovation record is not about racking up impressive economic numbers for their own sake.

This is about the kind of future we are building for ourselves and our children. It is about increasing our standard of living so that we can improve the quality of our lives.

Let me leave you with a story that illustrates the human value of innovation. The story of a six-year-old boy named Sebastian Chavarria.

Sebastian was born with a left-hand that will never grow to full size. He was finding it difficult to ride his bike – and do other activities.

The solution was a prosthetic hand. But they are expensive – as much as $25,000 – and a growing child can need one every year. His doctors thought he should wait until he was older. His mother turned to us.

 Through Makerspace, we challenged our students to find a solution. The students used a 3D printer to make a hand at a cost of about $20. 

He’s wearing it now, riding his bike, and has become the envy of his classmates because of his “Iron Man” hand.

That happy ending came about because university students with creative minds used technology to help find a revolutionary new and inexpensive idea that changed one kid’s life.

Let’s take that enterprising spirit, apply it across the spectrum of research on our campuses, and—together—let’s invent a future that will secure Canada’s place as one of the most innovative countries in the world.


 Thank you.


The federal government is committing $3.4-million in each of the next three years to public service renewal as it follows through on its Destination 2020 plan. Read about the extra funds in the Hill Times article below.


OTTAWA March 19, 2015 — Marcel Côté was a boundless visionary, a bridge-builder and a tireless advocate for good public policy. It’s in his honour that Canada’s Public Policy Forum has created the annual Marcel Côté Award for Leadership in Public Policy. The Forum, in partnership with the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal and the Young Chamber of Commerce of Montreal, will present the award on May 20, 2015.

“In creating the Award, we aim to steward the name and the legacy of Marcel Côté, one of our former Board Chairs,” says David Mitchell, President & CEO of the Public Policy Forum. “We look forward to recognizing remarkable Quebeckers who represent the best spirit of leadership and public service.”

“It’s a great honor to be associated with the Marcel Côté Prize and to acknowledge the contributions of this great man. Marcel Côté has left a significant mark on the Montreal community and a legacy for the next generation of leaders," says Ryan Hillier, President, Young Chamber of Commerce of Montreal.

“The Chamber is proud to partner with this Award that recognizes the visionary leadership that Marcel Côté embodied. This accomplished and experienced economist was committed with passion for our country, our province and our metropolis and this prize is a credit to him,” says Michel Leblanc, President and CEO of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal.

“Montreal will long remember Marcel Côté’s dedication to the growth of the City, both economically and culturally,” says Mayor of Montreal, Denis Coderre. “The Award honours the memory of one of our greatest Montrealers.”

Marcel Côté was an economist and founding partner of SECOR Inc., which he helped build into Canada’s largest independent management consulting firm. His advice was sought by corporations, community and cultural organizations, as well as senior-level governments in our country. 

Call for Nominations

The Forum seeks candidates in the province of Quebec who demonstrate extraordinary leadership qualities and help improve public policy at the municipal, provincial, national and/or international levels. A nomination form is available here. We will accept candidate submissions online until April 20, 2015.

For more information:

Sara Caverley
Communications Coordinator
Public Policy Forum
Tel.: 613 238-7858, ext. 228

With thanks to our partners:



Canada's workhorse nuclear research reactor at Chalk River is to be shuttered in 2018 after a 60-year run of pioneering scientific innovation and, more recently, serious age-related breakdowns, safety and security concerns, and political controversy.

Last year, the Forum published a report, The Future of Canada's Nuclear Energy Sector, based on a consensus of close to 100 nuclear experts. It concludes that without a strong nuclear research and development capacity led by the NRU reactor, it will be difficult for Canada to maintain a strong nuclear sector. 

The report is referenced in the Ottawa Citizen article below.


Julie Cafley, a Vice-President at the Public Policy Forum, talks about the upcoming Testimonial Dinner and Awards on Entre Nous, a French program on Rogers TV Ottawa.

Click here to watch the interview (available in French only).



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