Presentation of the Vanier Medal
Rideau Hall, Tuesday, January 29, 2012
I am delighted to welcome you to Rideau Hall to recognize an exceptional career in public service.
I often refer to Rideau Hall as the home of the people of Canada, so it is fitting that we should gather here for this presentation. For more than four decades, Jacques Bourgault has served Canadians through the study and exercise of public administration—a matter of fundamental importance to our well-being.
When I think of the elements that combine to make a smart and caring nation, effective public services and sound machinery of government rank prominently. They exist solely to serve the common good, and our public service values are important statements to the world of that which we hold dear as Canadians.
It is always worth repeating those values aloud. Integrity, stewardship, excellence. Respect for democracy and respect for people.
My predecessor, Georges Vanier, after whom this medal is named, dedicated himself to these values, driven by what biographer Mary Frances Coady called “an inner quality of the spirit” that characterized his entire life.
Several years ago, I had an insight into the enduring appeal and significance of the public sector while serving as president of the University of Waterloo. At that time, Kevin Lynch was the clerk of the Privy Council, and he was concerned about the ability of Canada’s public service to attract the most qualified students.
In response, we set up a two-day job fair, in which 80 deputy ministers and assistant deputy ministers came to speak about jobs and to interview potential candidates. It was a great success, during which students were asked what, if anything, interested them about public service work.
The number one response?
The idealism of serving the public.
There is a great reservoir of energy, talent and idealism among public servants, and one of our constant challenges is to ensure our administrative machinery and governance structures are able to harness that capacity effectively on behalf of all Canadians.
This is no small task. In fact, it requires careful study and a great deal of effort and imagination—which is exactly what Jacques Bourgault has shown throughout his career.
Dr. Bourgault’s dedication to finding new and innovative ways to strengthen our public services makes him a worthy recipient of this honour, particularly in these times of change. His commitment to his work reminds me of another great Canadian public servant, astronaut Chris Hadfield, who was recently asked on Twitter what motivates him.
From orbit, he tweeted:
“What motivates me, at my core, is the desire to use the very limits of my ability to accomplish things I believe in.”
Thank you, Dr. Bourgault, for using your considerable abilities to accomplish the things Canadians believe in. It is a privilege to present you with the Vanier Medal.