The value of change for Canada’s public sector

Innovation and transformation expert, Max Valiquette, sat down with CPA Canada to talk about the next generation of civil servants and the value of change for Canada’s public sector.

Q. Whether it’s in consulting work or as the new CSO at Diamond, your focus is often the intersection of new media and youth, where you offer a deep understanding of popular culture and what resonates with audiences today. What’s key for current leaders to understand – or anticipate – about the next generation of civil servants in Canada?

First: Goodness, I love this question.

To answer it: So much, they need to understand so much. Most importantly is that the notion of serving the public good has been so radically redefined over the past quarter century that it no longer rests with civil service. The government owns less and less of the “social good” conversation than it ever did, for better or for worse, and young people who used to believe that their only option to make the world a better place was the public sector now have a much, much larger set of options to choose from.

Every major (and most minor!) corporations have their own CSR initiatives, that are more prioritized than ever before. And public good brands – not-for-profits, usually – are also more varied, and thriving. So: the most important thing to understand is that government has more competition than ever when it comes to attracting and retaining great young talent, because that itch to serve can be scratched just as well or better in so many more places.

Q. Innovation and transformation are hot topics in every sector right now. What inspires you to keep adapting, growing and prioritizing change? How do you help your clients do the same?

I’m inspired to grow and prioritize change because I believe in it – I believe it has great value, and therefore I’m not afraid of it. But most people hate change; it’s just the way that most humans are wired. So I try to show my clients the value of change to help them embrace it as I do. That doesn’t always work, though – so sometimes I show my clients the devastating consequences of not changing. That’s not the ideal way to deal with change, but it is an effective one.

Q. The popularity and impact of projects like Code for Canada and federal commitments to innovation are helping our country continue to modernize its public service. How can every level of government continue to collaborate together more often to build a digital, integrated, inclusive future that works for all Canadians?


It needs to be policy, more than anything else, and like all good policy it needs to be really well thought out, really well implemented, and really engaging for all relevant stakeholders. People are far more likely to embrace collaboration if they feel that they’ve been a part of defining the purpose that collaboration is trying to serve. People will embrace collaboration if they can see why it matters. But people will abandon collaboration if it’s a pain. So implementation is critical here.

Q. We’re excited to have you join us and speak at the Public Sector Conference this fall! What can attendees look forward to in your keynote session?

You can look forward to equal parts entertainment and education, because I think that inspiration comes from the sweet spot of where those two things intersect. And you can look forward to understanding what innovation really means to most of us, and why it’s not as scary as they think. And you can look forward to at least one joke about Millennials. And you can look forward to me being full of Colonnade pizza when I present. No, wait – that’s something that I’m looking forward to. Scratch that last one.

Interested in joining us this year in Ottawa for the Public Sector Conference, October 28-29? Register now to sign up for either the in-person or virtual conference.