York University alumnus Steve Orsini was the guest speaker at the annual Ontario Public Service (OPS) Breakfast, presented by the School of Public Policy & Administration (SPPA) on Oct. 1.
Orsini, who graduated from York with an MES and now serves as the secretary of cabinet, head of the OPS and clerk of the executive council, provided an inside look at government through his keynote speech “Leadership in a Dynamically Changing World.”
In his talk, he covered the rapidly changing world we live in, the role of government, the price of government and leadership for the future. His presentation was delivered at the Art Gallery of Ontario to a full house.
Orsini emphasized that the fast-paced and dynamically changing world we live in is characterized by trends such as fierce global competition, slower productivity growth, increasing public expectations and a growing innovation imperative, among others. All governments, he said, face the reality of fiscal constraints.
He touched on private-sector productivity, which has been lagging in Ontario in recent years; climate change, with its attendant long-term negative implications across all societies; and escalating income inequality, with more and more wealth in the hands of fewer and fewer people.
Given this challenging and demanding current context, Orsini shared four key priorities identified by the Ontario government: investing in people’s talent and skills; building modern infrastructure; creating an innovative business climate; and ensuring retirement security for workers. All of these priorities are underscored by fiscal and financial responsibility, as well as an open, transparent and accountable public service.
What emerged from the presentation was a clear vision for how the OPS could adapt to deliver the public services that citizens expect and demand from their governments. At the heart of this new configuration is the citizen, who has a direct role to play in determining the amount and kind of services they need and require from their governments, be they local, provincial, federal or even international.
According to Orsini, the Ontario Public Service of the future will be client-centred by design, will make better use of new technologies and crowdsourcing to generate new ideas, will engage constantly with a diverse set of partners and will place an emphasis on its core priorities.
Orsini’s vision for bringing about this transformation of the public service is centred on innovation to drive change for the better, integration to develop across-government solutions, and inclusiveness to foster a diverse, engaged and valued workforce.
The presentation concluded with Orsini raising six pertinent questions about the future of public policy and administration, including:
- Will slower private-sector productivity put more pressure on governments to make investments and/or cut taxes to foster growth?
- Is the public prepared to pay for growing demand for high-quality health care, education and infrastructure?
- Will rising income inequality put more pressure on governments to redistribute income to reduce poverty?
- Will improving federal fiscal capacity compel federal and provincial governments into new fiscal arrangements?
- Can the world come together to address climate change before the risks to society become too great?
- How will government balance the needs of today with intergenerational fairness for tomorrow?
Participants were given the opportunity to engage further in a Q&A session that followed the presentation.
The OPS Breakfast provides an opportunity for faculty and students to meet SPPA alumni in an informal setting early in the academic year to help develop and broaden their network of contacts within the OPS. It is one of the most important extracurricular activities that the school provides for its undergraduate and graduate students during the academic year.
For more information, visit yorku.ca/laps/sppa/index.html.