May 25, 2020
In my role as the Clerk of the Executive Council, I have the privilege of seeing a side of the civil service that few get to see. That has certainly been the case during this pandemic, as I witnessed the response efforts across government in our fight against COVID-19.
When I read the article published by Brunswick News concerning “How bureaucrats dodged COVID bullet”, it did not match my personal experience with our province’s civil service and I knew I had to respond.
The response to COVID-19 was swift across government and it has proven effective in containing the spread of the virus in our province.
It is a major effort that I am proud to have been a part of and I commend all civil servants for the role they each played.
It would be easy to assume that if someone was not physically in their office during the past few months, that they were not doing their job. But if this pandemic has taught us anything, it is that with technology – and some creativity – people are increasingly able to do their work from anywhere.
That is certainly the case with New Brunswick’s civil service.
When the pandemic hit, we were all told to stay at home as much as possible, to protect the health and safety of all New Brunswickers and flatten the curve of the disease outbreak to protect our healthcare system.
That strategy worked. We didn’t just flatten the curve, we CRUSHED it, with one of the best outcomes thus far in the world.
In the face of a pandemic none of us had ever seen, the work of government had to continue. In fact, it was arguably more important than ever.
The civil service quickly determined what roles were essential and which ones could be put on hold to allow more resources to be shifted to critical areas.
For some employees, that meant coming into sparsely staffed offices. For others, it meant setting up a home office and connecting virtually. For others, it meant being deployed to jobs they had the skill to cover, to ensure the province was able to respond quickly and seamlessly to the challenges presented by COVID-19.
The work being done behind the scenes was immense. This was a situation unlike anything we had ever faced before, and it required many people working long hours, seven days a week. Many employees worked a lot of unpaid overtime during this period to ensure that service to the public continued. They never hesitated, and I heard no complaints. Their commitment to ensure New Brunswickers had the services they needed to keep safe was unparalleled.
For those working from home, the separation of home and work was sometimes hard to define. For some, that meant juggling child care and homeschooling along with work tasks as essential daycare services were being reserved for those working in healthcare and first responders. Hours had to be flexible, and many worked long ones – starting early in the morning and working late into the evening – to make sure they were available to provide online services when required to do so.
For those who were not set up to work at home, or whose regular role wasn’t as busy during this time, let me assure you they were not idle. They reached out to managers to ask, “What can I do to help?” This resulted in a large redeployment list, where civil servants took on other roles outside what they normally do to ensure essential services continued to be provided. In some cases that meant new services such as operating a toll-free information line for the public about all things related to the government’s response to COVID-19. Then there were our public safety officers ensuring our inter-provincial borders were secure.
Service New Brunswick continued to deliver online services. Finance and Treasury Board issued cheques to low-income seniors and social assistance payments never stopped.
During this pandemic, we got to see what a cohesive team the civil service of this province truly is, how innovative they can be when faced with a crisis and their commitment to helping the public.
We saw this as dedicated professionals from various departments worked behind the scenes to ensure the public was kept informed through the livestream video feeds, by the Premier and the Chief Medical Officer of Health, ongoing website and social media posts and coordinating media interviews so that the public had the information they needed as quickly as possible.
They did this at a time when, just like everyone in our province, they were dealing with the same fears and anxieties about what this pandemic would mean for their own loved ones. The civil service never dodged a bullet during this pandemic, they took one and showed what I have always known, a strong commitment to serving the public. I know the pandemic is far from over but as the head of the public service I am proud of what they have helped accomplish so far. As a province we should all be proud to have these dedicated and professional people serving us.
April 11, 2020
We are living in extraordinary times. Schools are closed, people are being told to stay home as much as possible, and essential workers are on the frontlines, keeping New Brunswickers safe and healthy.
When we think about essential services, the first people that come to mind are doctors and nurses, truck drivers and grocery clerks – with good reason. But I want to highlight the efforts of another group that are going above and beyond for New Brunswickers at this time – our public service.
In my role as Clerk of the Executive Council, I am privileged to witness the response efforts across New Brunswick in our fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. I see the outstanding work of our public servants each day – those dedicated to the provision of critical services, those ensuring the continuity of the most essential areas of our business, as well as those who have raised their hands to assist wherever and whenever the need is greatest.
I have also seen firsthand the commitment of Premier Blaine Higgs and our province’s leadership as we work together to ensure the health and safety of everyone who calls New Brunswick home. I see the collaboration of our political party leaders during this crisis, and the work of the members of the all-party cabinet committee on novel coronavirus. These partnerships have been, and will continue to be, paramount in providing strategic direction for our province’s response to the pandemic.
Across the public service, we have employees on the frontlines and behind the scenes who are dedicated to helping make a difference. We have employees working hard to make the right decisions, understanding that, in many cases, these decisions have the potential to impact all of us. I truly admire the contributions of our entire team and I am proud of everyone’s willingness to go above and beyond to ensure the continuity of our most essential services. We have a remarkably resilient workforce, with every public servant playing an important role – whether they are ready and available to help at a moment’s notice or have had to temporarily take a step back in light of responsibilities at home.
Serving New Brunswickers remains the number one priority of our public service. It is our shared purpose and our workforce is made up of extraordinary individuals responding to this situation with agility and professionalism. We are facing new challenges head on and are finding innovative solutions to issues as they arise, including alternative ways of service delivery when our standard practices are simply no longer possible. I feel humbled and honoured to be leading such an incredible team working tirelessly to continue to serve New Brunswickers, and I am committed to doing what it takes to support our employees and ensure that they have the resources needed to fulfill their roles.
Sometimes it is easy to forget that there are real people with concerns of their own who continue to work tirelessly behind the scenes. People who, like all New Brunswickers, miss the friends and family they are separated from as we work together to flatten the curve.
As I reflect with great pride upon what has been accomplished so far, I am so very grateful for the support and the cooperation of our public servants and government leadership as this situation evolves.
Though none of us can know what the future holds, we can be assured that whatever challenges we face as a province, the dedicated team of public servants who together form the GNB community, can, and will, continue to fight this battle on behalf of all New Brunswickers.