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With civil service shakeup, Trudeau brings youth, diversity to top jobs

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, May 19, 2016.

CHRIS WATTIE/REUTERS

Retirements of Ottawa's highest-ranked bureaucrats have accelerated under the Justin Trudeau government as the Liberals shuffle the leadership of the public service after years of management under Stephen Harper.

The government has made a series of moves with its highest-ranked bureaucrats since coming into office last fall, most recently promoting senior officials who had worked on the Environment and Foreign Affairs portfolios.

Ian Shugart, a bureaucrat who for a couple of years managed Environment Canada under Mr. Harper, and Daniel Jean, the Foreign Affairs deputy minister who has advised the Trudeau government on key files from refugees to Canada at the UN, both received promotions as about seven senior mandarins announced their retirements.

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David Zussman, a former senior government official and a professor of public-sector management at the University of Ottawa, said the number of appointments are high, with more than 20 changes in the senior ranks of the public service since late December, including retirements.

"I'm sure word would have gone out that: 'We're in a process of renewal, and any of you guys thinking of leaving, do me a favour and tell me now,' " Dr. Zussman said.

"A lot of them are really long-standing public servants who I think hung around for the election to help out [former clerk] Janice Charette, and now, six months into it, they decided to trigger their retirements. They've all got their 35 years," he said, indicating they can collect pensions.

Privy Council Clerk Michael Wernick, the head of the public service appointed by Mr. Trudeau in January, has been working on the appointments, recently promoting Louise Levonian to deputy minister of Employment and Social Development Canada. Ms. Levonian had been serving as an associate deputy for the department and prior to that was a senior Finance Department and tax policy official under the Conservatives.

Mr. Jean, who had served as deputy minister of Foreign Affairs since 2013, was heading the department as the Trudeau government implemented key foreign-policy priorities after the election, including Canada's withdrawal from air strikes in Syria and Iraq and the resettling of 25,000 Syrian refugees.

Mr. Jean, in his new position as national security adviser to the PM, takes on one of the most important public-servant roles in government, advising Mr. Trudeau on top-secret national-security issues. He replaces Richard Fadden who retired in March.

Malcolm Brown, who served as special adviser to Mr. Wernick in the efforts to welcome the 25,000 Syrian asylum seekers, was also promoted in April, to deputy minister of Public Safety.

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"Some ministers may want a new deputy, and it's their prerogative to say they would like someone new. The clerk may decide that he feels someone should move, or sometimes deputies will go and say they would like to move," said C. Scott Clark, former deputy minister of finance and a senior adviser to the prime minister under the Jean Chrétien government.

"It takes time for a minister and a deputy to form what I would call a good relationship, a professional, working relationship. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don't," Mr. Clark said.

The Prime Minister has also promoted Hélène Laurendeau from associate deputy of Indigenous and Northern Affairs to full deputy minister of the department, and Peter Boehm, former senior associate deputy of Foreign Affairs, was moved up to deputy minister of International Development.

The new deputies also reflect efforts by Mr. Trudeau and the clerk to renew the public service and, as with the makeup of the Prime Minister's cabinet, introduce some youth and diversity into the government's leadership.

"He's been very clear about the importance he attaches to having a professional, non-partisan, responsive, agile, creative public service," Mr. Wernick told The Globe and Mail in an interview earlier this year. "It's the only way he's going to accomplish the goals he put in front of Canadians."

One senior government official said Mr. Trudeau, in late January, made a rare appearance at the Deputy Ministers' Breakfast, a gathering of all the public service's most senior mandarins who meet in Langevin Block. Prime ministers typically address the breakfast once or twice per year.

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While it's unclear what was said, the PM has been emphasizing with senior officials a program for getting results and revitalizing the public service. Mr. Trudeau attended the meeting shortly after he appointed Mr. Wernick as Clerk.

The handful of deputies who have retired include Mr. Fadden, François Guimont, Colleen Swords, George Da Pont, Matthew King, Krista Outhwaite and Daphne Meredith.

Mr. Scott expects more changes in the fall after the government takes the summer to regroup. "I would expect there will probably be more moves coming," he said. As Mr. Wernick said in a recent letter to the PM: "It is clear to me that we are entering a period of dramatic generational change in the Public Service."

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