Public Service during a pandemic – National Public Service Week 2020

I have no power to make this kind of declaration, but I’ll do it anyway:  for National Public Service Week 2020, the theme must be “resilience.”

What public servants consider normal is conditioned by what they’ve done.  A major change in government can upend your job.  A restructuring can have major implications for entire departments.  Natural disasters call on whole-of-government mobilization, at least in the short term.

That said, I think most public servants would be hard pressed to find as significant a change to what entire governments do as what we’re currently experiencing with the COVID-19 pandemic.  Front-line workers have found themselves exposed to dangers that are definitely not normal.  Some of the lowest-paid jobs have become the most essential.  Some of those previously working in the background have been reassigned to deal with the public.  Even those, like me, who have remained mostly working in the background, have seen their entire focus shift.  In order to make decisions, governments need information faster than before.  Policy has been written, implemented, corrected and re-written in a matter of days.

The backbone of a good public service, at any level, is a core of resilient people willing to serve the “public good,” broadly defined.  That has been on full display during this crisis. 

Normally, IPAC Manitoba would host a “Policy and a Pint” event on the Friday of National Public Service Week.  Present circumstances being what they are, that’s not currently possible.  However, I hope you take some time this week to reflect on your work over the last few months and appreciate the resilience that has allowed you and your coworkers to get through this.  It hasn’t been easy, but it has definitely demonstrated why we have events like this.

Happy National Public Service Week!

Emmet Collins


IPAC Manitoba

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