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Up close and personal with a deputy minister

The Fall Policy Talks series opens with a personal look at the balancing act of a deputy minister.

Malcolm Brown, Deputy Minister of Public Safety, speaks to a packed room of School of Policy Studies graduate students and Queen’s and Kingston community members. (Photo: University Communications)
Malcolm Brown, Deputy Minister of Public Safety, speaks to a packed room of School of Policy Studies graduate students and Queen’s and Kingston community members. (Photo: University Communications)

A packed room of School of Policy Studies graduate students and members of the Queen’s and Kingston community listened keenly to the stories and advice of Deputy Minister of Public Safety Malcolm Brown, the first speaker of the Fall 2018 School of Policy Studies “Policy Talks” Series.

“At the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, we make decisions that impact Canadians’ physical safety and environments. For example, at the Canadian Border Security Agency, 300 to 400 decisions are made every day on who to allow into the country,” says Mr. Brown. “In an emergency preparedness capacity, we’re responsible for planning for what we hope never happens, from natural disasters to threats to the continuity of government.”

A Queen’s alumnus, Mr. Brown (Artsci’82) holds the most senior public service position at Public Safety, advising the Minister and acting as the connection between bureaucracy and politics. The department covers a large portfolio, including Correctional Services Canada, Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Canadian Border Security Agency (CBSA), Parole Board of Canada and the RCMP. Mr. Brown spoke about the role he plays in public policy and the relationships he manages to keep the portfolio running efficiently.

The School of Policy Studies hosts Policy Talks, a weekly series that covers a broad range of policy topics. Mr. Brown’s opening talk for the series gave the audience a look behind the scenes of one of Canada’s most high security departments.

“I report directly to the Clerk of the Privy Council Office and support the Minister, and I manage the relationship between the Minister and the department,” says Mr. Brown. “Deputy Ministers need to understand their Ministers to make this work. Figuring out how my Minister works and takes in information is crucial. If you don’t work together properly, you both operate in a vacuum.

“It’s essential that I, as the Deputy Minister, am the most trusted public service advisor to the Minister. Transparency and respect between other leaders in the portfolio departments keeps stakeholders in the loop, while also allowing me to manage those relationships.”

Audience members peppered the Deputy Minister with questions after his speech, including what it takes to be a leader in federal government.

“Impatience,” he says. “You can’t be satisfied with how things always are. You need to politely, and with respect, challenge the ways we’ve always done things.”

Many of the talks will be livestreamed this year. For details on this and upcoming Policy Talks, visit the School of Policy Studies website.