John Tait Award of Excellence – Doug Moen’s Remarks

The following remarks were made on 19 August 2013 by Doug Moen, Q.C., Deputy Minister to the Premier of Saskatchewan, on the occasion of the presentation to him of the John Tait Award of Excellence at the Annual Conference of the Canadian Bar Association.  

The John Tait Award of Excellence is presented to a public sector lawyer who has achieved the highest standards of professional conduct and competence and made significant contributions to social justice or community affairs, and who exemplifies preeminent public service.  Mr. Moen was also the 2010 recipient of the IPAC Lieutenant Governor’s Gold Medal Award recognizing distinctive leadership and exceptional achievement in public administration in Saskatchewan.

ImPACt is pleased to publish these reflections of a distinguished Saskatchewan public servant on career and on the role and contribution of lawyers in the public service.

Thank you to Don Morgan, to the Nominators, my family and to the Canadian Bar Association (CBA).

I want to begin by thanking Minister Morgan for his very generous comments.  Don Morgan has been a steadfast mentor and supporter of mine.  The roles of Minister and Deputy are meant to collegial but with some professional distance.  What I have always known about Don Morgan was that he had my back in the best possible way.  And I know he understood that I had his.  We were great partners at Justice and we continue to have a terrific relationship that helps us deal with the issues of the day and have a few laughs along the way.  Thank you Minister, for being here for today and being there many other days as well.

I also want to thank Minister Gord Wyant, our Minister of Justice for being here today.  Though I have not had the pleasure as serving as his Deputy, we have had the opportunity to work together a fair bit since his appointment.  He is a thoughtful, interesting Minister who is making a real contribution.

Both Ministers demonstrate the importance of lawyers in the Cabinet room.  I can assure you it makes a real difference in terms of the quality of public administration.  And it is something we don’t encourage enough in the profession.

I want to thank those individuals who took the time to nominate me for this award.  It means a great deal that they took the time to reflect on my contributions.  They have all been great friends and allies of mine and it is hard to find words to thank you for your generosity.

I also want to acknowledge the presence with me of my wife, Kathy Undseth and my son, Justin Moen.  Kathy has been a rock solid partner of mine for almost 33 years.  She is a registered nurse and I have always thought that she had the serious job in the family.  Justin works for the Saskatchewan Public Service and has just completed his CMA requirements.  Our daughter is in law school at University of Saskatchewan and is living in Ottawa for the summer.  None of us succeed without support of our families and I would be at the top of list in acknowledging that reality.

I want to thank the Canadian Bar Association for this Award.  I do think it is critical for the Bar to recognize the contributions of lawyers in the Public Sector.

Tribute to John Tait

The Award is made in the name of John Tait.  I had the pleasure of meeting John.  After he served as Deputy Minister of Justice for Canada, he accepted an invitation to attend a retreat of Civil and Public law lawyers in Saskatchewan Justice.  He talked about the ethics of lawyers in the Public Service – a  topic that was very close to his heart.  It was obvious to me that he was a man of great character and ability.  His career demonstrated that.  And his willingness to travel to a remote part of Saskatchewan to talk with Public Sector lawyers about issues of that were important to him demonstrated his commitment to the Bar and to the Public Service.  To receive an award named after John is a great honour.

I also want to acknowledge the presence of one of his successors here today, John Sims, who served as Deputy Minister of Justice for Canada at roughly the same time that I served.  He is another recipient of this Award having received it in 2005.  John Tait and John Sims both represent the kind of leadership we need and we have consistently received from Justice Canada – people of high principle and of courage who could see the national perspective – federal, provincial and territorial.  They worked with their counterparts with integrity and are very much appreciated for their outstanding contributions.

Reflection on my Career

Just a few words about my career.  I have been incredibly fortunate to have served as a lawyer and specifically a public law lawyer.  I started out in the private bar – with the firm of Harradence, Longworth and Zatlyn in Prince Albert.  Clyne Harradence, Val Longworth and Larry Zatlyn taught me a tremendous amount about the practice of law in a very active practice with a great diversity of clientele – but particularly lots of criminal and family law.  This past weekend – I was fishing on the Churchill River with the sons of Clyne Harradence and Val Longworth and with my fellow articling student colleague, Bob Lane.  Two of the 3 are judges on our Provincial Court.  Relations in this business last a long time if they are cultivated properly.  And it is a great thing.

After my stint in private practice, I worked for the Hon. Ray Hnatyshyn, who was Justice Critic of the Official Opposition.  To say that working for Ray was a thrill and an honour would be an understatement.  He was a wonderful Parliamentarian – a man of great character, civility and humour.  And as most of you will know he went on to be an outstanding Minister of Justice and Governor General.

Thirty years ago this past Thursday, I joined the public service in this province.  Don Morgan has reflected on my career in the public service.  It is a bit difficult to comment on it in great detail.  I would just say that it has been a great privilege to serve the people of Saskatchewan.  I believe the Ministers I have served and the teams of people that I have led have had the chance to make a difference.  Whether it was around restorative justice, relations with the Aboriginal Community and the Justice System or reform of policing in the province, we were able to serve at an important moment in our history and we did make progress.  And yes, there is so much more to do.

And for the last four years I have had the privilege of serving our Premier as his Deputy Minister.  It has been a thrill to work with Premier Brad Wall and his Ministers at a time when this Province is doing very well.  The role of Chief Deputy and Head of Public Service is not often taken on by lawyers – there are more economists and engineers who seem to have that opportunity.  But lawyers can bring something very special to all forms of public life – whether in politics as Don Morgan demonstrates daily or in senior administration.  In fact, I would very much argue that we need to see more lawyers take on leadership roles both inside and outside of Justice Ministries in the Public Service.  The ethical grounding and understanding of process make lawyers key partners in working with persons from other disciplines to drive change.

Role of the Public Law Lawyer

Let me make a few comments about the role of the Public Law Lawyer.  It is impossible for us to have Good Government without the role of the good legal counsel in the public service.  These days, I am almost exclusively a client of legal services, and there are countless examples where the role of the public law lawyer was critical to the delivery of key items in the agenda of the government as well as essential to orderly and ethical public administration.  It is fundamental that the Bar understand how important that reality really is and find ways to encourage the public law bar and respect it for the important role it plays.  The recognition that the CBA gives me today is really recognition for the importance you attach to your public law colleagues.

But I would again say to public law lawyers, you should not underestimate the contributions you can and should make to public administration inside and outside the practice of law.  If anything, public sector lawyers tend to be too confining in their aspirations around what they can do in the public service.  There are some very legitimate reasons for that – they have very good work to do as lawyers.  But it is a big world out there and many interesting opportunities.

Comments on the CBA

I leave my final comments for the Canadian Bar Association.  It was my privilege to serve the Executive of the Saskatchewan Branch of the CBA for seven years.  A good part of that time I was also Deputy Minister.  I hope I made a worthwhile contribution.  But it was clearly to my great benefit to have had that experience.  I worked with many outstanding colleagues – mostly from the private sector though with some great public service colleagues as well.  We worked on the image of the Bar, we worked on our relationship with the law school, its students and its great Dean, Brent Cotter and we worked at building a tremendous organization in Saskatchewan.

My message would be that there is tremendous value in public sectors lawyers being part of this organization.  It will help in building your career and building relationships that are invaluable.  And you have the opportunity to do something very worthwhile in your profession.

And, once again, I would say to the CBA, that while working with public sector lawyers can have its ups and downs, keep up your efforts in that regard.  Public Sector lawyers represent twenty-eight per cent of the Bar in Saskatchewan and probably similar percentages elsewhere in Canada – which is a significant constituency.

As I close, I would say how pleased I am to see a public sector lawyer, become the President of the Canadian Bar Association, Saskatchewan Branch.  Kylie Head will be an energetic and committed President and the Branch is fortunate to have her serve.

Thank you to all of you for attending today and for your commitment to the CBA.  And thank you again to the CBA for this great honour.