Cairine MacDonald – One of Canada’s Most Powerful (and Loving) Women of the secrets of Cairine's success is her intellectual curiosity.  She is driven to discover creative solutions to tough, often unyielding social problems.  She is not content to rest on, 'the way it has always been done.'  With prudence and diligence she seeks proven innovative approaches and thoughfully adapts them to the British Columbia context.

This is a post I have been looking forward to writing ever since I knew Cairine MacDonald had been selected as one of the Top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada.  The award ceremonies were held in Toronto Monday November 29th and Cairine was celebrated in the Public Sector Leader Category.  Here's more of what I wrote in my nomination letter.

Cairine embodies the delicate balance between public servant and leader.  She understands the democratic process and is vigilant to ensure she and her employees are at the service of our political leaders i.e. responsive to their priorities, to their pressures, and their realities. 

Regular readers will know of my belief that a smooth functioning and competent public service is a key ingredient for democratic, responsive policy making.  The person top of mind, when I write in that vein, is Cairine MacDonald former Deputy Minister. Housing and Social Development and just recently appointed as Deputy Minister, Environment.

We disparage the public service too much and too easily.  We ignore their unique expertise at implementing policy that affects hundreds of thousands if not millions of us.   We all have our stories about bureaucracy and red tape.  However these ignore the vital contributions and creativity of our public servants, no better personified than by Cairine MacDonald. Here is more from my letter:

Public servants often bear the brunt of our jokes and criticisms.  They make an easy target.  Cairine is the antidote to that prejudice.  She makes democracy
come alive and has certainly restored my appreciation for the honourable vocation of public service. 

There's a lot the official Bio or Awards material won't tell you about Cairine.  She is one of the few public servants anywhere in the country with extentive experience in all three sectors.   She was a key player in the Edmonton Community Schools movement.  She is a serious student of social change, using her personal holidays to investigate practical solutions in other juridictions.  She is a strong supporter of the arts, particular artists with disabilities.   Before entering government she held senior management positions at EPCOR and Telus in Alberta.  From there she was recruited to the BC public service first to establish BC's broadband, integrated IT strategy. 

Then at Social Development and Housing she was a key, behind the scenes,  player in forming the innovative Street to Home Society; increasing the supply of affordable housing in British Columbia; changing her Ministry's welfare provisions to accomodate the new Registered Disability Savings Plan; investing, through the Vancouver Foundation, in Endowment 150 which is enabling 20,000 adults on income assistance to take advantage of the RDSP; providing seed funding for Resilient Capital, a soon to be announced social investment fund; providing administrative support and leadership to the Government Non-Profit Initiative; seeding Tyze – the list goes on.

The Women's Executive Network, sponsor of the Top 100 got it half right. Cairine is indeed powerful and holds powerful positions.  What she brings to those role is a deep caring, determination and drive to accomplish results that will make a tangible impact on people's lives.  That balance makes her more than powerful.  It makes her power, lovely, as the accompanying photo nicely demonstrates.

To read my complete nomination letter click:  Download Women's Executive Network – Cairine McDonald-1



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