Celebrating 30 Years of Public Sector Excellence

In the early 1980’s, the success of the Financial Management Institute in Ottawa had them looking to broaden their horizons.

Alan Barnard, First Chapter President

First, the Executive looked east towards Montreal, and then to the west…way west… to Victoria. The dilemma was that FMI was focused on issues and financial employees of the Federal government while Victoria was predominately a provincial government stronghold. The solution turned out to be the Comptroller General of BC, Brian Marson, who had cut his teeth with the Feds in Ottawa.
Brian actively promoted the FMI in Victoria, leading to the birth of the FMI’s first chapter, the Victoria Chapter, on December 9th, 1982 with Alan Barnard elected as the first chapter president. Alan subsequently succeeded Brian Marson as Comptroller General but remained active with FMI for many years, acting as co-chair of the 1997 Public Sector Management Workshop, nearly fifteen years after that first meeting.

Over the years, the chapter continued its strong association with the Office of the Comptroller General, proudly having each Comptroller General participating in chapter activities and becoming a member of the board. Arn Van Iersel, in particular was a stalwart of the board, participating in all three of the FMI national spring conventions that Victoria hosted and receiving a lifetime award from FMI National.

Arn van Iersel, FMI Lifetime Award Recipient

Victoria proudly hosted FMI’s Public Service Management Workshops in 1991, 1997 and then again in 2003. In 1991, it was only the 4th FMI convention outside the National Capital Region and the theme was decentralization. Oh how times have changed, in both Victoria and Ottawa, with the pendulum swinging to the other extreme. National conventions were a challenge for the Victoria organizers, reflecting the conundrum that FMI considered when it began its regional expansion. To attract a national audience, the agenda and speakers had to reflect issues that span the country and the three major levels of government. The solution was to have speakers from all areas and to focus on financial experts that could address topics that could translate well to federal, provincial or municipal public sector employees.

The 1991 national convention coincided with Vic Skaarup moving from the Victoria FMI board to the national stage where he became FMI National Vice-President followed by a term as President. For this he was awarded with a lifetime FMI membership, the only Victoria alumnus to receive this honour.

National conventions highlight our association with FMI’s other chapters and with head office in Ottawa. They also are an immense amount of work that is largely done by dedicated volunteers. FMI Victoria’s board of directors and member volunteers used the experience gained from the two 1990s conventions to expand their delivery of professional development into an annual PD workshop. In partnership with the local chapters of the Certified Management Accountants and the Certified General Accountants, FMI Victoria began hosting multiday PD events that are a staple of accounting associations PD hours. These FMI-CGA-CMA workshops are fun and informative while continuing to remain inexpensive thanks to corporate sponsorship.

Vic Skaarup, FMI National President (1992-1993)

The FMI board has always been committed to being topical and to provide at least one event every month. Often the events are luncheons with local guest speakers drawn from the political and public service ranks but never afraid to reach out to federal and municipal experts to share their wisdom and experiences. In a typical year, the Minister of Finance and the Auditor General provide a tremendous opportunity to reflect on recent events.

To ensure that our membership has the opportunity to participate in our PD programs, we also provide ½ day theme-based sessions, breakfast series on leadership, and evening events. The board also realized that the membership could begin prior to employment in the public service. In 2009, the chapter entered partnerships with Camosun College and the University of Victoria’s School of Public Administration to offer aspiring students access to current issues in the public service. FMI was to receive access to academic speakers while the students also were presented with the chance to receive a substantial FMI scholarship that could be used to support their education.

In the 30 years of the Victoria chapter, we have been proud to list leaders and future leaders at the Assistant Deputy Minister and Deputy Minister levels amongst our past board members but our proudest accomplishment is the development and proliferation of volunteers delivering quality professional development to the financial community. That bread and butter strategy has served our financial community well while contributing to the promotion of west coast thinking on the national scene.