By Karen Kelly
Associate Deputy Minister, Infrastructure Canada
Bachelor of Arts, Mass Communication (’82)
When Yazmine Laroche first started at Carleton University, she never envisioned a career in the public service.
“University was about finding out who I was, exploring all the things that interested me, and really pushing my boundaries and limits,” recalls Ms. Laroche, who credits her father, aviation pioneer Rocky Laroche, with instilling in her the belief that “there wasn’t anything I couldn’t accomplish.”
Ms. Laroche immersed herself in campus life, spending most of her free time on campus at CKCU—where she met her husband—and The Charlatan. She imagined a future as an arts and culture journalist. She has fond memories of English Professor Charles Haines, in particular.
“I remember my best friend and I decided to create a game show based on The Canterbury Tales and we made Professor Haines wear a nun’s veil,” she laughs. “It was totally humiliating, but he was so great and enthusiastic.”
Ms. Laroche also appreciated the accessibility afforded by Carleton’s extensive tunnel system.
“I was able to get a really basic scooter that allowed me to go everywhere,” says Ms. Laroche, who has a form of muscular dystrophy. “However, it was often ‘borrowed’ while I was hanging out with friends. Sometimes I would find it in the library,” she recalls with a laugh.
After graduating, Ms. Laroche took a “short-term” job to pay off student loans as a script writer for the AV studio in Transport Canada. Her next move was to the then-Department of Communications to work on cultural policy. That’s when she realized the potential of a career in public service.
“I saw the possibility to make a difference to my country as a public servant and I got hooked,” she says. “I was working on files that were going to affect my fellow citizens and I was bouncing around a lot between different assignments, which was perfect because I was hungry to learn all the time.”
One of the highlights of her career was during the tenure of then-Prime Minister Paul Martin when she was asked to lead the development of the New Deal for Cities and Communities in 2004, which led to the Gas Tax Fund and the Public Transit Fund.
“Our task was to do something transformative and achieve meaningful results while respecting the constitution,” she says. “We developed a program that transfers money through the provinces to municipalities to support their infrastructure priorities. The program has since been made permanent and is now enshrined in legislation.”
After appointments in a number of federal departments, Ms. Laroche is today the Associate Deputy Minister, Infrastructure and Communities. She describes her department, created in 2002, as “small, but mighty.” It manages billions of dollars of public investments and public infrastructure across Canada.
“It’s a means to achieve public policy outcomes by investing in concrete things for the public good,” she explains, adding “no pun intended.” “It’s a very satisfying department to work in.”
While she says she did not appreciate the opportunities available in the public service as a university student, she now recommends it to new graduates.
“If you’re interested in lifelong learning, the public service is a wonderful place to develop new skills and competencies and to make a lasting contribution to your country,” says Ms. Laroche. “Young people often say they want to make a difference in what they’re doing. Well, this is the place.”