OTTAWA — Talk about a trial by fire.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans held a “Dragons’ Den”-style event where bureaucrats were asked to pitch ideas to a group of senior managers, a newly released document shows.

Unlike the popular TV show on which the exercise was based, where aspiring entrepreneurs pitch business ideas to a panel of venture capitalists, Fisheries and Oceans asked public servants to come up with “creative solutions to policy and operational challenges.”

“Employees were invited to submit ideas and 53 submissions were received from all regions and sectors, including the (Canadian Coast Guard),” says an August 2014 memo to Fisheries Minister Gail Shea from the department’s deputy minister.

“From these proposals, nine were selected to be presented in front of the dragons: members from the deputy management committee (DMC) and myself.”

The Canadian Press obtained a copy of the memo under the Access to Information Act.

The department held the event — which was broadcast to more than 600 employees — in a boardroom at its Ottawa headquarters, Fisheries and Oceans spokesman David Walters said in an email.

The “dragons” included the deputy minister and his two assistant deputy ministers; the former coast guard commissioner; and a regional director general. Jody Thomas, the current coast guard commissioner, acted as the moderator.

Fisheries and Oceans asked each of the nine proponents to make business cases for their pitches, which were then presented at an April 2014 meeting of the deputy management committee.

Senior management decided to approve three of the nine ideas: a web portal for human-resources information; a pilot project for a document-sharing service and an online system to report Fisheries Act violations.

“The choice to implement initiatives from the Dragons’ Den is important to demonstrate to employees that their comments and ideas are valuable and that the department is taking action,” the memo says.

Last year was the first time the department has held such an event, and Walters said there are no plans in the works for a second one.

“We are focusing on testing the three pilot projects that were recommended,” he wrote.

At least three other departments — Aboriginal Affairs, Public Works and Justice — held similar events in the past year, according to the Privy Council website.

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