Evidence of meeting #6 for Government Operations and Estimates in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was public.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Patricia Hassard  Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet, Senior Personnel and Public Service Renewal, Privy Council Office
  • Daphne Meredith  Chief Human Resources Officer, Treasury Board Secretariat

3:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Yasmin Ratansi

Order. Members, we can commence.

Pursuant to Standing Order 108, we are studying the freeze on departmental budgets.

We have witnesses before us, including Madam Hassard, deputy secretary to the cabinet, senior personnel and public service renewal; Madam Meredith, the chief human resources officer; and Madam Laurendeau, assistant deputy minister, compensation and labour relations.

Welcome to all of you. I understand that Madam Hassard and Madam Meredith have opening remarks. Taking between five and seven minutes for those would be appreciated, thank you very much.

The floor is yours.

March 29th, 2010 / 3:30 p.m.

Patricia Hassard Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet, Senior Personnel and Public Service Renewal, Privy Council Office

Thank you very much.

Good afternoon, Madam Chair, and members of this committee.

I am very pleased to be here on behalf of the Privy Council Office and with my colleagues from the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer. I understand you are interested in how the public service is preparing for the challenges that lie ahead.

As you know, the public service is an essential part of our democratic institutions and is also Canada's largest employer. In an increasingly complex world, the public service of Canada needs to be both capable of adapting and actually adapting in order to remain a relevant and high-performing institution.

A strong public service is critical to the continued success of our country. Strengthening the capacity of the public service to provide high-quality advice to the government and excellent services to Canadians is an on going priority for all of us. This is why public service renewal is our top management strategy. This is especially true in the context of fiscal restraint when difficult decisions will need to be made and implemented.

I will speak briefly about the role of the Clerk of the Privy Council as the head of the public service, focusing on two of his key responsibilities--first, public service renewal, and then the overall management of the community of deputy ministers.

The clerk as head of the public service supports the Prime Minister and cabinet, and plays a key role in ensuring that the senior leadership of the public service has the necessary capacity to advise on and deliver the government's agenda. He sets the overall strategic direction for the public service through his annual reports to the Prime Minister, and he is responsible for succession planning, talent, and performance management for the senior leadership cadre.

As a large, complex, national institution, the public service faces considerable pressures, such as: the globalization of most policy issues and the need for collaborative decision-making; the impact of ever-changing technologies on the way we do business and even the nature of our work; and the demographic realities of an aging and increasingly diverse population.

Public service renewal is our response to this changing and unpredictable environment. Fundamentally, it's about making sure that the federal public service continually improves its ability to deliver on the business of government, no matter how circumstances change.

Starting in 2006-07, the strategic foundation for the renewal of the public service of Canada has been set out in the clerk’s annual reports to the Prime Minister. The strategy has been built on four pillars of renewal: better planning, targeted recruitment, effective employee development, and infrastructure improvements to enable our workforce.

Two important committees were established to guide the work on these priorities: the Prime Minister’s Advisory Committee on the Public Service, co-chaired by the Honourable Paul Tellier and the Honourable David Emerson; and the Deputy Ministers' Committee on Public Service Renewal, which is chaired by the associate secretary to cabinet.

Framed by these pillars and grounded in annual public service renewal action plans containing specific commitments each year, we have made good progress and have achieved results.

We have embedded integrated business and human resources planning in departments as a fundamental management practice to improve HR capacity across the government.

We have consistently met our post-secondary recruitment goals and are steadily increasing our diversity.

We have strengthened the public service brand and sense of common purpose through enterprise-wide career fairs and an improved job seeker website.

We have created a leadership development framework for all employees, and we are aligning our development programs within this framework.

We're also moving forward with pay modernization to replace our 40-year-old system, laying the groundwork for other improvements to our back office systems.

We have changed the way human resources are governed by creating the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer, streamlining the central agency roles, and making deputy ministers clearly responsible for managing their people.

These are steps we have taken as a result of a sustained and consistent strategic focus and the active participation of public service leaders, managers, and employees. These were accomplished without new funds, simply by looking at things differently.

In a period of fiscal restraint, renewal becomes even more important. We still face the demographic pressures, the complexity of the issues, and the requirement for ongoing development of our employees and leaders. The need for restraint provides a further incentive and an opportunity to review how we do business and to become more efficient and effective in support of government and the provision of services to Canadians. Our capacity to rethink the way we work, to plan, to reach out to others for good ideas, and to work together within and across departments will sustain a high-performing public service.

The clerk's 2009-2010 annual report to the Prime Minister will be tabled this week and will set out how we will continue with our efforts going forward. The deliberate focus on people management will continue—that is, better planning, recruitment and employee development. Integrated business and human resource planning is the underpinning for effective decision-making about the allocation of departmental resources and the delivery of outcomes. Recruitment must continue to meet our demographic challenges, but must be targeted, strategic and rooted in the results of integrated planning.

We must continue to develop employees and our leaders and strengthen our performance management system across all levels of the public service. A strong learning culture promotes innovative ideas as well as organizational efficiency.

Our managers community is an extremely important determinant of our future in the public service, since they are the carriers and creators of the culture change necessary for successful renewal.

While continuing to emphasize people management, there will also be a new emphasis on what we call the renewal of the workplace. We need to pay greater attention to how we work, the business processes, the tools we work with, and what we do. The engagement of public servants and the harnessing of new technology are key levers to drive workplace renewal.

In this multidimensional context, the development and support of senior leaders for the public service of Canada is essential. Given the demographic challenges, we have made substantial improvements in our talent management and succession planning processes for the most senior executives. These have helped us deepen our understanding of current and future needs through better workforce analysis for our assistant deputy ministers and deputy ministers.

We have also made the performance management program for senior leaders more rigorous to improve alignment with priorities and focus on results.

The Prime Minister's advisory committee in its fourth report stated:

We believe we are now seeing tangible results of the concerted efforts to renew the Public Service. First launched in 2006, public service renewal continues to be the top management priority led by the Clerk of the Privy Council. The past year has proven the value of having this strategy in place.

A systematic review of renewal priorities and a clear reporting of progress has been published each year through the clerk's annual reports to the Prime Minister. This has served us well, providing a means for demonstrating accountability, maintaining the momentum for change, and deepening the engagement of senior leaders, managers, and public servants in this endeavour. The sustained focus on renewal will continue so that the public service is well equipped to serve the government and Canadians now and into the future.

Merci, Madam Chair.

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Yasmin Ratansi

Thank you.

We will now go to Madam Meredith for her opening remarks.

3:40 p.m.

Daphne Meredith Chief Human Resources Officer, Treasury Board Secretariat

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I am the Chief Human Resources Officer. With me is the Assistant Deputy Minister, Compensation and Labour Relations, Hélène Laurendeau.

I am pleased to have this opportunity to talk about the public service, which is such a vitally important part of life in this country. The public service provides thousands of individual programs and services to Canadians in 1,600 points of service across Canada and in 180 countries. Public service employees work in dozens of different occupations. We have space explorers, Arctic explorers and almost everything in between. This includes food inspectors from Health Canada, volcanologists with Natural Resources Canada, and forensic scientists with Canada Border Services.

The range of jobs is incredibly vast, and we employ some of the most highly skilled people in the country. Many are internationally recognized for their expertise and their accomplishments. This makes us a key to Canada's competitiveness in a global economy.

This afternoon I would like to give you an overview of the size and composition of the public service, but first I'll start with my role and responsibilities.

As the chief human resources officer, my role is to represent the Government of Canada as the employer on human resources issues. I also provide strategic, enterprise-wide leadership on human resources management. In my employer role I am responsible for negotiating 27 collective agreements for the core public service, the largest single workplace in Canada.

My office also manages the largest pension and benefit programs in the country. In terms of enterprise leadership on human resources management, my office tracks and assesses overall performance in people management and promotes excellence in this field. We also establish common processes and policies for human resources management in the Government of Canada.

My office was created just over a year ago as part of the new regime announced by the Prime Minister to improve and streamline the management of human resources. This new regime is putting accountability for the management of human resources back in the hands of deputy ministers, where it belongs. My office plays a key role in ensuring that deputies have the flexibility to do this.

Parliament may be aware of our work through our extensive reporting. In fact we table eight reports annually, covering a number of topics, including employment equity, official languages, and human resources management.

I would now like to talk about trends in the federal public service. As indicated in the chart we distributed, the federal public service has about 523,000 employees. But for the purposes of our discussion today, I will be focusing on the roughly 274,000 employees who work in the federal public service.

The federal public service includes line departments like Health Canada, for which Treasury Board is the employer. It also includes separate agencies like the Canada Revenue Agency, which conduct their own negotiations with unionized employees. All these organizations are subject to similar human resources rules.

When we look at the 274,000 employees of the federal public service, we see that the vast majority of them—approximately 60%—work outside the National Capital Region or even outside Canada. Contrary to what many believe, the majority of public servants do not work in the National Capital Region.

As well, the vast majority of our employees are full-time. These employees are also called indeterminate and they make up about 86% of the workforce. However, this workforce is aging. On average, federal public service employees are 5.3 years older than workers in the general labour force. Despite these statistics, we expect that the number of public servants leaving government will stabilize at about 5% per year, which is 13,000 people.

Madam Chair, a well-planned and well-structured public service has great value. It is crucial to the success of our country in an increasingly complex world.

I am confident that the human resources changes we have made over the past few months will ensure that we continue advancing our commitment to renewing the public service and developing the next generation of employees.

I'll be happy to take your questions.

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Yasmin Ratansi

Thank you very much.

In the first round of questions, we'll go to Madam Hall Findlay for eight minutes.

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Willowdale, ON

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

Thank you very much to the witnesses for being with us here today.

My questions are going to be specifically for the PCO and Ms. Hassard. They will follow on some of the discussions we had with the president of the Treasury Board with regard to the PCO budget a little while ago, because, as you know, the title of our investigation is the study of the freeze on departmental budget envelopes and government operations.

If I may, I want to put a question into the record that I don't think you'll be able to answer today because it's asking for very specific numbers; however, I'd like to read it into the record so that at least we have it, and then I can ask you to provide the answers. This has to do with what is referred to as the third element of the government's plan to return the budget to balance, that element being to undertake, continue with, and, in some cases, augment a number of review processes aimed at reducing costs while improving efficiency, the idea being that over time this should result in a reduction in the size of the public service.

With respect specifically to the PCO, we had main estimates asking for a $13.4 million increase to $74.5 million in the PCO departmental budget for support and advice, which is a 22% increase. There was another increase specifically for advice and support to cabinet and cabinet committees. I think overall that meant a $15.1 million increase to $144 million.

If I can just read it into the record, this is one question: can you provide a detailed breakdown for PMO and PCO office expenditures for every year from 2005-06, so it would be on the public record? I'm asking because we are having a very hard time comparing line-by-line items. There seem to be differences year over year, and we're having a challenge making the comparison, so we're asking for your help in that. We would like a detailed breakdown of those expenditures on a line-by-line basis and, in that sense, the similar information for this past year, because it won't have been published. It would be based on this past year's budget numbers, I expect, until they get finalized, and then also as they fit with this current set of main estimates.

Madam Chair, could that be in the record, as well as a request to provide that information?

Do you have any sense of how long it might take to provide that kind of information for us?

3:45 p.m.

Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet, Senior Personnel and Public Service Renewal, Privy Council Office

Patricia Hassard

Madam Chairman, I think you'd be fairly surprised if I had the answer at my fingertips.

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Willowdale, ON

Right, but it would be a line-by-line--

3:45 p.m.

Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet, Senior Personnel and Public Service Renewal, Privy Council Office

Patricia Hassard

I will undertake to find that information. I will try to get it as soon as possible. I'm sure it is available.

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Willowdale, ON

Do you have a ballpark timeframe? We have to fit it into our work plan.

3:50 p.m.

Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet, Senior Personnel and Public Service Renewal, Privy Council Office

Patricia Hassard

Maybe a week? Or is that too long?

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Willowdale, ON

Brilliant. That would be terrific. Thank you very much.

I would also like to ask...and maybe you can answer now, but it might also take time to provide it. When we had the president of the Treasury Board here, he had been quoted in...referring to some of these increases.

As you may know, we expressed concern that budgets were being significantly increased this year, before the anticipated freeze next year. There was a worry that there was an element of padding so that by the time we hit the freeze next year, it wouldn't really affect the PCO the way it would affect other departments.

I note in your report that it sounds very positive. In one case the minister referred to $6.4 million being used to redress a “chronic underfunding”, which doesn't necessarily jive with your report today. He also referred to certain items that were extraordinary, such as winding down offices for the Olympics, and the G8 and G20.

We really would like a confirmation of what items are being regarded now in this budget as requiring increases because they're extraordinary, and which ones are not, and therefore which ones we can look at as not being included in the frozen amounts.

If that could be included in that information, that would be great.

3:50 p.m.

Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet, Senior Personnel and Public Service Renewal, Privy Council Office

Patricia Hassard

Thank you. I think I understand the question, and I will undertake to get the detailed answer.

Just as an overall comment, I do think it's been a somewhat extraordinary year for the Privy Council Office with the G8, the G20, the Olympics, the Afghanistan task force. So there probably are some unusual expenses in there.

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Willowdale, ON

We actually acknowledged that there were. Our concern was that those extraordinary items would somehow add to the figure that gets frozen. We're of the view that if they're extraordinary they should not actually be included in the frozen figure the next time around.

I have another question on a slightly different topic, but related of course to the Privy Council and the Privy Council's activities. It all affects what is done with the money that we spend. The Privy Council is responsible for maintaining the highest standards of professionalism and ethics in the public service of Canada--that's among the responsibilities. Just really quickly, to whom is the PCO ultimately responsible?

3:50 p.m.

Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet, Senior Personnel and Public Service Renewal, Privy Council Office

Patricia Hassard

I think we're responsible to the Prime Minister, as the minister designated for our department.