Evidence of meeting #22 for Government Operations and Estimates in the 41st Parliament, 1st 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

  • Mario Dion  Interim Public Sector Integrity Commissioner, Public Sector Integrity Canada

4:25 p.m.

Interim Public Sector Integrity Commissioner, Public Sector Integrity Canada

Mario Dion

And the performance appraisals of those responsible will be based on achieving that objective.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Braid Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Excellent. That's always a good motivation.

Now, is this too new for us to have any results yet, or do we have any initial results with respect to this service standard?

4:25 p.m.

Interim Public Sector Integrity Commissioner, Public Sector Integrity Canada

Mario Dion

I don't have results yet, because we started that only in September. We had to deal with the backlog before we could do that.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Braid Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Great. Thank you.

My third question deals with the importance of outreach in education, and you've referred to this a couple of times. I understand entirely why it's important to make sure there is awareness of the role and the mandate of your office within the federal government. You also mentioned that it's important to educate the general public at large. Could you explain why that's the case?

4:25 p.m.

Interim Public Sector Integrity Commissioner, Public Sector Integrity Canada

Mario Dion

Under the act, a member of the general public can also disclose. The criteria and the conditions are somewhat different, but members of the public have access to this act as well if they witness a wrongdoing as defined under the act.

I would venture to guess that a small proportion of 34 million Canadians actually know they have this right under the act, so I have to find an economical, effective way of reaching those Canadians.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Braid Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

You and I just have, right now.

4:25 p.m.

Interim Public Sector Integrity Commissioner, Public Sector Integrity Canada

Mario Dion

That's right, on CPAC as we speak.

4:25 p.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Braid Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

That's right.

Lastly, I'd like to learn a bit more about your process with respect to investigations. Could you just explain how the process works, and how you ensure the investigations conducted by your office are fair and comprehensive and timely?

4:25 p.m.

Interim Public Sector Integrity Commissioner, Public Sector Integrity Canada

Mario Dion

First of all, only the commissioner can decide to undertake an investigation. When somebody makes a complaint, it's analyzed, and a recommendation is made to me as to whether to conduct an investigation. If I agree with the recommendation and we launch an investigation, it's assigned to one of our six professional investigators, two-thirds of whom were recruited after December of last year. They have areas of expertise. Some are more at ease with financial matters; some are more at ease with HR matters, and so on. They prepare an investigation plan, which they submit to the director of operations, also recently recruited. We have a person at the executive level 1, EX-01 level, who is the director of operations. That person assigns cases, reviews investigation plans, including milestones and dates, and decides who will be interviewed about what, and so on.

This is part of our case management system, so I'm able to follow on a daily basis, if I wish, what's happening in every investigation—from a process point of view, but not from a substance point of view, because I should not reach a conclusion before it's over.

December 13th, 2011 / 4:30 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Pat Martin

Thank you, Peter.

Thank you, Mr. Dion.

The next round is the NDP's round, but I have asked to share a couple of minutes, as the chair's prerogative, because I will confess a particular interest in this matter. In fact, over ten years ago my dear friend, the late Reg Alcock, and I worked on this very committee in trying to form Bill C-25.

My concern now, Mr. Dion, is that I was on the committee when Christiane Ouimet sat where you're sitting now, and she sounded pretty good too. We all approved her with some enthusiasm. In actual fact, we failed whistle-blowers profoundly. I mean, as much courage as it takes to be a whistle-blower...we promised them a safe place and we failed them, and it infuriates me, having been dedicated to this issue for as long as I have.

I have a letter here that was written to me by a former integrity commissioner, Mr. Keyserlingk. He says, “...I am frankly appalled about the government appointment yesterday...”--this was a year ago--“of Mario Dion as interim PSIC...”. Nothing to denigrate the qualifications of Monsieur Dion, he says, but he believes that once again we have appointed a senior manager, a deputy minister from the public service, and in a six-page letter he goes on to explain why that is a disastrous idea.

The only empirical evidence and the only actual experience we have of appointing a senior public servant to this position has been a catastrophic failure, and may have poisoned the well for a generation of public servants. Because who would come forward now? Let's say you're lying awake at night as a public servant who has some knowledge of some wrongdoing and asking, “Should I risk my family's future and my income by coming forward and telling my story, or should I just zip up, shut up, and stay quiet?” They look at what happened to those 220 or 230 people who did come forward--they got screwed--and if I were a public servant, my conclusion would be “I think I'd better just shut up, keep doing my job, and let this wrongdoing continue”.

It may take a generation before public servants can actually trust your office.

I know that's more of a comment than a question, but I am really, really concerned that we're ignoring the advice of a former integrity commissioner, even though I have no problem with your qualifications or your integrity as a person, and I'm sure you were an excellent public servant. Maybe it's just a serious mistake to appoint a senior public servant. I mean, those are your friends who you have to rat out. If somebody comes to you and says he knows a deputy minister over there in the Department of Justice who is taking the car home on weekends, that's the guy you used to work with.

4:30 p.m.

Interim Public Sector Integrity Commissioner, Public Sector Integrity Canada

Mario Dion

I would like to make a few comments too. I haven't seen the letter that you are mentioning, Mr. Chairman, and I have not met Dr. Keyserlingk, ever. I've heard his name, of course, and I know of him, but we have never met. He has expertise on matters of ethics, and I know that too.

The fact is, as I alluded to a few minutes ago, the number of complaints is on the rise. People are coming to our office and they are coming more--40% more since the beginning of this fiscal year than the year before. So this is one measurement of the fact that some confidence does exist on the part of some, in spite of the events of last year. It will take time. I fully agree with you that it will take years to build. When we say “rebuild the confidence”...I'm not sure it was ever there.

It's a long-term process. These matters are very sensitive. People will judge on evidence much more than they will ever judge on words. When we have several case reports and we have people who are reprimanded or whose employment is terminated because they took reprisal actions, this will speak more than anything I can do on the Web or in speeches.

4:35 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Pat Martin

Thank you, Mr. Dion.

There is only a minute and a half left, so I have to give it to my colleague, Alexandre Boulerice.

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Dion, you indicated in your presentation having created a standing advisory committee made up of three NGOs that are directly interested in the work of your commission, namely FAIR, Canadians for Accountability and Democracy Watch. I would like those people to be heard so that we can have every point of view and every question in order to make an informed decision. I am moving a motion.

4:35 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Pat Martin

Are you making a motion, Alexandre?