Evidence of meeting #47 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 million.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

4:25 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Canadian Heritage

Daniel Jean

I won't pretend to be a historian. What is important is that the renovations are completed. Once the renovations are completed, of course, they have more space for exhibits and things like that. What you're seeing here is an adjustment that was made to the operating expenses of the museum.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Braid Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Excellent.

The Museum of Nature, I'm pretty certain, does a great job of raising and receiving private money to sponsor exhibits at the museum. Could you confirm that?

4:25 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Canadian Heritage

Daniel Jean

All our museums do. René can provide more details on that. We did a comparative analysis a few years ago on how they compare, let's say, to the Smithsonian and other museums around the world. Of course, the nominal sums are not the same, but in terms of percentage, our museums do a pretty good job of raising money.

René.

4:25 p.m.

Executive Director, Portfolio Affairs, Department of Canadian Heritage

René Bouchard

In the case of the Museum of Nature, in 2011-12 it raised $4 million to help provide exhibits and show new artifacts.

In the case of other museums, the amount is different. For instance, in the case of the Museum of Civilization, I think it amounts to $16 million. It depends on what they have in terms of tools to raise money. As Mr. Jean indicated, they're all doing very well.

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Braid Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Wonderful.

Just switching gears, speaking of celebrating Canadian history, with respect to the War of 1812, why do you think it's important for Canadians to celebrate and commemorate the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812?

4:30 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Canadian Heritage

Daniel Jean

It's interesting. We brought in a very famous American historian—Alan Taylor. He has studied that a lot, and he's actually been using the Library and Archives as a place for research. In his view, this is fundamental, because if the invasion had not been repelled there would probably be a different country. In the context of repelling the invasion itself, it was the French, the English, and the first nations getting together in terms of repelling the invaders. Of course, there can be different views on this, but some people think that's a pretty important moment in history.

4:30 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Pat Martin

That concludes your time.

Thank you, Mr. Jean and your fellow witnesses.

I would perhaps give you one chance just to clarify the record, because I heard you say that the construction of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights was “a circus”. Was that incorrect?

4:30 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Canadian Heritage

Daniel Jean

I never said that, sir.

4:30 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Pat Martin

I see. Okay. That's why I intervened earlier and clarified how proud we are of that project. If no one heard you say that, then let the record show you didn't say it. Fair enough.

Thank you very much for being with us here today, gentlemen.

We're going to suspend briefly while we welcome our next panel.

4:35 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Pat Martin

Good afternoon again, ladies and gentlemen. We'll reconvene our meeting, the study of the main estimates for the Department of Canadian Heritage.

The four Heritage votes that are referred to this committee are four agencies: the Public Service Commission of Canada, and we welcome Anne-Marie Robinson, president; the Public Service Staffing Tribunal, Guy Giguère, chairperson; the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Tribunal, Lisanne Lacroix, registrar and deputy head; and the Public Service Labour Relations Board, Casper Bloom, chairperson.

Welcome to all of you and thank you for being with us today. We would welcome your opening remarks, and then I think we will just have time for one round of questioning, because we do have to do the votes on the estimates before the conclusion of our meeting today. We'll see how the questioning goes, but we'll begin with opening remarks, whoever would like to begin.

Ms. Robinson, welcome.

May 28th, 2012 / 4:35 p.m.

Anne-Marie Robinson President, Public Service Commission of Canada

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair and honourable members.

I'd like to thank you for the opportunity to meet with you this afternoon to discuss our main estimates and our report on plans and priorities for this fiscal year. The Public Service Commission is accountable to Parliament for safeguarding the integrity of the public service staffing system and the political impartiality of public servants.

In our main estimates for 2012-13, the PSC is authorized to spend $92.7 million and it has an authority to recover up to $14 million of the costs of our counselling and assessment services and products provided to federal organizations.

Mr. Chair, the main estimates do not reflect the contributions that the PSC is making to Budget 2012. As a result, the PSC's budget will be reduced by $8.9 million. This is a reduction of 10% of the review base, and it will be implemented over a period of three years.

In developing our proposals for reduction, the PSC was guided by several imperatives. Our priority was to protect our ability to carry out our mandate. We focused on ensuring that the PSC will continue to be able to inform and support Parliament as well as support departments, conduct effective oversight, and deliver innovative staffing and assessment services to departments. The PSC will achieve its reduction targets through a variety of means, including redesigning work processes; leveraging advancements in technologies; and benefiting from mature audit and investigation methodologies.

Mr. Chair, I wish to inform this committee that the PSC was able to contribute its share while maintaining its ability to carry out its mandate. As a result of our reductions, some 87 positions will be eliminated over the next three years. Through vacancy management and attrition, we have already achieved a reduction of 38 positions. As a result, up to 49 PSC employees may be declared surplus. All PSC employees who are directly impacted have been personally informed. I am also pleased to inform the committee that seven of the employees declared surplus have since been placed in other jobs.

In order to minimize the number of involuntary departures from the PSC, staffing controls will remain in place at our Executive Management Committee for the foreseeable future. This period will be difficult for organizations and for employees. I can assure you that, at the PSC, all employees affected by these reductions will be treated with respect.

Now I'd like to turn to our strategic priorities for this year. They reflect the evolving context for the public service and set the course for our organization in responding effectively to those realities.

This brings me to the support that the PSC has provided and will continue to provide to the departments and agencies in responding to their staffing activities related to workforce adjustment. While Treasury Board Secretariat has the lead responsibility in managing workforce adjustment, the PSC has two specific roles with respect to workforce adjustment: first, by providing policy guidance and support to departments in selecting employees for retention or layoff; and second, in managing priority entitlements.

We recently updated our policy guidance tools to provide managers with more detailed and concrete guidance on how to run merit-based structured processes for selecting employees who will be retained or laid off. To date, the Public Service Commission has provided intensive training to some 3,700 managers and human resource advisers. Our approach has been to support departments to ensure that their decisions are based on merit and their processes are fair and transparent.

The PSC is also responsible for managing priority entitlements. Under our legislation and regulations, priority persons are eligible to be appointed ahead of all others to vacant positions in the public service, provided they meet the essential qualifications of the positions. Surplus employees and laid off individuals have entitlements to priority appointments. These entitlements help the public service retain and redeploy skilled and competent people and therefore avoid the cost of hiring new employees.

The PSC is responsible for ensuring that these entitlements are respected, and it does so through the priority administration program. During this time of transition, it is critical that this program functions well, as the priority system will become a key source of public service hiring over the next couple of years. Internally, we have reallocated resources to this important program and we continue to closely monitor its performance.

Now I would like to turn to our responsibility for conducting independent oversight on behalf of Parliament. We do this through our audits, investigations and ongoing monitoring. Our oversight findings also enable organizations to improve their staffing performance.

Mr. Chair, in a time of restraint and reduced hiring, our staffing values take on greater importance. We continue to work with stakeholders, particularly the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer and bargaining agents.

We want to ensure that our policies, guides, tools and programs provide effective direction and support, and we will continue to adapt them to reflect changing needs. A more effective priority administration program will play a key role in hiring.

However, the public service may need to conduct recruitment for those occupational groups where there are shortages. We will also continue to conduct effective and enabling oversight and report to Parliament, all the while focusing especially on those higher-risk areas of activity.

Thank you. We will be happy to take your questions when it is convenient to do so.

4:40 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Pat Martin

Thank you very much, Ms. Robinson.

Next we will hear from the Public Service Staffing Tribunal, Mr. Guy Giguère.

4:40 p.m.

Guy Giguère Chairperson, Public Service Staffing Tribunal

Mr. Chair, Vice-Chairs and honourable members, thank you for this opportunity to appear before you to explain the operations of the Public Service Staffing Tribunal, a first time visit for us.

This year marks our seventh year as the Public Service Staffing Tribunal. The tribunal was established in 2005 under the Public Service Employment Act, as an independent, quasi-judicial body to address complaints related to internal appointments and lay-offs in the federal public service, in other words, staffing matters.

Our legislated mandate is to provide adjudication and mediation of complaints. We are also called upon to interpret and apply the Canadian Human Rights Act in certain situations. In fulfilling our mandate, we conduct hearings, mediations and settlement conferences. The outcome we seek is the fair and impartial resolution of these disputes.

The unpredictable number and complexity of our caseload represent a constant challenge. We have seen an increase in the number of complaints, from 400 in 2006 to nearly 1,900 in the last fiscal year, for an annual average of almost 1,000 complaints over the last five years.

Our vision, from the outset, was to put in place a complaint resolution process that promotes the settlement of complaints. That is why over 90% of complaints are either resolved or withdrawn at some point during the process. Generally, we close 70% to 80% of files within nine months of receiving the complaint.

ln 2011-2012, we held over 40 hearings, 227 mediations, and 38 settlement conferences. In addition to the decisions on our web site, we also issued 1,159 unpublished decisions with respect to motions filed by the parties. These decisions were usually issued within a matter of days.

Settlement conferences have recently been added to the tribunal's "tool kit" to assist with case load and to provide another mechanism for parties to resolving their dispute.

Of note, 82% of mediations result in a withdrawal of the complaint while 74% of cases scheduled for a settlement conference also result in a withdrawal.

Since its inception, the tribunal has managed its ever growing case load and the increasing complexity of complaints through innovation, increased efficiencies and case management processes. This has allowed us to deliver our mandate within our allocated budget and to maintain our operating costs to a reasonable level. Some of these include: settlement conferences; telephone/video conferencing for mediations and settlement conferences; an expedited hearing pilot project for 2012-2013, which limits the hearing to one day with reasons provided in a shorter time frame for less complex cases; part-time mediators in the regions; early case management and consolidation of cases for hearing whenever possible.

While these on-going improvements aim to reduce time and cost required for both the parties and the tribunal, they also simplify the complaint process, improve its timeliness and help ensure that parties to a complaint achieve more satisfactory results and make good use of dispute resolution mechanisms available.

ln closing, I wish to emphasize that our objective is to provide parties with opportunities to resolve complaints effectively and to deliver decisions that are fair, consistent and well-reasoned.

In closing, I would like to thank you for your invitation and the opportunity to meet with you and answer your questions.

4:45 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Pat Martin

Thank you very much, Mr. Giguère.

Next, from the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Tribunal, we have Lisanne Lacroix.

4:45 p.m.

Lisanne Lacroix Registrar and Deputy Head, Public Servants Disclosure Protection Tribunal

Thank you, Mr. Chair, for this opportunity to meet with you today.

I have with me Ms. Virginia Adamson, the registry's senior counsel, should there be questions of a legal nature.

I'm happy to answer any questions the honourable committee members may have, but first, with your indulgence, I would like to make a few brief introductory remarks.

The registry of the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Tribunal was established in 2007 to support a new tribunal charged with the duty of protecting public servants who report wrongdoing in the federal public sector. The tribunal hears complaints of reprisal referred by the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner. It has the power to order remedies in favour of complainants and disciplinary sanctions against public servants who take reprisals. The tribunal consists of Federal Court judges who free themselves when necessary to hear cases.

The tribunal got off to a rocky start for reasons that we all know. However, the tribunal has everything it requires, at the present time, to fulfill its mandate under the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act. The chairperson, the Honourable Luc Martineau, was appointed by the Governor in Council in June 2010 for a four-year term. The members of the tribunal, the Honourable Sean Harrington and the Honourable Marie-Josée Bédard, were appointed in March 2011, for a four-year and five-year term, respectively. The tribunal has adopted rules of procedure, which were published in the Canada Gazette, and the registry has posted, on its website, a procedural guide to help parties understand tribunal proceedings. It has also set up a consultation committee, made up of the tribunal's clients, to ensure the efficiency and effectiveness of proceedings.

The tribunal received its first application for a hearing from the Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner in May 2011. Since then, two other applications have been sent to the tribunal. The tribunal has rendered five interlocutory decisions on jurisdiction and procedure, decisions which clarify the scope of the act and the role of the tribunal. The future decisions of the tribunal will bring greater clarity and will allow Canadians to assess the effectiveness of the act.

Since its establishment in 2007, the registry has never spent its full budget. Although it is very difficult to predict the number of cases the tribunal will hear this year, and consequently to assess the human and financial resource requirements to continue to support the tribunal in carrying out its mandate, the registry expects to spend its entire funding allocation this year. According to the latest information, there are about 20 reprisal complaints being investigated by the Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner.

That said, the registry will continue to ensure that public funds are managed with prudence and probity and that resources are used effectively, efficiently, and economically to achieve objectives.

Thank you.