Evidence of meeting #35 for Veterans Affairs in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was process.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Heather Parry  Assistant Deputy Minister, Corporate Services, Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Charlotte Stewart  Director General, Service Delivery and Program Management, Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Bernard Butler  Director General, Policy and Research Division, Department of Veterans Affairs

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Eve Adams Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Can you tell me about the memorial program and the new money that is in there for that? It's the Canada remembrance program. We had forecast spending of $44 million for that, which will be up to $47.4 million in 2012-23. I'm looking at page 13.

3:50 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Corporate Services, Department of Veterans Affairs

Heather Parry

Yes, I think this was the first year that the community program was included in the main estimates. That is probably where that difference comes in.

3:50 p.m.

Director General, Policy and Research Division, Department of Veterans Affairs

Bernard Butler

I'm trying to find it here.

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Greg Kerr

Perhaps I could suggest, since we're out of time, that you find that answer and come back to us.

3:50 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Corporate Services, Department of Veterans Affairs

Heather Parry

Yes, we'll come back.

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Eve Adams Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Thank you very much.

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Greg Kerr

Mr. Andrews.

By the way, welcome back to the committee.

May 17th, 2012 / 3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Andrews Avalon, NL

It's a pleasure. I was explaining to Ms. Stewart that this is where I started out in '08. It doesn't seem that long ago, but time has gone fast.

I have a couple of questions. Recently, 200 client service officers received letters advising them that they would be impacted by the transformation deficit reduction plan, and they were also told they could apply for the 74 jobs that would be maintained.

Is that factual? Is that correct? Exactly how are they to re-apply for these jobs? What is the process for this reduction? Is everyone starting from a level playing field again and will they have to re-apply? How will this work itself out?

3:50 p.m.

Director General, Service Delivery and Program Management, Department of Veterans Affairs

Charlotte Stewart

I'll begin, and Heather may want to add something from a human resource perspective.

First of all, you're speaking about a group in the department, the client service agents. There are approximately 250 client service agents. Over the last year and more...and certainly as we look forward into transformation and introduce more technology and streamline our processes, some of the work they are currently doing will be eliminated. They'll no longer be doing certain routine administrative functions, and technology will have an impact on certain of their duties as well. In fairness to this group of individuals, the decision was made that we would carry out a departmental process that would be managed at a national level.

We are managing most of our cuts through attrition, and that will be our main objective. It's good human resource planning and moving people to where the jobs are needed, but at this point in time we decided that in fairness we should embark on a process. With regard to the actual steps involved, Heather can speak to those.

3:50 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Corporate Services, Department of Veterans Affairs

Heather Parry

There's a process. It's called the selection for employee retention and lay-off. Basically, as you indicated, all of the client service agents received a letter in April advising them that their positions were affected.

We then have a process that all client service agents will go through, all of whom are considered qualified for their job. This will look at which employees will be retained. It's a staffing process that looks at competencies, or in other words is competency-based. We have had a number of staff who have already indicated that they have plans to retire and that they will not be undergoing the process. So at the end of the day, the number of staff who may be declared surplus will be reduced from the original 75 we had thought of.

It's a standard, fair, and transparent process that we're using across the country. Managers are involved in the selection process. Staff have received information packages to advise them of how the process will unfold. And such communication needs to continue on an ongoing basis, because, as you can imagine, employees have lots of questions and we want to make sure that we can communicate with them.

We're expecting the processes to take place over the next number of months and staff will be advised of the outcome of those as soon as the processes are complete. At that point, the managers will make decisions on how we're going to move forward at that time.

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Andrews Avalon, NL

So will these employees have to reapply for their old jobs? Is that how this is working?

3:55 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Corporate Services, Department of Veterans Affairs

Heather Parry

They're not reapplying for their old jobs. What we're doing is determining which jobs are going to be retained as a result of the reduction of 75 positions.

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Andrews Avalon, NL

Okay.

Will Veterans Affairs require greater call centre capacity as a result of the transformation? Will that come from the public sector? Or will that be a combination of the public sector and Veterans Affairs?

3:55 p.m.

Director General, Service Delivery and Program Management, Department of Veterans Affairs

Charlotte Stewart

We have a national call centre network, as you know. We have four centres right now, and we answer between 900,000 and a million calls a year, so the volume is quite high. However, with the transformation, and as we work on reducing the complexity of our programs and services and on increasing our ability to serve some veterans who wish to use Internet-based service delivery and other technologies, we're actually seeing the reduced costs at the call centre at this time. So there's been a slight reduction. We believe that those reductions will continue over time as we move through transformation and see the impact, in particular, of our business process re-engineering.

Many of our calls right now to the call centres are follow-up calls from veterans seeking information on applications they have put in for disability pensions, for instance, or for the veterans independence program. We've reduced the turnaround times, for instance, for disability pensions. We reduced it by over 70%. We've gone from 24 weeks to 16 weeks, which is very significant. The calls are actually declining, so I guess at this point in time I would not say that we will have an increased need for call centres.

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Andrews Avalon, NL

You mentioned, Ms. Parry—