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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 management.

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

4:40 p.m.

Chief Human Resources Officer, Treasury Board Secretariat

Daphne Meredith

I would not normally talk about details of advice or any other--

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Liberal Willowdale, ON

I'm sorry to be blunt, but we have very little time.

4:45 p.m.

Chief Human Resources Officer, Treasury Board Secretariat

Daphne Meredith

We do, of course, provide advice on every budget, as we did on this one.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Liberal Willowdale, ON

My question, then, goes to what seems to be a lack of information. Several of my colleagues have been asking how this is going to happen and what the different ministries are going to be doing in terms of dealing with the freeze.

I'm hearing you say, fairly glowingly--actually, Ms. Hassard suggested somewhat the same in the report--that yes, you will be hiring people, and yes, you are going to be looking for renewal and hiring the best people and wanting to recruit. As a former business person, if I'm looking at a budget freeze, it's a bit inconsistent to talk glowingly about all the people we're going to continue to hire.

Have you been consulted, are you engaged in discussions now, and do you have a plan on how you're going to reconcile continuing to hire with an across-the-board departmental freeze next year for every department? If so, how is that jelling with what you're now saying, which continues to sound very rosy with your hiring and renewal plans?

4:45 p.m.

Chief Human Resources Officer, Treasury Board Secretariat

Daphne Meredith

Thanks for the question.

I certainly have a plan for my own organization. I have a plan to work with my assistant deputy ministers to look at the staffing we're doing and to make sure we're continuing to staff. I also want to support deputy ministers with respect to human resources management. I cited an initiative that we're undertaking with them on business processes, one that can lead to great efficiencies in the future. Those kinds of measures will be really useful for deputies who need to control their operating budgets to that level.

I think some of the feedback from the budget was a certain positive response that we were controlling at the right level. We weren't micromanaging expenditures on this and that from the centre. Instead, we were leaving it to departments to determine how they were going to meet the freeze in a way that maintained service levels, and I think gave them flexibility.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Yasmin Ratansi

Madam Coady, you have one minute.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Siobhan Coady Liberal St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

I have just one...because we have a circle going on here.

In your report, you said that this “new regime is putting accountability for the management of human resources management back in the hands of deputy ministers”, and that your key role is ensuring that deputies have the flexibility to do this.

So you do have an oversight mechanism. You are part of Treasury Board. You have a plan. You support the HR function. Deputy ministers have to come to Treasury Board for their requirements, so there has to be some kind of plan for this budget freeze. If it doesn't rest with you, whom does it rest with? It rests with deputy ministers. They have to report back to Treasury Board.

Can you close that circle? You can't have 124 deputy ministers come before the committee, so you must close that loop for me, if you would, please.

4:45 p.m.

Chief Human Resources Officer, Treasury Board Secretariat

Daphne Meredith

Not everything that every ministry does has to be approved by Treasury Board, but of course things that do need to be approved by Treasury Board go through that.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Siobhan Coady Liberal St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Money does have to be approved, so if the money goes up or money goes down, it has to be approved by Treasury Board.

4:45 p.m.

Chief Human Resources Officer, Treasury Board Secretariat

Daphne Meredith

There's some latitude for departments to reallocate funding within their own budgets to meet requirements. Speaking for myself, I can reallocate. I can move staff from one area to another without going to Treasury Board. I can look at my program and how I want to deliver it most efficiently and shift staff around within my own purview, as other departments can. Not every single thing needs Treasury Board approval.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Yasmin Ratansi

No. Perhaps you could clarify, at the end, that you're not the deputy minister of Treasury Board; you're the chief financial officer who's responsible for 27 collective agreements. How does your role, in terms of being responsible for collective agreements, tie into budgets being done?

That way, perhaps we'd have clarity. At the moment it is confusing as to what your role really is. If you could, do it at the end.

Monsieur Gourde...

Yes, sir.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder Conservative London West, ON

On a point of order, Madam Chair, twice now in this meeting we've had a member opposite ask a question with respect to discussions that have taken place between Privy Council Office and...but I'd like to reference, if I may, page 1,068, chapter 20. I'd like to quote this briefly:

Particular attention is paid to the questioning of public servants. The obligation of a witness to answer all questions put by the committee must be balanced against the role that public servants play in providing confidential advice to their Ministers. The role of the public servant has traditionally been viewed in relation to the implementation and administration of government policy--

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Yasmin Ratansi

May I cut you off, Mr. Holder? I'll tell you why.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder Conservative London West, ON

No, Madam Chair, you cannot, because I am two sentences away. We're going to talk longer than this if you don't let me finish, please.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Yasmin Ratansi

Sorry; the clerk is telling me that this is not a point of order, this is a point of debate as to the interpretation.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder Conservative London West, ON

No, Madam Chair, in fact I would look to you, please, as chair, to challenge when someone asks a question that frankly is not appropriate.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Yasmin Ratansi

I think we did when they were asking the question. When Mr. Julian did, I had to allow Mr. Warkentin, and his point of order was well taken. His intervention was well taken, and Mr. Julian was advised that this is really dealing with...

That's why I came back that this is the chief human resources officer, so when you are asking questions, please couch them under the domain of demographics.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder Conservative London West, ON

But my point of order is to you, Madam Chair, because I think you do have the opportunity and the obligation to have an intervention to say that's not a question that is appropriate.

4:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Yasmin Ratansi

Thank you.

We'll proceed.

Mr. Gourde, for five minutes.

March 29th, 2010 / 4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Conservative Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

I have a concern about the people leaving for retirement. I think that you already said, earlier, that the average age of retirement was 57. Consequently, these are people with a great deal of experience.

Do they automatically have to leave their jobs, or can they stay on for a few years, given the challenges and the interests that they have? I am convinced that there are people who are very interested in continuing their careers. Is that possible?

4:50 p.m.

Chief Human Resources Officer, Treasury Board Secretariat

Daphne Meredith

Yes. There is no explicit age of retirement where people are forced to retire. They're quite able to stay on.

I'd like to correct something for the record. My colleague has just given me the age of retirement as it was in 2008-09. I guess that's an average over that year. I underestimated, because it's 58.6 years.

But yes, they can stay beyond that. It's their choice as to when they retire.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Conservative Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Thank you very much.

Regarding the people whose expertise you are losing, I am convinced that there is a process for transmitting knowledge to the next generation. The replacement of experienced employees must be done through a complete step-by-step process.

Could this create difficulties with human resources over the coming years? Could there be some sectors where you will not have enough time to train high-level managers or international representatives of Canada, for example? Are you going to be able to face this great challenge?

4:50 p.m.

Chief Human Resources Officer, Treasury Board Secretariat

Daphne Meredith

Thanks for the question. It is a very good question.

We are, as I mentioned, facing accelerated retirement now, 3.3% a year on average in recent years. So we do need to concentrate on how we are retaining the knowledge. Part of how we're trying to do it is anticipating retirements before they come up and ensuring that the knowledge and skills that those people have are explicitly being transferred through coaching or mentoring of new staff coming along.

Part of it is in identifying when people are going to be retiring. They do have flexibility, and sometimes people don't want to say when they're going to retire. That can be a bit of an issue for us.

I think trying to transfer skills person-to-person through coaching and mentoring, as well as ensuring that we have the kind of information systems that capture what we need from their corporate memories, are also important.

4:50 p.m.

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

Patricia Hassard

I referred to a scorecard earlier. Perhaps I could just clarify that this is a scorecard that gives the results of deputies' commitments in the public service renewal action plans. We've had three of them so far, and the fourth one will be issued shortly. In it there will be a specific commitment for deputy ministers to assure themselves that knowledge transfer practices are taken into consideration for succession planning and talent management and for any of their critical positions.

So we're very aware of this as a live issue. We are asking that community to report on their efforts.

4:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Yasmin Ratansi

One minute, Monsieur Gourde.