Evidence of meeting #132 for Government Operations and Estimates in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was phoenix.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Les Linklater  Associate Deputy Minister, Department of Public Works and Government Services
Marty Muldoon  Chief Financial Officer, Finance and Administration Branch, Department of Public Works and Government Services
Michael Vandergrift  Associate Deputy Minister, Department of Public Works and Government Services
Marie Lemay  Deputy Minister, Department of Public Works and Government Services
Ron Parker  President, Shared Services Canada

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

No, that's not my question. You just said everything has been approved by Treasury Board already, that's in the main estimates, hence it's in your departmental plan.

11:55 a.m.

Chief Financial Officer, Finance and Administration Branch, Department of Public Works and Government Services

Marty Muldoon

Of course, yes.

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

You've already gone through the Treasury Board process. Everything that's missing came out....

11:55 a.m.

Chief Financial Officer, Finance and Administration Branch, Department of Public Works and Government Services

Marty Muldoon

For the main estimates, everything at some point in its history would have been through a Treasury Board process. If it's steady state, ongoing operations, it doesn't go back over and over again. It's steady state. It's in our appropriations for you to vote on.

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

How would the items be detailed in the Public Accounts, please, of this money?

11:55 a.m.

Chief Financial Officer, Finance and Administration Branch, Department of Public Works and Government Services

Marty Muldoon

Well, the Public Accounts is the end of the year expenditures incurred on behalf of the departments of whatever funding was brought in.

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

The reason I ask, the Parliamentary Budget Officer's appeared and testified that the money will only show up as a lump sum. It won't be detailed like traditional Public Accounts or spending items that are in the main estimates.

11:55 a.m.

Chief Financial Officer, Finance and Administration Branch, Department of Public Works and Government Services

Marty Muldoon

Well, we're really into two different worlds. The Public Accounts is the end of the year accounting of the expenditures incurred by the department in a—

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

I'm just asking, how will it be...?

11:55 a.m.

Chief Financial Officer, Finance and Administration Branch, Department of Public Works and Government Services

Marty Muldoon

It will be published the way the Public Accounts always publish our documented financial statements accounting for the expenditures.

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

You're saying you're going to identify, detail, all the $653 million, individually, just like regular public accounts spending. That's different from what the PBO says.

11:55 a.m.

Chief Financial Officer, Finance and Administration Branch, Department of Public Works and Government Services

Marty Muldoon

I'm not familiar with what the PBO said.

11:55 a.m.

Marie Lemay Deputy Minister, Department of Public Works and Government Services

That would be our expectation, though, to provide—

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

It all goes back to transparency and taking away accountability. The whole reason Parliament exists is that, as the old saying is, “That which touches all should be approved by all”, yet we have $7 billion in vote 40. We've heard from Privy Council. Now we're hearing from your department that this money is just pre-approved through Treasury Board without actually being scrutinized by Parliament, whether by me, my NDP colleagues, or your own Liberal colleagues, so it's a great concern.

11:55 a.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Public Works and Government Services

Marie Lemay

That's not what we said. We were talking about the main estimates. We're not talking about the $653 million.

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

No, I'm talking about the $653 million for PSPC that's in the budget in table A2.11. Why is it not in the departmental plans if they are items that are to be approved in the main estimates that we won't even get a chance...?

Normally, you would appear before us, justify what the costs are, but we're hearing that we don't have the detailed costs. Yet we're expected to approve them.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Yasmin Ratansi

Thank you.

We now go to Mr. Eyking for five minutes.

Welcome to the committee.

May 10th, 2018 / 11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

I thank the minister and everybody for being here.

I believe and many believe it's important for the minister to get away from the Ottawa bubble and get away from the top bureaucrats sometimes and get to the front-line workers who are out there working around the country. It's my understanding you visited Miramichi. We all know what they've gone through over many years.

They had the system of the gun registry and the Conservatives changed that. There was a new system put in place and probably not enough employees, and those employees were forced to transfer there, and the new system was not very good. So this government inherited the fiasco. We've had a couple of years and a couple of ministers.

What was your feeling when you were there, when you talked to the employees? Are they feeling more hopeful? How was it? Tell us exactly what you sensed and felt from them, what they went through, and what they're hoping to see in the future?

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Carla Qualtrough Liberal Delta, BC

Last Friday I was in Miramichi. We announced the opening of a state-of-the-art pay centre and the rollout of the pod pilot project. I spent quite some time with some really important focus groups with some very candid and thoughtful employees. They shared with me both the struggles they've had over the past two years going through all this change and the feeling of bearing the weight of the world on their shoulders that they can't pay their colleagues in Victoria, that they haven't been able to resolve this or slay this dragon. It was demoralizing.

I felt a very different tone from the focus group I did with the employees in the pod project, who have seen success and feel like they have a plan. Their respectful request to me was that we don't get in their way. They think this is the way to deal with this and to support them and to build the capacity around them, and to focus ministerial priorities on getting these pods implemented and rolled out within capacity limits as soon as possible.

I think there's still a frustration amongst employees, not at all to the same extent in terms of their not maybe having the tools, like they felt in the past, or not being very clear on how they could solve this, but that it's not being resolved as quickly as they would like. They want to help their fellow public servants. They're hired with this big idea that they're going to come in and we're going to slay this dragon and it takes time.

I talked to a union representative who said that he's noticed an absolute change in the demeanor and morale. I heard about a woman who historically has spent some time every spring on stress leave, and this was the first time in three years she hasn't taken that stress leave because she feels like she's supported. So the morale has definitely improved. I would say significantly, but you may have noticed I have a penchant for optimism.

I left there hopeful that employees feel like they're well supported, that the government has their back, that their fellow public servants understand how hard they're working, that they're no longer being blamed for this. Before, headlines would say Miramichi this and Miramichi that. That's not the case anymore. Everybody understands how hard they're working.

I told them and I'll tell you. I'm unapologetic about making sure everybody knows that.

Noon

Liberal

Mark Eyking Liberal Sydney—Victoria, NS

My region is the same. We have a rural region with a lot of unemployment. These jobs are so important for these employees. It's not like they can just say this is too tough and go down the street and get another job. They want to stick it out. They're in the community and want to make it.

Could you tell me about these pods? I don't understand what you mean.

Noon

Liberal

Carla Qualtrough Liberal Delta, BC

I would love to tell you about pods. This is a concept developed by employees at Miramichi. Originally one of the approaches we took on Phoenix was to take a horizontal transaction-type of approach. We'd deal with all maternity transactions, all disability transactions, all late payments, and attack it transaction type by transaction type. The feedback we had was that this wasn't making any one person whole, because we might have dealt with your maternity leave but we hadn't dealt with the three or four other things that you might have in the Phoenix backlog.

It was recommended that we take a “whole person” approach. This was the recommendation of unions, the recommendation of experts, and certainly of employees in Miramichi. They came up with the idea that we build a dedicated, skill-based team. They all work together; they're attached to a department or agency. They systematically deal person-by-person with all their transactions. So, they will deal with your two transactions, your four transactions, your seven transactions. We resolve it for one person instead of one transaction type.

Noon

Liberal

The Vice-Chair Liberal Yasmin Ratansi

Thank you, Minister. It's an exciting concept to listen to.

We will go to the last three-minute round.

Mr. Garrison.

Noon

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

I do want to say that, while I don't believe the band-aid approach works for the system, it does work for individuals, so I appreciate the minister saying she would look at my 13 cases again, but I promise her another 80 as soon as she does.

Noon

Liberal

Carla Qualtrough Liberal Delta, BC

That's not motivating.

Of course I will, I apologize.

Noon

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

It should be motivating.

I want to turn to the national shipbuilding strategy that all parties agreed to in the last Parliament in the hope that we could create a new system that wouldn't result in boom and bust at the shipyards, but last year we had the first discussions that there might be a gap on the west coast between the production of the offshore fisheries patrol vessels and the new supply ship that might be as long as 18 months. This week we had reports coming from Halifax that the Arctic offshore patrol vessels and the Canadian surface combatants might also have an 18-month gap.

That 18-month gap isn't acceptable for families who depend on those jobs. These are highly skilled workers. We're going to lose expertise in those 18 months in order to produce what we need for the Canadian military.

What initiatives are you going to take as a minister to try to help fill those gaps?