Evidence of meeting #79 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 wrongdoing.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Anne Marie Smart  Chief Human Resources Officer, Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer, Treasury Board Secretariat
Carl Trottier  Assistant Deputy Minister, Governance, Planning and Policy Sector, Treasury Board Secretariat
David Yazbeck  Partner, Raven, Cameron, Ballantyne & Yazbeck LLP
Sylvie Therrien  As an Individual

March 23rd, 2017 / 5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

This is where we are in a tandem: we don't know who is right, who is wrong, but we're trying to listen to this act, saying, well, the act is a bad act, according to a lot of the witnesses, and we'd like to improve it and improve the processes in place.

I have a scenario that I'd like to share with you. As a chief human resources officer, you are hiring a CEO of an organization. The CEO does not have an accounting designation, but he or she has to sign off on those financial statements. Now, he or she does not know the complexity of the financial statements, so he goes two levels down to the financial officer, who probably is designated and would lose his designation if he were ever, in the private sector, to sign something that was not worthy. How does the financial officer protect himself if the CEO says, “Sign or you lose your job”? And how do they come to you?

We're talking about billions of dollars here. If you do not understand the complexity of the financing of the government and you're signing off, and you're relying on your third level, where is that integrity? Where is good governance?

5:10 p.m.

Chief Human Resources Officer, Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer, Treasury Board Secretariat

Anne Marie Smart

Just in terms of a factual correction, all deputies are appointed by the Prime Minister on the advice of the Clerk. They're not through the chief human resources officer.

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Let's talk about CEOs.

5:10 p.m.

Chief Human Resources Officer, Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer, Treasury Board Secretariat

Anne Marie Smart

The deputy heads are the CEOs of the department, so they're also kind of the accounting officers as well. They rely on or they have a chief financial officer in just about all cases.

I'm not the money expert—I'm not the comptroller general—but for any kind of money there is a due diligence process between central agencies and departments. Anything that's being signed off has to be audited and attested to.

I don't know if you have a specific case in mind.

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

No, no. I'm thinking money, and I'm asking who does it. If the comptroller general is reviewing all these things, then I'm fine.

The whistle-blowers who blow the whistle are ethical, yet they get penalized. I want your opinion on that. If you can't give it to me now, perhaps you can just send it to us.

5:10 p.m.

Chief Human Resources Officer, Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer, Treasury Board Secretariat

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Tom Lukiwski

Colleagues, it looks like the bells are ringing.

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

What is it for?

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Tom Lukiwski

I don't know.

The motion is that the debate be now adjourned. We are finished with our witnesses, but we've had another witness, Madam Therrien, patiently sitting here almost all day. We would need unanimous consent to have even 10 or 15 minutes—

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Agreed.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Tom Lukiwski

Or we could suspend and come right back here after the votes.

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Can we give her10 or 15 minutes now?

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Tom Lukiwski

Certainly.

5:10 p.m.

An hon. member

Let's do that.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Tom Lukiwski

Then why don't we do that now, colleagues, if we can?

Madam Smart and Mr. Trottier, you are excused. Thank you very much. We appreciate your attendance.

Madam Therrien, welcome.

Colleagues, I have a couple of quick housekeeping items. We are in a bit of a unique situation. Mr. Yazbeck is here as counsel to Ms. Therrien, to provide advice. That can only be accommodated with the permission of the committee.

Are there any problems with that? No?

Mr. Yazbeck, welcome.

5:15 p.m.

David Yazbeck Partner, Raven, Cameron, Ballantyne & Yazbeck LLP

Thank you.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Tom Lukiwski

Madame Therrien, since we have votes and we have approximately 25 minutes until votes commence, we are left with perhaps at most 15 minutes here. We can do one of two things. We can have your opening statement and perhaps one round of questioning, or not even a round but one or two questions, then go for the votes and come back.

My question to you is, would you be prepared to extend your stay with us this afternoon? It would probably take about 20 minutes to get us to votes and back and another 10 or 15 minutes for the votes, so we're looking at extending your stay by about another half hour.

5:15 p.m.

Sylvie Therrien As an Individual

That's okay with me, but I don't know whether all these people want to stay. Do they have no choice?

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Tom Lukiwski

This is a very good committee, and I think they're very interested in hearing your testimony.

Why don't we do this, colleagues, so that we don't have a disjointed set of questions? Perhaps we can have Madame Therrien's opening statement, then depart and then return.

Madame Therrien, I understand you have a very short opening statement because you want to leave time for questions, but you can certainly expand upon it, if you wish.

There are now 25 minutes, so if you could give your opening statement, we'll then determine whether we have a chance for at least one or two questions.

5:15 p.m.

As an Individual

Sylvie Therrien

I have a short opening statement.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Tom Lukiwski

Certainly.

5:15 p.m.

As an Individual

Sylvie Therrien

I want to thank the committee for giving me the opportunity to speak to you.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Tom Lukiwski

If you wish to speak in French, please feel free to do so.

5:15 p.m.

As an Individual

Sylvie Therrien

I prepared everything in English, but I can talk about it in English or in French.

I just want to talk about my whistleblowing experience. It was very difficult.

You talked about various ways to proceed when making a disclosure. I started out by going through the internal channels and turned to people who were higher in the organizational structure. It did not work at all, as they did not think it was a problem. They even threatened me. They told me that if I made unfounded allegations again, it would not work. You talked about the possibility of an independent person investigating. That would be much better, as people protect each other when internal channels are used. They are all colleagues and they protect each other. So there is a sort of a cover-up. I was told that there was no problem.

I then suffered major reprisal in my workplace. I was ostracized, and no one wanted to talk to me. They also started questioning the way I worked. Nothing I was doing was right. If I took a five-minute break like everyone else, they would say that I had taken 10 minutes. I was really hounded, and all my actions were scrutinized and questioned. It was very difficult.

When it comes to using internal channels, anonymity is important because, at the end of the day, those who commit wrongdoings are often in positions of power. They are often high-ranking officials. So if we are under those people, we suffer a great deal. We are put through the ringer, as they say. In any case, that was my experience.

I then went to the union representatives, who told me that the only way to proceed was to file grievances.

Do you know that it was employment insurance quotas I disclosed?

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Ramez Ayoub Liberal Thérèse-De Blainville, QC

Yes, I do.