Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I am very pleased to be here to introduce myself and to answer your questions with regard to the position of President of the Public Service Commission of Canada.
As you know, the commission has a long and prestigious history as an institution of Canada's public service. Over 100 years ago, Parliament passed a law that created the commission so that Canadians could be served in both official languages by highly skilled and non-partisan public servants representing Canada's diversity and who are appointed on the basis of merit.
Through the passage of time and the adoption and implementation of legislative amendments, such as the modernization of the Public Service Employment Act in 2003, the Public Service Commission's mandate has remained very clear: to appoint, or provide for the appointment of, persons to and from within the public service according to the act; to conduct investigations and audits in accordance with the act; and to administer the provisions of the act relating to political activities of employees and deputy heads.
I would like to now provide a bit of information on my background and why I believe I will bring strong qualifications to this important leadership position.
My career in the public service spans almost 35 years. In fact, my first experience with the public service started in May 1982 when I was employed as a student under the former Career Oriented Summer Employment Program with what was then the Department of Industry, Trade and Commerce.
I have to admit that this was not my first choice—I had worked in the mining sector to pay for my education until then. But my experience that summer changed my life, and I knew I had found my calling.
Since those early days, I've had the privilege of working in a dozen different departments and in many different roles. I have worked with program delivery officers, park wardens, administrative assistants, policy analysts, inspectors, communication specialists, regulators, economic development officers, sports experts, scientists, diplomats, information technology specialists, accountants, and human resource advisers. These are all very different roles but with a common commitment to excellence in serving one's country and fellow citizens. I have also worked with dedicated public servants in every part of our country, serving diverse populations. I was particularly impressed with our employees in the territories who work closely with indigenous Canadians to meet their needs and aspirations.
I also have 30 years of experience in a management role.
I have had lead responsibility for human resources in a large department—Health Canada, as well as in a smaller agency—the Privy Council. A common challenge in both organizations was helping employees, managers and human resource professionals navigate the complexities of our staffing system. This is why I was an enthusiastic supporter of the modernization of our human resources legislation in the early 2000s. In fact, under this initiative I co-led, with a representative of the bargaining agents, the development of new guidelines for labour-management consultative committees and for co-development in the workplace. These were adopted in 2003 along with the amendments to the Public Service Employment Act.
I've also been involved in a number of large- and small-scale machinery changes that had important human resource implications, including the creation of the Department of Canadian Heritage in 1993. In the mid-1990s, I led the work on the creation of Parks Canada as a separate agency, including the design of its human resources plan, policies, and systems. This was a rather complex project, as Parks Canada was a large organization with thousands of employees in every region of the country, including many small remote locations. I worked closely with a wide range of stakeholders, from central agencies to bargaining agents, in developing a separate employer regime for the new agency, which eventually was adopted through legislation.
And I have also had the experience of a deputy head with overall authority and accountability for human resources matters.
While CanNor may have been a small agency, managing in the North had its challenges. One of those was the recruitment, development and retention of indigenous employees. In that context, I worked closely with colleagues from other departments and agencies with employees in Nunavut, as well as with the Public Service Commission and the Canada School of the Public Service, to create an innovative program called the Inuit Learning and Development Pilot Project. Through this initiative, Inuit citizens from Nunavut benefited from developmental assignments in federal departments and agencies, were offered a culturally appropriate suite of learning tools and mentorship and were successful in pre-qualifying for federal positions at the end of the pilot's 18-month period. The pilot was evaluated and as a result has now been continued, with a new cohort.
While I have not worked at the Public Service Commission, you can see that over the years I have worked closely with the commission as well as other federal institutions with human resource responsibilities. In that context, in my most recent position at the Department of Canadian Heritage, I had the privilege of serving on the PSC's deputy minister advisory committee. The committee provided guidance to the PSC on the design and implementation of its modernization agenda. My colleagues and I were, for example, very supportive of the new direction in staffing, which was adopted and put in place just over a year ago.
I hope this quick overview of my background will demonstrate that I have acquired much experience and knowledge that would be of direct benefit as president of the Public Service Commission.
Before closing, I would like to talk briefly about my priorities for the PSC. First of all, I recognize that I have much learning to do and my first priority would be to engage with the commissioners, the senior management team and all the employees of the PSC and to listen to them. I know my predecessors have done a great job in fostering innovation within the organization, and I would want to build on the positive changes that have already been made.
But I know we can do much more in modernizing our approach to staffing, while at the same time protecting the merit principle and safeguarding the professional, non-partisan nature of the public service.
We know there will be many departures from the public service in the coming years and that this will provide the opportunity to recruit and develop a new generation of public servants. My hope is that we can attract a broad diversity of Canadians to the calling of serving their country and that the public service of tomorrow will truly reflect the Canada of today, from coast to coast to coast. As a proud son of a small northern Ontario community, I know there are talented Canadians in every region of the country who would love the opportunity to join the public service. The PSC's recruitment systems and activities must ensure that we take advantage of this rich and diverse pool of talent.
We have to do a better job in making the public service a model organization when it comes to accessibility. We need to go way beyond just meeting requirements to accommodate and to design our organizations and workplaces so they embrace the tremendous potential of persons with disabilities.
I would also like us to find innovative ways to better attract and retain young Canadians in the public service. I've always been a big fan of student employment, given my own personal experience. I think our millennials bring skills and competencies that can help transform the public service. For such digital natives, the concept of open government is natural, and so is the effective use of social media.
In my current position, I have been amazed at the potential of data analytics to rethink how we manage our programs and activities in ways that will ultimately better serve Canadians. In order to succeed in recruiting and retaining such talent, we need to find much more efficient and effective ways to staff positions without compromising on merit. The long time it takes us to staff is a source of frustration for candidates, employees, and managers alike, and it does not serve the public well.
Finally, I would also like to make official languages a key priority. One of the basic values of our public service is respect for both of our official languages and our commitment to serving Canadians in the language of their choice. We have made significant progress in this area since I first joined the public service, but we still have challenges to meet. For example, our methods of evaluating language proficiency must be adapted to reflect advancements in technology, and we must promote bilingualism actively in our recruitment activities.
I look forward to working with the dedicated and professional team of women and men at the PSC in pursuing these priorities. I also will make great efforts to engage our many stakeholders, including the bargaining agents and the deputy heads of the more than 70 departments and agencies with almost 200,000 employees who fall under the jurisdiction of the Public Service Employment Act.
In closing, I would like to recognize the special relationship that exists between the President of the Public Service Commission and Parliament. I must confess that this is a new field for me and I have a lot to learn. But it's a role I would be eager to assume. It would be a great pleasure for me work with you.
Thank you. It will be my pleasure to answer your questions.