I'd like to thank the committee for inviting me to be here today to discuss the Shared Services Canada 2019-20 supplementary estimates (B). I'm going to be speaking in both languages. There are earpieces for anyone who might need them.
I am pleased to be joined today by officials from Shared Services Canada, namely Sarah Paquet, executive vice-president, Denis Bombardier, chief financial officer, and Raj Thuppal, senior assistant deputy minister.
Also joining me today are officials from the Treasury Board Secretariat. We have Karen Cahill, assistant secretary and CFO, and Francis Bilodeau, acting chief information officer of Canada. After my remarks, of course, my officials and I will be happy to answer any questions you may have.
Permit me to start by providing the committee with an overview of my mandate, our challenges and the organizations in the portfolio.
Good government in the 21st century means providing quality digital services that are secure, easy and accurate.
Canadians have growing expectations to receive services and interact with government digitally.
Aging IT systems and infrastructure make it hard to implement policy changes, cost taxpayers more every year to maintain and make service to the public an ongoing challenge. The main barriers to changing this reality are not uniquely technological or financial. They also require us to revisit service models, processes, rules, sunk costs and organizational structures and cultures that were largely established in a previous, slower-moving technological era.
We've seen government IT projects that haven't gone so well because of the old way of working.
My challenge will be making the changes to how we work in government. We will need to look at our structures, incentives and culture and to break down silos to ensure we can more easily develop and adopt digital so that we can better serve Canadians.
As members of Parliament, we've seen our constituency staff help constituents navigate government processes that weren't always easy to understand. I know we'd all like to make it easier.
There's much to be done, but much is already under way to update our existing systems. We're modernizing the government's data centres, replacing old systems, and shifting data to the cloud or consolidating into more reliable and secure facilities. We're rolling out more digital tools, so public servants can improve their service to Canadians. We're updating and replacing some of the applications that provide critical services to Canadians, so that we can count on them in the long term.
We will soon reach an important milestone, when the new policy on service and digital takes effect. This policy will consolidate policies and directives across government to provide a single playbook that will guide our work.
Our Prime Minister understands how important it is for government to be open, accessible and provide Canadians with services that are as easy to use as those that the private sector offers. Think about being on your couch with your phone and booking travel to an exotic location—maybe a few months from now—or depositing a cheque. As Canada's first dedicated Minister of Digital Government, I'm honoured to take on this challenge and lead the teams at Shared Services Canada, the office of the CIO and the Canadian Digital Service on our government's digital transformation journey.
I'll now provide the committee with a brief overview of the organizations, Mr. Chair.
First is the CIO. There are over 20,000 employees working in IT and information management across the Government of Canada.
The office of the chief information officer provides them with leadership and direction. By setting policy and priorities, it enables departments to build capacity and helps them with project management and oversight.
Part of this support includes the digital operations strategic plan, which sets out how the Government of Canada manages technology and technological change within government. This change includes things such as Canada Revenue Agency's “Auto-fill my return”, which saves Canadians time by filling in parts of their tax forms for them or automatically enrolling more than half of seniors in old age security pension and guaranteed income supplements so they don't lose out on them just through neglecting to apply.
The strategic plan will also promote a more open government by providing open access to government data so that businesses can innovate and NGOs can address more challenges.
The plan sets out a digital-first and digitally enabled government that is there to serve Canadians anytime, anywhere.
However, let me emphasize that this means “digital always”, but not “digital only”, because services will still be provided in person or by phone to those who want them that way.
Second, the Canadian Digital Service provides direct, hands-on help to federal departments. It helps them develop services for the public that are faster, simpler and more secure. For example, CDS has created Notify, a system that lets any federal department more easily send email and text updates to Canadians about their service transactions with government, updates that might previously have been sent by mail or not at all.
I'm pleased to report that 12 departments, including Shared Services Canada and the Canada Revenue Agency, are already using this new service.
CDS has worked with the RCMP to develop a system that makes it easier for Canadians and businesses to report a cybercrime, and CDS is working with Employment and Social Development Canada to improve the experience for Canadians with disabilities when they apply for Canada pension plan disability benefits. These are just a few of many examples.
More specifically, CDS is introducing proven ways of designing services that put Canadians at the centre of our work. This means meeting directly with individuals and businesses to understand their needs, and continuously testing new or changed services with them.
CDS works very closely with “Digital Academy”, part of the Canada School of Public Service, to bring digital literacy and digital culture to federal employees at all levels and across all departments.
Finally, our digital transformation would not be possible without reliable and secure networks, devices and computer applications—in other words, IT infrastructure—provided by Shared Services Canada.
For Shared Services Canada to maintain our IT infrastructure, it needs the proper resources. The delivery of critical programs and services to Canadians relies on SSC's success.
Like many countries, this country is confronted with aging IT systems and applications. Our number one priority is to build a secure and reliable network, one that connects our computers, mobile phones and digital devices, and provides faster and easier access to any message or data on the Internet or within that network. Our secure network will support these critical services.
Modern networks are secure networks, protecting infrastructure from the vulnerabilities and ensuring the safety and security of Canadians' information. They will connect seamlessly to the cloud and to the new enterprise data centres. To date, over 250 old, outdated data centres have been closed and consolidated into four modern data centres.
We have set up a service to provide departments with access to commercial cloud and computer services. So far we have over 40 accounts available with various providers, and more are planned.
As I mentioned earlier, we are enabling an agile, connected and high-performing workforce with Microsoft's Office 365 suite of collaboration tools. Already we have six departments adopting email and other digital communication applications. Other departments yet again are preparing to make the most of this cloud-based software.
We know that hundreds of older software applications that deliver vital services to Canadians are the most vulnerable. We are working actively with departments to help them identify those that are most at risk and to determine how to update or replace them.
Key to achieving this renewal is putting in place standards that support common approaches to IT services that all departments can use.
I'll now turn to the SSC supplementary estimates (B). We are providing funds in the amount of $0.8 million to the Treasury Board Secretariat for their application modernization program to help speed up old software in the cloud and enterprise data centres. With the approval of supplementary estimates (B), Shared Services Canada's reference levels for 2019-20 will decrease by $10.7 million to $2,243.7 million.
In terms of new funding, Shared Services Canada is seeking $23 million, of which $10.2 million is to support new full-time equivalents; $4.7 million is for the Centre for Plant Health in Sidney, British Columbia; $3 million is for the implementation of the Canada Border Services Agency's assessment and revenue management project; $2.8 million is to support the enhanced passenger protect program; $1.7 million is required to support PSPC in stabilizing the Government of Canada's pay system; and $0.6 million is to support the RCMP in establishing the national cybercrime coordination unit.
That's all been a bit of a mouthful.
Mr. Chair, my officials and I want to thank you again for your invitation and for your interest in these matters.
I'll be pleased now to take questions from the committee.