Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the committee.
I am pleased to be here today to also discuss the findings of the report of the Auditor General on the Governor in Council appointment process for administrative tribunals.
I think it would be helpful if I first take a few minutes to describe the appointments process. I would also like to take this opportunity to give you an update on the government's new approach to Governor in Council appointments and how that approach relates to administrative tribunals in particular.
In terms of the process and how it works, let me begin by noting that Governor in Council appointments are made by the Governor General on the advice of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada, as represented by cabinet. Ministers actively manage all the Governor in Council positions within their portfolios and the Privy Council Office provides operational support and non-partisan policy advice to the Prime Minister and to cabinet ministers. Appointments are made on the recommendation of the responsible minister to the Governor in Council. It is the process leading to that ministerial recommendation that is established by the Prime Minister.
On February 25, 2016, the Prime Minister announced a new approach to Governor in Council appointments, which requires open, transparent, and merit-based selection processes that will support ministers in making recommendations on high-quality candidates who reflect Canada's diversity in terms of gender, linguistic, regional, employment equity, cultural, and ethnic representation.
This approach applies to the majority of appointments to both full-time and part-time positions on commissions, boards, crown corporations, agencies, and tribunals across the country. It is the inclusion of part-time positions within an open, transparent, and merit-based approach that is the most significant shift in how appointment processes are now managed.
The government has made clear to us that communicating opportunities to Canadians is an important cornerstone of their open, transparent, and merit-based process. The Canada.ca website provides access to Governor in Council appointments information and to the Governor in Council appointments website where opportunities are advertised. In addition, appointment opportunities are advertised on the website of the organization filling the position and listed in the Canada Gazette while the application period is open.
To build broader awareness, positions may also be advertised in other media, for example, social media, online, and in newspapers.
In order to apply, candidates register and create an account for their GIC appointment applications on the GIC appointments website, where they will be able to apply for any of the opportunities that are listed.
To support the government's objectives around diversity, applicants are asked to provide information on their second official language proficiency and, if they wish, they are able to self-identify in their online profiles as members of an employment equity group, such as women, indigenous peoples, visible minorities, and persons with disabilities. Candidates may also choose to self-identify as members of ethnic or cultural groups.
Under the new approach, merit is being assessed through rigorous selection processes, with selection criteria that are public. These qualifications and criteria reflect the organization's mandate, taking into account as well the minister's mandate and the priorities established by the Prime Minister.
Let me spend a few minutes on the mechanics of the selection process.
PCO manages or participates in all selection processes. In each case, a selection committee is established. It reviews applications to ensure they meet the established criteria. The committee selects a short list of candidates for further assessment through interviews and written assessments as may be required. Candidates that the selection committee considers to be highly qualified for appointment also undergo formal reference checks to further assess personal suitability.
The committee then presents formal advice to the minister on the most qualified candidates for consideration. The minister then uses that selection committee's advice in finalizing his or her recommendation to the Governor in Council.
To support this new approach, the senior personnel secretariat at the Privy Council Office has been working closely with departmental contacts. Since the February announcement, we have undertaken a number of communication, outreach and information sharing initiatives. We held information sessions, in collaboration with the Prime Minister's Office, to provide guidance, information, and tools to departments and organizations and all ministerial office staff involved in supporting their ministers on the Governor in Council appointments. We will continue to collaborate and discuss best practices with these key stakeholders.
Our engagement efforts have ensured that ministers' offices and portfolio departments and organizations have the information they need to support their ministers in making recommendations to fill current and upcoming vacancies. We have shared materials on our GIC appointments website for all stakeholders and will continue to share materials on both internal and external websites as we implement new policy guidance and direction over the coming months. This sharing of materials is well aligned with the recommendations in the Auditor General's report.
Information sharing has been paramount during the transition to the new approach to Governor in Council appointments. An important area discussed with departments and agencies is exceptions to the new process, a point also raised by the Auditor General in his report.
Given the government's commitment to open processes, the vast majority of positions will normally be subject to a formal, advertised selection process. Exceptions need to be made for positions with requirements found in the legislation that establishes certain organizations.
For example, legislation may specify a Governor in Council appointee must be a sitting judge or a person nominated by a third party, such as a provincial or territorial government, a First Nation, or a user or other stakeholder group. We are not seeing many of these exceptions and, when they do arise, the Privy Council Office works closely with its partners to identify and verify the exceptions on a case-by-case basis.
It is also worth noting that during implementation of the new process, the government has decided to make appointments or reappointments to positions that are essential for the good governance or continuity of government business that may not include the full set of these new measures that were announced earlier this year. As these are transitional situations, such appointments or reappointments are generally for one year or less, subject to any legislative provisions. This transitional measure helps to ensure that organizations can continue to function and that services continue to be delivered to Canadians without interruption.
As I've noted, the changes to the appointments process are intended to contribute to the recommendation of high-quality candidates with a goal of better reflecting Canada's diversity. They also align with the recommendations from the Auditor General's report on the Governor in Council appointment process for administrative tribunals. The objective of the Auditor General's report, as my colleague has noted, was to determine if timely appointments of qualified individuals were being made to selected administrative tribunals to maintain the continuity of service to Canadians. My colleagues from other departments are here to answer questions related to specific recommendations made regarding the specific administrative tribunals that were examined, but I would like to take just a few more minutes to provide some context for their remarks by setting out a general overview of selection processes for administrative tribunals.
As for all Governor in Council appointments, with few exceptions, opportunities for positions in administrative tribunals are advertised publicly and candidates are invited to apply online. The exceptions are in the case of positions that need to be filled by sitting judges. The Privy Council Office works with the administrative tribunal and portfolio department to apply the spirit and intent of the new approach to help ensure that we meet the government's commitment to diversity. All selection processes for administrative tribunals follow the kinds of established selection processes that I mentioned earlier.
As part of this, PCO is working closely with four large administrative tribunals to implement measures to support enhanced consistency in the approaches undertaken to assess candidates for these very important decision-making positions. We intend to use the lessons learned and best practices from the large tribunals to identify ways that the efficiency and timeliness of selection processes for positions in the smaller administrative tribunals can be implemented.
Implementing this new approach has required capacity building within the Privy Council Office and within the departments and organizations that are responsible for supporting GIC appointments. We very much appreciate the advice of the Auditor General to help ensure the ongoing improvement of the overall appointment system, and we are committed to continuing to act on the Auditor General's recommendations as we work closely with partners to implement the government's approach to GIC appointments in administrative tribunals and other organizations across government.
In closing, as it is implemented, this new approach to GIC appointments is key to providing Canadians with an opportunity to be considered to serve in our democratic institutions that are fundamental to the decisions and programs that directly impact individual Canadians.
I would be pleased to take any questions you may have on the appointment process.