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Evidence of meeting #33 for Veterans Affairs in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was outreach.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Colleen Soltermann  Director, Outreach, Consultation and Engagement, Department of Veterans Affairs
Krista Locke  Regional Director General, Department of Veterans Affairs

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

In closing, I'm going to put you on the spot. You're trying new initiatives, a lot of different things. Can each one of you, in a quick statement, tell us how satisfied you are with what you've been trying? Just briefly, where do you think you can go next to improve the service and contact with the vets even more?

4:05 p.m.

Director, Outreach, Consultation and Engagement, Department of Veterans Affairs

Colleen Soltermann

My team was put in place a little over a year ago, so we're still in the learning phase, the development phase of where we want to go. Our younger CF veterans are often out in the community, but they're often also using technology a lot more than we have in the past. While not forgetting that we have to continue to provide services to individuals face to face whenever possible, Veterans Affairs Canada has to learn how we can maximize the Internet and technologies to reach them and make sure they know about our programs and services.

4:05 p.m.

Regional Director General, Department of Veterans Affairs

Krista Locke

I would add a similar statement: that investing in technology I feel is the way we can improve not only our outreach but also our service to veterans. The feedback to date is that they would like to be able to self-serve and go to our site and get more information, so we are looking at ways to improve that.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Thank you very much.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Greg Kerr

Thank you very much.

We're going to Mr. Stoffer and then Ms. Morin.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Krista, you had indicated that when veterans call the 1-866 number some of the calls are handled by Service Canada. Is that correct?

4:05 p.m.

Regional Director General, Department of Veterans Affairs

Krista Locke

That's correct. We entered a partnership in January.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Is there a private company called Quantum that also handles some of those calls?

4:05 p.m.

Regional Director General, Department of Veterans Affairs

Krista Locke

I don't have all the details, but I understand that, yes, we are in partnership with Service Canada, and in turn they ensure there is a group of individuals who respond to callers.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Quantum is a private company that answers the phone at Veterans Affairs Canada. How is a private company able to tell veterans that they're not Veterans Affairs Canada, yet they answer the phone as Veterans Affairs Canada? I wonder how that ever took place.

4:05 p.m.

Regional Director General, Department of Veterans Affairs

Krista Locke

I'm not closely involved in the partnership, so I'm not able to answer.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Is it possible for you to get that information for us?

4:05 p.m.

Regional Director General, Department of Veterans Affairs

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer NDP Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Thank you.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Isabelle Morin NDP Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Thank you very much.

To continue on from what my colleague said, I would like to talk about Twitter, which I like and use a lot. It's a technology of my generation. While we were talking, I looked to see what was going on on Twitter.

I'm surprised to see that there are close to 2,000 people following the English Twitter feed and only 300 following the French one. What are you going to do to get francophone Canadians interested in it? Actually, you apparently aren't using a good approach to reach out to them because you have had only 300 people following you since you started, so for just about a year now.

4:10 p.m.

Director, Outreach, Consultation and Engagement, Department of Veterans Affairs

Colleen Soltermann

Thank you for that observation.

We are continuing to promote the use of our Twitter feed. It's a good observation, and I am going to bring it back to the department so we can look into it. I'm not necessarily the best person to answer your question, but it's a good observation.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Isabelle Morin NDP Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

I'm going to carry on with this because I like it.

I don't want to be overly critical, but there have been 400 tweets in one year. That doesn't seem like very many to me. You may think it's a good way to reach out to people, but personally, I've been using Twitter for less than a year and I have close to 4,000 tweets. That's a big difference. If you want to use this method to reach out to people, they need to see the tweets. I'd like to see an improvement in that respect because you said that using social media was a priority for you.

When we look at your tweets, we see that many more of them have to do with the minister than the department. I would also like you to explain that to me. Why focus your tweets on the minister rather than the department?

4:10 p.m.

Director, Outreach, Consultation and Engagement, Department of Veterans Affairs

Colleen Soltermann

I don't have an answer for that. I can't explain the department's approach in that respect. I know the technology is something fairly new for the department. I'm not the best person to explain the difference, but I can certainly provide you with that information if necessary.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Isabelle Morin NDP Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

I would really like you to send it to the committee.

4:10 p.m.

Director, Outreach, Consultation and Engagement, Department of Veterans Affairs

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Isabelle Morin NDP Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Thank you.

I have no other questions.

I'll give the floor to Ms. Perreault.

May 10th, 2012 / 4:10 p.m.

NDP

Manon Perreault NDP Montcalm, QC

This will be very simple.

Outreach came up earlier. We are talking about it because we want to foster interest in some issue. I thought to myself that if you are going to contact people, if you are trying to communicate with them, there needs to be some follow-up. It's really important to know what the results were, if any.

I don't know if you talked about it, but I feel that it will be difficult to tally the results you'll subsequently get.

4:10 p.m.

Director, Outreach, Consultation and Engagement, Department of Veterans Affairs

Colleen Soltermann

Are you talking about our outreach efforts?

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Manon Perreault NDP Montcalm, QC

Yes.

4:10 p.m.

Director, Outreach, Consultation and Engagement, Department of Veterans Affairs

Colleen Soltermann

We have developed a framework that provides parameters that indicate whether we attained our intended goals. I don't know the term in French, but in English we call it a

performance measurement plan.

It's a plan that sets out standards that we must comply with. We measure ourselves against it. So we will be able to know if we have attained the objective based on the indicators that we will have established. With respect to outreach in particular, we have a plan that will help us determine if there is an impact.

I would also like to talk about something else. We are doing research on public opinion. I think that's what we call it. This initiative will help us measure the scope of our outreach efforts with our target clientele. We are currently carrying out a project. We intend to have focus groups that we will interview to determine how much they know about the department's programs and services. The research is currently qualitative. In the coming years, we will carry out quantitative research to determine whether we are making progress with respect to outreach on the programs and services.