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Evidence of meeting #35 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 process.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Heather Parry  Assistant Deputy Minister, Corporate Services, Department of Veterans Affairs
Charlotte Stewart  Director General, Service Delivery and Program Management, Department of Veterans Affairs
Bernard Butler  Director General, Policy and Research Division, Department of Veterans Affairs

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Sylvain Chicoine NDP Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I want to thank the witnesses for being here today.

I have several questions relating to the unfortunately unavoidable transfer of the Sainte-Anne hospital, which will probably happen soon. You said that you are going to ensure that veterans will still have priority access to the hospital. How many beds will be reserved for them? Will the veterans of tomorrow also have access to the very specialized services that have been provided so far by that hospital, which will unfortunately be transferred to the province?

4:30 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Corporate Services, Department of Veterans Affairs

Heather Parry

I'm sorry, but I may not have understood the question fully. Are you talking about the clinics?

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Sylvain Chicoine NDP Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

You say that space will be reserved for veterans. How many beds will be reserved to them? Also, will the veterans of tomorrow have access to the same services? That hospital provides very specialized services and I fear that this expertise will be lost. How will you ensure that beds are reserved for those veterans?

4:30 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Corporate Services, Department of Veterans Affairs

Heather Parry

We're in negotiations right now, so I wouldn't want to speak inappropriately to any of those issues There is a commitment that there will be priority access for veterans to beds as they need it. The government has committed to that, and as well to having access to the services they have now and to maintaining the quality of service that they have had. That is a cornerstone of the mandate of the chief negotiator: to ensure that priority access is maintained and that the services are there as they are today, for those who need them.

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Sylvain Chicoine NDP Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

Will the expertise existing in that hospital be preserved? It is our only hospital. Very often, veterans need highly specialized services, and that hospital has the knowledge required to provide them. Will that expertise be maintained despite the transfer to the province?

4:30 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Corporate Services, Department of Veterans Affairs

Heather Parry

I can't speak to specifics around the negotiations, but the intent is certainly that veterans will have the services that they receive today and are entitled to.

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Sylvain Chicoine NDP Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

So, beds will be reserved for the veterans of tomorrow. I hear you but it is not any clearer.

4:30 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Corporate Services, Department of Veterans Affairs

Heather Parry

This again is part of the negotiations, but it is priority access.

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Sylvain Chicoine NDP Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

I hope it will be. You say that you will make sure...

4:30 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Corporate Services, Department of Veterans Affairs

4:30 p.m.

NDP

Sylvain Chicoine NDP Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

... but it would be good if it were a bit more....

4:30 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Corporate Services, Department of Veterans Affairs

Heather Parry

That is part of the negotiation, and the cornerstone of it: that we will maintain the services and priority access for veterans.

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Sylvain Chicoine NDP Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

You also mention in this report that there is a risk that changes be made too quickly, which would reduce the department's capacity to meet the needs of veterans. How will you ensure that those priorities are maintained?

4:35 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Corporate Services, Department of Veterans Affairs

Heather Parry

Charlotte has spoken a little bit about that, and I'll talk a little bit about governance.

Is that okay?

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Sylvain Chicoine NDP Châteauguay—Saint-Constant, QC

All right. I intended to look at ”the blues”, since I missed the beginning of the meeting. If that matter has been dealt with at the beginning, you do not have to answer me now.

4:35 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Corporate Services, Department of Veterans Affairs

Heather Parry

In terms of governance, we're making sure that we have the right governance processes in place. We want to make sure that there is good oversight, that we have the monitoring and ongoing good planning and good project management.

I gave an example earlier. My background is in IT, wherein as part of normal, everyday managing of risk you look to see what issues are there, what your environment looks like. You make sure that you have your plans in place, that you change them and update them as needed, that you have fall-backs and contingencies where needed, and that you look at any issues that arise for opportunities to adjust your plan to ensure that you mitigate any risk that you see.

The goal in risk identification is always to be up front and ahead of the risks that you identify, so that you can plan for them, in case of something not working exactly as you had planned.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Greg Kerr

Thank you very much. We are over time.

I want to welcome Ms. Tilly Gordon to the committee today and give her four minutes.

May 17th, 2012 / 4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Tilly O'Neill-Gordon Conservative Miramichi, NB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I want to thank the witnesses.

I am subbing here today, but I used to be on this committee and always found it very interesting.

Our government certainly values and appreciates the work done by your department. Your presentation was very interesting. I know you have many objectives and priorities set out for the year ahead, but I'm especially happy to hear you say that your department will be streamlining the forms and letters, because this is a very common complaint back in the Miramichi, in the riding I represent. This is one priority that I certainly am happy to hear about.

But I wonder whether you could outline what some of your main priorities are. You have many ahead, but what are the ones you are looking forward to going ahead with?

4:35 p.m.

Director General, Service Delivery and Program Management, Department of Veterans Affairs

Charlotte Stewart

Thank you very much.

As we look to our transformation agenda and the main priorities around it, there are some that really stand out. We've spoken about streamlining and reducing complexity, and I want to speak a little about what that means.

You mentioned the letters. I guess when we took a step back and, as I mentioned, looked at our programs, we decided to redesign all of them, to re-engineer them, to remove steps in the process and make them simpler. That's critical to our department's success. I mention this because it means that, internally, to those who work as program delivery employees within the department, they'll have more time to deliver the programs through working with veterans than time spent now on interpretation or working through complex issues. So that's very important.

I already mentioned that one of the first things we did was to streamline our decision-making and give more authority to the front-line staff. That work has been very successful. It's resulted in better turnaround times, and we'll be continuing that. That will be a key objective as well.

I want to mention technology, because in our department, our modernization encompasses technology to a very high extent. Right now that means we're investing in critical technology that will allow us to scan and digitalize records. Once again, this is in partnership with Library and Archives Canada and Public Works and Government Services Canada. As a result, the medical records of applicants to the department can be scanned quickly. This will reduce the time we now spend and the resources we now expend on moving paper files throughout the department, and it will cut our time required to adjudicate these applications quite significantly.

We're also building partnerships. When we speak about partnerships, our key partner, of course, is DND. We've been very successful with them, in having a strong agreement, a strong accord with them, about how we're going to approach the needs of our veterans. We worked at that at all levels in the department.

I think one of the greatest indications of that and a key priority is our commitment to the integrated personnel support centres. That is where we are co-located with DND, around the Canadian Forces bases and wings across the country. There are now 24 where we are set up together. We're going to continue that commitment. As we see a need, we'll continue to put resources as needed into integrated personnel support centres and make sure that our program arrangements work very well.

We're harmonizing other programs as well. Another key commitment with DND as a partner is to look at all of our programs and services. When I mention “harmonization”, I really mean, in simple terms, that it's a crosswalk between DND's programs and Veterans Affairs Canada's programs so that when you leave one department and enter another, you feel that continuity of service and care.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Tilly O'Neill-Gordon Conservative Miramichi, NB

I just want to say, Mr. Chair, that this is all very good news for us and for the families and veterans as well. I'm glad to hear it.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Greg Kerr

Thank you.

I want to thank the witnesses very much for coming.

We're going to suspend for several minutes. I hope the committee members will mix with the veterans and say hello to them.

[Proceedings continue in camera]