moved that Bill C-8, an act to amend the Financial Administration Act, the Canada School of Public Service Act and the Official Languages Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand before the House today to move second reading of the bill aimed at giving legislative confirmation to the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada which was created by orders in council as a result of the government reorganization of December 12.
As hon. members know, on December 12, 2003, the Prime Minister made some significant changes to the government structure and organization. The reorganization was intended primarily to advance the priorities of Canadians by improving services and their delivery, but also by making sure that the government has the tools it needs to restore the confidence of Canadians in their public service to sound fiscal management, more rigorous allocation of resources and, above all, implementation of the highest standards of ethics, openness, transparency, accountability and reporting to Parliament.
Such goals cannot be achieved without a modern, professional and responsible public service that is dedicated to the public interest, that is representative of the Canadian public and that serves Canadians with excellence in the official language of their choice.
To achieve these goals, we also need employees who are guided and supported effectively, and in accordance with the highest ethical standards in an effective workplace that is empowering, healthy and respectful of employees' language rights.
In other words, we need an outstanding workforce and a workplace guided and supported by effective and responsible human resource management throughout the public service, the kind of management that reflects best practices in this field.
That is why the government created the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada as part of its reorganization of December 12, 2003.
Created by orders in council, beginning with the transfer of certain functions of the Treasury Board Secretariat and the Public Service Commission, the agency has taken up the functions it needs to modernize and foster ongoing excellence in human resources management and leadership throughout the public service.
For example, with functions that have been transferred to it, the agency will oversee the effective implementation of the Public Service Modernization Act, which received royal assent in November 2003.
It will also work to set up integrated systems for human resources planning, oversight and accountability purposes across the public service.
It will encourage the training of highly skilled leaders who are guided by the highest accountability and ethical standards, and who are evaluated against those standards.
Last, it will continue to make targeted improvements in the area of employment equity and to promote linguistic duality, while putting in place better monitoring and reporting systems that will make results more accessible and transparent for Canadians.
The agency will thus make it possible to give the attention, direction and support needed to promote and maintain throughout the public service, human resources management that is exemplary and leadership that is constantly renewed and consistently more effective and results oriented.
In short, it will make it possible to put in place the conditions that public servants need to provide Canadians with efficient, quality services, while promoting the highest standards of integrity, transparency and accountability.
This is a turning point in the history of the administration of the public service which, for the first time, has a separate agency responsible for human resources management.
The work performed in the public service is of great value to the government and to Canadians. A highly effective public service contributes to the social, economic and cultural well-being of Canadians, as well as to their health and security. It also constitutes a competitive advantage in the global economy. Such a public service is made of men and women who devote their lives to serving the public interest and the Canadian public, and who promote fairness, justice, health and democratic vitality.
The best way to recognize their contribution, which will require increased effort in order to achieve excellence, is to give this new agency a legislative base. That is why I am presenting this bill today. Its purpose is simply to confirm the agency's existence through legislation.
Let us be clear on one thing. The bill does not in any way change the powers or functions already conferred on the agency by orders in council. The bill only enshrines in legislation what already exists in fact.
Essentially the bill does the following: first, it adds the position of president of the agency to the Financial Administration Act, in the same way the Secretary of the Treasury Board and the Comptroller General of Canada are already identified in the act.
Second, it specifies the nature of powers and functions that may be delegated by the Treasury Board to the president of the agency in the same manner stipulated in the act for the Secretary of the Treasury Board and the Comptroller General of Canada.
Third, it stipulates that the President of the Treasury Board is responsible for the coordination of activities of the Secretary of the Treasury Board, the president of the agency and the Comptroller General of Canada.
Although they are relatively modest additions to the Financial Administration Act, these amendments constitute a key step for public service administration. With this bill, the agency would benefit from having a legislative basis that sets out more clearly and visibly, both inside and outside the public service, its role and relationships within the portfolio of the Treasury Board and with the Treasury Board in its role as employer.
As a result of the addition of the office of the president of the agency through the Financial Administration Act, the bill would require two correlative amendments: an amendment to the Canada School of the Public Service Act to appoint the president of the agency as an ex-officio member of the school's board of governors, replacing the president of the Public Service Commission; and an amendment to the Official Languages Act to stipulate that it is the president of the agency, rather than the Treasury Board Secretary, who will provide the Commissioner of Official Languages with any audit reports that are prepared under the responsibility of the Treasury Board.
I want to stress the fact that, in addition to demonstrating the importance the government places on human resources management, the bill would also permit: first, the clarification of the perceived role of the agency within the system, including unions, and in particular of its relationships within the portfolio of the Treasury Board and with the Treasury Board in its role as employer; second, the better integration of activities relating to human resources management within the Treasury Board portfolio; and third, a greater visibility for the agency, both within and outside the public service, facilitating implementation of its policies, programs and services.
I would like to remind the House that the bill concerns the government's most precious resource, its employees, people who are in the service of Canadians.
I would remind members that as we advance into the 21st century, setting up a true human resources management agency for the federal public service, which is also the biggest employer in Canada, sends an unequivocal signal to all managers, public servants and union reps that sound human resources management is a priority for the Government of Canada.
Mr. Speaker, you will recall as a member of the this chamber the debate that took place on the original Bill C-25, the Public Service Modernization Act. The member to my left was heavily involved in the discussions.
We examined what we believe is a fundamental change in how we organize ourselves around the services we provide to our employees. I have said many times that all organizations lose when they do not pay attention to the people who work for them, that sound human resources management is not simply a matter of checks and balances over hiring, as was the foundation of the original Public Service Commission, but in the modern era it is bringing the tools of sound resources planning, helping people with their own career planning and helping to meet their education needs.
We talk a lot in the House about the need for continuous improvement and life long learning. In government we need a focus for those services, an organization that spends its time working with our employees, with government, agencies and departments to determine their needs and constantly thinking down the road as to how we can become better at what we do as we serve Canadians.
In doing that, we are always caught in this chamber with dual roles, of promoting good quality services to Canadians and also providing a level of oversight that guarantees to the people of Canada that resources are being dealt with properly, that we are paying close attention to the public purse, and that we are managing as efficiently and effectively as we can.
This is a discussion that came up on Bill C-11, an evolution in the role of the Public Service Commission. As we are discussing the legislation that puts in place and empowers the situation to deal with whistleblowing, we have talked a lot of how the role of the Public Service Commission, which traditionally has been the employing authority for government, is evolving and how it relates to other activities in government. This is another piece of that structure.
I believe that after 32 years of working within the existing structure, the government spent some two years studying, speaking to experts from all across the country, looking closely at how it managed its human resources, and then it made a decision that it would separate the functions and create an agency whose focus it was to spend its time working with our employees to ensure that they got the very best that they needed to do their job, the very best training, the very best services, and the very best support.
I think the public servants who are running the agency at this point and who have begun to give life to this vision have done an extraordinary job in a very short period of time at pulling together the resources they need to implement this vision. They believe it will take another year or two before things are up and running fully in the way that is envisioned. And that was contemplated in the act. Then we will come back to the House and ask the House if there is a provision there to review these decisions at the end of that period.
However what is fundamentally important about this is that it is a long overdue change. We spend too much time examining the problems, and rightly so. We need to look at the things that create problems. We need to look at the areas where there is always a need for improvement. We spend too little time celebrating the fact that there are 450,000 Canadians who do very good work on behalf of the citizens of this country and they deserve our support, encouragement and assistance every day.