Mr. Speaker, I rise to respond to the question about geographic eligibility criteria in public service recruitment.
I commend the member for his interest in this area and his desire to ensure that the public service recruiting policies are fair. I also want to assure him that the government shares his goal. Hence, the government initiated the public service human resource modernization which resulted in legislation that confirms the mandate of the Public Service Commission, the PSC, as the protector of merit in appointments.
Equitable access is central to any fair and transparent recruitment system based on merit. The PSC is committed to maintaining the best possible public service for Canadians, one that is competent, non-partisan, representative and able to provide service in both official languages. Therefore I can assure the House that the PSC is committed to expanding the use of a national area of selection as a means of enhancing Canadians' access to federal public service jobs.
I might add that since the PSC is responsible for recruitment, questions about specific cases are best addressed by its officials.
I am pleased to note, and the member referred to this, that a meeting did take place between himself and the president of the PSC, which no doubt has answered some of his questions. For example, I understand from the PSC that the area of selection used for the list of postings cited by the member was properly handled, with the exception of four postings for jobs in Afghanistan which were discussed in the House and revised on February 9.
There was a larger question of why the PSC continues to use geographic criteria at all. A quick look at the statistics tells the story. In 2002-03 the PSC processed over 3,020 competitions open to the public. There were 523,000 applications received. An average of 173 applications were received per competition. In January 2004 over 1.3 million visits were made to the jobs.gc.ca website. This means that it is currently impossible to offer every job nationally, given the PSC's limited systems.
Nevertheless, the PSC is working to open up more jobs nationally, which it reported to Parliament in the June 2003 report “Enhancing Canadians' Access to Federal Public Service Jobs”. For example, since 2001 the PSC has opened up all senior level positions to national competition. In 2002 the PSC launched two pilot projects aimed at expanding the area of selection. In 2003 it launched the public service resourcing system to open up recruitment in the national capital and eastern Ontario region.
In short, the PSC is pursuing a responsible and measured approach to expanding the area of selection.
I thank the member for his interest in the PSC. I urge him and other members to support the Public Service Commission on improving the fairness and effectiveness of public service recruitment, for it is only by working together that we can ensure the continued excellent work of the public service and the quality of the PSC.