Mr. Speaker, as we adjourn for the holidays, the Phoenix pay system has become the grinch who stole Christmas for far too many of our public servants.
It is a basic expectation of any employer to pay his or her employees correctly and on time. Not only has the Phoenix pay system created huge problems for the payment of federal employees, but those payment problems have also created tax problems, and that is something to contemplate as we near the end of this year.
Difficulties with record-keeping have also deprived many federal public servants of benefits to which they should be entitled, and the nervousness about making any kind of change to payroll deductions has deterred many from enrolling for charitable contributions from their pay. Therefore, we see that Phoenix has had a negative effect not only on the pay of public servants but on many other people and groups as well.
In recognition of the severity of this crisis, in yesterday's question period, no fewer than eight New Democratic MPs rose to ask questions about Phoenix. We are making this issue a priority.
We also saw the Phoenix pay system come up in today's question period in an exchange in which the Prime Minister was trying to blame the former Conservative government for Phoenix, and the Leader of the Opposition was trying to blame the Liberal government. At one level, I appreciated that this was almost the closest to a debate I have perhaps seen during question period since being elected, so I enjoyed the back and forth, but ultimately, the Liberals and the Conservatives trying to blame each other is not a solution to the problem.
What are the solutions to the Phoenix pay system? Fundamentally, we need to rebuild and re-establish a publicly administered payroll system. In the meantime, I have suggested that the government should empower members of Parliament with tools to help constituents who come to our constituency offices with Phoenix problems. One of the great frustrations members of all parties have is that there is very little we can do for constituents who come forward with these types of difficulties.
If someone comes in with a problem to do with immigration or employment insurance benefits, there are hotlines our staff can call to get answers and information about that individual's case. There is no such hotline for the Phoenix pay system. About eight months ago, I suggested establishing one, and at that time, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement seemed to feel that it was a good and constructive idea. More recently, when I followed up on this suggestion in a previous adjournment debate, the response was that there is already a triage system and that we would not want to allow people to jump the queue by going to their MP's office.
Of course, that is not the logic we would apply to immigration or to employment insurance. In those areas, we accept that MPs have a responsibility to serve our constituents and that constituency offices serve as 338 points of contact across the country to improve the delivery of public services.
I want to again ask the parliamentary secretary about the possibility of establishing a Phoenix hotline so that members of Parliament have some tools in 2018 to help our constituents with Phoenix problems.