Mr. Speaker, normally I start by saying it is a pleasure to rise to talk about a bill, a subject, or a motion, but I cannot say that this time. As we have heard repeatedly, it is well into two years of the Phoenix fiasco. It is a disgrace that we are still chatting about it.
Earlier, in a question, I brought up a commitment made by the minister, which she promptly blew off, to provide resources to the constituency offices to help people with the Phoenix disaster. She waxed on eloquently, saying that employees should talk to their managers, their supervisors, or this person or that.
I want to give a personal, human example of why we need the assistance and how the government continues to let down Canadians and public servants.
There is a lady in my riding, whose name is Sebastienne Critchley. I will read part of her letter. She says that on April 2016, she took leave without pay for medical reasons. She says that her pay should have been stopped and was not, and she received an overpayment. She notified her manager, as was requested, to try to resolve the issue. She returned to work in June, reduced her hours, and continued to be paid full time. She took additional leave without pay in July 2016, and continued to be paid.
She took the right steps. She told her manager and supervisor. Nothing happened.
In October, she did not receive a paycheque. There was no notice, just no pay one day. It had been clawed back for the overpayment.
In November 2016, she went on maternity leave and had her son, Logan, who she brought in to my office. I realize Logan is probably only about a year old, but I would like to say hello. She said they had spent over three weeks in neonatal care. The time she should have spent with her son was instead spent in a hospital bed and later in the hallway of intensive care calling and trying to get a record of employment so she could receive an income during this stressful period.
She was told at the time that it would take six months. She went on and talked to a different pay adviser about the overpayment, and he suddenly stopped responding to her. She called back again, and she was told it was $7,500 that she was overpaid, and then $22,000, so approximately $30,000 in total. Then she was told she was just a category three, the lowest priority, and therefore, they would not even take a message to have someone call her back.
In February 2017, she received a T4, followed by an amended T4. Now those who have been following the Phoenix saga for so long will remember that in the emergency committee, which the Conservatives forced in July 2016 and the Liberals fought against, Conservative members brought up the T4 issue. We were told by the deputy minister to not worry because it was all in hand. Apparently, it was not all in hand.
Her letter continues, saying she began working with a compensation adviser who advised her that her overpayment was now $30,000 because Phoenix had generated additional payments of roughly $15,000, which were never actually paid to her. Because her T4 was so low, she had credits she was not able to use so she passed them over to her husband. Then her child tax credit was calculated incorrectly, because of the T4 issue.
She estimates she has spent over 200 hours attempting to resolve this, taking time away from caring for her children, having late nights, attempting to analyze the information. She has had depression and a lack of sleep. She decided to review her pay stubs. Imagine her surprise when the pay stubs she had printed off with each pay, compared to the new ones available to her, did not match.
The letter goes on and on. She says she lays awake at night fearing that she will end up repaying $30,000 when it should have been $21,000. She went on maternity leave and indicated that she wanted to pay her benefits coverage in advance with post-dated cheques. She tried, and so did her team leader and manager, to find out how much she needed to pay. She finally went on leave without that information. When she came back, she had a letter stating that if she did not pay in advance, her benefits coverage would not cover the period she was off and she needed to repay any benefits. It was several hundreds dollars she did not have, because she is currently being asked to pay back approximately $9,000 she never received.
She said she went back to work September 5, and on September 26 she received an email from the agent who was actually working on the file saying he would have information for her later that week. On October 3, she followed up and there was no answer. On October 5, she received an email asking if she had reviewed her pay stubs, as if it was somehow her responsibility. On October 12, she sent another message asking for this information. Then on October 16, she said that despite numerous requests, she had no response whatsoever.
Ms. Critchley came into my office. I saw this letter and she was called to my office so that we could meet face to face and try to help her. I realize this is a disaster and there are lots of other people trying to get their pay fixed, so I took it upon myself to say that we were going to have the deputy ministers in committee and I would personally ask them to take this on.
We actually had to filibuster at committee to get the minister to show up to talk to us about Phoenix and about what the plan was going to be to fix it. We got no information out of that, but we did get a commitment from her in November that, by December 15, they would have a plan on how MPs could help victims of Phoenix. Now we have seen the minister stand up and say that MPs should not do that as it would be interfering and that they should let the managers do it. However, we have seen very clearly that the managers are not capable.
I want to continue on with Ms. Critchley's case. I went to Deputy Minister Lemay and Deputy Minister Linklater who were in charge of the Phoenix disaster, for lack of a better word. I asked them to please help this one person. There are 150,000 people affected by Phoenix. I realize I cannot help them all, but I wanted to help this one lady in my riding because she was not getting help. I went to the very top and was promised that someone would get in touch with her.
This letter has four pages of issues. She spoke to someone and the email back from the government department said that she should speak to her manager to request the overtime that she was owed. It came back to me. That was enough for me, so I went back to the deputy minister. I asked Ms. Critchley to keep me copied on all correspondence. I have them here. It is about 58 emails back and forth. We are into another year and the T4s are still incorrect, and now I have more emails.
This just goes to show that we cannot fluff it off and tell people to go to their managers. The MPs are here for a reason. They are here to help those affected by Phoenix. It is not enough to make a promise and say that they will get back to us on how they will support the MPs and then just take off, ignore emails and letters sent to the minister, and have the minister stand in the House and say it is interfering if the MP is trying to help someone else. That is disgraceful. The minister made a promise. She should keep that promise and give the resources to the members of Parliament to help their constituencies.
I want to turn to the Phoenix pay system itself. The Liberals will blame the former Conservative government. They look over the fact that they were warned in advance by the unions. We have documentation from January 2016 of the unions warning them that the pay system was not ready. Going back a few months to summer 2015, when the PSPC wanted to start Phoenix, the Conservative government said that it was not ready. We have seen the documents that said the training had not been finished, and that there were lots of errors in the pay system. The Conservative government said, “No. Go back and get it working properly.” The unions said it was not working.
At committee, the current deputy minister told us that the government had never spoken to the union, and then backtracked when presented with the facts.
Of course the Liberals are going to blame the Conservatives, even though the Liberal government knew that it was not ready and went ahead. They are going to blame the bureaucrats. We heard it today that the Liberals were told to go ahead. However, the Gartner report that went to the Treasury Board very specifically said the pay system was not ready. If we wanted a smoking gun, that is the perfect example because it went to the Treasury Board. The Liberal government said it did not pass it on to PSPC, as it did not know. However, the government knew about it.
They are going to blame the vendors like IBM and PeopleSoft.
It is very clear that the blame for the Phoenix fiasco sits with the Liberal government. The Liberals talk about the backlog, but we have documents showing that the government was told in advance, on December 15, as part of the pay process to clear the backlog. A year later, Deputy Minister Lemay writes a letter to the minister saying that the problems of Phoenix were caused by not clearing the backlog.
Also, we have documents to the government stating very clearly all the issues, such as problems with pay changes and problems where the Coast Guard said it was having a 50% failure rate in December. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans stated the same thing, very clearly, right to the government. The Liberal government knew it was there.
When the Phoenix problem started rolling out in January, which was the first wave, in February at committee we warned the government. The minister at the time said there were only 77 cases. We knew it was a lot bigger and the problem still continues.
The biggest problem is that the government will not take it seriously. The current government will not make a plan to help Canadians and to help MPs help their constituents. The government is doing nothing and that is the problem.