Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Edmonton West.
I want to thank my NDP colleague from Jonquière for bringing this motion forward. It is important that we recognize that public servants across the country are still suffering as a result of the Liberal government's inability to address the mess it caused by prematurely hitting the start button on the Phoenix pay system. Like many of my colleagues in this House, my office has heard those terrible stories of families and retirees, hard-working citizens of our nation, who have had their lives severely damaged by the government's implementation of the Phoenix system before it was ready for rollout.
This is a basic issue. As the member for Jonquière herself said, surely one of the basic tenets of the administration of government, which the Liberal Party claims to be good at, is that it pays its people on time for the work they do. Surely that is one of the basic things one can expect from a government, yet for year one of the government, for year two of the government, and now for year three of the government, this has been an abject failure of the party and the government. The failures of the government have played havoc with people's lives and their finances. We know now that this problem will be compounded for years to come as employees' retirement situations are left in the lurch, thanks to the mistakes being made and not rectified today.
As my colleague's motion addresses, the government was completely oblivious to the warnings sent out by departmental staff and the unions to not move forward with Phoenix. In fact, the previous Conservative government, as I mentioned in my questions and comments, held off on hitting the start button more than once because of similar warnings. After starting the system prematurely, the Liberal government continued on its clueless path, and that has now created this runaway train.
There is plenty of evidence to bear this out, much of it in the Auditor General's report released before Christmas. The Auditor General reported that it took the Liberals four months to recognize that there were serious pay problems, and it took about a year to have a better understanding of the situation. By the time the Liberals woke up to the mess they had made, the number of public servants in departments and agencies using the Miramichi pay centre who had outstanding pay requests quadrupled to more than 150,000.
Until about a year after Phoenix was launched, the government was still responding to pay problems willy-nilly as they arose. The Auditor General reported that by last summer, which was almost two years into the Liberals' mandate, the Liberals still had no road map to deal with the problems they themselves had created. The problems grew to the point that as of June 2017, unresolved errors in pay amounted to over half a billion dollars. That is half a billion dollars of unresolved pay amounts.
The evidence does not stop there. Let us look at the Liberals' ineptitude in reviewing the system-related issues with Phoenix. The system has about 200 custom programs to handle some of the 80,000 federal government pay rules and to work with departmental human resources systems to process pay. The government determined that it needed to analyze all 200 of these programs to identify the system-related sources of pay errors. However, the government started its analysis only in March 2017, more than a year after the pay problems started to be reported, and by last fall, it had analyzed only six of the 200 custom programs. That is not good enough. It is not good enough at all.
To make the situation abundantly clear, I will cite from the Auditor General's report:
Public Services and Procurement Canada and the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat did not recognize early enough that they needed a comprehensive governance structure to resolve pay problems and develop a sustainable solution. Public Services and Procurement Canada initially responded to pay problems on its own and did not fully involve departments and agencies in developing a plan to resolve pay problems.
The Auditor General found that 16 months after the pay problems first arose, there was still no comprehensive governance structure to resolve the underlying causes of the problems. In contrast, as my hon. colleagues in the NDP have indicated, Queensland Health, a government department in the Australian state of Queensland, which had similar problems with a pay system, put in place a comprehensive governance structure within four months of the pay problems arising. There were 16 months of non-response from the current Liberal government versus a four-month response in Queensland, Australia.
The Liberals' lack of awareness and the complete lack of willingness to address this mess is not only astounding but is a complete and utter failure of competency that is hurting many thousands of public servants and their families.
Today's motion is a reminder that the Liberals are still, unfortunately for this country, floundering on this file, while public servants' lives and the lives of their families continue to be irreparably damaged. So many of them have reached out to their members of Parliament for assistance, really as a last resort. However, I must report in this place that our offices have received little by way of support from the government. In November, as my hon. colleague for Edmonton West has already indicated, the minister said that she was willing to help MPs' offices by providing specific resources for the Phoenix cases pouring in every week. However, after months of no response, we learned that the additional resources amount to Liberal staffers taking down details in the minister's office. That is not good enough by a long shot.
We still have these outstanding cases, and I am sure that if we were to add the cases of our NDP and Liberal colleagues on top of what my Conservative colleagues know, that number would rise significantly. There are 300 cases among the Conservative caucus alone. I daresay that it is the tip of the iceberg. It is another example of how the Liberals promised more support but failed to deliver.
Therefore, today, in the spirit of holding the government to account on this file and not letting the voices of Phoenix victims go silent in the House, I and my colleagues will be supporting this motion, and I sincerely hope that members on the government side do the same.