moved that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee.
He said: 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.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to say a few words today on Bill C-8, a bill to create and empower the Office of the President of the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency.
As the President of the Treasury Board said, that agency was created last year by the Public Service Modernization Act. Bill C-8 is essentially a housekeeping bill. It is part of the government's effort to implement its reforms of the public service which are laid out in detail in the Public Service Modernization Act. I am sure the Chair will forgive me if I spend much of my time discussing that act and the need for public service reform in general.
As the House knows, I was a public servant for 22 years. I served as the president of a union local and as a manager in four federal government offices in Ottawa, one in Sudbury and one in Cornwall. When I study legislation like Bill C-8 or Bill C-11, which deals with disclosures of wrongdoing, I am able to look at it from the point of view of a public servant. Often that perspective seems to be missing from the government's considerations when it drafts legislation.
Although I recognize the need for more rational and functional structure for the public service, I am somewhat skeptical when I hear about public service modernization. There were many positive steps taken in last year's Public Service Modernization Act which Bill C-8 would supplement. Many of the changes are long overdue improvements to the nation's public service. If carried out properly, they could lead to a much happier, less strike prone and more productive public service. As I said, I am very skeptical.
At the time it was tabled, the Public Service Modernization Act was touted by the government as the first major public service restructuring in 35 years. The government is being more than a little naive if it thinks it can make up for 35 years of neglect all at once.
The reality is other attempts have been made to modernize the public service. I was part of the public service during many of those attempts at modernization. I have lived through them. I have learned that the government is usually a step or two behind the pressures and demands of the public service. Somehow or another the government cannot seem to keep up with the public service. We must never fall into the trap of assuming that our work is done and that a single act of Parliament can instantly reverse the disenchantment in the public service over long-standing issues.
I asked the President of the Treasury Board in committee last week why he would not create an independent, external body to receive and investigate disclosures of wrongdoing and protect those public servants that he spoke so highly of, the ones who make disclosures. His answer was that the Public Service Commission would change and would become more independent and more respected by public servants.
It is fine to give that responsibility to the Public Service Commission. It is always dangerous to assume that the culture of the public service will change that quickly and dramatically because the government makes a few organizational changes. As I said, I was part of that same public service for 22 years. It does not change quite that easily.
The Public Service Modernization Act, and by extension the bill before us today, does make some steps in the right direction, and I am happy to recognize those important steps.
By the government's own admission over the past few decades, the public service has remained structurally and functionally a top-down organization, with too many isolated pillars of communication and accountability. The Public Service Modernization Act provides for more flexibility in staffing and in managing people. It also stresses the need for a cooperative approach to labour management relations, which I fully support and which is long overdue.
The employees who actually deliver end products and services are the ones who know best what works and what does not work. They must have more say in the running of the workplace. If the intent of the Public Service Modernization Act becomes reality, the result will be happier federal workplaces.
The act also overhauls staff training and development and more clearly delineates the roles of key players in the human resources area, in Treasury Board, in the Public Service Commission and in the various deputy ministers and their equivalents. That is where the Public Service Modernization Act connects with Bill C-8.
Bill C-8 would allow Treasury Board to delegate its powers pertaining to human resources management, official languages, employment equity and values and ethics to the President of the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency.
Under Bill C-8, the President of the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency would replace the President of the Public Service Commission, an ex officio governor of the Canada School of Public Service, and would replace the Secretary of Treasury Board as the person providing the Official Languages Commissioner with reports on the monitoring and auditing of the federal institutions with respect to their compliance with official languages rules.
As I mentioned earlier, it is very difficult and dangerous to prejudge the impact of a reorganization like this. It needs to be considered in a broader context, in this case in the context of the Public Service Modernization Act which is very complex. At the end of the day the most important stage of any bureaucratic restructuring process is listening to the front line workers whose effectiveness is at stake.
If serious problems arise, the public servants will let us know, only if we are prepared to listen to them. Unfortunately, the government's track record has been poor when it comes to listening to front line public servants.
We can tell that the government does not listen to public servants just by the way it treats whistleblowers. Bill C-11 is supposed to address this issue, but it will not do the job unless it is amended, because the government has not taken into consideration what public servants had to say about the way the program would be implemented.
I believe that all the technical changes in the world will be for naught unless the government listens to and respects its employees. It will get respect from public servants only if it shows them some respect. Only through a relationship based on mutual respect will the government be able to rely on a modern, flexible and efficient public service.
In closing, I will support Bill C-8 and I will encourage my caucus colleagues to do likewise. However, my support comes with a cautionary note for the government. Do not make the mistake of thinking that mechanical changes will resolve all the country's public service issues in one fell swoop. The government has to be dedicated to working with public servants in a respectful way over the long term. The government has a tough road to hoe if it intends to overcome its record of the past decade.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-8, whose purpose is to make legislative corrections to ensure the implementation of the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency, which was created last December, if I am not mistaken. The main objective of Bill C-8 is to reconcile three acts, namely the Financial Administration Act, the School of Public Service Act and the Official Languages Act.
At the start, I will say that even though the Bloc Québécois is not entirely satisfied with certain aspects of Bill C-8, we will support the principle of it. I think that it is important to say this right from the beginning for those who are watching us, especially Treasury Board officials who must ask themselves the question. Now they know. They will be able to continue with their tasks or perform others.
That being said, the specifics that we would like to see in Bill C-8 will focus on what I will say now. For example, we read on page 3 of Bill C-8:
(b) section 6 is amended by adding the following after subsection (4):
(4.1) The Treasury Board may, subject to any terms and conditions that it considers appropriate, delegate to the President of the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada
(a) any of the powers or functions in relation to human resources management, official languages--
You will see that, for us, in this bill, everything that has do to with official languages deserves to be specified.
This deals with the Financial Administration Act. Concerning the Official Languages Act, it says:
3. Section 47 of the Official Languages Act is replaced by the following:
47. The President of the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada shall provide the Commissioner with any audit reports that are prepared pursuant to paragraph 46(2)(d).
Consequently, under clause 47, the president of the agency is replacing the president of Treasury Board, who, until now, was the one who had to report annually.
Before I go any further, I need to explain a bit about the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada. and how it will ensure modernization of everything the President of the Treasury Board has said, as well as application of the Official Languages Act.
It would be pretentious to claim to have been searching the Internet, but my assistant has done so to get some information on the agency referred to in this bill. I will read a few excerpts about the agency from Part II. I will comment on them as I go along. You will see that, even in a minority government, they do not suffer from humility. No humility for the Liberals.
The first raison d'être of the agency is set out in a nice little box as follows:
Our raison d'être is to modernize, and to foster continuing excellence in people management and leadership across the public service.
No problem with that, but the problem arises with the second quote.
Thus, the Agency will serve Canadians by striving for--
Hon. members have probably heard the expression “the bestest in the world ” in connection with our public service. In fact everything done in Canada is so described. We do nothing by halves. So, I have added a few words but the quote is officially:
--a workforce and a workplace second to none.
As you can see, there is no humility in this document, nor in this government. They will learn, slowly but surely, in the transition from majority to minority position, from a grand total of x members to x minus all the defeated candidates.
What we want is an efficient and effective public service, and one that is above all respected. I think that those working in our public service deserve better. I was joking about the public service being the bestest in the world, but the public servants in our respective ridings would never write like that. They have far too much respect for their work, and so do I.
I think that this is from the Treasury Board website, not the bill, but certain aspects might be corrected.
Later in the Treasury Board document we read:
Our strategic outcome is a modern, professional public service dedicated to the public interest and supporting ministers in democratic governance, representative of the Canadian public and serving Canadians with excellence in the official language of their choice, with employees effectively and ethically led in a high quality work environment respectful of their linguistic rights.
I will return to the official languages. With respect to ethics, some names have been overlooked, such as Guité and Tremblay, those who were implicated in the sponsorship scandal. Still that is what the Treasury Board Web site says about this agency.
Later on, in Part III, entitled Planning Overview, we read this:
While TBS continues to focus on compensation, labour relations, and pensions and benefits, the PSC focuses on staffing and the Canada School of Public Service (CSPS) focuses on learning and training services. As a result, the Agency works very closely with each of these partners—
Therefore they set up groups to implement the necessary action. The Treasury Board Secretariat was the agency that was supposed to ensure that everything was going well. This is now delegated to the agency. That is another thing that makes complicating accountability and responsibility in this government possible, but not for the first time. I am sure there was no malicious intent and that the president of Treasury Board at the time was not trying to dilute information by creating the agency. And the same is true of the foundations.
Later, on page 15 of the document, under the heading, “Achieve and preserve official language commitments...”
Following the restructuring of the Government on December 12, 2003, the Agency is responsible for directing and coordinating the official languages policies and programs for the 196 institutions subject to the Official Languages Act.
As a result, through its Official Languages Branch, the Agency will continue to oversee—
I will come back to that later. If the agency oversees the same way the Treasury Board Secretariat did, it will not continue to oversee very well.
—and foster the establishment of an environment that effectively supports each institution in the integration of official languages into the workplace—
This is how it should be in this country. It is important to point out that this is not a speech written by the Bloc Québécois. I am quoting from the Treasury Board Secretariat, under the heading “Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada”. A little further, under the heading “A Representative and Accessible Public Service” the document says:
Progress towards employment equity and a more bilingual public service must continue in order for the government to meet its commitments to deliver effective quality services to Canadians and to develop a workplace respectful of diversity and linguistic duality.
The last two quotes are real gems. They should be included in the annals of the House. Indeed, we read the following on official languages:
On both fronts, considerable progress has been reported over the years. Achievements remain fragile or stagnant, however, and further improvements have to be made.
According to the Treasury Board Secretariat, “considerable progress has been reported”. The last quote is found under the heading “Key Priorities and Results for Canadians” and reads as follows:
The Agency will continue to strive for targeted improvements in employment equity—
This is also true for official languages.
What worries the Bloc Québécois and what worries me personally is when we read that the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada will continue to apply and take pride in the good results and progress achieved in official languages. At the same time, I made four complaints to the Treasury Board Secretariat and all four were deemed in order. These four complaints, which I submitted a year ago, are basically saying that the Treasury Board Secretariat is not complying with the Official Languages Act.
The complaints also say that the Treasury Board Secretariat is not accountable for or serious about its responsibility regarding the enforcement of the Official Languages Act in the various departments. The Treasury Board Secretariat is ignoring a number of regulations it put in place itself. Moreover, the Treasury Board Secretariat—the parliamentary secretary is listening and will certainly support what I am saying, otherwise she would contradict me during the period for questions and comments—has not delivered the accountability required under the Official Languages Act.
In one of the complaints I made, it was said, and I quote:
Regarding exclusion approval orders, if positions in the public service are designated bilingual, such positions or the person in those positions may be excluded from any language requirement, under certain exclusions or certain exclusion characteristics, including continuous service.
In the federal jargon, what is meant by exclusion as the result of a person being in continuous service? It is an order stating that anyone who, before April 6, 1966, had accumulated at least ten years of continuous service and who, since then, has been in continuous service, is excluded from language requirements. To meet such a requirement, and this is still in force, the person must have had 48 years of service in the public service as of April 2004. I bet you cannot find more than two or three of those, Mr. Speaker—and I am certain you are not one of them.
However, the Public Service Commission was monitoring the Official Languages Act provisions and the Treasury Board Secretariat was monitoring compliance with the Official Languages Act. The language rights of francophone communities have been ignored. I am not talking about the number of incomplete files, 2,521 in all—which is not much. According to the Treasury Board annual report, 2,521 persons hold a designated bilingual position in the public service. However we do not know if they comply with their hiring criteria, because their files are incomplete. Groupaction probably took care of their files. That is why they are incomplete.
Following that, I filed another complaint, which said that the Treasury Board is not properly carrying out its responsibilities as far as its supervisory obligations are concerned and which was also deemed in order.
Filling bilingual positions is quite another matter. I used to be our official languages critic, something I found both interesting and important. Therefore, I can tell the House that, since French-speaking Canadians account for close to 25% of the population, about 25% of the jobs are designated bilingual. I think that is quite normal. To fill a bilingual position—quite obviously—one needs to be bilingual. So far, so good.
Did you know, for instance, that over 60% of all jobs designated bilingual in the armed forces are held by unilingual people? That complaint was also deemed in order. I am not talking about 2% or 3%, but rather 60% of jobs designated bilingual being held by unilingual people. Throughout the public service, around 16% of jobs designated bilingual are held by unilingual people. I will not tell you what language they speak, I am going to let you guess.
I used to like to ask the previous President of the Treasury Board the following question, and I might put the same question to the current President of the Treasury Board: how many lawyers in the justice department are not really lawyers? How many income tax experts at the finance department are not really tax experts? None.
So why is it that unilingual people are hired to fill jobs designated bilingual as long as they undertake to taking language courses at some point in the future. That is still going on. Does the parliamentary secretary agree with me?
Why not hire social workers to fill lawyers' jobs suggesting they take the appropriate courses to become a lawyer at some point in the future? Why not hire mechanics to fill tax experts' jobs suggesting they take the appropriate courses at some point in the future? Positions are designated as such because they are important.
Why is what is important for a tax expert or a lawyer is not important for a francophone? I would really like someone to answer that some day.
Had the President of the Treasury Board given the agency, through Bill C-8, constraining powers, a real role in terms of accountability, perhaps the Official Languages Act could have started to be respected and enforced, after 35 years. But no, as I indicated earlier, quoting from the Internet site of the Treasury Board Secretariat, they will continue to be content with whatever progress is made.
Sixty per cent of designated bilingual positions in the Canadian Forces are held by unilingual individuals. Sixteen per cent of designated bilingual positions in the public service are held by unilingual individuals. Yet, the boasting is continuing. In making changes to legislation, attention ought to be paid to this sort of thing.
More specifically, in Bill C-8, special attention could have been paid to respecting the Official Languages Act. But no, instead the name of the President of the Treasury Board is replaced with that of the president of the agency, which will continue as before without changing a thing. They are even proud of doing nothing; they are proud when they receive complaints.
The complaints I have filed were not about not having been served in the language of my choice somewhere in Saskatoon. The complaints were against the Treasury Board Secretariat as a whole. I had complaints against DND as a whole. It is not about the priest from Bagotville, in the Lac-Saint-Jean region, who could not work in Moose Jaw, if I am not mistaken, because he was not allowed to speak French on a base that was supposed to be bilingual.
My complaints do not concern a single individual contravening the act in one place. They concern an entire government ignoring the Official Languages Act. At the same time, the Conservatives are telling us that the OLA is too constraining for unilingual individuals. That is the position of the Conservatives.
I cannot wait for the day when more francophones will fill designated bilingual positions in a department. Just try to find a unilingual English position filled by a francophone and you will see that he will have to change jobs quite rapidly. This is not the situation today.
The government will make the legislative reconciliation that must be made to Bill C-8, so this will apply, since it was created in 2000. Perhaps there are other improvements that could be made.
Before concluding, I would be remiss if I did not pay tribute to my colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville. I could have talked more about this, but, in this bill, we must refer specifically to everything that has to do with whistleblower legislation, with Bill C-25 concerning the modernization of the public service, which I did not do.
So, as I said, all this will enable my colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville to be heard on Bill C-451, which she introduced during previous Parliament and which deals with harassment in the workplace. I talked at length about official languages, but I can also talk about this. Harassment in the workplace affects one public servant out of five, according to a 2002 survey of 95,000 public servants.
This is why my colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville introduced a bill to protect victims of psychological and other types of harassment. First, the text defines psychological harassment and abuse of power and then it requires the federal public administration to provide public servants with a harassment-free workplace.
I believe that, if the government protects public servants from psychological harassment, if it allows public servants, through Bill C-11, to disclose wrongdoings in their department and their workplace, and if, on occasion, it complied with the Official Languages Act, Bill C-8 would modernize the public service and the government machinery in a positive way.