Good morning. Thank you to the chair and to all committee members for inviting me to join you today. I am very pleased to have the opportunity to introduce myself and also to take any questions that you might have regarding my appointment and Canada Post.
I want to start by saying that I consider it to be a great honour and a tremendous responsibility to take on this position. My interest in applying for the position came from a number of principles that are important to me and that have also influenced each step of my career: a deep respect for public service; a belief that you can solve tough challenges by bringing people together to find common ground and a shared vision; a belief that you can make organizations stronger by supporting and enabling employee engagement; and, a desire to make a personal contribution to Canada and continually grow my own connection to our country.
Like every Canadian, I have tremendous respect for the postal service as an institution and for all of its workers. I was born in a small town in northern British Columbia. I was raised in both rural and urban settings. I raised my own child on a rural route. Today, I live in a densely populated area of downtown Vancouver. I've had the good fortune to travel to almost every part of the country. I've experienced many diverse and unique aspects of our culture. Throughout my life, I've seen first-hand the many different ways that we all rely on public services. In addition to making a contribution to Canada through this role, I look forward to growing as a Canadian, including becoming fully bilingual and making new connections in different places with different people.
Canada Post plays an essential role in our lives and our communities. It touches each of us every day through the delivery of our mail and parcels. It has an equally important positive presence through its mail carriers and storefronts throughout the country. Its rich and proud history as an institution older than the country itself has made its mark in defining Canada, and today it remains essential in supporting our businesses to grow and succeed.
Canada Post is also at a very critical stage. The way we communicate with each other, the way we do business with each other, and the way we choose to receive public services are all changing more rapidly than ever, and Canada Post is needed as much as ever to support us in these interactions and to serve as a connecting presence in our communities. I'm very excited to bring my career experience as well as my personal outlook to Canada Post at this particular time.
I've had the opportunity to spend most of my career—over 25 years—in the public service. For me, the journey started 35 years ago when I was in high school and was selected to serve as a page in the British Columbia legislature. After graduating from university, I was selected to be a legislative intern in the legislature. Following that experience, I began my career as a unionized employee in the provincial government. As someone who grew up with a curiosity about public policy issues, these first-hand experiences were an incredible front-row seat, enabling me to understand the impact that public service can have on people and the communities they live in.
I've had the opportunity to serve in many roles during my time with the British Columbia government while working at all levels. Later on, from 2005 to 2009, I served as deputy minister to the premier, cabinet secretary, and head of the B.C. public service. I was responsible for overseeing all aspects of government operations.
At the time, the B.C. government had 36,000 employees and a $37-billion budget. During my term, I managed massive government-wide budget reductions due to the global economic crash, and I led the implementation of a groundbreaking cross-government climate action agenda. I was also fortunate to lead landmark discussions, including the negotiation of a new relationship between the B.C. government and first nations.
I worked very closely with people at all levels of the public service to lead a transformative human resources program. As in any organization, there were different viewpoints, priorities, and agendas. We were able, though, to bring everyone together and define a vision that resulted in meaningful change. I continue to be extremely proud of this work, because we improved employee engagement by 10 points in just the first three years. The B.C. public service was also recognized for the very first time as one of Canada's top 100 employers, one of Canada's greenest employers, and one of Canada's top 25 family-friendly employers.
More recently in my career, I served as president and CEO of BC Hydro, British Columbia's largest crown corporation, a clean-energy utility generating 98% renewable and clean power. It's also one of the Canada's largest energy companies, integrating every aspect of energy planning and production, transmission and distribution, customer service, and supplier partnerships.
At the time, the utility was beginning to face a historic challenge: to deliver its largest ever capital expansion and refurbishment for the future, while keeping rates for users amongst the lowest in North America. The same principles I referred to earlier guided the corporation through these challenges: resolving issues by finding common ground, keeping employees engaged, and remembering that our primary responsibility was to serve the public by providing reliable and affordable energy.
During my time there, BC Hydro was named Canada's number one top employer by Forbes and the most influential brand in B.C., following a full brand refresh.
I also understand the value of good governance and the important role a board of directors plays in providing oversight and guidance. It has been my privilege to serve on a variety of boards, including as chair of the board of directors of Powertech Labs, board director of Powerex, and vice-chair of the Insurance Corporation of B.C., as well as serving on a couple of boards of publicly traded companies. I am also a member of the B.C. Arbitration and Mediation Institute, the Alternative Dispute Resolution Institute of Canada, and the Institute of Corporate Directors of Canada.
As I described, I have served the public in a unique progression of different non-partisan roles: in program delivery, as the head of the public service, from the top of crown corporation management, and on the board of multiple crown corporations and subsidiaries. I believe my career has been uniquely relevant to my current role as chair of the board of directors at Canada Post. I am truly honoured to have the opportunity to bring my experience to the challenges and opportunities before Canada Post today.
Following an extensive consultation process, the Government of Canada has instructed Canada Post to set a new path forward to meet the changing needs of Canadians while continuing to provide the high level of service that individuals and businesses expect and rely on.
I want to recognize and acknowledge the work this committee has undertaken—which I have become very familiar with—to help form the renewed vision for Canada Post. I know that the full complexity of the issues before it were studied and debated, taking into account the many perspectives of customers, communities, employees, and many others.
The mandate I have now been given centres on a new emphasis of service and accessibility and on working constructively and collaboratively with employees to find innovative solutions that support the corporation's long-standing mandate to remain financially self-sustaining.
Anyone who has followed the progress of Canada Post knows that challenges still remain. However, we have an opportunity in the next few years to set a new path at all levels of the organization that will help us to implement this new service-based vision and to get long-term renewal right.
If you have shopped online recently, you know that most of your shopping is delivered by Canada Post. While mail has continued to decline, the corporation and its employees have been working hard to adapt to the changing needs of Canadians. Great service has led to growth in parcels, making Canada Post the first choice of Canadians who need online purchases delivered.
That means the financial position of the corporation in the near term is positive. Guided by solid and thoughtful leadership, this will provide the breathing space needed to find innovative solutions for the changing work environment, to be competitive in the evolving landscape of e-commerce, and to work together to build a vision for the future.
As we undergo a transition in leadership of Canada Post, a new CEO will be key to leading the corporation forward. An open and competitive search process is well under way. As well, with many board members' terms ending, several new directors will be appointed in the coming days after applying through an open process. They will represent broad interests from across the country.
As Minister stated in her open letter after the government announced its vision:
||...achieving long-term renewal requires a constructive relationship between the Corporation, its workers and the communities in which it operates. This will take time, and a deep commitment to renewal on the part of both management and labour.
I fully agree. Ensuring a strong future for this institution will require a deep commitment from everyone.
We have challenges to address and opportunities to embrace. The principles that got me to this point—respect for public service, finding common ground, and engaging employees—will continue to guide me as chair.
I thank the government for this incredible opportunity and role, which I undertake with respect for and pride in the past, and optimism for the future. I would be happy to take your questions.
Thank you, Madam Chair and committee members, for this invitation. It's an honour to be here today participating in this discussion.
My name is Alexander Jeglic. I have been the procurement ombudsman since April 3, so for exactly two weeks today.
From my first day on the job, it has been evident that my office is made up of quality people who are working hard to respond to the questions and concerns of Canadian suppliers and who work to promote fairness, openness, and transparency in federal procurement.
I'm proud to have been chosen to lead this valued and trusted organization.
I understand the committee wanted to hear from me as the new appointee to the position of procurement ombudsman. Allow me therefore to provide you with some information on my previous experience, education, and training.
Before joining the Office of the Procurement Ombudsman, I served as general counsel, access to information and privacy co-ordinator, and, more recently, as corporate secretary for PPP Canada.
PPP Canada, or Public-Private Partnerships Canada, was a federal crown corporation created to improve the delivery of infrastructure by achieving better value, timeliness, and accountability to taxpayers through public-private partnerships. At PPP Canada, I provided legal and strategic advice on procurement processes for large infrastructure projects, predominantly in an oversight role.
Prior to joining PPP Canada, I worked at the Canadian Commercial Corporation, another federal crown corporation, as senior legal counsel. There, I was involved in the drafting of solicitation documents for projects of varying complexity and provided legal advice on the procurement process through to contract award. Post contract award, I was responsible for the resolution of disputes associated with contract management.
Over the course of my six plus years at the Canadian Commercial Corporation, I had the benefit of playing a multitude of different roles, including those of drafter, evaluator, and adviser. Playing these respective roles provided me important insights into each aspect of the procurement process and the associated issues.
While working at the Canadian Commercial Corporation and PPP Canada, I taught dispute resolution and negotiation at Algonquin College. I also taught procurement law in the undergraduate law program at Carleton University. At Carleton University, my teaching spanned a six-year period, and it provided me the opportunity to connect with students and to help prepare and equip the procurement practitioners of the future.
Prior to joining the Canadian Commercial Corporation, I worked for the Department of Justice. I was assigned to the legal services unit at the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, now Global Affairs Canada.
While there, I had the opportunity to assist in the drafting and review of solicitation packages, participate in supplier debriefs, and resolve disputes associated with ongoing contracts.
Prior to that, I worked in Washington, D.C., for the Australian trade commission as a business development manager and international trade adviser. In this role, I was part of the “selling to the U.S.” government team that was created as a result of the then newly signed U.S.-Australia free trade agreement. My role allowed me the opportunity to assist Australian companies to identify and bid on government procurement opportunities at both the federal and the state level. I learned a great deal about procurement in this role and experienced first-hand the challenges faced by suppliers.
Before that, I worked for the Chicago International Dispute Resolution Association in Chicago, Illinois. The association provides a forum for resolving transnational business disputes in a neutral and private setting for arbitration and mediation. At the association, I was primarily responsible for outreach, research, and facilitation of monthly meetings. I gained skills that continue to help me successfully de-escalate contractual disputes.
In terms of education and training, I graduated from law school at Loyola University Chicago with a certificate in international law. I completed my undergraduate studies here in Ottawa at Carleton University, where I completed a B.A. in law, with a concentration in business law.
I am incredibly proud to be a graduate of Carleton University and continue to give back to the Carleton community through the mentorship program.
I genuinely believe that my work experience, combined with my training and education, has provided me a well-rounded perspective and prepared me well for my role as procurement ombudsman. I am confident my perspective will allow me to have an objective and impartial view of the current approaches being used in federal government procurement.
My perspective also provides me with a balanced appreciation of what suppliers are going through in trying to navigate the federal procurement process, since I’ve essentially been on the other side of the fence.
While it's very early in my mandate, the priorities that I will focus on are starting to crystallize in my mind.
First, my office will continue to focus on the core activities of my legislative mandate in a way that is straightforward, efficient, and transparent.
This applies to reviews of supplier complaints, reviews of departmental procurement practices, and the contract dispute resolution services that we provide. I want to increase the amount of information we share with suppliers, departments, and other interested parties in the area of procurement.
In addition to transparency, I want to emphasize the theme of simplification. Procurement is by its very nature quite complex. Suppliers must be clearly told what the buyer is looking for, how their proposals will be evaluated, and how the winning bid will be selected. This can be painstakingly detailed but often necessary to ensure fairness, openness, and transparency. I am a strong believer that federal organizations need to take every available opportunity to simplify procurement.
Simplification will help address concerns that my office continues to hear from suppliers and federal officials alike. My office often hears that federal procurement is too complicated, time-consuming, and bureaucratic.
This will not be an easy task, and as I begin this mandate as the procurement ombudsman, I plan on both encouraging and promoting efforts across the board that contribute to the simplification of federal procurement.
Another area where my office can add a great deal of value is in the resolution of disputes for contracts that have been awarded.
When Canadian businesses and federal departments get bogged down in lengthy disputes, nobody benefits, least of all the taxpayer. The co-operative nature of dispute resolution services provides faster results and more flexibility to both parties. My office’s alternative dispute resolution services represent an effective tool to get contracts back on track, goods and services delivered, and suppliers paid.
My office has a successful track record in providing dispute resolution services and in mediating disputes. I would like to see these services leveraged by more federal organizations and suppliers across the country.
There isn't always a need for formal dispute resolution. My office has done a great job in resolving issues without having to resort to a formal dispute resolution process. Although these instances don't show up in our official statistics, this is something I intend to continue to promote and track as it aligns with the principles of simplicity and helpfulness that my office stands for.
Finally, I will also be looking to expand my office’s procurement expertise by performing deeper and more comprehensive analyses on procurement-related issues. This will enable my office to have a more fulsome understanding of the root issues driving complaints to my office. To align with transparency, this research will be shared as broadly as possible.
My office will then be in a position to help resolve issues before they turn into complaints, which in turn simplifies the process. I believe that my office is well placed to play this role, because we hear first-hand from both suppliers and federal officials about the good and not-so-good practices in federal procurement.
We have a lot of information to share, and I will seek opportunities to do so in the future through consultations with stakeholders, participation in procurement-related conferences, and meetings with federal government decision-makers to provide my perspective.
I welcome the opportunity to come back to this committee in the future and report back on the four priorities I have just laid out, namely: one, transparency; two, simplification; three, growth in dispute resolution services; and four, knowledge development and sharing.
In closing, I would like to thank the committee members for the opportunity to speak with them, and I would be pleased to answer any questions you have.