In Rob Wright's presentation, he said things are working pretty well, that we have this vehicle that was brought in by the Liberal government, by the former mayor of Sudbury. He brought in this tool, the procurement strategy for aboriginal business, and it was consistent with what we've been doing in other areas of the country. We created tax zones for regionally challenged areas like Cape Breton. Then we moved away from the tax system a bit as an economic development tool, and we started creating these agencies. We created FedNor, Western Economic Diversification Canada, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, and so forth.
This procurement strategy was along the same lines, but it was focused in on federal procurement. It was supposed to be that where a contract was directed, or the benefits of a contract were supposed to go to indigenous communities, it was mandatory to use that PSAB requirement. Beyond that, it was voluntary for other departments. We created a bureaucratic system in order to promote it. I think there are four to six people who work for that outfit out there. They track results, or they claim to track results. It's usually really about three-year-old data they track. It's like the employment equity we report on. There's always this patting on the back that we're doing so well, but actually based on the overall numbers, they are doing half as well.
If you took the percentage of the indigenous population as a percentage of the Canadian population, you have 4% or 4.5%. In our procurement stuff, which, as the Government of Canada, we control, we're looking at about 2%. We're doing about half.
When I came to the committee last time, I talked about all this work going on on Parliament Hill, and the opportunities to indenture so many indigenous Canadians in the trades. We've struggled in the trades area, and we're not there in the percentage we should be. Since then, we have EllisDon and PCL that have the construction contract for Parliament Hill. It's going to be a six-year project. We're going to have the Supreme Court coming, which is another $2-billion project. We've just seen the results of West Block. You come to West Block at lunchtime, and there are all those guys streaming out of there, but there are no indigenous people working there. We have this opportunity to create all of these masons, etc.
You have a situation where the contracts awarded now on Parliament Hill.... We had this in Manitoba. Manitoba pre-qualified on the hydro project. We had a $7-billion project from hydro. They pre-qualified five companies. We went to Manitoba Hydro and said, “None of them are required to do anything for indigenous people.”
We then did what we have done at the federal level before. We put in a minimum indigenous participation requirement. In the case of Manitoba, it was 15%. All five of the pre-qualified bidders had to come to the Métis and the first nations in Manitoba and figure out how they could get 15% of the overall value going to the indigenous population, either through jobs or subcontracts. Then Manitoba Hydro would hold their feet to the fire in the contract process, and put penalties in if they didn't meet those requirements.
It worked, and we have just done the same thing with Enbridge on Line 3 in Manitoba. Enbridge, to their credit, have done it across the board on Line 3. They have all of these pre-project commitments to indigenous people, and they put it in there. In fact, in the oil and gas industry, it's standard practice now, but in the construction industry in Canada, it's not. You have the big guys—PCL, EllisDon, and all these guys. There's no corporate requirement for them to do anything, and they don't have the indigenous component, maybe because much of the business is from Ontario and Quebec.
We have an opportunity to use the federal spend to drill out indigenous benefits. It can be done by putting these minimum requirements in. It's important that it be in the minimum requirements, because sometimes the stuff is really special.
I'll give you an example. In the Olympics, we tried to get the Olympic committee to put some minimum requirements on or to put a set-aside. Then it came to hockey pucks. There's only one company that makes hockey pucks and it's in Czechoslovakia, so it doesn't fit. It's same whether we're building ships or fighter jets. But those companies buy other stuff, and they have other business lines. Even if we put the minimum requirement on, they could at least lease the real estate, buy the supplies, etc. There's a way to do it.
Every time we've introduced this concept to big companies, there's an initial push-back, but then after they say, yes, they can do it because they are not self-performing all of it.
I'm going to let Brian speak. I spoke too long, but Brian is going to talk a little bit about—
Good afternoon, Mr. Chair. It's a pleasure to be here and to see committee members again.
Today we're here to discuss the main estimates, and I'm looking forward to having the chance to update you on the work and activities of my office.
I'm joined by my General Counsel, Brian Radford, who has appeared before this committee before, and my Chief Financial Officer, Éric Trottier, who accompanied me last year for the main estimates appearance.
I know you're already familiar with our mandate, given the legislative review of last year, so I won't use my limited time to provide you with background. Our office's budget is relatively small. It's $5.5 million. I have a team of 30 employees. I anticipate increasing that to 35 in the coming year to support our core operational mandate. The bottom line is that I currently have sufficient financial resources to do my job but anticipate using the full budget allotment in this fiscal year, which will be a first for our office.
You have copies of my departmental plan, which outlines my priorities. Briefly stated, we'll continue to pursue operational efficiencies using technology, training, human resources strategies, and program evaluations, to support that goal. Also, we're going to continue to focus on a challenge I have discussed with you in the past, and that is reaching out to public servants to ensure that they are aware of, that they understand, and that they are confident in using the federal whistle-blowing regime.
When I was here last year to talk about our legislation, I spoke about the importance of changing the culture, that is, of making whistle-blowing a normalized and accepted part of the public service culture. I want to reiterate as forcefully as I possibly can that any change in culture can only be the result of a collective will and a collective effort. My office, which is referred to as a “micro-organization” within the federal public sector, has a significant role to play in this regard despite our very small size, and we're really working hard to fulfill that role.
Since my last appearance here, we have tabled three case reports in Parliament of founded cases of wrongdoing. They're really important in contributing to cultural change, but they're only one part. For example, we also produced a very significant research paper on the fear of reprisal, entitled, “The Sound of Silence”, which I believe I shared with you last year. This too advanced the discussion, and it focused attention on the need for change that is led from the top of an organization.
Mr. Chair, the Public Service Employee Survey, the results of which were recently published, is a very important indication of the current state of the culture in the public service. These results reveal clear concerns that employees have about workplace values and ethics, mental health support and the trust of public servants in the disclosure process.
These concerns are apparent in our daily work, as illustrated in my two most recent reports on founded wrongdoing, and others that I tabled in Parliament previously.
There's clearly work to do in changing the culture. For example, to the question of whether individuals feel they can initiate a formal recourse process without fear of reprisal, fewer than 50% of public servants who responded said that they could.
As a chief executive myself, one of my immediate interests was how the survey reflected on the state of my own organization. I was very pleased to see that the results indicate what I believe to be quite a healthy and well-supported workforce, comprised of people who feel that they can speak up themselves. This confirms that the talented people on my team recognize and value the very attributes of the healthy culture that our office was created to support and protect in the first place. I was further heartened to see that 96% of our employees described our workplace as being psychologically healthy.
These survey results and the fact that our own response rate in my office was over 80% tells me that my office, which itself has gone through much-publicized difficult times in its early days, is an example for the rest of the public sector, an example of the possibility of positive change. It also tells me that our employees are well-equipped and able to carry out their difficult and demanding work. In fact, 82% said they would prefer to stay with us even if a comparable job were available elsewhere. That's compared to 65% in 2014. Frankly, Mr. Chair, I couldn't be more proud of the results of the team I have the privilege of leading.
Relating these to the priorities identified in my departmental plan, I believe the survey results actually helped build confidence among public servants about coming forward to our office if they know they are dealing with people who themselves understand the importance of speaking up and of supporting psychological health in the workplace. I'm also certain that committee members would expect and want people in my office to be operating with such a perspective and approach.
Last year at this time, I appeared in the context of the review of our legislation. As you know, I tabled 16 proposals for legislative change that I felt were progressive, achievable, and necessary.
I read with interest this committee's very thorough report, and I was pleased to see that my proposals were either explicitly or implicitly reflected in that report. I also read with interest the government's response, and, as I stated publicly, I was disappointed that the government was not taking action at that time to change the legislation.
Mr. Chair, my position remains that change is required and that my proposals are relevant and necessary. My hope is that changes will be made, if not now, then in the future, and hopefully as soon as possible. For my part, I will certainly continue to speak about the need for change to support people in coming forward confidently when they think something's wrong.
Mr. Chair, in conclusion, I am pleased to share important operational statistics before the actual publication of my annual report.
Last year, we received 147 disclosures of wrongdoing, which is a significant increase over the previous year, when we received 81. In the course of our work on these files, we will see how many of them will end in investigations or founded cases.
The number of cases of reprisals increased from 31 to 38, which is comparable to previous years, but still represents a significant increase from year to year.
We are currently working on 23 investigations.
And I should say, having spoken to my director of operations on my way to this committee hearing, that I'm expecting that I will be receiving recommendations to launch three new investigations in the coming week.
In addition, my office has met and exceeded the service standards we set for dealing with cases in a timely manner. As a reminder, those standards are to complete at least 80% of initial analysis of disclosures within 90 days, and 80% of investigations within a year. We are meeting these standards in 90% and 86% of our cases, respectively, and we are in 100% compliance with the statutory requirement that we assess reprisal complaints within 15 days.
Briefly, we referred one reprisal case to the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Tribunal, and most importantly, in my view, we settled six cases through conciliation, arranged and paid for by my office as the legislation contemplates. These cases were actively being investigated by my office. They could have resulted in referrals to the tribunal, but they were settled by the parties confidentially to their satisfaction, and in a timely manner with our assistance.
These conciliations, Mr. Chair, represent an unquestionable success for the parties, and indeed for our office, and for the whistle-blowing regime, and that number of conciliations, the six this year, represents a 60% increase in a single year over the total number of conciliations to date by our office.
Mr. Chair, I hope that this information will provide the committee with a useful overview of some of our key activities and achievements, and provide a clear and positive image of how my organization works.