Mr. Chair and committee members, I welcome the opportunity to appear before you this afternoon to discuss the 2017-18 supplementary estimates (A) for Public Services and Procurement Canada and Shared Services Canada.
As many of you are aware, both departments play an integral role in the federal government by supporting the operations of other departments and agencies in providing important services directly to Canadians. To support those operations, we are requesting $185.9 million in supplementary estimates (A). This includes $60.9 million for Public Services and Procurement Canada and $125 million for Shared Services Canada.
Allow me to begin with our request for Shared Services. SSC provides modern, reliable and secure information technology infrastructure services in support of the digital delivery of programs and services to Canadians. Of the $125 million that the department is seeking, $97.6 million will support projects that are mission-critical to Government of Canada IT operations. Examples include the migration of key government applications that support services to Canadians into more secure and modern public cloud solutions or enterprise data centres.
To date, the department has closed down over 160 legacy data centres that presented significant security and service risks to the Government of Canada and opened three enterprise data centres. This includes the new, state-of-the-art facility in Borden, Ontario, which is the Government of Canada's largest enterprise data centre and the result of a successful public-private partnership. It requires no service disruptions for maintenance and provides greater physical and cyber security for Canadians' personal information.
These supplementary estimates also include $14.6 million to expand and support information technology services at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.
These investments are part of the government’s strong commitment to ensure we are properly resourced to address evolving IT needs and opportunities.
I am continually impressed by the tremendous determination and hard work of SSC's employees in meeting the technology needs of its customer departments. Whether it's protecting government systems against security breaches, supporting our immigration officers at points of entry, or implementing the fastest recorded computer platform in the government to support timely and accurate weather forecasts and warnings, the department plays a crucial role in improving services to Canadians.
But perhaps the best way to sum up the department's progress is by looking at its customer satisfaction survey results. Since 2015, customer satisfaction has been consistently trending upward—something I am particularly proud of. This is a direct result of the hard work of SSC officials and appropriate government investment in the organization.
From the beginning, our government committed to delivering common IT infrastructure that is reliable and secure, while at the same time providing departments what they need in order to deliver services that are timely, citizen-centred, and easy to use. That is exactly what we are doing.
Let me now turn to Public Services and Procurement Canada.
As announced in budget 2018, responsibility for the build in Canada innovation program, or BCIP, will be transferred to Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada at the end of the fiscal year, as part of a broader initiative to streamline and simplify the suite of innovation programs across the federal government.
Of the $60.9 million we are requesting for the department, $39.8 million is for the BCIP. This money will fund the first of four years for the renewed BCIP program, so that we can build upon its success and meet those high demands going forward.
As this committee heard directly during the procurement study, BCIP helps Canadian businesses bring their innovative projects or services to market. It does this by matching them with federal departments and agencies that can use a company’s product, helping to bridge the pre-commercial gap by providing innovators with a successful first real use of their pre-commercial innovations.
There have already been 353 contracts, worth $163 million, awarded under this program; 80% of the firms that benefited from the program brought their products to market, and 78 of those products have been exported to 48 countries. Simply put, we know the program works, and the volume of submissions is rapidly growing. I can tell you that we are encouraged by the increasingly high demand for this flagship innovation procurement program.
On that note, I would like to thank this committee for its recommendations on procurement modernization, including BCIP.
I now turn to our request of $13.6 million for continued efforts to stabilize the Phoenix pay system.
This request, which includes $11.8 million transferred from last fiscal year, will fund ongoing functional and technical support to the pay system. This work is within the scope of the contract between the federal government and IBM. It also includes $1.8 million for funding to increase support services to employees with pay issues within PSPC. This item represents PSPC’s portion of the $25 million announced in budget 2018 to hire more staff to support employees within the department on human resources-to-pay issues.
As I’ve said before, I remain fully committed to ensuring that Canada’s public servants are paid accurately and on time. There is no greater issue that continues to face the public service, and our government has no higher priority. That’s precisely why we have significantly increased our capacity to address employee pay issues.
Since Phoenix was launched, we have nearly tripled the number of compensation staff, from 550 to more than 1,500. This includes the 700 positions eliminated by our predecessors. This is but one of the suite of measures we’ve put in place to stabilize the pay system.
We're also implementing innovative ways of working—including a new approach called pay pods, which I described during my appearance in May.
Unlike last year, we are no longer at the stage of diagnosing problems. Instead, we are in the process of optimizing our systems to meet the needs of compensation centre staff, unions and employees using the Phoenix system.
Pay pods group together teams of pay specialists that exclusively service specific departments and agencies.
For the departments involved in the pilot project, we have seen a substantial reduction in the backlog and the number of employees with pay issues has dropped significantly.
With this proven success, we're now in the process of implementing pay pods across government. We are rolling out pay pods so that by mid-2019, all 46 organizations served by the pay centre will be transitioned to the pay pod model. As of October 2018, half of all pay centre employees are now served by a pod.
With the actions we've taken, we are now starting to see a steady decline in the case backlog. In fact, we've seen more than a 21% reduction in the queue since January 2018, even as we've taken on additional work to process $1.5 billion in retroactive payments for employees. Said differently, we've been able to decrease our queue of transactions awaiting processing by about 130,000 transactions.
Even greater improvements are seen when we focus on the departments with pay pods. Since January 2018, pay pod departments have seen a 23% decrease in backlogs. We are optimistic that our efforts will continue this positive trend.
The next item I would like to discuss is the $5.5 million we have requested for the federal contaminated sites action plan. That amount would be transferred to two Alaska Highway projects. This important roadway stretches nearly 2,500 kilometres across northern British Columbia and southern Yukon into Alaska, and it is key to the economic prosperity of the regions it serves. This funding will help us to continue to ensure the highest standards of safety and environmental responsibility as we undertake important renovation work.
The last of PSPC's requests is $2.5 million to better support the Government of Canada's digital advertising fund. The fund is administered by the Privy Council Office in accordance with Treasury Board Secretariat policy, and managed by my department through our online advertising unit. Created in 2013, the digital advertising fund aims to use digital advertising to communicate with Canadians rapidly about major announcements and priorities, including unforeseen issues. The increase in funding would allow departments and agencies to better communicate on emerging issues related to things like health and safety recalls.
Mr. Chair, as you can see, PSPC and SSC have diverse mandates, and the nature of our funding requests reflects the numerous ways that our departments touch the lives of Canadians.
I am proud of the unique role our departments play, and I am deeply grateful for the talented and dedicated public servants that have brought their skills to PSPC and SSC.
We look forward to your questions. Thank you.
In June 2011, CUPW workers ran rotating strikes as part of a labour action. Less than two weeks later, Canada Post locked out CUPW workers and the Harper government passed back-to-work legislation. This, as the courts described, was very heavy-handed legislation that mandated a wage increase, mandated the kind of offer the arbitrator must receive, and mandated the terms of the contract. It was quite prescriptive in the way it outlined how the process would proceed.
In contrast, in the current environment we have been assisting the parties for over a year in this labour dispute, and Canada Post never locked them out. We didn't run to legislate quickly; we waited as long as we thought we possibly could.
Also, the legislation itself is as opposite as you could possibly get from the legislation of 2011. It did not dictate any terms for the contract. It set out a process whereby we would once again try mediation, move to arbitration, and give the arbitrator absolute discretion to determine the process and the way that arbitration would go down—not move to single-offer arbitration.
In addition, the parties have the opportunity to submit names for the mediator, and the Minister of Labour would go to the chair of the Canadian Industrial Relations Board if there weren't one upon which the parties could agree.
It was very much laying out a process instead of dictating terms.