Interventions in Committee
 
 
 
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View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Very good. I am very glad to hear that.
What do you think about the responsibilities being split in two, in a sense? I think there was a decree whereby the Department of Canadian Heritage responsibilities were transferred to Ms. Joly's portfolio, which is tourism, the official languages and the Francophonie.
Do you think there is adequate governance of the official languages in government right now?
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
That's fine. I understand.
I have another question. On May 30, Michel Girard, from the Journal de Montréal, published data that made radios in Quebec City panic. The public service benefits have increased by 54% in the past four years.
How can you explain this increase in benefits, which total $93.4 billion in liabilities?
In the past four years, there has also been a $33 billion increase in benefits such as severance pay, package deals for separation from employment, and so on. How do you explain this drastic increase in public service benefits, which lit up Quebec City's radios?
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
—for each ministry that could potentially have a minister of state, with or without portfolio, how do you explain that it has risen way faster in the last four years, for example, than in the last decades?
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
With regard to the Phoenix fiasco, there are new excuses every month. If half the energy and time spent on blaming the previous government had been spent on finding practical solutions quickly, perhaps we would not still be talking about this today.
I would like to share with my fellow committee members a conclusion from an internal report by S.i. Systems, which was submitted to Public Services and Procurement Canada, or PSPC, in January 2016. It is similar to the Gartner report, which you commissioned in February, Mr. Brison. The internal report submitted to the department stated that all the necessary employees were working in Miramichi and in other compensation sectors. The real problem, it said, was the backlog of cases that you would not acknowledge until March and April.
Now that we have a good idea of the scope of the problem, we know that the backlog is part of it. For several months, your government has come up with a new excuse, saying that the previous Conservative government laid off 700 people. Moreover, as I said yesterday—and I would like Ms. Shanahan to hear this—, can you confirm, Mr. Brison, with due respect for your Liberal colleagues, that your government laid off 250 compensation experts from February to April 2016?
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
I wasn't born.
Minister, what I'm getting to here is that the process of firing 700 people was perhaps started by us, but the 250 people who were fired between February and April are part of those 700 people. Your government should have stopped that, just like Harper did after the election when he said that we would postpone the firing of those 250 people and postpone the launching of the system because it wasn't ready and we needed those experts.
Your government decided, at the same time as it launched the Phoenix system, to fire those 250 people, so that their problems are on your back, not on ours. That's the reality, and Canadians need to understand that. When you say—because it's your third excuse in a year—that the problem is caused by a lack of employees.... You fired 250 people. You should at least confirm that to your colleagues.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
I hope not, Madam Chair.
Ms. Lemay, I agree that the software is not at the source of the problem in this whole business. It's rather a matter of structure.
You said that 700 positions in pay services were cut in 2014. I met a senior official from pay services—I won't say anything more to maintain their anonymity—and this person told me that, between February and April 2016, 250 pay services employees were fired. That was during the period when pay issues related to Phoenix began to arise.
How do you explain that?
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Ms. Lemay, in February, the Gartner report in fact stated that the expertise needed to be retained to make sure the experts on compensation could help new employees at the Miramichi pay centre. Today, you also said that you underestimated the learning curve associated with Phoenix, something you weren't saying a few months ago.
You said that the Minister didn't see the Gartner report, but your predecessor must have seen it. Nevertheless, 250 people were let go two months later. First, I want to say how glad I am to hear you confirm that. Second, it contradicts what you said today because, at the time and despite the situation, you got rid of those positions.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
I understand, but Minister Foote rightfully said that the problem was not due to the Phoenix software, itself, but that it, instead, had to do with the structural implementation, among other things. She was, however, the minister during half of that rollout.
Ms. Lemay, I can't get over this, but there are still people today who haven't been paid for six months, people like the Drouin family in Montreal. In your monthly updates, however, you say that these kinds of extreme cases no longer exist, that they were dealt with at least five months ago. How is it that people still have not received any pay?
In the Mauricie and Outaouais regions, 4,000 homes are currently flooded. If we assume that there are four people per household, we are talking about 16,000 people who have been affected. As for Phoenix, we are talking about 82,000 cases. Far more people are dealing with Phoenix pay issues than the flooding problems. The issues with Phoenix have sent families into crisis and caused people to lose their homes because they couldn't pay their mortgages. The situation is just as urgent and dire as the flooding in the Outaouais. Prime Minister Trudeau contributed $1 million to the Red Cross, on behalf of the government. His response was swift. In fact, he surveyed the flood zones by helicopter last night.
It is quite clear that, from the beginning, the government never saw the Phoenix pay problems as urgent or a crisis in need of a quick resolution. How is it possible, Ms. Lemay, that, to this day, there are people who have not been paid in six months?
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
It's unfortunate to be on the receiving end of such low blows. The merits of a committee member's questions are not for judging, Mr. Ayoub. Like you, I want to be part of the solution. At the end of the day, however, every government is responsible for its own actions.
I want to talk about the structure around the implementation of Phoenix. If it wasn't ready, why, then, did the minister make the decision, on February 24, 2016, to go ahead with the rollout, when she hadn't seen the reports? It is, after all, rather incredible that the minister shirked her ministerial responsibility. If 700 employees were actually laid off by the previous government—something that was never really confirmed—and if that reduction in staff caused problems with the implementation of the new system, why did the minister make the decision to go ahead?
That's the problem. The Liberal government has to answer for this, because it made the decision to go ahead with the rollout of Phoenix, not the Conservatives.
Why, then, Ms. Lemay, despite all your information, did the minister give the green light on February 24, 2016?
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Ms. Lemay, after the election, the Right Honourable Stephen Harper decided to postpone the rollout by three or four months. The minister could have done the same thing in February, since the reports clearly indicated that the system wasn't ready. It was noted earlier that there were structural deficiencies and knowledge gaps associated with the system, and that it was crucial to recover compensation expertise. On the contrary, some 250 employees were laid off during the first waves. I'm glad you confirmed that figure.
What's more, you said the desperate situation of the Drouin family in Montreal was unfortunate. The parallel I drew with the floods is very apropos. Under such circumstances, people shouldn't be expected to come to us for help; we should be the ones offering them help. Members of the military were deployed, and the Prime Minister went to the flood zone. Mr. Couillard has also been on the ground for at least 10 days. Members have been to the area as well. In this case, thousands of families have been devastated. The Liberal government has an obligation to reach out to families who are in desperate situations.
Why, then, do you expect them to reach out to you for help? You have to be much more proactive and reach out to them.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
I want to share the Drouin family case with the committee. The case was featured in the Journal de Montréal just two weeks ago, on April 29, 2017. It's not a secret.
We're no longer supposed to have serious cases, but Mr. Drouin hasn't been paid in six months. Two weeks ago, the article in question quoted Mr. Drouin as follows, in French:
I'm completely in limbo. I feel abandoned in this situation, and I don't know whether I'll be paid eventually. I'm in debt. Everything is on credit cards. ... I may face bankruptcy.
Ms. Lemay, don't tell us that your department doesn't follow the information released in the media. It's impossible. Your department is well aware of this family's story. I don't like focusing on specific cases. However, it's tangible proof that, even though the backlog is clearing, there are still extreme cases today. It's unacceptable and incomprehensible. With all the efforts made, how can people not have been paid in six months? It's ridiculous.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Fine.
Mr. Borbey, thank you for your patience.
You spoke earlier about the integration of young people into the public service. I would like to know at this time whether that recruitment is positive or negative, that is to say whether a lot of young people are being recruited.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
I would like to point to two important aspects of eventual careers in the public service. One of them may repel young people, whereas the other one should on the contrary attract them.
As you specified in reply to a question from Mr. Drouin, young people today expect to have three, four, five or six different jobs over 40 years. The public service, while offering the possibility of acquiring diverse experience, allows people to follow that same path without necessarily having to change jobs. It would be interesting to promote that aspect with young people.
However, I am concerned about their interest in the public service, to the extent that, as you said earlier, that environment requires total dedication, a sense of duty and a respect for hierarchy. Today, in the post-modern context, people turn their backs on hierarchy.
One article I read said that the army is finding it harder and harder to recruit people. I was a member of the Canadian armed forces for five years, and I'm very happy to have had that experience. But since I am only 31, I can relate to young people. I know that hierarchy and a sense of duty are not what attracts them the most. That was a comment rather than a question.
That said, do you think it would be possible to present duty, dedication, continuity and respect for hierarchy in a way that could attract young people?
That is quite a challenge, I know, but I'd like to hear your point of view.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Mr. Borbey, a question suddenly comes to mind. Do you think that we should further decentralize the public service, for instance by installing more offices in the regions? What is your point of view on that?
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Greetings to everyone, no matter which time zone you are in.
Mr. Conacher, the committee has repeatedly heard from witnesses that the Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner had committed wrongdoing. That made me curious, so I'd like to know what that wrongdoing was.
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Thank you very much.
Mr. Devine, you said that we should absolutely include the private sector in the law. I assume that's a fact in the United States. Can you just share with us how it works exactly, a whistle-blower law applied to the private sector?
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Technically speaking, how does it work in your country? How does it apply to the private sector? For instance, when it's in the public sector, we have those internal agencies in the departments. How does it work in the private sector?
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
How is it in the public sector in the United States? Does the whistle-blower have to go through the chain of command?
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Mr. Worth, you have put forward some amendments that, according to you, would be positive for the law. Are there any other changes that you haven't spoken about this morning that you would like to share with us concerning our specific law?
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Conacher, before going any further, I would like you to clarify something for me.
You said that the commissioner does not have executive authority because he is an officer of Parliament, but Parliament has three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial. Why do you say that the commissioner's authority is legislative rather than executive?
View Alupa Clarke Profile
CPC (QC)
In an ideal political system, the convention of ministerial responsibility would be absolute, meaning that a minister would resign as soon as their department committed a wrongful act. In England, that's how it works, but I'm not sure whether the responsibility is consistently applied, as was the case a few decades ago. Conversely, in the U.S., the responsibility lies at the bureaucratic level, and the government is not responsible for anything.
My comment transcends all partisanship and all government parties. Is the whistle-blower problem in Canada not due to the fact that absolute ministerial responsibility no longer exists? In other words, ministers don't step down when problems occur in their departments, unless the media outcry is strong enough.
We don't follow the honourable convention whereby a minister resigns when their department makes a mistake. Ironically, departments have an internal mechanism where employees have to first report the wrongdoing to a designated person, who then notifies the deputy minister. The deputy minister, in turn, notifies the minister. That chain of command is doomed to fail because everyone knows the minister will do everything in their power to push the blame down the chain, because they don't want to resign.
The problem is due to the fact that Canada does not follow the constitutional convention of the Westminster system. Is it not?
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