Interventions in Committee
 
 
 
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you. Unfortunately, I hear those types of examples all too often. Those are the types of things that we obviously need to be looking at to try to address with regulatory compliance.
Mr. Achen, regarding the CRA, you raised an issue that is also one I hear so frequently. You mentioned, and I actually hadn't heard this statistic before, that we have five times the number of agents per capita in the CRA than does the IRS. I've heard that expressed in different ways before, about the thousands and thousands of agents that we have at CRA, yet when you make a phone call, you can never get any one of them on the phone. People always wonder how the heck it is possible, with all those people there, that you can't even get someone on the phone. Then they say, if you ever do get someone on the phone, you might talk to four different agents and get six or eight different opinions, so that's obviously a source of frustration.
I wonder if you might speak to the opportunity that's lost for our businesses, particularly our small businesses, when they're dealing with these types of compliance burdens with the CRA. Obviously the complicated nature of the tax code and the fact that even the CRA agents can't really give you a proper interpretation of it, what do those effects mean for our small businesses in terms of lost opportunity to be able to be competitive and to be able to grow their businesses, mentor employees and so on?
View Michelle Rempel Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you.
I have a limited amount of time. Specifically, from an opportunity cost perspective, the government is investing—spending—$51 million worth of tax dollars and assuming oversight and, ostensibly, liability related to an arm's-length profession that exists to interpret difficulties in an existing government system.
I'm wondering if there was any opportunity cost analysis done to apply that $51 million to ease service delivery specifically related to this particular expenditure?
View Kevin Sorenson Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you, Mr. Nuttall. You have 10 seconds, but I'll take it.
Did you ever ask CRA, when you were given false information, if you could have that answer in writing? I've been told by constituents—and it's probably happened to us—that when you're on the phone after finally getting through, after being blocked so many times, when you get the information, all you have is really your word against somebody else's, because it's on the phone.
Would you ever ask if you could have that answer in an email or in writing?
View Earl Dreeshen Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you.
Again, the point I was trying to get at was the reciprocity of how we are engaged in that compared with our competitors. I think that was the point being brought out.
The second thing I want to talk about is this. Industry, Science and Technology is about to study rural and remote Internet access and service and so on.
BDC and EDC, when you look at your customers, are there aspects of this that you feel we should be working to improve? I know from when we were down in the U.S. with that committee that the U.S. has the same issue there.
Ms. Glenn, could you perhaps fill us in a bit there?
View Martin Shields Profile
CPC (AB)
View Martin Shields Profile
2017-10-31 12:27
Okay. Thank you.
One of the other things you talked about is the multi-ethnic part of banking that you try to work at. One of the things in the community that I am from is that we have a very diverse community, probably one of the most diverse in Canada. I found the banks responded to that first in the sense that immediately you saw front-line staff from different ethnicities, and you saw them moving into management positions very quickly.
The one really interesting thing I saw was that in our health system we were having real problems in our ERs with the different languages. I went into a bank and I saw people of different ethnicities being taken back to talk on a phone. The bank had established a network in which they could get 200 languages online within two minutes. The private sector, your banking industry, did that quicker.
Do you have examples of where your banking industry has moved to do things like that?
View Blaine Calkins Profile
CPC (AB)
John, I want to thank you for your service to your country and to the greater good of allied forces. I really appreciate it. Whether you know it or not, you've kept Canadians and people all around the world safe. I want to thank you, sir.
I want to ask you a question about equality of services. In Canada, one thing that comes up quite frequently is the frustration that veterans feel. Some of them are from smaller communities and are more isolated. You, sir, are from a very large metropolitan centre. Your organization is doing great work for a large number of veterans where you have a critical mass and where it makes sense to do so.
How would a veteran who is, say, returning to Knox City, Gorey, or O'Donnell, Texas, find the level of services that they get there, and what would your organization be able to do in the context of providing equity of services for somebody who doesn't live within the region?
View Michelle Rempel Profile
CPC (AB)
Yes, thank you.
Mr. Arnold, your country has a very organized immigration system. We know that. You have dedicated visa subclasses for skilled visa, family visa, parent visa, etc. I'm wondering if you could comment or maybe expand upon the effectiveness of implementing these specific subclasses for visas and how that has improved your client service delivery.
View Michelle Rempel Profile
CPC (AB)
Could you expand upon that a bit? What are some of the experiences you've had? What is the impetus in terms of looking at condensing the number of classes as that relates to client service delivery? Where is the right balance? I would say that also having very vague characteristics makes it difficult to apply, too, so in your experience, where would you see that right mix?
View Michelle Rempel Profile
CPC (AB)
Have you had to deal with instances where you perhaps have had one applicant apply through different streams writ large, even if it's for citizenship or whatnot? How has your country dealt with that?
View Michelle Rempel Profile
CPC (AB)
For example, let's say that in Canada you're applying for citizenship and you're applying under different classes or different programs. Sometimes that gums up the amount of resources it takes to process these applications.
View Michelle Rempel Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you.
My next question, just before I had it over to Mr. Tilson, is for Ms. Desloges.
In previous studies that we've had at committee, you've talked very briefly about how current immigration laws already allow officials to apply discretion in exceptional circumstances, essentially talking about section 25. I just want to give you a quick opportunity to talk about this in terms of service delivery. Because it is such a nebulous process, could you see improvements in triggering that process from a service delivery perspective?
View Michelle Rempel Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you, Madam Chair. What a great chair you are.
This is for Mr. Kurland. I want to ask you a few questions around the electronic travel authorization. You've been in the media around this recently, in March with CBC. You noted that the rules and exemptions are more complex than officials would have travellers believe.
Bringing this discussion back to client services, in your experience, is there anything the government could be doing to better inform travellers of this requirement so that they're not sideswiped by the new rules?
View Michelle Rempel Profile
CPC (AB)
Are you hearing anything else from your broader clientele in terms of issues with this particular program or with its introduction?
View Michelle Rempel Profile
CPC (AB)
Some of my colleagues have been bringing up a theme of interactions with MP offices when people are accessing consulting services and then require an MP to intervene. Is there anything the government can do to prevent the escalation of files to MP offices, as it relates to your line of business?
From my own personal experience, sometimes we get stuff referred from immigration consultants. There is really no consistency in how that happens. Even for us, as legislators who end up offering this service, is there anything that you can advise to us in terms of consistency on applying service at an MP level?
View Michelle Rempel Profile
CPC (AB)
In that instance, for the casework that I would get through my office, we phone a special hotline for MPs about it, but are you saying that some of your clients basically do not have adequate access to service in terms of their ability to pick up the phone?
View Michelle Rempel Profile
CPC (AB)
In the time that I have left, could you provide your two or three top concrete recommendations in terms of change around service delivery, based on what your organization has heard and on what your clients are saying? What would those recommendations be?
View Michelle Rempel Profile
CPC (AB)
To both of the witnesses, I expect that one of the themes we're going to hear over and over again in the testimony in this study is that we need more resources, but the people who have offered that so far have not been particularly specific in that. I'm just wondering if you feel that is the issue. If so, what does “resources” mean, and is there any pedantry in the process that could be eliminated to provide better access or better efficiency with the resources that we already have in place? That's question number one.
Question number two, Mr. Nurse, is about your comment around the process being very faceless. I would agree with you, given that when people contact my office, it's because they feel as though they haven't reached a human being. When you made that comment, I was wondering, in the context of what I just asked in terms of resources and process, how can we humanize the process? Are there key choke points with service delivery where that could be fixed?
I can let you go first. Go ahead.
View Michelle Rempel Profile
CPC (AB)
As your recommendation here, are you saying we should review the fees for processing services?
View Michelle Rempel Profile
CPC (AB)
I'm sorry to interrupt. I want to leave some time for my colleague, Ms. Harder.
Mr. Nurse, you commented on attitude, and I think it's come up as a theme. Without denigrating the public service, I think it's something that is going to come up over and over again.
Could you just very briefly explain what that means to you and perhaps provide a concrete recommendation for performance management outcomes or something that could be inserted into front-line workers' performance reviews or something to that effect, and could you quantify what that means?
View Rachael Harder Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rachael Harder Profile
2016-12-13 17:00
Mr. Kurland, my question is to you. You raised this point with regard to the Canada Revenue Agency, and I find it a fascinating one. Can you expand a little bit for me with regard to the best practices that we could adopt from the CRA and bring over to the IRCC? Could you outline that within the brief minute and a half?
View Rachael Harder Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rachael Harder Profile
2016-12-13 17:01
That basically summed it up. That's really what I wanted to know.
Essentially, it comes down to having real-time updates that are accessible to the applicant rather than to me as a member of Parliament who has to be the one who phones in on a hotline, waits on the phone, and then is able to get an answer.
View Michelle Rempel Profile
CPC (AB)
I want to begin with a couple of questions on the eTA process. We've been hearing that some travellers have experienced problems with the new eTA requirement that makes it necessary for visa exempt travellers to obtain an eTA to fly to or transit through the country. While this helps us to understand who is coming into the country, there have been some problems with its implementation. We heard from a spokesperson for Air Canada that it has been encouraging the government to do more to publicize its eTA requirement.
Could you give us a sense within the context of your client service delivery model why this hasn't been better publicized for those travelling to Canada, and what practices could be put in place to ensure this doesn't happen in the future?
View Michelle Rempel Profile
CPC (AB)
Has there been any formal working group or process put in place with Canadian airlines specifically, given the feedback from Air Canada in order to address some of their concerns? Have you guys reached out and formalized any sort of dialogue process?
View Michelle Rempel Profile
CPC (AB)
So far you guys have not diagnosed exactly, to your words, what the problems would be coming out of some of the.... We're hearing a lot of this in the media as well that there are issues. From what you just said, you actually haven't identified the problems yet.
View Michelle Rempel Profile
CPC (AB)
Obviously, as you mentioned, they're shared responsibilities with CBSA. Could you tell us a little about the communication process that IRCC has put in place in order to functionalize or operationalize the eTA? Have there been any bumps along the way on that?
View Michelle Rempel Profile
CPC (AB)
Are you tracking numbers, in terms of how many people have experienced issues? Do you have a CRM model or anything in terms of tracking problems?
View Michelle Rempel Profile
CPC (AB)
Going back to my colleague Jacques Gourde's line of questioning, just so you know, for all of us around the table here it is an enormous amount of work in our constituency offices to deal with immigration casework. Again, just to re-emphasize what some of my Liberal colleagues have said, this is a non-partisan thing. We have very small operating budgets, and I also will say that I have a full-time employee in my office who deals just with client service delivery issues.
I'll preface this by saying that the decision made earlier this year to take away MP access from embassies, as well as the ministerial advisory office, was very poor. It was a terrible decision. It really affected service delivery within our office. I'm glad to see that it has been semi-reversed.
I'm not sure what some of my colleagues would say, but certainly for me and my office, one of the biggest complaints we get from people is the reporting of failures in customer service by the call centre in Montreal. I would say that's probably, by an order of magnitude, the number one complaint that I get. People experience very long wait times on the phone, as well as very onerous automated call menus, especially for people whose English or French is their second language. The number one thing I have to respond to in my office is that they don't understand the information that was given to them or that it's confusing, or the charge is that it's unhelpful.
Do you track the call centre usage at all? We are going to write up a report here. Is there anything that you think could be done to overcome this? It's such a burden on our offices right now.
View Michelle Rempel Profile
CPC (AB)
What would be.... I'm sorry. Go ahead. I was just going to say in terms of attitude, what are the critical success factors in performance evaluation that you use for a front-line call centre worker in Montreal? What are they tasked with managing? What would their supervisor be looking at in terms of an employment review framework or a performance review framework?
View Michelle Rempel Profile
CPC (AB)
Would you be willing to table with the committee information on what the key critical success factors or performance review metrics would be for front-line call centre workers in terms of documentation?
To me, it seems a little off that quantity would be what their performance evaluation would be.
View Michelle Rempel Profile
CPC (AB)
Great.
One of the complaints that I get in my office is that when people phone the call centre, it seems that the algorithm the agents are driving to is to get an email address so that template information can be provided. Where my office gets burdened with it is: “They didn't answer my question; they just provided me with a template.”
Can you tell us a bit more on why that process is there as part of your service delivery algorithm?
View Michelle Rempel Profile
CPC (AB)
I guess I'll just close with this, and it's more of something to explore with my colleagues around the table. I think it would be really useful. I've been doing this for five years now. We want to be your allies, and we want you to be our allies because immigration processing works when we're all giving the same information and messaging and it's arm's-length and it's not politicized. I think there's often a disconnect in terms of what MP office staff, especially new MP office staff, understand as your service delivery algorithms, and there's really no feedback in terms of saying, “Hey, this isn't working”, because what we're getting are the complaints all the time.
I would just suggest that if the department, as part of this survey, would be willing to provide greater information on where your algorithms are right now, we could provide feedback as well in terms of where we see the friction points on that, and then hopefully have some sort of continuous feedback mechanisms with MP office staff as well, too.
I think that, for me, would have been the first step, before changing the call centre process, because at the end of the day, we want to be on the same team here. I'm not sure if there's been any thought given to that sort of thing, but certainly I would offer this up in the time I have, and as a QA process as well.
View Michelle Rempel Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Hello, Mr. Jacques.
It's my pleasure to ask you some questions this morning.
We all watched the American election with great interest last week. We heard reports after the election that there were high-level meetings that took place with officials at IRCC and in other departments looking at the potential surge in Mexican migrants coming to Canada as a result of these meetings. This was reported on CBC. I'm just wondering if you wanted to comment on that at all, if those meetings did in fact take place, and if you are concerned about the ability for your unit to process applications looking at the context of a potential surge in migrants.
View Michelle Rempel Profile
CPC (AB)
Okay.
Would you be able to provide for the committee any broad strokes on what those risks might be and why they were ignored by the government in lifting the visa requirement?
View Michelle Rempel Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you.
Are you aware of any measures that have been put in place by the Mexican government to educate its population on why they shouldn't be making false asylum claims to Canada?
View Kelly McCauley Profile
CPC (AB)
Things never go back down.
Ms. McGuire, what do you think the people you represent place more importance on with Canada Post: reliability, or a one- or two-day delay? We've seen some polling that says everyone wants it tomorrow for free, but it's fine if it's going to be there in two or three days. I'd rather know it's going to be there in two or three days for sure, rather than maybe tomorrow.
Ms. MacDonald, what do you place more importance on, greater reliability or a one- or two-day difference?
View Kelly McCauley Profile
CPC (AB)
I understand. In a past life, I was head of very large hospital foundation for seniors, but also for the severely disabled, so I understand.
There is the system, and you talked about it, where Canada Post will do—from my understanding—a delivery every day to the community mailbox, and then once a week they'll collect it all and deliver it to the house. I haven't looked at it, but you were saying it's a very cumbersome system. I imagine anything related to government paperwork is cumbersome.
If it's simplified properly, as you see it, what consultation and input from groups such as yourselves is needed so that Canada Post knows what people have to go through to get it done? Do you see that as viable alternative or something that will help? Then seniors don't actually have to leave.
View Kelly McCauley Profile
CPC (AB)
There are a lot of ideas getting thrown out by people, and that's the value of having you here today. Your time is well spent with us. Thanks.
Mr. Richmond, one of the things we've heard about from some of the business groups was weekend delivery for boxes and parcels.
Did I hear you say that it already exists?
View Pat Kelly Profile
CPC (AB)
The assertion that more open government will diminish the number of ATIP requests is more an instinctive guess than a—
View Pat Kelly Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
We heard from a variety of witnesses, including four different provincial commissioners for information and privacy, whose offices handle both privacy and access to information under one roof. We also heard, both today and in reviewing the estimates for the Privacy Commissioner, about the amount of money that appears to be going into internal services. I see access to information at 22%. That seems to be a little bit lower than that of the other commissioners, but still quite high compared with that of private enterprises, for example.
I'm curious to know how much we could get out of internal services and into the core delivery of service to Canadians if we were to combine departments and have a single office for access to information and privacy, as has been recommended to us by other witnesses. Are there additional savings to be had? Does it make sense, given the connection between the two concepts of privacy and access to information, to have a single office to handle both?
View Pat Kelly Profile
CPC (AB)
I don't know how the rest of my colleagues would feel if you wanted to come back, but....
We haven't talked, actually, about one of the key recommendations that many of the provincial experts have made to this committee, and that is whether access to information and privacy ought to be handled by one commissioner.
We also heard, and this goes to some of Mr. Erskine-Smith's comments, about allocation of resources. These offices spend a lot of money on internal services. We've also heard the concern from Professor Drapeau about the misallocation of resources.
Would you be open to combining those two offices should this committee recommend that? We've heard some strong recommendations in that direction.
View Pat Kelly Profile
CPC (AB)
We're collecting our evidence. We haven't been through the process of making a final determination, but it was one that each of the provincial commissioners we heard from as witnesses.... There's been much evidence from many witnesses on the strength of the Newfoundland and Labrador model, which, as with the other commissioners, is a single commissioner.
View Arnold Viersen Profile
CPC (AB)
We talked a lot already today about the various contribution agreements and you talked specifically about the health area in B.C. Are there other layers of government, municipal or provincial, that have similar contribution agreements? Are there other layers of government where the same thing happens, where there isn't a contribution agreement and lack of funding?
View Arnold Viersen Profile
CPC (AB)
You noted that many first nation reserves lack organizations to support service delivery, such as school boards and health service boards. Did you come across any reasons that those boards don't exist? Is it because of the different structure in government, or is there just not the expertise in the area?
View Kent Hehr Profile
Lib. (AB)
Thank you for that welcome, and congratulations to my parliamentary colleagues on being appointed to this committee. The work we will do together here is very important and especially meaningful to many of you around the table.
Mr. Clarke deserves our greatest thanks for his military service and for that of his brother. Ms. Romanado has two sons who are currently serving. Mr. Kitchen's father and brother served in the forces, and Mr. Bratina's son will shortly be a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Ms. Mathyssen has been a long-standing advocate on behalf of veterans.
It's an honour and privilege to be named Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence, and to work alongside members of the Canadian Armed Forces, the RCMP, veterans, and their families. I understand the challenges a person faces when tragedy strikes, when injury and illness take their toll. I myself would not be here today without the support of others as well as help from various levels of government. The peace, tranquillity, and freedom I enjoy every day is because of the sacrifices that have been made by veterans, and I hope to make a difference in their lives. My mission is to reduce complexity, close the seam, and rationalize benefits for veterans and their families. We will improve support and services, and always focus on care, compassion, and respect.
The Prime Minister has given me an ambitious mandate to provide financial security and independence, education and employment opportunities, and better mental and physical rehabilitation for Canada's veterans.
With the co-operation of the Minister of National Defence, we will close the seam between the Canadian Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs. We will also strive for excellence in all services we deliver, setting veterans' well-being as the objective of everything we do. My mandate letter provides a good road map, and we are listening to veterans' associations and stakeholders, who will help ensure we meet the needs of veterans. We are serious about consulting with veterans and veterans' stakeholders. We don't tell veterans what they need. We ask them what they need. To that end, six stakeholder advisory groups are being set up and meetings with various groups will be held over the next while. These advisory groups are one of the mechanisms we use for stakeholders to give me advice and suggestions. To better support veterans where they live, budget 2016 proposes to reopen and staff offices in Charlottetown, Sydney, Corner Brook, Windsor, Thunder Bay, Saskatoon, Brandon, Prince George, and Kelowna, while opening an additional office in Surrey. We will also expand outreach to veterans in the north by working with local partners.
Budget 2016 also proposes to hire additional case managers to reduce the veteran to case manager ratio to an average of 25:1. Case managers represent the first line of intervention to help with the rehabilitation process and to coordinate referrals to health care providers. Reducing the client to case manager ratio will help veterans make a successful transition to civilian life. To implement these measures, budget 2016 proposes to provide $78.1 million over five years, starting in 2016-17.
I would like to mention that while face-to-face interactions are great, it's clear veterans also want to do business and interact with us on their terms. We have seen a rapid increase in the number of people who have registered to use our secure online access tool, My VAC Account. There are now 32,000 registrants, a tenfold increase since 2012. We are making significant investments to ensure the financial security and independence of veterans with disabilities and their families as they make the transition to civilian life. The sum of $1.6 billion has been set aside so that over the next five years disabled veterans and their families will receive more money. This includes increasing the value of the disability award for injuries and illness caused by service to a maximum of $360,000, indexing this amount to inflation and paying it retroactively to all veterans who have received this award since 2006, increasing the earnings loss benefit to replace 90% of an eligible veteran's military salary, expanding access to the permanent impairment allowance to better support veterans with career-limiting service-related injuries, and renaming it the career impact allowance to reflect the intent of the program.
We will conduct a veteran financial benefit review to simplify benefits and determine where the gaps remain and which programs are less than fully effective to meet the needs of veterans and their families.
This review is central to determining the context for the next phase of financial benefits, including the option of a pension for life. Veterans associations at the last stakeholder summit told us to take the time to get this right, and that's exactly what we intend to do.
Similarly, we need to take action beyond financial benefits. This includes veteran education and career transition initiatives, spousal training, mental health, and suicide prevention, among others. All of these initiatives are important in helping veterans find their new normal.
Homelessness has become a significant issue in Canada and it affects the veteran population as well. We have created a priority secretariat that will examine three priority areas, one of which is addressing veteran homelessness through more support for the homeless and those at risk. Through the secretariat, Veterans Affairs is developing a homeless strategy in collaboration with partners and stakeholders that will identify ways of improving existing policies and programs. We will tie our efforts to the whole-of-government approach to ensure all Canadians, including veterans, have better access to affordable housing. Budget 2016 has proposed to invest an additional $111.8 million over two years.
Mental health has always been the challenge, but it has been long overlooked in military culture. The combat mission in Afghanistan took a huge toll on our troops. Over a quarter of the troops who deployed now receive some sort of assistance from Veterans Affairs. The public discourse on mental health encouraged many more veterans from numerous peacekeeping missions to come forward. We're also seeing veterans from as far back as the Second World War reaching out to get help. We have the medical research, and now it's time to do something about it. We will create two new centres of excellence, one of which will specialize in mental health.
Commemorating the service and sacrifices of Canada's veterans and those who paid the ultimate price is a key pillar of Veterans Affairs. We will remember the service and sacrifice of those who have served by providing easier access to the funeral and burial program. Through budget 2016 we'll expand program eligibility to more families of lower-income veterans. We will do this by increasing the estate exemption from approximately $12,000 to approximately $35,000 and will apply an annual cost-of-living adjustment moving forward.
We will continue the community war memorial program by merging it with the commemorative partnership program and by making the overall application process easier.
On July 1 we will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the battle of Beaumont-Hamel, both in France and in St. John's, Newfoundland, to recognize this tragic day for Newfoundlanders. Next year we will recognize the centennial anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge.
As we recognize these important anniversaries and honour our military and veterans, I ask for your collaboration and support so that we may advance realistic and prompt action on our mandate. It is imperative we meet the needs of veterans in the most effective and efficient manner possible, all the while doing it with care, compassion, and respect.
Finally, I want to thank not only the esteemed public servants beside me today, but those across the country in back offices who work tirelessly to provide top service for our veterans.
View Kent Hehr Profile
Lib. (AB)
I agree, but we did deliver on six of the 15 mandate letter items. We ensured financial security as well as working on some of the components that are going to assist in mental health, reopening the nine offices and two additional offices. That will allow a point of contact for people who are struggling to come in, get the help they need, and get connected to case managers and people. I will remind the member that under the former government, 800 front-line service delivery specialists were cut. That was too far, too fast. Our case managers and people trying to help veterans were getting backlogged, and veterans were delayed from getting the care and help they needed.
View Kent Hehr Profile
Lib. (AB)
I thank the member for his question because that is identified in my mandate letter and an important one. We've seen gaps emerging over the course of the last number of years, and my work with the Minister of National Defence is described as imperative in moving Veterans Affairs forward.
We have right now many military men and women who know they will be leaving the military, which is a difficult day. Many of these men and women have joined up. It has been part of their family and their blood. It's what they wanted to do with their lives. They wanted to contribute to military service. When that day comes, they deserve our care, compassion, and respect in transitioning them to a place where they can continue to build their lives.
I'm looking forward to that work I'm going to do with Minister Sajjan meeting with the various people in Hamilton and other places across the country. They say right now there are difficulties on case management levels and on front-line staffing. To be able to allow for that early intervention when a man or woman knows they are going to leave the military is not happening. We know we have to do that better to allow them to get their lives established so they can get the financial services they need, as well as help with career transition, employment opportunities, and educational experiences.
We understand this is a huge issue and will comprise much of my work over the next year, or year and a half. I can say we identified some areas where we can go. Are they in practice yet? Not yet.
View Kent Hehr Profile
Lib. (AB)
You're right. The complex array of services Veterans Affairs provides, as well as trying to have them tailored for each and every veteran, does sometimes entail a large amount of paperwork. We have reduced some of that. We're going to continue going on that path. I know a bit about having to fill out forms. For the provincial government I have to fill out every year that I'm still a C-5 quadriplegic. There's a bit of that in the nature of government, in the way we go about providing services.
That said, I believe General Natynczyk can advise us on a little of the work we've done in this regard, and where we hope to go in the future.
View Kent Hehr Profile
Lib. (AB)
We are going to open the nine offices that were closed under the previous administration. We're also going to open up a Surrey location, where we're finding a cohort of veterans who are finding their way to that region. We identified that as an area of support. Also, we had no ability to service the north, which we are going to be doing. I can tell you that I'm working very closely with Minister Foote on this to engage her early on in getting our offices open. Obviously this will take some time, but I can tell you that we're actively engaged on this and we're looking at plans to reopen them as soon as possible.
On the hiring of front-line staff, we know that we have to ensure they have the ability to interact with veterans and to connect them to the services they need. Going back, we have some expertise in this. We have offices in other areas and we're looking at what they're doing as a best practice model. That will continue in my work with Minister Sajjan.
The hiring of the service delivery staff has already begun. We're gone a great way down that path. We've hired 183 people to date, 72 of whom are case managers, and we're continuing to go through that hiring process to ensure our veterans get the care, the help, and the support they need, when and where they need it.
View Kent Hehr Profile
Lib. (AB)
Again, the 25:1 number was not pulled out of thin air. We researched. We looked at best practices, both in social work and in other military operations around the globe, and we said that this was where we're aspiring to be, an average of no more than 25:1. Currently we have case managers who are well beyond that, and our veterans are not receiving the information and the services they need. This has been referenced in ombudsman's reports and in reports of auditors general going back some time. We're making meaningful steps to do that.
In terms of employment and who we're hiring, I think General Natynczyk would be best to give you a scope of what we're looking for. Obviously, it's the best and the brightest: we want them in Veterans Affairs.
View Kent Hehr Profile
Lib. (AB)
We're endeavouring to go on a service delivery review. We are looking at what we're doing in Veterans Affairs in all facets, whether that be through retraining, employment, or education, as well as the number of front-line staff and the needs that are out there.
The complex needs of those who are returning from the Afghan theatre and others in our department are pressuring us to do a better job on service delivery. That's a good thing. I'll reiterate that this has been identified in ombudsman reports and Auditor General reports. Going about that review and coming up with ways to track the help that veterans are getting on a timely basis—that's the work we will be doing in our department.
View Kent Hehr Profile
Lib. (AB)
There is no doubt that the reopening of the nine offices, and Surrey, and the expansion in the north will allow many people to have more access points, as will the hiring of more service delivery staff. I look at this like some of the other things we're doing in our department, making sure that we have the people available to deal with cases in a timely manner.
On the expansion of our role in rural Canada, there is no doubt that we have many veterans who choose to live all across this great nation and they need our care, compassion, and respect. We need to work with them on rebuilding their lives. How to build that holistic, integrated support, while recognizing the large nation we live is in, is a challenge, but it's a challenge for all departments. It really, really is. We'll continue to monitor that and continue to build on that, and we'll look at other ways to support our rural communities.
Walt, do you have anything to add on that?
View Kent Hehr Profile
Lib. (AB)
In my view, this is a very good step in ensuring our veterans get the care, compassion, and respect they deserve, as well as the services they need. When a veteran has a person to pick up the phone in a timely manner and then to follow up with their needs on an individual basis, it's highly important to ensure we understand the challenges they're going through, understand the programs that are available, and we're trying to incorporate the family. We have to understand that when a man or a woman signs up for military service, the entire family goes along. We're looking at building that perspective not only through the case managers, but throughout the whole department, having a family-centric approach to how we get services out there better.
The 25:1 number was researched and was looked at as a best practice in social work as well as other military organizations that are providing that service, and we think it's necessary. Let's also remember we're attempting to move into assisting those men and women who find themselves homeless, who have been veterans. Let's be clear, when we're dealing with homelessness, there's a complex array of issues that a member has gone through. That often takes up an additional amount of a caseworker's time, and that's a good thing. We don't look at this as a negative, trying to assist someone to build the capacity to get into affordable, accessible housing, to rebuild what has become a difficult situation. We sense by these additional supports we're allowing for the time to work through whatever the veteran's issue is, whether it's a physical or emotional disability.
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