Speech Article from  Public Service Commission

Opening Remarks by Christine Donoghue Acting President, Public Service Commission at Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates

Ottawa, March 8, 2016

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Mr. Chair, Honourable Members, thank you.

I am accompanied by Omer Boudreau, Vice-President of our Corporate Management Branch.

We are pleased to be here to discuss the Public Service Commission’s 2014-2015 Departmental Performance Report and our Supplementary Estimates.

The Mandate of the Public Service Commission

The mandate of the Public Service Commission (PSC) is to promote and safeguard merit-based appointments, and in collaboration with other stakeholders, to protect the non-partisan nature of the public service. While the Public Service Employment Act gives appointment authority to the PSC, the legislation also calls for this authority to be delegated to deputy heads.

In a decentralized system based on the delegation of authorities, the Commission fulfills its mandate by providing policy guidance and expertise, conducting effective oversight, and delivering innovative staffing and assessment services. We also work with departments and agencies to promote a non partisan federal public service that reflects Canada’s diversity and draws on talents and skills from across the country.

We report independently to Parliament on the overall integrity of the staffing system and non partisanship of the public service. To that end, our Annual Report for 2014-2015 was tabled in Parliament on February 23, and we would be pleased to come back and discuss that report should the Committee wish to do so.

Today, I will be focusing my remarks on three areas.

  1. I would like to highlight some of our key achievements found in the 2014-2015 Departmental Performance Report.
  2. I will then speak to the Supplementary Estimates “C” and,
  3. I will conclude by providing you with an update on our efforts to modernize our approach to staffing.   

Non-Partisan Public Service

Mr. Chair, a non-partisan public service is one in which appointments are based on merit and are free from political influence, and where employees not only perform their duties in a politically impartial manner, but are also seen to do so.

As part of our responsibilities, we communicate with public servants about the value of non-partisanship and remind them of their rights as well as their legal responsibilities with respect to political activities.

Any public servant who is interested in becoming a political candidate in a municipal, provincial, territorial or federal election must first obtain the permission of the Commission, following its review. We approve these requests if the employee's ability to perform their duties in a politically impartial manner will not be impaired or be perceived as being impaired.

In making this decision, we consider factors such as the nature of the election, the nature of the employee’s duties in the organizational context, and the level and visibility of the employee’s position. Approvals are often subject to conditions such as taking a leave without pay in order to seek nomination to be a candidate.

Staffing System

Now, I would like to turn to the staffing system, which accounts for the majority of our activities and resources.

We provide guidance, tools and support services to enable hiring managers and human resources advisors to staff efficiently, while meeting the intent of the Public Service Employment Act. We also administer programs that recruit qualified Canadians from across the country.

This involves extensive outreach and increased collaboration with departments and agencies, such as participating in career fairs and information sessions at academic institutions across the country. For example, over 39 000 applications were submitted under the fall Federal Student Work Experience campaign. Over 6 500 students were hired.

We worked closely with partners including the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer to create pools of qualified candidates that are available to federal organizations across the country. This collaboration helps to reduce the duplication of effort across the public service.


We continue to expand our use of technology. On-line testing now accounts for 72% of all the tests administered by the PSC. More than 92% of the PSC’s second language tests were completed on line. Unsupervised on-line testing continued to increase, representing nearly 42 000 tests in 2014-2015.

These tests allow applicants to take a test at a location of their choosing and to have greater access to public service jobs no matter where they live. This testing also helps to reduce barriers for persons with disabilities by allowing them to take exams from home using their own adaptive technologies.

Our most important platform for recruitment is our jobs.gc.ca website. Beginning April 2015, the system provides Canadians with a single portal to access all public service jobs. Nearly 8 800 internal and external job advertisements were posted, resulting in over 530 000 applications. And we continue to look for ways to further modernize our systems and support – to improve the user experience.

This is a good segue to the funds that are found in the Supplementary Estimates C, as departments and agencies contribute to the costs of operating this system, which explains the transfer you see in the Estimates.

Veterans Hiring Act

This new consolidated system also provides the foundation to support the implementation of the Veterans Hiring Act. On July 1st, this legislation came into force providing medically-released veterans and members of the Canadian Armed Forces with greater access to public service jobs.

We provided training and new tools to raise awareness of the skills and competencies that veterans have to offer the public service. We have hired two veterans who serve as navigators in guiding their colleagues through the priority entitlements and staffing system.

To date, 94 veterans have been hired including 15 under the new statutory entitlement which gives the highest priority to veterans whose medical release was attributable to service.

Modernizing the Staffing System

As part of our efforts to continuously improve our system, I would like to speak about changes that will come into effect on April 1st to simplify the staffing process. These changes build on the reforms introduced and our experience gained since 2005, with the goal of modernizing while ensuring the overall health of the staffing system.

Based on our observations over the past 10 years, we believe the staffing system has matured, along with the Human Resources capacity in departments and agencies. As such, we are streamlining our policies to remove duplication, going from 12 policies to one.

This single policy will more clearly articulate expectations for deputy heads and reinforce their discretion and accountability. As a result of these changes, departments and agencies will have greater scope to customize their staffing based on their operational realities and needs. Hiring managers will also have more room to exercise their judgement in their staffing decisions.

Mr. Chair, the context in which the public service operates is constantly evolving. Departments and agencies need to be able to respond effectively to ensure that they attract the right people with the right skills at the right time.

To that end, the Commission will focus on integrating its guidance and support to respond to the unique needs of organization while also promoting best practices across the system.

We will also be reducing the reporting burden, in line with the recommendations made by the Auditor General in his Spring 2015 Report.

Deputy heads will remain accountable to the PSC for the way in which they exercise their discretion and we will continue to oversee the integrity of the staffing system through our audits and investigations. However, we will be adjusting our oversight activities to be more nimble in order to support continuous improvement. For instance, audits will shift from reviewing individual organizations to taking a system-wide approach with a focus on areas which need attention.

Mr. Chair, for more than a hundred years, the PSC has been entrusted by Parliament with the mandate of safeguarding merit and non-partisanship in the public service.

We will continue to foster strong and collaborative relationships with Parliamentarians, deputy heads, bargaining agents, and other stakeholders so that Canadians will continue to have confidence in a non partisan and professional public service, with the skills and competencies to deliver results for them.

I would be pleased to respond to your questions.

Thank you.

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