President of the Public Service Commission—Patrick Borbey Received in Committee of the WholePublished on 4 May 2017 Hansard and Statements by Senator Percy Downe
Congratulations on your nomination. I would like to follow up on the question asked by Senator Day. It’s not just veterans; these are medically released veterans. In other words, they have been injured in their service to Canada to such a degree that they cannot continue in their jobs in the Canadian Forces. So they go on the priority list that the government has created. The problem is, in my opinion, the delegation of authority because we have some departments participating to a higher degree than others. One would assume, for example, that DND would participate, and they have to a large degree. But Veterans Affairs has only hired 34. I have a question on the Order Paper trying to determine the rank because, after I originally made my statement, I was contacted by a number of veterans who told me that you have to be at a certain rank to get hired at Veterans Affairs. If you’re a Colonel or above, the world is your oyster. Below that rank, you’re out of luck.
I’m going to determine if that’s true or not when I get the answer from Senator Harder on behalf of the government.
Other departments, Employment and Social Development Canada, for example, hired more. They hired 56. Correctional Service Canada hired 66. Other departments, a lot fewer: Transport Canada, 11; Environment Canada, 9. But the Public Service Commission has hired 3.
Back to the original comment of Senator Day. We have these 585 medically released veterans that were determined to be qualified for positions in the public service who fell off the list because of the hiring process. So I would urge you to take a detailed look at that, particularly with the community of deputy ministers who can make a difference in this area. Hopefully, the ministers will speak to the deputy ministers and put more of an emphasis on it. I think you have a significant role, assuming you become President of the Public Service Commission, to quarterback this as well, and we can monitor it by our questions.
That was a comment. My question is: I notice that, in the legislation, you’re required to live within the National Capital Region. Obviously, you have to live where you work. We have a recurring problem with Veterans Affairs Canada, which is located in Prince Edward Island and has been for a number of years. Previous deputy ministers of the department have lived and worked in Charlottetown. The current deputy minister does not, which I know is outside of your sphere of influence as a deputy minister. But, because of that, senior officials in the department obviously want to advance their careers and work where the deputy minister works. We have at least 12 senior officials in the department, over and above the deputy minister now, who have relocated to a sub-office in Ottawa because they don’t want to work at the national headquarters. This has left the employees of the department — and this is where you come in and my question to you — very dispirited. They feel that the veterans and their families are not getting the benefits and the service they should receive because the senior management is missing in action. They tell us they can Skype and so on from Ottawa. The reverse is also true. They can Skype from Charlottetown, the national headquarters.
But the fact that they visit the department and don’t work there on a continuous basis has really upset the employees of the department, and they tell me, on a continuous basis, that the recurring problems in the department — and you see media stories all the time — about treatment of veterans and their families that are simply unacceptable are because of the absence of the leadership of the department.
In your role, after the people are hired in a non-partisan manner, do you have any ongoing responsibility for their well-being and their ability to do their work?
Mr. Borbey: Thank you for the question, honourable senator. I think that those matters are matters that fall under the jurisdiction of the employer, which is the Treasury Board, and, again, the delegated authority from that employer to their deputy heads. Deputy heads are responsible for organizing how work is carried out in their department, including determining which positions should be staffed in regions versus headquarters. We provide services to help them to staff those positions once those decisions are made, but I’m afraid that I don’t think that the commission has a role to play beyond that in terms of the situation that you’re describing.