President of the Public Service Commission—Patrick Borbey Received in Committee of the WholePublished on 4 May 2017 Hansard and Statements by Senator Joseph Day
Thank you, Mr. Borbey, and welcome to the Senate of Canada.
Mr. Borbey, on March 4, 2014, the Government of Canada announced measures to give priority hiring opportunities in the federal public service to retiring Canadian Armed Forces personnel. In a press release of that date, Canadians were told:
Beginning a new, meaningful career is an important part of a successful transition from military to civilian life. . . .
Unfortunately, over 25 per cent of veterans who were given priority hiring status to apply for positions in the public service were unable to find a job. In fact, according to a response from the Public Service Commission to a written question submitted by Senator Downe in Question Period:
Beginning January 1, 2005, and until April 30, 2016, there were 585 medically released Canadian Armed Forces members who did not receive an indeterminate appointment by the time their priority and entitlement expired after five years.
They were entitled, they looked for five years.
Mr. Borbey, no veteran deserves to be left behind like this. We have over 585 in that period. How will you ensure that this hiring problem will be remedied, and what are your thoughts on the five-year priority window for hiring? Is that enough given that these veterans are transitioning to new careers and perhaps learning to live with new bodies?
Mr. Borbey: Thank you, honourable senator, for the question. I should start by saying that I too am grateful for the service of the men and women who serve our country in the Armed Forces. This is an important initiative that was undertaken by the government. Our veterans bring skills, knowledge and experience that is valuable to the public service, and it’s incumbent upon us to make sure that we help them in every way possible.
I will have to turn my attention to this issue obviously if and when I occupy the position. I did look at the statistics, and it does appear that progress has been made over the last year or so. There were over 200 members who were placed through the priority system. It represents approximately 25 per cent of the priority placements in the Public Service of Canada, and I know that there are currently approximately 450 members listed in the priority system and, as you know, waiting for referral to positions.
This is an important issue that I will certainly want to spend some time on in the new position and then report back hopefully on progress to this chamber.
Senator Day: Mr. Borbey, a few years ago, it’s my recollection that the Public Service Commission changed its model of operation such that it delegated the appointment process to the deputy heads in the various departments, and then the Public Service Commission acted as a review or overseeing agency as opposed to an appointment agency.
Would you give this chamber your undertaking to look into that model to determine whether perhaps that could be part of the reason for this most unacceptable hiring result with respect to priority?
Mr. Borbey: Honourable senator, thank you for the question. We’re talking about a trend that has taken many decades. I think the delegation of authority to deputy heads originally goes back to the Glassco Commission. The Public Service Commission has been operating under a delegated model for decades. It would be my responsibility, as president, to manage that delegated model. There are delegation agreements that are entered into with each of the deputy heads, and it’s our responsibility to make sure they are exercising those authorities according to the act. There are oversight tools available to ensure that. There is reporting. There is also the possibility of doing audit work. Either we, or deputy heads themselves, do audits of their staffing.
In the last year, the Public Service Commission changed its approach to staffing and provided further delegation — for example, in the audit area — but it is also undertaking a system-wide audit to see if there are trends, such as in the area of staffing for veterans, where intervention is required.
As you know, we retain oversight authority in the ability to investigate in cases where we may feel there are problems with the staffing system in individual departments.