Response to Parliamentary Committees and External Audits

From: Employment and Social Development Canada

Official title: Employment and Social Development Canada fiscal year 2017 to 2018 Departmental Results Report

Response to parliamentary committees

Summary: On October 31, 2017, Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) appeared before the Standing Committee on Public Accounts to report on progress and answer questions with regards to Report 5, Temporary Foreign Worker Program, Employment and Social Development Canada of the 2017 Spring Reports of the Auditor General of Canada to the Parliament of Canada. At this hearing, the Auditor General and one other staff member also appeared.

At the Standing Committee appearance, the Department confirmed its agreement with the Auditor General's ten recommendations to improve the management of the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) Program.

On December 13, 2017, the Standing Committee on Public Accounts tabled its report entitled Report 5, Temporary Foreign Worker Program, of the Spring 2017 Reports of the Auditor General with the House of Commons. Building on the findings of the Auditor General, it outlined 12 recommendations to report on progress made on: 1) hiring TFWs as a last resort; 2) leveraging existing labour market information and consistency in decision-making; 3) using expanded inspection powers; and 4) measuring results of the TFW Program and its effect on the labour market.

The Government tabled its response to the Committee's report on April 16, 2018. The Government Response outlines progress made in response to the Auditor General’s and the Committee’s recommendations, including ensuring that Canadian citizens and permanent residents are considered for available jobs before hiring a TFW, strengthening inspection activities once TFWs are working in Canada as well as enhancing worker protections. The Response also describes the progress made to improve the way the Department measures the performance of the Program and the plan to begin its evaluation in 2018 and once completed, report on the Program’s impacts on wages and the labour market.

Senate Standing Committee on National Finance

Summary: On June 27, 2017, the Senate Standing Committee on National Finance tabled its report entitled Getting Ready: For a new generation of active seniors with the Senate. The report provides four recommendations with regards to addressing challenges associated with demographic change, specifically, the aging population. The recommendations focused primarily on improvements to the health care system, enhancing supports to home care and caregivers, increasing labour force participation of underrepresented groups, and on the inclusion of demographic considerations in the calculations of federal transfers.

The Government tabled its response to the Committee's report on June 20, 2018. The Government Response provides a concise synopsis of actions already being proactively undertaken by the Government to address the various challenges associated with demographic change. The Response also outlines the Government’s commitment to making significant financial investments to address issues that impact the aging population, such as improving health outcomes, housing and accessibility issues, labour market representation and regional fiscal disparities. The Government Response provides further details on initiatives that demonstrate progress thus far and commitments that address each of the four recommendations.

House of Commons Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities

Summary: With the premise of defining and measuring poverty and building a statistical profile of poverty in Canada, the Committee addressed the primary topics of income security, education, professional training and employment, mental health, housing and finally, on communities and neighbourhoods. During the study of these topics, the testimonies heard helped identify a number of elements that can help the development of a National Poverty Reduction Strategy. In conclusion, the Committee proposed a list of 58 recommendations addressing various departments, including several for ESDC.

On May 31, 2017, the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities (HUMA) tabled a report on poverty reduction, which included 53 recommendations. These included strengthening income support programs to help Canadians meet their basic needs and prevent them from falling into poverty; enhancing access and support to education and employment opportunities for the vulnerable groups; providing Canadians with affordable housing; providing adequate physical and social infrastructure; and developing, as part of a Poverty Reduction Strategy that would focus on vulnerable Canadians, an official definition and measurement of poverty.

The Government’s response to HUMA was tabled in the House of Commons on September 28, 2017. The response acknowledged that many of the HUMA’s recommendations align with actions the Government has undertaken to improve the social and economic well-being of Canadians. The Government actions includes restoring the age of eligibility from 67 to 65 for the Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS), and increasing the GIS top-up for low-income seniors; introducing the Canada Child Benefit (and committing to indexing it to inflation) to help Canadians with the high costs of raising their children; enhancing and improving access to the Canada Workers Benefits; investing in high quality, affordable child care spaces, and increasing access to and affordability of post-secondary education for students from low and middle-income families; increasing employment and skill levels for Indigenous people; providing funding support to provinces and territories in support of mental health programs, introducing a National Housing Strategy to improve housing outcomes for vulnerable low-income Canadians; and improving water treatment systems and health facilities for Indigenous Communities. Moving forward, the Government has committed to using the HUMA’s recommendations to help develop a Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy.

Summary: Based on Motion M-106, which asks the Committee to carry out a study on seniors, the Committee agreed to divide the study according to three themes addressing how the Government can improve: 1- the income security of vulnerable seniors; 2- quality of life and well-being, community programs, social inclusion and social determinants of health; 3- access to affordable and accessible housing and the ability to live at home. Stemming from this study, the Committee proposed 29 recommendations addressing various departments, including several for ESDC.

The Government response to HUMA was tabled in the House of Commons on June 20, 2018. The Report contained 29 recommendations pertaining to seniors’ issues, such as income security, housing, home care, informal caregivers, social isolation, accessibility, age-friendly communities and the development of a national seniors strategy that promotes partnerships between government and stakeholders to bring positive change in the quality of life and well-being for seniors. The Government Response highlights how the 29 recommendations from the committee align with many of the actions already being undertaken by Government to advance the inclusion and quality of life for Canadian seniors. Notably, in addition to the development of a Poverty Reduction Strategy, the Government has already made changes to the Old Age Security Program and the Guaranteed Income Security, along with enhancements to the Canada Pension Plan that improve seniors’ income security. As well, in 2017, the Government launched the National Housing Strategy which prioritizes housing for the most vulnerable Canadians, including seniors. Furthermore, the New Horizon for Seniors Program, which helps to reduce social isolation among seniors, has funded close to 21,600 projects since the program started in 2004. Building on the measures already being taken to tackle seniors’ issues, the Government committed to advancing its multifaceted seniors agenda and to continue to provide leadership in this area. The Government Response provides further details on the Government’s commitment to ongoing attention to seniors’ issues.

Response to audits conducted by the Office of the Auditor General of Canada (including audits conducted by the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development)

Summary: In its Spring 2017 Report, the Office of the Auditor General (OAG) released a performance audit that examined whether Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) managed the Temporary Foreign Worker Program to allow employers to hire foreign workers on a temporary basis to fill labour shortages when qualified Canadians were not available. The OAG concluded that ESDC’s management of the program was not complete. The reviews of employers’ applications to the program and its inspections to ensure employers that hired temporary foreign workers complied with program requirements were insufficient. ESDC did put measures in place that helped reduce the number of temporary foreign workers that it approved.

Note: Of the ten recommendations directed to ESDC, the Department has fully addressed seven. The remaining three recommendations have been substantially addressed with expected completion by November 2018.

Response to audits conducted by the Public Service Commission of Canada or the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages

There were no audits in 2017 to 2018 requiring a response.

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