2014-2015 Annual Report - Executive Summary

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. The PSC reports on its mandate to Parliament.

Under the delegated staffing system set out in the Public Service Employment Act (PSEA), the PSC fulfills its mandate by providing policy guidance and expertise, as well as by conducting effective oversight. In addition, the PSC delivers innovative staffing and assessment services.

On behalf of the Commission, the President has had the opportunity to meet with Parliamentary committees to discuss the PSC’s work in areas such as its main estimates, non-partisanship, employment equity, the hiring of Canadian Armed Forces’ veterans and priority administration. The Commission looks forward to continuing to engage Parliamentarians in a productive dialogue.

Health of the staffing system

The PSC is ultimately accountable to Parliament for the overall integrity of the staffing system, while deputy heads are accountable to the PSC for how delegated authorities are exercised in their organizations. As a result, both deputy heads (and the managers and HR teams they lead) and the PSC are responsible for the overall success of the staffing system.

The PSC assures itself of the integrity of the staffing system through its oversight framework (comprised of monitoring, audits and investigations), as well as its regulatory authority and policy-setting function. In 2014-2015, as in the past few years, the PSC has observed that, for the most part, organizations have put the key elements in place for effective management of staffing and their performance in this area has consistently continued to improve.

Given the maturation of the staffing system in the public service, the PSC recognizes that it is organizations themselves that are now best positioned for timely detection and correction of staffing issues, and expects them to do so. To support organizations in this shift, the PSC will continue to develop new tools and approaches that better respond to the varied needs of organizations.

Ensuring a non-partisan public service and safeguarding political impartiality

Non-partisanship is essential to a professional public service and the Westminster model of government, as well as being a pillar of the PSEA. Under the Act, the PSC has several specific responsibilities. First, the PSC is responsible for ensuring that staffing decisions under the PSEA are free from political influenceFootnote 1 The PSC has the exclusive authority to investigate allegations of political influence in staffing. Information on PSC investigations may be found in Chapters 3 and 4 of this report.

The PSC also administers the provisions of the PSEA related to political activities of public service employees. However, the broad responsibility for safeguarding non-partisanship rests with all public servants, including deputy heads and senior managers. The PSEA recognizes the right of an employee to engage in any political activity, so long as it does not impair, or is not perceived as impairing, their ability to perform their duties in a politically impartial manner.

To support its mandate related to political activities by public servants, the PSC plays three roles. First, the PSC provides guidance to federal public servants regarding their legal rights and responsibilities related to political activities. Second, it renders decisions regarding permission to seek nomination and be a candidate in federal, provincial, territorial and municipal elections, as well as a leave of absence without pay, if applicable. Third, the PSC has exclusive authority to conduct investigations into allegations that employees or deputy heads have engaged in improper political activity. If the investigation establishes that there was improper political activity, the Commission may take any corrective action that it considers appropriate.Footnote 2

The most recent Survey of Staffing collected data from questions related to political activities, including employee participation in non-candidacy political activities and their degree of awareness of, and the extent to which their organization keeps them informed of, their legal rights and responsibilities regarding political activities. Analysis of this data showed that the level of employee awareness of their legal rights and responsibilities is positively correlated to their accumulated experience within the federal public service. The data further revealed that participation in non-candidacy political activities tends to decline gradually with employee tenure within the federal public service. In 2015-2016, the PSC will focus outreach activities to new employees with fewer years of experience in the federal public service, to help them understand their legal rights and responsibilities related to political activities.

In 2014-2015, the PSC received 133 requests related to candidacy permission from public servants, the second consecutive year in which the PSC has received more than 100 requests. A total of 46 requests were received at the federal level; of those 25 represent requests from employees seeking permission, the balance relate to amending permissions previously granted. All decisions rendered by the Commission respected the 30-day requirement prescribed in the Political Activities Regulations.

Hiring and staffing in the public service

The overall PSEA populationFootnote 3 increased by 0.1% from March 2014 to March 2015, following three consecutive years of decline. The overall population decreased by 9.9% from March 2011 to March 2015.

Hiring and staffing activities increased by 15.3% in 2014-2015, following an increase of 11.7% in 2013-2014. Nevertheless, most types of activities this year remained below levels observed in 2011-2012.

The number of hires to the public service increased in most regions and across all tenures compared to 2013-2014 and, with the exception of casual hires, remained below 2011-2012 levels:

  • Indeterminate hiring increased by 50.5% in 2014-2015, following an increase of 31.1% in 2013-2014;
  • Term hiring increased by 26.9% in 2014-2015, following an increase of 20.8% in 2013-2014;
  • Casual hiring increased by 10.1% in 2014-2015, following an increase of 17.7% in 2013-2014; and
  • Student hiring increased by 7.3% in 2014-2015, following an increase of 8.6% in 2013-2014.

In 2014-2015, there were 11 146 student hires, 7.3% more than in the previous year (10 386) but lower than the levels observed in 2011-2012 (13 099 hires). The number and proportion of employees under the age of 35 continued to decline in 2014-2015, despite the increase in appointments of new indeterminate employees from this age group. Employees under the age of 35 accounted for 16.0% of all indeterminate employees in March 2015, compared to 17.0% in March 2014 and 21.4% in March 2010, when the proportion reached a peak.

Priority Administration

The PSC’s Priority Administration Program supports the referral and placement of persons with a priority for appointment in the public service, as outlined in the PSEA and the Public Service Employment Regulations. Under this legal framework, persons who meet specific conditions have a right, for a specified or indeterminate period of time, to be appointed to positions for which they are qualified (see Appendix 6 for a list of priority types). The Priority Administration Program helps public service organizations meet staffing needs while retaining employees with valuable knowledge, skills and experience in whom departments, agencies, and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) have already invested.

Starting in 2011-2012, the PSC made enhancements to facilitate the placement of persons with a priority for appointment across the public service at a time when many organizations were reducing the size of their workforce. From the relatively stable base population of 1 600 to 1 800 persons with a priority entitlement seen in previous years, the number of persons registered in the Priority Information Management System (PIMS) rose to a high of 2 954 on December 27, 2012. Since that time, levels have almost normalized, with the population of persons with a priority entitlement at 2 064 as of March 31, 2015. In the three years prior to March 31, 2015 public service organizations made extensive use of the Priority Administration Program to meet their staffing needs. A total of some 2 894 persons with a priority entitlement (all types) were appointed to positions in the public service. Additionally, 966 persons were appointed to lower-level positions.

In the period 2012-2014, the majority of priority appointments were of public servants whose jobs had been declared surplus, and whose entitlement preceded all others under the PSEA (see Appendix 6 for a list of priority types). There were therefore, only 31 priority appointments of former CAF/RCMP members in 2012-2013, and 43 in 2013-2014.

The Minister of Veterans Affairs introduced Bill C-27, the Veterans Hiring Act , in Parliament to address this situation. The Bill received Royal Assent on March 31, 2015. As a result, qualified veterans who are medically released due to a service-related injury or illness will receive a top statutory priority, with an entitlement period of five years. The regulatory entitlement for medically released former members of the CAF whose release is not attributable to service will also be extended from two years to five years.

The Veterans Hiring Act also contains two other mechanisms to support the hiring of veterans and current members of the CAF with at least three years of military service — a five-year preference for appointment in advertised external appointment processes (jobs that are open to the Canadian public), and a mobility provision allowing veterans and current CAF members to participate in all advertised internal hiring processes for five years after their release from the CAF.

The PSC is working closely with the Department of National Defence and Veterans Affairs Canada to ensure that those affected by the changes are aware of the new provisions. The PSC is also working with the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer, the Privy Council Office and the Canada School of Public Service to support the implementation of the new Act. In addition, enhancements made to the PSC Priority Administration Program over the previous two years, such as those to the policy framework and PIMS, will further support the referral and placement of medically released CAF personnel.


As a leader in developing and providing innovative staffing and assessment services, the PSC continued to enhance and modernize its services to departments and agencies. Policies, processes, tools and services are being created and enhanced to promote the effective engagement of job seekers, to support HR advisors and managers and to ensure the quality of appointments to the public service.

In 2014-2015, departments and agencies increased their use of PSC Unsupervised Internet Testing (UIT). The volume of PSC UIT increased by 56%, from 26 765 in 2013-2014 to 41 737 in 2014-2015. UIT is a cost-effective method of assessment to identify qualified candidates, improve the quality of hires and reduce barriers for persons with disabilities by allowing them to take exams from home using their own adaptive technologies.

E-testing refers to both PSC UIT and PSC on-line assessments administered under supervised conditions at selected computer facilities in PSC regional offices or in other departments and agencies. In 2014-2015, the PSC continued to increase e-testing capacity, with over 500 facilities now in place and close to 1 500 certified public service employees across Canada and abroad qualified to administer e-tests. There has been a steady increase in on-line supervised tests, which now represent 58% of all PSC supervised tests administered, a 4% increase compared to 2013-2014. The volume of PSC UITs increased by 56% from 26 765 in 2013-2014 to 41 737 in 2014-2015. E-tests, whether supervised or unsupervised, now account for 72% of all standardized tests administered by the PSC.


In 2014-2015, more than 340 outreach activities were conducted across Canada to provide information on PSC programs, systems, assessment tools and services to the HR community, hiring managers, employees, and the public. Approximately one third of these activities focused on outreach to support the renewal of the public service, by providing targeted information to students, new graduates and members of employment equity and official languages minority groups. Example of outreach activities include:

  • In partnership with the Human Resources Council, the PSC developed and delivered a Staffing SmartShop with approximately 300 participants to discuss assessment practices that promote the effective use of the provisions of the PSEA, as well as identifying those that might create barriers.
  • The PSC increased its presence with academic institutions across Canada by participating in 58 career fairs and delivering 37 information sessions. To promote careers in the public service, the PSC partnered with Deputy Minister University Champions and several federal organizations. Hiring managers participated with the PSC in career fairs to promote a wide range of public service job opportunities, such as laboratory technologists, research scientists and procurement officers.


In 2014-2015, the PSC continued to meet its fundamental responsibilities of providing independent oversight and assurance to Parliament on the health of the staffing system and the non-partisan nature of the public service.

The PSC refined its policies and policy instruments, assessment services and staffing and recruitment programs and systems to better respond to the current and future needs of departments and agencies in a changing environment.

The PSC completed a comprehensive review of its policy and oversight frameworks and drafted a revised appointment policy, delegation instrument and oversight model. The goals of the review were to streamline requirements, ensure that oversight is calibrated to the risks in the system and, more generally, simplify staffing. The PSC has begun consultations on the proposed models with stakeholders (including departments and agencies, central agencies and bargaining agents), and is looking forward to continuing this dialogue in 2015-2016.


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