President of the Treasury Board Appearance before the House of Commons Committee of the Whole: Supplementary Estimates (A), 2020-21
On this page
- Notes for Remarks by the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos
- Overview of the Supplementary Estimates (A), 2020-21
- Additional Interim Supply
- Canada’s COVID-19 Emergency Response
- Joint Support Ships
- Federal Indian Day Schools (McLean) Settlement Agreement
- First Nations Child and Family Services
- National Medical Research Strategy (COVID-19)
- Disability Insurance Plan
- Aviation Security Screening Services
- VIA Rail Core Funding
- Sixties Scoop Settlement
- Emergency Research and Innovation Response Measures (COVID-19)
- Support for First Nations Children under Jordan’s Principle
- TBS Vote 1, Treasury Board Secretariat Program expenditures (CDS)
- Paylist Requirements (TB Vote 30)
- COVID-19 Response / Commitment to Report
- Hazard Pay for Public Servants
- Leave Provisions and Childcare
- Public Service Health Care Plan (PSHCP)
- Official languages communications
- Duty to Accommodate
- Occupational Health and Safety
- Availability of personal protective equipment and non-medical masks for frontline workers
- Enabling Technology – Equipment, Collaboration Tools and Network Capacity to support Public Servants
- Security and Information Management During COVID-19
- Business Continuity Management
- Easing of Restrictions by Provinces and Territories for Federal Employees
- Collective Bargaining
- Phoenix Damages
- Next Generation HR and Pay Initiative
- Mental Health – COVID-19
- Funding for the Office of the Auditor General
- Revera Inc. - Public Sector Pension Investment Board
- Directive on Disposal of Surplus Goods
- Rent relief for federal commercial tenants
- Regulatory Flexibility for Canadian Businesses
- Government of Canada Privacy Breaches
- Transparency and Access to Information Act Review
- Emergency Contracting
Notes for Remarks by the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos
In this section
President of the Treasury Board, to the House of Commons Committee of the Whole on Supplementary Estimates (A) 2020-21
June 17, 2020
Check against delivery
Thank you, Mr. Chair, for this opportunity to discuss the Supplementary Estimates (A) for 2020-21.
As members of the committee are aware, each year, the Government tables Supplementary Estimates that outline its spending plans.
These Supplementary Estimates present information on spending requirements across federal organizations that were either not sufficiently developed in time for inclusion in the Main Estimates or have since been updated to reflect new developments.
These are the first Supplementary Estimates to be tabled this fiscal year.
They include a summary of the Government’s incremental financial requirements, as well as an overview of major funding requests and horizontal initiatives.
The Supplementary Estimates (A) for 2020-21 show that the Government is continuing to invest in people, the economy and COVID-19 relief to help ensure Canada’s success and recovery.
Parliamentarians will have the opportunity to review and vote on these allocations, which seek to provide important services to Indigenous communities, safe and secure transportation for travellers, and support for Canada’s armed forces. This is in addition to COVID-related expenditures.
Specifically, these Supplementary Estimates include $6 billion in operating and capital expenditures, grants and contributions to be voted by Parliament for 42 federal organizations.
These voted measures represent a 5% increase over those included in the Main Estimates for 2020-21 that I tabled on February 27th, including more than $1 billion for the Government’s response to the COVID crisis.
For information and transparency to Parliament, these Supplementary Estimates also include, forecasts of Statutory expenditures totaling $81.1 billion.
Mr. Chair, it is important to note the difference between Voted and Statutory expenditures.
Voted expenditures require annual approval from Parliament through an appropriation bill, while Statutory spending is authorized through other legislation.
Information on Statutory spending is included in these Estimates to ensure Parliamentarians have the most complete information available on the Government’s planned spending.
As a matter of fact, we know Canadians want maximum transparency from Parliament. The statutory information included in these Estimates include information on spending that was first authorized through the COVID-19 Emergency Response Acts, which were presented, debated and passed in this House. This spending is now helping Canadians.
COVID-19 Spending and Government-wide Supplementary Estimates (A)
Mr. Chair, the health, safety and well-being of all Canadians are always of the utmost importance to our Government.
Accordingly, these Supplementary Estimates request $1.3 billion in new voted spending that responds to the impact of COVID-19 on Canadians.
- $405.2 million for the National Medical Research Strategy to fund tracking and testing of COVID-19, to develop vaccines and therapies, and to enhance clinical trial and biomanufacturing capacity in Canada.
- $302.4 million to support small and medium-sized businessesFootnote 1.
- $274.5 million for emergency research and innovation on medical countermeasuresFootnote 2
- $87.4 million for the Community Futures NetworkFootnote 3.
- And $59.3 million to help the Canadian Red Cross support individuals, families and communities during the pandemic.
Here are some of the other key initiatives included in these Estimates that support a variety of Canadians’ priorities:
- $585.5 million for the Department of National Defence to fund the Joint Support Ship Project to replace vessels that have reached the end of their lifespan.
- $481.2 million for the Department of Crown - Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs to fund the Federal Indian Day Schools Settlement Agreement.
- And $468.2 million for the Department of Indigenous Services to support the safety and well-being of First Nations children and families living on reserve.
- There’s also $312.2 million for the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority and Department of Transport to fund aviation security screening services.
TBS-specific Supplementary Estimates (A)
For my department, the Treasury Board Secretariat, the Estimates include:
- $395.8 million for the Disability Insurance Plan;
- $82.5 million for Paylist requirements — in this case, to cover the cost of negotiated wage adjustments;
- and $9.3 million to continue the Canadian Digital Service’s operations.
Mr. Chair, the Supplementary Estimates documents provide transparency and accountability in how we plan to use public funds to deliver needed programs and services to Canadians.
And in keeping with the Government’s commitment to transparency, we continue to provide additional information related to these Supplementary Estimates online.
For example, we have published a detailed listing of legislated amounts reported through these Estimates and a complete breakdown of planned expenditures by standard object, such as personnel, professional services and transfer payments.
Our online information tools reflect our commitment to give Canadians a clear explanation of where public funds are going, and how they are being spent.
In addition, the Minister of Finance is committed to report on a bi-weekly basis to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance on the key actions taken by the Government to help Canadians.
Finally, Mr. Chair, as these Estimates demonstrate, the Government remains resilient throughout the global pandemic.
The new spending plans presented here will continue to provide relief for those affected by COVID-19 while continuing to support the economy and Canadians.
As we advance these plans, I would like to acknowledge the crucial work of all Parliamentarians as we continue to work together and look toward the future of our country and the wellness of all Canadians.
I would now be happy to answer any questions Members of this House may have.
Overview of the Supplementary Estimates (A), 2020-21
What planned spending is presented in Supplementary Estimates (A), 2020-21?
- Supplementary Estimates (A), 2020–21 present a total of $87.0 billion in incremental budgetary spending, including $6.0 billion to be voted and $80.9 billion in forecast statutory expenditures.
- This unprecedented level of spending is driven mainly by the Government’s response to the public health, social and economic impact on Canadians of the COVID-19 global pandemic.
- The Government continues to invest in Canadians and the economy, and particularly in the efforts to respond to the public health threats of the COVID-19 virus and to minimize its health, economic and social impacts.
- The Supplementary Estimates outline new, and updated, spending needs for programs and services that were not sufficiently developed in time for inclusion in the Main Estimates.
- These Supplementary Estimates present $6 billion in operating and capital expenditures, grants and contributions to be voted by Parliament for 42 federal organizations.
- This planned spending will provide needed services to Indigenous communities, actions to ensure safe and secure transportation for travellers, vessels for the Canada’s armed forces, as well as continued response to the impacts of COVID-19.
The majority of the $6.0 billion in new voted spending is for:
- Emergency responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, including medical research, establishing domestic production capacity for personal protective equipment and support for the Canadian Red Cross;
- Economic responses to the pandemic, including support for small and medium-sized businesses, food processing facilities and rural businesses;
- Construction of Joint Support Ships for the Royal Canadian Navy;
- Settlement agreements related to Indian Day Schools and the Sixties Scoop; and
- First Nations Child and Family Services.
The $80.9 billion in planned statutory spending reflects the Government’s key response measures and emergency supports, including:
- Canada Emergency Response Benefit ($60.0 billion);
- Canada Emergency Student Benefit ($5.3 billion);
- Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance ($3.0 billion);
- Additional supports for seniors ($2.5 billion); and
- Protective gear and medical equipment ($1.8 billion).
These Supplementary Estimates (A) also include $200.0 million in non-budgetary measures.
Additional Interim Supply
What is the purpose of the second interim supply bill? and how much additional funding will departments and agencies receive for its operations?
- In late April, the House of Commons passed a motion to continue examining the 2020–21 Main Estimates until the supply period ending in December.
- To provide funding to cover departmental operations between July and December, a second appropriation bill seeks approval of $55 billion in additional interim supply.
- The Government recognizes and respects Parliament’s oversight and scrutiny of public spending.
- As an effective and transparent solution, additional interim supply is sought until Parliament concludes its study and approves the 2020-21 Main Estimates in December.
- The approach taken to this additional interim supply bill is in keeping with Parliament’s right to a meaningful opportunity to study the Government’s Main Estimates.
- It also recognizes the very real cash pressures that some departments are facing as they deliver core programs and services to Canadians; and respond to extraordinary pressures and impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Appropriation Act No. 1, 2020–21 received Royal Assent on March 13. The Act provided enough interim supply to cover government operations until the end of June.
Responding to the extraordinary circumstances of the Parliamentary since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the House of Commons passed a motion on April 20 to temporarily amend Standing Order 81. This resulted, among other things, in extending the study of the Main Estimates until December.
This is the first time that such an approach has been taken. Typically, departments receive full supply for Main Estimates in June. Under the amended Standing Order, a second appropriation bill is allowed to provide additional interim supply to fund departmental operations from July to December.
As with typical interim supply bills, the amounts requested are based on 12ths of the amounts in Main Estimates, notionally corresponding to monthly cash requirements.
The default for this proposed interim supply is that organizations would be topped up to 9/12ths of their voted Main Estimates amounts (covering the months from April through December) to continue operations until full supply is considered in December.
Of the 122 organizations awaiting full supply, 20 had identified greater cash flow needs before December. They would be topped up to 11/12ths of the Main Estimates amount. This allowance for cash flow requirements is typical of interim supply bills. In total, the second interim supply bill seeks approval of roughly $55.1 billion.
The House of Commons will reconvene on June 17th to consider the business of supply. Both this second interim appropriation bill (to be titled Appropriation Act No 2, 2020-21) and the Supplementary Estimates (A), 2020-21 supply bill (to be titled Appropriation Act No 3, 2020-21) will be considered on that day.
Canada’s COVID-19 Emergency Response
What planned spending, presented in Supplementary Estimates (A), 2020-21, is for the COVID-19 pandemic?
- Parliament has passed several pieces of legislation that provide financial authorities for COVID-19 emergency and economic response measures, including protecting health and safety; support for individuals; and support for businesses and economic sectors.
- Supplementary Estimates (A), 2020-21 include approximately $82.1 billion in planned budgetary expenditures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic:
- $80.8 billion under the statutory authorities passed by Parliament since March; and
- $1.3 billion in voted expenditures which will be included in the appropriation bill for Supplementary Estimates (A).
- The Government of Canada has created the infrastructure to respond to the public health threats of the COVID-19 virus and is acting – in collaboration with provincial and territorial governments and international partners – to minimize the health, economic and social impacts of this global pandemic.
- This response has included passing several pieces of legislation in Parliament to provide financial authorities for COVID-19 emergency and economic response measures, such as Bill C-13 An Act respecting certain measures in response to COVID-19
- These are important tools for providing much needed financial support to Canadian workers and businesses, students, seniors and others over the coming months.
Bills C-12, C-13, C-14, and C-15 all provided financial authorities in response to the pandemic. The largest statutory amounts appearing in Supplementary Estimates (A), 2020-21 are:
- $60.0 billion for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (ESDC)
- $5.3 billion for the Canada Emergency Student Benefit (ESDC)
- $3.0 billion for the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CMHC)
- $2.5 billion for additional support for Canadian seniors (ESDC)
- $1.8 billion for protective gear and medical equipment (PHAC)
The regular supply cycle continues to operate, with some adjustments, in order to provide departments with financial authorities for their normal operations and for longer term efforts to combat COVID-19 and recover from the effects of the pandemic.
The largest voted measures included in Supplementary Estimates (A) are:
- $405.2 million for the National Medical Research Strategy (ISED, NRC, WED, PHAC);
- $302.4 million for small and medium-sized businesses (CEDQ, FEDSO, ACOA, ISED, CanNor, WED); and
- $274.5 million for emergency research and innovation response measures (ISED, NRC, CIHR, WED).
In general, the Estimates focus on the authorities of appropriated organizations to make payments from the Consolidated Revenue Fund. Some of the Government’s flagship COVID-19 response measures are therefore excluded, such as:
- the Business Credit Availability Program and the Canada Emergency Business Account, through the Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada;
- enhanced benefits provided through the Employment Insurance Operating Account; and
- the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy, which is implemented through the tax system under the Income Tax Act.
Joint Support Ships
What is the current status of the Joint Support Ships project?
- The Government has undertaken a contract with Seaspan’s Vancouver Shipyards Co. Ltd to build and deliver two support vessels by 2026 to replace the Navy’s retired auxiliary oiler replenishment vessels.
- National Defence is seeking $586 million in these supplementary estimates to continue the Joint Support Ships project, which had a total estimated cost of $3.4B in 2019.
- The Joint Support Ships project will deliver two new Protecteur-class vessels, while helping to sustain an estimated 1,000 highly skilled shipbuilding jobs in Canada, as detailed in Strong, Secure, Engaged, Canada’s defence policy.
- Through the National Shipbuilding Strategy, the Government is committed to renewing Canada’s federal fleet of combat and non-combat vessels. In partnership with two Canadian shipyards, the strategy provides economic benefits to Canadians and rebuilds Canada’s shipbuilding industry.
The Joint Support Ships will increase the range and endurance of naval task groups. It will permit vessels to remain at sea for significant periods of time without returning to port for replenishment of fuel, ammunition and spare parts; provide extensive medical and dental facilities; and provide a base for helicopters.
Early block construction began in June 2018. The estimated delivery date for the first ship (HMCS Protecteur) is 2024, and the second (HMCS Preserver) in 2026.
These Joint Support Ships are being built under the National Shipbuilding Strategy, a long-term project to renew Canada’s federal fleet of combat and non-combat vessels. Through partnerships with two shipyards, the strategy provides economic benefits to Canadians and rebuilds Canada’s shipbuilding industry.
Federal Indian Day Schools (McLean) Settlement Agreement
What is the McLean Settlement? And how much funding is sought through these Estimates for its implementation?
- Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs is seeking $481.2 million in these Supplementary Estimates for the Federal Indian Day Schools (McLean) settlement agreement.
- The McLean settlement agreement includes compensation for anyone who attended a federally managed Indian Day School any time between January 1, 1920 until its closure or transfer from Canada’s control.
- This agreement will provide individual compensation of $10,000 to any former student who suffered harm at a Federal Day School, and higher amounts from $50,000 to $200,000 for more severe incidents of physical and sexual abuse. As of January 2020, 699 federally operated Indian Day Schools have been identified as eligible under this settlement. It is estimated that there are between 120,000 and 140,000 eligible survivors.
- The Government of Canada is taking steps to right the historical wrongs committed against thousands of Indigenous people who were harmed while attending federally operated Indian Day Schools.
- This funding is part of the Government’s comprehensive approach to compensate survivors and their families.
- The Government will continue to focus on supporting survivors and their families in their healing, reconciliation and commemoration activities.
On March 12, 2019, Minister Carolyn Bennett of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs announced a proposed settlement to resolve out of court the Garry Leslie McLean et al v. Attorney General of Canada class action. The settlement agreement was approved by the Federal Court of Canada on August 19, 2019.
The settlement agreement includes compensation for all persons who attended an Indian Day School that was managed by the Government of Canada from January 1, 1920 until its closure or transfer from Canada’s control.
As of January 2020, 699 Indian Day Schools are eligible. Around 200,000 Indigenous children attended a federally operated Indian Day School, of which it is estimated that there are between 120,000 to 140,000 eligible survivors.
$200 million is included for legacy projects to support the healing, wellness, education, language, culture and commemoration activities. Family members of attendees will be eligible to benefit from healing and commemoration activities from the legacy projects.
Other costs include $55 million for legal fees, $7 million for class counsel to support additional legal work on behalf of class members, and funding for administrative costs for a court-appointed, third party claims administrator to implement the agreement (Deloitte).
First Nations Child and Family Services
How much funding is sought through these Estimates for services to Indigenous children and families?
- The Department of Indigenous Services is seeking $468.2 million through these Estimates to support the safety and well-being of First Nations children and families living on reserve.
- The Indigenous Services First Nations Child and Family Services (FNCFS) Program funds prevention and protection services including intervention and alternatives to traditional institutional care and foster care, such as the placement of children with family members in a community setting.
- The Government of Canada continues to take action to support the safety and well-being of vulnerable First Nations children and families on-reserve.
- Funding requested in these Supplementary Estimate will support community- directed First Nations Child and Family services and agencies to provide critical prevention and protection services.
- The program supports early intervention and alternatives to traditional institutional care and foster care, such as the placement of children with family members in a community setting.
The First Nations Child and Family Services (FNCFS) program provides funding to FNCFS agencies, established and managed by First Nations and delegated by provincial authorities, to provide prevention and protection services. The Department supports early intervention and alternatives to traditional institutional care and foster care, such as the placement of children with family members in a community setting.
The Department is working with partners to reform the program and reduce the number of Indigenous children in care. The reform includes fully implementing the orders of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal by:
- funding actual costs of FNCFS agencies; and
- working to make the system truly child centered, community directed and focused on prevention and early intervention.
Total FNCFS program funding in 2018-19 was over $1.1 billion.
Budget 2019 proposed $404 million beginning in 2019-20, and a total of $1.2 billion over three years.
National Medical Research Strategy (COVID-19)
What is the National Medical Research Strategy to combat COVID-19 and how does it relate to earlier funding announced for emergency research and innovation response measures?
- In April, the Government announced more than $1 billion over two years for a national medical research strategy to combat COVID-19, including tracking and testing COVID-19 within Canada; developing vaccines and therapies, and; enhancing clinical trial and biomanufacturing capacity in Canada.
- These Supplementary Estimates include over $400 million for 4 organizations (ISED, WED, NRC and PHAC) for this strategy.
- This represents the second phase of Canada’s medical countermeasures against the COVID-19 outbreak. The first announcement of a $275-million Research Innovation and Industrial Response Action Plan was made in March.
- The Government of Canada is taking action to manage the COVID-19 pandemic and protect Canadians by supporting medical research and vaccine development.
- These additional investments in serological testing, genomic sequencing, disease modeling and vaccine research and development represent much- needed support for the research that will help combat COVID-19. It will also help our governments make evidence-informed decisions that will ultimately benefit all Canadians.
On April 23, 2020, the government announced more than $1 billion over two years to support a national medical research strategy to fight COVID-19, including vaccine development, treatment production and virus tracking.
Building upon the $275 million announced in March for vaccine research, funding under the national medical research strategy will be used to mobilize and accelerate domestic research and innovation by Canadian researchers, scientists, industry and entrepreneurs.
Funding in Supplementary Estimates (A), 2020-21 supports the following organizations:
- Department of Industry ($375 million) for additional contributions under the strategic innovation fund that support COVID-19 vaccine and therapy clinical trials led by the private sector, Canadian biomanufacturing opportunities, and a national genome sequencing effort to help track the virus, its different strains and how it makes people sick in different ways.
- Department of Western Economic Diversification ($8 million) for additional contributions for the University of Saskatchewan’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization – International Vaccine Centre to accelerate the development of a prototype COVID-19 vaccine.
- National Research Council of Canada ($17 million) for the second phase of upgrades to the NRC’s human health therapeutics research facility in Montreal to prepare for large-scale production as soon as a vaccine is available.
- Public Health Agency of Canada ($5 million) for genome sequencing costs, nationwide surveillance and expansion of the Canadian Immunization Research Network’s vaccine research and monitoring capacity.
Disability Insurance Plan
How does TBS plan to spend the Disability Insurance Plan funding requested in its 2020-21 Supplementary Estimates (A)?
- TBS is seeking parliamentary approval for a $395.8 million increase in Vote 20, Public Service Insurance, specifically for the Disability Insurance Plan (DI Plan).
- The Government of Canada continues to provide disability insurance coverage for federal employees who are unable to work for long periods due to a totally disabling illness or injury.
- The funding requested in these Supplementary Estimates will help to address a coverage shortfall in the Disability Insurance Plan, resulting from increases in the number of claims, retroactive adjustments to benefits as a result of collective agreements, and a decline in interest rates affecting market returns on assets.
- These investments will ensure the financial stability of the Plan over the next three years. We are making sure employees can access the important care and coverage they need, when they need it most.
The DI Plan provides income replacement benefits to unionized employees who have exhausted their sick leave credits and are unable to work due to illness or injury.
It provides income replacement coverage for approximately 250,000 employees.
Under the Disability Insurance Plan, the Government of Canada pays 85% of disability premiums and members pay 15%.
In Fall 2018, TBS was informed that the DI Plan had deteriorated due to the following three factors:
- an increase in the number of approved disability claims
- the new pay rates as a result of signing of the 2014 and 2018 collective agreements
- poor market returns on assets as a result of low interest rates
The impact of the losses is further compounded by charges for not maintaining a minimum surplus of 40% by the end of the calendar year; as required by the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI).
Funding of $395.8 million is required in 2020–21 for the lump-sum payment of $320 million and to fund this year’s 20% increase to premiums of $75.8 million. The contribution rate increase will be implemented on July 8, 2020.
This funding will ensure the DI Plan is brought back to financial health and fulfill employer responsibilities and contractual obligations.
Aviation Security Screening Services
What is the current status of the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) transition and why is additional funding sought through these Estimates?
- Complex negotiations and a global pandemic have delayed the transition of aviation security screening services from CATSA to a private, not-for-profit entity comprised of Canadian aviation industry stakeholders. Budget 2019 had announced the Government’s intention to move towards privatization.
- The $312.2 million in these Supplementary Estimates will support aviation security screening for air travellers and airport workers, including the use of full body scanners, continued negotiations on the CATSA transition to a not-for-profit entity, and wind-up and dissolution activities.
- Ensuring air travel security continues to be a priority for the Government of Canada.
- By investing in a strong security and screening environment, we are safeguarding air travellers and airport workers.
- Funding in these Estimates will support aviation security screening for air travellers and airport workers, and continued negotiations on the CATSA transition to a not-for-profit entity.
- In Budget 2019, the Government announced its intention to move aviation security screening services from the CATSA, a crown corporation, to a private, not-for-profit organization made up of Canadian aviation industry stakeholders.
- Transitioning the security screening of air travellers and airport workers to a private entity is expected to promote better responses to fluctuating passenger volumes and further innovation to increase effectiveness of a secure air traveller system.
- When air travel begins to resume, travellers and airport workers will benefit from these upgrades that improve the efficiency of Canada’s secure air travel system.
Enacted in 2019, the Security Screening Services Commercialization Act allows for the sale or transfer of CATSA’s assets and liabilities to make way for the transfer of operations to a private entity. Budget 2019 approved $500 million for this transition.
Transport Canada is currently working with industry partners to designate a not-for-profit private corporation as the screening authority.
CATSA, an agent Crown corporation of Transport Canada established in 2002, operates under a third-party business model and directly employs about 400 full time employees. It also contracts approximately 8,000 screening officers with the private sector for delivery of pre-boarding, baggage, non-passenger and Restricted Area identify card security screening and programs at its 89 designated airports.
In 2019-20, CATSA received almost $900 million in parliamentary appropriations for operating and capital expenditures. The Air Travellers Security Charge also takes in approximately $800 million in annual revenue ($768 million in 2016-17)
Due to rising passenger volumes and contractor billing rates, CATSA received $288 million in program integrity funding in 2019-20 and is seeking an additional $309 million through these Estimates to ensure it can maintain minimum service levels (85% of all passengers waiting 15 minutes or less to be screened at Class 1 airports). TC is requesting $3M for negotiation costs.
VIA Rail Core Funding
What funding is included for VIA Rail’s operations in these supplementary estimates, and what is it intended to achieve?
- VIA Rail is seeking $277.5 million in these Estimates, including $264.6 million to support its core operations and maintain capital assets in a state of good repair; and $12.9 million for high frequency rail proposal to provide direct service between major centres (Quebec City-Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto).
- The Government of Canada continues to provide a safe, cost-effective and environmentally responsible national rail service.
- The spending planned in these Supplementary Estimates will allow VIA Rail to keep operating core rail services and railway infrastructure maintenance and repair activities.
- In response to COVID-19, Canada’s national rail passenger service continues to operate safely following recommendations from federal and provincial public health authorities.
VIA Rail is seeking a total of $277.5 million in these supplementary estimates:
- $264.6 million in funding for the core requirements of the corporation, keeping operations running in a steady state and capital assets in a state of good repair;
- $12.9 million for preparatory work on the proposed high frequency rail service linking Toronto and Quebec City.
This brings the proposed authorities to date to $824 million, compared to VIA Rail’s total estimates for 2019-20 of $732.8 million.
VIA Rail provides passenger rail services in all regions of Canada, operating on a 12,500-kilometre network, most of which is owned by other railways.
While the majority of its passengers use intercity routes, VIA Rail also provides long-haul services as well as regional and essential remote rail transportation.
The Government provides appropriations to subsidize passenger rail services.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and associated reduction in passengers, VIA Rail has cancelled some trains, modified onboard services and implemented additional cleaning/disinfecting measures.
Sixties Scoop Settlement
What is the current status of the Sixties Scoop Settlement?
- Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs is seeking $260 million in these Estimates for initial payments under the Sixties Scoop Settlement.
- This settlement provides $500 to $750 million in compensation to thousands of First Nations and Inuit children who were removed from their families and placed with non-Indigenous families between 1951 and 1991, resulting in the loss of language and culture.
- The Government of Canada remains committed to negotiating Childhood Claims with Indigenous peoples in a fair, compassionate, and respectful manner that promotes reconciliation and healing.
- Under the Sixties Scoop Settlement, funding will be provided to thousands of First Nations and Inuit children who were removed from their families between 1951 and 1991, then placed with and raised by non-Indigenous families.
- We will continue working to address the lasting emotional, cultural and educational harms suffered by Indigenous children.
On November 30, 2017, the Government of Canada agreed to a settlement with survivors of the Sixties Scoop.
In total, the agreement provides $500 to $750 million in compensation to survivors, $50 million to the Sixties Scoop Legacy Foundation, $75 million for legal fees to plaintiffsʼ counsel, and funding for the administrative costs to implement the agreement.
On March 27, 2020 the Federal Court approved the immediate transfer of $500 million to the Sixties Scoop Trust to administer compensation to more than 12,000 survivors.
The Federal Court decision expedites the compensation process due to COVID-19. Previously all claims were to be processed and a final total given before money would be transferred.
Under COVID-19 provisions, an initial payment will go out to those who have been approved, and anyone whose records were not complete would be processed later.
Eligible survivors will receive a base amount of $25,000. Individual payments will not exceed $50,000 per person. The deadline to apply for compensation was .
The Sixties Scoop Foundation has been established as a charity to bring about healing, recognition, understanding and commemoration for all Indigenous peoples and families of survivors who have been impacted by the Sixties scoop.
Other Indigenous children including Métis and non-status Indians are not eligible for compensation as a result of their placement with non-Indigenous families during the same period. The government is working with provinces to address the harms these survivors endured.
On June 2, following a Federal Court decision, the Ontario Superior Court approved a motion to issue interim payments of $21,000 to eligible class members. The motions responded to unanticipated delays in administering the settlement, which were caused mainly by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Emergency Research and Innovation Response Measures (COVID-19)
What is the funding for COVID-19 emergency research and innovation response measures intended to achieve?
- Supplementary Estimates (A) 2020-21 include $275 million in funding for a Research Innovation and Industrial Response Action Plan to enhance Canada’s domestic capacity in research and development, including research on medical countermeasures, such as personal protective equipment, treatments, diagnostic testing and vaccines.
- The Government of Canada is supporting Canadian researchers as they do critical work to protect the health and safety of all Canadians and people around the world during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- This funding focuses on tackling COVID-19 through large-scale research and medical countermeasures, which includes developing potential vaccines and treatments.
- These measures were part of the Government’s initial whole-of-government response, providing support to domestic and international efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The Government of Canada has committed more than $1 billion to public health measures, complementing the pandemic public health and safety measures and strategies of the provinces and territories.
On March 11, 2020, the government announced a $1 billion COVID-19 Response Fund which included $275M for a Research Innovation and Industrial Response Action Plan.
The plan will support and enhance domestic capacity to develop and manufacture medical countermeasures, and lessen Canadian reliance on foreign production, which could be limited by increased demand in other countries and import/export security restrictions.
This was one of the earliest funding decisions taken in response to COVID-19, just prior to the rapid escalation of public health and economic interventions. At that point, the incremental spending was still within the departments’ capacity to cash-manage; therefore, these measures were recommended for voted rather than statutory appropriations. Subsequent and larger scale spending measures have since been referred to the statutory appropriation under the Public Health Events of National Concern Payments Act.
The $275 million in Supplementary Estimates (A), 2020-21 supports the following organizations:
- Canadian Institutes of Health Research ($25.8 million): to issue grants for research projects and personnel support as part of the Rapid Research Funding Opportunity program;
- Department of Industry ($192 million): for contributions under the Strategic Innovation Fund, to support large scale research aimed at developing and manufacturing vaccines, therapies, and personal protective equipment;
- Department of Western Economic Diversification ($12 million): for contributions to retrofit existing facilities operated by the University of Saskatchewan affiliate, the International Vaccine Centre of the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization, to allow for the manufacturing of human vaccines; and
- National Research Council of Canada ($45 million): for operating and capital expenditures to upgrade the Royalmount human health therapeutics research facility in Montreal to allow for the manufacturing of a vaccine or other treatments for COVID-19; and for grants to accelerate development and testing of diagnostic tools and personal protective equipment.
Support for First Nations Children under Jordan’s Principle
How much funding is sought through these estimates for services to Indigenous children under Jordan’s Principle?
- The Department of Indigenous Services is seeking $232 million in these Supplementary Estimates for health, social and education services and support for First Nations children under Jordan’s Principle.
- Jordan’s Principle is a child-first and needs-based approach to ensure that First Nations children living in Canada can access the products, services and supports they need, when they need them.
- The Government of Canada will continue to support First Nation children who need help right away, while also working to make long-term changes for the future, such as through the reform of child and family services.
- Under Jordan’s Principle, the funding requested in these Supplementary Estimates will help First Nations children with a wide range of health, social and educational needs.
- The program strives to consider the needs of each individual child and takes into account substantive equality, the cultural appropriateness of services provided and safeguarding the best interests of the child.
Jordan’s Principle is named in memory of Jordan River Anderson, a young boy from Norway House Cree Nation in Manitoba who died in hospital at the age of 5 from a rare disorder, while federal and provincial governments disputed who was financially responsible for his home-based care.
In 2007, Jordan’s Principle was passed unanimously in the House of Commons, making it a legal requirement to provide First Nations children with the supports they need - such as speech therapy, medical equipment, education and mental health services - when they need them, and to settle the payments for these supports later.
Between July 2016 and March 2020, more than 572,000 products, services and supports worth $680 million were approved under Jordan’s Principle.
TBS Vote 1, Treasury Board Secretariat Program expenditures (CDS)
How much is TBS seeking in the 2020-21 Supplementary Estimates (A) for its Vote 1, Program expenditures?
- TBS is seeking parliamentary approval for a $9.3 million increase in Vote 1, Program expenditures, specifically for the Canadian Digital Services (CDS).
- The Canadian Digital Service (CDS) was launched in 2017 to help federal departments make government services faster, easier to use, and more reliable and secure.
- Using modern design and technology practices, CDS put people at the centre in developing government services, ensuring that they work for the people who will actually use them.
- CDS has partnered with several departments to improve services, including:
- Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada and Service Canada to launch an information-sharing service providing Canadians with accurate and timely guidance about COVID-19 that they can trust; and
- Employment and Social Development Canada, and the Canada Revenue Agency to develop a web-based tool to help Canadians determine which government benefits they can access during the pandemic.
- Funding of $9.3 million in 2020–21 will build on CDS’s work and support efforts to move deeper into more complex service redesign challenges.
The CDS was first announced in Budget 2017, which stated “The Government has an opportunity and a responsibility to lead the way when it comes to digital innovation to support more widespread adoption of digital tools. Informed by similar initiatives in the U.S. (the U.S. Digital Service/18F) and the United Kingdom (the Government Digital Service), the Government will adopt new ways of serving Canadians.”
Funding of $25.5 million over three years (starting in 2017–18) was provided to work in partnership with federal departments to change the way the government of Canada designs and delivers services to Canadians.
Budget 2019 announced the extension of the CDS mandate by two additional years.
Funding of $9.3 million is required in 2020–21 to build on CDS’s initial work and continue the planned evolution of moving into deeper and more complex service redesign challenges, partnering with core service departments (e.g., Canada Revenue Agency and Employment Social Development Canada).
CDS will expand its work in building common technical components available to departments for use in their services and leveraging its momentum in recruiting and retaining talent from the private sector and governments from around the world.
Paylist Requirements (TB Vote 30)
Why is the Government requesting TB central vote funding for paylist requirements in these Supplementary Estimates?
- The Treasury Board Secretariat is seeking $82.5 million in TB Vote 30, Paylist Requirements, to compensate the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for recent wage adjustments provided to its employees.
- TB Vote 30 may be used to reimburse organizations for maternity and parental allowances, severance pay, and other payments related to changes to the terms and conditions of employment.
- The funding requested in these Supplementary Estimates will ensure that Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) employees are properly compensated, following recent adjustments to their terms and conditions of employment.
- Across federal organizations and Crown Corporations, we will continue to ensure that we manage and administer pay activities fairly and effectively.
TB Vote 30 is a Treasury Board managed central vote that can be used to compensate appropriated organizations for the impact of collective bargaining agreements and other changes to terms and conditions of service or employment for the federal public administration.
Eligible expenditures are reimbursed through a direct transfer to departmental appropriations during the fiscal year in which costs are incurred.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporate (CBC) requires a timely allocation from TB Vote 30 to mitigate financial pressures resulting from wage adjustments awarded in a recently signed collective bargaining agreement.
The compensation amounts provided to the CBC are in line with recently signed collective agreements in the Core Public Administration.
COVID-19 Response / Commitment to Report
What has been Treasury Board Secretariat’s role in the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including tracking the impacts to the federal workforce?
How have bargaining agents been involved?
- As of May 31, 2020, the Chief Human Resources Officer had issued 16 updates to deputy heads providing information and guidance on topics, including remote work, equipment, student hiring, critical services, health and safety of employees, leave provisions and mental health.
- The Office of the Chief Information Officer is in regular contact with departments and agencies to support them in their Business Continuity Planning, including identification of critical services, providing guidance on the Policy on Government Security and continues to work closely with Shared Services Canada on the government’s Information Technology infrastructure and overall remote access capacity, as well as providing guidance on information management while working remotely.
- The Office of the Controller General (OCG) has made policy adjustments to provide temporary increases to limits for emergency contracting to enable the quick and efficient procurement of necessary resources. The emergency contracting limit for the Minister of Public Services and Procurement was increased from $15 million to $500 million and the emergency contracting limit for all Ministers was increased from $1 million to $3 million until .
- These changes were necessary to enable quick response and agility and to support government operations in an unprecedented situation.
- The OCG has also asked Deputy Ministers to review their Grants and Contributions programming and maximize the flexibilities built into the Policy on Transfer Payments, which underpins these programs.
- The Government of Canada has taken exceptional measures to curb the COVID-19 pandemic and to protect the health and safety of its employees and that of all Canadians.
- The Treasury Board Secretariat has been providing regular policy guidance to deputy heads on security, business continuity planning, human resources and workplace issues, procurement, financial management, digital services and privacy. Our exceptional workforce has ensured that Canadians receive the services they rely on, under extraordinary circumstances.
- The government has had to adapt its workplace and workforce tools, approaches and strategies to a rapidly changing context, and this guidance has provided deputy heads with increased flexibility to help them carry out the work under their own responsibilities, manage their workforce, and deliver critical services under these exceptional circumstances.
- Working with bargaining agents and departments and agencies and other stakeholders (e.g. various subject matter experts communities, regional federal councils, provincial and territorial counterparts), we continue to review our human resources, IT, security and financial policies to ensure that federal public servants are supported during this pandemic.
- A number of online tools and resources related to remote work and mental health have also been made available to employees and managers.
- The Government has been tracking the number of COVID cases across the Public Service and publicly reports this number each week. As of June 9, 2020, 394 cases have been reported across the Public Service.
- We continue to monitor the situation closely and adjust our guidance as the situation evolves across the country.
Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat’s role in the COVID-19 response has been to:
- underscore for the public that the government has plans in place to help ensure continued government operations and the delivery of critical services to Canadians;
- ensure accurate, effective and consistent internal communications to employees across federal departments and agencies on occupational health and safety, labour relations and human resource issues; and
- provide guidance and direction to Deputy Heads on security matters, including business continuity planning, flexibilities in policy and regulations, human resources and workplace issues, digital services, security and privacy, so they can continue to deliver services within their organizations and to Canadians during the pandemic.
On March 13, the Government of Canada asked that employees, at all work sites, work from home where possible, and that managers identify an approach that is flexible while ensuring continued critical government operations and services to Canadians.
As a result, many organizations are currently using flexible work arrangements to both protect the health and safety of employees and manage their workforce for business continuity. The vast majority of public servants, including those providing critical services, are working remotely.
Teleconference calls are held with bargaining agents regularly to discuss common topics of interest regarding COVID-19 and impacts on employees and the workforce.
The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat has been providing up-to-date COVID-19 advisories and information for employees on the Government of Canada COVID-19 website.
Although we know that the vast majority of public servants continue to work full-time, the Government is working to get a better understanding of how COVID 19 is impacting federal public servants and departments and separate organizations.
The media has also been asking for other data, such as the number of employees working from home, the number of employees accessing the network via VPN and the number of employees claiming leave under ‘Other Leave with Pay (699).’ The Treasury Board Secretariat is working with departments to collect and aggregate workforce data in due time.
Hazard Pay for Public Servants
Will the federal government consider offering hazard pay to federal public servants delivering critical services to Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic?
- The Department of National Defence, other departments and some bargaining agents are requesting that hazard pay be provided to federal public servants working on the frontlines in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Many provinces have implemented pandemic pay for frontline workers, in part funded by the federal government. The federal government is targeting support to low-income frontline workers in the para-public sector (e.g., daycares, nursing and retirement homes, medical support services).
- However, provinces were provided broad latitude to develop the terms of their programs and have used the subsidy to extend hazard pay to middle-income provincial government frontline workers who have direct federal government counterparts, such as prison guards and nurses.
- The government has put in place remote working arrangements to limit employees’ physical presence in the workplace only to critical services that cannot be performed remotely. The government has made available paid leave to employees who are at high risk of developing severe symptoms from COVID-19 and for those who cannot telework. These measures help limit the risk to employees as well as the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
- Organizations are actively making employees aware of all known or foreseeable hazards and remediating all workplace hazards as they are identified.
- COVID-19 data for the federal public service indicates that out of 91 organizations reporting on COVID-19 cases, there have been 384 cases across 27 public service organizations. This represents 0.13% of the core public administration and separate employer population reporting COVID-19 infection.
The Government of Canada is taking exceptional measures to curb the COVID-19 pandemic and to protect the health and safety of all its employees, including reducing employees’ risk of exposure, especially for vulnerable employees.
We continue to review our human resources policies and employee compensation, including policies relating to hazard pay, to ensure that federal public servants are supported as they deliver critical services to Canadians under unprecedented circumstances during this pandemic.
I salute the work of all public servants, and particularly those whose jobs call on them to work in close proximity to others. We will continue to provide them with all necessary precautionary measures, as advised by public health experts.
The Government of Canada has continued to support employees, throughout this unprecedented situation and, as of May 31, 2020, the Chief Human Resources Officer had issued 16 updates to Deputy Heads on measures taken to support public servants. These have included flexibilities in the Public Service Health Care Plan, leave provisions, and best practices for responding to positive cases in the workplace.
In the spring of 2020, the federal government established a $3B funding program to subsidize the cost of provincial wage supplements for workers in essential service sectors identified in the federal Guidance on Essential Services and Function in Canada During the COVID-19 Pandemic (e.g., daycares, nursing and retirement homes, medical support services).
The program is intended to offset work disincentives created by the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) for low-income essential workers, as per the Prime Minister’s May 7, 2020 announcement.
However, provinces have also used the subsidy to extend hazard pay to middle-income provincial government frontline workers who have direct federal government counterparts (e.g., prison guards, nurses).
Several private sector organizations are also offering additional pay and protections for workers exposed to COVID-19. For example, Loblaws has provided 15% additional compensation ($2.25/hr for minimum wage) to store and distribution centre employees, retroactive to March 8, 2020.
The Quebec government is also providing support to private-sector low-income frontline workers (e.g., grocery store employees). Workers may receive $100 each week (approximately $2.50/hr) for up to 16 weeks of eligible work, retroactive to March 15, 2020, to ensure their earnings are not inferior to the financial support provided by CERB benefits.
Leave Provisions and Childcare
When will the government revisit the leave provisions that were put in place for public servants in response to the COVID-19 pandemic?
- Since March 2020, the government has had in place exceptional leave provisions to support and provide flexibility to managers and employees in managing the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- That includes paid leave for employees whose work cannot be done remotely; who have no alternative options for childcare; must care for sick or vulnerable people; who are showing COVID-related symptoms; or who have underlying medical conditions.
- While many provinces and territories have started to improve access to daycares and schools, those remain closed in certain jurisdictions or offer limited availability.
- The Government of Canada has taken exceptional measures to curb the COVID-19 pandemic and to protect the health and safety of its employees and the broader population.
- Several temporary measures covering leave, flexible hours, and facilitating access to health services have been extended to ensure that the public service is doing its part in these exceptional circumstances.
- The vast majority of employees, including those supporting critical services, are working onsite or from home whenever and wherever possible, in large part due to the successful deployment of digital tools and infrastructure. This has allowed us to deliver services to Canadians with unprecedented speed.
- Exceptional leave provisions have also been made available to provide employees who are ill or unable to work or adjust their work schedule for reasons related to COVID-19 with different options to cover their health, family or work situations.
- When all options have been exhausted; these exceptional provisions provide for the granting of leave with pay in cases where no childcare arrangement can be made. This leave usage can vary from a few hours up to full-time hours, depending on individual circumstances.
- We have also worked to ensure that frontline workers—those who must leave their home to support the delivery of critical programs and services that Canadians rely on— are included in the lists of critical workers identified across the country and, to a varying extent, provinces and territories have extended access to childcare to them.
- The Government continues to carefully follow public health advice and will adjust leave, remote work and other guidance to employees as closures and restrictions are progressively lifted.
Exceptional leave provisions
Since March 2020, the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS) has been providing guidance to departments and agencies and asking them to be as flexible as possible in leveraging their authorities around existing telework and alternative work arrangements to accommodate employees.
Exceptional leave provisions have been put in place to support employees in managing the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. These include the provision of leave with pay for other reasons (commonly termed ‘699 leave’) for employees who cannot work because they are required to self-isolate, care for children, suffer from COVID-19 symptoms (diagnosed or not), are at high risk of developing a severe illness from COVID or live with someone who is at high risk of developing a severe illness.
In addition, the requirement for a doctor’s certificate has been suspended for illness-related absences due to COVID-19. Management should only ask for these in very limited circumstances (i.e., if a manager questions whether an employee is truly sick).
Before granting the 699 leave, managers should explore with employees all options available, including working remotely and alternate work arrangements. Managers may need to examine individual cases on their own merits. Employees are expected to adopt a good faith approach in using this leave, keeping in mind the need to provide critical services to Canadians.
As some easing of restrictions is taking place across the country, TBS will continue to review its guidance to support departments in managing leave provisions related to COVID-19 to remain aligned with the evolution of the situation around the pandemic. This includes consultations with union, which has begun.
Tracking of employee leave
TBS continues to work with departments and agencies to collect and aggregate workforce data to conduct an analysis of the impacts of this pandemic on the workforce. This was delayed in the early days of the crisis to avoid overburdening systems. Data is being compiled and will be made public when reliable reports are available.
Childcare service and their regulation fall within provincial and territorial jurisdiction. Eight (8) provinces and territories have lifted restrictions on who may access childcare:
- British Columbia
- New Brunswick
- Northwest Territories (did not have any during COVID-19)
- Prince Edward Island
Three (3) are slated to lift those restrictions in June 2020:
- Nova Scotia (June 15)
- Saskatchewan (June 8)
Two (2) still have restrictions:
- Newfoundland and Labrador
Newfoundland and Labrador are in Alert Level 4 of their reopening plan. Childcare is available to essential workers and those who can return under the provincial plan. Federal workplaces are not listed.
Childcare in Ontario was closed until June 12 and are now open with a limit of 10 children and adults in one childcare centre. Previously, they were closed with the exception of childcare centres open for essential workers and home-based childcare services. Federal workers on Ontario’s list include those from the following organizations:
- Canadian Armed Forces
- Canada Post
In Quebec, childcare outside Montreal is open but is limited to those who can return to work under the provincial plan. The Canadian Armed Forces and Canada Post are the only federal organizations included in the plan.
Employees who are deemed critical, according to business continuity plans, are encouraged to engage in open conversations with their managers about childcare responsibilities and work together to find solutions or alternative arrangements. If alternative care arrangements and remote work are not possible, employees may be granted ‘Other Leave with Pay (699)’.
Childcare centres operating in federal facilities are subject to all provincial and territorial health orders, including closures and restrictions on which workers can access childcare. We are currently monitoring eight workplace day care centres in federal facilities — three located in Ontario, four in Quebec and one in Alberta — that are either receiving a rental subsidy or have separate agreements with a federal custodian (i.e. Public Services and Procurement Canada). The three Ontario centres are currently closed, and while the centres in Québec are open, they are only accepting children from those listed on the province’s essential workers list. Currently, the federal workers on Quebec’s list include those working for Canada Post and members of the Canadian Armed Forces.
Public Service Health Care Plan (PSHCP)
In this section
There are two issues related to the PSHCP:
- Temporary changes to the PSHCP - Given the Government of Canada’s ongoing commitment to support employees during the COVID-19 pandemic, PSHCP flexibilities have been introduced and updated as the situation evolved.
- Renewal of the PSHCP - PSHCP renewal discussions are underway in consultation with bargaining agents and retiree representatives.
- The PSHCP is an employer-sponsored health care plan that offers health benefits to approximately 1.5 million Canadians, comprised of federal public service employees, retirees and their dependants.
- In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, temporary measures have been put in place to assist PSHCP members and their families during this difficult time. These measures will remain in effect until non-critical business is authorized to resume or unless otherwise indicated.
- A study by the Conference Board of Canada (April 2020) indicates that 23% of organizations are making changes to employee benefit offerings, including the introduction of virtual psychological and health care services during COVID-19.
- The PSHCP was last renewed in 2014. Current renewal discussions with key stakeholders are underway and will be informed by science and data.
Response - Temporary changes to the PSHCP
- In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Canada implemented temporary changes to the PSHCP aimed at helping plan members and eligible dependants better access health care benefits while minimizing social interaction with health care professionals and reducing trips to pharmacies.
- These temporary measures align with the Government’s guiding principles during COVID-19 which includes stewardship of public funds and caring for the health of our workforce.
- The Government will continue to work with bargaining agents and stakeholders to monitor the effectiveness of the health care plan temporary measures in order to make sure the Plan continues to provide support to members and their families during this difficult time.
Response - PSHCP Renewal
- The Government of Canada is committed to good faith bargaining.
- In consultation with Bargaining Agents and retiree representatives, the government is reviewing the Plan provisions to identify areas where adjustments could be explored in order to better align with similar employer-sponsored plans and industry best practices.
Background - Temporary changes to the PSHCP
The Government of Canada is the plan sponsor for the PSHCP and the President of the Treasury Board (TB) is responsible for the overall management of the PSHCP. The PSHCP is administered by Sun Life Financial on a self-insured basis.
On March 24, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Canada implemented the following temporary changes to the PSHCP:
- Extension of the Emergency Benefit While Travelling;
- Relaxation of the supply limit for maintenance drugs;
- Allowing coverage for registered social workers under the mental health benefit (previously only eligible in isolated posts); and,
- Removing of the prescription requirement for mental health and physiotherapy services.
In April 2020, the Government of Canada extended all but one of the initial temporary measures until non-critical business resumes following the COVID-19 crisis.
The expanded supply limit for maintenance drugs, which was part of the initial PSHCP flexibilities, was intended to allow a supply of medicine for more than the current 100-day limit. This measure was not extended to align with the provincial and territorial regulations that restrict medication dispensing limits to a 30-day supply in order to avoid drug shortages,
Additionally, the following new measures were introduced;
- Honour existing paramedical prescriptions that have recently expired (must have been eligible as of March 20, 2020), including enhancing communications to increase the awareness of virtual paramedical services that are eligible for reimbursement under the PSHCP; and
- Further support access to mental health providers by temporarily accepting psychotherapists under the mental health benefit without the requirement of direct supervision by a registered psychologist.
All PSHCP flexibilities introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic will remain in effect until non-critical business resumes or until otherwise indicated.
Background - PSHCP Renewal
The PSHCP is negotiated with Bargaining Agents and retirees at the PSHCP Partners Committee, under the umbrella of the National Joint Council (NJC). Once consensus is reached, Partners Committee formulates a joint recommendation for consideration. The President of the TB will then present the proposal to the TB, the final authority to approve the PSHCP benefit changes pursuant to the Financial Administration Act 7.1(1).
The PSHCP was last renewed in 2014; at that time, it was agreed that the next round of negotiations would begin in 2018. It was also agreed that the negotiations would be informed by science and data. As such, a data analytics and a benchmarking study was commissioned by the PSHCP Partners Committee. These two studies, as well as costing of possible PSHCP benefit changes took longer to complete than initially anticipated.
The PSHCP renewal discussion continued at the PSHCP Partners Committee without prejudice, pending an approved negotiations mandate.
Renewal discussions have been put on hold due to the COVID-19 crisis.
It is anticipated the Bargaining Agents may want some of the COVID-19 related temporary measures to become permanent (such as expanded mental health service providers and removal of physician prescription requirements).
On May 27, 2020, the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) released a media article identifying PSHCP renewal as a priority and stating that enhanced vision care, direct billing for paramedical services, and social worker/psychotherapist coverage will be top priorities for the union side during PSHCP renewal discussions.
This article also implied that PIPSC is eager to re-launch PSHCP renewal discussions sooner rather than later.
Official languages communications
The Commissioner of Official Languages has signalled his concern that some internal and external communications of the Government of Canada have either not been in both official languages or contained translations of poor quality.
The Commissioner of Official Languages issued a statement on April 23, 2020, indicating a spike in the number of complaints received relating to the Official Languages Act and calling on the government to respect official languages obligations in its communications, particularly given the importance of communicating health and safety information to Canadians in both official languages.
Throughout the pandemic, some official language minority community stakeholders and minority media have criticized the federal and provincial governments for their shortcomings with regard to official languages obligations. Criticism focused on the lifting of bilingual labelling requirements federally, and on the governments of New Brunswick and Ontario for failing to communicate with the public in French.
- Respecting official languages is a priority for the Government of Canada and continues to be so in these difficult times.
- Canadians have a right to communicate with, and receive services from, the government in both official languages, and in the current context, their health and safety can depend on it.
- Informed of the issues raised by the Commissioner, my officials sent out reminders to departments and agencies of their obligations under the Official Languages Act and to underscore its importance.
- My officials will also continue to work in close contact with the Commissioner and his office, working to find solutions for Canadians and public service employees that address their needs in these unprecedented times.
The Commissioner of Official Languages issued a statement on April 23, 2020, highlighting the need for official languages to be respected in times of crisis, especially where the health and safety of Canadians are concerned:
- “Canadians must be able to understand messages directed to them from all federal institutions, particularly in the current context. Beyond the Official Languages Act, it’s a matter of respect and safety for all Canadians. I have therefore communicated with all deputy ministers and with official languages champions across federal institutions to remind them of the importance of meeting their obligations to communicate with the public and their employees in both official languages at all times in order to ensure the respect and security of all Canadians.”
The federal government has recently made strides in official languages files:
- The Official Languages (Communications with and Services to the Public) Regulations were reviewed following extensive consultations across Canada. The amended Regulations were registered on June 25, 2019. The amendments now include a requirement on federal offices to be bilingual when they are near a minority language school; a new calculation method that includes immigrants and bilingual families; improved bilingual services for the travelling public; and broadened bilingualism requirements when using new technologies for service delivery. The amended Regulations were well received by minority community stakeholders.
- The Prime Minister has mandated the Minister of Official Languages, Mélanie Joly, to lead the modernization of the Official Languages Act. TBS, along with Justice Canada, is a key player in the work surrounding the modernization and has conducted in-depth analyses of the proposals and recommendations for modernizing the Act.
In light of the unprecedented demand and urgent need for products to help limit the spread of COVID-19, Health Canada is facilitating access, on a temporary basis, to certain imported products that may be labelled in only one official language to increase access to products that are in high demand. These products include household cleaners, cleaning products used in the workplace, hand and body soaps, hard-surface disinfectants and hand sanitizers. These interim measures will be lifted by Health Canada once the regular supply for these products stabilizes. In order to benefit from the interim measures, importers are required to post the text for bilingual labels on their website and provide sellers with a means to inform consumers, at the time of sale, of the website where bilingual label text is posted. This can be made available through a sticker applied directly to the products, or posters or signage with take-away pamphlets at the point of sale. Since May 8, all new importers of these products through the interim measure must meet this requirement. All importers previously authorized must meet this requirement no later than June 8, 2020.
Duty to Accommodate
The Government of Canada is committed to enabling all its employees to be productive and achieve their highest potential. The employer has a legal obligation to accommodate an individual’s needs when they stem from one or more grounds of discrimination under the Canadian Human Rights Act. This obligation remains when employees are required to work from a remote location.
- Under the Canadian Human Rights Act, employers are responsible for the accommodation of their employees, unless undue hardship, including in respect of health and safety, does not permit it.
- The Accessible Canada Act requires all federally-regulated institutions to eliminate or avoid the creation of barriers faced by persons with disabilities, in seven areas of activity, such as employment.
- Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat provides guidance to Core Public Administration organizations on their ongoing responsibilities under the Policy on People Management and the Directive on Duty to Accommodate.
- In general, accommodation requests should be considered on a case-by-case basis, to ensure employees have access to the tools and support measures they need to succeed in their jobs.
- Managers are encouraged to have open and constructive conversations with their employees about their accommodation needs and to streamline any administrative processes related to the provision of these accommodations.
- The government’s people management policies aim at ensuring that the public service is high performing, and that employees are appropriately equipped and able to contribute to their full potential to serve Canadians.
- Managers should make every effort to create an inclusive work environment for all their employees and to provide them with the tools and supports they need to carry out their responsibilities.
- Across the public service, departments are responding by providing equipment and other accommodations to employees, on a case-by-case basis, while taking measures to protect their employees’ health and safety.
- The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat is also providing guidance to managers on inclusive virtual meetings and the use of various communications technologies.
- The exceptional circumstances in which we find ourselves in responding to this pandemic have called upon us to examine and modify how we proceed to ensure accountability and coherence.
- Managers and employees must explore and consider every possible option to accommodate their employees.
The Treasury Board Policy on People Management and Directive on the Duty to Accommodate outline the requirements for Core Public Administration organizations develop an inclusive, barrier-free workplace in which all persons have equal access to opportunities in the core public administration. On April 1, 2020, the directive was updated to expand the coverage to all employees including other equity seeking groups and not just persons with disabilities.
These policies aim at ensuring that the public service is high performing and that the talents of each employee can be best utilized to serve Canadians.
A Benchmarking Study of Workplace Accommodation Practices in the Federal Public Service (published in May 2020) was conducted to gather critical feedback from employees and their managers about the process of requesting an accommodation for persons with a disability. The Study identified the areas that need improvement, with the overall goal of improving the accommodation process to ensure all employees are appropriately equipped and able to contribute to their full potential. The results from this Study will inform the work ahead, in order to ensure that employees can receive accommodations efficiently and in a timely manner, with the ultimate objective of creating an accessible and inclusive workplace for all federal public servants.
In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the obligation to accommodate an employee, up to the point of undue hardship, remains the same whether the employee works at their workplace or from a remote location.
While departments have been reminded of their obligations, more specific guidance on accommodating employees during the exceptional circumstances of COVID-19 is in development.
Occupational Health and Safety
Departments have raised many occupational safety and health questions during the COVID-19 pandemic. In its role representing the employer, the Treasury Board Secretariat has a responsibility to support organizations in the core public administration by providing advice and guidance that is timely and relevant.
- Each federal organization is responsible for the development and administration of an occupational health and safety program adapted to their operations.
- Treasury Board Secretariat has been working closely with Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) to provide workplace-related information and advice to departments and agencies so they can manage their workforce accordingly.
- Health Canada has published an occupational health advisory specifically for employees of the Government of Canada.
- The National Joint Council regroups the heads of bargaining agent organizations and is the forum of choice to discuss issues with bargaining agents.
- Many organizations contribute to ensuring that federal employees are equipped and trained to deliver critical services to Canadians in a safe manner for them and the people they interact with.
- Deputy Heads have delegated authorities for human resources management within their organization, which includes responsibilities for the health and safety of every person employed by their organization as dictated by the Canada Labour Code.
- Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada provide the Treasury Board Secretariat with science-based advice and information for the workforce. In turn, the Secretariat shares this advice across organizations ensuring it reaches occupational health and safety and labour relations communities as well as the national presidents of public service unions who are at the National Joint Council.
- The bargaining agents have been engaged from the early days of the pandemic on various issues, including health and safety. This engagement has taken place through the National Joint Council and in each organization, and bargaining agents’ participation will continue to be important in planning for the return to federal workplaces.
- Work refusals are a legislated right of employees who feel they are ill-equipped or trained.
Organizations have a general obligation to ensure that the health and safety of every person employed by the organization is protected while they are working. This is achieved by complying with the Canada Labour Code, Part II (the Code) and the standards set out in the Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations. Also, employers have specific duties in regard to each workplace they control and every work activity under their authority that occurs in a work place that is beyond the employer’s control.
Specific duties include ensuring that employees are aware of all know or foreseeable hazards that are in the workplace, so that they can safely perform their tasks.
Employees have a responsibility to take all reasonable and necessary precautions to ensure their health and safety and that of anyone else who may be affected by their work or activities.
With regards to health matters, Health Canada is the authoritative source of occupational health advice to federal employees. Health Canada works with the scientific information provided by the Public Health Agency of Canada and other occupational medicine and scientific sources to develop advisories for the federal public service.
The National Joint Council regroups the heads of bargaining agent organizations and is the “forum of choice” in the federal public service to discuss issues with bargaining agents; government and union representatives have traditionally demonstrated that partnership and co-development improve the workplace and provide important benefits. Created in 1944, the National Joint Council today includes 18 public service bargaining agents, Treasury Board Secretariat and a number of separate employers as official members.
Any employee subject to Part II of the Code has the right to refuse dangerous work as long as they have reasonable cause to believe that it presents a danger.
Availability of personal protective equipment and non-medical masks for frontline workers
In light of public health requirements in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat is working with Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada, to provide advice to departments on personal protective equipment (PPE) or non-medical masks for frontline workers.
- For federal employees, PSPC leads centralized purchasing of PPE requirements for at least 23 frontline departments, including CSC, CBSA and RCMP.
- The federal government has an obligation to protect, and is committed to protecting, the health and safety of its employees.
- The Treasury Board Secretariat, in its employer role for the public service, wants to ensure that workers have access to personal protective equipment (PPE) when required.
- In determining PPE needs, departments conduct their own risk assessments, basing their decision on advice provided by Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada.
- PPE is one of several measures that can be considered to protect employees from exposure. Other measures include physical distancing, additional hygiene and cleaning protocols or physical barriers (e.g. plexiglass).
- Based on the latest general occupational health advice from Health Canada, in some workplaces where it is difficult to consistently maintain a two-metre distance between colleagues as well as clients, employees should discuss with their managers to determine the appropriate steps to take to ensure their health and safety.
- When all other measures are exhausted, impractical or not feasible, Non-medical masks (NMM) and face coverings are an additional measure that can be used to protect others around them.
- Recognizing the challenges in maintaining a two-metre distance at all times, departments will provide NMMs and/or cloth face coverings and instructions about their appropriate use and disposal.
- Non-medical masks or face coverings are not PPE because they do not meet the requirements under the Canada Labour Code.
- All decisions related to protective equipment are taken in consultation with bargaining agents through departmental health and safety committees.
The federal government has a general duty under section 124 of the Canada Labour Code (CLC) to ensure the health and safety at work of every employee is protected. With respect to the COVID-19 pandemic, this can best be achieved by applying public health authority advice to the workplace.
If personal protection equipment (PPE) is required, the federal government must comply with standards set out in the Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations.
PPE, such as surgical-type masks and medical type gloves, should be used on the basis of risk exposure and in compliance with public health and occupational health and safety guidance for COVID-19.
For the federal public service, PPE guidance has been developed for specific workplaces (e.g. points of entry, missions abroad and penitentiaries). Guidance regarding PPE has been developed by Health Canada’s Public Service Occupational Health Program.
(Health Canada recently published updated general occupational health advice, which includes information about wearing non-medical masks (NMM) or face coverings at worksites.) NMM or face coverings are not PPE because they do not meet the requirements under the Canada Labour Code. The use of NMM or face coverings is generally recommended as an additional public health measure when it is not possible to consistently maintain a two-metre physical distance from others.
Organizations will need to update and review hazard prevention programs based on the latest risk-mitigation advice.
Enabling Technology – Equipment, Collaboration Tools and Network Capacity to support Public Servants
With an unprecedented number of federal public servants working remotely, the Government of Canada (GC) must ensure that government workers are appropriately equipped to maintain continued operations.
- There are approximately 287,000federal public servants, many of whom are currently working remotely.
- Every day, on average, over 150K GC employees now connect remotely to the GC network, attributed to an upgraded secure remote access capacity (greater than 100% increase pre-COVID).
- On March 16, 2020, the government implemented a temporary GC COVID-19 Collaboration System through Microsoft Office 365.
- The GC has since accelerated the implementation of a Microsoft Office 365 (O365), enabling productivity tools and supporting the collaboration among over 94,000Footnote 4 federal employees working remotely.
- A new, and permanent, Emergency Communication System, supports the GC’s business continuity activities, for up to and including Protected B work and collaboration, and currently has over 687 usersFootnote 5.
- The COVID-19 pandemic continues to transform the government’s operational and service landscape. In mounting its response, the government is accelerating its digital transformation, delivering results that directly support Canadians during this time of crisis while strengthening the government’s foundation to become a more open, user-centric and resilient digital government for the future.
- We are working to ensure that public servants are appropriately equipped to continue delivering critical services for Canadians during these unprecedented circumstances.
- In situations where new equipment is to be purchased, federal organizations have been reminded of their duties to be stewards of public funds, and to ensure that value-for-money is considered in all actions.
- New tools have been deployed that allow employees to work and collaborate with their colleagues while leaving essential network connections to those who have the greatest need to be on the Government of Canada network.
- The deployment of Office 365 has been accelerated across the GC to allow collaboration and remote conferencing that follows appropriate levels of security.
- Where users do not yet have Office 365, the use of tools such as Zoom and Google Meet for can be accessed, for unclassified use.
- The government is prioritizing delivery support to key departments and agencies involved in the response to COVID-19, such as Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) and Canada Revenue Agency (CRA).
The pandemic has prompted an unprecedented shift, requiring a majority of the 287,000 federal public servants to work remotely.
The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS) Office of the Chief Information Officer (OCIO) is working with Shared Service Canada (SSC) to actively support the ongoing operation of the government’s IT infrastructure and systems and maintain continuity of critical federal services.
Ensuring that departments and public servants have the knowledge, tools and equipment they need to work remotely means increasing network capacity to support the rise in remote work across government; prioritizing network access and IT services to maintain critical service continuity; mobilizing the CIO community to identify support needs; providing real-time feedback on IT needs in core service areas; and coordinating government action to ensure key IT infrastructure continues to function.
OCIO is working closely with departments and agencies to support service delivery by strengthening Business Continuity Planning, identifying critical services, and focusing committee forward agendas on COVID-19-related efforts. TBS is also working with SSC and Public Safety Canada to identify critical service interdependencies, including between services identified in departmental service inventories, critical services and the IT systems that support.
The Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer has developed a remote working toolkit, available to all federal public servants, providing helpful advice, tips, and tricks to both existing and new public servants. This toolkit touches on areas including (but not limited to):
- Mental Health
- Setting up your workspace
- Communications with your colleagues
- Official Languages
Security and Information Management During COVID-19
In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, concerns have been raised regarding potential risks associated with security and information management, as a large portion of public service employees, including those supporting critical operations, are currently working from home.
- With limitations to remote access for many departmental networks, several Government of Canada employees are leveraging third party collaboration tools to carry out virtual meetings, as well as to share unclassified information, and complete other work-related tasks, while working remotely.
- On April 1, 2020, the Information Commissioner of Canada published an opinion article in The Hill Times emphasizing the importance of information management, and the duty to document business decisions and activities, including in times of crisis.
- Through written correspondence to the President of the Treasury Board on April 2, 2020 and April 28, 2020, the Information Commissioner of Canada reminded the Government of the importance of documenting decisions and proactively disclosing data during these extraordinary times.
- On April 7, 2020, Post Media reported that the increase in teleworking makes the government more vulnerable to cyber threats.
- On May 5, the President of the Treasury Board and the Information Commissioner of Canada met to discuss the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on access to information and information management in the Government of Canada.
- On June 3, the President sent a letter responding to the Information Commissioner’s recommendations shared on April 28, 2020, concerning the ATI system, recognizing the importance of adhering to best practices in information management and mentioning upcoming plans the GC has to better support information practices across government.
- The Government remains committed to managing information securely and effectively, in accordance with its sensitivity, while ensuring transparency, openness and accountability to Canadians.
- The Government of Canada is committed to safeguarding sensitive information in its possession and maintaining the appropriate document security standards, as described in the Policy on Government Security (PGS).
- All public servants are expected to manage, secure, and document information according to legislative requirements and Treasury Board Secretariat policies, whether working on-site, or remotely, and regardless of the tools being used.
- Publicly available tools are only to be used for unclassified, non-sensitive discussions that would be otherwise permitted in an open, public setting.
- We continue to provide guidance to organizations on information management and security. We recently released guidance and a toolkit to guide employees in managing government information when working remotely.
- Robust systems and tools are in place to monitor, detect and investigate potential cyber-security threats, including information compromises that may result from working remotely.
Government of Canada employees were reminded of the requirements to manage information securely and effectively in accordance with its sensitivity and all relevant policy and legislative requirements while working remotely. These requirements are set out in legislation, including the Library and Archives Act, as well as in Treasury Board policy instruments, including the Policy and Directive on Service and Digital, and the PGS, including the Directive on Security Management.
These requirements include the obligation of employees to document decisions and activities of business value. This includes information, regardless of medium or form, which is created or acquired because it enables and documents decision-making in support of programs, services and ongoing operations, or supports departmental reporting, performance and accountability requirements. Information of business value is required to be transferred and stored on the appropriate organizational corporate repository.
Employees are also required to ensure the security and proper handling of sensitive information. This means respecting security markings, and making sure that appropriate tools, devices and methods are used to store, transmit, use and protect the information. In the case of third-party applications, such as Zoom and Google Drives, their use is acceptable for unclassified information. Employees have been reminded to use approved GC tools and services for collaboration and communication, such as Office 365, MS Teams, and GC Tools, wherever possible.
Business Continuity Management
How is the Government of Canada responding to the impacts of COVID-19 on its employees and the health and safety of Canadians, including ensuring continuity and availability of critical services to Canadians through Business Continuity Management (BCM) practices.
- As of June 1st, 2020, 240 Critical Services (CS) were identified across 49 of the 107 departments and agencies subject to the Policy on Government Security (PGS).
- A key component of business continuity is Critical Services which are defined in the PGS as: “a service or activity whose disruption would result in a high or very high degree of injury to the health, safety, security or economic well-being of Canadians or to the effective functioning of the Government of Canada."
- The Treasury Board Secretariat’s (TBS) Proactive Disclosure of Contracts for Q4 2019 lists a 40K contract to assist TBS and Public Safety (PS) in the development of a Government of Canada list of Critical Services and the response to COVID-19 in relation to Business Continuity Management (BCM).
- The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the government’s capacity to deliver trusted programs and services to Canadians.
- The Policy on Government Security includes requirements for organizations to develop and maintain Business Continuity Plans (BCPs), and organizations were asked to ensure their plans are up to date for any possible disruption.
- Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government has continued to deliver critical programs and services, including developing, and ensuring quick access to, new emergency financial supports.
- In parallel to the continued delivery of critical services, departments and agencies are working to achieve timely recovery of other services and activities as the situation evolves.
Business Continuity Management
TBS’ Policy on Government Security (PGS) applies to 107 departments and agencies and sets out mandatory requirements for Business Continuity Management (BCM), including:
- establishing governance, authorities and responsibilities for the departmental Business Continuity Plan (BCP) program;
- identifying and prioritizing departmental critical services and assets using a business impact analysis (BIA) process, and;
- developing, testing/exercising and maintaining related BCPs.
BCPs must also support the ability to maintain an acceptable level of delivery of critical services and activities in the event of disruption (including a Pandemic), and the ability of the organization to achieve timely recovery of other services and activities in the event of a disruption.
Public Safety Canada (PS) is identified in the PGS as the Lead Security Agency (and technical guidance lead) for BCM within the Government of Canada.
Critical Services List for the Government of Canada
A key component of business continuity is the identification of departmental Critical Services, defined in the PGS as: “a service or activity whose disruption would result in a high or very high degree of injury to the health, safety, security or economic well-being of Canadians or to the effective functioning of the Government of Canada"
TBS has worked with departments to establish a GC Critical Services List, inclusive of the COVID-19 context, including additional exceptional measures to support Canadians announced in recent weeks.
The list is evolving in response to government priorities and to inform strategic decision making and discussions, as well as to inform prioritization efforts of enterprise service providers such as SSC.
PS is leading a GC wide interdependency mapping of required supports, including IT systems/applications and human resources necessary to support continued delivery of critical services, working closely with TBS.
Current Picture of GC Critical Services
As of June 1st, 240 Critical Services were identified across 49 of the 107 departments subject to the PGS.
This work complements other components of the COVID response, including the efforts of the Government Operations Centre, the GC Pandemic Plan, Guidance for Essential Services in Critical Infrastructure Sectors, and ongoing advice from the Chief Human Resources Officer.
The COVID-19 Pandemic clearly demonstrates the importance of an evergreen Critical Services List and continued business continuity readiness in strengthening the resiliency of Government to ensure continued trusted delivery of government services to Canadians during significant events/disruption.
Easing of Restrictions by Provinces and Territories for Federal Employees
The COVID-19 crisis has required an abrupt, wide-spread shift to remote working arrangements for public servants in all jurisdictions. As the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve and a number of provinces and territories are, at varying paces, reopening their economies, and restrictions are gradually being eased, departments and agencies will move cautiously as the Government of Canada considers increasing access of employees and Canadians to federal worksites.
- The Federal Public Service is the largest Canadian employer, with employees across all provinces and territories.
- As of March 2019, there were:
- 220,310 active employees in the Core Public Administration, where Treasury Board is the Employer (Schedules I and IV of the Financial Administration Act)
- 67,668 additional employees in Separate Agencies (Schedule V of the Financial Administration Act)
- 58% of employees are distributed outside the National Capital Region
- As a general rule, only essential front-line workers who could not work remotely have reported for duty in person since mid-March 2020, with the vast majority of federal public servants working remotely.
- A Guidebook for Easing Restrictions: A guide to support a gradual, safe and sustainable easing of COVID-19 restrictions at federal worksites was developed and will soon be released. Bargaining agents were consulted during the development of the guidebook.
- Deputy Heads are responsible for developing and implementing a departmental plan to address the gradual and sustainable easing of COVID-19-related restrictions related to their worksites.
- Like most employers in Canada and worldwide, the COVID-19 pandemic has required the Government of Canada to abruptly shift to remote work for most of its workforce to preserve the delivery of critical services and programs to Canadians.
- The health and safety of all public servants remains an absolute priority for the Government of Canada, and the government is moving cautiously as it considers gradually increasing access of employees and Canadians to federal worksites.
- Departments and agencies will be guided by the decisions of public health authorities, including Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, the direction of provinces and territories, the local public health situation and the nature of the work.
- We will continue to work in conjunction with bargaining agents to equally support employees in the workplace and those who will continue working remotely.
Significant work is taking place to consider and plan how the federal public service will implement evolving public health advice in easing COVID-19-related restrictions, particularly given our national (multi-jurisdictional) presence and the complexity of government operations.
This work is framed in the First Ministers’ April 2020 Joint Statement and guided by important principles such as maintaining programs and services for Canadian; protecting the health and safety of public servants; and adherence to public health instructions and advice. The objective is to provide coherent, adaptable guidance to the Treasury Board and deputy heads to manage a gradual and sustained easing of COVID-19-related restrictions on federal workplaces across jurisdictions and in a range of circumstances in departments and agencies.
A detailed document for Deputy Heads, encompassing advice from Treasury Board Secretariat, Health Canada, and Public Services and Procurement Canada, has been developed to assist with departmental planning for the easing of restrictions in federal workplaces. Entitled Guidebook for Easing Restrictions: A guide to support a gradual, safe and sustainable easing of COVID-19 restrictions at federal worksites, it was developed in consultation with a wide range of stakeholders, and will be updated regularly as implementation proceeds and lessons gained. Bargaining agents were consulted during the development of the guidebook.
Longer-term considerations of lessons learned from the COVID-19 response will inform strategic decision making on broader issues, such as people management strategies to increase digital skills among public servants and facilitate talent mobility; investments in digital infrastructure to support a “new normal” for federal work; improvements to service delivery channels; and the federal real property and carbon footprints.
This work will ensure an evidence-based foundation for maintaining a representative, capable and high-preforming public service that can deliver results for Canadians now and in the future.
When does the government expect to conclude collective agreement negotiations for the 2018 round of bargaining?
- To date, 35 agreements have been reached that cover more than 70,000 federal public service employees.
- No agreements have been reached with the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), the group of IT professionals represented by PIPSC, or the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers (UCCO-SACC-CSN).
- Six Public Interest Commission reports, dealing with groups represented by the PSAC, have been released and the government is determining next steps to advance negotiations. There are no negotiation sessions currently scheduled for these PSAC groups, but the union has been increasingly vocal regarding its interest in returning to negotiations.
- Negotiations with the Border Services (FB) group, represented by the PSAC, and the Correctional Services (CX) group, represented by UCCO-SACC-CSN, are ongoing and remain in the early stages.
- The Government of Canada has already concluded agreements with 35 public service groups, and we remain committed to reaching agreements for all groups that are both fair to employees and reasonable for Canadian taxpayers.
- As part of this commitment, the Government has participated in the mediation process chosen by the unions. We respect the work of the Public Interest Commissions and the reports issued to date.
- The new circumstances we face, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, require us to take into account the valuable work provided by public servants while also recognizing the very different circumstances created by the global pandemic for all Canadians.
- Our goal is to take constructive steps to advance negotiations as we prepare to resume bargaining in a safe environment.
To date, the government has reached 35 agreements with groups covering more than 70,000 employees, or approximately one quarter of the population in the core public administration (CPA) and separate agencies. All collective agreements include:
- pay increases exceeding 8% over four years
- improved leave provisions for parents and other caregivers
- new leave provisions for victims of domestic violence
As of June 3, 2020, bargaining agents have declared impasse for nine groups in the CPA and separate agencies, and are engaged in third party processes (Public Interest Commission (PIC)). Eight of these groups are represented by the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) and one by the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC).
The parties may continue negotiating at any time during the PIC process toward reaching a settlement in advance of any recommendation by the PIC chairperson.
According to the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations Act (FPSLRA), the PIC chairperson must issue non-binding recommendations within 30 days of the hearing date, unless otherwise agreed to by the parties.
The bargaining agents cannot strike until seven days after the issuance of the PIC report, the conduct of a strike vote, and after 30 clear days have passed, as specified in the FPSLRA, following the establishment of an Essential Services Agreement (ESA). None of the ESAs for the five PSAC groups have been concluded. The ESA remains to be concluded with PIPSC for the Computer Systems (CS) group. The PSAC suspended all strike vote activity in mid-March 2020 in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The government will prepare for all possible outcomes, including failure to reach an agreement. TBS, departments and agencies are ensuring that there are contingencies in place, including ESAs, should labour action be taken by the bargaining agents.
Core Public Administration
In the CPA, four PIC reports have been released in response to the PSAC’s declaration of impasse in May 2019:
- January 27, 2020: Education and Library Science (EB)
- February 18, 2020: Program and Administrative Services (PA)
- March 16, 2020: Technical Services (TC)
- April 29, 2020: Operational Services (SV)
The PIC hearing with the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) for the Computer Systems (CS) group is scheduled for June 22 and 23, 2020.
Negotiations with the Border Services (FB) group, represented by the PSAC, and the Correctional Services (CX) group, represented by the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers (UCCO-SACC-CSN), are ongoing and remain in the early stages.
The PIC hearings for four separate agencies have now taken place:
- On January 6 and 20, 2020, the PIC hearing took place with the Canada Revenue Agency and the PSAC’s Union of Taxation Employees. The PIC report was released on April 29, 2020.
- From January 27 to 30, 2020, the PIC hearing took place with the Parks Canada Agency and the PSAC. The PIC report was released on March 12, 2020.
- On May 7 and 8, 2020, the PIC hearing took place with the PSAC – Canadian Food Inspection Agency and PSAC. The PIC report should be issued in the coming weeks.
- The PIC hearing with the Communications Security Establishment and PSAC took place from June 2 to 3, 2020. The PIC report should be issued in the coming weeks.
In June 2019, the Government of Canada announced that it signed a joint agreement with bargaining agents, with the exception of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), to compensate employees (current and former) who may have been impacted by the Phoenix pay system. To date, the Government of Canada has provided general compensation to eligible employees, put in place a general compensation claims process for former employees, and launched a claims process for those who had financial costs and lost investment income as a result of pay issues.
Negotiation of an agreement with PSAC remains a priority.
- In June 2019, the Government of Canada and a number of public service unions finalized an agreement to compensate employees, current and former, who were impacted by the Phoenix pay system.
- Some elements of the agreement have already been implemented and implementation of the remaining provisions is underway.
- The PSAC has indicated an interest in returning to the negotiation table and has specified that addressing damages will be required to achieve settlements for the 2018 round of collective bargaining.
- All public servants deserve to be accurately paid for their work. The Government of Canada continues to take action on all fronts to resolve pay issues.
- We recognize the fact that the implementation of the Phoenix pay system has had an impact, directly or indirectly, on employees.
- The agreement reached with bargaining agents (with the exception of PSAC) in 2019 aims to compensate about 121 000 current and 25 000 former employees for damages caused by the Phoenix pay system.
- As part of the agreement, there are measures to help those who had financial costs and lost investment income, in addition to the provision of general compensation.
- Individuals who have filed claims are seeing those claims processed and are receiving compensation in due course. In 2019, employees have seen their leave banks credited by up to 4 days and the 5th day will be credited to those eligible on or before August 2020 as compensation for their hardship.
- We remain committed to reaching an agreement with the Public Service Alliance of Canada and their members, our employees.
In May 2019, the Government of Canada reached a tentative agreement with members of the Senior Level Phoenix Union-Management sub-committee on damages for compensation for employees impacted by the implementation of the Phoenix Pay system. This agreement was ratified in June 2019 by all federal government bargaining agents except the PSAC. All separate agencies have signed similar agreements covering their employees (except those represented by PSAC).
The Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), who represents 140,000 employees, rejected the agreement, stating the compensation is insufficient.
The agreement includes up to five days of additional annual leave for employees and a cash pay-out equivalent to this leave for former employees or the estates of deceased employees.
Additional compensation, evaluated on a case-by-case basis, is provided for those who missed opportunities to earn interest on savings accounts or other investments, experienced delays in receiving severance or pension payments, and/or experienced severe personal or financial hardship due to Phoenix pay issues.
In 2019, federal organizations credited eligible employees with four days, and one additional day for the 2019-20 fiscal year will be credited to current employees within the 150-day timeframe established in the Memorandum of Agreement. This leave represents general compensation for financial and/or non-financial damages caused by Phoenix, including but not limited to general stress, aggravation and lost time.
Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat collaborated with bargaining agents and worked to launch in November 2019 an online claims process by which former employees can request a payment for general compensation for damages, which is a payment equivalent to the leave credited to current employees. These former employees can now go online and access what is owed to them.
In February 2020, assessment processes were added to provide compensation to current and former employees for financial costs or lost investment income.
Work is under way to develop and implement an assessment process claims related to severe personal or financial hardship.
PSAC Damages Agreement
Recent Public Interest Commission (PIC) reports involving the PSAC groups at impasse cite that the resolution of Phoenix damages is a critical piece to concluding agreements for the 2018 round of collective bargaining.
Next Generation HR and Pay Initiative
Update on the Next Generation HR and Pay Initiative.
- In June 2019, following an innovative and agile procurement process, the government announced it had selected Ceridian, SAP, and Workday as the qualified vendors for the Next Generation solution.
- In September, the Government announced that it will invest $117 million to co-design and deliver pilot projects for the NextGen HR and Pay system.
- In March, after extensive evaluation, and testing, the Government announced that SAP had been selected to work with our team on a pilot for a new Human Resources and Pay solution.
- The NextGen team at SSC has begun engaging SAP on a series of discussions to assess organizational capacity and readiness to work on NextGen under the current COVID-19 circumstances.
- We continue to work towards a long-term and sustainable HR and pay solution to meet the diverse needs of federal employees across Canada.
- The government has committed $117 million to co-design and deliver pilot projects to test solutions against the real complexity of federal government HR and pay needs.
- In March 2020, the Government of Canada announced SAP as the vendor selected to begin work on a pilot for a new Human Resources and Pay solution.
- Effective April 1, 2020, leadership for NextGen was transitioned from Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat to Shared Services Canada because of Shared Services Canada’s expertise and experience in the delivery of enterprise solutions.
- The Chief Human Resources Officer at Treasury Board Secretariat remains the Business Owner and a key collaborator of the NextGen initiative.
- This important work has continued under the current COVID-19 circumstances.
Budget 2018 announced the Government’s intention to move away from Phoenix and begin development of a pay system that will be better aligned with the complexity of the federal government’s human resources and pay structure.
TBS received $16 million over two years, beginning in 2018-19, to explore replacement options for a next generation human resources and pay solution.
Last summer, the Government announced it had selected Ceridian, SAP, and Workday as the vendors deemed qualified to deliver a next generation human resources and pay solution for the Government of Canada.
In September, the Government announced that it will invest $117 million to co-design and deliver pilot projects for the NextGen HR and Pay system.
In March 2020, after extensive evaluation, and testing, it was announced that SAP had been selected to work with our team on a pilot for a new Human Resources and Pay solution.
The NextGen team at SSC has begun engaging SAP on a series of discussions to assess organizational capacity and readiness to work on NextGen under the current COVID-19 circumstances.
Initial focus of work with SAP will include establishing governance and oversight, project management tools and protocols and development of a detailed plan to pilot the solution in a core department.
Effective April 1st, leadership for NextGen was transitioned from Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat to Shared Services Canada. The Chief Human Resources Officer at Treasury Board Secretariat remains the Business Owner and a key collaborator of the NextGen initiative.
The Government continues to work with stakeholders, such as bargaining agents, employees, and HR and pay practitioners, and will continue to engage in an open and transparent manner, so that the new solution can address the needs of a modern public service and its employees as soon as possible.
Ongoing stabilization of the Phoenix Pay System remains a top priority for the government and is being pursued by Public Services and Procurement Canada.
Mental Health – COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic, and the associated public health measures, including working remotely, have had negative impacts on the mental health and wellbeing of many Canadians, including federal public servants. The Government of Canada needs to support psychological health and safety in the workplace and provide relevant services and support to mitigate psychological harm, prevent psychological injury and promote psychological health and well-being.
- Data from Statistics Canada’s first survey on the impacts of COVID-19 (on Canadians 15 and older) shows that many Canadians are anxious. Results indicated that:
- 84% were “very” or “extremely” anxious about overloading the healthcare system; 54% about the health of a household member; 36% about their own health; and 32% about family stress from confinement.
- 14% of respondents had increased their alcohol consumption during the crisis.
- Analysis from Health Canada suggests that more than 11 million Canadians may experience high levels of stress in family and work, while more than 2 million may show signs of traumatic stress related to the pandemic. Some of these impacts will persist post-pandemic.
- Federal public servants are included in the above statistics and are at risk of experiencing a high degree of uncertainty, worry, anxiety and stress about the health and safety of their loved ones, and how COVID-19 may disrupt their work and personal lives.
- The Government of Canada recognizes the mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and has taken action to support mental health initiatives for all Canadians, using technological innovation to reach them wherever they are.
- Workplace mental health has been a top priority for the government and its public service for several years and remains so in these extraordinary times.
- We are providing guidance and practical tools to organizations in the public service and, specifically, front-line managers, to prevent mental stress, promote and protect employee mental health, whether they work remotely or on-site.
- We also continue to support employee requests for accommodation and recently published a benchmarking study of workplace practices that gathered feedback on the process of requesting an accommodation. Results will inform our continuing efforts to ensure that employees, including those with mental health disabilities, receive the right tools and supports to do their jobs.
- We have, as well, made temporary changes to the Public Service Health Care Plan aimed at helping plan members and eligible dependants better access health care benefits, and have improved access to resources, tools and information to public servants through a dedicated mental health and COVID-19 web site.
A psychologically healthy and safe workplace is the foundation of an effective, productive and engaged workforce. While organizations are making progress on implementing the Federal Public Service Workplace Mental Health Strategy and aligning with the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace, there is still work to do. The Centre of Expertise on Mental Health in the Workplace supports organizations in making advancements in addressing mental health in the workplace by:
- providing direct support and guidance to organizations implementing action plans to address mental health and/or align with the Standard
- building capacity and connection through networks and communities of practice
- strengthening data and business intelligence
- providing access to credible leading practices, resources and tools
- raising awareness of mental health problems and illnesses
Federal departments and agencies in the core public administration are required to make available to employees a confidential Employee Assistance Program (EAP). An EAP provides free short-term counselling for personal or work-related problems as well as crisis counselling. More than 80 federal departments and agencies receive their EAP services through Health Canada while other organizations provide this service internally or purchase it from the private sector. Health Canada’s Wellness Together Canada, a mental health and substance use support portal, is also promoted to federal public servants as a supplementary service.
The Office of the Human Resources Officer launched, in 2017, the Federal Workplace Mental Health Checklist, a self-assessment tool to assist organizations in planning and managing their actions in response to the Federal Public Service Workplace Mental Health Strategy. The latest 2019 results were released on May 8, 2020 during Canadian Mental Health Week, as a helpful tool for organizations to see the progress of their mental health efforts prior to COVID-19 and identify any gap areas or particular vulnerabilities in the system.
Funding for the Office of the Auditor General
Concerns about the adequacy of funding for the Office of Auditor General have been raised by the Office and by Parliamentarians.
Office of the Auditor General – Reference levels as reflected in Main Estimates
*This does not reflect additional in-year funding received in 2018-19
- The Government of Canada is committed to supporting the important and ongoing work of the Auditor General.
- The OAG’s reference levels were increased by $8.3 million in 2018-19 to improve the Office’s financial audit capacity to respond to an increase in the volume and complexity of government operations and transactions.
- This increase was the result of a request by the OAG to the Government which was announced in Budget 2018.
- Of that amount, $7.8M was for personnel (38 new FTEs), operating costs (IT systems, travel) and EBPs, and $0.5M was for the 13% PSPC Accommodation premium.
- Where an Officer of Parliament, such as the Auditor General, identifies the need for additional resources, a request must be put forward to the Government.
- Such a request is considered carefully to ensure that the Office can continue to fulfill its mandate efficiently and effectively.
The OAG’s reference levels were increased by $8.3 million in 2018-19 to improve the Office’s financial audit capacity to respond to an increase in the volume and complexity of government operations and transactions.
This funding contributed to ensuring that the Office continues to meet service standards, provide accurate and timely audit information, and renew its self-managed IT systems. As a result, the OAG’s FTEs increased by 7% or 38 FTEs. Of the 38 new FTEs, 28 were for audit operations, and 10 were IT technical staff.
To receive additional funding, the Office of the Auditor General would need to make a request through the Minister of Finance. The Office would then work with the Treasury Board Secretariat to develop a submission to seek the necessary authorities to access the funding approved.
OAG officials have been vocal in committee for some time and have reiterated their complaint in the context of COVID-19, saying that the lack of funding for the Office has left them no choice but to delay work on most audits as the pandemic adds new demands on the resource-stretched Office.
A news article in iPolitics published on May 12, 2020, states that “the office is requesting $10.8 million in new funding in order to meet new demand and modernize. It currently has a budget of about $88 million, employing about 575 people. The Liberal government provided $8.2 million more annually in 2018 but a request in 2019 fell on deaf ears.”
Revera Inc. - Public Sector Pension Investment Board
Various media outlets have recently published articles about the Public Service Pension Investment Board (PSPIB) and its relationship with Revera Inc., a company that runs long-term care and senior housing retirement residences in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom. The company is currently facing a class-action lawsuit related to deaths as a result of COVID-19.
- Revera is a wholly owned operating subsidiary of the PSPIB and is governed by a board of directors appointed by the PSPIB.
- There is an established and merit-based process for nominating members to the Board of Directors of the PSPIB. The President of the Treasury Board appoints members based on recommendations from a Nominating Committee.
- Revera prepares independent audited financial statements.
- Revera has been operating elder care facilities around the world for close to 60 years.
- As of June 2, the Ontario Government has taken over the management of one of the Revera long-term care facilities (Forest Heights) for a period of 90 days with the possibility of an extension.
- Canadian seniors helped shape this country. They’re my parents, your parents, our grandparents.
- The Government of Canada will be working with our provincial partners to identify potential solutions to mitigate the issues currently being experienced in long-term care facilities.
- I am aware of the PSPIB’s investments in Revera. The PSPIB is a crown corporation that operates at arm’s length from the federal government. Its multi-billion-dollar business and affairs are managed by a Board of Directors appointed transparently and its investment decisions are its own.
- The PSPIB’s reports are tabled each year in Parliament.
- I am aware of reports of legal action against this company. On this, I have no further comments.
Revera Inc. is an owner, operator and investor in the senior living sector. Through its portfolio of partnerships, Revera owns or operates more than 500 properties across Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom, offering seniors’ apartments, independent living, assisted living, memory care, and long-term care. Revera Inc. has been a wholly owned subsidiary of the PSPIB (also known commercially as PSP Investments) since 2007.
The PSPIB is a Crown corporation established by Parliament by the Public Sector Pension Investment Board Act in 1999. The PSPIB reports to Parliament through the President of the Treasury Board, who is responsible for PSPIB’s legislation.
The PSPIB operates at arm’s length from the federal government. It is not an agent of Her Majesty and its business affairs are governed by an 11-member Board of Directors. Since April 1, 2000, the PSPIB has been investing the amounts transferred by the Government of Canada on behalf of the pension plans for the public service, the Canadian Armed Forces – Regular, the Canadian Armed Forces – Reserve (since its establishment on March 1, 2007), and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS) does not recommend the appointees to the PSPIB Board of Directors to the President of the Treasury Board, however, it does play the role of the secretariat to the Nominating Committee for the PSPIB. Qualified candidates are recommended to the President by this Nominating Committee.
Pursuant to the Public Sector Pension Investment Board Act, the President of the Treasury Board is responsible for establishing a Nominating Committee whose mandate is to establish a list of qualified candidates for proposed appointment as a director of the board of the Public Sector Pension Investment Board. The Chairperson is appointed by the President of the Treasury Board after he or she has consulted with the Ministers of National Defence and Public Safety. Upon recommendation of qualified candidates by the Nominating Committee, the President of Treasury Board will make a recommendation for appointment to the Governor in Council.
Directive on Disposal of Surplus Goods
The disposal of expired face masks and gloves and how these stocks are managed in accordance with Treasury Board policy.
- It was recently reported in the media that the Government of Canada disposed of two million N95 masks and 440,000 medical gloves from the National Emergency Strategic Stockpile (NESS) at the Regina warehouse operated by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC).
- The masks and gloves had been purchased in 2009 and had passed the limit of five years for their use, as recommended by the manufacturer.
- The Government of Canada’s top priority is the health and safety of Canadians.
- Treasury Board policy requires that the National Emergency Strategic Stockpile (NESS) be reviewed regularly for expired, obsolete, or unusable items. Items are removed in order to protect the health and safety of Canadians.
- The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) will continue to explore ways to optimize product life cycle management and minimize the disposal of expired stock.
- We will review stockpile management to ensure we have the right system in place for health supplies to support Canadians in times of emergency.
The Treasury Board Policy on Management of Materiel provides direction for the management of departmental materiel assets throughout their life cycle and seeks to ensure sound stewardship of the Crown’s materiel assets.
Additionally, the Policy requires that a materiel management information system is in place that incorporates a risk-based stocktaking schedule and supports timely and informed materiel management decisions.
The associated Treasury Board Directive on Disposal of Surplus Materiel applies to items that are nearing end of life and are deemed surplus. These items could then be disposed of through transfer, donation, sale or conversion to waste. The Directive provides options and flexibility to departments for transferring these surplus assets to organizations including other departments, other level of governments and not for profit agencies.
Rent relief for federal commercial tenants
The nature and approach to providing rent relief to commercial tenants impacted by COVID-19 where the federal government is the landlord.
- The federal government acts as a landlord with about 3,000 commercial tenants from small businesses to large enterprises.
- Many federal commercial tenants have requested relief due to hardship as a result of pandemic impacts.
- The government has announced the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program, which in partnership with provinces and territories, will provide 75% rent reductions to eligible commercial tenants with private sector landlords for April, May and June.
- The government has announced that federal landlords will align with core CECRA program criteria and provide rent reductions to their eligible commercial tenants.
- The Government of Canada is taking strong and quick action to protect the health and safety of all Canadians, stabilize our economy, and help workers and businesses in the context of COVID-19.
- The government is responding to the hardships faced by small businesses that are tenants in federal buildings or on federal lands.
- Departments, agencies and Crown corporations have been providing targeted rent relief to federal tenants since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, primarily through rent deferrals.
- On April 24th, the Prime Minister announced that the new Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program will provide 75% rent relief to eligible commercial tenants with private sector landlords for the months of April, May and June.
- The government then announced that federal organizations who are commercial landlords will align with core CECRA program criteria and provide similar arrangements for eligible small businesses, charities and not-for-profit tenants.
At least 25 federal entities lease space to about 3,000 commercial tenants. Most federal landlords have received requests from some tenants for some form of rent relief.
Rent relief can take the form of deferral (amounts can be paid later, but are still owed), or reduction or forgiveness (where amounts owed under the lease are reduced).
On March 31st, the Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) provided rent relief guidance to core departments and agencies to consider deferrals as a first step and target businesses in hardship (versus large enterprises). Crown corporations were urged to consider this guidance as well. Most departments and agencies have taken relief measures that align with this guidance.
After the Prime Minister’s announcement of CECRA details on April 24, the government indicated its desire that federal landlords, including Crown corporations, align with CECRA’s core program criteria. On May 28, the President of the Treasury Board of Canada wrote to Crown corporation portfolio ministers, requesting this alignment by agent Crown corporations, while self-funding non-agents were asked to apply directly to the program.
After collaborating with federal landlords and other stakeholders, on June 2, TBS issued guidance to aid departments in implementing this direction.
Federal landlords with large lease portfolios are exploring tailored relief solutions that meet and build on the intent of CECRA. On June 1, Parks Canada Agency announced such a program for its tenants located in national parks.
Regulatory Flexibility for Canadian Businesses
Industry stakeholders have been reaching out to the Government of Canada to ask for guidance and support in addressing regulatory compliance challenges presented by COVID-19.
- TBS has asked that federal departments and agencies consider demonstrating flexibility across the cycle in developing, applying, and enforcing regulations, within their specific context, in consideration of the risk to the health, safety, and security of Canadians and the environment.
- TBS has also encouraged departments and agencies to coordinate with their provincial and territorial counterparts, as well as horizontally with other regulators.
- The Government of Canada is taking strong and quick action to protect the health and safety of all Canadians, stabilize our economy, and help workers and businesses in the context of COVID-19.
- The Government continues to support Canadian businesses and industry who, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, are either facing hardship or bringing forth new products or services in support of Canada’s response plan.
- We are exploring options under Canada’s regulatory system and implementing measures to help address some of the challenges that businesses face in complying with certain federal regulations.
- We are taking a balanced, common sense approach in developing, applying and enforcing regulations in consideration of the risk to the health, safety and security of Canadians and the environment.
- We are also taking steps to ensure that new regulatory proposals or changes to existing regulations required to address the COVID-19 situation are given top priority.
To address regulatory challenges, TBS has asked that federal departments and agencies consider demonstrating flexibility across the cycle in developing, applying, and enforcing regulations, within their specific context, in consideration of the risk to the health, safety, and security of Canadians and the environment.
In considering flexibility, TBS has also encouraged departments and agencies to coordinate with their provincial and territorial counterparts, as well as horizontally with other regulators. TBS is working to develop a compendium of best practices of regulatory flexibility to share across the system.
In addition to the above, TBS is taking steps to ensure that new regulatory proposals or changes to existing regulations required to address the COVID-19 situation are given top priority. This means that departments and agencies have been asked to consider alternate options for non-COVID-19 related regulations or Orders in Council in effort to avoid overburdening both regulators and industry alike, while they function at reduced capacity.
Government of Canada Privacy Breaches
What is the government doing to protect the personal information of Canadians during the COVID-19 Pandemic?
- The Privacy Act requires that government institutions protect Canadians’ personal information.
- Government institutions may be involved in collecting information from their employees in relation to the management of the COVID-19 pandemic, and have legal authority to do so, under the Canada Labour Code.
- TBS has issued a Privacy Implementation Notice to provide guidance to government institutions on the collection and disclosure of personal information from employees in relation to the management of the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The Privacy Act and supporting policies set out requirements for the protection of personal information held by the federal government.
- We continue to work with institutions and with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner to ensure that the privacy of Canadians is protected as we respond to the COVID-19 crisis.
- We will continue to work with the IT and privacy communities to increase knowledge about identifying, reporting and managing privacy breaches.
- In the context of the federal workplace, officials will not disclose information that can identify individual employees unless warranted under specific circumstances, such as the health and safety of other government employees or the public, and only after careful consideration, in accordance with the Privacy Act.
- As the government continues its transformation to a more digital government, its approach will ensure respect for the privacy of Canadians, support responsible innovation and enhance reasonable enforcement powers.
During the COVID-19 crisis the Privacy Commissioner has emphasized that privacy laws can be applied flexibly and contextually and should not be a barrier to appropriate information sharing, but they must still apply. The Commissioner has issued a framework to assess privacy-impactful initiatives in response to COVID-19. The framework urges institutions to apply best practice standards, which go beyond existing legislative and policy requirements, in order to protect privacy.
The Government has received a range of proposals from Canadian and multinational companies with innovative ideas to address challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic recovery efforts that will follow. These digital solutions range from contact tracing mobile applications and health data platforms, to AI-driven analytics tools to optimize public and private sector supply chains. In response to these offers, Industry, Science and Economic Development (ISED) officials are engaging with these firms to collect information about the proposed projects and company capabilities, and liaising with counterparts from Health Canada (HC) and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) to match potential digital solutions to specific and urgent public health needs.
Officials are taking into account the privacy implications of the proposals and are verifying that proposals are consistent with Canadian privacy laws. Discussions are underway to define federal and provincial needs in the digital solutions space, and to develop a governance approach to manage a formalized intake process, involving ISED, HC, PHAC and provincial public health authorities, as well as the Office to the Chief Information Officer at TBS.
Since 2019, TBS has been implementing the Privacy Breach Action Plan which focuses on strengthening the prevention and management of privacy breaches across government.
The Action plan has three main priorities:
- To raise awareness about privacy breaches for federal workers and key communities
- To improve training for federal employees
- To strengthen policies, guidance, and tools.
We are working in close collaboration with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner throughout this process.
Transparency and Access to Information Act Review
- Workplace measures to curb the COVID-19 pandemic and protect the health and safety of federal employees have affected institutions’ ability to respond to access to information and personal information requests.
- The Information Commissioner has raised concerns about documenting decisions during the crisis and has called for increased proactive publication, increased funding, and improved infrastructure and tools to address the impacts of COVID-19 measures on the ATIP system.
- To respond to COVID-19, most employees are working from home, many with limited access to documents and information systems they would usually use to respond to requests.
- Many departments have activated their business continuity plans, with priority being given to the COVID-19 response.
- There are no provisions in the Access to Information Act or the Privacy Act to extend deadlines or place requests on hold due to an emergency.
- On May 28, 2020, the President wrote to his Cabinet colleagues encouraging Ministers to proactively publish as much information as possible related to COVID-19 and remind them of the importance of ensuring best practices in information management.
- On May 29, 2020, the Open Government Portal had 148 COVID-19 related records available for Canadians to access.
- A review of the Access to Information Act is required to begin by June 21, 2020.
- On June 3, the President sent a letter responding to the Information Commissioner’s recommendations shared on April 28, 2020, concerning the ATI system, recognizing the importance of adhering to best practices in information management and mentioning upcoming plans the GC has to better support information practices across government.
- The Government remains committed to maintaining the openness and transparency of government during this challenging time.
- Treasury Board Secretariat has provided guidance to institutions to continue to make best efforts to respond to Access to Information Act and Privacy Act requests and to proactively publish content, in accordance with operational realities.
- In line with the Information Commissioner’s recent recommendations to address this situation, the Government has committed to making information related to COVID-19 and the Government’s response proactively available.
- The current context of the COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the need for open, accessible, and trustworthy information for Canadians.
- The upcoming review of the Access to Information Act will be an opportunity to have an open exchange of ideas on these issues.
Government of Canada employees are currently working from home wherever possible to help slow the spread of COVID-19. Consequently, most institutions are operating with significantly reduced onsite workforces, which limits their ability to respond to requests and within the timelines mandated by the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act.
TBS has issued guidance to institutions to make best efforts to process requests, in accordance with operational realities. Notices currently posted on the Open Government Portal and the Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) Online Request Service inform requesters of potential delays due to COVID-19 measures.
In the short term, institutions are doing what they can, within their individual circumstances, to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 measures on their ability to respond to requests.
- Some institutions have greater operational capacity, and are offering to provide electronic records to requesters, where paper records cannot currently be accessed.
- In some institutions, dedicated ATIP Office staff are accessing the network afterhours to be able to advance the work on request packages.
- Institutions are utilizing e-post where possible to facilitate providing responses to requesters.
As workplace restrictions begin to be lifted and capacity can be increased, ATIP Offices will be addressing outstanding requests.
Over the longer term, the government will also examine:
- What tools and capacities ATIP Offices would need to improve their ability to process requests remotely.
- Whether investments in new technology could assist in addressing any backlog as a result of the COVID 19 situation.
The upcoming review of the Access to Information Act expected to begin this summer will be an opportunity to have an open exchange on these issues.
In October 2018, the Government launched the new ATIP Online Request Service in an effort to modernise the ATIP process for Canadians. That was an important first step in making ATIP a digital process by enabling Canadians to make access to information and personal information requests electronically to more than 190 institutions. In its use of artificial intelligence in the portal, the government is helping requesters choose the institution that is most likely to have the information they want.
The Government continues to update and improve the ATIP Online Request Service with tools and functionality, making the receipt, processing and delivery of requests more secure and efficient. In particular, we continue to work on how to streamline the process and avoid paper and compact discs.
Parallel to its work on the ATIP Online Request Service, the Government is also undertaking a procurement process to ensure modern ATIP request processing software is in the hands of the government institutions.
OCIO continues to engage with the Offices of the Information Commissioner and Privacy Commissioner to ensure that these oversight bodies are aware of the operational constraints facing institutions.
The Information Commissioner wrote to the President of the Treasury Board on April 2 and April 28, 2020, reminding government of the importance of documenting decisions and recommending measures to reduce the pressures on the access to information system during these extraordinary times.
In response to the Information Commissioner’s concerns, the President of the Treasury Board, in his capacity as designated Minister for the administration of the Access to Information Act across the federal government, and as a member of the Cabinet Committee on the federal response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), has written to Cabinet colleagues encouraging Ministers to have institutions proactively publish as much information as possible as well as remind them of the importance of ensuring best practices in information management.
The Government has committed to making information related to COVID-19 and the Government’s response proactively available online using the Open Government Portal. As announced by the Prime Minister on April 17, 2020, the Portal will host open data related to the applications received and processed under the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.
On April 29, 2020, the Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) published guidance on information management practices while working remotely for all public servants.
This guidance is meant to reinforce employees’ awareness of their collective responsibility to document decisions of business value and to ensure that government information is managed securely and effectively with respect to legislative and policy requirements, including the requirements of the Access to Information Act and Privacy Act. Review of the Access to Information Act
As part of the upcoming review of the Access to Information Act, we will explore how new tools and approaches could be effective in helping to provide faster responses to requests.
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, changes to Appendix C of the Contracting Policy were made to enable government departments’ emergency contracting.
- Effective 20 March 2020, the Treasury Board increased the emergency contracting limit for the Minister of Public Services and Procurement from
- $15 million to $500 million and has raised the emergency contracting limit for all Ministers from $1 million to $3 million until .
- These changes were necessary to enable quick response to support government operations in an unprecedented situation
- Federal departments and agencies are being called upon to deliver--with urgency and speed--the Government of Canada’s response to COVID-19, to protect the health and safety of all Canadians, stabilize our economy, and help workers and businesses and the financial hardship they face.
- The Government is providing temporary increases to limits for emergency contracting limits to enable the quick and efficient procurement of necessary resources in the context of COVID-19.
- Departments are required to document their decision-making when they issue emergency contracts including those under these increased limits, and to report to Treasury Board Secretariat.
- Most emergency contracts will also be proactively disclosed on the Open Government website (in July and October), with possible limited exceptions when there is a concern that such disclosure would compromise the competitive position of the government, such as in the purchase of PPE.
Basic rules around emergency contracting from TB Contracting Policy, Appendix C:
Until , every department has $3M emergency contracting approval limit, for use in a pressing emergency.
Additionally, there are several special emergency approval limits. Of note, PSPC may enter into a contract up to $500M without TB approval, with the following conditions:
- The Minister invokes the National Security or Extreme Urgency provisions of the applicable trade agreements;
- Normal contracting procedures can’t be followed due to urgency; and
- The applicable departmental Minister approval to use the special authority.
PSPC is coordinating centralized purchases of specific commodities, such as personal protective equipment, on behalf of the Government of Canada, and the Provincial and Territorial Governments.
- For emergency procurements between $3M and $500M, departments are expected to use PSPC contracting services.
Departments can enter into contracts without soliciting bids when “the need is one of pressing emergency in which delay would be injurious to the public interest” as set out in the Government Contracts Regulations.
Departments are required by the Treasury Board Contracting Policy to document all contracting decisions and to report to TBS within 60 days on any contracts and contractual arrangements issued under the emergency contract approval limits.
Due to the COVID-19 situation, departments’ ability to meet timelines for proactive publication of contracts may be affected.
Policy on Decision Making in Limiting Contractor Liability in Crown Procurement Contracts, section 8.5:
Where justified, in emergency contracting situations, departments also have the authority to limit contractor liability or indemnify contractors, subject to CFO approval.
Departments are to provide a report to the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS) within 60 days of the authorization or beginning of the work with all the limitation or indemnification details and including a financial assessment, approved by departmental CFOs. For emergency contracts issued by PSPC on behalf of a department, it is the client (i.e. spending) department’s CFO that needs to approve.
Proactive publication and protecting the competitive position of the government on emergency contracts
Generally, contracts over $10,000, (including contracts for PPE) are proactively disclosed on the Open Government website within 30 days after the end of the first three fiscal quarter (and 60 days after the fourth fiscal quarter), unless such contracts are exempt from disclosure under the Access to Information Act.
The disclosure of procurement information in relation to emergency contracts (mostly related to PPE), such as supplier name and contract value could jeopardize orders and compromise Canada’s negotiating position, particularly in international markets.
In the context of proactive disclosure of contracts over $10,000, the discretionary exemption at paragraph 18(b) of the Access to Information Act may be considered when making an assessment about whether or not to publish information about certain contracts when there is a concern that such disclosure would compromise the competitive position of the government.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Public Services and Procurement Canada is coordinating the purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE) on behalf of government and will report on emergency contracts (including those for PPE) to the Treasury Board Secretariat. Public Services and Procurement Canada will also provide information on PPE purchases on its website, for added oversight and transparency.
Report a problem or mistake on this page
- Date modified: