Appearance before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates (OGGO) – Government’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic - May 8, 2020

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Speech for the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, President of the Treasury Board, to the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates

Government Response to COVID-19 (Working Remotely)

May 8, 2020
Ottawa
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Mr. Chair, thank you for inviting me to be with you today.

I’m always happy to appear before this committee, by whatever means!

Joining me today from the Treasury Board Secretariat are:

  • Nancy Chahwan, the Chief Human Resources Officer for the Government of Canada
  • Francis Bilodeau, Acting Chief information Officer for the Government of Canada
  • Kathleen Owens, Assistant Comptroller General, Acquired Services and Assets
  • Marcia Santiago, Executive Director, Expenditure Strategies and Estimates

Today, I would like to speak about the Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as it relates to public servants working remotely.

As you’re well aware, the Government of Canada has directed its employees to work from home, whenever possible, to protect their health and safety and comply with public health advice.

This has meant a large-scale shift of the workforce to home offices, and makeshift offices in dining-rooms and at kitchen islands in homes across Canada.

Regardless of where they work, federal employees are continuing to be productive in their efforts to provide Canadians with the government services they depend on every day, as well as provide critical services and the many new measures developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Public servants, for example, at the Canadian Revenue Agency and Employment and Social Development Canada have rolled out services, such as the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit and the Canadian Emergency Wage Subsidy.

As of May 3rd, there had been more than 7 million applications for the CERB alone, which represents over $14 billion in assistance.

At Global Affairs Canada, public servants have worked to bring Canadians home from abroad safely; and the Armed Forces has sent its members to help out at hard-hit, long-term care homes in Quebec.

Like private citizens, employees and owners of businesses across the country — indeed, like all Canadians — public servants are contributing their skills and know-how to the fight against COVID-19.

And since mid-March now, a large portion of these public servants, including those supporting critical services, have been working remotely, whenever and wherever possible.

A critical service is one that, if disrupted, 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.

Departments have identified their critical services, and we continue to work to ensure the alignment of resources under established business-continuity planning processes.

Of course, there are jobs delivering services where working remotely isn’t feasible.

For these employees, departments are ensuring that proper protocols are being followed, including the provision and use of Personal Protective Equipment, proper cleaning practices, and other measures.

For the most part though, working from home has become the new normal for many public servants, carrying on their duties during the pandemic.

As noted, a great many public servants are working hard to develop and deliver support to Canadians, including a host of new emergency measures.

While many public servants already have the necessary tools to do this, some require additional equipment, such as laptops, tablets, and monitors, as well as specific accommodations to allow them to do their work.

Requests for equipment are being considered on a case-by-case basis, giving priority to those employees who are delivering critical services and those for whom the employer has a duty to accommodate.

With respect to using the government network, the Treasury Board Secretariat, Shared Services Canada and departmental Chief Information Officers have worked together to maximize and expand internet bandwidth to support remote work and prioritize network access for critical operations.

Our guidance to departments has recommended that anyone not supporting critical operations, service and program delivery should limit their use of the network.

In addition, we’re asking employees to:

  • use their government-supplied mobile devices, whenever possible, to send and receive emails, in line with security requirements;
  • connect to the network during off-peak hours and for short durations to get what they need.

To support continued and necessary collaborations within and across teams, we’re also asking employees to:

  • use public cloud services, such as Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, and Slack, for Unclassified work; and
  • use the BBM Enterprise application to securely message for up to Protected B work.

Cyber security is especially critical at this time.

It’s essential to the work of thousands of public servants working from home, as well as to the delivery of services to Canadians.

If an employee is working on sensitive, protected or classified information from home, they are responsible for safeguarding personal or sensitive information outside the workplace.

We are providing guidance and information to departments and agencies to support employees with the safe custody and control of sensitive information, and making the necessary arrangements to meet their obligations.

We also understand that working remotely, especially with long periods of sheltering-in-place, can be hard on our employees’ mental and physical well-being, like for any other citizen in this country and others.

So, we have connected them with specialized mental health services, and we’re encouraging them to do things to remain productive and healthy — common sense things like:

  • setting a schedule
  • staying connected using virtual means with colleagues and loved ones
  • making time for self-care —reminding employees to get enough sleep, eat healthy, and exercise regularly is key to productive teleworking

We have also expanded our web content to address issues such as how to manage telework and safeguard the information they handle.

To that end, we have created a dedicated web page to provide ongoing mental health guidance and resources, including where to get help, how leaders can manage psycho-social risks within the COVID-19 context, and how managers can support their teams and employees.

And we’re providing links to other helpful resources, like the Canadian Centre for Cyber Security’s "Staying Cyber-healthy during COVID-19 isolation" and the Canada School of Public Service Digital Academy’s "Busrides’ Going Remote Guide".

Looking ahead, the Government will continue to carefully follow public health guidance as restrictions are eventually lifted and as authorities advise that employees can safely return to the office.

I might also mention that, as of May 5th, the Chief Human Resources Officer had issued 17 updates to Deputy Heads.

These have included, for instance, information on flexibilities in the Public Service Health Care Plan, guidance on leave provisions, and on best practices for responding to positive cases in the workplace.

These updates are supported by information resources on Canada.ca and are systematically shared with bargaining agents representing federal government employees.

They are available to the media to promote transparency and clarity of guidance.

Mr. Chair, thank you for your time and consideration, and that of the committee, today.

I hope my remarks have been useful in helping you understand the efforts Treasury Board Secretariat has been undertaking to ensure the health and safety of the federal workforce and support the government’s overall response to COVID-19.

My officials and I would now be happy to take any questions you may have.

Overview of the Committee: Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates (OGGO)

Committee members

Chair

  • Tom Lukiwski
    Conservative
    Moose Jaw—Lake Centre—Lanigan
    Returning Member (Chair in 42nd Parliament)

Vice-Chair

  • Francis Drouin
    Liberal
    Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
    Returning Member (42nd Parliament)

  • Julie Vignola
    Bloc Québécois
    Beauport—Limoilou
    New Member
    New MP

Members

  • Steven MacKinnon
    Liberal
    Gatineau
    Returning Member (Non-voting- 42nd Parliament)
    Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of PSPC

  • Ziad Aboultaif
    Conservative
    Edmonton Manning
    New Member
    Digital Government Critic

  • Kelly Block
    Conservative
    Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek
    Returning Member (41st Parliament, 1st session)

  • Kelly McCauley
    Conservative
    Edmonton West
    Returning Member (42nd Parliament)

  • Matthew Green
    New Democratic Party
    Hamilton Centre
    New Member
    New MP
    TBS Critic
    Ethics Deputy Critic

  • Majid Jowhari
    Liberal
    Richmond Hill
    Returning Member (42nd Parliament)

  • Irek Kusmierczyk
    Liberal
    Windsor—Tecumseh
    New Member
    New MP

  • Patrick Weiler
    Liberal
    West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country
    New Member
    New MP

TBS Related Committee Activity: 43rd Parliament, 1st Session

Anticipated business

  • 2020-21 Main Estimates
  • Government’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic

On 11 April 2020, the House of Commons adopted a motion authorizing OGGO to meet by videoconference or teleconference “for the sole purpose of receiving evidence related to the COVID-19 pandemic.” The authorization is in effect until the House resumes its regular sittings.

Meeting summaries

Monday, May 4, 2020 – Government’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic (Allocation of Emergency Benefits)

Questions to TBS witnesses focused on the changes to the Supply and Estimates process, and on whether the Treasury Board has continued to play a role in overseeing spending. Neither issue was raised or discussed in a contentious manner. Members expressed an overall interest in transparency, oversight, and accountability as far as financial procedures are concerned. The majority of questions were primarily directed at Finance Canada.

Friday, May 1, 2020 – Government’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic (Medical Sector)

Questions from members focused on supply chain management, domestic manufacturing capacity and ongoing efforts to scale up, impressions on collaboration with government, and where efforts could be made to improve readiness in the future. All witnesses spoke extremely positively of their engagement experience with all levels of government to date and testified to the exceptional nature of collaboration between multiple levels of government, other public sector entities, and private businesses. Witnesses from medical businesses spoke to their important contributions to Canada’s domestic supply and production as far as testing efforts are concerned and emphasized their prioritization of domestic needs over those originating from the international market. Witness testimony also focussed on the importance of considering the health and safety of vulnerable and at-risk populations as pandemic management efforts continue. It was also expressed that funding for healthcare capacity and research in general has not kept up with costs, which affects system readiness in handling crises.

Thursday, April 30, 2020 – Government’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic (Support for Businesses – ISED, PSPC, Procurement Ombudsman)

Testimony from and questioning to ISED representatives focused on supports being offered to Canadian businesses to encourage production and innovation in the context of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In collaboration with Health Canada, PHAC, and PSPC, the ultimate objective is to increase domestic manufacturing capacity for personal protective equipment and testing components. A number of questions centred on procurement and health advice, to which ISED witnesses were not best placed to provide responses. The second panel dealt more narrowly with the procurement process and efforts made by government to help businesses navigate it. Kelly McCauley (CPC) expressed concern that the use of sole-source contracting could spike as a result of crisis-related efforts; witnesses expressed oversight of procurement contracting would need to continue in order to ensure there were no abuses.

Friday, April 24, 2020 – Government’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic (Federal Procurement - PSPC)

Minister Anita Anand gave thanks to the people behind the scenes and interpreters for making sure Canadians have the latest information. She spoke about the new challenges Canadians are facing during this crisis and the Government’s commitment to commitment to helping avoid the spread. Minister Anand highlighted that we continue to procure necessary Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) including masks, gloves, gowns and other supplies. She outlined the process and the call out on Buy and Sell to companies. She noted that there is a ramping up of domestic purchases and retooling efforts. She spoke about the close collaboration with industries and Provinces and Territories to ensure procurement of supplies. Committee members focussed their questions around the empty planes from China, contract with Amazon and the National Stockpile.

Thursday, March 12, 2020 – MDG Appearance on Supplementary Estimates (B) 2019-20

The Committee met to consider the subject matter of the Supplementary Estimates (B), 2019-20 and the Departmental Results Reports for 2018-19. The Minister of Public Services and Procurement appeared immediately after the Minister of Digital Government.

Questions to the Minister from members focused primarily on the progress in transitioning to a more digital government, and on the Minister’s Mandate Letter commitment to identify all core and at-risk IT systems and platforms. Questions from the CPC member were framed by the suggestion that government is failing to transition to digital service delivery effectively. During the meeting, Ziad Aboultaif (CPC) moved a motion for the Committee to study the Government’s aging IT infrastructure. The study would involve appearances by the Ministers of PSPC, of Employment Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, of National Revenue, and of Digital Government. Debate on the motion was adjourned without a vote.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020 – Review of the Red Tape Reduction Act (TBS-RAS)

The Committee met to begin its review of the Red Tape Reduction Act (RTRA). The Committee’s findings must be reported to the House before the end of June 2020. Witnesses provided the Committee with an introductory overview to the Act and One-for-One Rule. Most questions were directed to or fielded by the witness from TBS. Broadly, questions from all members focused on the effectiveness of efforts to diminish regulatory burden on businesses. Prominent cross-party topics also included the cost of administering the regime, and consideration of cumulative vs. administrative burden. Many of the questions from the CPC, specifically, were framed by the suggestion that government efforts in managing the RTRA regime are ineffective or insufficient, and that more should be done to reduce administrative burden on businesses.

Thursday, February 27, 2020 – PTB Appearance on Supplementary Estimates (B) 2019-20

The Committee held its first meeting regarding the consideration of Supplementary Estimates (B) 2019-20. The President and officials discussed Estimates Reform and spoke candidly about the lessons learned from the pilot project, as well as the feedback from Parliamentarians for its development. A great deal concern was expressed by the Opposition Committee members regarding Vote 10 and the significant increase in funds it has received. The Minister and officials explained the various uses of the Vote, such as horizontal initiatives. The Liberal members questioned the Minister on climate change initiatives and IT infrastructure improvements, as well as efforts towards Indigenous relations. The Bloc Quebecois questioned the Minister on how provincial transfers work for such things as student loans and health care.

Thursday, February 20, 2020 – Election of Chair

Tom Lukiwski (CPC) was elected Chair of the Committee (Previous Chair during 42nd Parliament). Francis Drouin (LPC) was elected first vice-chair; Julie Vignola (BQ) was elected second vice-chair. The Committee will next meet on Tuesday, February 25, 2020 from 8:45 a.m. to 10:45 a.m in camera. For the first hour, the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure will discuss future Committee business; for the second hour, officials from TBS’ Expenditure Management Sector have been invited to provide a briefing on the Estimates process. The Committee discussed devoting its meetings on February 27, 2020 and March 10 and 12, 2020 to Supplementary Estimates B, and inviting TBS, SSC and PSPC.

Chair

Tom Lukiwski (Moose Jaw—Lake Centre—Lanigan)
Conservative - Member

Tom Lukiwski (Moose Jaw–Lake Centre–Lanigan)
  • Elected as the Member of Parliament for the riding of Moose Jaw—Lake Centre—Lanigan in the 2015 federal election and re-elected in the 2019 federal election.
  • Previously elected as the Member of Parliament for the riding of Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre 2004-2011.
  • Ran his own small business prior to entering politics in 2004.
  • Served as Chair on the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates in the 42nd Parliament.
Interest in TBS Portfolio
  • 43rd Parliament
    • Written Questions: Topic includes national security exception for federal procurements.
  • 42nd Parliament
    • Written Questions: Topics included spider sightings, the monitoring of Parliamentary Committees & federal government job advertisements on Facebook.

1st Vice-Chair

Francis Drouin (Glengarry—Prescott—Russell)
Liberal - Member

Francis Drouin (Glengarry–Prescott–Russell)
  • Elected as the Member of Parliament for the riding of Glengarry—Prescott—Russell in the 2015 federal election and re-elected in the 2019 federal election.
  • A member of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates and the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food. Also a previous member of both those Committees in the 42nd Parliament.
  • Prior to his election, Mr. Drouin worked as a special assistant in the Office of the Ontario Premier.
Interest in TBS Portfolio
  • 43rd Parliament
    • Committee (OGGO):
      • Estimates (Supply):
        • March 12, 2020 (MDG Supplementary Estimates B 19-20 Appearance): Questions on the consolidation of the services and organizations under Digital Government. Expressed interest in the concept of open government.
        • February 27, 2020 (TBS Supplementary Estimates B 19-20 Appearance): Asked the President and TBS officials about Estimates reform and the lessons learned from the pilot project in the 42nd Parliament.
      • Red Tape Reduction Act
        • March 10, 2020 (TBS & HC Appearance): Requested the impact of moving to a different offset rule (two-for-one for example), the TBS witness explained that a net reduction to the financial and administrative costs to businesses. Analytically, the jury is out on the effectiveness of a two-for-one rule; it depends on the circumstances and objectives, but those could be less sustainable over time. Mr. Drouin also questioned the cumulative impact of multi-jurisdictional regulation which the TBS witness admitted would be a complex issue to consider.

2nd Vice-Chair

Julie Vignola (Quebec – Beauport—Limoilou)
Bloc Québécois - Member

Julie Vignola (Québec – Beauport–Limoilou)
  • First elected in the 43rd general election.
  • BQ Critic for Public Services and Procurement and government operations.
  • Former high school teacher and vice-principal.
  • Interested in and involved with various community wellbeing organizations: ex: Lions Club, Canada World Youth
  • Advocate for Quebec’s independence.
Interest in TBS Portfolio
  • In the 43rd Parliament:
    • Question Period: Issues with the Phoenix Pay System and RCMP civilian employees being transitioned to the Phoenix Pay System.
    • Committee (OGGO):
      • Estimates (Supply):
        • March 12, 2020 (MDG Supplementary Estimates B 19-20 Appearance): Requested details on the consolidation of data centers, questioned the reason funding was sought for essential projects in the Supplementary Estimates instead of the Main Estimates. Requested information on the progress of identifying the health of IT systems and platforms (follow-up)
        • February 27, 2020 (TBS Supplementary Estimates B 19-20 Appearance): Expressed interest in the allocation of loans and grants for students in Quebec (follow-up) and had questions concerning the Quebec transfer process for health care (follow-up) Raised concerns about the concentration of funds from Vote 10.
      • Review of the Red Tape Reduction Act (RTRA):
        • March 10, 2020 (TBS & HC Officials – First Meeting): Questioned officials on how the Government is proactively working to reduce regulatory burden for businesses. Requested additional information on the cost of administering the RTRA and the one-for-one rule and expressed privacy concerns on harmonizing the multi-jurisdictional regulation.

Members

Steven MacKinnon (Gatineau)
Liberal - Member
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement

Steven MacKinnon (Gatineau)
  • Elected as the Member of Parliament for the riding of Gatineau in the 2015 federal election and re-elected in the 2019 federal election.
  • Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Services and Procurement.
  • Previously a non-voting Member of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts and the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates.
  • Previously a Member of the Standing Committee on Finance.
  • Prior to his election, Mr. MacKinnon was a senior vice president at a global consultancy firm.
  • Mr. MacKinnon served as an advisor to former Prime Minister Paul Martin and former New Brunswick Premier Frank McKenna.

Ziad Aboultaif (Edmonton Manning)
Conservative - Member

Ziad Aboultaif (Edmonton Manning)
  • Elected as the Member of Parliament for the riding of Edmonton Manning in the 2015 federal election and re-elected in the 2019 federal election.
  • Official Opposition Critic for Digital Government.
  • Served as Official Opposition Critic for National Revenue from 2015-2017 and for International Development from 2017-2019.
  • Previously a Member of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development.
Interest in TBS Portfolio
  • 43rd Parliament
    • February 7, 2020: Received a briefing on Digital Government from OCIO, SSC and CDS. Requested a list of possible legislative changes required to advance Digital Government and expressed interest in future briefings on the file.
    • Written Questions: Topics included Government Policy on Cyberattacks & Cybersecurity testing.
    • Committee (OGGO):
      • Estimates (Supply):
        • March 12, 2020 (MDG Supplementary Estimates B 19-20 Appearance): Questioned the purpose of development of ECCC’s WeatherCAN Application when the same thing exists in the private sector, requested more information on cloud services and how data is being moved. Expressed concerns about the January 2020, National Post article outlining concerns about data privacy and the use of cloud technology. Requested additional information on Government application health (follow-up).
          • During the meeting, Mr. Aboultaif moved a motion for the Committee to study the Government’s aging IT infrastructure. The study would involve appearances by the Ministers of PSPC, of Employment Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion, of National Revenue, and of Digital Government. Debate on the motion was adjourned without a vote.
        • February 27, 2020 (TBS Supplementary Estimates B 19-20 Appearance): Had questions concerning the overall spending on IT services and asked for the IT reports submitted to OCIO by departments, referencing GAC’s response to Q-2456 (42nd Parliament) (follow-up). Also wanted additional information on the CRA software development project (follow-up)
      • Review of the Red Tape Reduction Act:
        • March 10, 2020 (TBS & HC Appearance): Requested comparisons to regulatory burden reduction efforts in other jurisdictions and whether Canada should pursue the implementation of a two or three-for-one rule. The TBS witness explained that TBS undertakes a comparative analysis and that Canada is a leader in regulatory burden reduction. Asked witnesses if accepting foreign equipment approvals for medical and pharmaceutical regulations could be considered in Canada (follow-up)
  • 42nd Parliament
    • Written Questions: Topics included expenses for stakeholders to attend Government conferences or announcements & at-risk and bonus payments to employees

Kelly Block (Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek)
Conservative - Member

Kelly Block (Carlton Trail–Eagle Creek)
  • Elected as the Member of Parliament for the riding of Carlton Trail—Eagle Creek in the 2015 federal election and re-elected in the 2019 federal election.
  • Previously elected as the Member of Parliament for the riding of Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar in 2008 and 2011.
  • Official Opposition Critic for Public Services and Procurement
  • Served as Vice Chair of the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities in the 42nd Parliament.
  • Member of OGGO during the 41st Parliament (from June 2011 – September 2013).
  • Member of ETHI during the 40th Parliament (from January 2009 – February 2011).
Interest in TBS Portfolio
  • In the 43rd Parliament:
  • In the 41st Parliament:
    • Participated in OGGO’s review of the estimates consideration process. The Committee made several recommendations aimed at aligning the budgetary and estimates processes (prescribe budget timing, budget items appear in Main Estimates, Standing Committees are briefed in camera in the estimates process).
  • In the 40th Parliament:
    • Participated in ETHI’s reviews of the Access to Information Act and of the Privacy Act.

Kelly McCauley (Edmonton West)
Conservative - Member

Kelly McCauley (Edmonton Ouest)
  • Elected as the Member of Parliament for the riding of Edmonton West in the 2015 federal election and re-elected in the 2019 federal election.
  • Previously served on the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates.
  • Served on the Executive Committee of the Board of Northlads, the Board of Alberta Aviation Museum.
  • Chairperson of the EI Board of Referres for Edmonton and Northern Alberta.
  • Hospitality professional (managing hotels and convention centres).
Interest in TBS Portfolio
  • In the 43rd Parliament:
    • Special COVI committee: Asked questions on PPE Procurement (April 29, 2020)
    • In the House of Commons: On February 7, 2020 during debate referenced OGGO’s 2017 report on the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act and noted that he hopes the new President of the Treasury Board returns to committee to discuss the file.
    • Committee (OGGO):
      • The Government’s Response to COVID-19
        • May 4, 2020 (EMS and Finance Canada Appearance): Asked questions about the Government’s intention of using Special Warrants and the process. He also showed concern regarding Treasury Board approval and oversight processes.
      • Estimates (Supply):
        • February 27, 2020 (TBS Supplementary Estimates B 19-20 Appearance): Expressed concern about the use of Vote 10 and the increasing amounts being allocated to it. Describing it as the new “slush fund”, he questioned officials on parliamentary oversight.
      • Review of the Red Tape Reduction Act
        • March 10, 2020: (TBS & HC Appearance): Requested the progress in implementation of the 11 recommendations from the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology’s April 2019 report, entitled Impacts of Canada’s Regulatory Structure on Small Business: between protection and competition (follow-up). Mr. McCauley requested the cost of administering the RTRA regime, as well as whether the scope of enabling legislation is prohibitive to increasing the reduction of regulatory burden (follow-up)
  • In the 42nd Parliament:
    • Committee:
      • Veterans in the Public Service: Questioned why veterans lose seniority rights when working in the public service.
      • Bargaining: Interested in the costing for the Phoenix damages offer (5 vacation days for public servants in certain unions) – Agreements were tentative, and a response was provided later.
      • Public Service Employee Survey: Concerned about harassment numbers escalating in the public service during the PCO appearance.
      • Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act: Interested in the Government’s progress in implementing the recommendations from OGGO’s 2017 report on the act. Moved several motions inviting former Treasury Board Presidents to appear on the subject; the invitations were not accepted.
    • Written Questions: Topics included travel expenses for departmental employees, allocations from TBS for Vote40, & Government ads on Facebook.
  • In the 42nd Parliament:
    • Written Questions: Topics included ministerial travel expenses & performance incentives or bonuses.

Matthew Green (Ontario – Hamilton Centre)
New Democratic Party - Member

Matthew Green (Ontario – Hamilton Centre)
  • First elected in the 2019 federal election in the riding formerly held by NDP MP David Christopherson.
  • NDP Critic for Treasury Board, National Revenue, Public Services and Procurement, and Deputy Critic for Ethics.
  • Former Councillor for the City of Hamilton (2014 to 2018).
  • Member of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Accounts (PACP).
  • Member of the Canada-Africa Parliamentary Association (CAAF) and the Canadian Section of ParlAmericas (CPAM).
Interest in TBS Portfolio
  • In the 43rd Parliament:
    • February 20, 2020: Estimates Process briefing with the department (EMS).
    • February 18, 2020: TBS 101 briefing with department (PP).
    • Question Period: Outsourcing of government contracts & dismissal of a public servant for comments made about the Prime Minister.
    • Written Questions: Topics included social media influencers, management consulting contracts.
    • Committee (OGGO):
      • The Government’s Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic:
        • April 24, 2020 (Minister of PSPC Appearance on procurement): requested additional information on what the Government is doing on hazard pay for government employees such as janitors. Mr. Green also had questions on the directive on the disposal of surplus materials.
      • Estimates (Supply):
        • March 12, 2020 (MDG Supplementary Estimates B 19-20 Appearance): requested the definition of “core and at-risk” IT systems and platforms and progress in undertaking their identification as described in Minister Murray’s mandate letter. The challenge of delivering services to constituents in the context of social distancing and COVID-19 (follow-up)
        • February 27, 2020 (TBS Supplementary Estimates B 19-20 Appearance): Questioned officials on pay equity legislation for public servants (ESDC), First Nations land claims (INAC), and employment equity (follow-up)
      • Review of the Red Tape Reduction Act (RTRA):
        • March 10, 2020 (TBS & HC Officials – First Meeting): Questioned whether consultations on regulatory burden are biased toward commercial stakeholders and wondered if there were exemptions to the one-for-one rule and engagement with new or emerging sectors. Questioned the inclusion of the one-for-one rule in the RTRA preamble, instead of in a separate section.

Majid Jowhari (Richmond Hill)
Liberal - Member

Majid Jowhari (Richmond Hill)
  • Elected as the Member of Parliament for the riding of Richmond Hill in the 2015 federal election and re-elected in the 2019 federal election.
  • Previously a member of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates and the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology.
  • A member of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates and the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology.
  • Prior to his election, Jowhari was a licensed Professional Engineer from 1995-1999 and founded his own boutique consulting firm to provide advice to chief financial officers.
  • In 2018, the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health (CAMIMH) named Majid Jowhari as a Parliamentary Mental Health Champion.
Interest in TBS Portfolio
  • In the 43rd Parliament:
    • Committee (OGGO):
      • Estimates (Supply):
        • March 12, 2020 (MDG Supplementary Estimates B 19-20 Appearance): Requested additional information on the Next Generation HR and Pay Solution Pilot.
        • February 27, 2020 (TBS Supplementary Estimates B 19-20 Appearance): Questioned officials about reconciliation efforts with Indigenous communities.
      • Review of the Red Tape Reduction Act:
        • March 10, 2020 (TBS & HC Appearance): Asked about the cumulative impact of multi-jurisdictional regulations. The TBS witness explained that it is something they consider and that there is no existing methodology for quantifying cumulative burden.

Irek Kusmierczyk (Windsor—Tecumseh)
Liberal - Member
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion

Irek Kusmierczyk (Windsor–Tecumseh)
  • Elected as the Member of Parliament for the riding of Windsor—Tecumseh in the 2019 federal election.
  • A member of the Standing Committee on Government Operations.
  • Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion.
  • Prior to his election, Mr. Kusmierczyk was a city councilor for the Windsor City Council.
Interest in TBS Portfolio
  • In the 43rd Parliament:
    • Committee (OGGO):
      • Estimates (Supply):
        • March 12, 2020 (MDG Supplementary Estimates B 19-20 Appearance): Requested additional information on SSC’s Accessibility, Accommodation, and Adaptive Computer Technology (AAACT) program.
        • February 27, 2020 (TBS Supplementary Estimates B 19-20 Appearance): Questioned officials about the reduction of Green House Gas Emissions and unrecoverable debts for student loans.
      • Review of the Red Tape Reduction Act
        • March 10, 2020 (TBS & HC Appearance): Questioned the effectiveness of such rules as two-for-one over time, the TBS and Health Canada witnesses explained that it is a delicate balancing act and there is no methodology to study this. Mr. Kusmierczyk requested information regarding the stakeholder-suggested improvements to the red tape reduction regime, which the TBS witness acknowledged will be released in a report in a few weeks’ time

Patrick Weiler (West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country)
Liberal - Member

Patrick Weiler (West Vancouver–Sunshine Coast–Sea to Sky Country)
  • Elected as the Member of Parliament for the riding of West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country in the 2019 federal election.
  • Member of the Standing Committee on Natural Resources.
  • Environmental and natural resource management lawyer.
  • Represented First Nations, municipalities, small businesses and non-profits on environmental and corporate legal matters within this riding.
  • He is a champion of the Liberal government’s Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change.
Interest in TBS Portfolio
  • In the 43rd Parliament:
    • Committee (OGGO):
      • Estimates (Supply):
        • February 27, 2020 (TBS Supplementary Estimates B 19-20 Appearance): Wanted to know about transportation funding and projects for the West coast following the loss of greyhound (follow-up).

Public Environment Analysis Overview

Covid 19- OGGO: March 16, 2020 – May 1, 2020

Teleworking / network capacity / privacy breaches / teleconferencing

Overview of coverage
  • There has been a moderate level of media coverage on teleworking and related topics, with the majority of coverage being factual and neutral in tone.
  • There was an increase in articles in mid-March, as public servants were directed to work from home. Several articles discuss whether federal departments could and did follow TBS’ directive on teleworking, as well as departments’ limited capacities to work remotely.
  • PSAC, PIPSC and CAPE published several posts on teleworking, first to request further clarification from TBS and later to inform union members of TBS’ updated directive to federal departments.
Social media analysis
  • Total Twitter impressions (the total number of times a tweet has been viewed) was 1M from 102 mentions by 94 users from March 16th – April 30th, 2020. Conversation has primarily been focused on the impact of teleworking on public servants.
  • The top 5 hashtags were #assnat, #covid19, #polqc, #télétravail and #telework.
Highlights

@CFNU: Will #COVID19 reshape the fed. public service? “@PIPSC_IPFPC Pres. @Debi_Daviau says the massive amount of telework being done has illustrated [...] that home-based work can be successfully broadened. ‘We’ve proven we can work this way.’” #COVID19Canada

Ottawa Citizen : Egan: What if we're actually afraid to go back to the office?

@CDNnumerique: As the public service changes its operations to move to #Telework, the demand for network capacity continues to increase. @SPC_CA teams meet employees’ critical IT needs by upgrading more than 25 #GC networks. [translation] (in French only)

Mental health

Overview of coverage
  • There was minimal coverage on mental health in the public service, with only two union items addressing the issue.
  • The first item was published in late March by PSAC and is a mental health resources list for federal and provincial public servants based on geographical work location.
  • The second item was published at the start of April by CAPE and is a direct message from CAPE president Greg Phillips. The letter discusses the union’s collaboration with TBS during the crisis and the union’s own mental health resources page for members. Phillips speaks positively of collaboration with TBS.
Social media analysis
  • Total Twitter impressions (the total number of times a tweet has been viewed) was 198K from 65 mentions by 58 users from March 16th – April 30th, 2020.
  • Activity was most notable on three occasions from the end of March to early April, with the majority being retweets. The overarching theme was encouraging public servants to protect their metal health and sharing resources.
    • On March 19th, GC Mental Health encouraged public servants to join the LeadersGC chat on remote working success.
    • On March 25th, Deputy Minister for Public Service Accessibility, Yazmine Laroche encouraged public servants to maintain and support their mental health.
    • On April 10th, activity would notably peak one more time after the Mental Health Commission of Canada shared information and resources for protecting their mental health.
  • The top five hashtags were #covid19, #coronavirus, #leadersgc, #mentalhealth and #gcmentalhealth.

Duty to accommodate

  • Only one relevant article (Radio-Canada) was published on the obligation to take accommodation measures. The article quotes the health and safety officer at the Public Service Alliance of Canada, who explained that the law is unclear as to whether the employer is responsible for properly equipping an employee who works at the House.

Note: The search terms did not return sufficient results for a meaningful social media analysis.

Official languages

Overview of coverage
  • There was a moderate level of coverage on the use of official languages, with most content being in French. Both English and French coverage was predominantly critical in tone.
  • CTV News and Radio-Canada reported that Canada’s Commissioner of Official Languages was concerned about the lack of COVID-19 PSAs in certain provinces.
  • Several articles were published that were critical of Health Canada's decision to eliminate the requirement for bilingual labelling for cleaning products imported into the country. The Fédération des communautés francophones et acadienne du Canada also criticized this decision. The organization suggested that this decision “constitutes a blatant lack of respectˮ for Francophones.
Social media analysis
English
  • Total Twitter impressions (the total number of times a tweet has been viewed) was 5M from 1K mentions by 856 users from March 16th – April 30th, 2020.
  • Activity was most notable on two occasions:
    • Activity most notably peaked on April 14th, the day the PM was set to resume his daily press conferences. Much of the Twitter chatter was criticism geared towards the PM and the lack of detail in his announcements. Some users were impressed with the PM’s ability to communicate in both official languages.
    • Activity would peak once more on April 19th and again consisted of criticism towards the PM’s lack of detail in his press conferences.
  • Although activity peaked on those two instances, it should be noted that opinion appeared to be split regarding official languages. Some users asserted the importance of official languages, while others were critical of the need, cost and importance of doing things in both official languages.
  • The top five hashtags were #covid19, #cdnpoli, #internationalfrancophonieday, #burgessshale and #covid19nfld.
French
  • Total Twitter impressions (the total number of times a tweet has been viewed) was 2M from 732 mentions by 392 users from March 16th – April 30th, 2020.
  • Activity meeting the search criteria was most notable on three occasions:
    • Activity first peaked on March 20th and revolved around PM Trudeau’s position on the unilingual labelling of certain products meant for limiting the spread of COVID-19.
    • Activity would peak again on April 23rd following a statement from the Commissioner of Official Languages and Senator René Cormier noting that access to both official languages is a matter of security and public health (in French only).
    • Activity would most notably peak one more time on April 28th following PM Trudeau’s decision to defend Health Canada’s easing of some bilingual label rules amid COVID-19. Most of the sentiment in French appeared to be negative, with many citing how critical it is to have things labelled in both official languages.
  • The top five hashtags were #polcan, #covid19, #frcan, #polqc and #sante.

Hiring process

  • Only one article was found in relation to the public service hiring process.
  • iPolitics published a piece on how Shared Services Canada (SSC) and Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) have been implementing new measures to adjust to increased demand during the crisis, with ESDC hiring more employees to deal with an influx of employment insurance applications.

Note: The search terms did not return sufficient results for a meaningful social media analysis.

Students in the public service

  • Though there was a moderate level of coverage on federal economic support for Canadian students and recent graduates, no content was found regarding students employed in the public service.

Note: The search terms did not return sufficient results for a meaningful social media analysis.

Leave code 699 (Other Paid Leave)

  • Only two articles (Edmonton Journal, Radio-Canada) address paid leave for public servants, though the Edmonton Journal article was syndicated to multiple Postmedia outlets, including the National Post and regional outlets.
    • While the headline of the Edmonton Journal article is somewhat misleading and negative in tone, the content itself is factual. The article explains that thousands of public servants who were directed to work from home are unable to work due to network limitations or security concerns, meaning that they are “essentially on paid leave.”
    • The CBC article refers to code 699. The article indicates that this leave code has been in place for decades, but the PSAC negotiated to expand its use during the pandemic. According to the union, the employer was open to the possibility of paying employees from the start of the pandemic.
  • Two other articles (iPolitics, National Post) mention the availability of paid leave within the context of government operations amid COVID-19. Both articles note that non-critical employees who cannot work remotely will be eligible for paid leave, though the National Post article specifically refers to CRA employees.
  • PIPSC, CAPE and UCCO published several posts to inform union members about the availability and use of “other leave with pay (699).”

Note: The search terms did not return sufficient results for a meaningful social media analysis.

PSHCP

Overview of coverage
  • There was no media coverage on the Public Service Health Care Plan during this period. However, PSAC, PIPSC and CAPE published posts to inform union members about insurance coverage amid COVID-19.
Social media analysis
  • Total Twitter impressions (the total number of times a tweet has been viewed) was 1M from 283 mentions by 196 users from March 16th – April 30th, 2020.
  • Activity was most notable on two occasions and about the temporary changes being made to the PSHCP, with the overwhelming majority being retweets of the announced changes.
    • Activity most notably peaked on March 25th, after multiple government accounts shared changes made to the PSHCP aimed at helping GC employees access their benefits while social distancing.
    • Activity would peak slightly one more time on April 1st, following another announcement of temporary changes to the PSHCP.
  • The top five hashtags were #covid19, #coronavirus, #leadersgc, #mentalhealth and #gcmentalhealth.

Accountability

  • Government accountability was a predominant topic and recurring theme in media coverage. The tone of coverage ranged from negative to neutral. A significant proportion of the coverage was opinion-based, and the vast majority of opinion pieces were negative in tone.
  • Articles pertaining to government accountability primarily focus on the following:
    • Contentious legislative processes for the government’s emergency aid packages, in particular the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy and Canada Emergency Student Benefit;
    • Parliamentary accountability and debates on in-person sittings vs. virtual sessions of Parliament amid COVID-19;
    • Concerns about COVID-19 data collection and tracking;
    • Delays in processing existing ATIP requests – and, in some cases, refusals to accept new requests – amid COVID-19;
    • General lack of transparency in government communications related to COVID-19, including delays in releasing modelling.
  • With respect to praise or criticism of public servants, the Hill Times published an article highlighting Senator Peter Harder’s and others’ praise for public servants’ performance amid COVID-19. In an interview with the news outlet, Sen. Harder noted the importance of “some spirit of innovation, some risk taking and some willingness to tolerate mistakes” given the extraordinary circumstances of COVID-19.
Tweets from Committee members

Note: The search terms did not return sufficient results for a meaningful social media analysis.

Supply cycle / main estimates

  • There was no media coverage on the supply cycle or main estimates during this period.

Note: The search terms did not return sufficient results for a meaningful social media analysis.

Unions

Overview of coverage
  • There was minimal media coverage on collective bargaining during this period. Only one article Charlottetown Guardian) makes mention of collective bargaining, noting that employees from the CRA, TBS and Parks Canada are currently engaged in bargaining talks.
  • The unions have been very involved in dealing with the COVID-19 crisis since public servants were directed to work from home. They have called for more clarification and guidance regarding teleworking, as well as worked to find solutions for public servants who cannot work for reasons related to COVID-19.
  • PSAC and PIPSC have been critical of departments’ limited network capacities to accommodate remote work, while UCCO has been advocating for the safety of its members.
  • Recently, PSAC has called for a return to the bargaining table to help stabilize the federal public service and recognize the work that public servants are accomplishing amid COVID-19. As well, the union has posted an update on its bargaining process with the CRA.
Social media analysis
  • Total Twitter impressions (the total number of times a tweet has been viewed) was 343K from 239 mentions by 139 users from March 16th – April 30th, 2020.
    • Activity was most notable on three occasions:
    • On March 25th, PSAC praised the work that public servants were doing to ensure Canadians would come home, as well as noted that public servants with young children were going to need support.
    • On April 8th, PSAC again praised the work that public servants were doing – a sentiment that was shared by many Twitter users.
    • On April 24th, PSAC called on the federal government to head back to the bargaining table, noting that their members deserve their basic right to a fair contract respected. This sentiment was again shared by many Twitter users.
  • The top five hashtags were #covid19, #cdnpoli, #covid19canada, #covid19 and #childcare.

Changes in the Timeline for the Supply Cycle

Issue

How is supply being provided to government organizations to continue operations and to implement COVID-19 response measures?

Key Facts

  • Parliament has approved several mechanisms to provide supply for COVID-19 emergency and economic response measures.
  • The regular supply cycle also continues to operate, with some adjustments, in order to provide government organizations with the financial capacity to continue normal operations.

Response

  • The Government of Canada is committed to keeping Canadians safe and healthy in these difficult times, and has taken extraordinary action to respond to the impact of COVID-19 by funding emergency and economic response measures, and to address the operational needs of federal organizations.
  • Parliament has now approved several measures which provide supply to government departments to implement COVID-19 emergency and economic response measures.
  • Following a recent Parliamentary decision to adjust the deadline to review the 2020-21 Main Estimates to no later December 10, the Government plans to introduce an appropriation bill to provide additional interim supply for the Main Estimates, once a regular sitting schedule resumes in late May.
  • There are also plans to table Supplementary Estimates (A), 2020-21, soon after Parliament resumes a normal sitting schedule later this spring, which will include some COVID-19 funding measures.
  • It is also anticipated that Supplementary Estimates B will be tabled in the late Fall, as normal.
  • We will continue to ensure transparency and the effective parliamentary oversight of all government spending.

Background

Parliamentary Approval of COVID-19 Response Measures

Parliament has approved several measures which provide supply to government departments to implement COVID-19 emergency and economic response measures.

The two COVID-19 emergency response acts (Bills C-13 and C-14) enabled a number of financial authorities, including for example:

  • payments for emergency response measures, including measures to address immediate needs in Indigenous communities and to support vulnerable populations;
  • payments to provinces and territories;
  • benefits to workers facing layoffs;
  • increased individual benefits (Canada Child Benefit, GST/HST tax credit payment);
  • interest waivers and delayed payments for student and apprenticeship loans; and
  • wage subsidies.

Bill C-15, which authorizes the payment of emergency benefits to post-secondary students, received Royal Assent on May 1.

Supply Cycle

Appropriation Act No. 1, 2020–21 received Royal Assent on March 13. This Act provided roughly $44 billion in interim supply for the Main Estimates for this fiscal year.

On April 20, the House of Commons adopted a motion which modified Standing Order 81 for the 2020 calendar year so that parliamentarians can continue to examine the 202021 Main Estimates during the supply period ending December 10, 2020. As a result, the Government will introduce an appropriation bill to provide additional interim supply for the Main Estimates, soon after the House of Commons resumes a regular sitting schedule in late May.

The Government is also planning to table Supplementary Estimates (A), 2020–21 in early June, to provide for additional cash requirements, including some COVID-19 response and recovery measures. The related supply bill will be introduced soon thereafter.

On March 13, Parliament provided for the use of Governor General Special Warrants during periods of adjournment until June 24. However, with Parliament’s recent return to address COVID-19 requirements and its scheduled return for regular business in late May, the Government does not expect that special warrants will be needed.

COVID-19 Response / Commitment to Report

Issue

What has been Treasury Board Secretariat’s role in the federal government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic? How have bargaining agents been engaged?

Key Facts

  • As of April 20, 2020, the Chief Human Resources Officer had issued 14 updates to deputy heads providing information and guidance on topics, including remote work, 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, and continues to work closely with Shared Services Canada on the government’s IT infrastructure and overall VPN network 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 September 30th, 2020.
  • 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.

Response

  • 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, 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, and manage their workforce and deliver critical services under these exceptional circumstances.
  • Working with bargaining agents and departments and agencies, we continue to review our human resources, IT 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 working to effectively track the number of COVID cases across the Public Service and has committed to making this number public. Currently, 318 cases have been reported across the Public Service.
  • The Treasury Board Secretariat is providing timely advice to government organizations on how best to execute response measures, and deliver immediate and short-term outcomes for Canadians.
  • By offering more flexibility and leeway to departments implementing the measures we have announced, we will ensure swift action and support ongoing efforts to respond to COVID-19 by helping businesses and organizations across all sectors to keep folks on their payroll.
  • We continue to monitor the situation closely and adjust our guidance as the situation evolves across the country.

Background

Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat’s role in the COVID-19 response has been to:

  • reassure the public that the government has plans in place to help ensure continued government operations and the delivery of critical services to Canadians;
  • ensure consistent internal communications to employees across federal departments and agencies on occupational health and safety 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 and privacy, so they can continue to deliver services in their organizations during the pandemic.

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. A large portion of public servants, including those providing critical services, are working remotely.

Teleconference calls are held with bargaining agents twice a week 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.

The Government is working to get a better understanding of how COVID 19 is impacting federal public servants and departments.

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).’ These statistics would be collected at the departmental level, consistent with deputy minister accountability.

Hazard Pay for Public Servants

Issue

Will the federal government consider offering hazard pay to federal public servants delivering critical services to Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Key Facts

  • Many provinces are expected to soon implement pandemic pay for frontline workers, which will be 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, to varying degrees, provinces have extended ‘pandemic pay’ programs to other frontline workers, such as nurses and prison guards, for which there are equivalent occupations in the federal government.
  • 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 COVID-19.
  • Organizations are actively making employees aware of all known or foreseeable hazards and remediating all workplace hazards as they are identified.

Response

  • 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, specially for employees that may be particularly vulnerable to disease. 
  • We continue to review our human resources policies and employee compensation 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 be working in close proximity to others. We will continue to provide them with all necessary precautionary measures and protective equipment, as advised by public health experts.

If pressed:

  • The Government of Canada has continued to support employees, throughout this unprecedented situation and, as of April 20th, the Chief Human Resources Officer had issued 14 updates to Deputy Heads. These have included information on flexibilities in the Public Service Health Care Plan, guidance on leave provisions, and on best practices for responding to positive cases in the workplace.

Background

The Alberta, Ontario and Quebec provincial governments are offering supplementary compensation for some front-line workers. British Columbia and other provinces are currently developing similar initiatives.

On April 25, 2020, the Ontario government announced that it will provide a temporary ‘pandemic pay premium’ to critical front-line workers for a period of 16 weeks. Eligible employees will include staff at long-term care homes, retirement homes, emergency shelters, and supportive housing facilities, employees at correctional institutions and youth justice facilities, and employees providing home and community care.

  • It should be noted that this temporary premium supplement the wages of lower income workers whose pay was impacted by the introduction of the 2019 ‘Protecting a Sustainable Public Sector for Future Generations Act’ which imposed a one percent maximum on annual compensation increases provided through collective agreements for a three-year period.

On April 2, 2020, the Quebec government announced it would provide additional compensation for employees working directly with people infected with the COVID-19 virus and for employees working in social and health services.

Hazard pay is not referenced in the Canada Labour Code. redacted

Since March 23, 2020, there have been 31 work refusals reported to TBS.

Leave Provisions

Issue

When will the government revisit the leave provisions that were put in place for public servants in response to the COVID-19 pandemic?

Key Facts

  • 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; or must care for sick or vulnerable people; who are showing COVID-related symptoms; or who have underlying medical conditions.

Response

  • 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. 
  • I expect the public service to follow the same instructions provided to Canadians by public health authorities, and as the main employer, I asked all managers to show flexibility to ensure that there are no incentives for employees to adopt behaviors that would increase the risk for them, their colleagues, families and Canadians.
  • Many employees, including those supporting critical services, are working from home whenever and wherever possible, in big part thanks to the deployment of digital tools and infrastructure. This has allowed us to deliver services to Canadians with unprecedented speed.
  • A number of exceptional leave provisions have also been made available to provide employees who are ill or unable to work for reasons related to COVID 19 with different options to cover their health, family or work situations.
  • The Government continues to carefully follow public health advice and will adjust leave, remote work and other guidance to employees as restrictions are lifted and as authorities advise that employees can return safely to the workplace.

Background

Since March 2020, the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS) has been providing guidance to departments and agencies and asking them 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).

Tracking

Initially TBS provided guidance to Departments and Agencies to manually track leave until employees returned to work and were able to enter it into the system. This guidance was provided in order to avoid adding stress to the VPN network connections, however, this is no longer an issue.

While reporting remains the responsibility of Departments and Agencies, TBS created reason codes (i.e., Illness, Family care, Technology, Work limitation and Other) to ensure consistency in reporting across the Public Service

Once employees are able to enter their leave requests, TBS will be extracting the full data set from the various 34 HR Systems to conduct an analysis of the impacts of this pandemic on the workforce.

While we do not currently have aggregate information across the Public Service, we are actively working to gather and report on the information.

Hiring in the Public Service, including students – COVID-19

Issue

Public health restrictions associated with COVID-19, the implementation of departmental business continuity plans, and rapid mobilization to support new measures for Canadians require flexible hiring practices and rapid access to talent, including students.

Key Facts

  • Treasury Board, as the employer, is responsible for determining the current and future human resources needs of the public service.
  • The Public Service Commission is responsible for protecting the integrity of hiring and promotion in the public service and is an independent agency that reports directly to Parliament.
  • Responsibilities for staffing are delegated to Deputy Heads by the Public Service Commission, which include a wide range of options to address immediate, temporary and longer-term hiring needs.
  • Students hiring, which normally represents nearly 8,000 members of the public service workforce at any given time, has seen a steep drop with 816 new students being referred for potential hiring in March and April 2020, as compared to 2,074 for the same period last year: a decrease of 61%.
  • Government announcements have extended targeted support to students, including through the Canada Emergency Response Benefit ($1,250 per month from May to August), the Canada Student Service Grant (up to $5,000 for education for students who do national service and serve their communities), and changes to the Youth Employment and Skill Strategy’s Canada Summer Jobs program.

Response

  • The government is committed to an open, transparent, and merit-based hiring process that ensures we are recruiting the best to deliver services for Canadians.
  • My officials have worked with the Public Service Commission and other federal organizations to prioritize hiring related to COVID-19, deliver essential services for Canadians, and support youth employment.
  • Many students who work in the public service, whether through our Federal Student Work Experience Program, Indigenous Student Employment Opportunity, and the Employment Opportunity for Students with Disabilities, among other programs, go on to become permanent public servants.
  • While we must work to ensure that youth and students are supported, we recognize that we have obligations to existing public servants.
  • That is why we have been careful to balance our communications to hiring managers to ensure that indeterminate staff are meaningfully engaged to the extent possible, while encouraging them to support student hiring to meet the government’s commitment to lower youth unemployment and provide students with the opportunity to acquire valuable knowledge and make a contribution to their nation.
  • To lend assistance to Deputy Ministers and hiring managers across the federal public service during the COVID-19 pandemic, my officials have and are continuing to develop tools and other supports to help ensure our employees, including students, can be easily and effectively hired, integrated, and onboarded into the public service, despite the challenging circumstances in which we find ourselves.
  • This work will help us focus on the right skills, expertise, and experience for the workforce of the future.
  • Our experiences through COVID-19 have forced us to be adaptive and innovative in our staffing processes. These experiences have the potential to inform future hiring practices in the federal public service that will make staffing more effective and efficient.

Background

The Public Service Employment Act confers the authority “to appoint, or provide for the appointment of, persons to or from within the public service” to the Public Service Commission (PSC). These authorities are largely delegated to Deputy Heads to exercise in departments through the Appointment Delegation and Accountability Instrument. The Treasury Board, as the employer, is responsible for determining the “human resources requirements of the public service” and identifying “current and future needs of the public service.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has required the implementation of departmental business continuity plans to ensure the effective functioning of the Government of Canada. It also required several departments to shift and prioritize the implementation of unprecedented programs to support Canadians. In this context, hiring priorities and efforts have focussed on needs directly related to COVID-19 and essential services.

Deputy Ministers have a wide range of options to hire short-term staff quickly including casual workers (up to 90 working days), internal staffing and mobility, external term appointments. Employees with priority entitlements (including veterans) may also be a rapid source of talent. Other readily available sources of talent include valid pools from previous hiring and Post-Secondary Recruitment Campaign inventories. Finally, Interchange Canada can facilitate temporary exchanges between the federal public service and the wider public and private sectors.

The Public Service Commission manages the Federal Student Work Experience Program, the Research Affiliate Program, Co-op/Internship Program and the Post-Secondary recruitment campaign among other specialized recruitment programs, pairing developing talent with valuable experience.

On April 21, 2020, the Chief Human Resources Officer sent a message to Deputy Ministers, Heads of Agencies (including separate Employers), Presidents of Regional Federal Councils, and Heads of Human Resources, issuing a call to action to hiring managers to employ students with a focus on responding to the crisis and supporting recovery. This was followed by guidance sent from the Assistant Deputy Minister of Workplace Policies and Services to Heads of Human Resources providing support to equip and onboard students, and help prepare hiring managers, easing certain elements of the process. This will be complemented with an onboarding toolkit to ensure effective onboarding of students working remotely during this pandemic.

The COVID-19 context has, however, resulted in the suspension of most face-to-face activities in the assessment process (testing, interviews, etc.) that can cause delays. Several temporary measures have been put in place to provide flexibility while ensuring merit-based staffing and linguistic obligations are respected. For example, the Public Service Commission has introduced flexibilities for assessing second language proficiency for temporary appointments, and extensions to the validity periods for second language evaluation results that will be in place until September 30, 2020. Flexibilities and temporary approaches are also being considered to increase mobility and reduce hiring barriers including equipping employees with technology and tools, managing remote and virtual onboarding and completing security screening.

While the COVID-19 situation has had an immediate impact on hiring practices and needs, these will continue to evolve with the situation as work begins to coordinate and facilitate a transition to living with a new normal with COVID-19 in Canada. The recent experience will feed into lessons learned from the COVID-response and inform work underway to reduce time to staff. These will also inform longer-term considerations regarding the skills and future human resources needs of the public service in order to develop relevant, targeted recruitment and development strategies to maintain an agile, equipped and inclusive public service that represents all Canadians.

COVID-19 Response – Interchange Canada and Redeployments

Issue

Some departments and agencies have seconded federal workers to provincial and municipal authorities to support their response to the crisis.

Key Facts

  • Interchange Canada allows public servants to be quickly seconded to provincial, territorial and municipal governments, not-for-profit organizations, and separate federal agencies and crown corporations.
  • Interchange agreements can be made between federal organizations in the Core Public Administration and the other jurisdictions for individual participants or groups of participants, which minimizes administrative efforts.

Response

  • The Government of Canada is committed to protecting the health and safety of Canadians and has been assisting other jurisdictions and coordinating efforts to rapidly mobilize talent to where it is needed most.
  • Other orders of government, including provincial and municipal authorities, are finding themselves in need of people to support their response to COVID-19.
  • A number of options exist for federal public servants to assist other jurisdictions, including leave provisions and Interchange Canada.
  • Interchange offers the most effective mechanism for departments to assist other jurisdictions. Thanks to recent amendments, such arrangements are more flexible and have allowed the federal public service to support provincial, territorial and community efforts to fight COVID-19

Background

The Policy on People Management and the Directive on Interchange Canada allow organizations within the Core Public Administration to:

  • establish agreements with other jurisdictions (i.e. host organizations), to allow either individual employees or groups of employees (i.e. blanket agreement), to assist the host organization, under a single agreement.
  • interrupt assignments, terminate them early, or extend them for up to three years, according to operational requirements.
  • negotiate the appropriate level of reimbursement with the host organization, including, full, partial, or no reimbursement.

While on an Interchange assignment, participants:

  • remain subject to the terms and conditions of employment in their sponsoring (i.e. home) organization, including salary, employer-paid benefits, pension accumulation, leave, and collective agreements;
  • become subject to the working conditions of the host organization, including hours of work, designated holidays, overtime, and specific working conditions (e.g. to ensure employee safety); and
  • continue to be paid by their sponsoring organization, with reimbursement negotiable with the host.

Each Core Public Administration organization has one or more designated Interchange Canada liaison officer in place, who possess specialized knowledge and experience with the Interchange Canada policy instruments. These officers work with the Interchange Canada program within TBS to draft and finalize Interchange agreements.

TBS provides guidance to departments on the Interchange Canada program, including when consultations should take place with bargaining agents (e.g., when blanket agreements are made), and tracks Interchange participants through an inventory and Core Public Administration organizations are responsible for entering in information for each participant, even if groups of participants are listed under one single blanket agreement.

Salaries may or may not be recovered from the host organization, at the deputy head’s discretion.

Public Service Health Care Plan (PSHCP)

Issue

There are two issues related to the PSHCP:

  1. 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.
  2. Renewal of the PSHCP - Update on PSHCP renewal discussions in consultation with bargaining agents and retiree representatives.

Key Facts

The PSHCP is an employer-sponsored health care plan that offers health benefits to about 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.

Response - Temporary changes to the PSHCP

  • In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Canada implemented temporary changes to the Public Service Health Care Planwhich will remain in effect until non-critical business is authorized to resume or unless otherwise indicated.
  • These temporary measures align with the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer’s guiding principles during COVID-19 which includes respect for democracy; stewardship; respect for people; excellence and people management framework. These measures take into account the impact on the current environment and implications for post-pandemic reintegration have also been considered.
  • These temporary measures are 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.
  • 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.
  • A recent study by the Conference Board of Canada in April, 2020, indicates that other organizations (23%) are making changes to employee benefit offerings, including the introduction of virtual psychological (15%) and health care services (22%) during COVID-19.

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. The President of the Treasury Board, who is responsible for the overall management of the PSHCP, is supported by the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat. 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.

On April 6, 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 (part of the initial set of PSHCP flexibilities), which was intended to allow supply of medicines for more than the current 100-day limit, was the temporary measure not extended. This was done to align the PSHCP with provincial and territorial regulations that restrict dispensing limits to 30-day supplies 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 psychologists.

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 your consideration. If you agree with the Joint Recommendation, as the President of the Treasury Board, you present it 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.

The PSHCP Partners Committee has put renewal discussions on hold until the employer secures a negotiations mandate, which has been delayed due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Official languages communications

Issue

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.

Key Facts

  • 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.

Response

  • 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 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.

Background

  • 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.
  • 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.

Childcare

Issue

The provision of childcare service has been stopped or reduced in some provinces and territories, limiting access thereto by some federal workers.

Key Facts

  • Childcare is a matter that falls within provincial and territorial jurisdiction, with most federal workers receiving such services from provincially and territorially regulated providers.
  • Some provinces and territories have closed daycares with others restricting access to essential workers.
  • Daycare centres operating out of federal facilities, as a matter of course, must comply with local rules and regulations, including public health advisories.
  • Employees whose children cannot attend daycare due to closures restrictions may, in some circumstances, be granted other leave with pay (699).
  • Departments are responsible to manage each individual case to maximize productivity without incenting employees to disobey public health instructions.

Response

  • We have worked to ensure that front-line 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 essential workers identified across the country and, to varying extent, provinces and territories have extended access to childcare to them.
  • We recognize that it can be a challenge balancing working from home and caring for children; we encourage flexible work hours for our employees and, when all other options have been explored, have provided for the granting of leave with pay in cases where no childcare arrangement can be made.
  • As closures and restrictions are progressively lifted, we recognize that there will be some cases where employees may still need to use existing leave provisions if their children are unable to return to school or daycare due to health reasons, limited availability of spaces or other restrictions put in place by provincial or territorial authorities.

Background

Childcare service and their regulation fall within provincial and territorial jurisdiction. In the context of the current environment, the landscape, and their regulation, is moving fast, with provincial and territorial lists of essential services changing from day-to-day. To date, six jurisdictions have specifically added federal organizations to their lists:

  • British Columbia now includes all federal functions or services, including where these functions or services are provided by agencies, crown corporations, contractors or service providers.
  • Ontario modified their list of workers eligible to access emergency childcare to include:
    • Members, officers and special constables appointed under the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act who are working in Ontario.
    • Officers as defined in the Customs Act (Canada) who are working in Ontario.
    • Employees of the Canada Post Corporation who are working in Ontario.
  • In addition, Ontario modified the provincial order so that Military Family Resource Centres can provide childcare to the Canadian Armed Forces and employees of the Department of National Defence.
  • Québec includes postal services and the Canadian Armed Forces.
  • Alberta includes postal services and the Canadian Armed Forces.
  • Saskatchewan includes Correctional Service Canada on its list.
  • Yukon includes federal employees who support essential functions, support systems and services, and communications networks, as well as postal services and employees from National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces.

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)’.

Further to the signing of collective agreements in 2017, a Joint National Child Care Committee was formed with members representing the employer and the Public Service Alliance of Canada. The Committee prepared a Report of Recommendations to address the childcare-related issues faced by employees of the public service.

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 and five in Quebec—who are either receiving a rental subsidy under the Policy on Workplace Day Care Centres 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 five 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.

Duty to Accommodate

Issue

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.

Key Facts

  • Under the Canadian Human Rights Act, employers are responsible for the accommodation of their employees, up to the point of undue hardship.
  • The Accessible Canada Act requires all federally-regulated institutions, including the Government of Canada, 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 and Directive. 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, taking into consideration issues of health, safety and cost.
  • Managers are encouraged to have open constructive conversations with each of their employees about their accommodation needs and to streamline any administrative processes related to the provision of these accommodations.
  • CMHC has noted disproportional impacts on certain groups.

Response

  • All employees need to be enabled to contribute to the work of the Government of Canada. When working from a remote location, for example, employees with disabilities may face accessibility barriers, which may be similar or different from those they encounter in the regular workplace. Managers should make every effort to create an inclusive work environment for all their employees.
  • 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 has called upon us to examine and modify how we go about meeting this moral and legal obligation.
  • In situations where managers and employees have considered and exhausted every possible option to accommodate the employee’s needs, but are unable to, paid leave may be provided.
  • These situations may occur, for example, where specialized equipment is unavailable, or in cases where alternative care arrangements cannot be made for family-related responsibilities.

Background

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.

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. It is important to survey both managers and employees to identify 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

Issue

In its role representing the employer, Treasury Board has a responsibility to support organizations in the core public administration by providing advice and guidance that is timely and relevant. In the case of occupational safety and health during the COVID-19 pandemic, departments have raised many questions.

Key Facts

  • 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.

Response

  • 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. To date, employees and their union who have used that recourse (less than 40 times across the country in relation to the pandemic) have received satisfactory resolution of their request, although some situation may be underway.

Background

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. In context of the COVID-19 pandemic, since March 23, thirty-one refusals to work were reported in the federal public service and most of them were settled internally.

Availability of personal protective equipment for frontline workers

Issue

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) for frontline workers.

Key Facts

  • For federal employees, PSPC leads centralized purchasing of PPE requirements for at least 23 frontline departments, including CSC, CBSA and RCMP.

Response

  • 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).
  • All decisions related to protective equipment are taken in consultation with bargaining agents through departmental health and safety committees.

Background

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 is developed by Health Canada’s Public Service Occupational Health Program as required in collaboration with departmental occupational health and safety teams.

Enabling Technology – Equipment, Collaboration Tools and Network Capacity to Support Public Servants

Issue

With an unprecedented number of federal public servants working remotely, the Government of Canada must ensure that they are appropriately equipped to ensure continued operations.

Key Facts

  • There are nearly 280,000 federal public servants, a majority of whom are currently working remotely.
  • Every day, GC employees are now connecting remotely simultaneously, supported by a 60% increase in secure remote access capacity.
  • The GC has accelerated the implementation of Microsoft Office 365 (O365) in order to provide collaboration and productivity tools for federal employees working remotely.
  • On March 16, 2020, the government implemented a temporary GC COVID-19 Collaboration System through Microsoft Office 365. Accessible from any device, it supports unclassified work and collaboration and has over 82,000 users.
  • 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 400 users.

Response

  • We are working to ensure that public servants are appropriately equipped to continue to deliver critical services for Canadians during these unprecedented circumstances
  • Since physical distancing measures necessitated a broad shift to remote work in March 2020, the government has increased secure remote access capacity by 60%.
  • 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 also 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 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).

Background

  • 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 for becoming a more open, user-centric and
  • resilient digital government into the future.

The pandemic has prompted an unprecedented shift, requiring a majority of the 280,000 federal public servants to work remotely. Working remotely offers many advantages and flexibility and is a reality for many public servants as we carry on work during the COVID-19 pandemic. While many public servants have the necessary tools to work remotely, some require additional equipment.

  • 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.
  • This includes 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.
  • In parallel, SSC and OCIO are ensuring that departments and public servants have the knowledge, tools and equipment they need to work remotely. This includes procuring and provisioning new devices and equipment, and rapidly deploying new cloud-based collaboration and communication systems government-wide.

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. This includes 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

Issue

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.

Key Facts

  • With limitations regarding remote access to many departmental networks, many Government of Canada employees are leveraging third party collaboration tools to carry out virtual meetings, as well as to share 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, in times of crisis.
  • On April 7, 2020, Post Media reported that the increase in teleworking makes the government more vulnerable to cyber threats.

Response

  • The Government of Canada is committed to safeguarding sensitive information in its possession, and maintaining the highest standards of document security, as described in the Policy on Government Security.
  • 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 and have recently released guidance to employees on managing government information when working remotely.
  • We also have robust systems and tools in place to monitor, detect and investigate potential threats, including include information compromises that result from working from home.

Background

As a result of limited access to network resources, third-party applications like Zoom and Google Drive, for example, are being leveraged to carry out virtual meetings and other daily tasks. Cybersecurity experts caution that these applications are inadequate to safeguard sensitive information.

To this end, GC employees have been reminded that the requirements to manage information securely and effectively, and in accordance with all relevant policy and legislative requirements, apply 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 Policy on Government Security and 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 paying attention to 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 those identified above, while use of these applications 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

Issue

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 practices.

Key Facts

  • As of April 28, 2020, 235 Critical Services (CS) were identified across 49 of the 107 departments and agencies subject to the Policy on Government Security (PGS).

Response

  • The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the government’s resiliency in its capacity to deliver services to Canadians.
  • The Policy on Government Security includes requirements for organizations to develop and maintain Business Continuity Plans (BCPs), and organizations have been asked to ensure their plans are up to date for any possible disruption.
  • Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government has found ways to improve the delivery of critical government services, including, for example, developing, and ensuring quick access to, new emergency financial supports.

Background

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 departmental 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 department or agency 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 Critical Services. Critical Services are defined 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 will evolve in response to government priorities and to inform strategic decision making and discussions at the Deputy committees on COVID-19 and Emergency Management, as well as to inform prioritization efforts of enterprise service providers such as SSC.
  • PS is presently 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 and SSC.
Current Picture of GC Critical Services
  • As of April 28, 235 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.
  • Work will continue in collaboration with departments and agencies to gain an improved understanding of the resiliency of services, and to support business resumption planning as the GC transitions back to normal operations.
  • TBS is presently working with PS to develop a lifecycle management framework for business continuity. Continued work on ensuring an evergreen list will support the trusted delivery of government services to Canadians, during significant events (regardless of category), by:
    • Supporting informed decision-making and prioritization during significant events (e.g. order of recovery)
    • Providing an important resource to inform discussions on risk
    • Supporting enterprise service-providers in establishing service levels
    • Informing investment priorities (e.g. IT investment priorities)
  • The COVID-19 Pandemic clearly demonstrates 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 for federal workplaces

Issue

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, there is increasing public focus on the eventual reopening of all workplaces, including federal government worksites.

Key Facts

  • The Federal Public Service is the largest Canadian employer with employees across all provinces and territories.
  • As of March 2019, there are:
  • 58% of employees are distributed outside the National Capital Region
  • While exceptions exist, essential front-line workers who cannot telework have continued to report for duty in person, while a majority of federal public servants are working remotely.

Response

  • Like most employers in Canada and worldwide, the COVID pandemic has required the public service to abruptly shift to remote working arrangements while still delivering services and programs to Canadians.
  • The decisions that governments and health officials will be making over the coming weeks and months on the resumption of work in the workplace will be carefully considered and based on sound public health advice.
  • Plans to have public servants return to workplaces will be based on the continued need to deliver critical services to Canadians while protecting the health and safety of federal public servants. We will continue to support employees in the workplace and those working remotely.
  • The experience of the past several weeks, including remote working, will inform longer-term strategies required for a safe, healthy and modern public service workplace.

Background

Work is underway to consider how the federal public service will implement evolving public health advice, particularly given our national (multi-jurisdictional) presence and the complexity of government operations. redacted This work will also be framed in important principles such as maintaining critical services for Canadian; protecting the health and safety of federal employees; maintaining an inclusive workplace; and engaging stakeholders.

Longer-term considerations of lessons-learned from the COVID-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.

Collective Bargaining

Issue

When does the government expect to conclude collective agreement negotiations for the 2018 round of bargaining?

Key Facts

  • To date, 35 agreements have been reached that cover more than 70,000 federal public service employees.
  • No agreements have been reached with the PSAC or the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers (UCCO-SACC-CSN). Five Public Interest Commission reports, dealing with groups represented by the PSAC, have been released and the government is determining next steps to advance negotiations.

Response

  • 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 work of the Public Interest Commissions. We respect the work of the 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 and we look forward to returning to the bargaining table at the appropriate time.

Background

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

The collective agreement for the Aircraft Operations (AO) group, which covers the 2014 and 2018 rounds of bargaining, is expected to be signed in May 2020. The AO collective agreement is based on the arbitral award issued on December 18, 2019, and negotiations between Government representatives and those of the Canadian Federal Pilots Association (CFPA).

As of February 7, 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 chair.

According to the Federal Public Sector Labour Relations Act (FPSLRA), the PIC chair 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. Two ESAs remain to be concluded with PIPSC for the Computer Systems (CS) group and the Applied Science and Patent Examination (SP) 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 hearings with the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) for the Computer Systems (CS) group are 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.

Separate Agencies

The PIC hearings for two 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.

Other upcoming PIC sessions are scheduled as follows:

  • PSAC – Canadian Food Inspection Agency: May 7 and 8, 2020
  • PSAC – Communications Security Establishment: June 3 to 5, 2020

Phoenix Damages

Issue

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.

Key Facts

  • 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.

Response

  • 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. The process is working. 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.

Background

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

Issue

Update on the Next Generation HR and Pay Initiative.

Key Facts

  • 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 months of 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.
  • NextGen 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.

Response

  • We continue to work towards a long-term and sustainable HR and pay solution to meet the diverse needs of federal employees across Canada.
  • In September 2019, the government 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 Department is well-poised to deliver this important service.
  • 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.

Background

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.

In June, 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 months of 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.

NextGen 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 efforts 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

Issue

Working remotely, particularly over long stretches, may have impacts on employee mental health and the Government of Canada needs to provide relevant services and support to mitigate psychological harm.

Key Facts

  • 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.

Response

  • 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, the 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, and have improved access to resources, tools and information to public servants through a dedicated mental health and COVID-19 web site.

Background

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.

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. We will soon be launching the latest 2019 results, 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.

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. It is important to survey both managers and employees to identify 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 survey reported that employees submitting an accommodation request related to a mental health disability are twice as likely to be rejected. Working with key partner departments and stakeholder communities, we will implement the Accessibility Strategy for the Federal Public Service and will leverage the information gathered through the Benchmarking Study to ensure all employees have full and equal access to employment, regardless of the nature of their disability.

Employee Wellness Support Program

Issue

TBS is negotiating the terms and implementation plan of a new short-term disability program for the public service.

Key Facts

  • The Employer and several bargaining agents have been engaged in meaningful negotiations and co-development of new provisions and program design for a modernized sick leave regime for the public service since 2017. PSAC is not a participant.
  • At present, 64% of represented public servants have fewer than 65 days of accumulated sick leave, which is not sufficient to bridge the 13-week waiting period between sick leave and long-term disability support.

Response

  • Employee wellness is a priority for the Government of Canada.
  • A new integrated model would pivot away from an accumulated sick leave regime, and would include enhanced features such as early intervention, active case management, and rehabilitation to support employees during short and long-term absences from work due to illness or injury.
  • Such a model provides end-to-end support for employees undergoing illness and injuries, where they would see a safe and timely return to work with proactive attention to their individual situation, appropriate rehabilitation and assistance for their return to work, without worrying about not having financial support during this period.
  • Meaningful negotiations and work toward co-development of new provisions and program design for a modernized sick leave regime continue.

Background

Since 2013 TBS has been mandated to negotiate the development and implementation of a new short-term disability program for the public service. In the 2016 round of collective bargaining, an initial memorandum of agreement was reached with bargaining agents to jointly study ways of improving employee wellness and the reintegration of employees into the workplace after periods of leave due to illness or injury.

For groups represented by the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) and several other bargaining agents, this included the development of the Employee Wellness Support Program (EWSP).

Some of the key features of the EWSP include benefits for up to 26 weeks (130 working days) with income support replacement at 100%; an annual allotment of nine days if paid sick days for illness or injury that falls outside of the parameters of the EWSP; a qualification period of three days and internal case management and return to work services focused on supporting employees when ill or injured.

In May 2019, an updated memorandum of agreement was signed with PIPSC and othersFootnote 1 to preserve work to date, including the joint development of a vision, guiding principles and a plan. It also commits the parties to a process for making recommendations to the President of the Treasury Board with respect to the governance and service delivery model for the EWSP redacted. It is important to note that to date, the PSAC has not been a signatory to the memorandum of agreement.

External experts have been engaged to validate the feasibility of options being discussed, particularly as it relates to pay stabilization. This work is ongoing, consistent with lessons learned from the Phoenix project and recommendations made by the Auditor General.

The pandemic has only strengthened the case for a short-term disability program. Most provinces’ public servants have such a program in place.

Directive on Disposal of Surplus Goods

Issue

The disposal of expired face masks and gloves and how these stocks are managed in accordance with Treasury Board policy.

Key Facts

  • 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.

Response

  • 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.

Background

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

Issue

The nature and approach to providing rent relief to commercial tenants impacted by COVID-19 where the federal government is the landlord.

Key Facts

  • 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 relief to eligible commercial tenants with private sector landlords for April, May and June.

Response

  • 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 is working to ensure that federal organizations who are commercial landlords align with CECRA’s intent and scope and provide similar rent relief for small businesses, charities and not-for-profit tenants.

Background

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 guidance to core departments and agencies on rent relief, suggesting that they 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 TBS guidance and are deferring their tenants’ rents on a targeted basis.

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 intent and scope. TBS is collaborating with federal landlords, the Department of Justice and other central agencies to implement this direction.

Federal landlords with large lease portfolios are exploring tailored relief solutions that meet and build on the intent of CECRA.

Regulatory Flexibility for Canadian Businesses

Issue

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.

Key Facts

  • 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.

Response

  • 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.
  • In light of the current situation, we are exploring options under Canada’s regulatory system – one of the best in the world – that may help address the challenges that businesses face in complying with some federal regulations while their employees are not able to report for work.
  • 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.

Background

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

Issue

What is the government doing to protect the personal information of Canadians during the COVID-19 Pandemic?

Key Facts

  • The Privacy Act requires that government institutions to 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.

Response

  • 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 circumstance, such as the health and safety of other government employees or the public, and only after careful consideration, and in accordance with the Privacy Act.

Background

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 the privacy impacts of proposals – and proposals’ consistency with applicable Canadian privacy laws – into account. 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:

  1. To raise awareness about privacy breaches for federal workers and key communities
  2. Improve training for federal employees
  3. Strengthen policies, guidance, and tools.

We are working in close collaboration with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner throughout this process.

Access to Information Request Processing – COVID-19

Issue

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.

Key Facts

  • On April 28, 2020, the Information Commissioner published a letter to the President calling for increased proactive publication, increased funding, and improved infrastructure and tools to address the impacts of COVID-19 measures on the ATIP system. The Commissioner went as far as suggesting “identifying the processing of ATIP requests as a priority service even under exceptional working situations like the one we find ourselves in today”.
  • To respond to COVID-19, most employees are working from home, 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.

Response

  • The Government remains committed to maintaining the openness and transparency of government during this challenging time.
  • The Government of Canada, along with provincial and territorial governments,has implemented exceptional workplace measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 and to protect the health and safety of federal employees.
  • These measures have had an impact on institutions’ ability to respond to access to information and personal information requests, since most employees are now working from their homes, without full access to documents and to the information systems that they would usually use to respond to requests.
  • 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 using the Open Government portal, and elsewhere as appropriate. For example, the Open Government Portal will host open data related to the total applications received and processed under the Canada Emergency Response Benefits.
  • The Government will continue engaging the offices of the Information Commissioner and Privacy Commissioner to ensure that these essential oversight bodies are aware of the government’s current approach and its operational constraints.

Background

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.

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.

In navigating these exceptional times, the Government of Canada is learning a lot about the impact on institutions’ ability to respond to access to information and personal information requests, when most employees are working remotely, without full access to documents and to the entirety of the information systems that they would use to respond to requests.

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 requests packages.
  • Institutions are utilizing e-post where possible to facilitate providing responses to requesters.

When workplace restrictions begin to be lifted and capacity can be increased, ATIP Offices will be addressing outstanding requests.

Over the longer term, we 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 our use of artificial intelligence in the portal, we are 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 our 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.

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.

Emergency Contracting

Issue

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, changes to Appendix C of the Contracting Policy were made to enable government departments’ emergency contracting.

Key Facts

  • Effective 20 March 2020, the Treasury Board has 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 September 30th, 2020.
  • These changes were necessary to enable quick response and agility and to support government operations in an unprecedented situation.

Response

  • 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 providing temporary increases to limits for emergency contracting limits to enable the quick and efficient procurement of necessary resources.
  • Public Services and Procurement Canada will report emergency contracts (including those for PPEs) to the Treasury Board Secretariat within 60 days. It will also provide information on PPE purchases on its website, for added oversight and transparency.

Background

Basic rules around emergency contracting from TB Contracting Policy, Appendix C:
  • Until September 30th, 2020, 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.
  • For any contracts in a pressing emergency in which a delay would be injurious to the public interest, departments are asked to ensure that the context and rationale to support departmental decision-making are well documented. Departments are to report to TBS within 60 days on any contracts and contractual arrangements issued under the emergency contract approval limits.
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 include the financial assessment as well as all the limitation or indemnification details in the report that is sent to the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat (TBS) within 60 days of the authorization or beginning of the work, and the departmental CFO or his or her delegate is to approve the report. 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.

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