Opening Remarks by Maria Barrados, President, Public Service Commission of Canada on Annual Report 2010-2011, PSC Audit Reports, and Report on the Agreement with the Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada at a meeting of the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights

October 31, 2011

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Madam Chair and Honourable Senators,

I am here with Hélène Laurendeau, Senior Vice-President, Policy Branch and Paula Green, Director General, Equity and Diversity, to discuss the Public Service Commission’s 2010-2011 Annual Report and its Audit Reports for 2011, which were tabled in Parliament last week. The PSC also released a special paper on the history of employment equity in the federal public service; copies have been distributed to Members of the Committee. We read your June 2010 report on Employment Equity in the Federal Public Service with great interest and we agree with your recommendations.

The Public Service Commission (PSC) is an independent body responsible for safeguarding the integrity of staffing in the public service and the non‑partisanship of the public service. The PSC is free from ministerial direction in the exercise of its executive authorities for hiring and non-partisanship, but it is accountable to Parliament. We report annually to Parliament on our activities and results and we welcome the opportunity to discuss them with your Committee.

The PSC’s 2010-2011 Annual Report covers the fifth year of operation under the current Public Service Employment Act (PSEA). More detailed information on the demographics is available in the report, but what we saw essentially is a slowing down of hiring and staffing, less recruitment, and practically no growth.

Overall Assessment and Progress

Based on our oversight activities in 2010-2011, we have concluded that overall, merit is being respected in the staffing system, and our audits show that managers are doing a better job of applying the merit test. Organizational performance in the management of staffing continues to improve. However, we have concerns with the quality control of appointment processes, the lack of appropriate assessment and documentation of merit, and the poor rationales for non-advertised appointment processes.

We continue to track how organizations are applying the core values of merit and non-partisanship as well as the guiding values of fairness, access, transparency and representativeness in their staffing. In a time of fiscal restraint, those values will be as important as ever. There continues to be high interest in public service jobs, but it will be for fewer jobs.

Representativeness

Our Annual Report provides information on the external recruitment of four groups designated under the Employment Equity Act, namely, Aboriginal peoples, women, members of visible minorities and persons with disabilities. We are doing well in three out of the four groups but we saw a decrease, for the third straight year, in the rate of external appointments for persons with disabilities, from 3.1% last year to 2.6% in 2010-1011.

We are concerned that the continued low rate of external appointments will have negative consequences for their representation in the public service over the long term.

The special paper on employment equity provides an overview of the PSC and the government’s efforts, during the past five decades, to ensure equality of opportunity for disadvantaged groups. The PSC is responsible for identifying and eliminating barriers in recruitment and staffing, and for developing policies and practices that promote a more representative public service. Significant progress has been made but the paper highlights a number of areas that need ongoing attention.

Although there appears to be a widespread acceptance of the goal of achieving a representative public service, the concept of merit and how it is applied to achieve representativeness is not always understood, particularly among hiring managers, employees and designated group members. We will continue to work to ensure that hiring managers fully understand merit and how it is applied in achieving a representative public service.

Improved methodology and more reliable data are essential for getting a more accurate picture of employment equity in the public service and reducing reporting burden on organizations. The PSC and the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer will continue to monitor the results and work towards a common long-term methodology for calculating and reporting employment equity appointment and representation rates.

After extensive consultations with internal and external stakeholder groups, on January 1, 2010, the PSC introduced, for government-wide implementation, a new approach for confirming Aboriginal declaration. Evidence to date suggests that the approach may be an effective way to deter Aboriginal false self-declaration. The PSC will continue to work with organizations to see if additional support is needed to ensure consistency in implementing this approach.

In 2010-11, the PSC conducted detailed analysis of the applicant and recruitment rates of employment equity groups by organization and by occupational group. The PSC will also undertake further analysis to help identify and develop more effective strategies for attracting persons with disabilities and other disadvantaged groups. We plan to share the results of our work with departments and agencies in 2011-12 and to engage them in collaborative efforts to achieve representativeness in the public service.

As you may know, my term as President has been extended until a replacement is found. The PSC is committed to supporting a smooth transition to a new Commission over the coming months and will continue to ensure that Canadians benefit from a professional public service in which merit and non-partisanship are independently protected.

Thank you, Madam Chair. I would be pleased to respond to any questions that you may have.