Opening Remarks by Anne-Marie Robinson, President, Public Service Commission of Canada at a meeting of the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs 

March 13, 2012

Listen to the Webcast (Parliament of Canada)

Check against delivery

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. 

I am pleased to be here today as part of this panel to talk about the initiatives of the Public Service Commission of Canada aimed at enhancing opportunities in the federal public service for current as well as former members of the Canadian Forces. 

I am accompanied by Hélène Laurendeau, Senior Vice-President of Policy at the Public Service Commission (PSC).

The PSC is an independent agency reporting to Parliament, mandated to safeguard the integrity of the public service staffing system and non-partisanship of the public service.  For over 100 years, the PSC has upheld its mandate to ensure a merit-based, non-partisan federal public service. 

We have also made an important contribution to the reintegration of Canada’s war veterans into civilian society by helping them find jobs in the public service.

Under the Public Service Employment Act and the Public Service Employment Regulations, the PSC is responsible for creating and administering priority entitlements. These entitlements provide persons with the right to be appointed ahead of all others to any position in the public service for which they meet the essential qualifications. Priority entitlements help persons who have been affected by career transitions. The priority entitlement system also serves the important objective of helping the public service to retain skilled and competent people that Government of Canada has trained and developed. 

Since 1997, there has been a priority entitlement for Canadian Forces members who were released as a result of injury in a special duty area. In 2005, as part of the New Veterans Charter, it was expanded to include former members of the Canadian Forces and the RCMP who are released from service for medical reasons.  Once medically released, these former members have five years to activate their priority entitlement — which then lasts for two years. 

A more recent amendment came into effect in May 2010 extending priority entitlement to surviving spouses or common-law partners of public service employees, members of the Canadian Forces or the RCMP who lost their lives in the line of duty. Qualified surviving spouses are granted a priority entitlement, for up to two years, for appointments to externally advertised positions in the public service.

This priority applies retroactively to October 7, 2001, when Canada began its military actions in Afghanistan.  

While my remarks will focus largely on these priority entitlements, I would also like to mention the initiative taken in 2005 to amend the PSEA and allow CF members access to internal public service jobs.  Prior to this amendment, CF members were not eligible to participate in advertised internal appointment processes. The amendment provides the option to departments and agencies governed by the PSEA to identify CF members as eligible on internal job notices. 

Also, Bill C-40, which came into force in 2008, protects the jobs of public service employees who serve in the Reserve force and take a leave of absence for military service in Canada and abroad.

We have worked, and will continue to work, with people who manage programs that support veterans at the Department of National Defence and at Veterans Affairs, to ensure that all those affected by these amendments are aware of their entitlements.

Our annual report to Parliament provides information on priority entitlements and appointments.  As the two-year priority entitlement for medically released Canadian Forces and RCMP members can be extended over a number of fiscal years, and to give you a better example of how the program works, it is probably more useful to look at the placement results over a longer period of time.  We have looked at three cohorts or groups of medically released members.

We took a look at appointments for those who registered for the entitlement in 2007-2008, as well as the two subsequent years, up to 2009-2010, when the two-year entitlements had all expired. For the first cohort, there were 177 appointments of medically released members followed by 196 appointments for the second and 201 for the third.  For all three cohorts, we saw an appointment rate which was on average 72%. This is the highest rate of appointment by category in the priority administration program.

For those who were appointed, we found that more than 60% were appointed within six months from the start of their priority entitlement, rising to 80% or more within 12 months, and more than 92%, within 18 months. We also found that more than 95% of these former CF members obtained jobs in their region of residence.

The departments most likely to have positions available as part of their regional operations include the Department of National Defence, Correctional Services and Human Resources and Skills Development including Service Canada.

Of those who were not appointed, for instance, among the first cohort of 2007-2008, nearly half of them accepted other job offers in other sectors. 

While I am pleased with the results, I think there are areas for improvement. We took a closer look at the priority administration program and our evaluation identified areas where we could be proactive and strengthen the program for the long term benefit of former medically-released members.

We found that we need to improve coordination and share information about the public service at the earliest possible time because medically-released members are not often familiar with the public service staffing system. 

We believe that a case management approach can be more effective in working directly with former CF members to advise them of their entitlements, helping them better understand the language of staffing, and assisting them more in applying for jobs.  We are in the process of consulting with our partners about these ideas and certainly I would welcome your views. 

In addition, I will be carefully watching the impacts of changes to the priority system as a result of the Government’s deficit reduction action plan. Based on this analysis, we will also be exploring whether some administrative measures could be tailored to allow medically released members to maximize the value of their entitlements. 

Mr. Chairman, Honourable Members, let me assure your Committee of our strong commitment at the Public Service Commission to continually strive to enhance the work we do to support medically released Canadian Forces and RCMP members.

While their military and policing careers have been cut short, we will continue to do all that we can to help bring their valuable experience and competencies to the federal public service.

Thank you for inviting me to speak with you today. I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.