Opening Remarks By Maria Barrados, President, Public Service Commission of Canada, at the meeting of Senate Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs

November 24, 2010

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Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I am pleased to be here today 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 Janelle Wright, Director, Delegation and Reporting in our Policy Branch.

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. We have been in existence for over 100 years, and are proud of our contribution to building a merit-based, non-partisan federal public service. The PSC reports annually to Parliament on its activities and results; its 2009-2010 Annual Report was tabled on October 5th.

During the course of its history, the PSC has made an important contribution to the rehabilitation and reintegration of Canada’s war veterans into civilian society. Some form of veterans preference has been part of federal legislation since the Civil Service Act of 1918. Following the Second World War, more than 55,000 veterans found jobs in the federal public service.

More recently, we have collaborated with Veterans Affairs Canada and the Department of National Defence (DND) in the development and implementation of the new Veterans Charter. I would now like to speak to some of the initiatives taken by the PSC.

Priority Entitlements

I begin with the priority entitlements that the PSC is responsible for creating and administering under the Public Service Employment Act and the Public Service Employment Regulations. 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. These entitlements are for a specified period of time. Information on the list of priority entitlements has been distributed to the Committee.

A priority entitlement has existed for certain CF members since 1997. Initially the entitlement was for members who were released as a result of injury in a special duty area. It was expanded in 2004 to include those who became disabled as a result of special duty service. On December 31, 2005, the entitlement was expanded again to include former members of the Canadian Forces and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who are released or discharged 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. We have been working closely with DND and Veterans Affairs to help provide former CF members with information on priority entitlements, and to ensure that they maximize their public service employment opportunities.

Let me now turn to our 2009-2010 Annual Report – and I understand that Table 21 from our Report has been distributed to the Committee. We have seen a significant upward trend in the number of priority entitlements for CF and RCMP members who have been medically discharged. For 2009-2010, we had 301 new entitlements, up from 259 in the previous year. We have also seen a corresponding increase in the number of indeterminate appointments. For 2009-2010, some 215 former CF and RCMP members were appointed to positions in the public service, as compared to 205 persons in the previous year.

Spousal Priority

This brings me to the more recent amendment that extends priority entitlement to surviving spouses or common-law partners of public service employees, members of the Canadian Forces (CF) or the RCMP who lose their lives in the line of duty. The surviving spouses, if qualified, would be granted a priority entitlement, for up to two years, for appointments to externally advertised positions.

We are providing information and assistance to organizations to implement the new spousal priority. Given that the priority applies retroactively to October 7, 2001, when Canada began its military actions in Afghanistan, we have worked with DND and VAC to identify those who are affected, and to ensure that they are made aware of their priority entitlement. I can report that the PSC has confirmed one of these new priorities and is currently referring this person to positions in the public service.

Challenges going forward

To date we have been able to maintain a steady increase in the number of appointments of former CF members with priority entitlements. Overall, the number of entitlements registered in our system jumped by 31% in 2009-2010, as compared to the previous year. At the same time, the number of requests we received for priority clearance, which are required to staff available positions, dropped by 10%. Given the current context of fiscal restraint, however, it is anticipated that the upward trend in the number of priority persons, coupled with decreased staffing actions, may present challenges to the placement of priority persons.

Internal Staffing

Now, I would like to turn to the other changes that were made to the Public Service Employment Act to provide increased opportunities for CF members in public service staffing. Unlike civilian DND employees, CF members were neither "employees" nor "persons employed" in the public service. Consequently, CF members were not eligible to participate in advertised internal appointment processes. However, as a result of an amendment which took effect December 31, 2005, CF members can apply for advertised internal appointment processes where they have been identified as being eligible by deputy heads and their hiring managers. All departments and agencies governed by the PSEA have the option of identifying Canadian Forces members in the “open to” statement on internal job notices.

Reservists

Finally, Bill C-40, which came into force in 2008, protected the jobs of public service employees who serve in the reserve force. A new section (41.1) was added to the PSEA providing federal public servants who are members of the reserve force with the right to return to their position at the end of a leave of absence taken in order to participate in certain military activities and operations in Canada and abroad.

Conclusion

Mr. Chairman, and Honourable Senators, let me assure your Committee of our strong commitment to implement the initiatives that have been taken to support the men and women of our Canadian Forces and our veterans.

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