Opening Remarks by Anne-Marie Robinson Acting President, Public Service Commission of Canada at a meeting of the Committee of the Whole, Senate of Canada concerning the Nomination of the President
February 14, 2012
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Mr. Chairman, Honourable Senators,
Thank you very much for inviting me here today.
I am pleased to be able to discuss my nomination as President of the Public Service Commission of Canada — a unique institution with a remarkable history. Over one hundred years ago, Parliament passed legislation creating the first permanent Commission responsible for safeguarding merit and non-partisanship in the federal public service.
Under the Public Service Employment Act, my nomination as President requires the approval of the House of Commons and the Senate. I met with the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates last week. I value this meeting as an important part of this process. I also went through an exhaustive selection process, which I am pleased to discuss.
I am honoured to be recommended for this position. If I am confirmed, I look forward to bringing to my work a deep respect for Parliament, an in-depth knowledge of the Commission and a good understanding of human resources management. I also bring my recent experience as a senior executive in a large operational department, and a profound sense of pride as a public servant in the work that we do on behalf of Canadians. I am also committed to excellence and to looking for innovative ways to continually improve how the Commission does its work.
I am both humbled and happy to have the opportunity to return to the Commission. My first job at the Commission was Director General, Policy, at a time when it was moving forward with policy initiatives to help modernize human resource management in the federal public service. I am proud to have supported Parliament’s work on the legislative reforms that eventually became the current Public Service Employment Act in 2003. Those changes had significant impacts on the Public Service Commission.
When I later became Vice-President of the Corporate Management Branch, I was pleased to help develop a stronger oversight role in a fully delegated staffing system, a new political activities regime, and a new approach for the delivery of its staffing and assessment services. The Commission put in place corporate systems and structures to support this transformation, for instance in the areas of communications, governance and protocols for reporting to Parliament. I worked closely with Mrs. Barrados in building these systems, and I am happy to see that they are still in place.
I have spent the last three years at Health Canada, as Assistant Deputy Minister, First Nations and Inuit Health, and more recently as Associate Deputy Minister. There, I was responsible for overseeing regional operations and played a key role in managing its investment planning and performance management.
Throughout my career, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work on the policy side, managed large programs and dealt with complex issues.
I have seen first-hand the role that recruiting and staffing play in the delivery of health care to First Nations and Inuit and other vital services to Canadians. As well, I have learned the importance of working with stakeholders and building relationships based on mutual trust and respect.
I would now like to speak about the mandate and activities of the Public Service Commission (PSC).
Public Service Commission
The Public Service Employment Act sets out a staffing system based on values where deputy heads have greater responsibilities. The Commission fulfills its mandate by delegating staffing to deputy heads, providing clear policy direction to support delegation, conducting effective oversight, and delivering innovative services.
The PSC protects the values of fairness, access, representativeness and transparency. These are fundamental values. The Commission is responsible for identifying and eliminating barriers in recruitment and staffing with the continued objective of promoting a public service that is more representative of Canadian society.
The Commission also contributes to maintaining a bilingual public service that respects Canada’s two official languages. I have the privilege of working in an organization where bilingualism is well established. I strongly encourage everyone to interact with me in the language of their choice.
I am very aware of the Commission’s responsibility to report to Parliament on its activities and on the health of the staffing system. Mrs. Barrados made an important contribution towards establishing productive relations with Parliament. Her appearances before Senate Committees of National Finance, Official Languages and Human Rights raised awareness of issues related to staffing and non-partisanship in the public service. I hope to have the opportunity to work with the Parliament in reviewing our budgetary documents, annual reports and any other issue of interest. I also look forward to participating in the discussions on the Public Service Modernization Act report tabled recently by the President of Treasury Board.
I would now like to discuss the priorities I foresee for the Commission.
In a delegated system, the Commission needs effective oversight to ensure that values are respected. This requires sound analysis based on objective data, studies, audits and investigations. The Commission will be called upon to deliver its mandate while looking for ways to better utilize its centralized data.
In the coming months, the PSC will be called upon to provide ongoing support to organizations as they undertake the implementation of their deficit reduction plans. I realize that this period will be difficult for both organizations and employees.
If I am confirmed, I plan to provide deputy heads and employees with a priority administration system that functions soundly and to support selection processes that are transparent and fair. I am also committed to working closely with our human resources partners. I intend to collaborate with the commissioners, once they are nominated, in order to pursue the work already undertaken by Mrs. Barrados.
The role of the Commission in regard to staffing values will be critical. Employment equity and official languages are also important issues. These issues will need to be kept in balance while the deficit reduction plan is being implemented. At the same time, the public service will need to continue to conduct targeted recruitment to ensure that the public service of the future has a skilled workforce that can deliver results for Canadians.
Mr. Chair, in concluding, the Public Service Commission has played a vital role in creating a public service that is a model for many countries. If confirmed as President of the Public Service Commission, I look forward to working with Senators and your fellow Parliamentarians, as well as the PSC Commissioners.
I deeply value the dedication and professionalism of employees at the Commission, and I look forward to working with them in carrying out its mandate. I am also committed to fostering strong relations with all stakeholders, departments as well as bargaining agents, so that Canadians will continue to benefit from a professional and non-partisan public service.
Thank you very much. I would be pleased to respond to your questions.
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