Opening Remarks by Christine Donoghue Senior Vice-President, Policy Public Service Commission of Canada at a meeting of the Senate Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs regarding Bill C-27, the Veterans Hiring Act

February 18, 2015

Check against delivery.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I am pleased to be here today to discuss Bill C-27, the Veterans Hiring Act. The Public Service Commission administers programs under the Public Service Employment Act (PSEA) to support the public service staffing system.

There are three important mechanisms in this bill, which will support the hiring of veterans and current members of the Canadian Armed Forces.

Today, I will walk you through the changes to those mechanisms:

  • first, the priority entitlements for medically-released veterans; these entitlements provide persons with the right to be appointed ahead of all others to any position in the public service for which they have been assessed and found qualified;
  • second, the preference in a competitive process to appoint qualified veterans to jobs that are advertised externally; and
  • third, the eligibility of current Canadian Armed Forces members as well as veterans to participate in all advertised internal hiring processes.

Priority Entitlements

Under the present legislative regime, the PSC is responsible for administering priority entitlements. Priority entitlements have an extensive scope. They apply to jobs in all regions of Canada and in all organizations covered by the PSEA. Before filling a vacant position, a manager must first consider priority persons.

The PSC is responsible for referring potentially qualified priority persons to hiring managers. Managers are provided with a clearance to proceed with an appointment process only if the PSC is satisfied that there is no one in the priority system who meets the essential qualifications of the position.

There are two different types of priority entitlements: statutory priorities and regulatory priorities. Statutory priorities take precedence over regulatory priorities. Under the current system, surplus employees occupy the top statutory priority for appointments in their own organizations. This means that they must be appointed to vacant positions that they are qualified for before persons with a regulatory entitlement.

Medically-released veterans currently have a regulatory entitlement. From 2008 -2012, the appointment of medically released veterans had the highest rate of placement – 72% – of all priority groups.  However, the implementation of Spending Review 2012 resulted in more surplus employees entering the priority system and, as I have mentioned, they currently have the top statutory priority entitlement.

In the summer of 2012, the PSC shared information with Veterans Affairs on the impact that the influx of surplus employees and the decrease in staffing were having on the placement of medically-released veterans.  At the request of Veterans Affairs, the PSC provided technical options to address this issue for their consideration.

Since April 2012, more than 2,000 priority persons have been appointed to vacant positions. The majority of these priority appointments were surplus employees. Over the same two years, there were 67 medically-released veterans appointed, as compared to 307 appointed during the two previous years.

Under the proposed changes, qualified veterans who are medically released due to a service-related injury or illness would become the top statutory priority with an entitlement period that has been extended from two to five years.

In other words, they would be considered and, if qualified, they would be appointed before all others. The early determination, whether a medical release is related to service or not, is critical in allowing veterans to maximize the value of their entitlements, and ensuring the PSC can provide them with accurate information.

The legislation would amend the existing regulatory priority for those veterans medically released for non-service related reasons to extend the current entitlement period from two years to five.

Once this legislation comes into force, the changes to the priority entitlements will apply retroactively to April 1, 2012. Once medically released, veterans have five years in which to activate their priority entitlement.

The PSC believes that the amendment to priority entitlements proposed in Bill C-27 will make a difference.

Veterans Preference

I would now like to turn to the veterans preference. The veterans preference is a different type of mechanism under the Public Service Employment Act.

The proposed amendment would update the definition of veteran to add modern day Canadian Armed Forces members who are honourably released with at least three years of service.

Those veterans would have a preference, if found qualified, to positions which are open to the Canadian public. In this case, veterans would access the website jobs.gc.ca where jobs are advertised externally, and choose whether to apply for a position or positions, and enter a competitive process.

This preference means that if these veterans enter a competitive process, are assessed and meet the essential qualifications, they must be appointed ahead of others in the appointment process. The ability to benefit from such a preference would be in effect for up to five years following their release from the Canadian Armed Forces.

Mobility

This brings me to the third mechanism, which will be changed to allow current Canadian Armed Forces members as well as veterans to participate in all advertised internal appointment processes. Since 2005, deputy heads and their hiring managers have had the option of giving members of the Canadian Armed Forces access to internal job competitions.

The proposed amendment would make it mandatory.  This means that veterans and current Canadian Armed Forces members would have access to these opportunities, but once they apply, they would be treated the same as all other applicants.

Mr. Chair, these provisions apply only to those organizations, which come under the Public Service Employment Act. I understand that discussions are underway with several organizations that are not subject to the PSEA. These organizations, which have regional operations, are exploring administrative ways in which they can meaningfully participate in these efforts to find employment for veterans.

Our experience shows a high rate of success in placing medically-released veterans in large operational departments with a broad geographic footprint. In a way, this corresponds to where many members of the Canadian Armed Forces are employed. The involvement of these organizations would increase the number of employment opportunities for veterans. The PSC is committed to supporting this process in any way we can.

Mr. Chair, we will continue to do all that we can to ensure that the entitlements of the medically-released Canadian Armed Forces members are fully respected, and to support veterans as well as current members in bringing their valuable experience and skills to the federal public service.

I would be happy to respond to your questions.