Ms. Patricia Hassard (Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet, Senior Personnel and Public Service Renewal, Privy Council Office):
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee.
Mr. Chair and members of the committee.
I have with me today Ms. Joyce Henry, who is the director of appointments in Privy Council Office, and Mr. Joe Wild, who is the assistant secretary for machinery of government in Privy Council Office.
I am very pleased to appear before you today to discuss the appointment process for the next Public Sector Integrity Commissioner.
Section 39 of the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act sets out the statutory requirements related to the appointment of the commissioner by the Governor in Council. This occurs only after consultation with the leaders of every recognized party in the Senate and the House of Commons, and the approval of the appointment, by resolution, of the Senate and the House of Commons.
Governor in Council appointments are those made by the Governor General on the advice of the Queen's Privy Council of Canada as represented by cabinet. The role of the public service in the appointments is to implement processes, agreed to by the government, to bring to the political decision-makers candidates who are qualified for the position.
The government is committed to competency-based, open, and transparent selection processes for Governor in Council positions. The Prime Minister set out his expectations with respect to Governor in Council appointments in “Accountable Government: A Guide for Ministers and Ministers of State”.
The guide states that “It is essential for appointees to be well qualified, and senior government appointments must be chosen through a process that ensures broad and open consideration of proposed candidates.” Further, it specifies that an important aspect of the appointment process is the desire to ensure that GIC appointments “reflect Canada's diversity in terms of linguistic, regional, and employment equity representation.” Finally, the guide reiterates that some appointments—including those of agents of Parliament, such as the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner—are subject to parliamentary review and approval before they can be made.
The new commissioner will be appointed in accordance with the act and in a manner consistent with the practices introduced by the government to improve the transparency and rigour of the appointments system.
This guidance was first laid out for ministers in 2009 in a document entitled “A Guide to Managing the Governor in Council Appointments Process”. I do have a copy of the guide in both official languages, Mr. Chairman, that I would be pleased to provide for the committee, should you wish.
The guide focuses on the key elements required for a rigorous process, including overall expectations and appropriate steps for recruitment to ensure the transparency of the process and to maximize access to appointments.
For context, I would like to provide you with a brief overview of the main elements of the selection process before focusing more specifically on the process to select the new commissioner.
Selection processes for Governor in Council appointments, including agents of Parliament, are comprised of three main elements.
The first is the establishment of selection criteria to reflect the key requirements necessary for a candidate to be considered qualified for the position.
The second is the development of a recruitment strategy which outlines how candidates for the position will be sought. This can range from posting the position on the Governor in Council appointments website and publishing it in the Canada Gazette, to a more elaborate process which may include engaging an executive search firm, a national advertising strategy and targeted outreach to, for example, professional groups and stakeholders.
The third is the assessment of candidates' qualifications against the established selection criteria. Normally this would involve interviews with a short-list of candidates and reference checks.
With respect to the appointment of the new commissioner, we will be making important changes to the process that was followed in 2007.
First of all, a selection committee will be established to steer all aspects of the process. This committee will determine the selection criteria for the position, approve the recruitment and advertising strategy, and assess the qualifications of candidates. They will then provide recommendations to the government.
The President of the Treasury Board will chair the selection committee, given his responsibilities for the promotion of ethical practices in the public sector pursuant to section 4 of the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act.
I would underline that the selection committee members will include a mix of those from outside the public service and those from within. They will be highly respected individuals who have experience and knowledge relevant to staffing the position in the fields of law, ethics, public service, and agents of Parliament. Additionally, all will have senior leadership experience.
Secondly, an executive search firm will be engaged to ensure the broadest possible search for qualified candidates is undertaken.
Thirdly, in addition to interviews and reference checks, which are already a key part of our selection processes for leadership positions, psychometric assessment of the leading candidates will be undertaken. This is a tool we have only very recently introduced. It involves assessment by a psychologist to help ascertain an individual's qualities of character, thinking style, capabilities in relating to others as a leader, judgment, and response in stressful situations. It can also help to assess those attributes that staff and colleagues can find alienating, which is important when considering individuals for leadership positions.
Mr. Chair, as you know, the act establishes that the appointment of an interim commissioner is for a maximum of six months. Accordingly, the interim commissioner's term will end on June 18, 2011. The government plans to move as expeditiously as possible to recruit and select a commissioner for this important role.
The selection committee will begin its work, starting with the review of the selection criteria. I have brought with me, in both official languages, the selection criteria from the 2007 process. Mr. Chairman, I'd be happy to table these documents with the committee, should you wish.
In closing, Mr. Chairman, because the commissioner is an agent of Parliament, once the government has identified a candidate, there will be a consultation with the leaders of all recognized parties in the House of Commons and the Senate before the nomination is tabled. Then Parliament will have the opportunity to review the qualifications of the candidate to satisfy itself that he or she is suitable for the position. Parliament plays an important role in vetting agents of Parliament prior to their appointments. In fact, no appointment can be made without Parliament's approval.
I know the Auditor General provided your committee with the collected thoughts of the current agents of Parliament on how to ensure robust parliamentary review of these appointments. This is a welcome development.
I would be pleased to answer any questions you may have on the selection and appointment process for the next Public Sector Integrity Commissioner.
Thank you. Merci.
Mr. Paul Calandra:
That was principally an act that came out as a result of the sponsorship scandal of the previous government, and of course trying to end the corruption of the previous Liberal government and restore some accountability to this place. So thank you for clarifying that for me.
I looked back because we were talking just a bit about how the process happened, and I came across a couple of quotes. The Honourable Diane Marleau, June 14, 2007: “Mr. Speaker, the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates met earlier today” basically to concur and to approve the appointment of Christiane Ouimet, the former commissioner. All the members agreed. I'm not sure which members here were on the government operations and estimates committee there, but it appears to me that it was a unanimous decision at that time.
I looked a bit further, and I had a comment from the Honourable Liberal Senator Serge Joyal: “Ms. Ouimet is a stellar example of someone who will be able to discharge her function with a high degree of competence”. He went on to extol a lot of the virtues of Ms. Ouimet at the time.
I'm trying to find some areas where there was disagreement.
Hopefully you can explain this a bit further to me, because this appointment is a bit different. It's subsection 39(1):
||The Governor in Council shall, by commission under the Great Seal, appoint a Public Sector Integrity Commissioner after consultation with the leader of every recognized party in the Senate and House of Commons and approval of the appointment by resolution of the Senate and House of Commons.
This is the process that was followed under the last appointment, and you've made some changes to it. I'm not going to ask you whether there were any disagreements, because obviously we had a commissioner appointed, so clearly there were no disagreements, and I haven't been able to find any.
But are you changing that at all? Will there be any changes to the fact that there will be consultations with the leaders and there needs to be a House of Commons and Senate resolution?
Mr. Pat Martin:
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I think that we as a committee should begin with an apology to all of the courageous whistle-blowers who came forward with information to save the country money, or for whatever reason they came forward; we let them down profoundly. The appointment process was the genesis of that failure.
I was shocked to learn, and the scuttlebutt is in the senior bureaucracy, that she didn't apply for that job at all. In fact, she was head-hunted; she was specifically sought out because the government was looking for a compliant stooge who wouldn't rock the boat. That's the horrifying thing to me. Twelve qualified people applied and were turned away. Another short list of six was developed, and they chose this one person, who turned out to be a maniacal despot the likes of which we haven't seen since George Radwanski.
You say, Ms. Hassard, that we've never exercised this right to fire an officer of Parliament. We did in fact run George Radwanski out on a rail—he's lucky he wasn't tarred and feathered—and his golden parachute was clawed back.
I'm a former union rep and I've dealt with a lot of severance issues. In what lunatic universe does a person get a golden parachute like that when they quit their job? It's unprecedented.
My question is, who negotiated this insane severance package? Why is a gag order a part of that severance package? And what active steps is the PCO taking to get back every penny of that severance package—and I would argue even further, to claw back the wages she was paid, because she didn't do her job?
What steps are actively being taken by you to get that money back?
Mr. Pat Martin:
I don't blame you personally, Joe, but you are rewarding bad behaviour in the most ridiculous way. It would be different if the government went to her and said, we want you to resign and here is the offer; take it or leave it. But she quit—or the government would have us believe that she quit—her job. She wasn't fired; she wasn't let go, as it were.
This is what makes Canadians' blood boil: not just that she failed 250 honest, courageous whistle-blowers, but that she ran a reign of terror in her office, humiliating, browbeating, harassing employees. The employees who wanted to do a good job were harassed and browbeaten by this woman. It was a horrible experience.
We listened to Mr. Keyserlingk. He laments this, because a lot of those employees were his former employees—dedicated, dutiful employees whom he convinced to stay on when he left—and he feels that he's let them down as well.
You didn't listen to a word of what Dr. Keyserlingk had to say in his recommendations. He's abundantly clear that he doesn't think this appointee should be a public servant, because there's an inherent bias that develops among ADMs and deputy ministers, a sympathetic synergy with other ADMs and managers. When a whistle-blowing event takes place, there's a sympathy that may have developed over the years of working with her colleagues. They may be former colleagues whom she's being asked to investigate. It's an untenable situation for a former ADM to do this job and investigate in any aggressive kind of way.
Nothing I've heard today changes my opinion that you were looking for a compliant stooge who wouldn't rock the boat in that very sensitive office.
Joe, you were part of the Federal Accountability Act; you were the point guy. You essentially wrote it on behalf of the government, and I appreciate the work that went into it. But part of that was a Public Appointments Commission—which exists, even though it has never really been given any substance. Was this appointment vetted by the Public Appointments Commission to test the integrity of the selection?
Ms. Siobhan Coady:
Well, I'm a little appalled today, because when I was listening to your comments and hearing about the appointment of a new Public Sector Integrity Commissioner, I heard from you that the chair of the selection committee is going to be none other than the President of the Treasury Board.
This is supposed to be an independent officer of Parliament. The role of this particular officer is to investigate instances that are brought forward to this individual and to that department when there are concerns about the government, concerns about managers, concerns about happenings within government. She is supposed to investigate those to see whether there is merit.
We know that she had—and this is a quotation from her—a “bias toward prevention”. Now, how she could have a bias toward “prevention” when she should have been investigating and taking seriously these 228 instances of people saying that there is a concern within government....
My first question is, how do you justify having the President of the Treasury Board? I see that you said it's because of the responsibilities for the promotion of ethical practices. If we're truly looking at that, why would the President of the Treasury Board be chair of the selection committee? That's my first question.
My second question is this. There doesn't appear to be much urgency around this. The gag order on Madame Ouimet was issued in early October of 2010, and yet you do not have this selection committee struck, nor do you have the selection criteria established. That was six months ago.
Those are my first two questions, if you would be so kind as to respond. Thank you.
Ms. Patricia Hassard:
Thank you very much for the questions.
I think there is a very good rationale for the President of the Treasury Board to chair this committee. In the end, it is the government that will nominate an individual, so the government has to be comfortable with putting forward that person's name. And the President of the Treasury Board does have responsibilities, as I mentioned, for ethical practices in the public sector.
I would also point out that when the current Auditor General was chosen 10 years ago, there was a minister in the chair of that selection committee; it was the President of the Treasury Board. And in the search for the new Auditor General, the President of the Treasury Board is in the chair.
I think it is a case in which the government is the body nominating this individual, so I don't see that this is an issue. The committee will be well-rounded.
In terms of your second question, on the timeliness, as I mentioned earlier we have a timeline that will allow us to name a new Public Sector Integrity Commissioner before June 18, and I think that is what's important.