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Defending a Contested Ideal

 | 
Luc Juillet
, 
Ken Rasmussen

Chapter 6. The PSC as a Cautious Reformer: Staffing Reforms during the Mulroney Years: 1984-1993

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“In summary, [the Public Service Reform Act], as I see it, represents very much a balancing act—balancing the very real need for a more effective Public Service with the equally compelling need to preserve merit, and protect employees.”
- Robert Giroux, PSC president,
speaking before a parliamentary committee on March 11, 1992

1When Brian Mulroney’s government came to power in. the mid-1980s, concerns about recurring federal deficits and the fast-growing national debt occupied an important place in public discourse. Government downsizing and cutbacks were prominent issues in policy discussions and the Progressive Conservative Party had made them significant electoral issues in the lead-up to the 1984 election. Moreover, the oil shocks of the 1970s, economic downturns, the ensuing crisis of the welfare state, and the rise of a new, or revivified, conservative movement in many countries also meant that the retrenchment of the state was popular well beyond Canada’s borders. In fact, as Professor Peter Aucoin observed,

  • 1 Peter Aucoin (1995), The New Public Management: Canada in Comparative Perspective, Montreal, IRPP, (...)

Mulroney’s attacks on government generally, and the public service in particular, obviously struck a responsive chord; four years of international attention to Thatcherism, coupled with the rise of neo-conservatism and extensive government and bureaucracy bashing south of the border in two successive American presidential elections, had more than conditioned the Canadian polity to these new forces.1

  • 2 Donald J. Savoie (1994), Thatcher, Reagan, Mulroney: In Search of a New Bureaucracy, Toronto, Univ (...)
  • 3 Quoted in David Zussman (1986), “Walking the Tightrope: The Mulroney Government and the Public Ser (...)

2Seen as a conservative in the mould of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, Mulroney himself had long been critical of the public service, considering it “unresponsive, costly and largely ineffective” and wanting to transform it so that it would operate more like the private sector.2 H is views of the public service at the time were probably most vividly captured in his oft-quoted remark that he would dismiss public servants “with a pink slip and a pair of running shoes.”3 Clearly, in 1984, public servants had legitimate reasons to feel apprehensive about the new government.

  • 4 Luc Juillet and Matthew Mingus (2008), “Reconsidering the History of Administrative Reforms in Can (...)

3The formation of the Mulroney government seemed to herald difficult times for the Public Service Commission (PSC) as well. In some ways, the cumbersome and rule-heavy staffing system that it was operating and overseeing seemed to be the antithesis of results-focused, private-sector-style management. At a time when the new government was resuscitating the Glassco Commission’s mantra of “let the managers manage,”4 the PSC appeared to embody an ineffective split in the human resource function of the public service and it seemed synonymous with excessive constraints on departmental managers. Moreover, the prospect of budget cuts and layoffs suggested that the PSC could anticipate both a decline in its own resources and a spike in the number of staffing transactions that it would have to handle as public servants lost their jobs or were displaced through governmental reorganization. The PSC could very well end up having to deal with significant downsizing at the same time as it would be fighting for its own integrity or survival.

  • 5 Public Service Commission of Canada (1990), Annual Report 1990, Ottawa, Minister of Supply and Ser (...)
  • 6 The data on the number of employees is drawn from Table 1 of the statistical annexes of the Public (...)

4As it turned out, while the downsizing and cutbacks were real and represented a challenge for the commission in the late 1980s, their size and effect were not as dramatic as might have been expected from the government’s initial rhetoric. The announcement of the first downsizing program in 1985 certainly had an immediate impact on the level of appointments to the public service: the number of appointments dropped from 11,046 in 1985 to 7,627 in 1986, a stunning decline of 33.1%, and the PSC had to turn its attention to dealing with the priority status of laid-off and surplus employees. But this effect quickly subsided and normalcy returned: by 1990, new appointments had reached 11,609, a slightly higher number than in 1985.5 Moreover, at the end of the Mulroney government’s tenure, the size of the public service had remained essentially the same. The federal bureaucracy numbered 223,598 employees in 1992, only a slight decrease from the 224,026 employees that it had when the Progressive Conservatives took office in 1984.6

5The reality was that the Mulroney government’s eight years in power amounted to much more for the PSC than budget cuts and layoffs: those years were marked by successive attempts at reforming the staffing process, first through policy changes and then through the first changes to staffing legislation since the late 1960s. Throughout this period, the commission had to answer renewed calls for greater flexibility, economy and efficiency in staffing, while fighting for the preservation of sufficient safeguards for protecting the merit principle. It also had to fight off reforms that would have significantly curtailed its own authority in the staffing system, reducing it to little more than a parliamentary oversight body. The object of much criticism, it nevertheless continued to act as an important counterweight in the management system of the bureaucracy, trying to change its policies and practices to meet government expectations for greater efficiency while at the same time tempering the zeal of reformers by adhering to the more traditional values and principles of the Canadian public service.

RESPONDING TO CUTBACKS AND THE RHETORIC OF THE NEW PUBLIC MANAGEMENT

  • 7 Donald J. Savoie (1990), The Politics of Public Spending in Canada, University of Toronto Press, T (...)

6The Mulroney government did not lose any time in setting the agenda for the public service. On his very first day in office, the Prime Minister appointed a ministerial-level task force to look at potential reforms, with the purpose of decreasing the cost of the bureaucracy and improving its efficiency by shedding some functions, but mostly by streamlining its procedures. The Task Force on Program Review, the Prime Minister announced, would find ways to simplify government programs, make them more accessible for citizens and delegate decision-making about their operation closer to the frontlines of service delivery.7 As a sign of its intended importance, as well as its orientation, Deputy Prime Minister Erik Nielsen, a well-known critic of the public service, was appointed as its chairman.

  • 8 Denis Saint-Martin (1998), “Management Consultants, the State, and the Politics of Administrative (...)

7Indicative of the new government’s philosophy, the Nielsen Task Force operated under the guidance of an advisory committee composed of private sector executives. A series of study teams made up of civil servants and business representatives examined government programs, and their recommendations were discussed with the private sector advisory committee before being submitted to ministers. It was thought that the heavy involvement of the private sector would help to bring in new ideas to improve public management.8 In this way, much like the Grace Commission that advised President Reagan on administrative reforms in the United States in the same period, the Nielsen Task Force was largely premised on the superiority of private sector management and on the belief that the public service could not reform itself. It constituted an external challenge to the public service and a signal that private sector practices were deemed to be promising models for the public sector.

  • 9 Public Service Commission of Canada (1986), Annual Report 1986, Ottawa, Minister of Supply and Ser (...)
  • 10 Ibid, 61.
  • 11 The data is taken from the appendices of the commissions annual reports. The number of employees a (...)
  • 12 Interview with a former senior official of the PSC.

8At the same time as the Nielsen Task Force got under way, the government’s strong desire to bring significant changes to the public service was equally underscored by the announcement of significant cutbacks in personnel. In its first budget, tabled in May 1985, the Mulroney government decreed a net reduction of 15,000 person-years in the size of the federal bureaucracy, a target to be achieved by fiscal year 1990-1991.9The PSC itself faced significant cutbacks in personnel that were proportionally greater than those faced by the public service as a whole. As a result of the 1985 announcement, the PSC had to eliminate 276 positions; at the same time, changes to language training policy introduced by the Treasury Board meant that an additional 325 positions had to be eliminated in this program.10 As a result, the number of employees at the Commission progressively declined, falling from 2,563 employees in 1985 to 2,017 employees in 199211 This twenty-one percent reduction in personnel, at a time when staffing actions were on the rise due to layoffs and reorganization, not only created capacity problems for the commission, but it also affected the morale of its employees.12

9These government decisions significantly affected the commission’s operations. The immediate impacts were related to the staffing actions needed to deliver on the government’s commitment to reduce the size of the workforce. Working with the Treasury Board Secretariat, the commission tried to limit the effects of the downsizing by using attrition as opposed to layoffs whenever possible and by retraining and redeploying employees. It also put in place a Priority Administration System to try to ensure that employees would be treated with fairness and that the public service would retain as much of its talent as possible through the efficient reallocation of personnel across the system. In sum, the commission sought to implement the government’s decision to reduce the workforce of the public service, while seeking to ensure that the use of remaining personnel would be optimized and that the system would not lose sight of the public service’s commitment to fairness in the treatment of employees.

  • 13 Interview with a former senior official of the PSC.

10However, beyond imposing these more immediate impacts on operations, the public discourse of the incoming government, the creation of the Nielsen Task Force and the announcement of the first wave of cutbacks also sent a clear message to the PSC: the new government was serious about an agenda of greater efficiency, streamlined procedures and economy. While staffing had not been publicly singled out as a specific target of managerial reform by the Progressive Conservatives, it seemed clear to the commission’s leadership that the well-known and persistent dissatisfaction of managers with the rigidity and slowness of the staffing process would eventually make it a prime target for reform.13 As recently as 1983, the Office of the Auditor General had identified staffing as an area of particular concern for public executives, citing excessive staffing rules as a key constraint to productive management in the public service. Having interviewed about 170 senior executives, the Auditor General reported,

  • 14 Office of the Auditor General (1983), “Chapter 2 – Constraints to Productive Management in the Pub (...)

Of all the constraints mentioned by public service executives, staffing problems were viewed as the most persistent and frustrating. According to the majority of executives we interviewed, the number of months it takes to staff a position is seen as an unreasonable length of time, in view of pressing operational requirements.14

11The Auditor General’s report had already generated some reaction within the commission, and work had begun on a new administrative review of the staffing process. However, the arrival of the new government, and its embrace of the new public management philosophy, brought a new sense of urgency to these concerns.

  • 15 Interviews with former senior officials of the PSC and the TBS.

12With the appointment of a new president, Huguette Labelle, in 1985, the PSC decided to embrace the need for change by setting its own agenda. A former senior official working with the Treasury Board Secretariat at the time remembers how Labelle’s appointment was seen as a sign that significant reforms would be made to the commission. Highly respected within the senior ranks of the public service, the new president was presumed by many observers to hold views largely favourable to managerial interests.15 But under her leadership, the commission would proceed with caution in charting a course for reform, mindful that, despite calls for more radical changes from advocates of the new public management philosophy, the commission played a unique role in defending some of the fundamental principles and values of the Canadian public service.

  • 16 Public Service Commission of Canada (1985), Strategy Document, 1985–1990, Ottawa, Public Service C (...)
  • 17 Ibid, 9.
  • 18 Ibid.

13Under Labelle’s leadership, the PSC developed a new strategic plan, published in 1985, which acknowledged the need for greater efficiency but also carefully staked out its role as the guardian of merit and political neutrality. In describing its mandate, the commission clearly stressed its unique status as “a politically independent agency, accountable to Parliament for the administration of the Public Service Employment Act.16 Moreover, as if to warn the government against possible encroachment on its territory, the plan asserted that “the resolve of commission strategy is dependent on the category of responsibility to which an issue relates.”17 While it would respond as much as possible to the guidance of the Governor-in-Council and the Treasury Board in areas of shared responsibility (for example, training or the Management Category), it would remain independent and set its own direction in its areas of statutory responsibilities. In these areas, the document stated, “The Commission is secure in its authority to establish strategy and lead the administration of the Public Service Employment Act.18

14It is only after clearly reaffirming the commission’s independence in the area of staffing that the strategic plan outlined the need for change to adapt to the new management environment. But even then, it made it clear that change would be made incrementally, with caution. For example, as if to dampen reformers’ expectations, the plan stipulated from the outset,

  • 19 Ibid, 1.

Major change is not likely to occur as it pertains to the appointment of public servants on the basis of their professional and personal qualifications as opposed to political affiliation or for services rendered. But refinements to the effectiveness of the PSC’s programs and activities both as a department and as a central agency are a continuing requirement within the context of the current public service restraint environment.19 (emphasis added)

15In other words, despite pressures for more radical changes, the commission would mostly set out to alter its practices at the margins, seeking improvements in the operation of the merit system without fundamentally altering its nature. The need for greater efficiency was acknowledged, but the commission remained committed to the protection of other values also served by the merit system.

  • 20 Ibid, 2.

16However, despite this cautious approach to reform, the commission did promise some changes. As an organization, it exhorted its managers to “internalize and personalize the habits of restraint, management planning and creativity” needed to increase productivity “within a static or shrinking resource base.”20 But more significantly, as a central agency impacting the entire public service, it committed itself to a comprehensive review of the bureaucracy’s staffing procedures, even raising the possibility of pursuing legislative changes for the first time since 1967.

17At the administrative level, the commission was determined to engage departmental managers to a greater extent. The 1983 Report of the Office of the Auditor General had clearly pointed to a significant degree of departmental dissatisfaction that needed to be overcome. To address this weakness, the commission’s strategy would focus on closer collaboration with departmental managers in order to facilitate staffing decisions at the departmental level and ultimately improve productivity. A series of administrative reviews conducted with departmental managers would serve to identify changes in rules and practices that might improve performance. This collaborative strategy would guide its efforts in the area of non-legislative renewal.

18But to improve efficiency in the use of personnel, the commission also proposed to amend the Public Service Employment Act (PSEA) to facilitate the transfer of employees across positions. Observing that Canadians expected more efficient services, the commission announced,

  • 21 Ibid, 10.

The process of redeploying human resources must be accelerated and be made more effective if it is to keep up with changing government priorities and social needs. In this light, legislative changes will be considered while retaining the fundamental principles of respecting the public interest and the impartiality of the Public Service as defined in the Public Service Employment Act of 1967.21

  • 22 In particular, about a year before the strategy document was released, the Commission had seen its (...)

19This legislative change—the introduction of the concept of deployments into the PSEA—would eventually be made in 1992 with the adoption of the Public Service Reform Act. But it is interesting to note that, well before the launch of the system-wide reform process that resulted in the new law, the commission itself was considering adopting this change. In fact, having seen its efforts in this regard quashed by the courts over the years, the commission long desired to see such flexibility reconciled with the legal framework.22

20Generally speaking, then, following the arrival of the Mulroney government in 1984, the PSC embraced a modest agenda for reform. Certainly,.it did not commit itself to the kind of new public management thinking that eventually undermined its counterparts in the United Kingdom, New Zealand or Australia; but neither did it simply stand as a barrier to change. It opened up its policies and practices for critical review, including by departmental managers, and it worked on defining legislative changes that would be needed to bring greater flexibility to the staffing system.

THE QUEST FOR NON-LEGISLATIVE RENEWAL

  • 23 Public Service Commission of Canada (1985), Annual Report 1985, Ottawa, Minister of Supply and Ser (...)

21As they sought ways to improve the efficiency of the staffing process, reformers in the 1980s could hardly seek further delegation of the Public Service Commission’s staffing authority: in 1985, the PSC could proudly state that approximately ninety-eight percent of staffing activities governed by the Public Service Employment Act had already been delegated to departments, a result of the efforts deployed since the 1967 reforms.23 The commission itself focused essentially on making policies and auditing departments to ensure compliance with delegation agreements and related policies. It also spent considerable energies on recruiting new employees from outside the public service, staffing the Management Category and handling appeals and investigations.

  • 24 Interview with a former senior official of the PSC.
  • 25 Public Service Commission of Canada (1985), Annual Report 1985, 15.

22However, despite this extensive level of delegation, many departmental managers remained dissatisfied with the insufficient flexibility of the instruments of delegation, which were believed to result in a slow, cumbersome staffing process. Moreover, the constraints placed on the exercise of this delegated authority were seen to be excessive and to be partly negating the gains in efficiency that were expected to result from delegation. Even before the Auditor General’s 1983 report and the arrival of the Mulroney government, the commission was well aware of these criticisms.24 Already in 1979, the commission had begun some work on new instruments of delegation that would be better suited to the specific needs of different departments.25 But, evidently, for departmental managers, progress still appeared insufficient.

  • 26 Ibid.
  • 27 The objectives are summarized in a memorandum on the state of administrative reforms, by D. D. Qui (...)
  • 28 In the commission’s documents, these reviews are sometimes referred to as “staffing efficiency and (...)

23It is in this context that the commission launched a more comprehensive review of staffing policies and practices in 1985.26 The so-called administrative reform exercise sought to find ways to expedite the staffing process, eliminate unnecessary documentation and procedures and allow the subdelegation of staffing authority to line managers whenever possible, without compromising on the protection of merit and while ensuring the overall quality of appointments.27 The initiative first took the form, of a series of six departmental-level studies meant to identify various factors that might be affecting the efficiency of the staffing process.28 The commission then launched an internal review of its regulations and administrative procedures in order to identify elements of the staffing process that might not be required by a strict reading of the Public Service Employment Act and related decisions of the courts and appeal boards. This internal review was assisted by special panels of senior departmental managers, the Joint Consultation Committee and the Advisory Committee on Personnel Policy. The hope was that, through these reviews, superfluous procedures would be identified and the administration of staffing would be streamlined by their elimination.

  • 29 Public Service Commission (1996), Consultative Review of Staffing, unpublished document, 9.
  • 30 Interview with a former senior official of the PSC.

24The departmental studies yielded some interesting results. They found that, on average, it took 143 calendar days, or about five months, to staff a position through a closed competition (excluding the appeal process). Half that time was spent on preparatory work, such as writing the Statement of Qualifications and the guide used to rate candidates. Open competitions, which in about eighty-five percent of cases involved term appointments, were completed in forty-six calendar days. It took twenty-five days on average to appoint someone already on an eligibility list. Not surprisingly, the larger the area of competition, the longer it took to complete the staffing process. For example, competitions that were open to other departments took about a month longer to conclude than those restricted to the hiring department.29 Clearly, there was room for some improvement. But, for many executives at the commission, these studies seemed to confirm that departmental managers, not the commission, exercised the greatest control over the speed of staffing, and that the commission’s role in engendering delays was exaggerated.30

25The commission used the results of the studies to launch an innovative, departmental-based process of staffing reforms. Between 1985 and 1988, seventeen departments collaborated with the commission in reviewing their internal staffing practices and worked on resolving the problems they experienced in receiving staffing services from the commission. In each case, a working group composed of an equal number of departmental managers and staffing experts from the commission worked on resolving the problems identified by the departments themselves.

  • 31 Memorandum by D. D. Quiring (director general of the Program Development and Review Directorate) t (...)
  • 32 Public Service Commission (1996), Consultative Review of Staffing, unpublished document, 11.

26The overall administrative reform exercise, combined with the commission’s internal review of staffing policies, yielded a lengthy list of proposed modifications to the staffing process. But, in the end, it did not yield profound changes. In some cases, more discretion was granted to departmental managers in setting qualifications standards and using assessment instruments. The commission also agreed in principle to delegate the authority to appoint people from outside the public service to term positions, without competition, in cases of emergency. This new delegated authority was to be included, on a case-by-case basis, in the delegation agreements of departments that would request it.31 These policy changes, coupled with modifications to departmental practices, generated some improvements. A study conducted in 1988 of three of the participating departments showed a fifteen percent improvement in the speed of staffing.32

27However, on some more thorny issues, the commission clearly resisted the erosion, or further delegation, of its staffing authority. For example, despite departmental proposals to delegate and facilitate the conversion of term employees into indeterminate employees, the PSC defended the status quo. It argued,

  • 33 Memorandum by D. D. Quiring (director general of the Program Development and Review Directorate) t (...)

In keeping with the merit principle, it would be theoretically ideal if changes in tenure could only occur as a result of closed competitions. The Commission considered the benefits and liabilities of this idea and concluded that the status quo should be maintained. The Commission will retain its authority to change the tenure of employees from term to indeterminate without competition and will exercise this authority in those circumstances that it considers appropriate (e.g. skill shortages).33

  • 34 Memorandum by Gilles Létourneau (director general of Policy, Staffing Programs) to Administrative (...)

28Similarly, the delegation of authority to make certain types of appointments without competition (for example, the reappointment of a term employee to the same job after the term is over or the appointment of a surplus employee to a new position with a slightly higher maximum rate of pay) under Section 5(c)(v) of the Public Service Employment Regulations was considered but deemed to be legally impossible, barring a legislative amendment. The PSC rejected the delegation of authority to terminate the layoff status of employees (a status that comes with some priority rights), to appoint coop students or even to approve personality, interest and intelligence tests.34

29While these are only some examples in a long list of issues considered, they nevertheless illustrate the overall outcome of the administrative reform exercise: while some additional flexibility was introduced at the margins and some processes streamlined, the division of responsibilities and the general constraints imposed by the merit system were not significantly altered.

  • 35 Savoie (1994), Thatcher, Reagan, Mulroney, 130.
  • 36 Luc Juillet and Matthew Mingus (2008), “Reconsidering the History of Administrative Reforms in Can (...)

30These meagre results may not be surprising, given the overall lack of success of the early administrative reform initiatives pursued by the Mulroney government. For example, around the same time, the government’s most high-profile reform initiative, the Nielsen Task Force, essentially unravelled: out of the $7 billion in cuts it recommended, only about $500 million were actually made and its report was soon abandoned as a blueprint for reforming the bureaucracy.35 Similarly, another process aimed at cutting down on central controls in the same period, the Increased Ministerial Authority and Accountability (IMAA) project led by the Treasury Board Secretariat, also generated few significant and lasting results.36 In this context, the results of the administrative reform exercise do not appear out of step with the times.

31However, at the same time, those results clearly did not quench the system’s thirst for greater flexibility and efficiency in staffing. Only a few years later, the Mulroney government would launch a new public service-wide reform initiative, Public Service 2000, to seek further changes in the area of staffing. Even the commission itself had explicitly acknowledged the need to make more fundamental changes. In fact, in order to build more flexibility and efficiency into the staffing regime, the commission was now inviting the government to seriously consider amending the Public Service Employment Act, going even further than it had in its 1985 strategy document.

  • 37 Trefflé Lacombe (1986), Speech given by Trefilé Lacombe, commissioner of the Public Service Commis (...)

32The commission’s position on legislative reform at the time is captured in a speech given at the end of 1986 by Commissioner Trefflé Lacombe.37 Lacombe argued that, in the twenty years that had elapsed since the adoption of the Public Service Employment Act, Canadian society had changed and had come to demand greater efficiency in the delivery of public services. To answer those demands, the public service needed more flexibility in the use of its personnel, and since the statutory framework governing staffing offered little flexibility, especially following a number of court decisions on the definition of merit, legislative amendments were needed.

  • 38 Ibid, 11–12.
  • 39 Ibid, 11.

33In retrospect, it is surprising to see the list of legislative changes that were being proposed by the commission back in 1986; many of them would in fact come to pass in the following years. For example, legislative changes needed to make it easier to transfer employees across the public service as well as the inscription of the concept of “appointment to level” (as opposed to appointments to specific positions) in the Public Service Employment Act would become reality with the adoption of the Public Service Reform Act in 1992.38 Moreover, Lacombe was also advocating, on behalf of the commission, to inscribe into law, for the first time, a definition of merit that would restore some: of the flexibility in hiring that he felt had been lost as a result of court decisions over the years. Under the new definition, hiring the “best qualified” candidate would still be required for initial appointments and promotions, but in the case of transfers it would only be necessary to establish that the candidate was qualified, given that the principle of merit had already been applied when the transferred employee was last appointed to the public service.39

34These proposed changes demonstrate that the commission was actively searching for ways to improve the efficiency of the staffing regime. However, it was careful to do so while ensuring that it would remain institutionally able to act as the guardian of the merit principle, ensuring equitable access to the public service and preventing patronage. As Lacombe stated,

  • 40 Ibid, 10.

In order to ensure respect for the merit principle, equality of access to the public service, and fair and equitable treatment of public servants, we believe that the staffing regime must continue to be managed by a central agency that answers to Parliament. This agency, while maintaining complete and full responsibility for staffing in the public service, should delegate or transfer some of its powers to deputy heads in the interests of achieving greater efficiency and effectiveness [translation].40

35As we can see, the commission itself was advocating greater flexibility in staffing procedures and supporting the delegation of staffing authority to deputy ministers, but only in the context of a legislative framework that preserved its independence and ultimately kept it fully in charge of staffing. However, it is on this issue that it would soon enter into conflict with the central leadership of the public service as it tried to further reform the staffing regime in the early 1990s.

PUBLIC SERVICE 2000 AND THE DEBATE OVER INSTITUTIONAL REFORM

  • 41 Paul M. Tellier (1990), “Public Service 2000: The Renewal of the Public Service,” Canadian Public (...)

36Upon its return to office after the 1988 general election, the Mulroney government sought to revive its administrative reform agenda by announcing the launch of a major initiative: Public Service 2000. In contrast to the Nielsen Task Force, PS 2000, as it was commonly called, was driven by the senior public service and looked less to the private sector for answers to public-sector problems. Under the leadership of Paul Tellier, clerk of the Privy Council, the reform process relied on a series of ten task forces, each consisting of deputy ministers and assistant deputy ministers. As Tellier himself asserted at the time, “The primary focus of Public Service 2000 is on changing how people are managed” and, with the objective of motivating employees, the key to success would be “to move away from a philosophy of control to a philosophy of empowerment.”41 Given this objective, it is not surprising that the work of PS 2000 largely focused on human resources issues, including staffing.

37Even before the Task Force on Staffing had had time to do much of its work, Tellier had made it clear that PS 2000 would be the occasion to seriously re-examine the role of the Public Service Commission. In a speech given at the University of Ottawa in March 1990, only three months after the initiative was launched, he explained that a key objective of PS 2000 was to clarify the distribution of responsibilities in the area of personnel management. As he stated at the time,

  • 42 Ibid, 126.

Under existing structures, responsibilities are confused and, consequently, public service managers have taken refuge in systems of control. The personnel management system does not encourage initiative in the way that it should, and it is not always clear who is responsible for achieving results. A principal thrust of Public Service 2000, therefore, is to ensure that individuals have the authority to get the job done and that we are able to hold them accountable for their actions.42

38To clarify the distribution of responsibilities, the Clerk believed, it would be necessary to rethink the respective roles of departmental managers, the Treasury Board Secretariat, and the Public Service Commission.

  • 43 Ibid, 127.
  • 44 Ibid, 131.
  • 45 Ibid.

39The PSC, in particular, was seen as a source of difficulty, its activities having created some ambiguity in the central personnel function of the public service. In order to end patronage, the 1918 Civil Service Act had given powers to the commission that went well beyond the protection of merit to embrace the entire personnel function. And, “under changing economic and political circumstances, this mixture of watchdog and executive functions within the Civil Service Commission [had become] a source of recurrent problems.”43 Notwithstanding the reforms of the 1960s as well as the work of Gordon, Heeney, Glassco, Lambert, D’Avignon and others over the years, this undesirable ambiguity remained at the heart of the personnel management system. It was now time to resolve it. In fact, Tellier asserted, PS 2000 would take as a starting point that “established as the guardian of the merit principle, the Public Service Commission [had] retained and acquired responsibilities for personnel management functions that do not sit comfortably with its role as Parliament’s agent.”44 The anticipated result of the reform process was clear: “For the Public Service Commission, the changes will mean getting out of the management business and focusing on its role as Parliament’s agent in protecting the integrity of the personnel system.”45

40However, despite this early statement of preferences by the most senior leader of the public service, the outcome of the PS 2000 exercise would in fact be quite different. When the White Paper on Public Service 2000 was finally released in December 1990, it did recommend that the respective roles of the Treasury Board and the PSC be better defined to achieve greater accountability for the management of personnel and, overall, it did favour a stronger recognition of the primary responsibility of the Treasury Board and departmental managers for managing public servants. But the white paper fell short of recommending that the PSC be strictly relegated to the narrower role of a parliamentary watchdog. In fact, under the proposed scheme, the PSC would remain vested with the powers of recruitment, appointment, appeal and audit. The Treasury Board would be responsible for other personnel management issues, including career development, training, the allocation of resources to meet the personnel needs of departments and the setting of personnel policy in support of deputy heads. Despite the Clerk’s original intentions, the white paper essentially proposed to keep the central functions of personnel management divided. And, while internal debates about the need for a more radical institutional reform continued for some time after the white paper was released, the idea had been abandoned by the time the government sought legislative changes in 1992.

  • 46 Interviews with former senior officials at the PSC and the TBS.
  • 47 Interview with a former senior official at the PCO.

41The main reason for this outcome seems to have been the absence of sufficient support in the senior ranks of the public service. The commission argued strenuously in favour of retaining its executive authority over staffing, and many deputy ministers were actually sympathetic to that view. According to the people interviewed for this book, while there was widespread support for bringing an additional measure of flexibility into the staffing process and finding ways to accelerate making appointments, many senior executives in the public service were more apprehensive about significantly curtailing the authority of the Public Service Commission.46 For one thing, its authority over appointments was still seen as an important shield against potential pressures by ministers to hire specific individuals. As a former senior official with the Privy Council Office (PCO) told us in explaining the lack of enthusiasm of many senior executives, “Deputy Ministers often found the PSC to be convenient, and it certainly was a useful tool to resist political interference in managing the public service.”47 For many executives, turning the commission purely into a parliamentary watchdog seemed to carry an element of risk that could endanger the principle of non-partisanship.

  • 48 Ibid.

42Furthermore, according to officials involved in the events at the time, there was also considerable aversion to taking on an agent of Parliament on an issue that could prove to be politically damaging to the government.48 Over the course of 1991, as the government was finalizing its legislative proposal resulting from the PS 2000 initiative, the possibility of stripping the PSC of much of its executive authority was still being debated in the higher echelons of the bureaucracy. As tensions mounted between PCO and the commission, now under the leadership of its new president Robert Giroux, the prospect of having to defend such a reduction in the commission’s authority before Parliament raised some concerns. As a former senior official with PCO recalled,

  • 49 Interview with a former senior official at the PCO.

The Clerk did not want to take on a public battle with the PSC and run the risk of losing the other parts of the reform. The PSC has its act and, to change it, you would have to go to Parliament and run the risk of being seen as weakening merit and democracy. Moreover, the Clerk doesn’t want the Prime Minister to spend political capital on a battle that has no importance outside Ottawa.49

  • 50 Ibid.
  • 51 Interview with a former senior official in the personnel branch of the TBS.

43So, in the end, no fundamental institutional reform was put forward. As summarized by the former PCO official, “It was a case of ‘achieving what you can achieve’: making some legislative changes but leaving the PSC’s role untouched so as not to lose everything.”50 Another observer, who worked on personnel policy at the Treasury Board Secretariat at the time, put it more bluntly: “The way I see it: the system was ultimately unwilling to tackle the PSC.”51

  • 52 Public Service Commission (1996), Consultative Review of Staffing, unpublished document, 12.

44Whether it was a fear of external opposition or insufficient internal support, the outcome of these internal struggles was the decision to shelve the idea of a more fundamental institutional reform that would have profoundly altered the commission’s mandate. However, despite this decision, the White Paper on Public Service 2000 nevertheless succeeded in significantly reforming the staffing process. According to an internal report, the white paper made eighty-eight recommendations that fell under the PSC’s mandate, and the commission implemented most of them through changes to its policies and practices.52 Moreover, even if most proposed changes involved relatively minor improvements, the white paper did propose some more significant innovations requiring amendments to the statutory framework. These amendments, supported by the commission, eventually made up part of the Public Service Reform Act, which was tabled in Parliament in June 1991.

THE PUBLIC SERVICE REFORM ACT OF 1992

  • 53 In addition to the Public Service Employment Act, the Public Service Reform Act amended a series o (...)

45Even if the content of the bill undoubtedly disappointed the advocates of radical institutional and legal changes in the area of staffing, the tabling of Bill C-26, the Public Service Reform Act, in June of 1991 still represented a significant step forward in staffing reform. The new bill constituted the first attempt to make important changes to the Public Service Employment Act since its adoption in 1967, more than twenty years earlier. The bill actually touched on a wider range of issues, including labour relations and leadership in the public service,53 but it is the introduction of new concepts in staffing and the promise of a new measure of flexibility for managers that had the most significance for the commission.

46On the staffing front, the bill contained five sets of measures of particular importance. First, with regard to appointments, the bill added a new section to the PSEA, which would allow a candidate’s merit, in circumstances to be prescribed in regulations by the commission, to be measured by an “absolute” standard of competence, established by the commission, rather than through a process comparing him or her against the competence of other candidates. The bill also amended the PSEA to allow the commission to prescribe the standards to be used in the assessment of merit, a power to be held in addition to its existing authority to set the standards used in the traditional selection process. Moreover, in addition to the usual criteria used in setting such standards, such as knowledge, experience or language, the bill introduced the possibility of considering the future needs of the public service as an appropriate criterion.

  • 54 See the Federal Courts decision in the 1972 case, Surinder Nath Nanda et al. v. Appeal Board Estab (...)
  • 55 See the Federal Court’s decision in the 1982 case, Attorney General of Canada v. W. E. Greaves et (...)
  • 56 These measures are contained in the new Public Service Employment Act, enacted in 2003 as a result (...)

47Although meant to be used only in a limited set of circumstances, this second method of determining merit, based on an absolute standard rather than a relative one, represented a significant shift in how selection based on merit was viewed by the commission and the federal public service. Following a 1972 decision by the courts, merit had come to be defined as finding “the best persons possible” for each position to be filled.54 While the PSC had originally continued to insist that merit could still be defined in absolute terms, another decision by the federal court, issued in 1982, had clearly put an end to this approach, making unavoidable a comparative assessment of the merits of various candidates.55 In this context, the introduction of an absolute standard of competence under the Public Service Reform Act can be seen as an effort to release the commission from undesired constraints placed on it by the courts. As it turned out, about ten years later, the public service would go even further along this path by defining merit as “meeting the essential qualifications for the work to be performed” and stating in law that considering more than one person was not a condition of meritorious appointments.56 In this sense, the 1992 amendment also constituted a first step in a longer process to change the general approach to merit.

48Second, in order to provide for greater flexibility in the management of personnel, the Public Service Reform Act also introduced the concept of “appointment to level.” While the standard approach of appointing individuals to specific positions would continue, an amendment to the Public Service Employment Act would allow the commission to appoint some individuals to a class of positions at the same level in the public service, thereby allowing them to be moved from one position to an another at the same level without having to go through a lengthy merit-based appointment process.

  • 57 In 1973, Jacob Finkelman, then chairman of the Public Service Staff Relations Board, had been aske (...)
  • 58 D’Avignon Committee Report, recommendation number 5.1.
  • 59 Office of the Auditor General of Canada (2000), “Streamlining the Human Resource Management Regime (...)

49The “appointment to level” concept was not a new one. Almost twenty years earlier, the Finkelman Committee had proposed this approach in its Report on Employer-Employee Relations in the Public Service of Canada?57 The idea had also been indirectly picked up by the Special Committee on the Review of Personnel Management and the Merit Principle (the D’Avignon Committee), which recommended in 1979 that the Public Service Employment Act be amended to indicate that merit could be determined not only for a specific set of duties but also for a group of positions.58 With the passing of the Public Service Reform Act in 1992, the concept would finally be entrenched in law. Unfortunately, over the next decade, as it went about implementing the new law, the commission found that “appointments to level” were difficult to use broadly because remaining legislative and policy constraints, such as the classification system, were still position based.59 But, at the time of its adoption, the concept seemed to hold some promise for enhancing the career development prospects of employees and providing more flexibility in matching employees with the needs of departments.

50The “appointment to level” concept was also intimately linked to the idea of allowing deputy heads to deploy their employees to other jobs within their organization. In this regard, a third amendment made to the Public Service Employment Act sought to ease the conditions under which employees could be transferred from one position to another. Section 22 of the Public Service Reform Act added a new part to the PSEA regarding “deployments,” defined as “the transfer of an employee from one position to another”. Under the new provisions, deputy heads gained exclusive authority to make deployments to or within the part of the public service under their jurisdiction. Such deployments could be made only with the consent of the affected employee and, while under some circumstances they could result in a change of occupational groups, they could not result in a promotion or a change in the tenure of office of the employee. These transfers would be made without applying the principle of merit and without having to consider the priority rights of some categories of employees, such as laid-off workers or people returning from a leave of absence or benefiting from priority status due to previous employment in a ministerial office. The amendment would grant some flexibility to deputy heads to move employees around their organization, while expanding the options of employees wanting to move to other positions for greater job satisfaction or development opportunities.

  • 60 For example, the Federal Court’s decision in Réjean Yergeau v. Public Service Commission Appeal Bo (...)

51Before the adoption of the Public Service Reform Act, transfers had been handled by the commission through the Transfer Exclusion Approval Order, which permitted the movement of employees within the same group and at the same or a lower level by excluding such actions from the application of the Public Service Employment Act on a case-by-case basis. In the past, the commission had attempted to exempt employee transfers from the application of the merit principle, arguing that it was unnecessarily constraining given that merit had already been ascertained at the time of the employee’s previous appointment. But the regulatory and policy measures used over the years to try to make transfers a more flexible tool for staffing some positions had all been struck down by the courts, which insisted that transfers had to be considered appointments under the existing legislation.60 Therefore, unless the commission used its powers to exempt these staffing decisions from the law’s requirements because it deemed such action to be in the interest of the public service, the usual rigidities of the regular appointment process had to be applied to transfers, and this included holding competitions and allowing appeals. In this context, the introduction of deployments into the staffing system in 1992 might have been a measure of flexibility demanded and welcomed by managers, but it also corresponded to a long-standing preference of the commission that had been denied by the courts.

52A fourth significant change brought about by the Public Service Reform Act concerned casual employment. Again with the objective of providing managers with a greater degree of flexibility, the act added a new section to the Public Service Employment Act that allowed the PSC to appoint any person to the public service for a maximum period of ninety days. These appointments would be exempted from all the provisions of the PSEA, except those specifically dealing with casual employment, and would therefore be conducted outside the merit system. The use of casual employees was seen as a way to meet short-term or urgent staffing needs, and it essentially created a new category of employees for the public service. While they did not have to meet the requirements imposed on indeterminate or even term employees, casual employees would not be eligible for the benefits granted to these other categories, including the right to take part in closed competitions.

53Finally, a fifth change concerned layoffs. This time, the change was prompted directly by the difficulties that the government had experienced with contracting out in the late 1980s. At that time, the Mulroney government had attempted to contract out some government operations in an attempt to reduce costs and improve efficiencies. However, in some cases, staffing legislation had proven to be a barrier to contracting out as the affected employees could not be laid off. For example, in a decision that was later confirmed by the Federal Court of Appeal, the Public Service Staff Relations Board found in March 1990 that the government had violated a collective agreement by contracting out the jobs of 278 clerks at Revenue Canada. In its reasons, the board argued that the government could not lay off these employees because the decision to do so was not motivated by a real lack of work for the affected employees, one of the valid justifications under the law. The Public Service Reform Act rid the system of this barrier by amending Section 29 of the Public Service Employment Act to explicitly state that deputy heads could lay off employees whose services were no longer required due to the transfer of work or functions outside the public service.

54The Public Service Reform Act was a wide-ranging piece of legislation. In addition to the changes described above, the statute also brought about a number of changes to the management of eligibility lists, employment equity programs, appeal procedures and other aspects of staffing and labour relations. But the five changes outlined here—the introduction of the possibility of using an absolute standard of merit as opposed to always relying on a competition among candidates, the possibility of appointing employees “to level,” the introduction of deployments, the adoption of a more flexible regime for casual employees and the acceptance of layoffs due to outsourcing—illustrate clearly the overall thrust of the legislative reform: the desire to enhance the efficiency of the staffing system by introducing greater flexibility for managers to fill positions, move employees around the public service and facilitate the use of outsourcing strategies.

55The content of the Public Service Reform Act also illustrates how the commission itself was an advocate of greater managerial flexibility in staffing. Some of the act’s measures, such as the new standard for determining merit without comparing candidates, the possibility of considering the future needs of the public service in selecting the best qualified candidate in competitions or the more flexible management of eligibility lists, were not recommended by the PS 2000 Task Force on Staffing, but they were included in the legislation at the instigation of the PSC. Some of the other amendments, including the controversial creation of deployments, had been recommended by PS 2000 but were in fact measures that had been advocated by the PSC for several years. Moreover, in some cases, such as layoffs, absolute standards or deployments, the amendments contained in the Public Service Reform Act specifically sought to re-establish practices that the commission or the government had tried to adopt in the past but that had subsequently been prohibited by the courts.

  • 61 Interview with a former senior official of the PSC.

56Clearly then, the commission was not dragged into inscribing greater flexibility into the staffing legislation by the government and senior public servants. It actively sought out many of those changes. In fact, during an interview for this book, a former executive who worked on the Public Service Reform Act for the commission remembered how the PSC was willing to entertain even more wide-ranging legislative changes, including some relating to the definition of the merit principle, but was turned down by PCO officials, presumably due to concerns about the reaction of unions.61 While not as comprehensive or bold as might have been expected at the outset, the Public Service Reform Act brought forward the most significant changes in years.

THE PUBLIC SERVICE REFORM ACT IN PARLIAMENT: A POLARIZED DEBATE

57Bill C-26, the bill to enact the Public Service Reform Act, was not well received when it was tabled in Parliament. The Liberal members representing the Official Opposition in the House of Commons considered the bill to be flawed and incomplete and tabled two motions that would have sent it to a parliamentary committee for a pre-study. Both motions were defeated by the government. The New Democratic Party also opposed the bill, arguing that it would weaken the PSC and the merit system as well as weaken public sector unions and fail to protect workers. During the debate at second reading, opposition parties essentially characterized the legislative proposal as an attack on the merit principle that was sure to create a system that would allow managers to make arbitrary staffing decisions. Government members defended the bill on the ground that it would modernize the public service, making it leaner and more efficient.

58The antagonistic tone of the debate on the floor of the House was an indication of what was to come at the committee stage. The bill was referred for a detailed study by a legislative committee in February 1992 and the committee, naturally dominated by government members, held about two-and-a-half months of public hearings on it. The testimony given by witnesses who appeared before the committee was overwhelmingly critical and opinions were sharply divided between managers and employees.

  • 62 House of Commons of Canada, Proceedings of Legislative Committee H, March 17, 1992, 7.
  • 63 See, for example, the testimony of the representatives of the International Brotherhood of Electri (...)
  • 64 See their testimony before Legislative Committee H studying Bill C-26: The Public Service Reform A (...)

59Union representatives were unanimous in condemning the changes related to labour relations but also those dealing with staffing. Not surprisingly, the amendment facilitating layoffs due to contracting out were roundly condemned. But the introduction of deployments was also strongly opposed. For example, in his testimony, Daryl Bean, head of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, argued that “the government’s proposal with regard to deployment [was] so tilted in favour of management and so open to abuse as to be totally unacceptable.”62 Other union leaders concurred, criticizing the bill for constituting an attack on the merit principle, weakening the PSC, and simply representing the interests and preferences of the senior management of the public service.63 Even well-known academics, such as Gene Swimmer and Barbara W. Carroll, and social activist organizations, such as the National Action Committee on the Status of Women, worried about the weakening of merit and the PSC.64

  • 65 See the testimony of John Riddle, President of APEX, before Legislative Committee H studying Bill (...)
  • 66 See the testimony given by the Public Policy Forum’s representatives before Legislative Committee (...)

60Despite this barrage of opposition, the bill did have a few supporters. As could be expected, the Association of Professional Executives of the Public Service of Canada (APEX) supported the legislation. Its representatives argued that the new measures would improve the staffing system and provide more flexibility for executives so that they could adequately fulfill their managerial duties. In the end, they believed overall morale would improve.65 The Public Policy Forum, a well-known non-profit organization interested in the public service, also supported the bill, speaking favourably of the introduction of deployments but regretting that the government had not used the opportunity to address the thorny issue of the political rights of public servants.66

  • 67 Testimony of Robert Giroux, President of the Public Service Commission, before Legislative Committ (...)

61In the midst of this debate, the PSC clearly sided with management and offered a strong defence of the new measures regarding staffing. The commission’s president, Robert Giroux, was one of the first to testify before the committee in March 1992. In his opening remarks, he argued that the bill was essentially “about the reconciliation of efficiency and fairness in human resources management to better serve the people of Canada.”67 He added,

  • 68 Ibid.

The dynamics of today’s workplace demand more flexible staffing arrangements than the present act permits if we want to give the best possible value when providing services to the public In summary, the Bill, as I see it, represents very much a balancing act—balancing the very real need for a more effective Public Service with the equally compelling need to preserve merit, and protect employees.68

62Of course, this central preoccupation—the need to strike a balance between competing values in a way that would serve the interests of Canadians—again placed the commission in an uncomfortable, and somewhat ironic, position. Having recently had to fend off, inside the public service, the managerial interests that would have reduced it to a parliamentary oversight body, it was now publicly seen as being too close to those same managerial interests. As the commission itself defended the proposed amendments to the Public Service Employment Act, others were fighting these changes in order to protect the commission’s authority and its role in the staffing regime.

63In the end, owing to the strong parliamentary majority held by the Mulroney government, the Public Service Reform Act was adopted, with minor amendments, at third reading on November 30, 1992. After a quick review in the Senate, it received Royal Assent a few weeks later, on December 17, 1992. The legislative changes undoubtedly represented a win for the advocates of greater efficiency and flexibility in staffing and, at the time, they were viewed by many observers as an undue encroachment of managerialism on the traditional values and principles of the public service.

  • 69 Office of the Auditor General of Canada (2000), “Streamlining the Human Resource Management Regime (...)

64But for those involved in the reform process, at the commission as well as at the centre of government, there was a sense that the changes were limited, the imperfect result of arduous internal debates about how to better organize the central functions of personnel management. Eight years later, the Office of the Auditor General was dismissive of the changes adopted back then, considering them to be “minor changes,” which “have fallen short of expectations.”69 Even today, many former officials whom we interviewed feel that the Public Service 2000 initiative and the subsequent adoption of the Public Service Reform Act were missed opportunities. Former officials with the Treasury Board Secretariat and the Privy Council Office regret that the system failed to fix the problem created by the fragmentation of responsibilities for personnel between the Treasury Board and the PSC. Former officials with the commission believe that it may have been an undue obsession with institutional reforms that resulted in the forgoing of the opportunity for more substantive legislative and policy changes. In any case, despite the positive fact that the first legislative changes had been made to staffing legislation in over two decades, much dissatisfaction persisted.

CONCLUSION

65The adoption of the Public Service Reform Act in 1992 appears to have ended an intense period of debate about the appropriate mandate of the PSC and its role in the staffing process. Even before the election of the Mulroney government, the work of the Office of the Auditor General in the early 1980s had already brought long-standing departmental dissatisfaction about staffing to the fore. Then, the new government’s rhetorical embrace of the new public management movement and its push for administrative reform renewed the age-old quest for greater efficiency and flexibility in the staffing process. As always, the PSC’s appropriate role was a prominent theme in these debates.

66The events examined in this chapter illustrate how, in contrast to a common misperception, the commission was more than willing to reform itself and the staffing process. While it is clear that it resisted, with success, more radical institutional reforms that would have threatened its independence as the guardian of merit and nonpartisanship, it did favour significant reforms to staffing rules, seeking to ensure greater managerial flexibility. And while the efforts launched by the PSC itself to revise staffing rules may have been of limited scope, the commission collaborated actively in the more fundamental legislative changes of 1992, advocating many of them even before they became the object of system-wide attention. In short, this period illustrates how the commission cannot simply be presented as an obstacle to reforms, a perennial defender of the status quo in staffing. In fact, the Mulroney years revealed the Public Service Commission to be an active reformer, acknowledging the importance of efficiency in staffing and actively seeking greater flexibility for managers. But the commission was a cautious reformer, always preoccupied with maintaining a balance between efficiency and the competing values of equity and non-partisanship. As it pushed to build more flexibility into the legislative framework or attempted to find further opportunities for delegation, it was also clearly willing to fight to preserve its vital role as an independent agency with the necessary clout to preserve the desired balance of values.

Notes

1 Peter Aucoin (1995), The New Public Management: Canada in Comparative Perspective, Montreal, IRPP, 12.

2 Donald J. Savoie (1994), Thatcher, Reagan, Mulroney: In Search of a New Bureaucracy, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 10.

3 Quoted in David Zussman (1986), “Walking the Tightrope: The Mulroney Government and the Public Service,” in Michael Prince (ed.), Tracking the Tories: How Ottawa Spends, 1986–87, Toronto, Methuen, 255.

4 Luc Juillet and Matthew Mingus (2008), “Reconsidering the History of Administrative Reforms in Canada,” in Jerri Killian and Niklas Eklund (eds.), Handbook of Administrative Reform: An International Perspective, New York, Taylor and Francis, 222–223.

5 Public Service Commission of Canada (1990), Annual Report 1990, Ottawa, Minister of Supply and Services Canada, 15.

6 The data on the number of employees is drawn from Table 1 of the statistical annexes of the Public Service Commission’s annual reports for 1984 and 1992. The number of employees in the federal public service is defined differently by the Public Service Commission, the Treasury Board Secretariat, and Statistics Canada. The commission’s data includes all the employees covered by the Public Service Employment Act, but it excludes employees appointed under the act for less than six months. It also excludes employees of Crown corporations, ministerial staff, employees appointed by Order-in-Council, members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and military personnel of the Canadian Armed Forces.

7 Donald J. Savoie (1990), The Politics of Public Spending in Canada, University of Toronto Press, Toronto, 127.

8 Denis Saint-Martin (1998), “Management Consultants, the State, and the Politics of Administrative Reform in Britain and Canada,” Administration and Society, vol. 30, 557; and Savoie (1994), Thatcher, Reagan, Mulroney, 128–129.

9 Public Service Commission of Canada (1986), Annual Report 1986, Ottawa, Minister of Supply and Services Canada, 13.

10 Ibid, 61.

11 The data is taken from the appendices of the commissions annual reports. The number of employees at the PSC for each year is as follows: 1984: 2,494; 1985: 2,563; 1986:2,419; 1987:2,249; 1989:2,152; 1990: 2,093; 1991: 1,968; 1992: 2,017.

12 Interview with a former senior official of the PSC.

13 Interview with a former senior official of the PSC.

14 Office of the Auditor General (1983), “Chapter 2 – Constraints to Productive Management in the Public Service,” in 1983 Report of the Auditor General of Canada, Ottawa, Minister of Supply and Services Canada, paragraph 2.38.

15 Interviews with former senior officials of the PSC and the TBS.

16 Public Service Commission of Canada (1985), Strategy Document, 1985–1990, Ottawa, Public Service Commission, 2.

17 Ibid, 9.

18 Ibid.

19 Ibid, 1.

20 Ibid, 2.

21 Ibid, 10.

22 In particular, about a year before the strategy document was released, the Commission had seen its policy on “non-appointment transfers” overturned by the Federal Court in James Wilkinson v. Public Service Commission Appeal Board.

23 Public Service Commission of Canada (1985), Annual Report 1985, Ottawa, Minister of Supply and Services Canada, 9.

24 Interview with a former senior official of the PSC.

25 Public Service Commission of Canada (1985), Annual Report 1985, 15.

26 Ibid.

27 The objectives are summarized in a memorandum on the state of administrative reforms, by D. D. Quiring (director general of the Program Development and Review Directorate, PSC) to directors of personnel, dated December 1986 (RG32, vol. 2046).

28 In the commission’s documents, these reviews are sometimes referred to as “staffing efficiency and effectiveness studies.”

29 Public Service Commission (1996), Consultative Review of Staffing, unpublished document, 9.

30 Interview with a former senior official of the PSC.

31 Memorandum by D. D. Quiring (director general of the Program Development and Review Directorate) to Branch Management Committee, entitled “Results of the Administrative Reform Policies, Procedures and Program Review,” dated December 1986 (RG32, vol. 2046).

32 Public Service Commission (1996), Consultative Review of Staffing, unpublished document, 11.

33 Memorandum by D. D. Quiring (director general of the Program Development and Review Directorate) to Branch Management Committee, entitled “Results of the Administrative Reform Policies, Procedures and Program Review,” dated December 1986, page 6 (RG32, vol. 2046).

34 Memorandum by Gilles Létourneau (director general of Policy, Staffing Programs) to Administrative Steering Committee, entitled “Administrative Reform Status Report,” dated August 11, 1986, (RG32, vol. 2046); and Memorandum by D. D. Quiring (director general of the Program Development and Review Directorate) to Branch Management Committee, entitled “Results of the Administrative Reform Policies, Procedures and Program Review,” dated December 1986 (RG32, vol. 2046).

35 Savoie (1994), Thatcher, Reagan, Mulroney, 130.

36 Luc Juillet and Matthew Mingus (2008), “Reconsidering the History of Administrative Reforms in Canada,” in Jerri Killian and Niklas Eklund (eds.), Handbook of Administrative Reform: An International Perspective, New York, Taylor and Francis, 223–224.

37 Trefflé Lacombe (1986), Speech given by Trefilé Lacombe, commissioner of the Public Service Commission of Canada to the Annual Interdepartmental Conference on Staff Relations in St-Jovite, Quebec, September 25, 1986.

38 Ibid, 11–12.

39 Ibid, 11.

40 Ibid, 10.

41 Paul M. Tellier (1990), “Public Service 2000: The Renewal of the Public Service,” Canadian Public Administration, 33:2, 130.

42 Ibid, 126.

43 Ibid, 127.

44 Ibid, 131.

45 Ibid.

46 Interviews with former senior officials at the PSC and the TBS.

47 Interview with a former senior official at the PCO.

48 Ibid.

49 Interview with a former senior official at the PCO.

50 Ibid.

51 Interview with a former senior official in the personnel branch of the TBS.

52 Public Service Commission (1996), Consultative Review of Staffing, unpublished document, 12.

53 In addition to the Public Service Employment Act, the Public Service Reform Act amended a series of other statutes, including the Public Service Staff Relations Act. Among other things, the new law tried to streamline procedures and increase the availability of alternative methods for settling bargaining disputes. It also formally designated the clerk of the Privy Council and secretary to the Cabinet as the head of the public service, mandating the incumbent of that position to submit an annual report on the state of the public service to the Prime Minister and requiring that this report be subsequently tabled in Parliament.

54 See the Federal Courts decision in the 1972 case, Surinder Nath Nanda et al. v. Appeal Board Established by the Public Service Commission.

55 See the Federal Court’s decision in the 1982 case, Attorney General of Canada v. W. E. Greaves et al.

56 These measures are contained in the new Public Service Employment Act, enacted in 2003 as a result of the adoption of the Public Service Modernization Act. The specific provisions are contained in sections 30(2) and 30(4) of the new act.

57 In 1973, Jacob Finkelman, then chairman of the Public Service Staff Relations Board, had been asked by the government to review the Public Service Staff Relations Act and make recommendations on ways to improve labour relations in the public service. Despite its more specific focus on labour relations, Finkelman dedicated a section of his report’s chapter on collective bargaining to the issue of staffing and the Public Service Employment Act. In it, he rejected several requests made by the unions, such as making the rules concerning initial appointments and promotions subject to collective bargaining, but he also urged the commission to consider making appointments in such a way that the appointees would not be restricted to a specific position, thereby encouraging greater staff mobility within the public service.

58 D’Avignon Committee Report, recommendation number 5.1.

59 Office of the Auditor General of Canada (2000), “Streamlining the Human Resource Management Regime: A Study of Changing Roles and Responsibilities,” Chapter 9 in Report of the Auditor General of Canada – April 2000, 16.

60 For example, the Federal Court’s decision in Réjean Yergeau v. Public Service Commission Appeal Board (1978) struck down the original regulation exempting transfers from the appeals process. Then, the Federal Court overturned the commission’s 1981 policy on “non-appointment transfers,” which stated that a limited category of transfers were not considered appointments under the PSEA, in James Wilkinson v. Public Service Commission Appeal Board (1984). Finally, in Public Service Alliance of Canada v. Her Majesty the Queen (1992), the Federal Court struck down the commission’s exclusion approval order that exempted lateral moves from the merit and appeals sections of the PSEA, finding it too broad in application.

61 Interview with a former senior official of the PSC.

62 House of Commons of Canada, Proceedings of Legislative Committee H, March 17, 1992, 7.

63 See, for example, the testimony of the representatives of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (March 18), the Economists’, Sociologists’ and Statisticians’ Association (March 24), and the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (March 25) before Legislative Committee H studying Bill C-26: The Public Service Reform Act.

64 See their testimony before Legislative Committee H studying Bill C-26: The Public Service Reform Act, given respectively on March 19, April 2, and March 26.

65 See the testimony of John Riddle, President of APEX, before Legislative Committee H studying Bill C-26: The Public Service Reform Act, on March 31, 1992.

66 See the testimony given by the Public Policy Forum’s representatives before Legislative Committee H studying Bill C-26: The Public Service Reform Act, on March 31, 1992.

67 Testimony of Robert Giroux, President of the Public Service Commission, before Legislative Committee H studying Bill C-26: The Public Service Reform Act, on March 11, 1992.

68 Ibid.

69 Office of the Auditor General of Canada (2000), “Streamlining the Human Resource Management Regime,” 11.

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