Policy recommendations – building an equal and equitable public service

Government outsourcing, especially outsourcing IT personnel, is costing Canadians billions of dollars each year. From time to time, outsourcing may be necessary to augment staff compliments or bring in external skills and expertise. But years of unchecked spending on outsourcing has created a shadow public service of consultants operating alongside the government workforce. This shadow public service plays by an entirely different set of rules: they are not hired based on merit, representation, fairness or transparency; they are not subject to budget restraints or hiring freezes; and they are not accountable to the Canadian public. It’s time for a major shift in outsourcing policy in the federal public service.

The government must step up to ensure that outsourcing is not at odds with the values set out by the Employment Equity Act and the Public Service Employment Act (PSEA). There is work to be done to ensure that there are equal and equitable opportunities in the federal public service for marginalized groups – women, Indigenous people, persons with disabilities and racialized people. Outsourcing is undermining the core values of representation on the basis of region, language, and gender.

We will be taking the following policy recommendations to ministers and government officials in 2020.

Collect and publish the average number of days to complete each step of the hiring process

The Public Service Commission of Canada (PSC) does not publish how long it takes to staff positions into the public service, commonly referred to as “time to staff.” Tracking the time to staff is crucial to track changes in hiring times of public servants after the implementation of new policies. Time to staff was previously estimated in the Survey of Staffing, which was discontinued in 2013. The PSC needs to re-establish regular measurements of time to staff and report on the number of days it takes to complete each step in the staffing process.

Evaluate the New Direction in Staffing (NDS)

The NDS has not delivered on reducing time to staff or streamlining the staffing process. The NDS gave managers more discretion in staffing which has only led to an increase in unadvertised positions. The NDS needs to be formally evaluated and the PSC should consider taking back more authority over staffing.

Expand the Free Agents pilot

The early success of the Free Agents pilot demonstrates that it has the potential to tap into existing skills within the public service instead of relying on costly outsourcing of IT consultants. The program should be expanded and target heavily project-based work. Eventually, the program should be scaled so that all departments and agencies have access to free agents on short term projects.

Publish equity group data of the public service workforce annually

The Government of Canada needs to regularly publish disaggregated data on its workforce by:

  • employment equity groups including women, Indigenous people, persons with disabilities, and members of visible minorities
  • employment equity groups by employment type such as indeterminate, term, casual and student

This data will highlight inequality and inequity within the workforce, ensure the values of the Employment Equity Act and the Public Service Employment Act (PSEA) are upheld and identify policy gaps.

Require federal government organizations and departments to collect and report on the number of contractors and consultants employed, including data on the employment equity group and type of contract

The government must understand who makes up the workforce of contractors, temporary help services and consultants in Canada’s shadow public service. Without collecting data the government cannot know if its own equity goals are actually being met.

Create better guidelines for using contractors, temporary help workers and consultants

The Treasury Board and Public Services and Procurement Canada need to amend contracting policies to include clear guidelines on when outsourcing violates government staffing rules.