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ARCHIVED - Canada's Performance Report 2008-09: The Government of Canada's Contribution

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5 - Government Affairs


A wide assortment of federal organizations contribute to the Government Affairs spending area by helping other departments and agencies meet their responsibilities, serve Canadians better, and ultimately attain results in the 13 Government of Canada outcome areas described earlier in this report. Programs in Government Affairs typically include the following spheres of activity:

  • Delivery of a multitude of government services to Canadians
  • Advice and support to the prime minister, Cabinet, and Cabinet committees
  • Stewardship of public resources—both human and financial
  • Services delivered to other federal departments and agencies, such as information technology, telecommunications, research, translation, auditing and legal services
  • Promotion of modern, effective, results-driven management and leadership across the public service
  • Procurement of government goods and services
  • Audits, reviews, and investigations to protect the public and public service employees and to ensure the integrity and impartiality of the government
Expenditures in Government Affairs

In 2008–09, the following 32 federal organizations spent $11.7 billion in the area of Government Affairs:

  • Canada Post Corporation
  • Canada Public Service Agency
  • Canada Revenue Agency
  • Canada School of Public Service
  • Canadian Forces Grievance Board
  • Canadian Intergovernmental Conference Secretariat
  • Courts Administration Service
  • Department of Finance Canada
  • Department of Justice Canada
  • First Nations Statistical Institute
  • Governor General, Department
  • House of Commons
  • Human Resources and Skills Development Canada / Service Canada
  • Library of Parliament
  • Office of the Auditor General of Canada
  • Office of the Commissioner for Federal Judicial Affairs
  • Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying of Canada
  • Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner
  • Privy Council Office
  • Public Appointments Commission Secretariat
  • Public Sector Integrity Canada
  • Public Servants Disclosure Protection Tribunal
  • Public Service Commission of Canada
  • Public Service Labour Relations Board
  • Public Service Staffing Tribunal
  • Public Works and Government Services Canada
  • RCMP External Review Committee
  • Senate Ethics Officer
  • Senate of Canada (The)
  • Statistics Canada
  • Supreme Court of Canada
  • Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat
Table 5—Comparison of 2008–09 planned and actual spending by the Government of Canada for Government Affairs ($ billions)
Outcome Area Main Estimates Planned Spending* Actual Spending
Government Affairs $13.2 $12.6 $11.7

* Planned spending is derived from departmental RPPs.
Note: Due to rounding, numbers may not sum exactly to totals.

Figure 5.1 Distribution of actual spending by federal organization in Government Affairs ($11.7 billion) for fiscal year 2008-2009

Figure 5.1 - Text version

The Canada Revenue Agency, Public Works and Government Services Canada, the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, and Human Resources and Skills Development Canada are the federal organizations that have the largest expenditures in Government Affairs.

In 2008–09, the federal government contributed to government affairs in several different ways. As a way of organizing the broad range of government activities in this spending area, the chapter is divided into three themes, as follows:

  • Building strong and independent democratic institutions—the judicial, legislative, and executive arms of the government;
  • Creating a transparent federal government that is accountable to Canadians and responsive to their needs; and
  • Ensuring a well-managed and smoothly operating government machinery.
Building strong and independent democratic institutions

Activities under the theme of building strong and independent democratic institutions support the functions of the three arms of government—the judiciary, the legislature, and the executive. Government activities aim to strengthen these branches and ensure their independence.

Modernizing Canada's courtrooms

As the final court of appeal, the Supreme Court of Canada serves Canadians by leading the development of common and civil law through its decisions on questions of public importance.

In 2008–09, the Court completed its Courtroom Modernization Project. The courtroom's audio-visual equipment now meets leading-edge technological standards for optimal broadcasting and digital recording. Webcasting of proceedings was introduced, as well as technology to support the use of electronic case documents. Written arguments filed for appeal cases are now posted on the Court's website, and Supreme Court decisions published in the Supreme Court Reports dating back to 1948 are also available online. 

In 2008, there were 546 new cases filed and 82 appeal cases heard. The average time it took to process the cases, including writing the reasons for judgment, was less in 2008 than in 2007. 

The reduction in time is due in part to the increased availability of electronically filed documents, brought about as a result of the Court Modernization Project. For example, the appeal in BCE Inc. v. 1976 Debentureholders, 2008 SCC 69 was heard and decided three weeks after the initial filing of the leave application. This would not have been possible without electronically filed documents.

Ensuring fair and timely access to the courts

Created in 2003, the Courts Administration Service provides a single point of service for the processing of legal documents and applications for judicial review under the jurisdiction of the Federal Court of Appeal, the Federal Court, the Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada, and the Tax Court of Canada.

Acting as a liaison between the public, litigators, and judges, the Service ensures fair court processes for all Canadians. It also serves to enhance judicial independence by placing the judiciary at arm's length from the federal government and to ensure greater accountability of public funds.

In 2008–09, the Courts Administration Service focussed on modernizing its services to the public and to judges through the development of a new case management system, which greatly increased the capacity for filing documents electronically. As a result, the number of documents filed electronically more than doubled over the previous year from 6,673 to 15,020. The introduction of electronic transmission of judgments to parties, the media, and the public has also resulted in more efficient and timely service to Canadians.

Improving the Governor-in-Council appointment process

Governor-in-Council appointments are made by the Governor General, acting on the advice of Cabinet. The responsibilities of Governor-in-Council appointees range from making quasi-judicial decisions to managing Crown corporations.

The Privy Council Office provides support to the Prime Minister and Cabinet on these appointments and manages open, competency-based selection processes for leadership positions. In 2008–09, the Privy Council Office enhanced its Governor-in-Council Appointments [53] website where current Governor-in-Council opportunities are publicized.

In addition, the Privy Council Office developed and adopted practices to ensure that Governor-in-Council appointments are efficiently managed. These included distributing a monthly vacancy report to ministers and their portfolio departments covering all expiries in the upcoming year and developing comprehensive guidance on the appointment process. In 2008–09, there were 876 Governor-in-Council appointments (excluding judicial and lieutenant-governor appointments).

Did you know?

The official newspaper of the Government of Canada, the Canada Gazette,* has been published since 1841.

The content of the Canada Gazette includes new statutes and regulations, proposed regulations, decisions of administrative boards, and an assortment of federal government and private sector notices.

The Canada Gazette supports the Canadian democratic process by providing Canadians with an opportunity to voice their opinion on proposed regulations and other government initiatives. More than 12,150 pages of regulatory text were published in the Canada Gazette in 2008–09.

Source: Public Works and Government Services Canada


Source: Public Works and Government Services Canada

Creating an accountable, transparent, and responsive government

Activities under the theme of creating an accountable, transparent, and responsive government aim to safeguard public trust and strengthen interaction between the government and Canadian citizens. The government is responsive when it delivers services that respond to citizens' needs. It is accountable when it implements mechanisms for independent scrutiny, such as audits, inquiries and investigations, and various recourse options for grievances and complaints.

Responding to increased demands from Canadians for services

Service Canadais one of three business lines for Human Resources and Skills Development Canada and delivers more than 70 government programs and services to Canadians. It is supported by an integrated service delivery and processing network consisting of more than 600 in-person locations across the country, toll-free telephone service, online services available through Service Canada[54] and Government of Canada [55] websites, and 101 mail processing centres.

Over the past year, the number of Canadians requiring access to government services increased substantially, resulting in a larger number of applications to process. The global economic downturn has resulted in more unemployed Canadians and more Canadians at risk of not attaining a reasonable standard of living. The increase in the volume of Employment Insurance claims and benefit applications is unprecedented. Service Canada received a total of 3.1 million Employment Insurance claims in 2008–09, compared to 2.6 million in 2007–08, an increase of 19.3 per cent. Service Canada also received more requests for labour market information and for general assistance.

Service Canada responded to the increased demand for its services by extending the hours of telephone service, hiring additional staff to work in service centres throughout the country, increasing its presence in rural communities, and improving internet access. It also improved automation and electronic services for the Canada Pension Plan and Employment Insurance and worked toward standardizing claims processing. Progress made on these fronts has been particularly effective in helping the government respond to the increased demand for services to meet the needs of Canadians.

Overseeing government procurement

In May 2008, Canada's first Procurement Ombudsman was appointed. The position was created pursuant to the Federal Accountability Act and is unique among G8 countries. In the 2008 Speech from the Throne, the Government of Canada reaffirmed its commitment to improving federal procurement.

The Office of the Procurement Ombudsman operates independently of government departments and agencies. The Office has a broad mandate to review complaints regarding the acquisition of goods and services and the administration of contracts; to provide alternative dispute resolution services to help the government and suppliers resolve contractual disputes; and to review federal procurement practices and make recommendations for improving their fairness, openness, and transparency.

In its first year of operation, the Office of the Procurement Ombudsman was contacted 355 times by suppliers. For procurement-related issues, complainants indicated they were satisfied with the response they received in almost every case. There was good collaboration between the Office and federal organizations on resolving complaints; it was only necessary for the Ombudsman to initiate one formal investigation.  

The Office of the Procurement Ombudsman also conducted five reviews of procurement practices. Recommendations were made to the departments and agencies under review and are expected to result in improvements to the fairness, openness, and transparency of their procurement practices. All organizations involved in the reviews indicated their willingness to implement recommendations, and some have already begun to do so. These reviews also highlighted a number of good practices that other departments may wish to adopt in their own operations. 

Ensuring integrity of staffing and the non-partisan nature of the public service

The Public Service Commission of Canada (PSC) is an independent agency reporting to Parliament, with a mandate to safeguard the integrity of the public service staffing system and the political neutrality of the public service. In addition, the PSC recruits qualified Canadians from across the country.

The PSC provides independent oversight of staffing and political activity in the public service through monitoring, audits, studies, and investigations. In 2008–09, the PSC conducted two audits, one follow-up audit, and three studies. Over the same time period, the PSC conducted investigations on specific appointment processes and allegations of improper political activities. This work helps provide assurance to Parliament, and ultimately to Canadians, of the integrity and effectiveness of the appointment process and the political impartiality of the public service.

The PSC administers Part 7 of the Public Service Employment Act, which recognizes the right of employees to engage in political activities and safeguards the political neutrality of the public service. In 2008–09, the PSC processed 54 requests from public service employees for permission to seek nomination as a candidate in an election. It also worked to improve employee awareness of their rights and legal obligations regarding political activities.

The PSC has finalized the expansion of the National Area of Selection to all occupational groups. Since December 2008, all full-time term positions of six months or more and all indeterminate jobs that are advertised external appointment processes are now open to candidates across Canada and to Canadians living abroad. This represents a significant achievement in Canadians' access to federal public service jobs. In 2004, only 19 per cent of jobs were open nationally.

The PSC recruits talented Canadians through specialized recruitment programs such as the Federal Student Work Experience Program (FSWEP) and the Post-Secondary Recruitment (PSR) program. In 2008–09, federal departments and agencies hired approximately 10,000 students under FSWEP. The PSR program reached record levels for the second year in a row, with over 55,000 applications leading to 18,000 candidate referrals for hiring departments. Interest in federal government employment grew throughout the year, culminating in a record 26.5 million visits to the website.

Taxpayers' Ombudsman

Canada 's first Taxpayers' Ombudsman was appointed in February 2008 to support Government of Canada priorities for stronger democratic institutions, increased transparency, and the fair treatment of all Canadians. The Ombudsman's mandate is to see that Canadians receive the professional service and fair treatment they are entitled to from the Canada Revenue Agency.

The Taxpayers' Ombudsman operates at arm's length from the Canada Revenue Agency, providing an independent and impartial review of service-related complaints and investigating systemic and emerging service issues.

The first year of operations was mostly devoted to staffing the office and drafting policies and procedures. Nonetheless, the office received 4,634 complaints and requests for information and conducted 771 investigations in 2008–09. The office also initiated investigations into 29 systemic issues ranging from fairness in applying tax collection policies to documentation requirements for Canada Child Tax Benefit applicants. For example, the Ombudsman played a role in the decision of the Minister of National Revenue to require Canada Revenue Agency telephone service agents to identify themselves by a unique agent ID number. This is to ensure consistency and accountability in the Agency's provision of information.

The Taxpayers' Ombudsman will present his first annual report for tabling in Parliament to the Minister of National Revenue in December 2009.

Ensuring a well-managed and smoothly operating government machinery

Activities under the theme of ensuring a well-managed and smoothly operating government machinery aim to support the basic functions of the federal government by delivering its core operations, while maintaining rigorous stewardship over human resources and public funds.

Public service renewal

The public service[56] of Canada is the nation's largest employer, with 263,000 employees. However, it faces significant challenges associated with an aging workforce and increasingly competitive labour markets.

Federal organizations are committed to public service renewal and ensuring that a highly competent, non-partisan public service is able to support the government in the delivery of programs and services to Canadians. To address this challenging commitment, the Clerk of the Privy Council spearheaded the 2008-2009 Public Service Renewal Action Plan, [57] which is focussed on four principal areas of renewal: planning, recruitment, employee development, and enabling infrastructure. 

Progress was observed in the area of planning, with integrated planning becoming better established across government, according to the November 2008 Report of the Expert Panel on Integrated Business and Human Resources Planning in the Federal Public Service. [58]

Regarding recruitment, the Government of Canada pledged in its action plan that deputy heads would offer indeterminate positions to at least 4,000 post-secondary graduates. By March 2009, this goal was surpassed, with more than 4,200 graduates having received offers.

Progress was also made in the area of staff development. In 2008–09, with only a few exceptions throughout the public service, deputy heads ensured that supervisors held feedback sessions with their employees on performance, career development, and related learning needs. In addition, a total of 25 promising senior leaders took part in the Advanced Leadership Program, which combines classroom teaching with relevant experiential learning. Another innovative program, the Canada@150 project, brought together 150 younger public service employees from across the country to develop skills by assessing the principal challenges facing Canada and the public service in 2017, Canada 's 150th birthday.

In the area of enabling infrastructure, progress was made on simplifying the human resources governance structure. Effective March 2, 2009, the Canada Public Service Agency and the elements of the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat that deal with compensation and human resources were consolidated into a new office headed by the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer. This new Office will make the public service of Canada more effective by streamlining the HR function and putting accountability for managing human resources in the hands of deputy ministers.

Did you know?

In recent years, significant gains have been made in increasing the representation of members of all four employment equity target groups in the federal public service: women, Aboriginal peoples, persons with disabilities, and members of visible minority groups.;

By 2008, the representation of women had shown the greatest gains, rising to 54.9 per cent of the overall public service and to 41.2 per cent of executives.

All four target groups demonstrated increased levels, with three of the groups (women, Aboriginal peoples, and persons with disabilities) exceeding overall workforce availability.

Source: Privy Council Office

Streamlining the government's procurement process

In 2008–09, streamlining government procurement was a major component of the Government of Canada's commitment to improving the efficiency of government operations. In collaboration with its partners, Public Works and Government Services Canada delivered significant improvements in the area of military and health-related procurement.

Improved timeliness and efficiency were demonstrated in awarding several major military contracts to deliver much needed equipment for the men and women of the Canadian Forces. For example, Public Works and Government Services Canada responded to an urgent requirement from National Defence for procuring the new Husky route-clearance vehicle. The departments worked together to acquire and ensure rapid delivery of a number of these vehicles, which are now lowering the risk of casualties to our troops in Afghanistan by reducing the number of foot patrols.

To support Canada's emergency response preparedness for a pandemic outbreak, Public Works and Government Services Canada demonstrated national leadership by putting in place various pandemic-related procurement contracts, including contracts for antiviral vaccines, N95 respirators, health alerts and other communication tools, and specialized laboratory equipment used in Canada's world-class research and diagnostic laboratory in Winnipeg. The combined purchasing powers of the federal government and the provinces and territories has resulted in lower prices for drugs and vaccines and improved protection for the health of Canadians.

Legal services to support government operations

To support ongoing government operations, the Department of Justice Canada drafts legislation, provides legal advice, and prepares legal documents for federal government organizations. The Department also litigates civil files and works to ensure that the national legal framework reflects both Canada's linguistic duality and its common and civil law traditions. 

The Department of Justice Canada delivered on a comprehensive legislative agenda in 2008–09, including the tabling of 48 bills in the House of Commons and the publication of 489 regulations in the Canada Gazette. The Department also provided legal policy advice on a broad range of subjects. These include the implementation of Canada's Economic Action Plan, the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, the involvement of Canada in Afghanistan, the release of security certificates, and the preparation for the 2010 Winter Olympics. 

As well, the Department represents the Crown's interests in litigation files. These files involve significant potential liabilities for the Government of Canada, valued in the billions of dollars. In 2008–09, the Department resolved 13,204 litigation files. Of these, 3,307 were resolved outside the court process through negotiation and mediated settlements and 8,509 were resolved in the courts and tribunals. Of the 1,251 litigation files initiated by the Crown through the court process, 1,160, or 92.7 per cent, were allowed. Of the 7,258 files initiated against the Crown through the court process, 5,061, or 69.7 per cent, were disallowed. 

Untangling the web of rules

The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat is currently leading several initiatives intended to develop excellence across the public service in the management of and accountability for government resources. Unburdening public service employees from complex rules, reporting requirements, and administrative process—the so-called "web of rules"—is critical to delivering better services for Canadians. The Web of Rules Action Plan for 2008–09 included over 60 coordinated measures undertaken by different departments to improve how business is done and make government more efficient and effective, while safeguarding transparency and accountability.

Achievements in 2008–09 included reducing the reporting requirements of Treasury Board policies by 25 per cent, of on-line human resources reporting across government by 85 per cent, and of Management Accountability Framework assessments by 50 per cent. The Secretariat also rescinded almost 60 per cent of its policies (80 out of the 136 targeted).

In addition, the six departments that account for 50 to 60 per cent of government funding improved the administration of their grants and contributions programs and reduced the administrative burden imposed on recipients by 10 per cent. Specific examples of departmental achievements include the adoption of a risk-based approach to auditing at Human Resources and Skills Development Canada—saving approximately 2,800 audit days and reducing the number of audits for selected grants and contributions programs by 30 to 50 per cent—and the achievement of a 30-per-cent reduction in wait times for recipients to receive payment from the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec. 

The continuing implementation of the Web of Rules initiative will improve the government's capacity to enhance management performance, deliver value while minimizing inefficiency, protect against key risks, and preserve accountability.

Did you know?

Since 2006, Library and Archives Canada has supported the development of a new government-wide recordkeeping regime in collaboration with the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat and 20 other partnering departments and agencies. Tools and guidelines have been designed to support federal organizations in managing email records and in identifying records of continuing value.

The Clearing the Path initiative began in 2007 as a project to help government departments and agencies identify and dispose of records without business or archival value. In 2008–09, 15,000 containers (three linear kilometres) of non-archival records were removed. This initiative helps reduce pressure on Library and Archives Canada storage space.

Source: Library and Archives Canada

Achievements in tax administration and compliance

In addition to administering the tax laws for the Government of Canada and for most provinces and territories, the Canada Revenue Agency delivers various social and economic benefit and incentive programs through the tax system. In 2008–09, the Agency promoted Canadian research by making it easier for businesses to apply for the Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) tax credit. The Agency developed the SR&ED Eligibility Self-Assessment Tool, a web-based tool to help claimants determine what probability their research and development projects will have of qualifying under the program. The self-assessment tool had 2,189 visits within the first two weeks of its launch.

In 2008–09, the Agency successfully concluded a Memorandum of Understanding with the province of Ontario on a harmonized Ontario sales tax. The introduction of this new tax will be a major development in the history of Canadian tax administration, building on the successful implementation of harmonized sales taxes in New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador. Another major development involves the recent transfer of Ontario corporate tax administration to the Agency. 

In an effort to prevent contraband tobacco products from entering the Canadian market and to ensure the integrity of the tobacco tax system in accordance with the government's health objectives, the Agency is implementing an enhanced excise duty stamping regime for tobacco products. A prototype tobacco product stamp was released in 2008–09 and is currently being tested by the tobacco industry, with full implementation targeted for 2010. 

In 2008–09, the Agency also conducted frequent audit and regulatory reviews of tobacco manufacturers in accordance with numerous compliance initiatives, such as the Federal Tobacco Control Strategy and the Tobacco Compliance Strategy. The Agency's diligence in ensuring compliance with the Excise Act and monitoring licensees and new licence applicants likely contributed to a decrease in the number of active tobacco licences from 47 to 37.

Did you know?

The Canada Revenue Agency’s Beneficial Client Adjustments initiative identifies areas where taxpayers may have underclaimed credits.

When tax returns were compared with third-party information, almost 238,201 individual returns were identified as having underclaimed credits and corrected in 2008–09. This resulted in an average beneficial adjustment of $406 per return, representing a 14.6-per-cent increase from 2007–08.

Source: Canada Revenue Agency

Strategic reviews

The Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat has completed the second year of the four-year cycle to review program spending and performance across government and ensure value for money. Through a comprehensive review of programming, organizations identify opportunities to redirect funding to higher priority and higher performing programs that better meet the needs of Canadians.

In 2008, a total of 21 departments and agencies, representing approximately 27 per cent of total government program spending, successfully completed strategic reviews, with the results reported to Cabinet. Reallocations identified in the 2008 round of reviews were $349 million slated for 2009–10, $449 million for 2010–11, and $586 million for 2011–12, as announced in Budget 2009.