Federal plans to consolidate all government of Canada services under one umbrella have triggered a great deal of controversy and not a little trepidation among public service employees.
A document leaked to the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) says the initiative – dubbed Services Canada – could jeopardize as many as 35,000 federal jobs – including 4,000 IT jobs! (PSAC is one of Canada’s largest unions with members from coast to coast to coast, in every province and territory). I don’t even know if there is (such) a project. Nothing has been announced. t’s best not to speculate about something that is just rumour at this point.Robert Makichuk>TextAccording to the leaked document, Services Canada is planned as a single point of contact for citizens and businesses to access all federal services, including passport applications, pension plans and employment insurance.
Compounding the confusion is the federal government’s current position — or singular lack on one — on the subject. The government is saying as little as possible about the leaked document and the Services Canada project.
“I don’t even know if there is a project. Nothing has been announced,” said Robert Makichuk spokesperson for the Treasury Board Secretariat on Monday. The Treasury Board Secretariat is responding to inquiries about Services Canada.
Reports about the leaked document began appearing in the mainstream media last Friday but when contacted on Monday Makichuk said it still remains to be seen whether the document leaked the PSAC is correct. “It’s best not to speculate about something that is just rumour at this point.”
And yet, Makichuk also noted consolidation of government services is already happening. He said so far the government has integrated its 23 call centres down to one and has consolidated 170 Web sites from its departments and agencies into one mega site.
Under Services Canada – the leaked document says – federal services would be decentralized and employees, mostly in urban call centres, job centres and data processing centres would be transferred to smaller regional facilities.
Nycole Turmel, president of the PSAC in Ottawa, is very concerned about the impact such a move would have. She said decentralization could wreak havoc on Ottawa’s economy and unsettle families of public servants.
Even if Services Canada reduces the Canadian government’s operational expenses, Turmel says the costs of relocating workers and training them on new systems would far outweigh any benefits.
The federal government so far has neither confirmed nor denied that such plans are underway. And yet, according to the leaked document, they could be implemented by April of this year and completed by 2007.
In fact, last October during her keynote at the GTEC conference in Ottawa, Helen McDonald, Acting CIO for the Government of Canada talked at length about the Services Canada initiative. She said the Canada Revenue Agency (CCRA) as well as other federal departments are collaborating on this project.
Key aspects of this partnership, McDonald said are unified information retrieval and the “first contact” principle – under which Services Canada would the first place Canadians go to get information about their government.
“We must manage our services — not as 160 departments and agencies — but as a single enterprise, the Government of Canada enterprise,” she said at GTEC.
The Federal Government isn’t the only level of government to explore this service delivery approach. For 10 years now, the Government of New Brunswick has consolidated its services, such as driver’s licenses, passport renewals and birth certificates. Brent Staeben, director of marketing and communications for the Service New Brunswick in Fredericton said the government saved over $150 million in the first seven years of the project.
Additionally, Staeben said, there were no job losses in New Brunswick as a result of the consolidation. However, he added, the same scenario may not necessarily play out at the federal level.
Provincial responsibilities, Staeben said, differ greatly from federal responsibilities, so it’s impossible to predict how consolidation would affect jobs of federal civil servants.