Liberal MPs join call for emergency meeting on Phoenix pay system
Public Services and Procurement Minister Judy Foote speaks at a press conference last May.
Published Monday, July 25, 2016 3:24PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, July 26, 2016 3:16PM EDT
The Liberals are joining a call by the Conservatives and NDP for an emergency committee meeting to deal with the Phoenix pay system problems wreaking havoc for 80,000 public servants.
Both opposition parties said earlier Monday that they wanted to see the government operations committee study why the system is failing so badly and how the problems can be resolved, but without Liberal support they only had three out of the four MPs necessary to force an emergency meeting.
The Conservatives have three MPs on the committee, but one is committee chair Tom Lukiwski, whose key role means he can't request an emergency meeting.
Spokespeople for the Liberal MPs on the committee initially wouldn't say whether they support the call, with one office referring CTV News to Public Services and Procurement Minister Judy Foote.
By the end of Monday afternoon, the Liberal MPs released a letter to the committee clerk requesting the meeting and giving notice of a motion to invite the deputy minister to give them a briefing on the problems surrounding the system.
Conservative MPs Steven Blaney and Kelly McCauley, the party's critic and deputy critic for public services, say they have thousands of constituents who are public sector employees.
"We have received numerous requests to look into the urgent matter of the federal government's failed Phoenix pay system," they said in a statement, adding that the Liberal committee members didn't respond to their request to convene an emergency meeting.
"After reaching out to their offices, and receiving no response, it is clear that this issue is not a priority for them."
NDP public works critic Erin Weir says Phoenix is failing not only by not properly paying a quarter of the 300,000-person civil service, but through a privacy breach reported last week.
"For a government committed to openness and transparency, I would hope that Liberal committee members would welcome an opportunity to examine what lead to this fiasco, why it has taken so long to get clear answers, and why we have yet to receive clear timelines for resolution of numerous problems," Weir said.
"In any workplace, we would expect the employer to pay its employees correctly and on time without compromising their personal information. It’s embarrassing that the Canadian government is not meeting these basic obligations."
Privacy breach probed
The federal privacy commissioner is investigating a possible breach by Phoenix earlier this year, a spokeswoman confirmed on Monday.
Public Services reported the incident in May after several managers in different departments "reported being able to see the personal information of employees from other departments who did not fall under their authority," Valerie Lawton wrote in an email to CTV News.
That information included employee names and numbers assigned for human resources purposes. It's not clear how many employees had their privacy breached, Lawton said.
The department put in place "fixes" to prevent similar breaches and told the commissioner's office that the risk is low because only managers with delegated authority had access to the information, she added.
In an earlier breach during the testing phase in 2015, the privacy commissioner concluded the risk to those affected was minimal. In that case, the personal information of about 10,000 federal public servants was sent to IBM's data centre, Lawton said. The centre was supposed to use false employee information to test the system but inadvertently used the information for actual employees.
That breach involved more information than the more recent breach, including pay dates and amounts.
"The contractor alerted [the dpeartment] of the breach in June of 2015 and subsequently removed all of the sensitive data from its database," Lawton wrote.
A spokeswoman for IBM declined to answer specific questions about Phoenix's implementation, directing them to the government.
"The vast majority of the issues in this implementation are process and data issues, not technical system issues," Carrie Bendzsa wrote in an email to CTV News.