Service Canada

The Canadian federal Treasury Board Secretariat has proposed that a new agency, Service Canada, "a "one-stop" shop that will offer all federal services to Canadians under one roof." Or at least, one web service or toll-free phone number. This is part of an effort at "squeezing out $11 billion in efficiency savings that will cost public servant jobs and forever change the way they work," according to CanWest News, which also reports that it will "eventually be a separate department with its own minister," and "is being billed as the biggest single operational reform in federal history."

culture change

"Service Canada’s most profound change will be in the culture of the public service, shifting the mindset of bureaucrats to put Canadians or "citizens" first. The big complaints are that departments fight over their turf and are organized to serve the bureaucracy, not Canadians. They don’t share data, information, common infrastructure, technology or integrate their business processes. Senior bureaucrats are often accused of being out of touch with the needs of Canadians." Nor are these problems restricted to the federal level. The Civic Efficiency Group has reported similar problems in Richmond Hill, Toronto and other municipal governments that it has researched. See the City Signal Infrastructure Loan and Transparent Municipalities, and especially Civic Efficiency Collaborative to exchange best practices and exploit the improved Federal-Municipal Relations.


"Over the next five years, Service Canada will take over the running of all the programs and services now offered in a patchwork of 737 walk-in offices run by 10 different departments in 269 cities and towns across the country. Those services will be offered online, by telephone or face-to-face."

starts with social programs

"It would begin with $70 billion worth of social programs managed by Human Resources Skills Development Canada and Social Development Canada, such as employment insurance and Canada Pension Plan Old Age Security, but discussions are also underway to add the services of another 12 departments." Citizens now are "being bounced between offices or even having to apply or fill out reams of forms."


"Service Canada is expected to save $3 billion over five years by automating manual operations, consolidating call centres and reducing overpayments in Canada Pension Plan and employment service.

The initiative, housed at Human Resources and Skills Development, will need to spend about $500 million for technology, consolidate or move offices and retrain the thousands of workers whose jobs were eliminated by automation."


"Along with saving billions, Service Canada is supposed to boost federal presence across the country, by opening new offices and creating more front-line jobs in local communities." This in turn requires signal infrastructure so that these locations can reliably act to process federal government information even in a crisis.


Nicole Turmel, president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, predicts service will deteriorate under Service Canada because a one-person office in a small town won’t know enough about all the federal programs to effectively help Canadians. She says "Canadians are hoping service will be more accessible and I’m saying it will be the opposite,"


Nor is this the only objection to the massive reforms. "Unions say the changes will affect more than 10,000 public servants across the country, but the government insists only 2,800 to 3,000 people may lose their jobs."

"The government says most of the jobs that disappear because of automation and consolidating operations can easily be managed by the massive retirement of public servants expected over the next five to 10 years. Others will be retrained."

"Federal unions, however, complain they weren’t consulted about such significant changes in how the public service works."

huge human impact?

"We’re not against change and innovative ways of delivering service, but what we have is $11 billion that’s going to be recuperated from the public service through program cuts, job cuts, relocating people and centralization of services, which is a huge human impact story, all to pay for electoral promises," said Michele Demers, president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service.

separates policy

Some of those savings "are the result of the government’s expenditure review, which was originally aimed at finding $12 billion in savings over five years to fund government priorities. Officials expect the remaining $1 billion in savings will be found over the next year for the next budget."

"The expenditure review, which is expected to become an ongoing part of how the government manages its money, lays the groundwork for a significant separation of policy from operations within the government’s 116 departments and agencies."

centralizes purchasing, real estate, delivery

"With the budget, departments must give up some of their purchasing, real estate management and service delivery to save money, end duplication and focus on policy-making.

"Treasury Board President Reg Alcock said these reforms signal a major step toward the massive cultural change he’s been trying to drive since the Martin government came to power a year ago. Alcock launched a flurry of reviews and studies, many of which are still underway, to clean up public management after Auditor General Sheila Fraser issued her scorching report into the sponsorship scandal."


""I’m feeling pretty good," said Alcock. "It’s been a year since we started all this and this is a big big step.""

Gilles Paquet of the University of Ottawa says this "isn’t just delegating services to municipalities or new offices, this is cultural change so I have sympathy because the likelihood of success in the short run is low and will take a very long time."

procurement reform

"The government also expects to save $2.6 billion by overhauling its procurement practices to take advantage of its buying power as one of the country’s biggest purchasers." Purchases will now be handled centrally by Public Works Canada - this may "drastically reduce the prices the government pays for goods and services, as well as delivery times. Public Works expects to save nearly a $1 billion alone on pricing." It also expects to be able to actually implement the green procurement priorities of the federal government as also outlined in the Throne Speech of 2005.


"Public Works also aims to save $1 billion in its property management by reducing its office space for workers by 15 per cent; lease more office space in cheaper suburban areas outside the downtown core and contract out services that can be done cheaper by the private sector." This is part of a massive divestment of office space by the federal government, which will transform government into a lease holder rather than a landlord.