Other organizations: Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates—March 12, 2020
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Canada Post Corporation
In this section
The minister was asked in her December 2019 mandate letter to “continue to implement a new vision for Canada Post to ensure it provides the high-quality service that Canadians expect at a reasonable price” and to work with the minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development to improve Canada Post services in rural and remote areas.
- The Government of Canada will continue to support the implementation of a new vision for Canada Post to ensure it provides the high quality services that Canadians expect at a reasonable price
- Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) will work with Canada Post and with the minister of Rural Economic Development to examine opportunities to improve services in rural and remote areas
Canada Post pre-published the 2020 stamp rate increases in Part I of the Canada Gazette on June 15, 2019 and the stamp rate increases came into effect on January 13, 2020. The rate increase for letter mail is 2 cents for a new price of $1.07; for US mail 3 cents to $1.30 and for international mail 6 cents to $2.71. This change is expected to have a very minimal annual impact: $0.26 for consumers and $6.09 for small businesses. The rate increases are expected to generate approximately $9 million revenue for Canada Post and contribute towards the long-term financial sustainability of the corporation.
Current financial situation
In the Third Quarter Report, Canada Post recorded a loss before tax of $135 million in the third quarter of 2019, mainly due to the ongoing decline in mail volume, the ongoing pay equity settlement payments, and customers who have left and did not come back following the 2018 labour disruption. This is $40 million higher than the same period a year earlier.
On November 27, 2018, Bill C-89 received royal assent ending rotating strikes and resuming postal services. Pursuant to Bill C-89, the mediator-arbitrator had 90 days to work with the parties to settle all outstanding litigation. On December 10, 2018, the minister of Labour appointed Ms. Elizabeth MacPherson to assist Canada Post and its union in reaching new collective agreements.
On February 15, 2019, Arbitrator MacPherson requested (and later received) an extension of her mandate from the minister of Labour to complete the arbitration by August 30, 2019. On April 29, 2019 and November 18, 2019, Arbitrator MacPherson requested and received a second and third extension of her mandate to complete the arbitration by June 30, 2020.
The Canada Post Corporation is a federal Crown corporation created by the Government of Canada in 1981 under the Canada Post Corporation Act to operate a postal service for all Canadians. It has the exclusive privilege to collect, transmit and deliver letters up to 500 grams within Canada. It consists of 3 subsidiaries: Purolator, SCI Group, and Innovapost; has annual revenues of approximately $8 billion; and a workforce of approximately 65,000 employees (including subsidiaries).
Canada Post operates at arm’s length from the government and reports to Parliament through the Minister of Public Services and Procurement. The minister is accountable for providing guidance and oversight to ensure that the overall direction and performance of Canada Post aligns with the government’s policies and objectives.
Canada Post receives an annual appropriation of $22.2 million, to help offset the financial impact of the delivery of parliamentary mail and materials for the use of the visually impaired, which are sent free of postage under the Canada Post Corporation Act.
Question and answers
Question 1: Since the announcement of the government’s new vision for Canada Post in 2018, what progress has been done?
Answer 1: The corporation ended its conversion to community mailboxes and restored all the affected sites.
An Accessibility Advisory Panel was created to provide advice to the corporation on its programs and services. To date, the panel has reviewed enhancements to streamline and simplify the application process for the Delivery Accommodation Program in addition to providing advice on accessibility in the Canada Post retail network, digital offerings and human resources programming.
A new chief executive officer, chairperson and board of directors were appointed, and a special labour committee was created to enhance the culture of collaboration.
The corporation no longer has to pay dividend to the government, and therefore can reinvest its profits to provide better services to Canadians.
The corporation removed the rural surcharge for remittance services ensuring equivalent pricing between rural and urban markets. In 2019, in collaboration with its partner MoneyGram, Canada Post launched the new flat rate “One world, One low fee” remittances program. The $10 flat rate fee allows consumers to send up to $500 from anywhere in Canada to anywhere in the world.
Question 2: Did Canada Post report a loss in its third quarter?
Answer 2: Canada Post reported a loss of $135 million, which is $40 million worse than the same period in 2018. However, with the peak holiday period occurring during the fourth quarter, Canada Post is hopeful that financial results will improve for the full year.
Question 3: Following back to work legislation in late 2018, can you give us an update on the labour situation with Canada Post?
Answer 3: Bill C-89 put an end to the rotating strikes in late 2018. Ms. Elizabeth MacPherson was appointed as arbitrator, by the minister of Labour, to resolve the issues between Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. Multiple hearings were held throughout 2019.
My colleague, Ms. Filomena Tassi, may want to provide some additional details as Bill C-89 falls under her responsibility.
National Capital Commission
In this section
As part of the mandate, the minister of Public Services and Procurement is leading the National Capital Commission (NCC) and leveraging Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC)’s strengths in real property management and heritage rehabilitation, as demonstrated in the Parliamentary Precinct rehabilitation.
Public Services and Procurement Canada is working with the NCC in its core functions of federal lands planning, stewardship of nationally significant public places, and creative partner for development and conservation.
Public Services and Procurement Canada is also addressing the demonstrated need for an additional National Capital Region (NCR) crossing with a long-term integrated interprovincial crossing plan led by the NCC.
- The NCC’s mandate fits well with PSPC’s responsibilities for real property management, heritage rehabilitation and engineering assets
- The NCC will, with PSPC, update the studies for a new crossing in the National Capital Region as well as develop, with municipal and provincial partners, a long term integrated and sustainable interprovincial crossings plan
The responsibility for NCC was transferred to the PSPC in November 2019 as part of a new government mandate. The NCC is the main federal urban planner in Canada’s Capital Region. In this role, it works in collaboration with stakeholders to enhance the natural and cultural character of the capital. As the largest landowner in NCR, the NCC cares for and protects public places that are unique to Canada’s symbolic, natural and cultural heritage.
Under the Official Residences Act (1985), the NCC has ownership and stewardship responsibilities for the buildings and grounds of the 6 official residences in the National Capital Region. These were officially transferred from Public Works and Government Services Canada to the NCC in January 1988. The NCC is responsible for the long-term planning, capital works and ongoing maintenance of these residences.
The NCC ensures that the 6 official residences in Canada’s Capital Region:
- provide safe and appropriate accommodation for Canada’s official leaders
- serve as inspiring properties and grounds for holding state events and ceremonies
- are furnished, maintained and rehabilitated to preserve their national heritage
In order for the NCC to achieve its mission, parliament granted the corporation several key powers, including the acquisition and disposal of lands. The NCC is authorized to:
- construct, maintain and operate parks, squares, highways, parkways, bridges, buildings and any other works
- maintain and improve any property of the commission, or any other property under the control and management of a department, at the request of the authority or minister in charge thereof
- cooperate or engage in joint projects with, or make grants to, local municipalities or other authorities for the improvement, development or maintenance of property
As steward of these holdings, the NCC manages Gatineau Park, the Greenbelt, the Rideau Canal Skateway, urban lands and parks, pathways, scenic parkways, real property and heritage buildings, agricultural and research facilities, and commemorative monuments. The NCC is also the custodian of the capital’s 6 official residences.
Some of its most noteworthy plans include the following:
- The Gatineau Park Master Plan: for the long-term planning use and management of Gatineau Park as a model for protecting natural and cultural heritage
- The Greenbelt Master Plan: outlines the values that should inform any decisions made pertaining to the Greenbelt
- The Capital Illumination Plan: includes recommendations related to access and wayfinding for public spaces, public safety and comfort, and the protection of natural areas, artistic lighting and energy savings
- The Capital Urban Lands Plan: applies to urban lands that extend to the Greenbelt boundary on the Ontario side, and those located within the urban perimeter on the Quebec side
- The Capital Core Area Sector Plan: applies to the federal lands in the downtown areas of Ottawa and Gatineau
- The LeBreton Flats Master Concept Plan: a vision for the redevelopment of the LeBreton Flats in Ottawa, encompassing a mixed-use community, green spaces, and Capital-building attractions
In 2018 to 2019 the NCC received $72 million in parliamentary appropriations for operating expenditures and $37.3 million in parliamentary appropriations for capital expenditures, while generating $46.4 million in operating revenues and spending $134.6 million to fulfill its stewardship and long term planning mandate.
Questions and answers
Question 1: What is the NCC’s role in the proposed addition to the Château Laurier?
Answer 1: The Fairmont Château Laurier is on private lands that are not subject to the National Capital Act. The NCC’s role is one of working with the proponent on the integration of the new addition with Major’s Hill Park and the Rideau Canal terraces.
Question 2: What is the status of the redevelopment of LeBreton Flats?
Answer 2: The NCC remains committed to the redevelopment of LeBreton Flats to the highest standards of design, accessibility, sustainability and connectivity, and released its draft Master Concept Plan for Building LeBreton on November 21, 2019. Following the release of its draft plan, the NCC conducted a public consultation survey to seek feedback on the plan.
On January 23, 2020, the NCC’s Board of Directors approved the preliminary Master Concept Plan for LeBreton Flats with a vision for a mixed-use community that is pedestrian-friendly, connected to the nearby Ottawa River and surrounded by lively and active parks, plazas, shops, restaurants and cultural offerings. The plan includes space that can be reserved for a potential major event centre or arena.
The vision will be implemented in phases over the coming decades, using an approach that is focused on supporting the project’s guiding principles including achieving social, environmental and economic benefits.
In summer 2020, the NCC will seek the Ottawa City Council’s approval of amendments to the City’s official plan in order to implement the vision in the master concept plan.
Question 3: What has been done to address the need for interprovincial crossings in the National Capital Region?
Answer 3: As part of the budget 2019, the NCC and PSPC were given the mandate to update the 2013 studies for a new crossing in the NCR as well as to develop a long-term integrated interprovincial crossings plan with municipal and provincial partners. No decisions pertaining to a sixth interprovincial crossing have been made. The results from the updated study will serve to present options and will help inform future decisions on this matter.
Question 4: Has rehabilitation work begun at 24 Sussex, the official residence of the Prime Minister?
Answer 4: The NCC is currently working to develop a plan for the future of 24 Sussex Drive to enable the government to make a prudent and informed decision.
Translation Bureau overview
In this section
Public Services and Procurement Canada continues to enhance the quality and capacity of services delivered by the Translation Bureau (TB).
In addition, the Government of Canada has made the reconciliation with Indigenous people a core priority and the Minister of Public Services and Procurement Canada has been mandated to “leverage the expertise of the Translation Bureau to help preserve, protect and revitalize First Nations, Inuit and Métis languages by increasing the availability of translation and interpretation services”. The bureau is working to develop its capacity to increase the availability of linguistic services in Indigenous languages, in partnership with Indigenous communities and organisations.
- The Translation Bureau offers quality translation, interpretation and terminology services in both official languages, Indigenous and foreign languages, as well as signed languages
- The bureau supports the promotion of Indigenous languages by increasing the number of languages for which services are available and expanding its access to more than one service provider for each of these languages
Services in Indigenous languages
Following the June 2018 report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs (PROC) on the use of Indigenous languages in the proceedings of the House of Commons and committees, the TB committed to seeking and forming strategic collaborations with various Indigenous communities along with implementing strategies that contribute to improving the use of Indigenous languages.
Key considerations for Indigenous languages
The TB provides translation and interpretation services in Indigenous languages to federal departments and parliament upon request.
The TB has provided Indigenous language interpretation services to the House of Commons on 5 occasions since January 2019, a historic milestone. Currently, the Translation Bureau is able to meet the demand for services in Indigenous languages.
The TB has a list of approximately 100 interpreters and translators proficient in 20 different Indigenous languages and dialects. There are approximately 90 different Indigenous languages in Canada, grouped into 11 families. There is therefore a limited number of freelance interpreters qualified in these languages. The TB requests reasonable notice for interpreting services in order to give it the leeway it needs to find qualified and available simultaneous interpreters.
The TB is currently working to increase its capacity:
- The TB has met with several senators and members of parliament to determine their needs in Indigenous languages
- The TB has made initial contact with a variety of stakeholders and Indigenous communities through consultations with elders, and participation in conferences led by First Nations organizations (such as the Chiefs of Ontario and the Assembly of First Nations)
- The TB has organized 2 successful workshops with potential suppliers for translation and interpretation in various Indigenous languages. The goal of the workshops was to inform them of the type of work the bureau is looking for, and provide them with an opportunity to assess their level of comfort to perform this work, should the opportunity arise
Remote interpretation: Safety of interpreters
Technological developments in recent years have made it possible for people to work from home and to attend meetings virtually. This has resulted in a marked increase in requests for interpreting by teleconference or telephone.
However, the sound quality is frequently insufficient for the purpose of simultaneous interpretation and is further deteriorated by the use of devices such as Polycoms, cell-phones and other hands-free devices. Furthermore, the limited frequency range, the added noise and hum, and the high level of distortion, make it almost impossible for interpreters to offer quality service without putting their hearing at risk.
In the last 2 years, there were about 30 health and safety incidents related to sound issues in teleconference settings.
In the short term, the TB has taken immediate measures to provide interpreters with a safe work environment:
- Clients must now confirm that a sound technician will be on site for the entire duration of the event and that compressor/limiters will be installed on the sound system feeding the interpreting consoles
- Remote participants must attend via videoconferencing using International Organization for Standardization (ISO)-compliant equipment. If they attend by telephone, participants must send their questions and comments by email or instant messaging, since audio from the telephone system no longer feeds into the interpreting console
- If working conditions present a risk to their health and safety, or if the sound quality does not support interpreting, the bureau asks the interpreters to interrupt service
In parliament, interpreters are always protected against acoustic shock. The 2 new legislative chambers now have ISO-compliant simultaneous interpreting systems and equipment to protect interpreters against acoustic shock injury, and work is being done to have integrated compressor/limiters in all committee rooms in the parliamentary precinct by end of June 2020.
As an additional protective measure, the TB provides all permanent and freelance interpreters with portable sound limiters. These devices reduce the volume of those parts of the signal that persistently exceed the threshold determined by the user.
The issue of interpreters’ health and safety is not unique to Canada. It affects a number of organizations, including the European Union, the United Nations and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Like the TB, these organizations are taking steps to protect their interpreters’ hearing and to ensure the quality of the service delivered.
The TB is working with interpreters, its partners and the industry to implement a long-term solution, which should be in place by 2021. Additionally, TB is currently negotiating a service agreement with the School of Translation and Interpreting of the University of Geneva to conduct a remote interpreting study.
New procurement tool for parliamentary and conference interpretation
In the fall of 2017, the TB created the Conference Interpretation Advisory Panel, which struck a special procurement working group consisting of members of PSPC and of the private sector to propose a new open contracting process. This process is the result of extensive consultation efforts led by the TB and PSPC with the conference interpretation sector to provide quality interpretation services to judiciary, government departments, agencies and the Parliament of Canada.
Key considerations for parliamentary and conference interpretation
The interpretation community responded positively and with a high rate of participation to the request for proposal from the Translation Bureau for parliamentary and conference interpretation services, which allowed the creation of a pool of 143 accredited interpretation service providers for a total of 187 contracts. These contracts are in place for interpretation and translation requests for official languages (English and French) only and will be used by parliament and the Government of Canada. In the case of requests in other languages, a contract will be put in place per request. The contracts will be in place until June 30, 2020.
Although this is a large pool, peak periods of government and parliament activities could still represent a capacity challenge to meet all requests. Quality remains the department’s and the Translation Bureau’s priority throughout this competitive process. The main decision factor to issue task authorization contracts’ is the quality of services, not the cost.
Digital transformation of linguistic services
Recent advances in machine translation, combined with heightened client expectations for high quality, low cost and timely translations of an increased amount of content, are creating a major overhaul of this sector in Canada and globally.
Key considerations for digital transformation of linguistic service
The TB is embracing this opportunity to test various means to incorporate machine translation into its processes. For example, it is currently testing new tools to support the work of translators.
One example is a pilot project with the Department of Canadian Heritage, where bureau translators are using machine translation to do the first cut of a translation and then revise this version. Initial results are showing high client satisfaction and efficiency gains.
Used alone, machine translation poses risks to the quality of communications with Canadians. When backed by an expert revision function, machine translation provides an unparalleled opportunity to produce quality results in a timely fashion.
Questions and answers
Indigenous languages services: Questions and answers
Question 1: What is being done to bolster the Translation Bureau capacity in Indigenous languages services?
Answer 1: The Translation Bureau plans to improve its offering in Indigenous languages by increasing the number of languages for which language services are available and expand its access to more than one service provider for each of these languages.
The Translation Bureau currently uses a roster of approximately 100 interpreters and translators covering 20 of the 90 different Indigenous languages and dialects.
The Translation Bureau hired a project lead on Indigenous languages and outreach to build relationships with Indigenous communities.
Workshops are organized to help potential candidates become familiar with the role of linguistic suppliers for the Translation Bureau. This also allows the bureau to assess the candidates' ability to do the work in a government environment.
Established in 1934, the bureau offers a full range of translation, interpretation and terminology services in both official languages, in Canada’s Indigenous languages, and in foreign languages to federal departments, agencies and parliament. It also offers sign language interpretation services and closed captioning. Its enabling legislation is the Translation Bureau Act.
Moreover, through a Treasury Board decision, the bureau was granted status as the sole employer of translation group (TR) classified employees for the provision of translation, interpretation and terminology services to the Parliament, the judiciary and the federal government, for an indefinite period. The bureau is also responsible for the Language Portal of Canada, a website that provides a host of free resources to help Canadians write well in both official languages, including reference material on: grammar, punctuation, solutions to common language problems, vocabulary used in specialized fields.
Linguistic services: Questions and answers
Question 2: Is the Translation Bureau currently reviewing its business model?
Answer 2: The Translation Bureau is a world-class centre of excellence in linguistic services.
The Translation Bureau is implementing a new business model in providing linguistic services that embraces technology and timely, personalized services of the highest quality. Consultations with key external and internal stakeholders were invaluable in ensuring the business model reflects the changing industry landscape due to technology and client expectations for faster, better and cheaper linguistic services.
Quality of translation and interpretation services
Question 3: What is the Translation Bureau doing to ensure the quality of its translation and interpretations services?
Answer 3: Ensuring quality services is a priority for the Translation Bureau. To that end, a chief quality officer was appointed in 2017 and is implementing an annual quality evaluation for all linguistic services. Work is underway to develop the quality framework for interpretation and terminology. The government is committed to promoting official languages and upholding the spirit of the Official Languages Act by supporting linguistic duality within the Government of Canada and in serving Canadians. The bureau supports this commitment by providing quality linguistic services to government departments, agencies and parliament.
Use of new technologies in translation
Question 4: Why is the Translation Bureau moving towards the use of new technologies, such as automated translation?
Answer 4: The linguistic services sector is undergoing a profound transformation with technological advancements that will yield translation products and interpretation services more efficiently and of higher quality. The increasing sophistication of free neural machine translation tools available online offer a perceived solution for quality, fast and low-cost services when compared to the bureau’s service. Integrating such technologies into the translation process will enable the Translation Bureau to respond even more effectively to the growing needs in official languages. Such tools enable language professionals to shift their focus on quality and processing requests more efficiently.
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