Ottawa doesn’t know how many of its public servants are working from home and has no idea how busy its millions of square feet of office space is, more than two and a half years into the pandemic.
Posted at 6:00 am
Maxime Bergeron investigative team, La Presse
“They’ve lost control, completely,” thundered conservative Senator Claude Carignan, who has made two formal requests for information to the federal government in the past few months.
The laconic answers left him speechless. Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) “does not track the proportion or number of federal officers who work from home” and “does not systematically collect data on occupancy rates,” we can glean from documents provided by the government.
“I fell off my chair,” says Claude Carignan. What employer doesn’t know how many of their employees are working from home? And how would you like to play your role as an employer and make sure you have an effective service when you have no idea how many of your employees are working from home when their main job is to provide direct services to citizens how z offices? »
According to the senator, this lack of data is all the more worrisome given Ottawa’s increased hiring numbers since the pandemic began.
The federal government had 319,600 civil servants at the end of 2021, up almost 40,000 from 2019, according to the most recent data available.
Claude Carignan also responded to the article published by La Presse on Monday, which revealed that neither Quebec nor Ottawa have conducted any study or analysis on the productivity of their employees working from home since the pandemic began. “It’s worrying,” he said.
The Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS), which oversees all federal departments, confirms that it has not compiled aggregated data on the number of teleworkers in the public sector. “This is happening at the ministry level,” spokesman Martin Potvin said via email.
Services more diligent than others
La Presse has requested this data from most federal agencies as part of the Information Access Act. Some have answered us, such as B. Fisheries and Oceans Canada, noting that 7,476 of its 15,666 employees are on hybrid contracts and that 682 work full-time from home.
However, it was impossible to get an overview because several ministries did not answer our questions or only partially.
Additionally, Ottawa has not issued a consistent policy regarding the return of its employees to the office.
“Each department and agency develops its own roadmap,” the TBS spokesman said.
Data on the number of square meters of occupied offices – or not – are also collected “at the ministry level”, says Martin Potvin. “What we can tell you is that since the spring all departments have increased the occupancy rates of their respective workplaces and more and more core public administration officials are now going to their offices regularly. »
Too short an answer in the eyes of Nicolas Gagnon, Director of the Canadian Taxpayers Federation for Quebec. He finds it “outrageous” that the federal government is ignoring the number of telecommuting officials it has and the amount of vacant space it has. He calls for “a purge” of the government workforce as public deficits widen and a recession looms on the horizon.
6,198,615 total square feet of office space managed by Public Services and Procurement Canada as of June 23, 2022. The government cannot say what proportion of these offices are occupied or vacant.
Source: Government of Canada