PM Trudeau answers a question about the Phoenix pay system during a town hall in Kingston, Ontario
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister. I’m a federal correctional officer, and I’m very proud of working in the public service, as are a lot of people in this city, as I’m sure. But with all due respect, the Phoenix debacle has gone on too long.
It’s not fair. We are being told that it could take up to three years to fix this problem, and no offence, that’s not acceptable. It’s not. If a private corporation was doing this on the scale that this is happening, the government would have taken action by now. This is just not right. And I’m asking you here today, is it possible here and now for you to say, can we just put Phoenix aside, put back the old system for now, until we can get this working? Because there are tens of thousands of people that are sitting there out tens of thousands of dollars. There are families that are losing their homes over this.
RT HON JUSTIN TRUDEAU: Yeah. Listen, thank you. Thank you very much for that question, and I know… let me say I entirely agree with you. It is absolutely unacceptable that this has happened. Anyone, particularly public servants who are not getting paid what they are owed in a responsible and rapid way is unacceptable and it’s not the way we want to function as a government.
The question you had, can we just go back to the old system? It’s a question that I had actually had early on. The problem is there was no old system. There was nothing but a very ad hoc way of proceeding on things that was scattered around through the massive bureaucracies of the federal government. And the Phoenix system was brought forward as a way of actually responding in a better way to something that was extremely uneven across the country. There were problems around the actual transition. There were people laid off too early in the process that weren’t able to train up going through, and I’ll admit it, this government in everything we were doing in the first months didn’t pay proper attention to the real (inaudible)… didn’t pay enough attention to the challenges and to the warning signs that were coming on the transition that we were overseeing.
We are working extremely hard to try and fix this. We’re down to I think 8,000 cases that are still 8,000 cases too many. There continue to be people who are suffering, and we are highlighting how important it is to do it. And I can… if I can give a brief shout-out, Mark Gerretsen has been one of the voices in our caucus because of all of you putting your faith in him and your trust in him to step forward and keep pushing us to get this situation solved. And we’re going to continue to work very hard on it, and we will make sure that we settle this challenge.
Thank you very much for your question.