Response from ADM (HR-Civ) on Ombudsman’s visit to 12 Wing Shearwater, NS

12 May 2015

Mr Gary Walbourne
National Defence and Canadian Forces
100 Metcalfe St, 12th floor
Ottawa, ON K1P 5M1

Dear Mr. Walbourne:

Thank you for your letter of 9 April 2015 providing feedback from your recent visit to CFB Halifax and 12 Wing Shearwater. The ADM(HR-Civ) organization is aware and continues to be actively engaged to support management in addressing the important issues you raise.

As you noted, the area of staffing professional to support our Canadian Armed Forces health services program is one of particular importance. Both our previous and current Deputy Minister and Chief Military Personnel (CMP) leaders are routinely kept informed of ongoing efforts to fill these difficult to staff positions.

National Defence has encountered difficulty attracting and recruiting qualified and experienced Mental Health professional, due in large part to the limited market availability within Canada. Another challenge is related to the locations for certain positions within our Department (e.g. remote or non-metropolitan locations). Additionally some of our salaries are not competitive within the industry. In an effort to mitigate, as appropriate, the top of the pay scale is offered to potential candidates.

Treasury Board (TB) as the employer is responsible for setting rates of pay through the collective bargaining agreement. National Defence has been able to actively participate as members of the employer’s Health Services bargaining team during recent and current rounds of collective bargaining. Through this participation we have highlighted the challenges of recruiting and retaining qualified health professional (ex. Psychologists). Since many of the collective agreements expired in September 2014, it was an opportune time for CMP to bring forward information pertaining to the recruitment and retention barriers for hiring medical health professionals in the Public Service to TB for consideration.

Notwithstanding these challenge, CMP and ADM(HR-Civ) stood up a Tiger Team in October 2014, and successfully staffed 54 vacant mental health and clinical workforce positions across Canada. In order to ensure DND continues to meet the standard of care in like with the Department’s Mental Health Strategy, recruitment efforts (e.g. regular intake into existing inventories) continue to be a primary focus. National monitoring of vacancies and related staffing processes will continue on a monthly basis to address issues and barriers as they arise. A needs analysis of current and future hiring requirements is underway to ensure continual progress on this important initiative.

Regarding the Employee Assistance Program (EAP), I can assure you this program is one of the cornerstone elements of our well-being program. A modernization of the department’s EAP recently begun to ensure the program remains relevant and effective. As such, an EAP Satisfaction Survey was recently promulgated throughout DND to determine where amelioration can be made to services offered.

Concurrent to this survey, the EAP modernization initiative also evaluated the training provided to departmental EAP referral agents to ensure they possess the required skills and competencies to address current and future needs of the workforce. A pilot of the required EAP referral agent (RA) training program took place from 24-26 March 2015, in partnership with union representatives; it was well received and feedback was positive. The comments and feedback are being used to finalize the course material and we will be formally launching this new training program in the coming months. It includes on-going developmental seminars for current RAs.

Finally, with respect to the issue of parking and Alternative Service Delivery (ASD) our HR staff remains engaged in advising and supporting the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN). These topics have been the subject of considerable employee engagement and union consultations in Halifax. It has come to my attention you have also identified these concerns to the Base Commander at CFB Halifax. As these matters are the direct responsibility of management, it is my view that RCN’s response will provide you with the most in depth information.

Your offer of assistance is appreciated and by bringing these concerns forward you are supporting the progression of these important issues faced by the Defence Team.


Susan Harrison

Date modified: