Delta MP Carla Qualtrough is taking over as minister of public services and procurement, after a federal cabinet shuffle prompted by the resignation of former public services and procurement minister Judy Foote.
“It’s an extremely appreciative vote of confidence from the Prime Minister that he thinks I’m ready to do this,” Qualtrough said. “Clearly from the various roles I’ve been given over the past couple of years, I’ve demonstrated both an interest in governance and government, but also a skill set that will lend itself well to this portfolio.”
Qualtrough also said her background in law, public service and governance will help bring some hard skills to what is widely regarded as the most difficult portfolio in the cabinet.
As Minister of Public Services and Procurement, Qualtrough will be responsible for the Phoenix pay system, along with government purchases, which Qualtrough said goes from “pencils to naval ships.”
Since the Phoenix pay system was instituted in February 2016, it has seen federal employees receiving too little on their paychecks, too much, and sometimes not receiving any paychecks at all. In August 2017, the Public Service Pay Centre had a backlog of pay transactions that reached up to 237,000. The normal monthly workload is approximately 80,000.
“It’s unacceptable that people aren’t being paid and not being paid properly,” Qualtrough said. “We have made this priority for our government over the last year and a half, and it’s an extremely complex issue.”
In her first day of her position as public services and procurement minister, she’s already undertaken several interviews about the Phoenix pay system.
“There’s no way of getting around the complexity,” she continued. “My priority is obviously to be briefed up on this, and probably a week or so from now I’d be in a better position to talk about next steps.”
Qualtrough said she has yet to receive her official mandate from the Prime Minister in her new role, but expects the pay system to be a top priority. She also expected defence procurement and the National Shipbuilding Strategy to be high on her list of things to focus on in the procurement side of the position.
Calgary Centre MP Kent Hehr has taken over Qualtrough’s post of minister of sports and persons with disabilities, moving from his position as Veteran’s Affairs Minister. Hehr has used a wheelchair since 1991, when a drive-by shooting cut short his college hockey career and left him paralyzed.
“I know his background in disability advocacy is going to serve him well as he continues to shepherd the accessibility legislation through the house of commons and through its final stages there,” Qualtrough said about Hehr.
“For me of course, there’s an element of you need to let go of something that has been my two life passions,” she continued. “But, quite frankly, you don’t let that stuff go. I look at how I can serve the disability community in my new role — I think there is an amazing opportunity to do that.”
Although Qualtrough’s new portfolio will see her working on some of Ottawa’s tough topics, she doesn’t think it will change relationship to her constituency.
“In some ways, I will be addressing some of the more significant issues for Deltans more directly,” she said. “I think of Canada Post as one example, which now falls under my responsibility.”
“Generally, my goal always has been … to make sure that everyone in Delta is served well and efficiently by my office,” she continued. “I make a big point of being very present when I’m in the riding, and I intend to keep doing that.”