Question Period: The Future of Work

By: The Hon. Andrew Cardozo

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Rideau Canal, Ottawa

Hon. Andrew Cardozo: My question is for the Government Representative in the Senate. It is about an issue that is of concern to a lot of Canadians, which is the changing nature of the economy and how it relates to the future of work.

The nature of work has been changing drastically in recent years with issues such as the growth of artificial intelligence, technological change, equity, inclusion and lifelong learning. I want to ask you about one specific issue, and that is remote work. It is an issue that has come to the fore and is being discussed a lot these days as a result of the agreement between the Treasury Board and the Public Service Alliance of Canada, or PSAC.

This is a time when we are seeing a lot of change in society and a lot of people who want to be able to work from home. Will the government consider leading a national discussion on this issue, both within government and outside?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for your question. The government is very pleased and proud to have a modern workplace where employees can work from home up to three days a week. As part of this transformation, the government has agreed to work with the Public Service Alliance of Canada to modernize the government’s telework directives and take steps to advance equity and fairness between employees. These measures are part of a tentative agreement that has been reached with a third of the government’s workforce through collective bargaining.

These measures still need to be ratified by union members, so I think it is premature to speculate on the next steps, including what role the federal government might play going forward as our society continues to evolve.

Much of this is provincial and territorial jurisdiction — work and the regulation of businesses. I think a conversation has to take place at all levels of society going forward as we continue to evolve.

Senator Cardozo: I would just like to take this a little bit further. Yesterday, the Parliamentary Budget Officer told the Senate committee that, in his view, the Treasury Board should do a study on the productivity impact of public servants working from home. What are your thoughts on that? Should it be the Treasury Board? Again, I would like you to look at it from a wider perspective.

I take your point that it is a provincial issue as well. However, is it not time for us to have a national discussion on the future of work when a growing number of people across the country think that remote work is something we should do? We have talked about it for decades. It sort of came into sharp focus during COVID. This is an interesting time for us to have that national debate.

Senator Gold: In many ways, the national debate is ongoing in many circles, and I think the Government of Canada is participating in it just by virtue of its leadership with regard to its own workforce. It will always take those recommendations and considerations to which you made reference under serious consideration.

Thank you.

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