Transcript: Fixing the Phoenix Pay Fiasco | Jun 21, 2019

Steve sits in the studio. He's slim, clean-shaven, in his fifties, with short curly brown hair. He's wearing a gray suit, white shirt, and spotted blue tie.

A caption on screen reads "Fixing the Phoenix pay fiasco. @spaikin, @theagenda."

Steve says IT STARTED UNDER THE
HARPER GOVERNMENT AND CONTINUED
UNDER THE TRUDEAU GOVERNMENT.
THROUGHOUT, IT'S MEANT HUNDREDS
OF THOUSANDS OF FEDERAL
GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES NOT PAID,
OVERPAID OR INCORRECTLY PAID.
THE PAYROLL SYSTEM CALLED
PHOENIX IS THE COMMON
DENOMINATOR BEHIND IT ALL.
AND ALL THESE YEARS LATER IT'S
STILL NOT FIXED.
HARRISON LOWMAN IS ONE OF OUR
PRODUCERS HERE ON "THE AGENDA."
HE HAS BEEN DRILLING DOWN ON
THIS STORY AND JOIN US WITH THE
LATEST.

Harrison is in his thirties, with short brown hair and a stubble. He's wearing a blue suit, white shirt, and striped red and black tie.

Steve continues GOOD TO HAVE YOU IN THE HAIR.

Harrison says THANK YOU.

Steve says WHAT WAS THE PHOENIX
SYSTEM SUPPOSED TO DO.

The caption changes to "Harrison Lowman. Producer."
Then, it changes again to "The art of the boondoggle."

Harrison says STEVE THERE WAS SO
MUCH PROMISE TEN YEARS AGO WHEN
THE PHOENIX SYSTEM WAS UNVEILED
T WAS SUPPOSED TO REVOLUTIONIZE
THE WAY IN WHICH WE WERE PAYING
FEDERAL PUBLIC SECTOR EMPLOYEES.
EVERYONE FROM THE PEOPLE WHO
WORK IN LITTLE CUBICLES IN
OTTAWA TO THOSE IN THE COAST
GUARD IN NOVA SCOTIA.
WHAT IT WAS, INSTEAD, WAS AN
OPEN WOUND FOR TWO GOVERNMENTS
THAT ULTIMATELY MAY MEAN THE
COSTS EQUIVALENT TO THREE GAS
PLANT SCANDALS IF YOU WERE TO
LOOK AT IT IN ONTARIO TERMS.

Steve says LIKE 3 BILLION DOLLARS?

Harrison says 2.6 TO BE EXACT IS
WHAT'S BEEN ESTIMATED.
NOW, WHAT'S HAPPENED HERE IS
PEOPLE ARE BEING OVERPAID.
THEY'RE BEING UNDER PAID.
THEY ARE NOT BEING PAID AT ALL.
AND THE NUMBERS: 70 percent OF THE
FEDERAL PUBLIC SECTOR HAS BEEN
HURT BY THIS.

Steve says DOES ANYBODY HAVE ANY
EXPLANATION FOR HOW OR WHY THIS
HAPPENED?

Harrison says ONE OF THE REASONS
WAS NOT ENOUGH TESTING WAS DONE.
THE TRAINING WAS DONE BY THE
GOVERNMENT AS OPPOSED TO IBM
WHICH I'LL MENTION LATER ON.
THERE WAS A LACK OF SORT OF
OVERSIGHT.
WHAT HAPPENED WAS SOME PEOPLE
DESCRIBE PUBLIC SECTOR WHO IS
AFRAID TO SPEAK TRUTH TO POWER
WAS THE EXACT QUOTE.
SO WHEN THEY SAW THINGS GOING
WRONG AND THEY KNEW ULTIMATELY
IF WE KEEP APPROVING THIS THINGS
WILL STILL GO WRONG, THEY DIDN'T
BRING THAT UP TO THE HIGHER RUNG
AND THEY WILL TELL THEM
SOMETHING'S BAD.

The caption changes to "How did this happen?"

Steve says YOU HAVE A 10-YEAR
CHRONOLOGY SHALL WE DO THAT NOW?

As Harrison speaks, slides appear showing the information he mentions. The first slide shows a picture of Stephen Harper.

Harrison says 2009 THE NATIONAL
PHOENIX SYSTEM IS CONCEIVED
UNDER THE HARPER GOVERNMENT TO
REPLACE THE REGIONAL PAY SYSTEM
WHICH WAS OVER 40 YEARS OLD.
IT'S SUPPOSED TO SAVE 70
MILLION DOLLARS A YEAR.
JUNE 2011, AMERICAN TECHNOLOGY
COMPANY IBM IS AWARDED THE
CONTRACT.
TO DESIGN AND IMPLEMENT THE
SYSTEM.
MARCH 2014, THE CONSERVATIVE
COLD FRONT GOVERNMENT TAKES ON
THE TRAINING RESPONSIBILITIES
RATHER THAN ALLOWING IBM TO DO
IT IGNORING THEIR
RECOMMENDATIONS.
OCTOBER 2015, THE LIBERALS WIN
THE FEDERAL ELECTION.
FEBRUARY 2016, DESPITE NUMEROUS
COMPLAINTS, PHOENIX GOES LIVE
ACROSS 34 FEDERAL DEPARTMENTS.
IT'S THE FIRST WAVE OF THE ROLL
OUT.
APRIL 2016, AS THE THOUSANDS OF
BACKLOGS MULTIPLY AND EVEN WITH
UNIONS URGING THEM NOT TO, THE
LIBERALS ROLL OUT THE SECOND
WAVE OF THE PROGRAM.
FEBRUARY 2018, THE LIBERALS THEN
ANNOUNCE THEY PLAN TO BUILD AN
ENTIRELY NEW SYSTEM RATHER THAN
MOVING FORWARD WITH THE FIXED
PHOENIX.
MAY 2018, THE AUDITOR GENERAL
FINDS THAT THE BUILDING AND
IMPLEMENTATION OF PHOENIX WAS AN
INCOMPREHENSIBLE FAILURE OF
PROJECT MANAGEMENT AND
OVERSIGHT.
JUNE 2019, IN MID-JUNE, THE
FEDERAL GOVERNMENT NAMED THREE
COMPANIES THAT COULD BE CHOSEN
TO BUILD THE NEW SYSTEM:
CERIDIAN, SAP AND WORK DAY.
THEIR FINAL RECOMMENDATIONS
EXPECTED IN THE FALL.
2023.
THAT'S WHEN THE PARLIAMENTARY
BUDGET OFFICER EXPECTS THE NEW
SYSTEM TO BE UP AND RUNNING AT
THE EARLIEST.
THEY SAY IT WILL COST TAXPAYERS
57 MILLION DOLLARS TO BUILD.
COULD BE 105.7 MILLION DOLLARS TO RUN
AND THE ULTIMATE PRICE TAG?
THE PBO SAYS FIXING PHOENIX
COULD COST 2.6 BILLION DOLLARS.

Steve says THIS IS NOT GOING TO
SAVE US 70 MILLION DOLLARS A YEAR AT
THE END OF THE DAY.

Harrison says YES IT'S GOING TO
BE MUCH LARGER THAN THAT.

Steve says MY GOODNESS THAT IS A
GOOD RUNDOWN OF WHAT THE LAST
DECADE HAS LOOKED LIKE.
YOU HAVE SPENT SOME TIME TALKING
TO PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN
ADVERSELY AFFECTED BY THESE
THINGS DO YOU WANT TO RUN US
THROUGH THE STORIES?

The caption changes to "Harrison Lowman, @harrisonlowman."
Then, it changes again to "The victims."

Harrison says THERE IS A RANGE OF
PEOPLE AFFECTED.
EVERYONE WHO CAN'T AFFORD THEIR
RETIREMENT TO FEDERAL PUBLIC
SECTOR WORKERS GOING TO FOOD
BANKS BECAUSE OF PHOENIX.
I ALSO HEARD ABOUT A MOTHER WHO
CAME BACK FROM MATERNITY LEAVE
AND HAD ANOTHER KID AND HAD TO
SELL HER HOME AS A RESULT OF
THIS.
TWO PEOPLE IN PARTICULAR I WILL
MENTION THEIR NAMES RUBY
COUTURE, A FEDERAL EMPLOYEE IN
THE OTTAWA AREA.
SHE HAS BEEN OVERPAID 30 INTO.

Steve says OVERPAID?

The caption changes to "Connect with us: Twitter: @theagenda; Facebook, agendaconnect@tvo.org, Instagram."

Harrison says OVERPAID.
SHE'S SPENDING UPWARDS OF 15
YOURS A WEEK, ADDING,
SUBTRACTING IN THIS COLUMN.
THEY HAVE PAID ME HERE, HAVEN'T
PAID ME HERE.
SHE HAS HER OWN NIGHTMARE.
I WILL TAKE YOU TO CHRISTINE
KLANDEESK.
A NURSE IN B.C.
SHE HAS GONE THROUGH HELL THE
MOST STRESSFUL PERIOD OF HER
LIFE.
SHE ACTUALLY IS OWED 30,000 dollars.
SO SHE TOOK ON TWO OTHER JOBS TO
DEAL WITH THIS AND SAID, STEVE
THAT WEIRDLY ENOUGH SHE WISHES
SHE WAS PAID AS WELL AS THE
INMATES THAT THAT'S STREETING ON
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE PAR BARS.

Steve says THE OWN MATES ARE NOT
ON PHOENIX OBVIOUSLY.

Harrison says THEY'RE ON THEIR
OWN PROGRAM.

Steve says THE CURRENT GOVERNMENT
HAS TRIED TO REPLACE PHOENIX I
GATHER WITH SOMETHING ELSE.
WHAT'S THE SOMETHING ELSE?

The caption changes to "A new system, from scratch."

Harrison says THE SOMETHING ELSE
IS SOMETHING CALLED NEXT-GEN.
THE SO THE TREASURY BOARD HAS
GONE OUT ACROSS THE COUNTRY.
THEY'VE SPOKEN TO PUBLIC SECTOR
WORKERS IN VARIOUS PROVINCES
GETTING A SENSE OF WHAT'S GONE
WRONG AND THEY'RE CREATING A
SYSTEM THAT WOULD BE CLOUD-BASED
MEANING IT CAN BE CONSTANTLY
UPDATED.
THEY'LL TEST IT, TRAIN IT.
IT'S GOING TO COST A LOT OF
MONEY AND DOING THINGS THAT
WEREN'T DONE IN THE PHOENIX
PROCESS.
WEIRDLY ENOUGH IN ANOTHER SMALL
ROOM SOMEWHERE IN OTTAWA THERE'S
A GROUP ASSOCIATED WITH THE
PROCUREMENT SIDE OF THE
GOVERNMENT THAT HAS GOT TO FIX
PHOENIX.
PHOENIX HAS TO BE FIXED AND RUN
SIMULTANEOUSLY AS THIS NEXT-GEN
PROGRAM IS ROLLED OUT.
THEY HAVE TO FIX IT BECAUSE THE
INFORMATION GOING INTO NEXT-GEN
HAS TO BE GOOD.
IT CAN'T BE GARBAGE.
OTHERWISE IT WILL BE GARBAGE
COMING OUT.

Steve says GARBAGE IN, GARBAGE
OUT.
THAT'S THE OLD EXPRESSION.
THIS PROBLEM STRADDLES TWO
GOVERNMENTS FROM DIFFERENT
POLITICAL PARTIES BOTH HAVE BEEN
IN POWER AND HAVE BEEN UNABLE TO
RESOLVE IT.
IS THERE ANY INDEPENDENT
ANALYSIS OF WHO GOT THIS SO
BADLY WRONG?

The caption changes to "The blame game."

Harrison says BOTH PARTIES'
FINGERPRINTS ARE ALL OVER THIS.
YOU CAN'T LAY BLAME.
RUBY SAYS AT THIS POINT IT'S
BEEN TEN YEARS OF THIS PROGRAM'S
ASSISTANCE.
SHE'S DONE WITH THE BLAME GAME
SHOW JUST WANTS TO GET ON WITH
HER LIFE.
SHE WANTS TO FIX THIS THING.
AND I SPOKES WITH GREG FERGIS
WHO IS THE PARLIAMENTARY
SECRETARY ON TREASURY BOARD AND
HE SAID YEAH, IN MY RIDING WHERE
THERE'S A TON OF FEDERAL WORKER-
PEOPLE DON'T WANT THEIR POUND OF
FLESH THEY WANT IT OVER AND DO
WITH LET'S FIX IT.

Steve says WHAT ARE THEY GOING TO
CALL THE NEW SYSTEM IF IT'S EVER
UP AND ROLLING?

The caption changes to "Not rising from the ashes."

Harrison says THEY'RE NOT SURE,
AT THIS POINT.
AS I MENTIONED COME SEPTEMBER
THEY WILL LIKELY HAVE SELECTED
THE COMPANY OR EVEN COMPANIES
THAT WILL CREATE THIS NEW
SYSTEM.
BUT FERGUS SAYS THEY'RE NOT
GOING TO CALL IT PHOENIX 2.0 OR
PHOENIX 3.0.
THE PHOENIX IS NOT COMING OUT OF
THE ASHES, IT IS NOT RISING.
IT IS DEAD AND WE'LL SEE WHAT
HAPPENS COME SEPTEMBER.

The caption changes to "Producer: Harrison Lowman, @harrisonlowman; Student Intern: Sorena Zahiri."

Steve says INDEED WE SHALL.
THAT'S A GOOD RUNDOWN.
HARRISON LOWMAN, THANKS A LOT
FOR THIS.

Harrison says THANKS, STEVE.

Watch: Fixing the Phoenix Pay Fiasco