2021 Staffing and Non-Partisanship Survey Highlights Report

Overall, positive change from 2018

From the conclusion: 

The Public Service Commission of Canada is responsible for promoting and safeguarding a merit-based, representative and non-partisan public service that serves all Canadians. The 2021 Staffing and Non-Partisanship Survey makes available detailed information on the perceptions of public servants regarding staffing, and their awareness of their obligations related to political impartiality.

The survey results reveal that:

  • employees’ views on merit, fairness and transparency have improved since 2018 
  • differences persist in employment equity groups’ perceptions of merit, fairness and transparency
  • employees’ awareness of obligations related to political impartiality remains high 
  • there is a need to raise hiring managers’ awareness of persons with a priority entitlement as a valuable source of qualified candidates
  • despite staffing during a pandemic, managers and staffing advisors expressed a high degree of confidence in their organizations’ ability to recruit needed staff

Federal public service organizations will need to take a hard look at these results, identify gaps and develop measures to address them. More in-depth analysis will help pinpoint how to address key areas that still need improvement.

Appendix A


Survey results are based on the responses of full-time indeterminate or term public service employees, including members of the regular Canadian Armed Forces and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who conduct staffing activities under the Public Service Employment Act. Part-time and seasonal employees, casuals, students, contractors, Governor-in-Council appointees and ministers’ exempt staff are excluded from this analysis. Responses of those who did not agree to share their data with the Public Service Commission of Canada are also excluded. The sample consists of 75 440 public service employees, including: 

  • 51 889 non-manager/supervisor employees (69% of respondents)
  • 23 444 managers/supervisors (31% of respondents) 
  • 633 staffing advisors (1% of respondents)

The 2021 survey response rate is 34.2% and the results are considered representative of the 234 757 federal public servants that are included in this broad definition. The data collection took place over a period of 9 weeks, between March 16, 2021, and May 14, 2021. For questions about their past experience, respondents were asked to refer to the previous 12 months, from March 16, 2020, to March 15, 2021 (for example, regarding the COVID-19 pandemic). 

As in the previous cycle of the survey, the 2021 survey frequently uses response categories that ask respondents the extent to which they agree with the question based on a 4-point scale: 

  • “Not at all”
  • “To a minimal extent”
  • “To a moderate extent”
  • “To a great extent”

In the rare exception where a question is posed negatively, the most positive response would be for those who say “not at all” or “to a minimal extent” and this is the result included. For simplicity, this report groups these results into 2 categories to highlight the share of respondents responding most affirmatively to a “moderate” or “great extent.” 

When drawing comparisons, it is important to note that in 2018, a 5-point scale was used for response categories for some questions mostly concentrated in the section on merit, fairness and transparency. For simplicity, the results for the unadjusted positive scores are reported for 2018 since more complex adjustments do not substantially alter the findings.

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About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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