Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre's recent newsletter sent to his constituents, in which he states twice that there were zero "public servants with Phoenix pay system problems under the Conservative government," has attracted some negative criticism. "First, thousands of public servants have had pay problems, since Justin Trudeau implemented the Phoenix pay system four months after becoming prime minister, against warnings that it was not ready. I am calling on the government to implement a three-step plan to fix the problem, which arose well after the Liberals took office," writes Mr. Poilievre (Carleton, Ont.), a former minister under Stephen Harper's Conservative government, states in his flyer. While it's technically true that federal public servants did not have Phoenix pay problems when the Conservatives held power, it doesn’t offer context or mention that the Phoenix pay system was developed by the Conservative government. The flyer also discusses how the Liberals shouldn't have launched the system, as it wasn’t ready, referring to the auditor general’s reports. “The decision to implement Phoenix before it was ready led to the problems we see today,” reads the mailing. “This decision happened in February 2016, four months after Justin Trudeau became prime minister.” NDP MP Daniel Blaikie (Elmwood-Transcona, Man.), his party's public services critic, said that to suggest there were no Phoenix pay problems under the former Conservative government is “kind of an asinine comment,” and is at best a “serious half-truth.” "The system obviously wasn't implemented under the Conservatives, but they oversaw the development of the software and it was the Conservative government that decided to consolidate all the pay services in the Miramichi pay centre," Mr. Blaikie said. Phoenix was developed to replace a 40-year-old federal public service pay system that all sides agree needed to happen. In 2011, the Conservatives hired IBM to configure off-the-shelf payroll software to the government's 32 HR systems, and also centralized a reduced number of pay advisers, who previously worked in 46 departments mainly in the NCR, to the Public Service Pay Centre in Miramichi, N.B. The Liberals greenlighted the system in February 2016, and since then it has left tens of thousands of public servants either overpaid, underpaid, or not paid at all. The plan was supposed to save $70-million annually, but a recent report from government's top financial officer said it could take as much as $3.5-billion and five years to fix, although PSPC Minister Carla Qualtrough (Delta, B.C.) said she expects the cost to be lower. Treasury Board was given $16-million over two years in the latest budget to start looking at a new pay system. Alex Benay, the federal government's chief information officer who is in charge of its development, recently told The Hill Times that the new system would be picked in the spring of 2019 using an atypical procurement process. Auditor General Michael Ferguson wrote two reports on Phoenix: one on the solving of the system's pay issues, released in November, and one on the development of the system, released in May. He called the project an "incomprehensible failure" in his spring report, but both reports were critical of both PSPC and the Treasury Board Secretariat, the core public service's official employer. The spring report said Phoenix was seriously underfunded, and when PSPC was faced with possible higher costs, it removed or deferred critical pay functions, which “were serious enough that the system should not have been implemented.” There was no whole-of-system test before implementation and the contingency plan lacked detail. Fourteen departments and agencies told PSPC they had significant concerns with Phoenix, but PSPC officials assured a committee that they had been resolved or had plans to deal with them. Because there were no independent oversight mechanisms in place, the PSPC deputy minister never got word of problems. Mr. Poilievre's mail-out mentioned the Gartner report, which expressed warning that the system hadn't been fully tested. It told Treasury Board it should be implemented on a limited number of departments to start. The warning was passed to PSPC, said the auditor general's report, but the executives didn't consider it before Phoenix was implemented. In response to the auditor general's spring report, the Liberals said they had no choice but to implement Phoenix due to the previous Conservative government laying off 700 pay advisers and rendering the old pay system unusable. The Conservatives said the Liberals should have heeded the warnings against implementation and want the three Phoenix executives to testify in front of a parliamentary committee. The idea that the Liberals could have chosen not to implement it has been "debunked" in various reports, said Liberal MP Steven MacKinnon (Gatineau, Que.), parliamentary secretary to the public services minister. PSPC is now working to stabilize Phoenix, which is considered his and Ms. Qualtrough's highest priority, both have previously said. Mr. MacKinnon said he hasn’t yet seen the former Conservative government take any responsibility for its part in Phoenix nor does he expect it to, but he also said it would be “liberating, and they would have a lot more credibility on the issue” if they did take some responsibility. The Hill Times repeatedly contacted Mr. Poilievre's office by phone and by email for comment this story but did not receive a response. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s (Regina-Qu’Appelle, Sask.) office was also contacted, as was the Carleton Conservative riding association, but they also didn’t respond. Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada vice-president Stéphane Aubry, who represents more than 27,000 government professionals in the National Capital Region (NCR), called Mr. Poilievre's mail-out to his constituents “shameful.” “They know that it was built under their watch,” Mr. Aubry said. He said the mail-out twists words for political gain, adding that he’s frustrated that the parties are playing the blame game. PIPSC has risen above blame to try to find solutions, he said. Susan Demaray, a public servant who lives in Mr. Poilievre’s riding, said she was infuriated when she saw the flyer sent to her home because she’s had multiple pay issues with Phoenix. Ms. Demaray said she has contacted the MP's office for help on her pay problems. “Receiving this in my mailbox last week really just upset me,” she told The Hill Times last week. Ms. Demaray said she tagged Mr. Poilievre in posts on her social media after receiving the mail-out, but has yet to hear any response. She said she planned to speak to the MP in person about it at his community barbecue. There are about 262,000 federal public servants, of which about 108,000 are in the National Capital Region (NCR). PSPC parliamentary secretary Steven MacKinnon said he's sad for Mr. Poilievre's constituents. The Hill Times file photograph Mr. Poilievre, who won the last election with 46.9 per cent of the vote and has the only blue seat in the NCR, is the Conservative finance and National Capital Commission critic. He was first elected in 2004. All MPs are allocated funds by the House of Commons to distribute mail-outs called "Ten Percenters"—which can be distributed to 10 per cent of households within an MP's riding—and four “Householder” mail-outs each year. Mr. Poilievre spent about $10,945 on householders between April 2017 and March 2018, and $1,904 on Ten Percenters. His riding has about 74,000 electors. Canadian Association of Professional Employees (CAPE) president Greg Phillips, who represents about 12,000 members in the NCR, said it's clear from the mail-out that the Conservatives haven't learned from their own mistakes. "The Conservative government planned the trip, packed the car, and made all the reservations and now are blaming the Liberals because they have missed all the checkpoints, don't have anything they need, and are now overpaying," he said, adding that the Liberals could have also handled the fiasco better. "Government employees would much rather receive their paycheque on time than some flyer full of political propaganda," he added. NDP PSPC critic Daniel Blaikie said there's plenty of blame to go around on the Phoenix pay system file between the Conservatives, who developed the system, and the Liberals, who implemented it. The Hill Times photograph by Andrew Mead Flyer an insult to bureaucrats' intelligence, says Blaikie Mr. Poilievre’s flyer states that he will continue to push the government to reduce the backlog of pay files at the Miramichi pay centre, develop an error-free pay system, and roll out the system one department at a time. The government has already committed to doing all of these things. “Mr. Poilievre has never really been characterized by a lot of rigour in his approach to public policy, and I think in this case what you’re seeing is that lack of rigour on display once again,” said Mr. MacKinnon, adding he’s "sad" for Mr. Poilievre’s constituents. Mr. Blaikie said there’s plenty of blame on Phoenix to go around for both parties. The Liberals could have heeded warnings if they wanted to, he said, but at the same time, he acknowledged the pressure to go forward due to laying off pay advisers. Mr. Poilievre’s flyer is “an insult to intelligence” to publish something that makes it sound like the Conservatives had no part in the problems, he said. “I don’t think he’s being quite as smart politically as he thinks he is,” said Mr. Blaikie. “I suspect that his audience is smarter than he’s given them credit for.” email@example.com The Hill Times Pierre Poilievre's mail-out on the Phoenix pay system. Scan of Pierre Poilievre's mail-out.