Evidence of meeting #38 for Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was old.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Claude Benoit  President and Chief Executive Officer, Old Port of Montréal Corporation Inc.
  • Gerry Weiner  Chairman of the Board, Old Port of Montréal Corporation Inc.

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

The question is, does she believe that given all these questions and dubious practices it will help us to have the Auditor General go in and find out if you do have proper financial controls in place?

11:45 a.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Old Port of Montréal Corporation Inc.

Claude Benoit

The Auditor General has audited our financial statements every year. There was a special audit in 2004. We received excellent recommendations from the Auditor General of Canada that helped us improve our practices and to develop.

We are currently undergoing a special audit by the Auditor General of Canada. We told him, and I repeat, our books are open. I presume there will be specific reviews of the issues that have been alleged. We are ready to shed light on the false allegations, on the lies that have been told and on the exaggerations that have been made of the situation of a corporation that has given the government a balanced budget in all the years it has existed, that has made the site what it is, with 6.6 million visitors, and that has helped with downtown Montreal and with the creation of the historic area of the city of Montreal.

People can't say that we are inadequately managed.

11:45 a.m.

NDP

The Chair Pierre-Luc Dusseault

Thank you, Ms. Benoit.

Mr. Mayes, you have the floor for five minutes.

May 10th, 2012 / 11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Colin Mayes Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Madame Benoit, your title is president and chief executive officer. With that title, as a business person, you have responsibilities. You said earlier that you sort of operate and then you get the AG report and then you react to the AG report.

Your responsibility, actually, is to run the corporation so that when the AG comes along you've done some good things.

The one question I have is on your inspirational trips to Australia and New Zealand. Did you ever look at the business models that are operating there, such as the administrative costs to percent of revenue, or the operational costs to the cost of administration? Is there anything in your report that says anything about an analysis of how they operate and how cost-effective their operations are? To me, as a chief executive officer, that would be an important thing.

11:50 a.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Old Port of Montréal Corporation Inc.

Claude Benoit

My reports do not include any systematic studies of particular files. As you will see, they contain reports that comment on all the observations I made. However, once I got back to Montreal, my teams contacted the institutions that, for instance, toured the "Star Wars" exhibit. They asked how it had been organized and how it had been set up. They contacted the managers and the professionals that were responsible for that institution, for example.

The people of the Old Port of Montreal with whom I shared the part on international maritime war facilities contacted the people and researched the matter. The mission involved facility and site visits, and reconnaissance. Then, our teams took over the subjects.

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Colin Mayes Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Could I ask if you have specific dates when you visited the sites during the cruise, and also who you visited on those dates at the sites that you did visit?

11:50 a.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Old Port of Montréal Corporation Inc.

Claude Benoit

Yes, it's in the report. I didn't meet with anyone on site.

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Colin Mayes Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Could I ask for that?

11:50 a.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Old Port of Montréal Corporation Inc.

Claude Benoit

It will be in the report that you'll receive.

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Colin Mayes Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

You never met with anybody.

11:50 a.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Old Port of Montréal Corporation Inc.

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Colin Mayes Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

So you stopped and just looked at the site.

11:50 a.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Old Port of Montréal Corporation Inc.

Claude Benoit

I took photos and went to…

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Colin Mayes Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

But you never talked to anybody about the operation.

Have you ever sent a memo to your senior staff saying, “Gee, we're in restraint. Could you please look at your cost of operation, your various departments?” Do you have any memos you sent out as the chief executive officer that said you were looking at cutting the costs of the operation, that you had to cut back and maybe look at being more efficient in what you did because of a restraint in finances?

You do operate a corporation that has operational revenues of $15,463,000, but your spending for salaries and employee benefits is $16,463,000. Obviously, if I were the chief executive officer, I would send out a memo to suggest looking at how we could save money to get this more into balance. Have you ever sent a memo like that?

11:50 a.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Old Port of Montréal Corporation Inc.

Claude Benoit

I will reply to your question in two ways, Mr. Mayes. First of all, parliamentarians can see the results of our work in the corporation's business plan for 2012-2013. We submitted a plan to the government that shows a 5% reduction in the government's financial contribution to our budget. That gives you very concrete proof of our efforts. This 5% reduction is in addition to the absorption of the parking tax that the City of Montreal has been billing us for since 2010, that we are also absorbing our own costs while these are asset-related expenses that should come under payments in the stead of taxes. This represents $900,000 and is a cut equal to 6.6% of the contribution to maintaining assets. This very year, in 2012-2013, we are cutting the equivalent of the balanced budget contribution by 11%. We are making an effort with respect to cuts.

Now, I would like to correct a perception. The Old Port of Montréal Corporation has a budget of $48 million, including $11 million for maintaining assets. In our expenditures, 60% of our sites are spaces that the public has free access to and that we have to maintain and control. Simply because access to the site is free, we are in a situation where it is going to cost taxpayers money to maintain the site. All the activities that people pay for and that draw people to the area and to the old port itself are self-funding because of the revenue generated by parking, ticket sales, sponsorships, and so on. We are doing an extraordinary job.