Evidence of meeting #70 for Finance in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site.) The winning word was clauses.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Gordon Boissonneault  Senior Advisor, Economic Analysis and Forecasting Division, Demand and Labour Analysis, Economic and Fiscal Policy Branch, Department of Finance
  • Sue Foster  Acting Director General, Policy, Appeals and Quality, Service Canada
  • Margaret Strysio  Director, Strategic Planning and Reporting, Parks Canada Agency
  • Stephen Bolton  Director, Border Law Enforcement Strategies Division, Public Safety Canada
  • Michael Zigayer  Senior Counsel, Criminal Law Policy Section, Department of Justice
  • Garry Jay  Chief Superintendent, Acting Director General, HR Workforce Programs and Services, Royal Canadian Mounted Police
  • Jeff Hutcheson  Director, HQ Programs and Financial Advisory Services, Coporate Management and Comptrollership, Royal Canadian Mounted Police
  • Darryl Hirsch  Senior Policy Analyst, Intelligence Policy and Coordination, Department of Public Safety
  • Ian Wright  Executive Advisor, Financial Markets Division, Financial Sector Policy Branch, Department of Finance
  • Nigel Harrison  Manager, Legislative and Parliamentary Affairs, Department of Fisheries and Oceans
  • David Lee  Director, Office of Legislative and Regulatory Modernization, Policy, Planning and International Affairs Directorate, Health Products and Food Branch, Department of Health
  • Anthony Giles  Director General, Strategic Policy, Analysis and Workplace Information Directorate, Department of Human Resources and Skills Development
  • Bruno Rodrigue  Chief, Income Security, Federal-Provincial Relations and Social Policy Branch, Department of Finance
  • Gerard Peets  Senior Director, Strategy and Planning Directorate, Department of Industry
  • Suzanne Brisebois  Director General, Policy and Operations, Parole Board of Canada, Public Safety Canada
  • Louise Laflamme  Chief, Marine Policy and Regulatory Affairs, Department of Transport
  • Judith Buchanan  Acting Senior Manager, Labour Standards Operations, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada
  • Mark Hodgson  Senior Policy Analyst, Labour Markets, Employment and Learning, Department of Finance
  • Stephen Johnson  Director General, Evaluation Directorate, Strategic Policy and Research Branch, Department of Human Resources and Skills Development
  • James McNamee  Deputy Director, Horizontal Immigration Policy Division, Department of Citizenship and Immigration
  • Graham Barr  Director General, Transition Planning and Coordination, Shared Services Canada

June 5th, 2012 / 3:50 p.m.

NDP

Peggy Nash Parkdale—High Park, ON

Briefly, I want to also add my concerns to the changes in this bill that would eliminate the Auditor General's oversight to about a dozen agencies.

The Auditor General is, and has been, enormously respected and trusted by the people of Canada. That oversight is an important check and balance for government institutions and agencies that we rely on. The Auditor General is a source not only of fiscal accountability but of good common sense oversight to the way government operates.

I want to contrast the supposedly cost-effectiveness of removing the government's oversight with the Auditor General to the decision last fall by the government to spend $90,000 per day to hire outside private consultants to advise the government on how to make these cuts. They were planning to spend, at that point, almost $20 million to get advice on how to cut programs, services, and operating expenses in the federal government when we already have tools within the government to help the government do that.

I just have to say it's not a bad gig to get $20 million to advise the government to lop off environmental agencies, privatize oversight, and privatize government operations. The question is whether Canadians are better served with this approach. I would argue that they are not.

This is, of course, something one would have to argue should not be in this omnibus budget bill, but in fact I know it's justified because, ultimately, any time you chop government services or programs, it affects the budget. However, this more properly should be discussed in terms of what are the appropriate oversight measures and checks and balances in the government, and have a broader discussion on that measure alone.

To see this solely within the context of balancing the books I think can be short-sighted, because if you remove checks and balances that were put in place to prevent problems, to prevent waste, to determine where there are inefficiencies, to determine where government could spend its money better, you could be penny-wise and pound foolish, as my dear departed granny used to say.

I don't think this is appropriate in this bill. I don't think it is an appropriate measure for proper oversight and accountability for Canadians, and for this reason we're opposing it.

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Rajotte

Thank you.

Ms. Glover, please.

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Saint Boniface, MB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I want to start by thanking Monsieur Boissonneault for coming forward again.

Perhaps through you, Chair, I'm going to ask the official to respond to some of the comments made by the opposition.

First and foremost, it is in fact the opposition that has commented numerous times now—Ms. Nash, Mr. Marston—as to the respectability of the Auditor General and how respected and trusted the Auditor General is. It is in fact the Auditor General who made these recommendations, indicating that these are duplicative and unnecessary.

Is that correct, Monsieur Boissonneault?

3:50 p.m.

Senior Advisor, Economic Analysis and Forecasting Division, Demand and Labour Analysis, Economic and Fiscal Policy Branch, Department of Finance

Gordon Boissonneault

That is his interpretation. That's correct.

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Saint Boniface, MB

So as a respected and trusted Auditor General—which is the way the NDP and in fact I believe Mr. Brison have demonstrated their faith in the Auditor General—I would question why they would now question that statement made by the Auditor General. But having said that, the Auditor General also made it very clear that because it's duplicative and unnecessary, it would be more efficient not to have to do them.

On top of all of that, there would be no loss of oversight whatsoever because there is still the audit of the government's summary of financial statements that would capture the information of departments and department-like organizations.

Is that not correct, Monsieur Boissonneault?

3:55 p.m.

Senior Advisor, Economic Analysis and Forecasting Division, Demand and Labour Analysis, Economic and Fiscal Policy Branch, Department of Finance

Gordon Boissonneault

That is correct.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Saint Boniface, MB

I am going to give you a couple of minutes just to explain once again to committee how there is no loss of oversight here and how the comments that are being made are perhaps because they're misinformed. But if you could just demonstrate that there is no loss of oversight because the Auditor General actually has some other tools in his or her tool kit, that would be much appreciated.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Rajotte

Mr. Boissonneault, would you just comment on the oversight issue?

3:55 p.m.

Senior Advisor, Economic Analysis and Forecasting Division, Demand and Labour Analysis, Economic and Fiscal Policy Branch, Department of Finance

Gordon Boissonneault

Yes. Well, the Auditor General had put forward these proposals to eliminate these particular financial audits for these particular organizations in order to be in line with current government directives that financial audits are not undertaken for individual departments and department-like agencies.

The reason they are currently undertaken for these organizations is that the AG is specifically mandated to do so within the enabling legislation, but the proposals would remove that requirement. In the view of the Auditor General, he believes that the annual audit of the summary financial statements of the Government of Canada is sufficient oversight of the financial operations of these organizations.

Moreover, the performance audit function of the Auditor General will continue unchanged. These organizations, typically on a three-year cycle or so, are given a thorough performance audit by the Auditor General of Canada.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Rajotte

Thank you.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Saint Boniface, MB

I just want to finish, if I may, Mr. Chair.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Rajotte

Yes, sure.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Saint Boniface, MB

Having said all of that, Monsieur Boissonneault, I thank you for the clarification.

I would ask opposition members to seriously consider taking this respected and trusted Auditor General at his word and to not try to put words in his mouth or make assumptions about any potential reason this might have occurred, other than to take the reason he's provided at face value.

Those would be my comments.

Thank you, Chair.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Rajotte

Thank you.

I have Mr. Brison on the list.

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Just on this, the reality is that the government is reducing the budget of the Auditor General. The Auditor General has to reduce oversight somewhere. This is where, given the choices, he has identified areas where he would remove his oversight.

I'm not attacking the Auditor General for doing that which he had to do, but it is a reality that it was in response to cuts to the Auditor General's office, and as such a reduction in oversight, scrutiny, and accountability of government on both a performance and a spending basis.