Evidence of meeting #3 for Government Operations and Estimates in the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was infrastructure.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Karen Wilson  Assistant Chief Statistician, National Accounts and Analytical Studies Field, Statistics Canada
  • Marilyn MacPherson  Assistant Deputy Minister, Corporate Services Branch, Privy Council Office
  • Stephen Richardson  Associate Deputy Minister, Department of Finance
  • Michel Girard  Director, Industry Accounts Division, Statistics Canada
  • Paul Rochon  Assistant Deputy Minister, Economic and Fiscal Policy Branch, Department of Finance
  • Simon Kennedy  Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet, Plans and Consultation, Privy Council Office

12:25 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Economic and Fiscal Policy Branch, Department of Finance

Paul Rochon

There are a number of changes being made to accelerate the existing approval process. There are a number of proposals to change those processes, and they relate to the approval processes required to proceed with these projects. A number of those are—

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Derek Lee

Are you talking about the new ones or the old ones?

12:25 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Economic and Fiscal Policy Branch, Department of Finance

Paul Rochon

I am talking about—

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Derek Lee

The new.

12:25 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Economic and Fiscal Policy Branch, Department of Finance

Paul Rochon

No, I'm talking about the old ones.

For example, in the case of an environmental assessment, which often takes some time, there's a proposal that in cases where a provincial government has also done an environmental assessment, the federal government could use that one instead of doing a separate federal assessment, as is currently the requirement.

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Derek Lee

Are you trying to tell us today that there are some really good administrative reasons why money otherwise available for stimulus in the current fiscal year is not being spent—there are good reasons for that, really good reasons?

12:25 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Economic and Fiscal Policy Branch, Department of Finance

Paul Rochon

Look, we're not experts in infrastructure, so if you want to dig down deep on that, I'd suggest that officials from Transport Canada would be the appropriate officials to speak to.

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Derek Lee

Okay.

12:25 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Economic and Fiscal Policy Branch, Department of Finance

Paul Rochon

Our understanding is that there are a number of reasons for the current delays, all of them appropriate as far as we understand, and they relate to decision-making and approval processes. Again, I'd point out that these are largely projects that are greenfield in nature, as opposed to repairs and renovations.

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Derek Lee

Mr. Kennedy, you'd like to add something?

12:25 p.m.

Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet, Plans and Consultation, Privy Council Office

Simon Kennedy

I'd like just to add to what my colleagues from the Department of Finance have said.

I think, Mr. Chair, one of the things that's important to look at, as well, is the purpose of the programs that have been set up. Clearly, the purpose of the measures set out in budget 2009 is stimulus; hence the focus on renovation and repair, rehabilitation, and hence the two years of money. But the Building Canada plan is actually a seven-year program, and it was designed, in large measure, for strategic investments—major highway interchanges, borders, major rapid transit systems in cities, those sorts of things—and those projects have a much longer time horizon and, as my colleagues noted, in many cases have significant regulatory and other hurdles to go through.

So it's not a perfect answer, but there are in some cases reasons why some of the money in Building Canada has not gone out yet. The purpose of the program is not immediate stimulus; it's actually strategic investment.

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Derek Lee

You don't think we could change the focus on that at this eleventh hour? In the month of January or February we could sort of get the focus changed on that stuff?

12:30 p.m.

Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet, Plans and Consultation, Privy Council Office

Simon Kennedy

In fact, I think the budget does talk about accelerating to the extent possible—

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Derek Lee

That's great.

12:30 p.m.

Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet, Plans and Consultation, Privy Council Office

Simon Kennedy

—spending under those programs.