Evidence of meeting #43 for Government Operations and Estimates in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was remember.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

8:45 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair John McKay

Be very, very brief.

8:45 a.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Pontiac, QC

Well, very briefly, colleague, it's unfortunate that you missed my opening remarks, but in them I indicated to my colleagues who were here that we indeed did host the world and that we did indeed—contrary to opposition claims that this summit was only held for two days—host a number of events around that, whose preparations had been ongoing since 2008.

But above and beyond all of that, one of the events we held was the youth summit on the margins of the summit in Toronto, as well as the one in Muskoka. As is the custom wherever you go in the world to such gatherings, there are promotional events held and promotional things given. In this case, particularly for the youth summit, I understand that what you mentioned was one of the promotional things left with the delegates who had come.

8:45 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair John McKay

Thank you, Minister.

Ms. Bourgeois, you have the floor for eight minutes.

8:50 a.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Good morning, ministers.

Good morning to you as well, ladies and gentlemen officials.

Ministers, I appreciate the fact that you have come here this morning. I nevertheless want to tell you that I am somewhat disappointed—it's not that I didn't want to see you—because the person who would have been in the best position to answer our specific questions is the Minister of Industry. The officials who have come to see us in previous weeks have told us that the Minister of Transport at the time and the current Minister of Industry, who was also Minister of Industry then, made the decision to favour one region over others to hold the G8. I'm nevertheless going to ask you these questions, knowing that you may have been briefed before coming here.

I will speak first to the Minister of Transport. When you decide to hold a summit in a specific region, such as the one you held in Huntsville, you two ministers decide. In this instance, you two ministers decided this time.

How was that location chosen? Don't you think that, since that place was located in the constituency of the Minister of Industry, the Minister of Industry was being put in a conflict of interest?

8:50 a.m.

Conservative

Chuck Strahl Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Of course, the decision to hold the G-8 summit specifically--I think it's important to remember that these things, although they were sequential, were two different events, and the G-8 conference in the Muskoka area was chosen first. At that time it was thought that would be the big event.

The decision to move ahead with the G-8 in Muskoka was of course a government decision. A panel of public servants travelled to a variety of sites across Canada to see what would be the best of the sites. Huntsville was recommended as the number one site from several others that were also considered. But in the end it's a Government of Canada decision; it's not left to any one minister. The government, based on recommendations that came to it from public servants, decided to proceed with the Muskoka site. It turned out to be the right decision. It was a very successful summit. But no one minister makes decisions like that.

It's interesting to me that leading up to the summit, and well in advance, even the leader of the opposition was talking about how he also supported the site, he thought it should take place there, and he thought it would be very good. He was right. It did turn out to be a good summit in a good location.

8:50 a.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Minister, I understand why a party leader might say that could be a good location. But I think there's still a problem: it was in the constituency of the Minister of Industry and nearly $50 million was spent there, $43.7 million more specifically, for a heritage moment. That's where I believe there's a problem.

Was the Minister of Industry of the time, who is still minister today, party to that decision? What hat was he wearing? The minister's hat or the member's hat?

8:50 a.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Pontiac, QC

With your permission, Madam, I'm going to try to answer your question. My colleague indicated how the process took place.

First, in 2008, a number of officials from several departments—the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of Public Safety, the Department of Public Works and Government Services, the Department of National Defence, and so on—met. After visiting a number of sites—I believe they visited five—they made a recommendation to the government. It was the same thing as, for example, when the constituency of our colleague, Mr. Laframboise, whose riding is adjacent to mine, was selected. The meeting of the heads of government and heads of state of North America was held in Montebello a few years ago. These are recommendations made by the government. That's how we come to these conclusions.

8:55 a.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

In that region, $43.7 million was spent for a heritage moment. I have no objection to that heritage moment as such; I understand that you have to compensate the region and the people who live around there for the discomfort, insecurity, etc. However, $43.7 million is a lot of money, at a time when we're asking people to tighten their belts. Look at the context of 2008-2009, and you know that economic troubles were coming; money was invested in towns mostly located more than 35 km or 45 km away from Huntsville. Explain that to me.

8:55 a.m.

Conservative

Chuck Strahl Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Yes, certainly. It is true that the entire Muskoka area benefited from the event, but that was the objective going in. The parameters in terms and conditions that were put on the funds that were allocated, up to $50 million--not all of it was spent, but a good part of it was--were that it would be spent in the entire Muskoka area. So towns like Bracebridge and Gravenhurst, besides Huntsville itself, Parry Sound, all these towns in the entire Muskoka area had access to the fund. A committee was struck of all the mayors in all the towns in the greater Muskoka area. They met regularly and were invited to meetings regularly to set priorities and choose projects.

We made no bones about it. This was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to celebrate the Muskoka area and promote it to the world. It's a beautiful area on its own, but by putting this legacy fund together, people were able to choose projects. Every one of these projects is a public project approved by the mayor and council, selected as a priority, and then funded, admittedly, by the federal government. But we went in with our eyes open. We wanted to do this, and we wanted to do it not just for Huntsville but for all the areas, even if they weren't close by, because the entire area benefited.

8:55 a.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Thank you, minister.

I have one final question for Minister Cannon.

So many things were done in that region, such as the installation of interlocking paving stones and toilets in the park. I would like to know, Mr. Cannon, whether you took the opportunity to go and conduct a grand tour with your counterparts to show them the result of the $47 million investment in the region?

8:55 a.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Pontiac, QC

Like a lot of people, obviously, you can understand that I had to work during those days. That's moreover why the federal government—and we are not ashamed of that—funded a program called Experience Canada, which was somewhat derided by a number of our colleagues.

The fact nevertheless remains that it promoted the country at a cost of roughly $20 per person who visited the site.

8:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair John McKay

Thank you, Minister.

Mr. Warkentin, eight minutes.

December 9th, 2010 / 8:55 a.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Peace River, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, Ministers, for being here this morning. We appreciate your coming to our committee, and coming this early.

Minister Cannon, Canada, as part of the G-8, has a responsibility to host the G-8 from time to time. Obviously, we as a country have taken this responsibility seriously. We undertook to host the G-8 and later on the G-20, which is something I don't think Canadians expected we would host. And I'm not sure the government had expected to host the G-20 in conjunction with the G-8. As a matter of fact, we've heard at this committee that this was entirely unprecedented, that Canada really took on a project that had never been done in the world's history, quite frankly, where these two summits would come together to be hosted in a single country at a single point in time.

I'm wondering if you could run through the timeframes as they relate to the decision or the willingness of Canada to host the G-8, and then the corresponding responsibility we took on to hold the G-20 in addition to that, and maybe some of the logistical questions that needed to be resolved as a result of the additional responsibility.

9 a.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Pontiac, QC

Thank you, colleague, for that question.

I did mention in my opening remarks how important it was and the privilege Canada has had playing host to both the G-8 and G-20.

Indeed, the preparations began well before the event took place, or a number of events. I mentioned, for instance, that the G-8 and the G-20 were preceded by a number of meetings held by, of course...the G-20 sherpa meetings, the G-8 sherpa meetings. And for those who do not understand what the sherpa designation means, this is the Prime Minister's special representative. As they build on the consensus and they come to decisions that are taken, the sherpas do a lot of the groundwork. They do meet around the world. Indeed, this is the process that's in place internationally.

But if we look, colleague, at the outcome.... Let my give you an example of the maternal health, the Muskoka initiative, which is one of the important initiatives that are a part of the millennium development goals. This initiative that Canada pushed, with the support of the Secretary General of the United Nations and also with the support of a lot of the world leaders, required preparation.

I, personally, remember going to Toronto and meeting with a number of representatives from African countries who did indeed participate in the G-8. I met with a number of people from the financial community as well as from the business community. I went as well to the African Union meeting and addressed NEPAD to talk to them about our preliminary agenda and to get their feedback.

While all of this of course takes place, we hosted the planet here for the G-20 pretty well. A lot of the world leaders were here. Decisions that were made do impact a lot of our economies. I think we should be extremely proud of what took place, not only from the G-8's perspective with the Muskoka initiative but also from the perspective of the G-20 decisions that were taken on a going forward basis. I think that Canada and Canadians can be extremely proud of how we managed that and of how the Prime Minister was able to come out and show his leadership on a number of these economic issues, which, as you know, impact all Canadians as well as all industrialized countries around the globe.

9 a.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Peace River, AB

Thank you.

So far every witness who has come to our committee who was involved in the G-8 and G-20 has talked about their budget. We have asked every one of them to describe what they undertook and how their budget came in, and every single witness has told us they've come in under budget.

Obviously, we've heard the rhetoric from the opposition change. At one point they were talking about extravagant numbers, which have significantly been reduced. As the numbers and the final costs of the summit have come in, their expectations have been blown away.

I think it demonstrates the responsibility of the respective partners in putting together this summit. While there were the resources to get the job done, every single department thus far and every single partner seems to have come in under budget, at least from what we've heard thus far.

I wonder whether either of you ministers would comment on the expectation, in terms of the cost. There was talk about this being a $1.5 billion summit. So far, at least, we haven't heard a total number at this committee of final costs, but we're hearing that everybody is coming in under budget.