Evidence of meeting #6 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 management.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Patricia Hassard  Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet, Senior Personnel and Public Service Renewal, Privy Council Office
  • Daphne Meredith  Chief Human Resources Officer, Treasury Board Secretariat

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder London West, ON

Have you done any comparisons between,say, the pension plans associated with the public service against those of the private sector?

4:10 p.m.

Chief Human Resources Officer, Treasury Board Secretariat

Daphne Meredith

We've done some work. It's not completed. Clearly, with the focus on pensions and comparability, we are looking at other organizations and trying to get a view as to how we're benchmarked in terms of pension and benefits generally.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder London West, ON

Would your sense of pension and benefits, again from a subjective sense, suggest to you that those types of benefits and pensions are stronger in the public service than they are in the private sector?

4:10 p.m.

Chief Human Resources Officer, Treasury Board Secretariat

Daphne Meredith

I think the fact that we have a defined benefit pension puts us in a leading group--comparable to other governments...but yes.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Yasmin Ratansi

Thank you very much.

We now go to Mr. Julian for eight minutes.

March 29th, 2010 / 4:10 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

Thank you Ms. Hassard and Ms. Meredith, for being with us today. As you know, it is important. We have many questions for you.

I'd like to start with a question of checks and balances. We had the announcement of the departmental budgetary freeze a few weeks ago. Immediately subsequent to that we had a very high-profile use of the Challenger jet, with the finance minister going down to Toronto. Then we had the Minister of National Defence, who wanted to use the Challenger to go from Ottawa to Vancouver at a time when there were ample flights available. That's at a cost of $100,000 for the Challenger as opposed to a few hundred dollars to go by regular airline.

I'm wondering, in that kind of situation, where it's kind of a flagrant contradiction to what has just been announced and certainly fuels a public perception that perhaps the government has two standards, how within the Treasury Board or the Privy Council Office the system kicks in to prevent that kind of thing from happening.

4:10 p.m.

Chief Human Resources Officer, Treasury Board Secretariat

Daphne Meredith

In relation to the freeze announced in the budget on operating budgets, it is a freeze on operating budgets, not on individual line items within operating budgets. That's the approach that was chosen, so looking at individual expenditures within that is not really particularly relevant to the way that the freeze has been applied.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

So what you're saying is there isn't really a system of checks and balances, as long as the overall budget... Whether or not that money is being effectively used isn't so much a concern as sticking to the freeze itself.

4:10 p.m.

Chief Human Resources Officer, Treasury Board Secretariat

Daphne Meredith

I think, Madam Chair, the main control point for the freeze was on departmental budgets. They're accountable for their use and for their control. Then from a system point of view we want to ensure that they do remain within their operating budgets. That's what was frozen. But we're not freezing every line item within each budget. They're to be accountable for the use of those funds and making the choices within them.

4:10 p.m.

Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet, Senior Personnel and Public Service Renewal, Privy Council Office

Patricia Hassard

Madam Chairman, could I just add one thought there? I don't want to leave the impression that there are no checks and balances on the use of the Challenger jets. I think we should undertake to provide you with that.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

So there is a protocol?

4:10 p.m.

Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet, Senior Personnel and Public Service Renewal, Privy Council Office

Patricia Hassard

It's not one within my purview, but I think we shouldn't leave the impression that there's none. We need to provide that information to you.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Yasmin Ratansi

Is that something that you will be providing the committee?

Okay, thanks.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Thank you for that, because it's obviously a public concern; a $100,000 joyride is unwarranted. It's something that I think certainly raises the hackles of people in my constituency, so it would be important to know what the process is.

I would like to move on to the whole issue of what's being cut and what's being increased. One of my colleagues mentioned the PCO increase.

There's also been a marked increase in the budget for prisons. We know that if we put money into crime prevention we actually save money at the end of the line. The normal rule of thumb is that a dollar invested in crime prevention saves about six dollars in policing costs, in court costs, and prison costs later on.

So I'm wondering, around the government's move forward to increase the prison budget, is there, within either the Treasury Board or the Privy Council Office, a vehicle to evaluate whether that's the best use of public funds or whether that money should go to address the cutbacks that we've seen in crime prevention budgets?

4:15 p.m.

Chief Human Resources Officer, Treasury Board Secretariat

Daphne Meredith

I think, Madam Chair, the budgets of individual departments are voted by Parliament. They're brought here, and ultimately are the purview of Parliament. They therefore are things on which you can have a view.