Evidence of meeting #18 for Government Operations and Estimates in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was estimates.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Michelle d'Auray  Secretary of the Treasury Board of Canada, Treasury Board Secretariat
  • Bill Matthews  Assistant Secretary, Expenditure Management, Treasury Board Secretariat
  • Christine Walker  Assistant Secretary and Chief Financial Officer, Corporate Services, Treasury Board Secretariat
  • Sally Thornton  Executive Director, Expenditure Operations and Estimates, Expenditure Management, Treasury Board Secretariat

5 p.m.

Assistant Secretary, Expenditure Management, Treasury Board Secretariat

Bill Matthews

There are two pieces to AECL, as I mentioned. The first piece relates to the ongoing operations of AECL. That's the voted bit. The second piece relates to the divestiture.

You're right, the sale has been concluded. That agreement actually included an acknowledgement by that new company that there were some projects under way that were started by AECL and that are over budget. The government has effectively agreed to hold the company harmless for those cost overruns, because we know those projects are behind schedule. So when you see the divestiture, the statutory piece, that's because we've agreed to include funding to effectively offset the losses because of those project delays.

5 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

If I am not mistaken, because of delays, we are authorizing public expenditures to a piece of a company that has already been sold to a private company.

5 p.m.

Secretary of the Treasury Board of Canada, Treasury Board Secretariat

Michelle d'Auray

If I can add something, the government had already made contractual commitments. This relates to the Pointe Lepreau refurbishment and a project in Korea, for example.

These are commitments the government of Canada had made. It agreed to continue providing the necessary appropriations, because it had committed to doing that through the company, which was a crown corporation.

So as not to penalize the company that was taking over its contracts, the government honoured its obligation under those contracts, but it set a limit on the amount paid to the company to complete those contracts.

5 p.m.

NDP

Alexandre Boulerice Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

At least there is that.

5 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Pat Martin

That's it for your time, I'm afraid, Alexandre.

Next, it's Mike again. Mike Wallace.

5 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Burlington, ON

I have two quick follow-up questions.

When you something isn't expended in a year and is reinstated, is that because the estimates are presented to us on a cash accounting basis? Tell me if I don't understand this.

Is that not correct? If cash isn't spent in one year, you have to get it reapproved the next year. Is that correct?

5 p.m.

Assistant Secretary, Expenditure Management, Treasury Board Secretariat

Bill Matthews

It's correct that it's cash, but the more important point is that it's an annual appropriation. With few exceptions, where we have a few agencies that get multi-year funding, it's an annual appropriation. It expires at March 31 if you have not spent it, and that's why we have to come back in the new fiscal year to get it.

5 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Burlington, ON

If it were presented to us on an accrual basis, would we have to go back again and get it re-passed?

5 p.m.

Assistant Secretary, Expenditure Management, Treasury Board Secretariat

Bill Matthews

I would say yes. Again, it depends on the model that you're using, but if you actually look at an annual system, if it's not incurred in the year, you would have to come back for Parliament's authority yet again. So it's not a matter of cash versus accrual; it's a matter of it being annual.

5 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Burlington, ON

And is this done at all government levels?

I was a municipal councillor for 13 years. I don't remember having to re-budget things every year, if they hadn't been completely expended that year.

5 p.m.

Assistant Secretary, Expenditure Management, Treasury Board Secretariat

Bill Matthews

I can't speak for all, but I will say that provincially you have a mix. Municipalities typically operate more on a cash basis than the more senior governments. In the federal government you have a mix of accrual and cash. The estimates are cash; the budget is accrual. Municipalities were actually very slow to make the transition off cash, so I would expect they were largely dealing on a cash basis.

5 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Burlington, ON

I'll have to check with our treasurer in our city.

Thank you for the answers. They're always very well prepared.

The last question I have for you is a management question. We made the decision to take the debt collection of student loans out of the private sector and move it into CRA, with the assumption that we were going to do a better job than what we were paying the private sector to do—and some of that delta.

Is this about what we normally write off annually? Or is this higher or lower? Do we know?

November 24th, 2011 / 5 p.m.

Sally Thornton Executive Director, Expenditure Operations and Estimates, Expenditure Management, Treasury Board Secretariat

This is normal and this is a three-year accumulation and it's also very similar to what we experienced when we had arrangements with banks and other organizations, rather than in 2000 when we implemented the new system.

5 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Burlington, ON

Okay.

So here's my management question. Who makes the decision or decides or looks at that program to say yes, we were right, or yes, we were wrong? Is it the responsibility of Human Resources to do that or is there another body that actually looks and says here is where we made the change, we had a look at it and maybe it didn't work or did work? Who's responsible for that?

5:05 p.m.

Secretary of the Treasury Board of Canada, Treasury Board Secretariat

Michelle d'Auray

It is HRSDC. They would be responsible, because they're the ones who are responsible for the program.