Evidence of meeting #20 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 projects.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Richard Dicerni  Deputy Minister, Department of Industry
  • Kelly Gillis  Chief Financial Officer, Comptrollership and Administration Sector, Department of Industry
  • Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Marc-Olivier Girard
  • Yaprak Baltacioglu  Deputy Minister, Department of Transport
  • John Forster  Associate Deputy Minister, Infrastructure Canada
  • Anita Biguzs  Associate Deputy Minister, Department of Transport
  • André Morency  Assistant Deputy Minister, Corporate Management and Crown Corporation Governance, Corporate Services, Department of Transport

3:30 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Pat Martin

I call our meeting to order.

Welcome, everyone, to meeting 20 of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates. Today we will continue our study of the supplementary estimates (B).

We're pleased today that we have a panel of representatives from the Department of Industry to explain their requests for spending under supplementary estimates (B). Leading the delegation is the deputy minister, Mr. Richard Dicerni.

Welcome. I understand you have a brief presentation, and then we'll have one hour for questions from committee members, if you'd like to begin.

3:30 p.m.

Richard Dicerni Deputy Minister, Department of Industry

Thank you.

I'd like to introduce my colleagues: the senior associate deputy minister, Simon Kennedy; and Kelly Gillis, who's the CFO.

We have distributed the formal opening remarks, which are tabled for the committee's review. I would like to provide a brief synopsis of the supplementary estimates (B) that we're requesting.

It's about $325 million, and 75% of that is re-profiling of the knowledge infrastructure program. The government extended the knowledge infrastructure program by about six months to permit x number of projects in universities and community colleges to be completed. Another 20% approximately is repayments from two programs. One is DIPP, the defence industry productivity program, and the other one is TPC, technology partnerships Canada.

The Government of Canada receives repayments based on previous contribution agreements made with x number of companies. Those repayments come in at various times of the year, more often than not during the last quarter; that is to say, the January to March period. That goes into the consolidated revenue fund and the government then reallocates. So about $75 million of supplementary requests come from these repayment programs.

The third major bucket is a number of budget implementation measures that were in the last budget that are now before Parliament for approval, such as the cyclotron in Thunder Bay or the Canada Youth Business Foundation. So there are a few budgetary implementation issues.

Those are the three major buckets of expenditures.

After these short comments, we await your questions.

3:30 p.m.

NDP

The Chair Pat Martin

Thank you for that helpful summary, Mr. Dicerni. I think that is probably more useful than just reading the presentation you've given us and leaves us more time for questions as well.

In the interests of time, we'll go right to our round of questioning. For the NDP, the first questioner is Denis Blanchette.

Denis, you have five minutes, please.

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Denis Blanchette Louis-Hébert, QC

Greetings. Thank you for coming to meet with us and present your supplementary estimates.

We see a lot of new funds for the Community Access Program, involving Internet access for community centres. This is how I understand this.

I would like to know how this program differs from the Broadband Canada program meant to provide Internet access to remote communities. I would like you to explain this program to us in greater detail. What is its purpose? How does it differ from Broadband Canada?

3:30 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Industry

Richard Dicerni

Broadband Canada is meant to develop the infrastructure and develop the network in partnership with third parties, often with companies. We want to develop and widen the network. This is the Broadband Canada program

The Community Access Program supports the existing networks. There are a certain number of centres to which a certain amount of financing is provided. These centres may be in remote parts of the country, in libraries or other points such as community centres, where the money may perhaps support the employment of someone to help people who stop in to try out a computer.

Therefore, this does help finance the infrastructure to a certain extent. One program develops the network while the other facilitates its use.

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Denis Blanchette Louis-Hébert, QC

This program is mainly for municipalities.

Have you harmonized this program with other programs that may exist in the provinces and municipalities?

3:35 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Industry

Richard Dicerni

This program has existed for approximately 15 years. Fifteen years ago, it was much more important and useful since far fewer people had computers and very few people were connected to the Internet. Now 98.5% of the population has access to the Internet and is connected one way or another. The network has widened thanks to combined development by the private sector and by many provinces, enabling people to continue having access to the Internet.

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Denis Blanchette Louis-Hébert, QC

You also have funds for the Digital Technology Adoption Pilot Program. I believe this program is new. Could you tell us more about it?

3:35 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Industry

Richard Dicerni

We are working together with many partners to develop a digital strategy including various components.

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Denis Blanchette Louis-Hébert, QC

This is therefore a component of the government's Digital Economy Strategy.

3:35 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Industry

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Denis Blanchette Louis-Hébert, QC

In the main estimates the government earmarked an envelope of $60 million, including the $19 million we just discussed.

Could you list the other initiatives related to the Digital Economy Strategy presented in supplementary estimates (B)?

3:35 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Industry

Richard Dicerni

The Digital Economy Strategy has many parts. There is a part meant to increase the adoption of digital technology throughout the country. It comprises two main types of intervention. The first type of intervention is meant to encourage small and medium-sized businesses to be more connected to the Internet. This first point is being addressed together with the Business Development Bank of Canada, which has created a special fund of approximately $200 million. The second type of intervention is meant to make it easier for SMEs to adopt the Internet. This program has recently been announced by the government together with the National Research Council of Canada.

A second part, carried out together with the provinces, is meant to increase the number of people prepared to work in this field. Universities and colleges noted a drop in the number of people enrolling in these courses. Therefore, we work on increasing enrollment, and we are doing this together. Yesterday I had a telephone conversation with deputy ministers from various provinces to discuss this issue, among other things.

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Denis Blanchette Louis-Hébert, QC

You are talking about computer specialists.

3:35 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Industry

Richard Dicerni

With companies such as CGI, for example.