Evidence of meeting #17 for Industry, Science and Technology in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was program.

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
  • Michael Jenkin  Director General, Office of Consumer Affairs, Department of Industry

3:35 p.m.

Director General, Office of Consumer Affairs, Department of Industry

Michael Jenkin

Basically, it's consumer organizations that are non-profits and are based across the country, mostly in Ontario and Quebec. They're typically relatively small organizations. We also get about half a dozen who receive funding from the program most years, and there's usually a handful of others where some years they get funding and some years they don't, depending on the project they submit. It's roughly about a dozen or so organizations a year that receive funding.

That number, again, has been relatively consistent, although the shares of funding that each individual group gets varies from year to year, obviously, because it's a competitive program, and organizations submit proposals and they're judged on their merits.

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair David Sweet

Do you want me to just let the clock run, or do you want to know when the seven minutes are up? You basically have 21 minutes right now.

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

You know what? I think we could let the clock continue to run. We can ask questions...and we'll share that with Mr. Regan as well.

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair David Sweet

Mr. Regan has the last round anyway. You have 21 minutes, and he'll have seven after that. Right now you're at 6:45.

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

Perfect.

I'll just ask one more question quickly, and then I'll hand off to my colleague. Thank you, Mr. Chair.

In relation to the Investment Canada Act, in the last Parliament there were discussions, a motion was put forward, and there was agreement that we would all look at this act and see if there was any way to update it. Has there been any discussion to start looking at that—the net benefit piece, the net benefit clause—through Industry Canada yet?

3:40 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Industry

Richard Dicerni

I do recall the motion of the previous Parliament, and I would emphasize “the previous Parliament”. I would say that at a general high level some are looking at the Investment Canada Act. At this point, there's nothing terribly specific in regard to changing the criteria that relate to defining net benefit, but this is a matter that is constantly being reviewed.

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

Thank you. I'll hand it off to Madame LeBlanc.

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc LaSalle—Émard, QC

Thank you very much for coming and sharing information with us again.

I would also like to thank my government colleagues for giving us the opportunity to ask questions.

I would like to go back to the experts' report on research and development that was tabled not too long ago. The report states that, despite a very generous grant program of $5 billion for research and development to encourage private businesses, the desired results did not materialize.

I wondered if you had a way to do a follow up or an assessment of these grants. Are you able to assess the efficiency of these programs that are benefiting from the $5 billion to find out how they could be improved in order to stimulate research and development in the private sector?

3:40 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Industry

Richard Dicerni

The envelope amount that the committee focused on was $7 billion. We can divide that envelope into two major parts. The first is a tax credit administered by the Department of Finance. It's roughly $3.5 billion. It varies from year to year. The other part includes grants and is more diversified in the nature of the programs. The majority of this second component consists of grants awarded to academic researchers or the various granting agencies.

Secondly, there's the National Research Council of Canada, whose envelope is 600 to $700 million a year.

Thirdly, there is a certain number of specialized programs, like the aerospace industry support program.

This report was tabled in October. The various departments are now looking at these recommendations so they can provide follow up as effectively as possible.

As for the tax credit, I know that people from the Department of Finance are looking at the recommendations that were made and are trying to figure out how the government could follow up on them.

We are a little stuck. The report was tabled five or six weeks ago, and it is fairly lengthy, and another section, which deals with procurement, was added.

So we are continuing our reviews in this respect. The report deserves to be studied in depth.

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc LaSalle—Émard, QC

I would like a little more information. Are there mechanisms that would let us see what results have been achieved through the various grants or the various tax credits? So, with respect to the private sector, for example, can we find out if there are any results as far as research and development are concerned? Will this bring us a little closer to innovation?

3:45 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Industry

Richard Dicerni

Since these are very diversified instruments that target various clienteles, it is difficult to identify one or two performance indicators for all the interventions.

Having said that, one of the indicators we are looking at very closely is the following ratio: the amount associated with research and development divided by the gross national product. Our percentage is very low. It's about 1.8% or 1.9%, whereas Germany, for example, is somewhere around 2.9%.

So the question for us is this: given the diversity of these programs and investments of $7 billion, why are we not achieving better results?

It's one of the indicators we're looking at. We will do a little more analysis of the various stakeholders to create a better cooperation between academe and the private sector. In a sense, each one receives grants from the state and is active in their own environment: the academic world and the private sector. We are trying to help build bridges between the two to create better cooperation.

As a country, Canada has the most time zones per inhabitant. Our country is vast, which contributes to the reduced possibility of creating clusters.

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc LaSalle—Émard, QC

Thank you very much.

November 30th, 2011 / 3:45 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

I would very much like to thank our colleagues opposite for this somewhat special situation.

We know that, last June, MP Claude Gravelle tabled Bill C-204 to help create a Canadian economic development agency in northern Ontario. A program currently exists under the name FedNor. It's a program, rather than an agency.

My question is perhaps a bit banal, but I would like to know the difference between the two structures from an operational standpoint. What would be involved if we changed FedNor into an agency?

3:45 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Industry

Richard Dicerni

As you pointed out, it's currently a program administered by Industry Canada. As a public servant, I would say that it is less expensive to administer FedNor because the administrative overhead is shared by the entire department.

If you consider each of the other agencies, you will note that they all have a human resources section. They all have a financial affairs section to handle overhead.

Within Industry Canada, this overhead is shared by the department as a whole. The lines that Parliament votes for for FedNor go more toward operations than overhead.

Also, the other agencies have a deputy minister and a bureaucratic machinery supporting them. I think, when you come right down to it, the agency functions with the independence it needs to achieve its own objectives.

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

I would like to come back to that. You know that I worked in public accounts in my former professional life. I was only there for seven months, but it's still my former life.

To come back to the issue of accountability, I'd like to know if there's a difference between an agency and a program in that respect.