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

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

Conservative

The Chair David Sweet

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Bonjour à tous. Welcome to the 17th meeting of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology.

Today, we have witnesses before us. Mr. Richard Dicerni is the deputy minister. Welcome, Mr. Dicerni. We have Kelly Gillis, who is a chief financial officer, comptrollership and administration sector. Good afternoon.

Is Simon Kennedy going to be with us? That's in progress. That's very good.

At the industry committee there are always interesting things that happen. This is a new one for me. In the spirit of non-partisanship and esprit de corps, it looks as if the opposition is going to have all the questions in the first round.

We're going to turn to Mr. Thibault now for seven minutes.

I apologize. That was so shocking, I missed the opening remarks. Let me get control of myself.

Sorry, Mr. Dicerni. Go ahead, for ten minutes, please.

3:30 p.m.

Richard Dicerni Deputy Minister, Department of Industry

I'm told there will be an exercise in democracy, when you will all be invited to vote, which will interrupt our proceedings. The opening remarks Kelly was going to make have been circulated. Why don't we deem those read and you can go to the questions now?

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair David Sweet

See, that's just what that was. It was a little bit of telepathy. I wasn't able to actually grasp the concept in my mind at the moment.

3:30 p.m.

Kelly Gillis Chief Financial Officer, Comptrollership and Administration Sector, Department of Industry

Parliamentary Appearance on the 2011-12 Supplementary Estimates (B), Opening Remarks

Thank you Chair, and thank you for the opportunity to be here with the members of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. I am Kelly Gillis, Industry Canada’s chief financial officer. Here with me is the department’s deputy minister, Richard Dicerni, and the senior associate deputy minister, Simon Kennedy. I have prepared some brief opening remarks, after which we will be pleased to answer any questions you may have regarding these supplementary estimates.

The 2011-12 supplementary estimates (B) include a total of $324.7 million for Industry Canada. The bulk of the total amount presented—$250.3 million—represents items under statutory appropriations previously authorized by Parliament through other legislation. These items are presented for information purposes only and reflect updated forecasts. The main statutory update in this category is $243.9 million for the knowledge infrastructure Program, KIP. Program funding for KIP was already authorized by Parliament through the Budget Implementation Act 2009, but was deferred from 2010-11. This deferral was due to the decision to extend KIP until October 2011, thereby providing an additional construction season to complete related projects.

Turning to the next group of spending items, Industry Canada is also requesting the authorization of Parliament through these supplementary estimates to access a total of $74.7 million. These requirements are explained on pages 94 and 95 of the supplementary estimates (B) “blue book”. The majority of this amount is available to Industry Canada under two authorities granted to the department as part of our normal funding process. These authorities allow the department to access contribution repayments received in the previous fiscal year to fund programs and operations. Under these two authorities:

The first item, on page 94 under vote 1, our operating vote, requests $23.1 million in repaid contributions from the defence industry productivity program, DIPP, in order to support the operational requirements of the department.

The second item, on page 94 under vote 10, grants and contributions, requests $21.3 million in repaid contributions from the Technology Partnerships Canada, TPC, program in order to reinvest these funds in the strategic aerospace defence initiative, SADI.

From the remaining portion of the $74.7 million I referred to earlier, we are also seeking to access funds for items stemming from Budget 2011. These items could not be included in the main estimates or the previous supplementary estimates due to the nature of the timing of these parliamentary processes.

Specifically, we are also seeking to access $14.8 million for the community access program, CAP, which supports sites located in communities across Canada where populations face barriers to Internet use. We are also seeking $10.1 million to assist youth with obtaining information and communication technology skills to better prepare them in seeking employment. These two amounts are the third and fourth items respectively on page 94 under vote 1 and vote 10.

Finally, these supplementary estimates include requests for transfers either to other federal departments or to different appropriations within Industry Canada. For example, on page 95, under “Transfers”, the second item requests a transfer of $8.6 million from our operating vote to our capital vote. This transfer is required to replace legacy technologies for spectrum management and to maintain the Shirley’s Bay campus infrastructure in order to prevent health and safety issues before they occur.

We are pleased to answer questions the committee may have in regard to supplementary estimates for the Department of Industry Canada.

Thank you.

3:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair David Sweet

Now we will do as I said in the beginning. We'll go to Mr. Thibeault for seven minutes.

3:30 p.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I'd like to thank my colleagues across the way for allowing us to have this first opening round of questions. It's much appreciated, and it just shows the great work we do here on the industry committee.

With that, some of the things I'd like to focus on right now relate to northern Ontario and the Community Adjustment Fund. If we can be specific, there appears to be a reduction of $16.3 million due to the sunsetting of the Community Adjustment Fund in northern Ontario.

First, you can describe, in the Coles Notes version, what the Community Adjustment Fund is and any specifics on what the funding was being used for. If the program was successful, why is it winding down? That would be something we'd be interested in hearing.

I'll leave you with those three questions to start off with.

3:30 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Industry

Richard Dicerni

As part of the economic action plan that was put forth in the 2009 budget, there were a number of specific initiatives the government identified. In the Department of Industry, for example, we had the knowledge infrastructure program. We had the marquee tourism events program.

In the FedNor part, there was the community adjustment program, which was administered in other parts of the country by the regional development agencies. FedDev did southern Ontario.

The funds allocated were specifically allocated for a two-year period of time to deal with the significant economic difficulties of the times. If you look at other areas of our estimates, you'll see under the knowledge and infrastructure program that there has been a significant decrease. That reflects the fact that it was a two-year program.

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

I'd like to hear your opinion on how you think the sunsetting of this fund might affect industry in northern Ontario. It has been successful in some instances. Do you have thoughts on that?

3:35 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Industry

Richard Dicerni

Given that those were budgetary initiatives by the Minister of Finance, my thoughts and imagination tend to be constrained.

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

Fair enough.

I'm going to jump a little bit now to some things related to consumer affairs. Could you tell us the total operating expenditures for Industry Canada's Office of Consumer Affairs? Does that represent a decrease or an increase in operating expenses for the fiscal year 2011-12?

3:35 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Industry

Richard Dicerni

I will ask my colleague, Michael Jenkin, who is the director general in the Office of Consumer Affairs, to provide some specifics. I would add two things, however, before Michael gives you the numbers.

The Department of Industry provides consumer support partially through Michael's office, but also through a number of other areas, for example, spectrum. When in 2008 we launched the spectrum auction and did a set-aside for new market entrants, the goal there was to assist consumers by broadening the number of new market entrants and assisting these new market entrants to have some spectrum, which has indeed led over the last two or three years—that plus investments by some of the incumbents—to lower prices and more products being available to consumers.

If I look across the river at the work of the Competition Bureau, which is very aggressive in pursuing false advertising in a number of sectors, that also contributes to helping the consumer. My point is that it's not just Michael.

Having said that, Michael....

3:35 p.m.

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

Thank you, Mr. Dicerni.

The amounts outlined in the estimates paper are pretty clear, and they've been very stable over the last few years, and certainly in terms of our planned spending are stable at about $4.6 million a year and about 23 FTEs. That has been pretty consistent. I don't have the early year figures, but going back—I've been in the job for about 10 years—and allowing for inflation and other factors, it's pretty much been a stable resource allocation in terms of people and funding. Ditto with respect to the grants and contributions program that we run, which has been at a stable amount for a number of years now.

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

Just specifically to that grants and contributions program that you were talking about, you said it's stable, so it hasn't declined or increased at all over the last, let's say, five years type of thing. Is that correct?

3:35 p.m.

Director General, Office of Consumer Affairs, Department of Industry

Michael Jenkin

That's correct.

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

What organizations currently receive funding through this program?