Evidence of meeting #12 for Public Accounts in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was clement.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Well, I would disagree with your characterization of the situation.

Certainly, when we were dealing with an international summit, I had conversations with the Mayor of Huntsville about what was going on in Ottawa, or what was going on with the planning, and we would exchange information. So that was merely an e-mail that said before you talk to the media, you might want to get all the information. I think that's a wise thing for MPs to do, as well as mayors.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

The Chair David Christopherson

Thank you.

Sorry, your time has expired.

Moving on in the rotation, Mr. Shipley, you have the floor, sir.

November 2nd, 2011 / 4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Shipley Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Thank you.

It's interesting; we create public trust in many ways, and one of them was raised in this Auditor General's report. As the interim Auditor General said, it is clear that the government received the goods and services it paid for: “It got what it paid for.”

Mr. Baird, as Minister of Infrastructure, I wonder if you can talk to this committee about why it is important that every cent of the G-8 legacy fund is accounted for.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

John Baird Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

At Infrastructure Canada, at this time, one of our biggest challenges and biggest criticisms of members of Parliament on both sides of the House, and of provinces, of municipalities, of territories, was that the process was moving far too slowly. So we moved quickly at the height of the economic downturn to approve infrastructure projects.

I'm pleased that this fund...and this was 32 projects out of some 23,000 projects that were approved by the federal government. They were all public infrastructure projects. We did similar projects in different parts of the country in other programs. I'm pleased that we didn't even spend the full amount of this fund; in fact, it was under-spent. All that was spent was not even spent in the region in question. It was spent in neighbouring regions.

Every single dollar of all 32 projects is accounted for; not one single penny is missing. It's all in public infrastructure. There's no private benefit. Whether it's a provincial highway, a public airport authority, or a local town park, every single dollar is accounted for. It's all public infrastructure that will benefit people in those communities and those who visit them for decades to come.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Shipley Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Thank you very much.

Minister Clement, you started out with a list of 242 projects and ended up with 32 projects. I wonder if you can talk to us about who created the process and why it was created in that way.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Ultimately, the 32 projects that were funded represented the top priorities of the municipal governments, knowing as they did at the time--it was communicated to them--that there were various purposes for the G-8 legacy fund. It could be for straight infrastructure for the actual summit itself. It could be for business development like tourism, or it could be a legacy building or other structure as a thank you from the government to the community for hosting the event, which has been done in summits past.

So they knew the broad parameters, and they started to think of what their priorities were. The initial number, as you said, was 242. I will again state for the record that I told my mayors that was too many. When they started to reveal what their 242 projects were, my quick calculation was that there were $500-million worth of requests for a $50-million fund. So I did what I thought was the responsible thing on behalf of the government. I went back to the community and said, okay, you have to come back with your priorities, and I will make sure they are forwarded to the right people.

So that was the process. As the Auditor General indicated, once that was done and I recommended those projects to the Minister of Infrastructure, it was his decision to make.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Shipley Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Thank you.

I want to talk a little about forms and the community proposal form. The opposition NDP continue to suggest that the minutes and the form were created by your office. Just for the record again, can you confirm who in fact created the community proposal form? Was it the official Government of Canada form for the purposes of this fund?

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

I'd certainly be happy to clear up their confusion on this.

As I said just a few minutes ago, the form was made by the Town of Huntsville. They also took the official minutes of the local area leadership group meetings.

So this idea that I concocted a form is in fact incorrect. That is not good research.

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Shipley Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Thank you, Mr. Minister.

4:10 p.m.

NDP

The Chair David Christopherson

Thank you very much, Mr. Shipley.

Mr. Byrne, you have the floor, sir.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Gerry Byrne Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you to the ministers appearing before us and to the witnesses.

Minister Clement, would you be able to inform the committee exactly how many mayors, communities, and organizations were involved in this process who ultimately were thinking of or did submit applications to the process?

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

I can't tell you how many submitted applications. I can you I have 25 municipalities in my constituency, plus North Bay because of the airport that existed there.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Gerry Byrne Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

Twenty-five. Thank you, Minister.

I'm sure you appreciate what's at stake here. In addition to the process issues, which we're trying to get at to ensure that taxpayers' dollars were protected and there was a process in place, you are also the minister of the Treasury Board, now responsible for a very serious initiative within the government to cut down government spending. You're also the chief executive in the spending of over $250 billion.

This is a larger issue in addition to the G-8 legacy fund, so let's get to the brass tacks of this. You're suggesting—if I'm reading it correctly—that instead of 242 applications, you asked for mayors and communities to self-evaluate all the applications within and amongst themselves, and to arrive at, with surgical precision, 32 projects that would meet the criteria and also meet the budget envelope of $50 million.

Is that what you're suggesting--that with surgical precision, 25 organizations and communities, without any disputes or objections being raised amongst themselves, actually arrived at that number themselves?

The alternative, Minister, if there was no adjudication within and amongst themselves, was that the department, the Government of Canada, had a role to play, and there was some oversight or some assessment granted by government officials of those 242 applications.

It's either one or the other. Was it a self-evaluation process or was there some guidance given by the Government of Canada?

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

It was self-evaluation based on what they knew were the criteria for the fund.

4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Gerry Byrne Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

That's amazing.