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 projects.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Red Deer, AB

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Welcome to all of our guests. Minister Baird and Minister Clement, it's great that you can be here today.

I think perhaps we've come to the time in our discussions when it would be great for us to be able to summarize some of the things that are taking place.

I was wondering, first of all, if you would outline for the committee what the overall process was that occurred for the G-8 legacy fund. There has been a lot said, and the rhetoric has sometimes gone a little bit over the top. Perhaps you could summarize that information in a nutshell and let us know how these projects actually were identified.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Sure. In my role and responsibility, Mr. Dreeshen, as I mentioned, the public and the municipalities in my constituency and in North Bay, in Mr. Aspin's constituency, were engaged to help prepare for the summit. Part of that engagement involved information flowing back and forth on important issues as the summit came closer. Part of it was preparing for the summit and also preparing a legacy for that summit in terms of infrastructure.

Municipal governments were consulted. They helped identify and prioritize projects that were important to the community. As local leaders they were the ones best placed to identify the needs of their communities certainly. Then, the applications ultimately came from the municipalities, and through me--certainly I did, as an MP, recommend and endorse the suggestions of my community--to Minister Baird and his department, where he had his role and responsibility.

At that point, Minister Baird, you were in charge.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

John Baird Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Indeed.

My office and our officials received 33 projects. They were all evaluated, deemed eligible and appropriate, and they were identified, recommended, selected, and put in front of me and my office. We reviewed them to make sure they were all eligible under the three criteria of the fund. Obviously the third criterion was a very small percentage of the money that was spent, and every single dollar was accounted for. We've been very clear about that.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Red Deer, AB

There was a great deal of responsibility, and a lot was happening at the time. I know the Auditor General has talked about the way in which your infrastructure money had gone out. You've already explained what happened with the border infrastructure fund and so on.

Is that basically the role that you were playing, to try to make sure that these funds were flowing properly and we could manage to keep things on the proper stage as far as budgets are concerned?

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

John Baird Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Our goal, obviously, was to meet the three objectives of the fund. In addition, obviously as part of the global economic downturn we responded with the stimulus initiative, and some 23,000 projects, Government of Canada wide, were taken. We did a significant amount of work to ensure that things would move expeditiously, quickly.

In fact, we were dealing with mostly municipal projects here. The Canadian association of municipalities I think has acknowledged and even given an award to the department for the great job they did in moving expeditiously.

There was a lot of debate whether the federal government could respond to the challenge. We did that. I think by and large the infrastructure funds, when you look at the totality, were distributed pretty fairly. If you look at the work we did from coast to coast to coast, it created a lot of jobs. We have a lot of public infrastructure that will benefit communities for many years to come.

We did move quickly. Things were far too slow in the past. I thought they were too slow. Opposition members, provinces, municipalities, government members all thought they were too slow. We did a lot to speed that up.

I think if you look at the record in its totality, it was an unprecedented success. I think one of the things that was so good was that we put aside partisan politics, worked with municipalities of every political stripe, worked with provincial governments of every political stripe.

I think that's exactly...not what people expected during the economic downturn, but they demanded it, and I think they received it.

4:50 p.m.

NDP

The Chair David Christopherson

Your time has expired. Thank you very much.

Colleagues, that takes us through one full rotation of the committee. We had agreed that at 5:15, if we were still deliberating, we would stop at that point to deal with some committee business. We are 20 minutes away from that point.

I'm in the hands of the committee in terms of whether you wish to continue the rotation until 5:15, or some other proposal.... We could stand adjourned until 5:15. That seems a little silly, but we could.

The other--

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

John Baird Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

[Inaudible--Editor]...quickly on that, Mr. Chair.

4:50 p.m.

Voices

Oh, oh!

4:50 p.m.

NDP

The Chair David Christopherson

I made comment; I'll let you.

Before that, however, I've had a request from Ms. May, who is an independent, as all members know. She has asked for an opportunity to ask a rotation of questions.

The rules are that they can unless they can't. That means, at first blush, that the chair will decide yes or no. Ultimately, as always, the power resides with the committee.

Given the nature of the request and the politics of what we're dealing with, I'm going to go directly to the committee and ask the question: is the committee of a mind to allow Ms. May to have a rotational spot? It would be one or two questions to a maximum of our five minutes.

Without any debate--I don't think we need debate--we can go straight to a vote.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Chair, I think it does require some clarification, because it is an unusual circumstance.

The government members on this side all have questions ready for the witnesses. Our position is that if the opposition wishes to give up one of their questions for Ms. May, then so be it; she can ask one of their questions.

4:55 p.m.

NDP

The Chair David Christopherson

Are there any other comments or thoughts?

Ms. May, of course.

November 2nd, 2011 / 4:55 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

I have one small but important clarification.

I'm here as a member of Parliament for the Green Party of Canada, and treated, in certain circumstances, as though I were an independent. In this circumstance, I'd be very grateful for the indulgence of this committee to allow me to ask one or two questions.

4:55 p.m.

NDP

The Chair David Christopherson

You've heard the request. I'll deem this to be before the committee.

Is there any further discussion?

Mr. Saxton.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton North Vancouver, BC

I would like to ask the opposition to please clarify whether they will give up one of their spots for Ms. May.

4:55 p.m.

NDP

The Chair David Christopherson

And they have the right to respond or not respond, if they choose.

I'm not seeing anybody jump to the mike. The floor is still open for further discussion.

Hearing none, I'll put the question....

Mr. Byrne.