Evidence of meeting #37 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 chapter.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Michael Ferguson  Auditor General of Canada, Office of the Auditor General of Canada
  • Jerome Berthelette  Assistant Auditor General, Office of the Auditor General of Canada
  • Wendy Loschiuk  Assistant Auditor General, Office of the Auditor General of Canada

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

Daryl Kramp Prince Edward—Hastings, ON

Thank you, Chair. Welcome to our guests again.

I have a number of questions on the F-35 as well. Obviously, I expect we'll be seeing you again as we delve deeply into that topic down the road, so I'll switch to another couple of areas right now to try to do a little bit of justice.

Millions of people fly every year. They really need assurance that when they go in the air, they feel safe. Is it possible for you to just give us a general statement? Should Canadians be encouraged to believe that they are flying safely?

9:10 a.m.

Auditor General of Canada, Office of the Auditor General of Canada

Michael Ferguson

In that particular audit, we wanted to find out whether Transport Canada was providing sufficient oversight of the safety practices of the civil aviation companies in Canada, remembering, of course, that Canada has an excellent track record of civil aviation safety and remembering that the responsibility for air safety lies with those aviation companies. Transport Canada's role is as a regulatory overseer.

We found that they do, in fact, have an appropriate regulatory framework in place and an appropriate methodology in place, but there were weaknesses in many aspects of their actual inspection and surveillance activities.

Again, the responsibility for aviation safety rests with the industry, but Transport Canada has an important regulatory oversight role. They need to make sure that they are fulfilling that role so that people have confidence that the regulator is doing what the regulator should be doing.

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

Daryl Kramp Prince Edward—Hastings, ON

Thank you very much.

Obviously you've identified a couple of the weaknesses and a number of strengths that we can talk about in a bit, but in terms of identifying the weaknesses, which you so capably did, I'm concerned how Transport Canada will react, not to the publication but to your recommendation to address these weaknesses. Has Transport Canada given you a response you're comfortable with?

9:10 a.m.

Auditor General of Canada, Office of the Auditor General of Canada

Michael Ferguson

Yes, Transport Canada agreed with all our recommendations. They understand the importance of dealing with the weaknesses we identified.

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

Daryl Kramp Prince Edward—Hastings, ON

Thank you.

It's important that we do what we do well, and we can build on those successes as well. Are there particular elements of your evaluation of air transport that identify strengths and aspects we need to be able to focus on and expand—best practices, etc.? In other words, what do we do well?

9:10 a.m.

Auditor General of Canada, Office of the Auditor General of Canada

Michael Ferguson

We identified a framework in place that is consistent with international requirements and norms. We identified that Transport Canada does go through a process of comparing Canada's regulatory framework to those international recommendations and that their surveillance methodology has the aspects we would expect to see in a good surveillance methodology, but again we found areas, particularly in the implementation of that methodology, that need to be improved.

9:10 a.m.

Conservative

Daryl Kramp Prince Edward—Hastings, ON

Fine. Thank you.

When it comes to paying taxes, no one likes to pay taxes, but of course when people don't even file, we have some concerns, obviously. As well, when we get a request for funds from Revenue Canada, there's generally a huge difference between the assessed tax and the penalty and interest.

In the figures you have for non-filers, did you break down the difference between the tax itself and the penalty and the interest? Sometimes, of course, the penalty and interest can be exorbitant, as we know.

9:10 a.m.

Auditor General of Canada, Office of the Auditor General of Canada

Michael Ferguson

In Canada Revenue Agency's program for identifying non-filers and non-registrants, we identified that they assessed $2.8 billion a year in each of two years, I believe, in terms of taxes, interest, and penalty. I don't have the exact breakdown at the front of my mind.

9:15 a.m.

Conservative

Daryl Kramp Prince Edward—Hastings, ON

Would that be available to us?

9:15 a.m.

Auditor General of Canada, Office of the Auditor General of Canada

Michael Ferguson

I will check to see if we have those exact numbers, and if so, we'll report back.

9:15 a.m.

Conservative

Daryl Kramp Prince Edward—Hastings, ON

Thank you very much.

9:15 a.m.

NDP

The Chair David Christopherson

Thank you, sir.

We'll move on to Monsieur Dubé. You have the floor, sir.

April 5th, 2012 / 9:15 a.m.

NDP

Matthew Dubé Chambly—Borduas, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

There has been a lot of talk about recommendations being accepted. But the report says, word for word, that National Defence and Public Works and Government Services do not agree with the conclusions in paragraphs 2.80 and 2.81. You say quite clearly there that Parliament has not been sufficiently informed. In paragraph 2.80, you say: “Some costs were not fully provided to parliamentarians.”

I assume that, in the House of Commons, ministers answer questions on this matter and are required to provide the information.

Do you agree that the minister did not fulfill his responsibility in informing parliamentarians of the cost of the project?

9:15 a.m.

Auditor General of Canada, Office of the Auditor General of Canada

Michael Ferguson

We identified that after the Parliamentary Budget Office presented its estimate of costs, that was the opportunity National Defence should have taken to bring forward the full costing information to Parliament. They should have identified that. The way to respond to what the Parliamentary Budget Office came out with was their full estimate of the cost over the full life cycle of those replacement jets.

9:15 a.m.

NDP

Matthew Dubé Chambly—Borduas, QC

Thank you.

You mentioned the Parliamentary Budget Officer. We have been told that the government screamed and yelled that the information that person had provided was not accurate. After all that, here you are providing the same figures, and the government still insists on saying that it does not accept your conclusions, even though it claims to accept your recommendation.

As an auditor, do you feel that it is normal for someone to say that they accept your recommendations but that they do not accept the key part of your conclusions? Can one be done without the other?