Evidence of meeting #69 for Environment and Sustainable Development in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was information.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Julie Gelfand  Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Office of the Auditor General
Andrew Hayes  Principal, Office of the Auditor General
Tim Williams  Committee Researcher

4:40 p.m.

Principal, Office of the Auditor General

Andrew Hayes

That's right. I was just going to say exactly that, it would be a deduction that they would be allowed.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Mike Bossio Liberal Hastings—Lennox and Addington, ON

I don't know of any other industrial sector that would have that little gift handed to them on an annual basis.

Okay, thank you.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Mark, 30 seconds.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

I don't know what I can get out in 30 seconds.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Okay, so we'll come back to you guys.

Next one is Joël.

June 14th, 2017 / 4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Ms. Gelfand and Mr. Hayes, thank you for undertaking this exercise.

I am going to echo what my colleagues have said. I am a little disappointed with the results of this audit, because, as I understand it, you want to do your work well. You are an investigation service that provides us as parliamentarians a full analysis of a situation. There are obstructions for reasons X, Y or Z, meaning that you have no access to information.

How can you do your work adequately and provide us with the information we in turn need to do our work adequately? Can you enlighten me about that? It seems unfortunate that you cannot provide us with a full analysis as the result of the request from the Auditor General.

4:40 p.m.

Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Office of the Auditor General

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

I acknowledge that it is a difficult question.

4:40 p.m.

Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Office of the Auditor General

Julie Gelfand

I agree. It is exactly for that reason that the Auditor General took this audit seriously. We really did not get the information that would allow us to give you the assurance that we are supposed to be able to give you. That's what my job requires of me: to do the work and tell you whether or not we will be able to achieve the objective that the government has set.

In the case of our audit, the Department of Finance did not give us access to the information, particularly the strategic environmental assessments. This is information that we receive each time we ask for it when we do our other audits on this matter. Unfortunately, we did not get the details that would allow us to form a conclusion and to pass the necessary information on to you.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

That is unfortunate and I can certainly understand your disappointment. I want to tell you that, for us—perhaps I am just speaking for myself—there is not only disappointment but also some frustration, because we cannot do our job properly.

You submitted a request for the Department of Finance to send you the information. Do you have a specific deadline to gather that information, and can you confirm that you will be able to give us the complete results on a specific date?

4:45 p.m.

Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Office of the Auditor General

Julie Gelfand

No, not at this time.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Once again, it seems to be a little unfortunate that we do not have the tools we need.

Let me give you an example. In terms of the carbon tax that the government is in the process of implementing, the Department of Finance clearly must play a leading role, just like the Department of Environment and Climate Change, of course, and they have to tell us what the repercussions will be for taxpayers. However, as parliamentarians, we are unable to do our job.

Do you have any more information than we do on the matter?

4:45 p.m.

Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Office of the Auditor General

Julie Gelfand

Well, I could always do an audit on the price of carbon in the future. So I could give you that information if we decided to do an audit on the matter. Certainly, all your questions would go to the Department of Finance.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

I currently sit on the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development. Previously, I was a member of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts and I had the privilege of working with the Auditor General. I must tell you that you are doing an excellent job. You investigate the activities of departments, you conduct audits, you compile the information you gather and you submit your report. It is still unfortunate that there is no follow-up on your recommendations in order to make the machinery of government run even more smoothly.

I am telling you about the frustration I still feel today. I did not think I would have the opportunity to meet people from the Office of the Auditor General, but I am telling you about this frustration because I still feel it and the situation is preventing us from properly doing our work as parliamentarians.

4:45 p.m.

Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Office of the Auditor General

Julie Gelfand

I can tell you that this committee passed a motion asking departments to come back one year after my reports are submitted to evaluate the progress that has been made. Here is how the process operates: I examine the commitments made by the government and I tell you whether or not—

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

… those commitments have been kept.

4:45 p.m.

Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Office of the Auditor General

Julie Gelfand

That said, it is really up to you to do the follow-up. I would encourage the Standing Committee on Public Accounts along those lines. I believe that the committee has already passed a motion to that effect.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Thank you very much.

How much time do I have left, Madam Chair?

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

You have about 30 seconds.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Okay.

My colleague mentioned earlier that we are behind other G20 countries. Can you confirm that for us?

4:45 p.m.

Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Office of the Auditor General

Julie Gelfand

No, I cannot, because no study comparing us to other countries has been done.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Joël Godin Conservative Portneuf—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Thank you very much.

Thank you, Madam Chair.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Deb Schulte

Thank you.

Next is Mr. Gerretsen.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Gerretsen Liberal Kingston and the Islands, ON

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I wanted to confirm that of the roughly $3.3 billion that exists in subsidies, I know that you've mentioned a few, but are there any that are no longer in existence?

4:45 p.m.

Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, Office of the Auditor General

Julie Gelfand

Absolutely. If you go to page 9 of our report you'll see the whole list of those that are no longer in existence, including ones that were done under the Conservative government. There's still one that remains and that's the one on flow-through shares for exploration and development expenses in oil, gas, mining, and renewable energy.