Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Distinguished colleagues or former colleagues, it is a real pleasure to be back on the Hill.
The adrenalin starts to flow.
I spent about nine years in this room and in caucus meetings every Wednesday morning.
It wasn't always easy to caucus here, but I'm deeply appreciative of the opportunity to be here with my former colleagues. I have probably visited many of your ridings, and I will continue to wish you well in the important task you have, because I believe that Parliament is at the centre of our citizenship.
Je vous remercie. I thank you for what you do.
Like the president and chief executive officer of the Old Port of Montreal, Madame Claude Benoit, I would also like to thank the committee for its invitation so we can set the record straight and attest to the sound management of the Old Port.
It is worth pointing out that the Old Port of Montreal is a government corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of Canada Lands Company. In accordance with its incorporating act, statutes, and regulations, the board of directors of the Old Port of Montreal Corporation is appointed by its shareholder, the Canada Lands Company, whereas its senior management, including the chief executive officer and the board's chair, is appointed by the corporation's board of directors.
Moreover, although it is a wholly owned subsidiary of Canada Lands Company, the Old Port of Montreal reports directly to the appropriate minister for its obligations regarding accountability and financial management. Its business plans, budgets, and annual reports, including its financial statements, are audited by the Office of the Auditor General of Canada.
The board's members come from private corporations and the public sector. With their varied profiles and experience, they make a significant contribution to the board and to the organization.
The responsibility for monitoring the business management of a government corporation comprises the following four major aspects: establishing the corporation's strategic direction, protecting resources, controlling results, and being accountable to the government.
The Old Port of Montreal Corporation's board assumes its responsibilities diligently and more specifically performs the following duties.
It participates in developing and approving the corporation's strategic direction and at the end of this exercise approves the business plan.
It protects the corporation's resources, studying and approving all important decisions affecting its assets.
It approves operating budgets and annual investments.
It monitors the corporation's results, and, to this end, periodically receives and examines financial reports prepared by management, internal audit reports, as well as annual reports issued by the Office of the Auditor General of Canada.
It ensures the required information is provided to the appropriate minister, including business plans, annual budgets, and annual reports.
To assist it with these tasks, the board of the Old Port of Montreal also relies on the support of two board committees: the audit committee and the human resource committee.
The board also acts as the custodian of a national heritage site: a praised cultural institution and a major international recreational destination.
We are responsible for following the direction established by the community during the public consultation of 1985-86. The relevance of the development principles that emerged from that process was again confirmed in 2001-02 when we reviewed the corporation and the mandate. These principles include free public access and development that is in line with community needs, supporting the vision for the transformation of our neighbourhood and the city's plans. It is development that preserves the heritage character of the site and its architectural and maritime assets. It is a development vision that remains under public control and encourages participation by levels of government.
The board of the Old Port of Montreal assumes all these responsibilities with rigour and honesty. For this reason, the members of the Old Port of Montreal, the board and I, were outraged by the allegations made by the QMI Agency and published in le Journal de Montréal. We're outraged by the relentlessly malicious nature of the attack. We're outraged by the unfairness of the remarks and outraged by the falsehoods, half-truths, and insinuations we read. We vigorously denounce the hatchet job to which the Old Port of Montreal and its CEO were subjected.
The Old Port of Montreal is a model business partner and as such it upholds rigorous business ethics and vigilantly oversees all the business agreements it signs. Our books are open, and our management is transparent, subject to serious scrutiny by serious organizations.
Whether it is a decision concerning concessionaires in breach of contract, or business trips taken by the president to represent or raise the profile of the Old Port of Montreal abroad, or to bring back innovative new practices or business decisions concerning its staff or volunteers, or lastly, the development of the urban beach, an integral part of the Old Port's development vision, we fully support the management and decisions of the Old Port of Montreal, its president and CEO, and her management team.
We have full confidence in our president and her team. Claude Benoit has an impeccable, exemplary record. She has dedicated her life to the Old Port and to her team. She works in their best interests and would never do anything to tarnish their reputation. She has seen the Old Port grow into Canada's second largest recreation and tourist site and the largest in Quebec. Our science centre has become the envy of the country, with blockbuster exhibitions presented every year for the past three years. Ms. Benoit is a highly dedicated, intelligent, and trustworthy officer who has the unanimous support of our board of directors.
The management team has succeeded in asserting the corporation's importance and establishing the Old Port at the top of the list of leading international attractions. This has been possible because of Ms. Benoit's extensive network, which she has developed at conventions, training sessions, and tours of comparable sites and facilities.
To be among the best, you must travel and discover comparable models and inspiration from among the best of what is out there. For 30 years, the Old Port of Montreal Corporation has protected the unique heritage of its site, where much of Canada's and Quebec's history unfolded. The birthplace of Montreal, where aboriginal and European societies first came face to face, gateway to the Lachine Canal, transportation hub, and genesis of Canada's shipping trade, the Old Port borders Old Montreal, one of the most emblematic and best-preserved 19th century historical districts in North America.
The development of the Old Port has had a spectacular impact on the rebirth of Old Montreal and has proven to be a major driver in Montreal's economic development. The $452 million invested by the federal, provincial, and municipal governments has contributed to generating investments totalling $2.4 billion in the south sector of downtown Montreal.
In conclusion, on behalf of the Old Port of Montreal, I would like to reiterate the board's confidence in the corporation's management, as well as our pride as directors to be associated with this outstanding institution. If, following the special audit, the Auditor General recommends improvements or solutions for better governance, we will implement them quickly, as we have done in the past. In the meantime, we maintain that our policies and procedures are effective and adequate. They have been implemented over the years at the behest of the Treasury Board, our internal auditors, and the Office of the Auditor General, following numerous reviews.
Distinguished colleagues or former colleagues, I am here to answer your questions.
Thank you very much.