Evidence of meeting #38 for Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was old.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Claude Benoit  President and Chief Executive Officer, Old Port of Montréal Corporation Inc.
Gerry Weiner  Chairman of the Board, Old Port of Montréal Corporation Inc.

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Colin Mayes Conservative Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Could I ask if you have specific dates when you visited the sites during the cruise, and also who you visited on those dates at the sites that you did visit?

11:50 a.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Old Port of Montréal Corporation Inc.

Claude Benoit

Yes, it's in the report. I didn't meet with anyone on site.

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Colin Mayes Conservative Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Could I ask for that?

11:50 a.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Old Port of Montréal Corporation Inc.

Claude Benoit

It will be in the report that you'll receive.

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Colin Mayes Conservative Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

You never met with anybody.

11:50 a.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Old Port of Montréal Corporation Inc.

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Colin Mayes Conservative Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

So you stopped and just looked at the site.

11:50 a.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Old Port of Montréal Corporation Inc.

Claude Benoit

I took photos and went to…

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Colin Mayes Conservative Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

But you never talked to anybody about the operation.

Have you ever sent a memo to your senior staff saying, “Gee, we're in restraint. Could you please look at your cost of operation, your various departments?” Do you have any memos you sent out as the chief executive officer that said you were looking at cutting the costs of the operation, that you had to cut back and maybe look at being more efficient in what you did because of a restraint in finances?

You do operate a corporation that has operational revenues of $15,463,000, but your spending for salaries and employee benefits is $16,463,000. Obviously, if I were the chief executive officer, I would send out a memo to suggest looking at how we could save money to get this more into balance. Have you ever sent a memo like that?

11:50 a.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Old Port of Montréal Corporation Inc.

Claude Benoit

I will reply to your question in two ways, Mr. Mayes. First of all, parliamentarians can see the results of our work in the corporation's business plan for 2012-2013. We submitted a plan to the government that shows a 5% reduction in the government's financial contribution to our budget. That gives you very concrete proof of our efforts. This 5% reduction is in addition to the absorption of the parking tax that the City of Montreal has been billing us for since 2010, that we are also absorbing our own costs while these are asset-related expenses that should come under payments in the stead of taxes. This represents $900,000 and is a cut equal to 6.6% of the contribution to maintaining assets. This very year, in 2012-2013, we are cutting the equivalent of the balanced budget contribution by 11%. We are making an effort with respect to cuts.

Now, I would like to correct a perception. The Old Port of Montréal Corporation has a budget of $48 million, including $11 million for maintaining assets. In our expenditures, 60% of our sites are spaces that the public has free access to and that we have to maintain and control. Simply because access to the site is free, we are in a situation where it is going to cost taxpayers money to maintain the site. All the activities that people pay for and that draw people to the area and to the old port itself are self-funding because of the revenue generated by parking, ticket sales, sponsorships, and so on. We are doing an extraordinary job.

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Colin Mayes Conservative Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Did you authorize—

May 10th, 2012 / 11:50 a.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP Pierre-Luc Dusseault

Mr. Mayes, your time is up, unfortunately.

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Colin Mayes Conservative Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Did you authorize an analysis of your operational expense? Whether it's a 5%, 10%, or 15% reduction, did you ever get hold of your department heads to suggest looking at how you could cut costs, how much you could do, and get a report?

11:50 a.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP Pierre-Luc Dusseault

I'll give Ms. Benoit a few seconds to answer.

11:50 a.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Old Port of Montréal Corporation Inc.

Claude Benoit

We hold retreats every year to examine each of the departments. We look at the plan for the workforce and the expenditures, and we try to rationalize our expenditures. This year, we reduced the payroll by 9% to stay within our budget, our funding. We are making considerable efforts.

11:55 a.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP Pierre-Luc Dusseault

Thank you, Ms. Benoit.

Ms. Borg will have the floor for two minutes, and she is going to split her time with Mr. Del Mastro.

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Charmaine Borg NDP Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Ms. Benoit, I want to come back to your management. As my colleague, Mr. Angus, said, it's a bit worrisome to see how many people have left their positions. And there are rumours to the effect that a ninth person may also leave. There are allegations of psychological harassment. Perhaps there is a problem worth investigating, given all these expenses. Beyond what is reasonable, when we are talking about the money of Canadian and Quebec taxpayers, I would really like you to provide more of an explanation of your management method. Why are so many people leaving their positions? Is it true that a ninth person is going to leave?

11:55 a.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Old Port of Montréal Corporation Inc.

Claude Benoit

To put things back into context, I hired an extraordinary young woman last year who had worked for the City of Montreal for 20 years as vice-president of planning and maintenance. Now that the City of Montreal has a new director general, she was offered her dream job as the City of Montreal's head of urban planning, an opportunity she could not pass up. To my great sadness, she is going back to work for the City of Montreal. Yes, a ninth person is leaving. As for voluntary departures, some people had given the corporation nine or twelve years of good and loyal service. It was normal that they would want to move on to something else. I have people who left because, after two or two and a half years, they couldn't do it anymore. It was a very difficult job. The people who were fired because…

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Charmaine Borg NDP Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

What I understand is that they could not put up with the psychological harassment anymore. Could you talk about that a little more?

11:55 a.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Old Port of Montréal Corporation Inc.

Claude Benoit

I cannot talk about that. It is new and we were not aware of that situation. I do not want to comment on that allegation. I am not aware of what happened with the Office of the Auditor General. I cannot comment on the allegation.

If we dismiss people, it is because our corporation has new challenges. In 2009, the government entrusted $500 million in assets to us and we have to hire qualified and responsible people. When the government asks us to cut our budget, positions have to be eliminated and I eliminated one vice-president position. We have to make difficult choices, but they are necessary.

11:55 a.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP Pierre-Luc Dusseault

Thank you, Ms. Benoit. We have two minutes left and we have agreed that Mr. Del Mastro would be the one to end this period of questions.

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Conservative Peterborough, ON

Madame Benoit, your annual salary would be public record. How much is it?

11:55 a.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Old Port of Montréal Corporation Inc.

Claude Benoit

My salary is not public information, sir.

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Conservative Peterborough, ON

Your salary is not public information?

11:55 a.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Old Port of Montréal Corporation Inc.

Claude Benoit

No, I am not appointed by the governor in council. I am appointed by the board of the Old Port of Montréal Corporation. The information is not public.