Evidence of meeting #57 for Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was investigations.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Mary Dawson  Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner
Sandy Tremblay  Director, Corporate Management, Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner
Charles Dutrisac  Director of Finance and Acting Chief Financial Officer, Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying
Karen Shepherd  Commissioner of Lobbying, Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying

3:50 p.m.

Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner

Mary Dawson

Actually, as a matter of fact, I have. I investigated Mr. Harper.

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Pat Kelly Conservative Calgary Rocky Ridge, AB

Did you to this extent?

3:50 p.m.

Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner

Mary Dawson

Yes. I did an investigation. Nobody seems to notice it, but I did and I issued a report. There's a report on the record.

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Pat Kelly Conservative Calgary Rocky Ridge, AB

In any event, then, you are confident that you have sufficient resources to carry on through the year—

3:50 p.m.

Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner

Mary Dawson

Yes. I don't think there's a resource issue involved here.

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Pat Kelly Conservative Calgary Rocky Ridge, AB

That's good. As I said, we're pleased that you are able to continue and that you're able to return funds.

What is the funding breakdown in a typical year between investigations of former and of current office holders?

3:50 p.m.

Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner

Mary Dawson

I'm sorry, of former and previous what?

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Pat Kelly Conservative Calgary Rocky Ridge, AB

I'm asking about the funding breakdown as you're budgeting between current and former office holders. You do investigate both.

3:50 p.m.

Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner

Mary Dawson

Oh, gosh. Well, the only time I would investigate a former public office holder would be in post-employment. I'd say I've probably done three or four post-employment investigations that have been reported on, out of about 30 reports in total that I've done, if that's the breakdown you're looking for. Usually they're of sitting members.... I'm not allowed to investigate a former member, but I can investigate a former public office holder, including ministers and parliamentary secretaries.

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Pat Kelly Conservative Calgary Rocky Ridge, AB

All right.

With half a minute left, I think I'll....

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Blaine Calkins

Certainly. Thank you very much, Mr. Kelly.

We now move on to Madame Trudel, for seven minutes, please.

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Karine Trudel NDP Jonquière, QC

Thank you.

Thank you very much to our witnesses for their presentations. I want to welcome them again.

Ms. Dawson, you are about to complete your mandate. I believe that you have been commissioner for over 10 years.

What is your plan for the transition with the individual who will replace you? Are there any measures in place in terms of budgets and forecasts? Will it lead to additional costs? Has that transition already been planned in this year's budget?

3:50 p.m.

Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner

Mary Dawson

I don't think there will be any particular costs.

There is no transition period. Once my mandate is up, it's over. When a new person takes over the duties, their mandate begins immediately.

No funding is set aside for an overlap, and I don't anticipate any issues in terms of funding.

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Karine Trudel NDP Jonquière, QC

Thank you.

Do you have any recommendations for us to improve the legislative and administrative framework of the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner in terms of the way its estimates are reviewed?

3:55 p.m.

Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner

Mary Dawson

I have many recommendations. I have produced two reports—one on the code and one on the act—three or four years ago. Changes have actually been made to the code, but no amendments have been made to the act so far.

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Karine Trudel NDP Jonquière, QC

Over the course of the next year, what will be the main challenges for the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, over the short and medium terms? Will any steps be taken?

What will be your particular challenges? How can you gauge your progress when it comes to that?

3:55 p.m.

Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner

Mary Dawson

I think that the office is running very smoothly now. I don't see many problems.

I have received a lot of praise about on the office's management. As I said, I have made many recommendations on changes, but they mostly had to do with rules and not the office's management.

I am sure that the person who will replace me will find that the office is in good condition.

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Karine Trudel NDP Jonquière, QC

Does your budget enable you to gain insight into various issues and carry out full investigations?

3:55 p.m.

Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner

Mary Dawson

I am sure I have the resources for that.

Thank you.

3:55 p.m.

NDP

Karine Trudel NDP Jonquière, QC

Thank you.

3:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Blaine Calkins

Thank you.

Mr. Erskine-Smith, you have seven minutes, please.

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Thanks very much, Commissioner, for appearing before us.

I just want to get some of the numbers right. We have $6.9 million in proposed budget allocation. Salaries are 85% of that, as you said. That works out to $5.8 million. Walk me through the amount of work. You said you have enough money. It strikes me that maybe there's more money than necessary. Maybe I have it wrong, but when I look at the 45 case files in the last year, I recognize that 200 new members came and there's a lot of work to be done there, but walk me through how that $5.8 million gets spent and how it's used effectively and efficiently.

May 2nd, 2017 / 3:55 p.m.

Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner

Mary Dawson

You should be careful. With respect to the case files, that's just the files relating to investigations. Most of our work is done in the advisory and compliance section, the advisory work. All the receiving of information when somebody becomes a public office holder or member, that's all done separately. That has nothing to do with the number of case files. We have over 2,000 files relating to individuals. The investigation section is very small. It takes a fair amount of time, but it's a small proportion of the number of people we're dealing with and the number of files we have.

I'm not sure I've answered your question.

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Nathaniel Erskine-Smith Liberal Beaches—East York, ON

Partly, yes.

The 45 case files are part of the work and that was in the last year.

3:55 p.m.

Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner, Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner

Mary Dawson

That's just looking at whether to start an examination of something.