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

4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Raj Saini Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Yes, there is a $300,000 decrease.

May 2nd, 2017 / 4:20 p.m.

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

Mary Dawson

I'm going to give that one to Sandy.

4:20 p.m.

Director, Corporate Management, Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner

Sandy Tremblay

The $600,000 lapse was a result of the $400,000 reserve that we had, and the extra $200,000 lapse was basically due to the vacant positions during the year. In terms of the corporate management, it went down a little. As was mentioned earlier in the speaking notes, we decreased some of the resources because we had a service agreement with the Library of Parliament for financial services. We brought this in-house. We're actually saving about $80,000 a year on that.

We are trying to look.... There are other things. Every three years, we do an employee engagement survey, an employee satisfaction survey. We did one last year, so this year it's not in our budget. There are a few things that play out like that, depending on.... In IT services, some projects for this year.... Last year we had more in terms of corporate services. Next year we also have a big project in the compliance and advisory group, where we'll be upgrading the case management system.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Raj Saini Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

The other question I have is on the statutory part of the budget. It seems there is a bit of fluctuation: it was $600,000 one year, $792,000 this year, and then the estimate is $723,000. Why such a fluctuation?

4:20 p.m.

Director, Corporate Management, Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner

Sandy Tremblay

Sorry, could you repeat that?

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Raj Saini Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

In your budgetary statement here, the total of the statutory for 2015-16 was $600,000; in 2016-17 it went up to $792,000; and now your estimate for next year is $723,000. The fluctuation is about 20% to 30%.

4:20 p.m.

Director, Corporate Management, Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner

Sandy Tremblay

The fluctuation here is on the employee benefits plan.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Raj Saini Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

So that's where it is.

4:20 p.m.

Director, Corporate Management, Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner

Sandy Tremblay

Yes, we have no say in it. The percentage that the employer has to pay is determined by the Treasury Board. That's why we see a fluctuation. Basically, in the main estimates we're asking for the same operational budget.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Raj Saini Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Okay. You also mentioned that you had brought some information technology into your office, as opposed to contracting it out.

4:20 p.m.

Director, Corporate Management, Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner

Sandy Tremblay

We brought in the compensation services and the financial services, not the information technology.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Raj Saini Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

The reason I ask is that cybersecurity is obviously an issue across the whole government. Is there a mechanism or something that you have in place for cybersecurity?

4:20 p.m.

Director, Corporate Management, Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner

Sandy Tremblay

For cybersecurity, we have an agreement with the House of Commons IT department, which takes care of that for us.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Raj Saini Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

The final question I have is for Commissioner Dawson. You are celebrating your 10th anniversary this year. You've obviously had experience over those 10 years, not only working within Canada but also witnessing the regimes in other countries. Just as a general commentary, how would you characterize Canada's policy in your department as compared to those of other countries?

4:20 p.m.

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

Mary Dawson

I think we are one of the leaders. We are sought for information. We do have differences in our approaches. For example, comparing ourselves with the American system, there is much heavier concentration on penalties in the United States than we have here. I happen to believe that penalties are not the most important thing. What I believe is that it is the transparency and the publication that matter.

There are differences among different regimes, but I think our system is quite a good one, comparatively speaking. There is always room for change.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Raj Saini Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

You would characterize our system as a world-leading system.

4:20 p.m.

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

Mary Dawson

Yes, I would.

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Raj Saini Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Thank you very much.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Blaine Calkins

Thank you, Mr. Saini.

Madame Trudel, you have some more questions.

4:20 p.m.

NDP

Karine Trudel NDP Jonquière, QC

Yes, I have a short question that is a bit more technical for you, Ms. Dawson. It's about investigations.

Earlier, my colleague talked about the new person who will be appointed as commissioner. That person will have the option to continue unfinished investigations or not. Did I understand correctly?

4:20 p.m.

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

Mary Dawson

I think so. This issue isn't very clear, but the new commissioner will likely need to review certain aspects of the investigations. Actually, I don't know. I think my successor will want to hear directly from some of the witnesses. He or she will make the decision.

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Karine Trudel NDP Jonquière, QC

If the new commissioner doesn't continue an incomplete investigation, could a new investigation be requested? Will new facts need to be presented? Will the investigation be simply interrupted, which means that it won't proceed further?

4:25 p.m.

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

Mary Dawson

There's no provision in the code or the act for this. The issue must be addressed. The new commissioner could likely resume an investigation at the halfway mark. It will depend on what he or she wants to do.

4:25 p.m.

NDP

Karine Trudel NDP Jonquière, QC

Thank you.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Blaine Calkins

Thank you very much, Madame Trudel, for very good questions.

Madam Commissioner, this may be the last time you appear before the committee in your current capacity as commissioner. As someone who has been here about the same amount of time, I want to thank you for your long-tenured service. It's not easy to do a high-profile job under constant scrutiny, and I think you've comported yourself in the highest regard. On behalf of this committee and all committees before it, I want to thank you very much for your service in making our Parliament more open, transparent, and accountable and for the good work you've done.

Thank you very much.