Evidence of meeting #60 for Finance in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was ppp.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Martine Lajoie  Chief, Sectoral Policy Analysis, Transport and Corporate Analysis, Economic Development and Corporate Finance Branch, Department of Finance
  • Maxime Beaupré  Senior Economist, Sectoral Policy Analysis, Transport and Corporate Analysis, Economic Development and Corporate Finance Branch, Department of Finance
  • Daniel Macdonald  Chief, Federal-Provincial Relations Division, CHT/CST and Northern Policy, Department of Finance
  • Nicholas S. Wise  Excutive Director, Strategic Policy, Priorities and Planning, Treasury Board Secretariat
  • Christiane Allard  Advisor, Strategic Policy, Priorities and Planning, Treasury Board Secretariat
  • Sue Foster  Director General, Policy, Quality and Appeals Directorate, Department of Human Resources and Skills Development
  • Peter Edwards  Acting Corporate Secretary, Corporate Secretariat, Department of Human Resources and Skills Development
  • Peter Boyd  Director General and Departmental Security Officer, Integrity Services Branch - Internal Integrity and Security, Department of Human Resources and Skills Development
  • Margaret Strysio  Director, Strategic Planning and Reporting, Parks Canada Agency
  • Jonah Mitchell  Assistant Director, Parks Canada Agency
  • Stephen Bolton  Director, Border Law Enforcement Strategies Division, Public Safety Canada
  • Superintendent Joe Oliver  Director General, Border Integrity, Federal and International Operations, Department of Public Safety

10:45 a.m.

Excutive Director, Strategic Policy, Priorities and Planning, Treasury Board Secretariat

Nicholas S. Wise

For the information contained in the crown corporation annual report, the idea is to have it made available through the course of your report. It's just a switching of vehicle. It's breaking down the information and consolidating the information four times a year, rather than presenting one part of the information annually.

As I say, we are trying to compile a list of the information contained in the human resources management report and to make available information on where the other sources of information are. All of that information is available through other vehicles; we just want to make sure that when we provide the information, we have an understanding as to which vehicles contain what information.

We will provide that list.

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Charlottetown, PE

Are the other vehicles you mentioned accessible by the public?

10:45 a.m.

Excutive Director, Strategic Policy, Priorities and Planning, Treasury Board Secretariat

Nicholas S. Wise

That's correct, yes.

The general review that I referred to at the beginning is part of an effort that recognizes that ultimately, in this instance, when the laws were put in place and the requirement for an annual report was included, it was at a time when it was quite difficult to obtain that information. To make it available, the annual report seemed to be the most convenient vehicle for doing so. But in an increasing number of cases now, that information is available online in a much more easily accessible manner.

This is trying to recognize that it seems almost artificial to keep producing an annual report when the information is both relatively stale by the time it's compiled but is also much more instantly available through other vehicles.

But, again, we will make sure that those locations, if you like—we are talking about websites—are made available, so that there's clarity around precisely where the information is found.

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Charlottetown, PE

My question is a general one. Does this decision to drive the public to websites, as opposed to having a complete consolidated report presented in Parliament, not reduce government's accountability to Parliament?

10:45 a.m.

Excutive Director, Strategic Policy, Priorities and Planning, Treasury Board Secretariat

Nicholas S. Wise

Again, our view is that the information provided is ultimately to help decision-makers make decisions, and in many cases we've found that because the annual reports contain old information, they're not that useful for decision-making purposes.

One other element I would suggest, and I'll use these three as examples, is that in general the annual reports provide information in segments.

I think the benefit of having online information, in addition to it being easily accessible, is that it helps consolidate information so that decision-makers are able to look across ranges of information, as it's integrated and consolidated in ways that annual reports sometimes don't permit.

Again, if we're talking about the ability for parliamentarians and decision-makers to use that information to make decisions, our sense is that the annual report is not necessarily always the best vehicle, at least in these cases.

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Charlottetown, PE

One of the things the amendments do is to remove a July 31 deadline with respect to presenting the results of crown corporations and replace it with “as soon as feasible”. Given your comments that by the time much of the information that comes before Parliament gets there it's outdated, is not an extension such as removing a deadline going to compound the problem rather than improve it?

10:45 a.m.

Chirstiane Allard

Actually, the July 31 date was an arbitrary deadline that was set, asking crown corporations to report up to that period.

You'll notice that there was another amendment, a technical change in that section where we replaced “fiscal” with “financial” year. I guess that was to correct a legal error when the legislation was first introduced. Crown corporations operate on financial years that are not always aligned with the Government of Canada fiscal year. There was some confusion on the reporting period, given that crown corporations have different financial years, with some ending in December and some ending in July. What was effectively happening with the annual report with this July 31 deadline was that sometimes you would get information that was 18 months out of date by the time the report was tabled.

We are proposing that because the crown corporations already have an existing legislative requirement to produce quarterly financial statements, those would be consolidated on a quarterly basis, thereby removing that reporting timeline. The idea that we're introducing reporting “as soon as feasible” is to recognize that at every quarter, crowns have 60 days to make their information public. Once the Treasury Board Secretariat receives that information, we will compile it as soon as possible after that 60 days, consolidate it, and make it publicly available.

It also recognizes that as we're moving to more modern, accessible, online formats, the time it will take to consolidate these reports may get shorter over time. As it stands, it takes about 60 days for the Treasury Board to produce these annual reports to consolidate all the information. We're hoping this will be expedient.

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Rajotte

Thank you.

Is there anything further? Do any other members have questions? No.

I want to thank our officials for being here, and thank you for responding to our questions very clearly.

We'll bring the next officials forward for division 6, “Social Security Tribunal and Service Delivery”. For your reference, this is on page 196.

I want to welcome you to the committee.

If you have any opening statement or if you want to give an overview of this division, please do so now, and then we'll have questions from members.

10:50 a.m.

Sue Foster Director General, Policy, Quality and Appeals Directorate, Department of Human Resources and Skills Development

Thank you.

Division 6 amends the Human Resources and Skills Development Act as well as the Canada Pension Plan, the Old Age Security Act, and the Employment Insurance Act to create a social security tribunal, which will replace four existing tribunals that hear appeals related to the three programs I mentioned.

Division 6 also introduces a new part to the Human Resources and Skills Development Act related to the provision of electronic services. This is not related to the social security tribunal changes; they are separate provisions. The electronic services provision is intended to provide the department with the authority to expand the provision of our services to an electronic environment, and to do so in a way that is consistent across the three programs, those being the employment insurance program, the Canada Pension Plan, and the old age security program, in addition to grants and contributions that are provided under the same department.

This means that although with the employment insurance program we are well advanced in the provision of our services to an electronic environment, we are moving toward this transformation in the pension world, specifically related to the old age security program right now. Our service improvement strategy is focused largely on moving these programs away from the paper-based environment that we currently work in to an automated world where we can use electronic signatures and electronic identity verification. So the intention is to ensure that as we expand the transformation of our electronic service provision, we do so in a very integrated and interoperable way.

For example, when we do identity verification in the Canada Pension Plan, we would take the same approach we do with employment insurance or the old age security system. That's the electronic services provision, which is created through the addition of a new part 6 to the Human Resources and Skills Development Act.

Back to the tribunal, which is the more significant change in division 6. Division 6 introduces a new part 5 to the Human Resources and Skills Development Act, as I said. The first two clauses have various sections in them that create the social security tribunal, outline its structure, how its membership will be organized, how members will be appointed to the social security tribunal, the administration of the tribunal, the function of the SST, and a number of regulatory authorities associated with the tribunal.

When you look at this section in the legislation, it's interrupted by the electronic services piece. First we have the amendments to the Human Resources and Skills Development Act for the social security tribunal, which is part 5 of our HRSD act, and then it introduces part 6 for the electronic services I just explained. Then it introduces a number of amendments to the Canada Pension Plan, the Old Age Security Act, and the Employment Insurance Act, which are related to the social security tribunal amendments, which are introduced in the new part 5. So it is a little difficult to navigate through this piece and see how they all link together.

Clauses 225 through 250 are the amendments related to the social security tribunal for the three programs I mentioned. Then we have transitional provisions, which outline how we will move from the existing program under the existing four tribunals that hear appeals to the one tribunal, which will start hearing appeals on April 1, 2013.

After that you have a number of clauses that introduce consequential amendments flowing from the social security tribunal to other pieces of legislation that currently mention one of the four other existing tribunals. So it is just moving the mention of the particular...for example, changing the Pension Appeals Board to make reference to the social security tribunal.

That is the overview of the changes contained in division 6.

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair James Rajotte

Thank you very much for that overview.

We'll start with Mr. Marston, please.

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Welcome.

In a previous life I was one of the people who helped select nominees for the labour position on the EI boards, so I have a particular interest in this.

Currently, you have Canadians who appeal departmental decisions, either EI or CPP or OAS, to separate tribunals, as you've indicated. My figures here said that last year the EI tribunal heard 27,000 appeals and 1,800 further appeals to umpires. The CPP and OAS tribunal heard 4,500 appeals. There are 900 members who hear the cases at the EI tribunal alone and the government wants to fold them together with just 74 full-time members and the backup of 11 part-time.

What commonalities do you see between these groups, the EI, CPP, and the OAS, that justify a joint tribunal?

10:55 a.m.

Director General, Policy, Quality and Appeals Directorate, Department of Human Resources and Skills Development

Sue Foster

The idea behind combining the four tribunals into one was largely driven by administrative efficiencies and improving service to clients in terms of them knowing where to file their appeal.

To answer the first part of your question on the members of the tribunal, in the first level of the tribunal there will be two specific sections. Under the general division there will be the employment insurance section and the income security section. So the members of these two sections will be separate members who are chosen with separate and different competencies and different experience—

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

How many of them would there be?

10:55 a.m.

Director General, Policy, Quality and Appeals Directorate, Department of Human Resources and Skills Development

Sue Foster

For the employment insurance side there are 39. The remainder are for pensions. So when we're hiring the individuals associated with these two sections, they will have specific skills that are required—

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

If I could interrupt you again—I'm sorry—when compared to today, how many would there be doing this work today? You said 39 are doing it. How many people...?