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Evidence of meeting #18 for Government Operations and Estimates in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was billion.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Michelle d'Auray  Secretary of the Treasury Board of Canada, Treasury Board Secretariat
Bill Matthews  Assistant Secretary, Expenditure Management, Treasury Board Secretariat
Christine Walker  Assistant Secretary and Chief Financial Officer, Corporate Services, Treasury Board Secretariat
Sally Thornton  Executive Director, Expenditure Operations and Estimates, Expenditure Management, Treasury Board Secretariat

4:45 p.m.

Assistant Secretary, Expenditure Management, Treasury Board Secretariat

Bill Matthews

I'm just going to refer to the Department of Finance's estimates themselves on page 51 of the supplementary estimates (B) document.

What you should see in there is the list of the voted items first, and then you'll see the statutory bit, and on the federal-provincial payments to Ontario and P.E.I., I have to say that I'm actually struggling to find these in my list here, so bear with me for one moment.

I think, Mr. Chair, we're going to have to get back to you on the details on just what that is, if that's all right.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Thank you.

Now, within Treasury Board itself, $4.3 million has been identified as a reduction. Do I have that right?

November 24th, 2011 / 4:45 p.m.

Christine Walker Assistant Secretary and Chief Financial Officer, Corporate Services, Treasury Board Secretariat

Right.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Can you break down that $4.3 million in terms of what has already been identified, and what is yet to come?

4:45 p.m.

Secretary of the Treasury Board of Canada, Treasury Board Secretariat

Michelle d'Auray

Most of those, Mr. Chair, are really in relation to the adjustments that we've done as a result of the strategic review decisions announced in the last budget. For us, those consisted largely of elimination of positions as a result of the administrative services review, and the service sector that we have redeployed. Most of those positions were managed through attrition, but the savings were accrued, and were taken as a result of the strategic review decisions and, therefore, are in the budget.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

And that accounts for the full $4.3 million?

4:45 p.m.

Secretary of the Treasury Board of Canada, Treasury Board Secretariat

Michelle d'Auray

That's correct, yes.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

This relates back to what you just said, but also to something that was in the opening remarks of the minister, and that's the $11.5 million compensation adjustment for employees that's related to your collective agreements. Am I correct in understanding that, in some cases with these collective agreements, employees were afforded an opportunity to buy back their severance?

4:45 p.m.

Secretary of the Treasury Board of Canada, Treasury Board Secretariat

Michelle d'Auray

This particular request in the supplementary estimates is not related to the severance. This is specifically related to pay increases for periods prior to the cost containment measures. I'll give you a couple of examples.

We have restructuring elements for ships' officers classification. We have an agreement with economists, and university teachers. So there are adjustments and special allocations, and they are covered by a central vote. The total of all of these adjustments is $11.5 million.

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Okay, so either you're not prepared to answer or I've asked the wrong question in asking you specifically about the buyback of severance provisions negotiated with the collective agreements.

4:45 p.m.

Secretary of the Treasury Board of Canada, Treasury Board Secretariat

Michelle d'Auray

The requirements and the funds for those were in fact included, I believe, in the supplementary estimates (A), and they were $1.3 billion. So they were in fact requested and voted.

The payouts are now under way at employees' request. Some have requested the full amount, and some only the partial amount. The $1.3 billion in supplementary estimates (A) was in fact provided to cover those payouts.

4:45 p.m.

Assistant Secretary, Expenditure Management, Treasury Board Secretariat

Bill Matthews

Mr. Chair, to be clear, the severance is not a buyback. This was a payout of severance that employees had earned during their tenure with the government as part of their collective agreements. It just was a matter of giving employees the option of receiving those funds now or later, or a split between the two, but it's not buying back severance.

4:45 p.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP Pat Martin

Sean, that was well over five minutes.

Next, for the Conservatives, we have Mike Wallace.

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

And thank you for coming. I do want to comment on the piece on the transfers. It was clear to read, and I do appreciate that.

On the same item that Sean was talking about, in supplementary estimates (A) we did do the $1.3 billion transfer, which added up to an amount of $1.9 billion, right? Then when you look at supplementary estimates (B) in front of us, it has changed down to the $1.7 billion, or whatever it is.

Yes, it says authorities to date of some $1.7 billion. You can find it way back on page 202, where vote 30 is. We approved $1.9 billion, or whatever that number was, but now it's $1.7 billion. Since you guys are in charge of these books, why is there not a little footnote saying, “This has changed and look here for the explanation”?

4:50 p.m.

Assistant Secretary, Expenditure Management, Treasury Board Secretariat

Bill Matthews

I take your point that it is difficult to follow. The reason is that with the central vote allocations, the Treasury Board actually has the authority to transfer those moneys out to departments. But I appreciate the point that it's not clear, and we have noted it.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

My question now is on those transfers out to departments, which is on page 202. I see the 30 number, and you have a number of other votes with it too.

Are they the people taking advantage of the opportunity to get their severance earlier, or is that pregnancy leave, and all of these other things that are in there too?

4:50 p.m.

Secretary of the Treasury Board of Canada, Treasury Board Secretariat

Michelle d'Auray

They're all combined.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

They're all combined.

4:50 p.m.

Secretary of the Treasury Board of Canada, Treasury Board Secretariat

Michelle d'Auray

That's correct.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Who is responsible for telling us what the uptake is of getting rid of that from the union agreements and having them be able to get that back? Is it the Treasury Board's responsibility? Who is responsible for telling the members of Parliament, “Hey, we've offered this in the benefit package and here's the uptake on it.”

4:50 p.m.

Secretary of the Treasury Board of Canada, Treasury Board Secretariat

Michelle d'Auray

The uptake is department by department, so the transfer would be department by department.

It is a good point. We will take note of how we could report on that.

Right now we don't disaggregate the actual type of payment, if I can put it that way, for vote 30, so maternity benefits, severance, the statutory requirements—

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

They're all in there.

4:50 p.m.

Secretary of the Treasury Board of Canada, Treasury Board Secretariat

Michelle d'Auray

The requests come in from departments, and then we report them back through the central vote because it is for all of these purposes.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

I have a very basic question for you.

Tell me if I'm completely wrong about the system, but departments put together their spending plans. They approve them within their department, I'm assuming. Then they go to Treasury Board for approval. I'm assuming they have to defend them in front of the Treasury Board.

You tell me where I'm wrong. Does the Treasury Board have the ability to say no, you can't spend that money, and does it do that?

4:50 p.m.

Secretary of the Treasury Board of Canada, Treasury Board Secretariat

Michelle d'Auray

Most of the requests that come to the board are either for adjustments or for increments, so either for new authorities or adjustments to authorities. But once the authorities have been provided, the overall plans do not go to the Treasury Board for approval.