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Evidence of meeting #33 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

François Guimont  Deputy Minister, Deputy Receiver General for Canada, Department of Public Works and Government Services
Liseanne Forand  President, Shared Services Canada
Alex Lakroni  Chief Financial Officer, Finance Branch, Department of Public Works and Government Services
Renée Jolicoeur  Assistant Deputy Minister, Accounting, Banking and Compensation Branch, Department of Public Works and Government Services
Pierre-Marc Mongeau  Assistant Deputy Minister, Parliamentary Precinct Branch, Department of Public Works and Government Services
Tom Ring  Assistant Deputy Minister, Acquisitions Branch, Department of Public Works and Government Services

4 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Then we'd have 40 minutes.

4 p.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP Pat Martin

I don't suppose the minister is available to come back.

Let's adjourn the committee now, and we will reconvene as soon as possible after the vote, at approximately 5:45.

I will suspend the meeting for that period of time with our thanks to the minister for her presentation today. We appreciate it very much.

4:50 p.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP Pat Martin

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the resumption of our 33rd meeting of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates. We will continue with the examination of the supplementary estimates (C) 2011-2012.

We're pleased to have with us as witnesses various officials from the Department of Public Works and Government Services, including the assistant deputy minister, Mr. Ring; François Guimont, the deputy minister; Alex Lakroni, the chief financial officer; and Mr. Stephen Twiss, the director general of the program management sector, real property branch.

Am I missing anyone?

4:50 p.m.

A voice

Yes, Gina Rallis.

4:50 p.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP Pat Martin

I'm sorry, I don't have my glasses on. I can't see that far away.

Ms. Gina Rallis, senior assistant deputy minister and chief financial officer of corporate services. Excellent.

Liseanne Forand, welcome.

I'll stop doing this because we're just burning up time. Why don't we go back to the questioning.

When we adjourned, Kelly Block still had 21 seconds left to conclude.

4:50 p.m.

A voice

No, actually, she took only 21 seconds.

4:50 p.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP Pat Martin

She took only 21 seconds. Okay, that's right.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Man, you're tough on us with 21-second questions.

4:50 p.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP Pat Martin

You have four and a half minutes left, Kelly, a luxury of time.

Kelly, you have the floor. Welcome.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I want to join my colleagues in welcoming you all here today. I did appreciate the minister's opening remarks.

From the short time that I've been on the government operations and estimates committee and learned about the work of this department, I think you are to be commended on a number of fronts. Whether it's the process used in the staffing reductions and Shared Services Canada, the national shipbuilding procurement strategy, or being named one of the top 100 employers, I think you are doing very commendable work.

I had the opportunity to tour some of the renovations that are taking place on the parliamentary precinct. I noted that in the public works main estimates there is a reduction of $75.2 million for the long-term vision and plan for the necessary renovation and rehabilitation of the parliamentary precinct. I believe the minister alluded to it being on budget and on time, but I would like to give you an opportunity to give us a little bit more detail around that.

Before you do that, I just want to say that I think every member of Parliament needs to go on this tour to see what is actually happening in those buildings.

Thank you.

4:55 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Deputy Receiver General for Canada, Department of Public Works and Government Services

François Guimont

Thank you for the question.

A couple of points, Mr. Chairman, if I can, for the committee to start with. We are right now in a five-year block of funding for the LTVP, the long-term vision for the precinct. Mr. Chairman, you're very familiar with the West Block. A lot of our effort is going into dealing with the West Block. It's easily said like that, but before we could really sink our teeth into the West Block, we had to empty it, which then spoke to La Promenade building. So we had resources, more than $120 million...I'm looking for some support here...but, anyway—

4:55 p.m.

Voices

Oh, oh.

4:55 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Deputy Receiver General for Canada, Department of Public Works and Government Services

François Guimont

I hope someone is nodding in the back.

For the La Promenade building, you know that a number of parliamentarians are in that building. I feel that we did very well there. That was delivered on time, and—if I remember well—it was below budget, or on budget. I'll just stick with that, that's good enough. So that was a big focal point.

You see what we're doing now with the Wellington Building. It's the same principle, renovations. These are older buildings. You have heard about the John A. Macdonald building—the former Bank of Montreal—which will now become Room 200, which you used to be familiar with in the context of the West Block. The West Block is the big chunk. It's now empty, we're working on it, and it's going well.

We are funded—$500 million plus—for doing these initiatives. This year as well, we've undertaken a body of work with respect to the East Block, which will be our next priority. Obviously, a lot of this work implies movement and staggering of actions, which kind of makes sense. Remember, when we started to work on the West Block, we started to do the tower for stabilization, then we emptied the West Block, then we were inside the West Block, etc. That's the way we operate.

Colleagues and members of the committee, you have probably heard the story about the kitchen that had to be relocated. The kitchen in the West Block had to be relocated, and we've done that. If I remember, we were below budget by about 10%, and we were on time. So we were $5.5 million under budget against a project that was quite substantial in nature. The food facility was budgeted for $33 million, and we executed it for $28 million. The Wellington building is budgeted at $23 million, so we're moving ahead with that.

La Promenade, which I mentioned, was on time and on budget at $81.5 million. This room here, this building, which used to be the photography gallery, has also been renovated. We saw this as an opportunity to have more committee rooms, which were not sufficient in La Promenade building. This was done on budget and on time. I would say that we have a rhythm at LTVP in general right now. We've refined our planning, and we've been delivering these projects—and again I repeat myself—on budget and on time.

There will be surprises because these are older buildings. Mr. Chairman, you're very familiar with this. I remember walking through the West Block with the previous chair and some members of the committee when stones were being removed to allow stabilization for seismic work. They were surprised to see that these stones were numbered, cleaned up, and then put back in order after the stabilization work. So it is tedious work, which is expensive, but as the OAG noted in her report, it's probably worthwhile and expected by Canadians.

4:55 p.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP Pat Martin

You're actually over time, Kelly, but thank you very much.

Now we go to John McCallum with the Liberals for five minutes.

5 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you all for being here.

Like Kelly, I do think you've done a good job in some areas, notably shipbuilding contracts, but I'm not going to ask you about that.

5 p.m.

Voices

Oh, oh .

5 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

I want to ask you about Defence Construction Canada, and I understand there have been some allegations of wrongdoing, incompetence, the suggestion of some military people moving over there and after giving them business, and allegations of this nature. I just wonder, what is the status of that situation now?

5 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Deputy Receiver General for Canada, Department of Public Works and Government Services

François Guimont

Thank you for the question. I appreciate it.

As a first step, we tried to get our hands on the report. The only thing we got at the time, which was some weeks ago when the story broke, was essentially—and I use the words loosely here—an executive summary, which we did get hold of. At that time, we decided to forward this to the OAG.

Now, why is that? The OAG, as we speak, is carrying out an audit of DCC, Defence Construction Canada. We felt that it might be a good idea for them to factor this line of inquiry into their audit. It kind of made sense from where we were. So that's the first step.

The second step was that, I think last week, we received—and I just thumbed through it—the actual report per se. It was not the executive summary, but the report with the details by the consultant, the various bases that have been visited, and the type of activities that are documented in there, and we have sent that to the OAG as well.

The OAG has given us the signal that it may be beyond the scope of their audit for reasons of time. I'm waiting for that answer to be given to me formally in writing. Should that be the case, we will carry out a review within the department, through the oversight branch, in cooperation with National Defence.

Clearly it is our crown, but the crown, as you know, works very closely with DND. Should the OAG formally decide to not look into this, we will take steps to investigate the allegations that have been made in the report, which we now have in our hands.

5 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Thank you very much.

My next question has to do with Shared Services Canada, and the $67.5 million capital vote.

We heard from a number of witnesses that, in order to achieve savings, you first have to make investments. So my question is whether all or some of that $67.5 million is for investments you need to make before you achieve the savings.

5 p.m.

President, Shared Services Canada

Liseanne Forand

Thank you for the question.

Perhaps I'll talk, first of all, about the $67 million in capital.

As I mentioned in my earlier answer, the way the estimates have been put together, the funds have been assembled for Shared Services Canada through transfers from the 43 departments. So that $67 million in fact represents the capital budgeted in the 43 departments. We haven't made plans yet with respect to that $67 million in capital funding. It is being transferred to us. It's what they had on their books as their capital funding.

As you can appreciate, given the transfer of the 42 departments and their staff, their funding, their FTEs, their assets, and their licences, we're still very much in a period of data validation—of finding out what we've inherited, what the $67 million covers, what assets we have, and what shape are they in.

We believe that through the course of this coming fiscal year, we'll have a better sense, first of all, of where that $67 million will be invested, and whether it will be sufficient, in terms of what we've inherited.

5 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Okay. Perhaps I could rephrase my question a little bit.

Do you agree that before you achieve savings, you have to make investments, so that the net savings will take some years to achieve?

5 p.m.

President, Shared Services Canada

Liseanne Forand

I believe, Mr. Chair, we've mentioned that before in this committee. We do appreciate very much that we have inherited the operational funds and the capital funds from departments for the existing services, and we need to find savings within those services in order to build an investment fund for ourselves. We fully expect to do that over the next few years.

We fully believe we will be able to deliver more secure, more reliable services in a more cost-effective way, and we'll be looking for savings in our consolidation efforts. We'll save money by consolidating in the front end, and then, as we proceed with our transformation and change to the three areas, we'll be able to find additional savings then.

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

John McCallum Liberal Markham—Unionville, ON

Thank you.

I'd just like to read a few questions. I think I'm running out of time.

5:05 p.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP Pat Martin

You're well over time, actually, John.

I'm afraid you'll have to wait for the next round, if it comes.

Mike Wallace, you have five minutes.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I thank you for your patience in waiting for us to get back. I do have some questions.

I'm going to ask you questions mainly about the year end, since the supplementary estimates (C) are in front of us.

I'm looking at the 2011-2012 Report on Plans and Priorities. You'll remember that document from last year. One is coming up for this year. I'm going to ask you a general question first, then I'll ask you some specifics.

You have here in the “Departmental Overview”, a strategic outcome of “High-quality, central programs and services...sound stewardship”, and as a performance indicator, “Percentage of programs and services that meet their expected results, including service levels and published standards.” Your target was 95%, to be done by 15 days from now, or whatever it is, by March 31.

Where are we as a department, in terms of meeting that goal of 95%? And how do you actually evaluate that?