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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

3:30 p.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP Pat Martin

I will call the meeting to order immediately. Welcome to the 33rd meeting of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates.

We're very pleased to have with us as our witness today the Minister of Public Works, Ms. Rona Ambrose, and her officials with the Department of Public Works and Government Services, who are helping us to review—after the fact, I suppose—the supplementary estimates (C).

Welcome, Minister. We're very appreciative that you've giving us your time. If you have opening comments, the floor is yours.

3:30 p.m.

Edmonton—Spruce Grove Alberta

Conservative

Rona Ambrose ConservativeMinister of Public Works and Government Services and Minister for Status of Women

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Ladies and gentlemen, members of the committee, good afternoon.

As you know, Mr. Chair, I am always happy to appear before this committee to talk about our ongoing efforts at Public Works and Government Services Canada and Shared Services Canada.

Today I am pleased to address this committee on supplementary estimates (C) and main estimates for Public Works and Government Services Canada and Shared Services Canada.

I would like to introduce the officials who are here with me today. With us are the deputy minister of Public Works and Government Services Canada, François Guimont, and the president of Shared Services Canada, Liseanne Forand. Also joining us are the chief financial officer for Public Works, Alex Lakroni, and the assistant deputy minister of acquisitions branch for Public Works, Tom Ring. The director general for the program management sector and real property branch for Public Works, Stephen Twiss, is joining us as well. I thank them for making time to be here with the committee.

As you know, Mr. Chair, Public Works plays an important role in the daily operations of the Government of Canada as its principal banker, accountant, central purchasing agent, linguistic authority, and real property manager. We manage a diverse real estate portfolio that accommodates 269,000 federal employees in 1,849 locations across Canada. We contribute more than $14 billion annually to the Canadian economy through government procurement. We prepare the annual public accounts of Canada and manage a cash flow of more $2 trillion a year.

I would like to take the opportunity to highlight our ongoing efforts at Public Works and Government Services Canada. I believe the Government of Canada, through public works, plays a key role in the economy.

Public Works and Government Services is changing the way it does business, not just by trying to reduce the paper burden but also by trying to drive innovation and investment in the Canadian economy.

As an agent of the Crown, we must ensure that when we buy goods and services, we do so in a manner that enhances access, competition and fairness.

We continue to work to create a better and smarter procurement system. On the job creation front, via the highly successful and much praised national shipbuilding procurement strategy, we are poised to create jobs in shipbuilding and related industries.

I am very proud of the innovative work to develop and implement the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy.

There were two key features that made the national shipbuilding strategy different. The first was the decision to use only Canadian shipyards. The second was the way we governed the process to pick the winning shipyards. Public Works created an innovative process to ensure a fair result. The teams evaluating the bids worked independently of one another, and a robust dispute avoidance and resolution process was worked out ahead of time.

The shipyards were selected following a fair, open and transparent process, free of political influence, with independent oversight provided by a fairness monitor and with the assistance of independent third-party subject matter experts.

When people look back at the entire national shipbuilding process, I believe they will discover how it embodies all three principles that are changing the way we do business at Public Works.

First, we engaged industry stakeholders. We held five full-day meetings with the short-listed shipyards. During these meetings we consulted on the content of the request for proposals, the terms of the umbrella agreements, the proposed schedule, and the evaluation methodology used to rank the bids the yards made.

Second, of course, we leveraged the buy by keeping the jobs here in Canada. The Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries has estimated that government ship projects will directly and indirectly contribute over $2 billion in annual economic benefits and 15,000 jobs over the next 30 years. In addition, we required that the winning yards develop value propositions that will contribute to continuous improvement in areas such as skills and training, infrastructure, capabilities, and long-term supply chain development.

Third, the national shipbuilding strategy launched a new framework for governing major procurements. We established a secretariat that developed a non-political approach to procurement. Bids were scored on their merits using a system of evaluation that was shaped by the shipyards themselves. The shipyards were assessed by an internationally recognized third-party expert, and the entire process was overseen by a fairness monitor.

Our Canadian innovation and commercialization program, known as CICP or the kick-start program, is helping businesses bridge the gap between the lab and the marketplace, with 27 pre-commercial innovations pre-qualifying in its first round, and 36 in the second. As you well know, pre-commercial means these goods are tested—they are legitimate companies making innovative products that work—but they are not in mass production.

You all know what it means to a small business owner when they can say that the first order for their product was placed by the Government of Canada. It is a huge boost.

We are also committed to supporting small and medium-sized businesses via our Office of Small and Medium Enterprises, which has assisted over 140,000 individuals and suppliers, as well as 230,000 visitors to its buyandsell.gc.ca website.

On modernizing the federal workplace, our department is working to develop the workplace 2.0 standard to enable public servants to be more innovative and efficient in serving Canadians. On pay modernization, we are moving forward with the establishment of the Pay Centre of Expertise in Miramichi. It will ensure long-term sustainability of the Government of Canada's pay administration system and services, and a more effective and efficient public service. Finally, I'm pleased to note that our department was recently designated as one of the national capital region's top 100 employers. We are responsible for 55,000 procurement-related transactions worth almost $17 billion a year.

When we turn to the main estimates, Public Works and Government Services main estimates for fiscal year 2012-2013 for next year's budget is $2.5 billion. This is down to $5.6 billion, a decrease of $218 million or 8% from last year.

Our supplementary estimates (C) request net final tally is $48 million, made up of $105.5 million in new funding, and reductions of $57.7 million. One notable item in the supplementary estimates (C) is for the real property branch for management of crown-owned office buildings.

The Real Property Branch manages one of the largest and most diverse real estate portfolios in Canada, including many of the country's most important landmarks, from bridges and dams to federal buildings.

We're moving forward on some exciting and key strategic initiatives, such as workplace 2.0, infrastructure assets, and leadership in energy and environmental design, also known as LEED.

Another item is for funds to undertake significant rehabilitation and maintenance projects across Canada, such as dams, bridges, and crossings. The Esquimalt Graving Dock and the Alaska Highway are two examples included in the program of work delivered by Public Works and Government Services.

Through our investments in public infrastructure we are not only creating jobs across the country, but also ensuring safe access to these structures for the public.

I am now pleased to speak about Shared Services Canada. For the current year, 2011–2012, there is no requirement for Supplementary Estimates (C) for Shared Services Canada, as the new organization was supported by PWGSC and other federal departments.

Turning to Shared Services Canada, for the upcoming year, 2012-13, we're looking at transferring $1.4 billion from 43 partner departments to operate Shared Services Canada during its first fiscal year to deliver services to those federal organizations.

This concludes my opening statement. My officials and I would be pleased to answer any of your questions.

Thank you very much.

3:40 p.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP Pat Martin

Thank you, Minister.

I'm disappointed to learn that the bells will begin to ring at 3:53 because of yet another time allocation motion.

We're interrupted once again in our efforts to study this issue. We do appreciate your being here. We'll make the most of what little time we have, and the first round of questioning for the NDP is Mathieu Ravignat.

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat NDP Pontiac, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you, Minister, for your presence, as well as the other witnesses here today.

I'd like to start with an issue that's particularly troubling for people in this region—cuts to the public service and its relationship to the mains. We learned that on February 22, the Public Service Commission offered courses to managers in order to learn how to better lay off their personnel. At Treasury Board, a $13-million litigation management office was created to deal with layoffs.

Minister, I hope that you will be the first minister to tell us exactly what all of this means for the public service. On page 309 of the main estimates, there is a $41.9 million reduction. In June, along with—I believe it was Minister Clement—you talked about 700 jobs being cut at Public Works. Could you tell us what these main estimates represent for cutting jobs in the public service, particularly in the Ottawa capital region?

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Rona Ambrose Conservative Edmonton—Spruce Grove, AB

With respect to the main estimates we've tabled here today, I'm not sure if you're speculating on the upcoming budget, but the estimates wouldn't reflect what you're asking about. As for job losses from the past budget through the commitments we've made with strategic review, we have managed those through attrition or working with the employees in a way that's been very respectful.

I will turn to the deputy minister to give you some highlights. I think that the way that Public Works dealt with what can be a very difficult time for employees was a model for other government departments. We've tried very hard to place employees who were let go. Through attrition, we've been able to manage some of the job losses. We've been working with those we couldn't place to help them with job training and job placement.

I'll let François give you some more details.

3:40 p.m.

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

Thank you, Minister.

We are, in the main estimates, now showing the second year of our strategic review reduction, so that is the number referred to.

That number essentially equates to about 118 people, just to put things in perspective. Going back to the point of the Minister—because it's important to understand the second year against the first one—in our department we have 315 individual employees who were affected. To this point, we've been successful in finding jobs within the department for 87% of these individuals, so 270 people have now found alternate employment in the department.

It's important to remember the attrition rate in the department. It is running at about 8%. Four per cent is churn—people going to other positions in the federal public service—and another 4% are people retiring. It's a fairly substantial number. We have put in place a unit dedicated to coaching and helping managers to find the best fit for these individuals who have been affected.

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat NDP Pontiac, QC

Mr. Guimont, thank you for giving me these answers.

I would now like to ask another question. Madam Minister, three unfortunate files come back to haunt PWGSC regularly. They are the relocation of public servants, overbilling for renovations done on the military bases, and the exorbitant cost of acquiring assets.

Recently, senior PWGSC employees apparently received gifts and bribes from Royal LePage to obtain lucrative relocation contracts.

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

I have a point of order. Is that on the estimates issue? Can you tell me what page of the estimates those—

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat NDP Pontiac, QC

The question I want to ask you is…

3:45 p.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP Pat Martin

We have a point of order. You're challenging the relevance of the question.

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

That is correct, sir.

3:45 p.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP Pat Martin

Let me deal with the point of order, then. I'll just consult with my clerk.

I'm going to rule that you don't have a point of order. When we're dealing with the main estimates, we have quite a broad range and latitude, given the full operations of the department.

My only concern is that you're almost out of time. You have about 30 seconds for a brief answer from the officials.

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat NDP Pontiac, QC

What will the minister do to respond to these concerns?

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Rona Ambrose Conservative Edmonton—Spruce Grove, AB

Well, about that specific case, I believe that happened in 2002 and 2004, under a previous government. But the Auditor General made several recommendations after that particular incident, and all of those recommendations have now been implemented.

Of course, that particular contract was awarded to a different company. But also on that issue, the matter is before the court, so I wouldn't want to speculate any further.

In terms of due diligence and oversight within the department, I'll turn it over to the deputy minister to give you a quick overview, but I feel very comfortable and confident that, after the implementation of the Auditor General's recommendations, that kind of occurrence would not be able to happen again today.

3:45 p.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP Pat Martin

We're out of time.

To be fair to the other party, it may come up again in some other questioning.

We now have Jacques Gourde, for the Conservatives.

March 12th, 2012 / 3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Conservative Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Madam Minister, thank you for being here. We know always have a very busy schedule. I'd also like to thank the other witnesses for being here.

Madam Minister, could you please give us the details relating to the new funding requests, totaling $105.5 million, in the Supplementary Estimates (C) from PWGSC?

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Rona Ambrose Conservative Edmonton—Spruce Grove, AB

I would be happy to do that.

We have funding for increases, of course, in non-discretionary expenses which is fit up, maintenance, and temporary accommodation associated with crown-owned buildings and leased space. This is needed to address increases in non-discretionary expenses related to Public Works' accommodation programs for public servants.

Public Works has price protection for increases to utility costs and rental costs of crown-owned and leased office accommodation. Of course, price protection agreements have been in place now since 1991.

Funding is required for the estimated cost of additional office accommodation provided to government departments and agencies. This money is to provide office accommodation to other government departments and agencies. The funds are made available to Public Works once a new program is approved, or an existing program's funding is extended for other government departments. These funds are from departments and agencies that have received approval between July 2011 and November 2, 2011 to increase their staffing levels, or extend existing programs and the associated staff.

Funding for accommodation costs related to pension administration, in particular, will pay for the accommodation of employees who administer the pension funds. As you know, Public Works is the functional authority in terms of administration of the public service pension plan. Only those costs directly attributable to the provision of pension services may be charged to the pension funds. There are approximately 650 employees within Public Works and Government Services providing pension administration services. As of November 2011, all pension service delivery has been centralized in the Public Service Pension Centre in Shediac, thus ensuring that active plan members have access to consistent, knowledgeable pension information, and subject matter experts.

Finally, funding is also required to repair and rehabilitate major infrastructures such as dams and bridges, and this is referring to the $20 million for the engineering assets. These funds are to be used for a comprehensive program of repairs, rehabilitation, and replacement of components of the 20 major engineering assets, as well as 68 wharves and marine assets that we own across Canada.

3:50 p.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP Pat Martin

Monsieur Gourde, go ahead.

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Conservative Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Could you tell us a little more about the reduction in PWGSC's net budget?

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Rona Ambrose Conservative Edmonton—Spruce Grove, AB

Mr. Chair, I thank you for the question.

Public Works and Government Services’ net appropriation will decline by $218 million or approximately 8%. This decrease is primarily related to the following reductions. The first reduction is the $113.4 million transfer to Shared Services Canada. As you know on August 4, 2011, an order in council created the Shared Services Canada department and transferred the services from Public Works to Shared Services Canada. The creation of Shared Services Canada resulted in the transfer of full-time employees, the associated budgets, and the above services from Public Works to Shared Services Canada.

There's also a $75.2 million reduction from the long-term vision plan. More funds were not called in main estimates because project requirements were not fully known at that time, and thus the decision was made to defer the request for funds from main estimates to supplementary estimates. The deferral will allow us to better align the timing of new funding with the actual expenditures, and it supports sound cash management strategy.

I would also like to point out that all major capital projects, including the major rehabilitation of the West Block and 180 Wellington, are tracking on or ahead of schedule, and on or under budget. We also see a decrease of $41.9 million from Public Works' contribution towards the budget 2011 strategic review exercise announced by the President of the Treasury Board on May 3, 2010. Public Works' contribution to the strategic review also ensured alignment with federal responsibilities.

3:50 p.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP Pat Martin

That's exactly five minutes, Jacques, so I'm afraid your time is concluded.

Denis Blanchette, if you would like to go as far as we can, I'm afraid you're probably going to get interrupted.

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Denis Blanchette NDP Louis-Hébert, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

First, I would like to point out that, when my colleague was speaking about Royal LePage, he wasn't talking about 2004, but rather 2009.

I would like to come back to the announced reductions of over $200 million. You said that this represents about 8%, except that more than half of the amount corresponds to amounts transferred to Shared Services Canada. That means that, in total, it's only a decrease of less than 4% of operations.

As for the transfer of $113 million, was it the total budget that was transferred? If not, were there reductions and staffing cuts along the way?

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Rona Ambrose Conservative Edmonton—Spruce Grove, AB

Thank you for the question. My deputy minister for Public Works and for Shared Services Canada would like to make a comment.

3:50 p.m.

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

François Guimont

Actually, there are two answers to your question. First, with respect to Public Works and Government Services Canada, we transferred over 1,400 employees, at an expense of $100 million, and an additional $13 million for administrative costs, for a total of $113 million.

As for cost recovery—because these people did cost recovery with other departments—an amount of about $387 million represents the revenues of other departments, which will basically be collected through the Revenue Generation and Business Planning Office. So all that will represent the total amounts of money available to Shared Services Canada.

The amount from the department is $113 million. The other amount of $387 million is from the other departments. The amount was not reduced as part of the strategic review exercise. That was done by my colleague, later on.

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Denis Blanchette NDP Louis-Hébert, QC

Could you please answer quickly? Because I have another question.