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Evidence of meeting #41 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 million.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Michelle Doucet  Assistant Deputy Minister, Corporate Services, Privy Council Office
Bill Pentney  Deputy Secretary to the Cabinet, Plans and Consultations, Privy Council Office
Marc Bélisle  Executive Director, Finance and Corporate Planning Division, Privy Council Office
Greta Bossenmaier  Senior Executive Vice-President, Canadian International Development Agency
Arun Thangaraj  Director General, Business Planning Resources Management and Systems, Canadian International Development Agency
Julia Hill  Director General, Planning, Operations and Specialists Directorate, Geographic Programs Branch, Canadian International Development Agency

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Denis Blanchette NDP Louis-Hébert, QC

You understand what I mean. In the context of your budgets, it is a reduction, but it is not really one, since the money is simply reallocated elsewhere. Is that correct?

4:45 p.m.

Director General, Business Planning Resources Management and Systems, Canadian International Development Agency

Arun Thangaraj

That's correct.

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Denis Blanchette NDP Louis-Hébert, QC

Very well. So you are transferring $9.2 million to Shared Services Canada. Are you transferring all of your IT budgets or are you keeping a part of these activities within your agency?

4:45 p.m.

Director General, Business Planning Resources Management and Systems, Canadian International Development Agency

Arun Thangaraj

The $9.2 million represents the portion of our IT budget that relates to telecommunications, data centres, and networks. We do retain a portion of our budget that deals with certain elements of our IT infrastructure and systems development, for example.

So it's only a portion of our IT budget, not the full IT budget and information management budget, per se.

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Denis Blanchette NDP Louis-Hébert, QC

There is an $8 million reduction in an area you refer to as “fragile countries and crisis-affected communities”. Does that mean that there is a change in the way in which CIDA intervenes, in other words that CIDA will be less present when there are international crises?

4:45 p.m.

Director General, Business Planning Resources Management and Systems, Canadian International Development Agency

Arun Thangaraj

The reduction that you see for the fragile countries program activity of $8 million is largely due to the reduction that was stated earlier for Afghanistan. There are always in-year adjustments that occur in response to situations in fragile countries through our humanitarian assistance program. Those are usually highlighted in the supplementary estimates process.

At the beginning of the year, when we estimate what our spending is along those program activities, it is an estimate at this point. Given the reduction in Afghanistan, we reflected reduction in that program activity of $8 million.

4:45 p.m.

NDP

Denis Blanchette NDP Louis-Hébert, QC

In your budget forecasts, a section is devoted to grants and another to contributions. It is like a roller coaster. At one point, we see that grants for multilateral programming increased by $68 million, but that contributions for bilateral programming were reduced by $66 million. I would like to know what happened there.

4:45 p.m.

Director General, Business Planning Resources Management and Systems, Canadian International Development Agency

Arun Thangaraj

That's a reflection of an internal reallocation of, again, our estimate, based on last year's expenditures and our expenditure pattern and how we do our programming. Based on that analysis, and, for example, when we respond to international crises, we have reallocated money from our contributions program to multilateral grants through global institutions that provide humanitarian assistance and funding. So it's more of an internal realignment between those two classes of grants and contributions.

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Denis Blanchette NDP Louis-Hébert, QC

What is this realignment due to? What was the reason for it?

4:50 p.m.

Director General, Business Planning Resources Management and Systems, Canadian International Development Agency

Arun Thangaraj

As I said earlier, that realignment was due to an analysis of our programming. As our programming flows through multilateral channels, we have realigned internally the spending toward multilateral. As to what it does, it allows us to more quickly respond to situations that develop rapidly, such as humanitarian crises.

4:50 p.m.

NDP

Denis Blanchette NDP Louis-Hébert, QC

Thank you very much.

4:50 p.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP Pat Martin

Thank you, Denis. Your time is up.

For the Conservatives, Kelly Block, for five minutes.

4:50 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I would also like to thank our guests for joining us today.

In your opening remarks you referred to three thematic priorities, one of those being the well-being of children and youth. With a particular focus on child survival, including maternal health, access to quality education, and safety and security, I, for one, am extremely proud of the leadership provided by the Government of Canada to both G-8 and non-G-8 countries, and leaders of countries, to support maternal and child health through the Muskoka initiative. In CIDA's most recent statistical report on international assistance, 2010-11, it was noted:

Every year, an estimated 350,000 women die in childbirth and pregnancy in the developing world and eight million children die before their fifth birthday. At the 2010 G-8 Summit, Canada committed $1.1 billion of new funding to the Muskoka Initiative on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health in 2010, in addition to existing funding.

I had assumed that these main estimates provided support to maternal and child health, and I guess you confirmed this in your opening remarks when you stated that there was increased funding for this program. I'm just wondering if you would tell us a little bit about that, and provide us with an update on this program.

4:50 p.m.

Senior Executive Vice-President, Canadian International Development Agency

Greta Bossenmaier

Thank you for the question.

Yes, I did reference in my opening remarks that the main estimates do reflect an increase due to our commitment to maternal and child health. So what you're seeing in the estimates is this 2012-13 increase.

I can maybe speak a little bit about the program and how it's going. As members will recall, with the 2010 G-8 presidency, Canada championed the G-8 Muskoka initiative on maternal, newborn, and child health, and this in fact helped to pave the way for the United Nations secretary general's global strategy for women's and children's health.

Through the Muskoka initiative commitment, CIDA is supporting the delivery of quite a comprehensive and integrated health services program at the local level, where in fact they are the most needed. Of the $1.1 billion that was committed, more than $830 million of that has already been announced for projects in Africa, in the Americas, and in Asia.

I think it's also important to point out to members that 80% of CIDA's maternal, newborn, and child health funding is going to countries in the region of sub-Saharan Africa, in which there is great need.

In terms of our MNCH, our maternal, newborn, and child health program, we're working for results in three different ways. We're working directly with a number of developing countries. We're also working with the multilateral and global partners, and we're also working with Canadian development organizations in the development countries. We're doing so along what we call “paths”. We have three integrated paths: strengthening health systems, improving nutrition, and addressing leading illnesses and diseases.

It may be helpful, if I may, to provide a few examples of the kinds of support we are providing.

One example of support is the work we're supporting in Bangladesh, where we have 63,000 mothers and 94,000 children who will have regular, on-site access to basic pre-natal and post-natal care, basic health care, and trained midwives.

In Haiti, for example, with Canadian support, the total number of women receiving free health care while giving birth will increase from 60,000 deliveries in 2011 to more than 90,000 by 2015. That's the expected number.

We're also supporting an African medical and research foundation in Tanzania, and its aim is to strengthen the delivery of health services to approximately 650,000 women, newborns, and young children in one particular region in Tanzania.

I hope that answers your question.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Yes, thank you.

4:55 p.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP Pat Martin

You have five seconds left if you like, Kelly.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

How many countries of focus were there for the Muskoka initiative?

4:55 p.m.

Senior Executive Vice-President, Canadian International Development Agency

Greta Bossenmaier

I'm going to turn to our director general from our geographic programs branch.

Would you have that information?

4:55 p.m.

Julia Hill Director General, Planning, Operations and Specialists Directorate, Geographic Programs Branch, Canadian International Development Agency

Yes. There are 10 countries.

4:55 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly Block Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Thank you.

4:55 p.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP Pat Martin

Thank you, Kelly.

Next, for the NDP, we'll have Linda Duncan. You have five minutes.

April 30th, 2012 / 4:55 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

And thank you again for appearing.

Just for the record, I want to express our disappointment that the minister has not appeared. We fully expected her to be here. It's our opportunity to question her.

I have a couple of questions.

I noted that in the report of the Auditor General in 2009, she reported on red tape. Now, this government has been very diligent in saying that it's going to reduce red tape for businesses in Canada and reduce the intrusion of the administration.

The Auditor General, in her 2009 report, on page 27, says“[b]urdensome administrative processes hamper effective decision making”. I know, from my personal experience working on major CIDA projects in Indonesia and Bangladesh, that the level of reporting can sometimes go to the point of absurdity, and it can be hard to find time to actually deliver the aid project.

I wonder if you could tell us if you've included in your main estimates any kinds of initiatives for reducing that administrative burden in response to the Auditor General. And in what way does that improve the delivery of aid? In some way, does that have to do with reducing the number of PYs in CIDA? In other words, there's less work to do administering all of this reporting.

4:55 p.m.

Director General, Planning, Operations and Specialists Directorate, Geographic Programs Branch, Canadian International Development Agency

Julia Hill

Thank you for the question.

We do have a business modernization initiative in the agency that was launched, I would say, two years ago that is working quite diligently at streamlining processes. There's some re-engineering involved in that. There is also a very significant effort around results and reporting to bring together and facilitate much of the work that is required. We make sure that we have clear, well-articulated results that are consistent with Treasury Board expectations, and we tie them back to our processes to make sure they're simplified.

4:55 p.m.

NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Can you tell me the percentage of time in the projects, in their budgets, for reporting, and has there been any reduction in the number of staff needed at CIDA headquarters to oversee all the administrative reporting?

4:55 p.m.

Director General, Planning, Operations and Specialists Directorate, Geographic Programs Branch, Canadian International Development Agency

Julia Hill

We're still at a pilot stage with a number of them. Certainly on the pilots, we are finding that it's a more efficient process. It's early days yet to be able to provide overall savings.