Evidence of meeting #20 for Government Operations and Estimates in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was advertising.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Matthew Shea  Assistant Deputy Minister, Corporate Services, Privy Council Office
Ken MacKillop  Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet, Communications and Consultations, Privy Council Office
Bill Matthews  Deputy Minister, Department of Public Works and Government Services
Lisa Setlakwe  Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet, Social Development Policy, Privy Council Office
Les Linklater  Associate Deputy Minister, Human Resources-to-Pay Stabilization, Department of Public Works and Government Services
Louise Baird  Assistant Deputy Minister, Intergovernmental Affairs, Privy Council Office
Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Paul Cardegna
Glenn Purves  Assistant Secretary, Expenditure Management Sector, Treasury Board Secretariat
Karen Cahill  Assistant Secretary and Chief Financial Officer, Treasury Board Secretariat
Alison McDermott  Associate Assistant Deputy Minister, Economic and Fiscal Policy Branch, Department of Finance
Soren Halverson  Associate Assistant Deputy Minister, Financial Sector Policy Branch, Department of Finance

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Tom Lukiwski

Unfortunately, we're completely out of time. I would ask that you provide that answer to Mr. McCauley's question in writing as quickly as possible. Submit that to our clerk, please.

We'll now go to our second round, beginning with Mr. Kusmierczyk.

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

Irek Kusmierczyk Liberal Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Thank you very much.

I have a few questions. First, how was the COVID-19 pandemic taken into account in these estimates? Do you know what proportion of this funding is devoted to measures addressing COVID-19?

6:15 p.m.

Assistant Secretary, Expenditure Management Sector, Treasury Board Secretariat

Glenn Purves

These estimates include $81 billion in statutory support that is not being voted on in Parliament. This is support that effectively we provide detail on for transparency purposes. In terms of the main estimates plan for the 122 organizations that are appropriation dependent, we always provide updates on any changes on the statutory supports for these 122 organizations.

As a consequence of that, of the $81 billion, it is almost entirely, except for about $100 million, directed toward COVID supports. That $81 billion is a subset of the items that are contained in the Minister of Finance's report that is tabled on a biweekly basis to FINA. We took that report and worked with our Finance colleagues to make sure that we were getting, as of May 29, the best and clearest picture possible about what elements of that support factor into specifically those 122 organizations and that we can report on in the supplementary estimates.

That's the statutory side. On the voted side, as I mentioned, the budgetary voted amount is $6 billion. Of that amount, $1.3 billion is directed toward COVID-19 supports. As you go through the document and all the items, you will see COVID-19 in brackets. It's not something we normally do. Effectively, we earmarked all the items that are for COVID-19 supports so that parliamentarians and Canadians can look at it when they go online.

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

Irek Kusmierczyk Liberal Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Great. That's very helpful. Thank you very much for that rundown.

In the allocations, TBS allocated $0.3 million to the Canada Border Services Agency and $0.4 million to the Canada Revenue Agency under vote 10 “to assess their inventory of legacy applications and build technical capacity to support their migration into more secure modern data centres or cloud services”. Why did TBS use this type of vote for that allocation?

6:15 p.m.

Assistant Secretary, Expenditure Management Sector, Treasury Board Secretariat

Glenn Purves

Vote 10 is used in circumstances where an item goes to Treasury Board, it's approved by Treasury Board, there's a clear line of sight as to what the initiatives are, and there's a clear line of sight on the amounts, but it's unclear precisely which departmental vote will be allocated certain funding. These are government-wide initiatives. For example, the application modernization initiative is a government-wide initiative. It applies to a whole host of different departments, but it's not until the departments themselves are actually able to identify how much they're going to identify and collect of the amount that they're able to get it. From that standpoint, it's very important to have an operating vote, a central vote like that, so that you can actually distribute to the system broadly. It effectively has that line of sight.

The other aspect of that is Phoenix damages, LGBTQ2 supports and a lot of supports where you don't know precisely which departments will receive what amounts. It's important to be able to have that central vote to be able to distribute accordingly.

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

Irek Kusmierczyk Liberal Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

That's great, thank you very much.

I have a follow-up question. Has the COVID-19 pandemic motivated this assessment and migration to more secure and modern data centres and cloud services? Was that an ongoing project? Was it accelerated by the COVID pandemic? Could you shed some light on that?

6:20 p.m.

Assistant Secretary, Expenditure Management Sector, Treasury Board Secretariat

Glenn Purves

I don't know whether it has shed some light on that issue. I think that issue would probably be best carried out by our colleagues at Shared Services. I don't know, Karen, if you have a position on that or a perspective to share from that standpoint.

6:20 p.m.

Assistant Secretary and Chief Financial Officer, Treasury Board Secretariat

Karen Cahill

I would suggest that we ask our colleagues at SSC as they are responsible for the whole infrastructure. As a department, we have done a lot of work towards moving to cloud services, but every department is a bit different and SSC's coordinating this initiative.

6:20 p.m.

Liberal

Irek Kusmierczyk Liberal Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

That's great, thank you very much.

Chair, how much time do I have? I'm seeing your finger inching towards the mute button.

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Tom Lukiwski

The fickle finger of “you're out of time”.

We will now go to Madame Vignola for six minutes, please.

6:20 p.m.

Bloc

Julie Vignola Bloc Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Thank you very much.

My question is for the Treasury Board Secretariat, which is in a way the keeper of the purse strings.

I wonder what is most interesting for a country in terms of economy, finance and efficiency. If you wait until the last minute to replace a ship, then you have to rent one or buy one from outside...

6:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Tom Lukiwski

Pardon me, Madame.

I am on the English channel but I'm not hearing any English translation from Madame Vignola's commentary. I wonder if we could get the clerks to check that.

Madame, I will not, obviously, dock you any time for that. Please resume.

June 16th, 2020 / 6:20 p.m.

Bloc

Julie Vignola Bloc Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Yes.

Here is my question.

What is most beneficial to a country in economic, financial and efficiency terms, both in the short and long run? Is it better to wait until the last minute to replace naval, real estate or other infrastructure, or to implement a replacement plan? In the specific case of naval infrastructure, is it better to build it here and give people work, or wait until the last minute and be forced to buy it somewhere else?

Which of the two options is more profitable for a country in the medium or long term?

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Tom Lukiwski

Mr. Purves, I'm not sure if you're answering.

6:25 p.m.

Assistant Secretary, Expenditure Management Sector, Treasury Board Secretariat

Glenn Purves

That question is outside my swim lane in looking through the supplementary estimates (A) in particular. It carries with it many questions about priorities. There's the economic side, the strategic side.... I don't know if it's one that is best suited for me to answer as opposed to potentially Defence or PSPC. Bill Matthews and company were just here.

6:25 p.m.

Bloc

Julie Vignola Bloc Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Ultimately, in many cases, the authority for expenditures must come from Treasury Board. We are seeing increased spending in shipbuilding because of delays and some decisions that have to be made, unfortunately, which run counter to the National Shipbuilding Strategy.

What is the Privy Council Office's position on the ever-increasing spending?

Isn't there a brake to be put on, at some point, in order to respect the budget that was originally planned?

6:25 p.m.

Assistant Secretary, Expenditure Management Sector, Treasury Board Secretariat

Glenn Purves

Well, certainly for items that go through Treasury Board, they get the rigour and the assessment on a case-by-case basis. In terms of the status of that project in particular and so forth, the Treasury Board's position on a particular issue often is subject to cabinet confidence.

In terms of the government and where the government is with respect to the next stage of investment on the joint ships initiative, there is the funding in the supplementary estimates directed towards that initiative. Again, for the most part, I think questions about timelines and questions about consideration of priorities and so forth would probably be best directed towards the Department of Defence or PSPC, those who are actively managing those initiatives.

6:25 p.m.

Bloc

Julie Vignola Bloc Beauport—Limoilou, QC

I'll stick to the cost estimates.

What are the current cost estimates for the polar icebreaker project? You talk to me about Defence and all that, but where are those costs now?

6:25 p.m.

Assistant Secretary, Expenditure Management Sector, Treasury Board Secretariat

Glenn Purves

For the polar icebreaker, effectively that would be under Fisheries and Oceans—

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Tom Lukiwski

Mr. Purves, I'm sorry to interrupt again. Could you please keep your microphone about two inches in front of your mouth? The interpreters are having a bit of a difficult time.

6:25 p.m.

Assistant Secretary, Expenditure Management Sector, Treasury Board Secretariat

Glenn Purves

Sure.

As you know, the estimates include $6.6 million for the polar icebreaker project. They ensure marine traffic moves safely in and through.

The $6.6 million is of course the capital portion for the funding for the polar icebreaker project, under the page for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

6:30 p.m.

Bloc

Julie Vignola Bloc Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Is that $6.6 million the current cost, or does it include any delays that might occur in the event that a certain consortium is already behind in contracts...

6:30 p.m.

Assistant Secretary, Expenditure Management Sector, Treasury Board Secretariat

Glenn Purves

Again, if we step back when we talk about the initiatives, when we're talking about specifically the broader project for the polar icebreaker initiative and so forth, the Department and Fisheries and Oceans would be best placed to answer those questions.

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Tom Lukiwski

Thank you very much.

Colleagues, Mr. Green unfortunately had to leave us. In his request, which I think could only be put under the category of strange bedfellows, he has asked that his time be given to Mr. McCauley.

Mr. McCauley, you have six minutes, please.

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

It's not strange bedfellows. It's colleagues looking for transparency.

Mr. Purves, I want to get back to you. I kind of cut you off earlier in the discussion on the $25 million. PCO received $50 million and went through the Treasury Board process.