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

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Tom Lukiwski

I will call this meeting to order. This is meeting number 20 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates. The committee will meet again this Friday for a final time before Parliament is adjourned, and we will be meeting from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. EST on Friday.

Colleagues, we have already heard from the PSPC officials. They will not be making an opening statement, and we do have the speaking notes from the Privy Council Office, which have been distributed in both official languages.

I would like to move, colleagues—similar to what I have done on a number of occasions before to allow us to get more time for questions—that the speaking notes presented by Matthew Shea of the Privy Council Office be taken as read and appended to the evidence of today's meeting.

Do I have consent for that motion?

5 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Tom Lukiwski

[See appendix—Remarks by Matthew Shea]

Hearing no dissent, then, colleagues, we will go directly into questions. It will be a six-minute round, followed by five minutes, followed by two and a half minutes.

As for our normal routine, our first intervention will come from Mr. McCauley, for six minutes.

Mr. McCauley, you are on.

June 16th, 2020 / 5 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I will just quickly say welcome back to Mr. Blaikie.

Mr. Shea, welcome back as well. It's good to have you with us.

On the two main items you have in the supplementaries, I will start with the funding for communications and marketing, $48 million rounded up. What exactly is that for, please, and can you provide a breakdown of what it's being used for?

5 p.m.

Matthew Shea Assistant Deputy Minister, Corporate Services, Privy Council Office

I'll turn to my colleague Ken MacKillop, who will give you an overview of what we're spending that funding on.

5 p.m.

Ken MacKillop Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet, Communications and Consultations, Privy Council Office

Thanks very much for the opportunity to explain this. Advertising is, obviously, a very effective way to increase awareness of—

5 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Because of the lack of time, could you just give us the breakdown, please?

5 p.m.

Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet, Communications and Consultations, Privy Council Office

Ken MacKillop

Absolutely. It's $49.5 million, as you know, and the first bit within that is $10 million for an extension of the $30-million Public Health Agency campaign that is currently out on COVID-19; $12 million will be used for an extension of the $10-million Finance Canada campaign that we're doing right now, and $2.9 million is towards the PCO COVID communications response team.

The remainder of the funds, approximately $25 million, will be held to keep flexibility on communications, for instance if we have upcoming campaigns on a vaccine that becomes available.

5 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

You only have plans for spending $24 million of it.

5 p.m.

Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet, Communications and Consultations, Privy Council Office

Ken MacKillop

At this particular time, that's correct.

5 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

First of all, how did you get the other $25 million past Treasury Board, if it's just to be held in case something comes up? Can every department always slam a few million away just in case something comes up?

What exactly is the advertising being used for? We all know COVID is on the TV every second, every newspaper and every Facebook feed; everything is COVID all the time. Break down exactly those four items. What are we advertising, and where is the advertising going? Is it newspapers? Is it going to Facebook and U.S.-based companies? Is it staying in Canada to support Canadian journalism? Can you answer that?

5 p.m.

Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet, Communications and Consultations, Privy Council Office

Ken MacKillop

I absolutely can. As you know, the virus is unprecedented, and our communication efforts need to remain flexible. You will have seen the ads for Dr. Tam, who has been on TV. You've seen ads encouraging physical distancing. You've seen Chris Hadfield and Hayley Wickenheiser out there encouraging us to stay home and save lives.

5 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Let me ask you a question. Where is the direction coming from for this? The reason I ask is that it's a lot of money, and everyone knows about social distancing. Everyone knows that COVID is going on. Do you find it justifiable to spend $50 million on something that every single person knows about?

5 p.m.

Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet, Communications and Consultations, Privy Council Office

Ken MacKillop

Well, you know, you're not wrong. People know about it because we advertised.

5 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

I think it's because it's on the news cycle 24 hours a day. I'm asking if you think this is a fair use of taxpayers' money, to advertise something that every single person in the entire world knows is going on right now.

5:05 p.m.

Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet, Communications and Consultations, Privy Council Office

Ken MacKillop

I do think it's worth the money to advertise to Canadians on health and safety and on what we are asking them to do. Again, the virus has been unpredictable, so we are advertising. For instance, back when Dr. Tam came out and was advertising about social distancing, we did all that advertising to encourage folks to stay home once the lockdown hit. Now we advertise as well on the economic portion and the financial incentives for Canadians and, if I may just add, the recall rate on our ads has been 85%, so people are getting the message.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

I think they know about COVID. I don't think it's your ads.

Where is the advertising? What medium are you using, please? How much is Google and Facebook, and how much is Canadian companies? If you don't have it right in front of you, let us know later.

5:05 p.m.

Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet, Communications and Consultations, Privy Council Office

Ken MacKillop

I could.

I can tell you the fact that, out of what they've spent this year, more than 80% of the placements were in Canadian media, including 16% in print: dailies, weeklies, ethnic and aboriginal newspapers.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

I'm going to move on.

The next item in the supplementary estimates is $7.7 million for funding to support MROs and transfers in ministers' regional offices. What exactly is that for, please?

5:05 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Corporate Services, Privy Council Office

Matthew Shea

That item covers a number of different sub-items. One of them is the transfer of exempt staff who were previously under PSPC, who are now reporting to the Deputy Prime Minister. That's just a straight transfer. It's not new funding or an increase in cost to taxpayers. It's just a transfer between two departments.

The second piece is about support to the Deputy Prime Minister and her role and mandate letter commitments in terms of establishing more regional engagement, consultation and that type of thing.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

How much of the $7.7 million is new funding?

5:05 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Corporate Services, Privy Council Office

Matthew Shea

It's all new funding to us. All but the $2.3 million is new from the fiscal framework. The $2.3 million is going to be a transfer from PSPC.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

That's about $5.5 million to support the Deputy Prime Minister.

5:05 p.m.

Assistant Deputy Minister, Corporate Services, Privy Council Office

Matthew Shea

It's actually a bit—

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Did the assets and resources not already exist across the country that we have to add this expense?