Evidence of meeting #3 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 loans.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Jean-Yves Duclos  President of the Treasury Board
Glenn Purves  Assistant Secretary, Expenditure Management Sector, Treasury Board Secretariat
Karen Cahill  Assistant Secretary and Chief Financial Officer, Treasury Board Secretariat
Marcia Santiago  Executive Director, Expenditure Strategies and Estimates, Treasury Board Secretariat
Baxter Williams  Executive Director, Employment Conditions and Labour Relations, Treasury Board Secretariat

9:40 a.m.

President of the Treasury Board

Jean-Yves Duclos

They were tabled yesterday, Matthew.

They will be online very soon.

9:40 a.m.

NDP

Matthew Green NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Excellent, thank you.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Tom Lukiwski

For your information, Matthew, and others, normally when the departmental reports and results are tabled, they are examined at the same time as the estimates. The minister is quite right; they were tabled yesterday afternoon.

Minister, thank you for appearing for the first time before our committee. I appreciate it, and I'm sure all of our committee members appreciate it. Again, I'm sure it will not be the last time we see you before this committee in the months to come.

Colleagues, we will suspend for a couple of moments while the minister leaves the table and we prepare for our next round of witnesses.

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Tom Lukiwski

Colleagues, I will call the meeting back to order.

Before we begin with the testimony from our witnesses, I would like to reserve the last 15 minutes of our allotted time to deal with some committee business. That means we have approximately 40 minutes left for our witnesses to provide testimony.

We have heard the opening statement from the minister and had a number of questions to the minister.

Mr. Purves, do you have any kind of prepared statement?

9:45 a.m.

Assistant Secretary, Expenditure Management Sector, Treasury Board Secretariat

Glenn Purves

I'll suspend the prepared statement, in view of the time.

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Tom Lukiwski

Thank you very much.

In that case, we will go directly to questions.

We'll start with Ziad for the first six minutes, please.

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

Ziad Aboultaif Conservative Edmonton Manning, AB

Good morning. I just want to take you through a journey in the IT area. I have a few quick questions and I'd appreciate quick answers, if that's okay.

The question is how much of taxpayers' money the federal government spends on IT. Do you have any number?

February 27th, 2020 / 9:45 a.m.

Assistant Secretary, Expenditure Management Sector, Treasury Board Secretariat

Glenn Purves

I can talk to you a bit about Shared Services Canada, SSC, and the reference levels for Shared Services Canada in its discharge and responsibility.

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

Ziad Aboultaif Conservative Edmonton Manning, AB

I'm looking for numbers. If you don't have the information handy—

9:45 a.m.

Assistant Secretary, Expenditure Management Sector, Treasury Board Secretariat

Glenn Purves

I'm saying that we have a minister for digital who will be appearing with the team, so it would be....

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Tom Lukiwski

What Mr. Purves is saying is that we have asked for the estimates on SSC to be discussed here.

If you can focus your remarks, Mr. Purves, on the amount of IT spending within Shared Services Canada, that would be helpful.

9:45 a.m.

Assistant Secretary, Expenditure Management Sector, Treasury Board Secretariat

Glenn Purves

If you look at the sheet for Shared Services Canada in the main estimates and in supplementary estimates (B), which we're discussing here, for capital expenditures they spend about $429 million per year. I don't have this actually broken down by specific IT measure and capital—

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

Ziad Aboultaif Conservative Edmonton Manning, AB

That's fine.

9:45 a.m.

Assistant Secretary, Expenditure Management Sector, Treasury Board Secretariat

Glenn Purves

—and there's a certain portion of the operating that would probably go to services as well.

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

Ziad Aboultaif Conservative Edmonton Manning, AB

Here's my next question. This is going to help you to respond not now, but maybe later.

To order paper question Q-2456,last year, from one of my colleagues, the Department of Global Affairs responded by saying that all departments undertake a reporting exercise mandated by Treasury Board related to the previous fiscal year's IM/IT expenditures. This exercise is typically completed six months after the end of the previous fiscal year to allow for thorough assessment and analysis of relevant information.

Would you be able to provide us with a copy of these reports provided by each department for the fiscal year 2018-19?

9:45 a.m.

Assistant Secretary, Expenditure Management Sector, Treasury Board Secretariat

Glenn Purves

I think the answer to that question probably would be more appropriate coming during the appearance of the Minister of Digital Government, who has the purview for it and who could actually speak to that issue.

I'm happy to pass along the question so that there's an informed response when you have that conversation.

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

Ziad Aboultaif Conservative Edmonton Manning, AB

I'm building on the answer from Global Affairs, which mentioned that Treasury Board is responsible. This falls during 2018-19, which is last year.

9:50 a.m.

Assistant Secretary, Expenditure Management Sector, Treasury Board Secretariat

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

Ziad Aboultaif Conservative Edmonton Manning, AB

Therefore, I think I still would like to ask for those reports to come from Treasury Board.

9:50 a.m.

Assistant Secretary, Expenditure Management Sector, Treasury Board Secretariat

Glenn Purves

I believe you have them. I'll pass to my colleague Karen Cahill, who is the CFO of the department.

9:50 a.m.

Karen Cahill Assistant Secretary and Chief Financial Officer, Treasury Board Secretariat

Good morning.

Although I don't have the number, we will commit to providing you the numbers. I can give you additional information. This information is in fact provided by all departments in the fall, around the end of September, to the Office of the Chief Information Officer for Canada, which is under TBS. The information is also available on an IT portal, because all departments are required to send the information to the office of the CIO via this IT portal.

We will definitely undertake to provide you with the information. We're coming back, as my colleague Glenn was saying, with the Minister of Digital Government, and the acting chief information officer will also be present. We will be able to provide you with the amount spent on IM/IT.

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

Ziad Aboultaif Conservative Edmonton Manning, AB

Thank you.

I want to go back to a question that was asked by my colleague Mr. McCauley on vote 10.

Vote 10 by definition basically provides grants and contributions to fund prospective recipients. The minister mentioned the financial demands to account for such unforseen circumstances as emergencies, crisis situations and so on.

CRA received three and a half million dollars, and the three and a half million dollars went to an application modernization initiative whereby CRA is basically designing in-house software to provide to low-income Canadians to file their taxes. We know that the private sector has ready on the shelf a product that is less expensive, is probably more advanced and doesn't cost three and a half million dollars.

How then can we justify, from the vote 10 definition...? Can we call this a crisis and provide emergency funds for CRA to build...what, lT software? How can you justify that to Canadian taxpayers, and how can we give a satisfactory answer about this to the public?

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Tom Lukiwski

Unfortunately, Mr. Purves, even though it's an excellent question, we have absolutely no time. As I mentioned to the minister, you can provide a written answer or take the opportunity to answer if it comes up in a subsequent question.

9:50 a.m.

Assistant Secretary, Expenditure Management Sector, Treasury Board Secretariat

Glenn Purves

I would like to write to the committee and provide an answer on vote 10 and the utilization of vote 10. I think there are some misrepresentations on the use of vote 10, and I would like to clarify it.

I think the best way to do it is through writing. Again, there are misinterpretations of vote 10—the controls, the visibility, the authorities—and it's an instrument that's been in the tool kit for many, many years. It is demand-driven—

9:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Tom Lukiwski

We're speaking off the same page, Mr. Purves.