Evidence of meeting #20 for Government Operations and Estimates in the 43rd Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was spending.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Paul Cardegna
Glenn Purves  Assistant Secretary, Expenditure Management Sector, Treasury Board Secretariat
Roger Ermuth  Assistant Comptroller General, Financial Management Sector, Office of the Comptroller General, Treasury Board Secretariat
Karen Cahill  Assistant Secretary and Chief Financial Officer, Treasury Board Secretariat
Sonya Read  Acting Assistant Secretary, Digital and Services Policy, Treasury Board Secretariat
Rod Greenough  Executive Director, Expenditure Strategies and Estimates, Treasury Board Secretariat
Raphaëlle Deraspe  Committee Researcher
Tolga Yalkin  Assistant Deputy Minister, Workplace Policies and Services, Treasury Board Secretariat

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Irek Kusmierczyk Liberal Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

That's terrific.

The target is, I believe, 40% below 2005 emissions for 2030. Is there a sense that we are on target to meet our 2030 commitments at the current pace and in the current program?

5:10 p.m.

Assistant Secretary and Chief Financial Officer, Treasury Board Secretariat

Karen Cahill

I can't tell you for sure that there is a sense, but definitely we can come back to you with a firmer answer. Through the projects we're doing, however, we're on a good path to reduce our GHG emissions by a large number of kilotons.

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Irek Kusmierczyk Liberal Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

That's terrific.

I'm going to switch gears a little bit.

The PBO noted in his report on the supplementary estimates that notable improvements have been made to address issues that this committee mentioned in past meetings concerning financial transparency and openness.

What measures have been introduced to increase financial transparency in the estimates process?

March 10th, 2021 / 5:10 p.m.

Assistant Secretary, Expenditure Management Sector, Treasury Board Secretariat

Glenn Purves

It's a great question.

One measure that was taken in light of the budget estimates alignment initiative, which was taken before, was very much about aligning what's in the estimates with what was announced in the fall economic statement. In part I, we include a table that breaks that down, because there are some elements we don't include in main estimates, such as tax expenditures and the EI account, that you need to build back in, and given the fact that the Department of Finance reports on an accrual basis as opposed to our working on a cash basis.

With respect to COVID in particular, we have been busy trying to improve the transparency for parliamentarians and Canadians as it pertains to the planned spending. Specifically, we've been looking at effectively tagging COVID measures that are included in the supplementary estimates. We provided a description of all the COVID-19 legislation. When you go to GC InfoBase you can see all the measures lined up against the same measures in the fall economic statement and see which supplementary estimates were approved for the authorities by voted in and statutory.

Finally, we do an alignment between chapters 1 and 2 in the fall economic statement with the spending authorities that have been identified to date specifically for COVID in the estimates, which amount to about $160 billion.

Dealing with a pandemic is new for us. We want to try to advance on the transparency side, and we're always open to comments and suggestions from Parliament as to how we can improve on that.

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Irek Kusmierczyk Liberal Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Thumbs-up on the GC InfoBase by the way. It's great work. It's helping us visualize a large amount of data.

Thank you, Chair.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Robert Gordon Kitchen

Thank you, Mr. Kusmierczyk.

We'll go to Ms. Vignola for six minutes.

5:15 p.m.

Bloc

Julie Vignola Bloc Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Thank you, everyone, for being here today.

I have a few questions for you.

The supplementary estimates seek approval for $13.4 billion in spending, in particular for emergency responses to the pandemic, including medical research and vaccine development.

How do you explain the fact that supplementary estimates (A) and (B), or even the main estimates, didn't include enough money for vaccine research and development?

It isn't surprising that we need to invest in this area. We've seen other countries, especially Great Britain and the United States, invest heavily.

Why haven't we planned for this? Why do we need the supplementary estimates (C) to plan for this?

5:15 p.m.

Assistant Secretary, Expenditure Management Sector, Treasury Board Secretariat

Glenn Purves

Certainly, when you step back and think about the payment authorities that we're seeking from Parliament to address the vaccines—and in the response to Mr. Paul-Hus and his question—it adds up to about $9.2 billion. I gave a breakdown of what that is.

The payment authorities have come in different forms. Because the crisis started in March and supplementary estimates (A) weren't until June, Parliament approved Bill C-13, which included the Public Health Events of National Concern Payments Act.

Many of the supports that we're looking at are partially supported through what we call the “statutory” forecast side of the main and supplementary estimates, but then there's the voted component. What happened was that, at the end of December, the statutory authority under the Public Health Events of National Concern Payments Act expired, so many of the initiatives that were being supported under the payment authority have migrated over to the voted side. That's why you are seeing it effectively listed on the voted.

If you look on the statutory forecast side, you're often seeing an offsetting of reduction amount. On a voted basis, it seems like a very large amount that's coming late, but on a net basis, there are only a couple of measures that are really new.

There's the $485 million for the procurement of test supplies and testing production, which is going to the provinces and territories through the provision of test kits and supplies to supplement the existing testing capacity that they have.

There's $50 million effectively to support the surge in demand for distress centres during and following the COVID-19 pandemic, and $208 million, which is being used to stabilize key resources and operations in the agency.

It can be a challenge to see through that, but that's why, in a way, we put this on the InfoBase, because it's easier to track in that pane.

5:15 p.m.

Bloc

Julie Vignola Bloc Beauport—Limoilou, QC

That's enlightening. Thank you.

The Treasury Board is requesting $1.7 billion under vote 15 for compensation adjustments, including compensation for members of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, or PSAC. Of that $1.7 billion, how much is compensation for PSAC employees?

5:15 p.m.

Assistant Secretary, Expenditure Management Sector, Treasury Board Secretariat

Glenn Purves

That's a great question, and one I'd have to actually calculate. I have no objections to providing it to the committee.

Mr. Yalkin, I don't know if you perhaps have that on hand, but if not, we'd be happy to get back to the committee with that answer.

5:20 p.m.

Bloc

Julie Vignola Bloc Beauport—Limoilou, QC

I would appreciate that.

Regardless of the amount, one question comes to mind. I'm curious. Is the amount allocated for employee compensation gross or net?

The compensation was taxed. In a sense, the government recuperated money from the compensation for damages caused by Phoenix. Will you be giving the committee the amount before taxes, or will the amount reflect the actual cost once the taxes were collected by the government?

5:20 p.m.

Assistant Secretary, Expenditure Management Sector, Treasury Board Secretariat

Glenn Purves

I'll pass that question to Mr. Yalkin. I understand there are discussions going on with the CRA, but Mr. Yalkin might have a better line of sight on that.

5:20 p.m.

Assistant Secretary and Chief Financial Officer, Treasury Board Secretariat

Karen Cahill

I can take this question if you don't mind, Glenn.

Ms. Vignola, discussions are ongoing with the Canada Revenue Agency, or CRA. In terms of the taxation of damage payments, we must consult with the CRA.

5:20 p.m.

Bloc

Julie Vignola Bloc Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Okay. I have received calls from people reporting that the amount received on March 3 was taxed.

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Robert Gordon Kitchen

Thank you, Ms. Vignola.

We'll now go to Mr. Green for six minutes.

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Green NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Thank you very much.

I apologize because I know this has been touched on. I might be repeating things here, but I'm trying to get clear on PHAC's $2.5 billion under vote 1c, operating expenditures, and votes 5c and 10c to support research, development and purchases of vaccines.

That seems like a lot of money. In terms of the breakdowns, how much of it is going to development versus purchasing?

I'm still unclear if this question has already been asked, so my apologies if it has.

5:20 p.m.

Assistant Secretary, Expenditure Management Sector, Treasury Board Secretariat

Glenn Purves

Mr. Green, it's a great question.

From my standpoint, I could give you a line of sight in terms of the payment authority that is being sought. The fact that—

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Green NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Could I ask you a very particular question? Has a payment authority been sought to start a Crown corporation to do our own domestic development of vaccines or is this money going all out to the private sector?

You'll recall the money we invested in the NRC, which gave the technology for the base science of the vaccines. That's been privatized by corporations. We haven't really seen the kind of co-operation that we thought we were going to get.

If we look at a dollar-value analysis of this, for $2.5 billion, has the government sought authority to start a Crown corporation for our own domestic production?

5:20 p.m.

Assistant Secretary, Expenditure Management Sector, Treasury Board Secretariat

Glenn Purves

Specifically on that, we do have funding that is going to a whole host of different initiatives. In terms of identifying specifically the amount that is going for domestic capacity and how much of that is listed here, we—

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Green NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

When we talk about specificity, I want to get specific. Has the government sought a payment authority to start a Crown corporation for domestic production?

5:20 p.m.

Assistant Secretary, Expenditure Management Sector, Treasury Board Secretariat

Glenn Purves

I would have to get back to you specifically on that. The creation of a Crown corporation—

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Green NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

That would be a specific type of financial authority. Is that correct? It's different from, say, doling this money out to the private sector or to....

I'm looking at the scale of $2.5 billion. At this stage of the pandemic, how we haven't nationalized domestic production while we're buying vaccines at $35 a pop is beyond me.

While we're negotiating this $2.5 billion, the question remains: How much priority has this government at this juncture thought about or explored our own domestic...? When I say “domestic”, I don't just mean Canadian companies but Crown corporation or a nationalized program.

5:20 p.m.

Assistant Secretary, Expenditure Management Sector, Treasury Board Secretariat

Glenn Purves

I understand the question. I'm just not able to give you an answer right now.

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Matthew Green NDP Hamilton Centre, ON

Just for future questions, Mr. Purves, if they were to start that direction to do a Crown corporation and, in theory, the Treasury Board were to come to this committee and I were to ask you that, would that be flagged as a separate type of financial authority from the financial authority to distribute money generally to the private sector? Would that require a different kind of thing that I'd be able to pick up in a report?

5:25 p.m.

Assistant Secretary, Expenditure Management Sector, Treasury Board Secretariat

Glenn Purves

It all depends on how organizations are structured and whether they're appropriation dependent. If they're effectively provided statutory authority—so they're separate and distinct and are not appropriation dependent—that would be outside our realm.

We're in the business, really, of identifying all the departments that are appropriation dependent and the funding they're seeking, and being able to provide answers to the best of our ability on what that funding is going towards.

In terms of the actual—