Evidence of meeting #23 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 information.

A recording 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

4:30 p.m.

Assistant Secretary, Expenditure Management Sector, Treasury Board Secretariat

Glenn Purves

Well, we have a tightened system that is able to produce this information—

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

No. I'm not asking that.

4:30 p.m.

Assistant Secretary, Expenditure Management Sector, Treasury Board Secretariat

Glenn Purves

I don't—

4:30 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Did you make that statement, Mr. Purves?

4:35 p.m.

Assistant Secretary, Expenditure Management Sector, Treasury Board Secretariat

Glenn Purves

I do not recall making that statement, Mr. McCauley.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Interesting; interesting.

What is preventing you from providing this committee with what was very clearly requested in the motion that you provide to this committee, Canadian taxpayers and members of Parliament? We asked for specific spending data that's broken down in your Excel file. You've been collecting it month by month for the entire past year. It doesn't require runway, as you've requested. It doesn't require clarification.

It's very clear that we're looking for the broken-down spending. You have that. I know that because that memo has been leaked to me. I've seen the actual breakdown of what you've asked for in the departments on an Excel spreadsheet. Why are you withholding it from this committee?

4:35 p.m.

Assistant Secretary, Expenditure Management Sector, Treasury Board Secretariat

Glenn Purves

Mr. McCauley, in the seven days that we were to respond to your request, we were able to focus on the $123 billion—

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Mr. Purves, we have the information.

4:35 p.m.

Assistant Secretary, Expenditure Management Sector, Treasury Board Secretariat

Glenn Purves

—in spending. We have no objection—

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

It doesn't take seven days for you to take the information you already have on a spreadsheet and provide it to this committee.

4:35 p.m.

Assistant Secretary, Expenditure Management Sector, Treasury Board Secretariat

Glenn Purves

We have data in Titan to be able to respond in a disaggregated fashion to that request, and we have no objections—

April 12th, 2021 / 4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

The department has been providing this information, as the comptroller general has been asking....

4:35 p.m.

Assistant Secretary, Expenditure Management Sector, Treasury Board Secretariat

Glenn Purves

But we have comments attached to all of that, and to provide a fulsome response we would need to translate the comments to enable us to provide that complete picture. We will do this as soon as we possibly can.

Our commitment is to ensure that we're providing—

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

If your commitment is to transparency, why did you not try to explain this with the information you gave to this committee [Technical difficulty—Editor]?

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Robert Gordon Kitchen

Thank you.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Did you think we would not catch on?

4:35 p.m.

Assistant Secretary, Expenditure Management Sector, Treasury Board Secretariat

Glenn Purves

There was never any intention to try to skirt around this committee—never.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Robert Gordon Kitchen

Thank you, Mr. Purves.

Thank you, Mr. McCauley.

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

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Irek Kusmierczyk Liberal Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Thank you very much, Mr. Purves, for your testimony. Thank you for turning [Technical difficulty—Editor] time for this committee and for your offer as well of working with this committee to tailor the information that is presented before us. I really do appreciate that collaboration and co-operation on your part.

In your statement you mentioned that government expenditures are published through the [Technical difficulty—Editor] the annual financial reports and public accounts.

Could you explain how else parliamentarians and Canadians can “follow the money” on these measures, and where else, in addition, is this financial data reported?

4:35 p.m.

Assistant Secretary, Expenditure Management Sector, Treasury Board Secretariat

Glenn Purves

With respect to how the government reports financially, as I said, there is the “Fiscal Monitor” that's done on a monthly basis. There are the quarterly financial reports. There are also the end-of-year public accounts.

In framing the response to your question, I think it's important to note that we don't normally receive or tag spending authorities by department. It's done by vote and by program.

In March 2020, the Public Health Events of National Concern Payments Act, which Parliament approved, provided the immediate spending authority to address the pandemic. This was new for us. As a system, we [Technical difficulty—Editor] to ensure back office tracking of spending for this pandemic triaging. This was something we started, as Mr. McCauley noted, back in March 2020. [Technical difficulty—Editor] spending. Mr. McCauley did note the different areas that we were looking at—salaries, overtime and so forth [Technical difficulty—Editor] by event. I think this is important to note.

We wanted to ensure that spending data was available to us, not only from the standpoint of understanding the expenditure momentum as it pertained to COVID spending, but also as it pertained to how it would feed into eventual reporting as pertaining to data—departmental results reports at the end of the year, and any sort of questions parliamentarians might have regarding the spending authorities that were initiated. We also knew that parliamentarians would have questions about what the pace of that spending would be. We wanted to ensure that the system was prepared to address that at its earliest convenience.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Irek Kusmierczyk Liberal Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

That information, in addition to those three other reports that you mentioned—the “Fiscal Monitor”, the quarterly financial reports and the end-or-year public accounts—are also online, so anyone at home can also access information on COVID-19 expenditures.

Is that correct?

4:40 p.m.

Assistant Secretary, Expenditure Management Sector, Treasury Board Secretariat

Glenn Purves

That's correct. Our collection of this through the CFO community, working with departments, has been an ongoing effort.

We started doing it through Excel, but we moved into our system of Titan, which allowed for a more efficient data collection exercise starting in September.

I think, consistent with other processes around government, certainly in terms of data collection and our efforts to work with the CFO community to be able to [Technical difficulty—Editor] together on a regular, standardized basis, it has been one of innovation and a lot of effort across the board.

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Irek Kusmierczyk Liberal Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

No doubt it has.

I have a specific question for you. In the table, under Finance, I see $12 billion for the safe restart agreement. The federal government is stepping forward to help the provinces with their responsibilities, like supporting cities and municipalities, keeping transit going, protecting schools and children, and rolling out vaccines. My own community of Windsor-Essex, in Windsor—Tecumseh, received $26 million from the federal government from this fund.

Can you explain to me why I see an additional $2 billion for the safe restart agreement under PHAC as well? I see it under Finance, but I also see a portion under PHAC, so if you could, just explain to me [Technical difficulty—Editor] presented in that manner.

4:40 p.m.

Assistant Secretary, Expenditure Management Sector, Treasury Board Secretariat

Glenn Purves

Sure. Just to be consistent with what I mentioned before, our interest was in ensuring that, [Technical difficulty—Editor] incremental spending, the government [Technical difficulty—Editor]. As we were going to be looking at estimated expenditures, we wanted to be able to map them back to how those authorities have been traversing through Parliament and how those authorities have been registered through the fiscal lens of the fall economic statement. Having those breakdowns and mapping them back to the fall economic statement and [Technical difficulty—Editor] were critical for us. We wanted to make sure that parliamentarians could do that mapping. That was the focus, really. We had seven days, and we wanted to ensure that for the vast majority of the spending, this was absolutely clear.

We are absolutely committed to ensuring that this committee and Parliament have the detailed information and all the disaggregated data that was used to build the year-to-date estimations—the building blocks, as I said earlier. We're happy to provide that information to the committee.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Robert Gordon Kitchen

Thank you, Mr. Purves.