Thank you, Chair and members of the committee, for this opportunity for me and my colleagues from Global Affairs and the Department of National Defence to assist the committee in its work today in its study of catering expenses related to official diplomatic travel on government aircraft.
My name is Christine MacIntyre and I am the deputy secretary to the Governor General, from the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General. In my role, I am responsible for the teams that support the Governor General's constitutional, State, diplomatic, official and public programs, in Canada and abroad.
The Governor General undertakes official international travel only at the request and upon the recommendation of the Government of Canada, in support of Canada's foreign policy objectives and to advance trade, investment and partnership opportunities on behalf of Canada.
In support of these objectives, governors general normally travel with delegations, including parliamentarians from all parties and leaders from the public and private sectors who volunteer their time to help advance Canada's policy objectives, as well as the required logistical, security and administrative staff and, sometimes, members of the media.
Once approved by the government, these visits are planned, coordinated and implemented by the Office of Protocol at Global Affairs Canada for which my colleague, the Chief of Protocol of Canada, is responsible in terms of planning, coordinating and executing.
When the use of government aircraft is required for such visits, like the one to the Middle East in March 2022, the Office of Protocol requests support from the Department of National Defence, which coordinates all details related to the aircraft including the provision of in-flight catering, as my colleague, the Commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force, will explain.
As is the case for all such flights, the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General was not involved in the selection, provision or contracting of in-flight catering, nor did it make any special requests in this regard.
In May 2022, when the costs related to the catering provided on the flights during the Middle East visit were released, our office, like many Canadians and members, was very concerned. Stewardship of public funds and accountability are of the utmost importance to the Governor General and her office.
When we learned about this following the response to an Order Paper question, we immediately reached out to our partners at Global Affairs and National Defence to confirm the costs involved, to review processes related to in-flight catering and to evaluate and implement measures to improve efficiencies in a collaborative effort to strengthen accountability and to ensure maximum value for public funds.
In further reviewing the process and costs, our office learned from our partners that there were many variables that come into play, many of which my colleagues will describe in more detail. However, it was apparent to everyone that there were opportunities for improvement. Our office was encouraged that our partners were able to begin introducing efficiencies as soon as June 2022, even while their review of the specifics of these flights and the overall process were still ongoing.
We continue to offer our full support for the work they are doing on this file, and will do so on an ongoing basis. We have asked our partner departments to convene all offices involved in these flights on an ongoing basis to further identify ways to reduce costs and to maximize efficiencies wherever possible.
My colleagues will be able to speak in more detail about the results of the review and the improved measures they have implemented to date, but I want to assure the chair and the committee members that the Governor General and her office are concerned about these costs. We remain committed to the sound stewardship of public funds, and we continue to work with partners to responsibly and efficiently facilitate the important work the Governor General and delegations do in support of Canada and its foreign policy objectives.
While we cannot change what happened in the past, we can help implement change going forward, and remain committed to doing so.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
When the opportunity arises, I would be pleased to answer any related questions the committee might have.