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Evidence of meeting #17 for Industry, Science and Technology in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was program.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Richard Dicerni  Deputy Minister, Department of Industry
Kelly Gillis  Chief Financial Officer, Comptrollership and Administration Sector, Department of Industry
Michael Jenkin  Director General, Office of Consumer Affairs, Department of Industry

3:45 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Industry

Richard Dicerni

Since these are very diversified instruments that target various clienteles, it is difficult to identify one or two performance indicators for all the interventions.

Having said that, one of the indicators we are looking at very closely is the following ratio: the amount associated with research and development divided by the gross national product. Our percentage is very low. It's about 1.8% or 1.9%, whereas Germany, for example, is somewhere around 2.9%.

So the question for us is this: given the diversity of these programs and investments of $7 billion, why are we not achieving better results?

It's one of the indicators we're looking at. We will do a little more analysis of the various stakeholders to create a better cooperation between academe and the private sector. In a sense, each one receives grants from the state and is active in their own environment: the academic world and the private sector. We are trying to help build bridges between the two to create better cooperation.

As a country, Canada has the most time zones per inhabitant. Our country is vast, which contributes to the reduced possibility of creating clusters.

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Hélène LeBlanc NDP LaSalle—Émard, QC

Thank you very much.

November 30th, 2011 / 3:45 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

I would very much like to thank our colleagues opposite for this somewhat special situation.

We know that, last June, MP Claude Gravelle tabled Bill C-204 to help create a Canadian economic development agency in northern Ontario. A program currently exists under the name FedNor. It's a program, rather than an agency.

My question is perhaps a bit banal, but I would like to know the difference between the two structures from an operational standpoint. What would be involved if we changed FedNor into an agency?

3:45 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Industry

Richard Dicerni

As you pointed out, it's currently a program administered by Industry Canada. As a public servant, I would say that it is less expensive to administer FedNor because the administrative overhead is shared by the entire department.

If you consider each of the other agencies, you will note that they all have a human resources section. They all have a financial affairs section to handle overhead.

Within Industry Canada, this overhead is shared by the department as a whole. The lines that Parliament votes for for FedNor go more toward operations than overhead.

Also, the other agencies have a deputy minister and a bureaucratic machinery supporting them. I think, when you come right down to it, the agency functions with the independence it needs to achieve its own objectives.

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

I would like to come back to that. You know that I worked in public accounts in my former professional life. I was only there for seven months, but it's still my former life.

To come back to the issue of accountability, I'd like to know if there's a difference between an agency and a program in that respect.

3:50 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Industry

Richard Dicerni

Let's consider the executive hierarchy. There's a minister. Mr. Clement is accountable and feels accountable, as much as Mr. Lebel might.

As deputy minister, I feel accountable for what happens in FedNor, the same as my deputy minister colleagues who are responsible for the regional agencies.

So I think there is the same level of accountability, but if it were an agency, there would be more executives and overhead.

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

I understand that we have 21 minutes for the four of us.

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Sweet

You have 17 minutes and 15 seconds right now.

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Guy Caron NDP Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Okay. I'll ask one more question and then pass it to Mr. Toone.

As for Industry Canada's operational expenses, we see on line 1b that $2.5 million was allocated to the Thunder Bay Regional Research Institute to build a cyclotron to produce medical isotopes.

Given that Atomic Energy of Canada reports to Natural Resources Canada, I wondered why this amount was included in the expenses for the operation of Industry Canada.

3:50 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Industry

Richard Dicerni

This decision was made as part of the last budget. We wanted to support an initiative that came in part from the university in Thunder Bay, and we determined that it was the best way to carry out this program.

3:50 p.m.

NDP

Philip Toone NDP Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

The Broadband Canada program is subsidized by Canada's Economic Action Plan, so it will end in 2012.

According to Industry Canada, 98% of Canadians have access to service at 1.5 megabits per second. But we know that the needs are increasing, that the technology will continue to evolve and that, normally, 1.5 megabits per second isn't fast enough.

Could you please tell me what Industry Canada plans to do to ensure that the services in our rural communities improve?

3:50 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Industry

Richard Dicerni

It's one of the priorities of the digital strategy that the department is looking into. The goal is to ensure that all Canadians can benefit from Canada's digital revolution. In this context, we are now consulting the provincial authorities because it isn't just a federal responsibility. In Quebec, for example, the government recently announced an intervention program worth $900 million, specifically to attain these objectives.

With the provinces, we are currently carrying out mapping to determine which areas aren't being served. This is also the responsibility of the private sector, which actually has an interest in improving the quality of the networks in order to acquire new clients they can bill for their services. The provinces, regional agencies, the Department of Industry and the private sector are involved.

The CRTC has recently been given the green light to implement a fund that had been put aside over the years. The purpose is to encourage certain companies to invest in broadband to increase the speed.

In short, the responsibility doesn't just fall on Industry Canada. We are working with the other players.

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative David Sweet

Sorry, Mr. Toone.

Now we'll go to Mr. Regan for seven minutes.

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman

Thanks to the witnesses for appearing today.

Mr. Dicerni, on page 94 of the supplementary estimates (B) there are two votes for funding the community access program. It supports funding to individual CAP sites across the country. Those two votes total $14,837,000.

How much CAP funding was in the main estimates, and what's the total for this fiscal year?

3:55 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Industry

Richard Dicerni

Kelly can provide the specifics. There are two components here. One is in the departmental base that supports the network. Another part is in collaboration with the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development, which provides some of the staffing.

3:55 p.m.

Chief Financial Officer, Comptrollership and Administration Sector, Department of Industry

Kelly Gillis

Both of the amounts you see on page 94 under vote 1 represent the operating component to support CAP. The $14.1 million is the total funding for this year to support CAP. It's an annual determination.

The second figure that the deputy minister referred to underneath—the $520,000—is to support the youth portion of the employment portion to support the CAP sites. That is for approximately 13,000 youth across the country. The $9.5 million is the contribution portion for CAP youth employment.

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

My understanding is that although we're eight months into this fiscal year, CAP funding is just beginning to flow. As a matter of fact, CAP sites have been waiting until recently. If that's the case, why is it the case, and what's been the impact of this lack of funding on individual sites?

3:55 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Industry

Richard Dicerni

I'll have to look into this, because I see no reason for which they have not received funding. I recall signing off my part of the contribution agreement some time ago, so I will have to look into this.

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

If you can get back to the committee, I'd appreciate it very much.

What was the total level of funding in the main and supplementary estimates for CAP in the last five years? Can you provide us with that information? Can we have a breakdown of the level of funding for each site for that timeframe? Can you provide that to us? Obviously, I'm not going to expect you to have the answer in front of you at the moment. If you did, I'd be very impressed, though.

3:55 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Industry

Richard Dicerni

You won't be.

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

I might be anyway, but not on that basis.

Do the estimates reflect the cost associated with PCO's repeated directives to your department to “Harperize” the communications documents produced by Industry Canada?

3:55 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Industry

Richard Dicerni

Well, the estimates cover a wide range of departmental activities. Some are programmatic, some are financial, some are communication, and they're all-inclusive. I would be hard-pressed to identify a specific number to account for the reference you have just made.

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Very interesting answer. Thank you.

Mr. Clement is, of course, leading and operating a strategic review that's searching for a billion in cuts for the next fiscal year, $2 billion in cuts for 2013–14, and $4 billion by 2014–15. Nearly 70 departments and agencies of the government are affected by this and have been required to submit scenarios for a 5% or a 10% budget cut.

Has Industry Canada submitted a report of this type, and will it result in job cuts?

3:55 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Industry

Richard Dicerni

No decisions have been made by ministers.

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

That wasn't what I was asking. Has Industry Canada submitted a report? You have to wait for the minister to decide before you can submit the report. Is that how it works?