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Evidence of meeting #12 for Public Accounts in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was clement.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Richard Dicerni  Deputy Minister, Department of Industry
Michelle d'Auray  Secretary of the Treasury Board of Canada, Treasury Board Secretariat
Yaprak Baltacioglu  Deputy Minister, Department of Transport
John Forster  Associate Deputy Minister, Infrastructure Canada, Department of Transport

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Gerry Byrne Liberal Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

It's one of the two.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Conservative Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

--why this $50-million fund was different from other infrastructure funds. But one of the ways it was the same was that we disciplined municipalities to come forward with their best projects. We did that on the Building Canada fund. We did it for the community adjustment, the stimulus fund, and for all of these funds, we said to municipalities, “Come forward with your best projects”, and that was the discipline of the system.

So this fund was different in many ways. I'm not suggesting they are completely analogous. But on that one point, I think it is important to say—

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Gerry Byrne Liberal Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

Minister, to arrive at that conclusion, not only would the municipality have to decide what was best amongst their own applications; there would also have to be a level of agreement that the other communities' projects were also the best projects--

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Conservative Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

No, Mr. Byrne--

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Gerry Byrne Liberal Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

--to be able to avoid that objection.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Conservative Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

--I think I can clear up your confusion on this.

The projects were not announced simultaneously. They were announced over a period of time.

So when one project was announced, the municipalities knew that $4.5 million was reduced from the $50 million. When another project was announced, $3 million was reduced from the $50 million.

They knew that the fund was depleting as good projects were being announced. They tailored their remaining submissions accordingly.

4:35 p.m.

Liberal

Gerry Byrne Liberal Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

The project announced for sidewalks approximately 100 kilometres away from the summit site: was that in the initial round of projects or was that in the latter round of projects?

4:35 p.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP David Christopherson

You have time for a very brief answer, Minister.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

John Baird Conservative Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

I can't say whether it was first or second or what have you. I can say that there were three criteria for the fund: one, direct support for the summit; two, beautification of the region; and three, support as a legacy for the municipalities. There were plenty of summit participants who were staying well in excess of 50 kilometres, 75 kilometres, and yes, even more than 100 kilometres from the summit.

4:35 p.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP David Christopherson

Thank you.

I'm sorry, the time has expired.

We'll go over to Ms. Bateman. You have the floor, ma'am.

November 2nd, 2011 / 4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Joyce Bateman Conservative Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Thank you very much, Mr. President--or Mr. Chair, rather.

I'm sorry, I was thinking "monsieur le président".

My questions today are for the two deputy ministers. I have several questions.

I understand that you both worked together for the economic action plan. I am a chartered accountant, and I am a former public servant for the federal government, so my question comes through that lens.

You delivered $50 billion. You invested it in the economy. The Auditor General complimented both of your departments on how well you handled that plan. I just wonder if you could explain how you worked with the Auditor General.

Perhaps I'll go to you first, Mr. Dicerni.

4:35 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Industry

Richard Dicerni

Industry Canada was involved in the economic action plan through the knowledge infrastructure program primarily, which was a $2-billion fund to enhance post-secondary education infrastructure. It was for universities and colleges. We, in turn, leveraged another $2 billion from provinces and other parties to supplement those initial funds. We delivered this program in cooperation with provincial governments, and obviously with community colleges and universities.

In regard to the Auditor General's office, they had access to the documents they wanted to see, and it resulted, I think, in the assessment the Auditor General provided.

4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Joyce Bateman Conservative Winnipeg South Centre, MB

It was exemplary, I would say.

If I could just continue on this piece with you, sir, the NDP have said that both of your departments--and you--have misled the Auditor General. Could you speak to this issue? This is a very heavy charge for an MP to make about senior government officials.

Could you expand on that, sir?

4:40 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Industry

Richard Dicerni

In regard to the G-8 summit, as Minister Clement mentioned, FedNor, which is a component of Industry Canada, did have four projects. I believe one of my ADMs testified to a committee last year or the year before and described exactly what those four projects were about.

FedNor, as an arm of Industry Canada supporting Minister Clement, was indeed present at some of the G-8 meetings as support to the minister and in the context of their ongoing responsibilities in FedNor, which include economic development and tourism support.

The officials there, and I think Mr. Angus referred to Mr. Dodds, who used to be an employee of Industry Canada, attended some of the meetings but did not, as Minister Clement has said, get involved in any project analysis and did not provide any support to the G-8 fund, to a large degree because it was not our fund--not my program, not my money.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Joyce Bateman Conservative Winnipeg South Centre, MB

So you didn't mislead the Auditor General.

4:40 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Industry

Richard Dicerni

No, no; I would take exception to that.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Joyce Bateman Conservative Winnipeg South Centre, MB

I thought that was a possibility.

Madam Deputy Minister, do you have something to add?

4:40 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Transport

Yaprak Baltacioglu

Infrastructure Canada's role on the G-8 legacy fund has been very clear. I don't think there is any confusion about our role. We have confirmed it with the Auditor General. We provided all of the documents she and her team asked for.

Our involvement was on the 32 projects and on the administration of the 32 projects, making sure that we kept track of the money and the projects.

In addition to that, going back to the earlier part of your question, we were responsible for the infrastructure stimulus fund and the economic action infrastructure program's $10 billion and 6,000-plus projects.

But like Mr. Dicerni, I wasn't aware that anybody was particularly questioning our integrity in terms of not telling the truth to the Auditor General.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Joyce Bateman Conservative Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Well, we're hearing different things sometimes. I wanted to make certain that you both, as public servants, don't feel that there are aspersions being cast upon you in this context.

4:40 p.m.

Deputy Minister, Department of Transport

Yaprak Baltacioglu

We have documentation, in written format, to the Auditor General that the department submitted, outlining the exact role we played. That was signed by me.

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Joyce Bateman Conservative Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Thank you so much.

4:40 p.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP David Christopherson

That's perfect timing. Thank you very much.

Mr. Angus, you are back in rotation. You have the floor, sir.

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Mr. Clement, I'm trying to get my head around just what was going down in those meetings that you chaired. Maybe it wasn't nefarious. Maybe it was just kind of hapless and everybody was thinking, my God, we hit the lottery, and how best do we do this?

So we go back to this paper trail that you said you had nothing to do with. The paper is said to be sent to Ms. Sondra Read, constituency manager, Tony Clement's office, with her parliamentary account.

You were at the meeting. You've got guys walking around handing out homemade paper.

Did you accept the paper? Did you receive this paper?

I mean, why were they thinking that they could just make up the paper on your behalf? What was going on there?

4:40 p.m.

Conservative

Tony Clement Conservative Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

No, I think the idea was that there be some system for the proposals. As I mentioned to you already, and this was mentioned to the Auditor General—

4:40 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus NDP Timmins—James Bay, ON

So were you guys having to make that up on the fly? I don't get it. We had to come up with a system, so the mayors came up with this little piece of paper for you.