This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

Evidence of meeting #42 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 cost.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Kevin Page  Parliamentary Budget Officer, Library of Parliament
Sahir Khan  Assistant Parliamentary Budget Officer, Expenditure and Revenue Analysis, Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer, Library of Parliament
Peter Weltman  Senior Director, Expenditure and Revenue Analysis, Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer, Library of Parliament
Michelle d'Auray  Secretary of the Treasury Board of Canada, Treasury Board Secretariat
Robert Fonberg  Deputy Minister, Department of National Defence
Dan Ross  Assistant Deputy Minister, Materiel, Department of National Defence
François Guimont  Deputy Minister, Deputy Receiver General for Canada, Department of Public Works and Government Services
André Deschamps  Commander, Royal Canadian Air Force, Department of National Defence
Simon Kennedy  Senior Associate Deputy Minister, Department of Industry
Kevin Lindsey  Assistant Deputy Minister, Chief Financial Officer, Finance and Corporate Services, Department of National Defence
Tom Ring  Assistant Deputy Minister, Acquisitions Branch, Department of Public Works and Government Services

8:55 a.m.

Parliamentary Budget Officer, Library of Parliament

8:55 a.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP David Christopherson

No, Mr. Saxton—

8:55 a.m.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton Conservative North Vancouver, BC

Can you please provide the background information to our committee?

8:55 a.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP David Christopherson

Order, please.

Mr. Saxton, you're not starting out in the greatest way. You're pushing. I had asked you to come to order. At that moment, if somebody wants to say something, I'll listen to them, but you went in after the wire.

The question will stand. Your colleagues can pick up on it later, but your time has expired.

8:55 a.m.

Conservative

Joyce Bateman Conservative Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Point of order, Mr. Chair.

8:55 a.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP David Christopherson

Yes, Madam Bateman.

8:55 a.m.

Conservative

Joyce Bateman Conservative Winnipeg South Centre, MB

I think the information that Mr. Page is referring to would be of benefit to all members of this committee and all visitors to this committee from Parliament, so would it be appropriate for us to receive that?

8:55 a.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP David Christopherson

It would also be appropriate for everyone to follow the rules so that we could have a fair hearing for all involved.

I allowed Mr. Saxton, as I do.... If it's after the time, I allow what's happening to be concluded. It had concluded a few moments after the time limit, and Mr. Saxton then put his question, which was over the time. If you noticed, I actually sat back a bit and let it go on, and then we started getting something over here. That's what happens when I get too flexible.

I think the request for the information is valid, but I would ask if one of the government members would reiterate that very quickly; it will only take a moment. Mr. Page can respond in the way he will, and then I can still go about trying to make sure that every member is treated equally.

9 a.m.

Conservative

Joyce Bateman Conservative Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Chair, I will happily use some of my time to do that. Thank you for the clarification.

9 a.m.

NDP

The Chair NDP David Christopherson

You're very welcome. Thank you.

If there are no further interventions, we will move to Monsieur Ravignat and Madame Blanchette-Lamothe. Is there a split of time there? No?

Okay, Mr. Ravignat, you have the floor.

May 3rd, 2012 / 9 a.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat NDP Pontiac, QC

Mr. Page, I think that Canadians are rightfully worried. We have the PBO saying one thing, we have the Auditor General saying another. We have the government grudgingly accepting that something may have gone awry in this, and then we have the deputy ministers essentially saying no, we did everything we had to do, there's no problem. There's a series of mixed messages here, and it's in that spirit that I'm asking you these questions.

My first question to you is simply, when you were looking at the history of fighter jets, how long was the shelf life for the CF-18s?

9 a.m.

Parliamentary Budget Officer, Library of Parliament

Kevin Page

Sir, with the CF-18s, the shelf life started in the early 1980s and continues to the present.

9 a.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat NDP Pontiac, QC

So we're talking about 40 years. Okay.

So your 30-year assumption for sustainment costs, on the basis of the life of the CF-18s, is accurate.

9 a.m.

Parliamentary Budget Officer, Library of Parliament

Kevin Page

The information we got from the SAR, the selected acquisition report, work from DND, and just other airplanes in general was that 30 years is a reasonable estimate.

9 a.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat NDP Pontiac, QC

So why would the Department of National Defence use a 20-year estimate?

9 a.m.

Parliamentary Budget Officer, Library of Parliament

Kevin Page

Sir, that's a better question put to the Department of National Defence. We're very comfortable with 30 years.

9 a.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat NDP Pontiac, QC

In your opinion, obviously you've had some issues with getting information from the Department of National Defence, so my question to you is could they have lowballed the 20 years in order to appear as if the program was less costly than expected?

9 a.m.

Parliamentary Budget Officer, Library of Parliament

Kevin Page

Yes, I think we could.... The Auditor General provided some disclosure to us on what the numbers could look like on a 20-year basis—what's fully in. It's not hard for people like us to move numbers from 20 to 30 years, or to 36 years. We could easily do the work. But yes, you get a lower life-cycle number at 20 years.

9 a.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat NDP Pontiac, QC

If you have a lower life-cycle number, obviously you have lower costs.

9 a.m.

Parliamentary Budget Officer, Library of Parliament

Kevin Page

You create the impression there are lower costs over a 20-year period, but again, it's not hard for us to extrapolate that to what that would look like on a 30-year basis.

9 a.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat NDP Pontiac, QC

Were you able to get information from the Department of National Defence on the difference between their initial estimate of $15 billion and what appears to be their hidden estimation of $25 billion?

9 a.m.

Parliamentary Budget Officer, Library of Parliament

Kevin Page

Since the AG report we've had some, but very limited, follow-up with the Department of National Defence officials, and more on just providing confirmation on our side of what we had included in terms of operation and support. We were not poking at their numbers. All these numbers are on the DND website. All the correspondence is on our website as well.

9 a.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat NDP Pontiac, QC

Did you ask for anything from the Department of National Defence that you did not receive?

9 a.m.

Parliamentary Budget Officer, Library of Parliament

Kevin Page

Again, the original request goes back to the House finance committee in the late fall of 2010, when they asked for full life-cycle cost. From the Auditor General's report, we have leaned that we received only partial information with respect to what we call sustainment, or on the operating and support costs.

9 a.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat NDP Pontiac, QC

Why would you receive only partial information on your request for additional information?