Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. Good morning to you and to all the committee members.
I am very honoured to stand before you today as the nominee selected to become Canada’s next Auditor General.
The role of the Auditor General is integral to the accountability portion of our democratic system of government. The Auditor General provides Parliament and the three territorial legislatures with independent, objective, credible information, advice and assurance regarding the stewardship of public funds. In other words, elected officials can rely on the Auditor General to bring them independent information that they can draw from to ask public servants important questions about how the organizations they lead are spending public funds. Canadians across the country look to the Auditor General as the voice they can rely on to cut to the heart of matters.
Having appeared before this committee on a number of occasions, I am appreciative of its great work and would like to recognize its legacy. The fabric of the relationship between the Auditor General and the Standing Committee on Public Accounts speaks directly to the depth of accountability in our federal system. It is also built on trust and confidence. I believe these flow out of ethics, integrity and independence. These values are the anchor points of my own value system, in addition to being central to the work of the Auditor General’s office. If I am appointed Auditor General, I will strive to continue in the distinguished tradition that has been established by past auditors general and work to the best of my abilities to serve this committee in fulfilling its mandate.
I was born in Montreal, and that’s where I began my career. I have been a chartered professional accountant for more than 25 years. My career has been almost evenly split between the private and public sectors. Most significantly, I have been with the office of the Auditor General for 14 years. I joined the OAG when Sheila Fraser was sitting in the Auditor General’s chair. I want to especially acknowledge the work of the previous Auditor General, the late Michael Ferguson, and the stewardship of the current interim Auditor General, Sylvain Ricard, who honoured Mike’s legacy by guiding the OAG along the path he defined.
Mike Ferguson was a devoted public servant, who simply wanted the public service to do service well. I look at the incredible impact that he and Sheila Fraser had on the public service and the country. Both were outstanding, inspiring leaders, and I was fortunate to learn from each of them. They were leaders who did not fear change, but rather recognized its strength and necessity and therefore welcomed it. It is a fine tradition that extends over a century and a half for the office of the Auditor General of Canada. It is one that I eagerly hope to continue to shape and transform with my own leadership. I am humbled to think that I might be given the opportunity to serve my fellow Canadians as Auditor General of Canada. I commit to upholding the same standards and tradition of excellence set by these outstanding public servants.
I was attracted to the OAG because of its leaders, its people and its work. I firmly believe in the importance of the institution and in the value of its work. That work touches virtually every area of government programs, services and spending and, as a result, most if not all the groups that make up this great country of ours. In the past, our office has focused on issues that matter to parliamentarians and Canadians, whether economic, environmental or social. For example, we looked at Phoenix, defence spending and the economic action plan. Some concerns cut so deep that we audit them repeatedly, such as indigenous issues and climate change.
If I am appointed Auditor General, I would focus on issues of national importance that are facing us right now, such as the government's infrastructure investments and COVID-19 and also on issues of regional impact, such as fisheries and the oil and gas sector. The audits I would choose to do would focus on supporting the work of the public accounts committee and all MPs.
I led government-wide performance audits for several years before shifting mostly to financial audit work. For almost seven years, I was responsible for the overall audit of the consolidated financial statements of the Government of Canada. Leading the country’s largest financial audit allowed me to work closely with senior officials in Crown corporations, departments and agencies as we focused on sensitive and complex audit issues.
Having been fortunate through my career to experience the audit relationship both as the auditor and as the person responsible for preparing financial statements, I believe I was uniquely positioned to understand the challenges these entities faced. Though we did not always necessarily agree—for example on the government’s approach to estimating its long-term liabilities—I believe my analysis was fair and sound. Following several years of discussions with senior public servants, changes ultimately came that I believe enhance public transparency and accountability on pension obligations.
Having spent the last 14 years with the OAG, first as a director, then a principal and most recently as Assistant Auditor General, I have been and continue to be inspired by the people who work in our office. They are caring, creative, skilled, incredibly intelligent and professional, and always focused on upholding high standards while contributing to a well-managed and accountable government. It has been my privilege to work alongside these individuals and to have played a part in shaping the strategic direction of the office and leading organizational change. It would be an even greater honour to now have the opportunity to continue this work of guiding the organization to become an even better version of itself.
If I am appointed to the position of Auditor General, I will focus on achieving success in two key respects. As deputy head and accounting officer for the OAG, success to me will mean leading the organization of approximately 575 people with empathy and compassion, being concerned about their well-being, mental health and professional growth, while inspiring and empowering them to be dedicated to deliver on the mission and vision of the office. Success will also mean modernizing how the office does its work so it is positioned to keep pace with significant shifts in the auditing world and in the government landscape, such as digital transformation.
As Auditor General who supports Parliament, success to me will mean keeping the trust of Canadians, parliamentarians and the public servants whom we audit and supporting Parliament in being well informed and engaged so we can all work together for better outcomes and a better Canada.
Finally, I would like to take a moment to recognize the efforts of so many front-line workers and thank them for their dedication to Canadians during this global crisis.
I also want to recognize the work of countless public servants and their continued devotion to supporting the country through these trying times.
That concludes my opening remarks. I'd be very pleased to take any questions from the committee members about my candidacy.