Supplementary Estimates (A), for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2017Published on 16 June 2016 Hansard and Statements by Senator Joseph Day
Hon. Joseph A. Day:
Thank you, Senator Smith, for your kind words. I regret that I’m not able to attend as many of your meetings as I have in the past, but I always enjoy getting back and attending the meetings whenever I can. I certainly make a point of reviewing your reports, which I have done here.
This particular document, honourable senators, will form the basis for Bill C-20, which will be coming tomorrow. Once we have adopted this report, we have basically said that we have looked at the background of this particular supply bill. The supply bill is the pro forma words and an attachment of figures. It will be around $7 billion that you will be asked to vote on. Are you satisfied that we know what we are voting on, the $7 billion? That is in the report.
Our tradition is that we not go to committee on these particular matters because we have, in effect, pre-studied them and the report has been debated here. That is why it is important that the report be there before we start looking at the appropriation bills or the supply bills, which we will do tomorrow.
You have the Supplementary Estimates A, the second of two reports. Supplementary Estimates A, as we explained earlier, comes about because the main supply was developed before the budget came out.
As Senator Smith indicated, this is a larger Supplementary Estimates A than normal because there were a lot of initiatives in the change of government and in the new budget that the government was anxious to get on with. Supplementary Estimates A allows that to happen.
There is some interesting reading in this report, but you can see that Treasury Board, as they usually do, because they help to develop this document with the public service, which is the estimate document for the department. There is another document prepared that is parallel with this that I commend to you as the performance plans and priorities. That is an important document that runs parallel to and explains a lot of what is in this particular document. Then there is the after-the-fact document that comes out once the fiscal year has ended just to see how well the department did and how close they are to their plans.
Then there is Public Accounts document, which is a much more sterile document than the dialogue that appears in some of these other documents. Put altogether, they tell the story on a year-to- year basis of what the government hopes the public service will achieve, what the initiatives are and how well we have performed in that regard.
Shared Services Canada is an area we want to keep an eye on. We have seen this, Senator Smith, for some time now. They were given much more work than they have been able to handle. Their benchmarks have not been met in many cases. They are now putting off work because they are saying they only have money to maintain the existing infrastructure rather than getting on with new infrastructure.
Shared Services was created three, four or five years ago to provide common support for security and information technology, and that whole area is for various departments. Information technology and communications departments of each of the departments were in part moved over to Shared Services. You have a management issue when they are saying, “Oh, no, I work for Shared Services, but I am over in National Defence.” You have 100 people working here and 20 people there. I think that is part of the problem.
You may have read where a number of public servants were not paid. Some haven’t been paid for several months. They moved over to a new computer system that wasn’t functioning properly, was overloaded and didn’t have enough capacity. That’s the kind of problem that we are starting to see under this particular Shared Services line.
It’s a good concept, but have they been funded? Have they got the talent? Have they got the number of employees to do the job? Those are questions that we will have to ask.
Sometimes when Finance is not able to delve into something as deeply as they would like to, the Parliamentary Budget Officer could be called upon to help out and is available. Sometimes we could ask the Auditor General to take a look at a particular issue, and this may be one of those that require some in-depth study.
The Canadian Air Transport Security Authority keeps asking for more money as they expand their area of authority. All baggage, whether checked or carry-on, was being checked as of 2013, but they haven’t fully implemented that yet because of personnel. They’re about to enter into negotiations for a new collective agreement, so we could see interesting times ahead this year in that particular area.
It was highlighted by Senator Smith that the committee looked into Infrastructure Canada and found that they control only a portion of the infrastructure money and that the rest of it is in a whole lot of different places. How do we coordinate this, and how do we determine whether the government’s stated objectives are actually being met when the funds are spread among so many different departments?
Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada: It seems that virtually every time Finance does one of these studies, they find that there are major expenditures that are not being watched as closely as they should be, and definitely work should be done in that regard.
Those are just some of the items that are highlighted in this particular report. As I indicated, honourable senators, tomorrow you will be asked to vote on a little bit over $7 billion, and this will tell you where those funds are going.
Thank you, honourable senators.