I'd like to bring to order the fifth meeting of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.
I welcome today as witnesses the Auditor General of Canada, Mrs. Sheila Fraser; Mr. William Baker, the former commissioner of the Canada Firearms Centre; John Sims, Deputy Minister and Deputy Attorney General; and Ian Bennett, the acting assistant deputy minister of acquisitions; and also assisting is Peter Kasurak, senior principal.
I think we'll go ahead with the presentations. The usual format here is to allow all of you to make your presentations, and then we'll open it up for questions, with the official opposition having a round of seven minutes—as all the opposition parties have—and then we'll go to five-minute rounds after the government has had its seven-minute round.
And without further ado, Mrs. Fraser, please.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. We thank you for inviting us to discuss our audit of the Canada Firearms Centre.
As you mentioned, I'm accompanied today by Peter Kasurak, senior principal of the public safety team responsible for this audit.
Let me take this opportunity to provide members with an overview of our findings. This audit was a follow-up to our 2002 audit of the cost of the Canadian firearms program. We were unable to complete our 2002 audit because the financial information available was unreliable and did not fairly represent the net costs of the program. This year we are able to report that the centre has made good progress in addressing our findings, with one exception, which I will discuss later. The Canada Firearms Centre has adequate financial reports, and it has developed a reasonable method of apportioning costs between licensing and registration activities.
The Firearms Program has been substantially reorganized since our 2002 audit. When the new management team took over in May 2003, not only did they have to establish all of the functions of a separate agency, they also had to deal with existing problems.
The new team has handled a large volume of licence applications, firearms registrations and transfers. It has dealt with operational issues such as spreading out the timing of licence renewals, consolidating the application processing site, and establishing the infrastructure necessary for a stand-alone department. The team has also improved contracting practices, and the number of contracts that have “red flags” indicating non-compliance with regulations has dropped significantly since 2001-2002.
However, we have also found some problems that have yet to be addressed. The most important of these are as follows.
Firstly, the program still lacks performance targets or a definition of how program activities will result in the desired outcomes for public safety. Errors have been made in reports to Parliament overstating the degree to which service standards have been met.
Secondly, the quality of the information in the registry still has significant inaccuracies in part due to information carried over from the Restricted Weapons Registration System as well as the 2002 decision to allow applicants to describe their own weapons without verification. We also found a system of volunteer verifiers to be generally weak.
Lastly, there are continuing concerns with the new information system called CFIS II. These concerns start with the basis for the initial decision to build a system, the lack of detailed requirements, and the subsequent delays and cost overruns. We report that the system has tripled in cost to about $90 million to date, including about $30 million in avoidable delay costs. At the time of the audit, the system had not been tested or declared operational.
I would encourage the committee to press for correction of these problems, no matter what form the Firearms Program may take in the future.
However, the most important finding from my perspective, and the object of our additional report, is how the costs of CFIS II were accounted for and how they were then reported to Parliament.
In fiscal 2002-03, the Department of Justice did not record liabilities of $39 million incurred in the development of CFIS II, as they should have. This error had two effects. The first was that Parliament was not told that the program had actually exceeded the limit stated by the then Minister of Justice in the House. Secondly, it also meant that the new Firearms Centre management team had to deal with an unexpected $39 million expense in 2003-04.
During 2003-04, the centre—which had then become a separate department—realized that it was likely to exceed the amounts appropriated by Parliament because of the prior year's accounting error and because of additional unexpected increases in the costs of CFIS II. Although the centre initially recommended that additional funds be requested from Parliament through supplementary estimates, senior officials at the Treasury Board Secretariat and Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada sought an accounting presentation that would avoid reporting certain costs against that year's appropriation. Acting on their advice and on a legal opinion obtained by Public Safety, the centre incorrectly decided that the CFIS II liabilities of $21.8 million at March 31, 2004, did not need to be recorded against the centre's voted appropriation. Again, the result was that Parliament was not informed that the centre had in fact exceeded its appropriation and “blown its vote”.
Our report analyzes each argument made by officials to justify their decision not to report these costs against the centre's vote and concludes that officials erred and government accounting policy was not followed. In particular, the argument that the Treasury Board had not approved the contract and, therefore, that the liability did not have to be recorded in the year in which it occurred is troubling. I am very concerned about any possible adoption of an accounting policy that would allow the government to move the recording of expenditures from one year to the next, based only on the timing of their approval by the Treasury Board. This is not in accordance with recognized accounting principles, nor with current policy.
These accounting errors meant that Parliament was not properly informed of the true costs of CFIS II on a timely basis. We also note that not seeking proper authority for supplementary funds where there was a reasonable likelihood that an appropriation would be exceeded could be interpreted as a breach of the Standing Orders of the House of Commons. Failure to fully account to Parliament for expenditures against a vote could also be viewed as an infringement on the privileges of the House of Commons.
Only the House itself can determine whether such a breach has occurred.
Mr. Chair, that concludes our opening statement, and we would be pleased to answer any questions that committee members may have.
I'll keep my opening remarks very brief, and would simply say that we're pleased to be here today to respond to questions.
I would like to highlight that the government has accepted the recommendations of the Auditor General on all of the matters that have been raised, and has undertaken to follow through and implement a number of initiatives.
I would also like to point out, as the Auditor General has done in her report, that there have been some significant improvements made to the management of the Canada Firearms Centre over the last number of years, thanks to the hard work of the people who continue to work there today.
Because there's limited room at the table, I would like to point out, Mr. Chair, that I have with me today three of my colleagues from the Canada Firearms Centre: John Brunet, the chief financial officer; Beverley Holloway, the chief operating officer;
Mr. Denis Bilodeau, our chief counsel,
our Justice lawyer working at the Firearms Centre.
We'd be pleased to take your questions.
Thank you for providing me this opportunity to discuss federal contracting services in relation to chapter 4 of the Auditor General's May 2006 report.
Mr. Chair, today I'm accompanied by two of the senior directors within the acquisitions branch of Public Works and Government Services, Mr. George Butts and Mr. Scott Leslie. Mr. Leslie has been directly involved in managing the contracts around the Firearms Centre.
To deliver the best value procurement services, Public Works and Government Services Canada works as a strategic partner with our customer departments. We help them throughout the procurement process from defining requirements and procurement approaches; managing the bidding process; and supporting them in insuring accountability throughout the contract.
Public Works and Government Services has supported the Canada Firearms Centre since its inception through the provision of contracting services, including those related to information technology. The department has issued two principal contracts, both competitively awarded, to support the Canadian firearms information systems, referred to as CFIS I and CFIS II. These contracts are highlighted in chapter 4 of the Auditor General's report.
Managing these two CFIS contracts in an uncertain operating and legislative environment has proven to be a significant challenge. Numerous changes to both contracts have been required over the years to accommodate these evolving realities. We do acknowledge, however, that lessons learned from our experience with CFIS I could have been better applied to the CFIS II procurement, and this has proven to be a particular challenge.
Many of the assumptions upon which it was based have had to be adjusted as the environment, particularly firearms legislation, changed. With the assistance of third party analysis, Public Works and Government Services, the Canada Firearms Centre, and the CFIS II contractor have recently agreed to halt work to ensure that no further expenses are being incurred while we are assessing the situation.
The Auditor General cited cases that dated from 1997 to 2004 where the Firearms Centre retained a number of contractors for several years, using Public Works and Government Services database, referred to as Informatics Professional Services, a tool that allows federal departments to search for consultants based on skills and experience. The Auditor General reports that in many cases searches of the IPS database would yield only one name, that of the incumbent contractor. Public Works concurs that these contracts should not have been justified as competitive, and we note that the centre ceased this practice in 2004.
The Auditor General recommends that Public Works review how client departments use its contracting tools and be able to provide assurance that they are not being used to circumvent contracting policies or procedures.
We take the Auditor General's recommendation very seriously and are taking corrective measures to address the issues highlighted in the chapter. Such measures include training users on accountabilities, the policies, and processes; increased monitoring and reporting of usage; and where appropriate, restricting use of these tools. As of December last year, PWGSC has improved and expanded the professional services online database to allow better monitoring of the department's usage.
In conclusion, we recognize that we must continue to find ways to further improve our services to customer organizations while continuing to exercise a vigorous check and balance in the interests of Canadians. Public Works is in the midst of transforming the way we do business. We are seeking innovative ways to deliver services smarter, faster, and at reduced cost to improve how the Government of Canada does business. We are committed to fair, open, and transparent competitive procurement strategies that meet the government's needs while ensuring equal access to business that will pass the test of public scrutiny.
Thank you for this. I will be pleased to answer your questions.
Indeed, Mr. Chairman, you have a long record of interest in this matter. I must say, in a non-partisan way you've certainly done a lot of digging over the years and brought up a lot of things.
Thank you to the witnesses for coming. I understand this is more or less round two, because you were before the public accounts committee yesterday on the same subject matter. I'll try not to be too repetitive.
Mr. Baker, can I start with you, sir? My notes say you're the former commissioner of the Canada Firearms Centre. Congratulations. I presume you're here because you were in that capacity at the time of the two accounting errors. Is that the idea?
Mr. Chairman, the decision in 2002-03 was not based on a legal opinion; it was based on a reading of what the rules called for. I think it's clear from what the Auditor General has been saying this week that it's seen as a mistake. We acknowledge it was a mistake.
The context was a complicated one at the time. There were signs that the computer contract in question was starting to go off the rails. There were cost overruns starting to be noted; the vendor was asking for a six-month extension on a nine-month contract; the contract had not passed an initial verification that was required. And so the focus was on managing a very difficult contract. Advice was being sought from outside consultants on what to do with this.
In this context—no deliverable, and with the system not ready for legal or physical acceptance—Mr. Ganim understood the rules to say he ought not to pay any money out for the system that year, 2002-03. The mistake was in saying, if I don't pay money out, I don't book it.
We accept what the Auditor General has said: that was wrong; there ought to have been an amount set aside notionally for it in 2002-03.
If I could, I'd like to take a moment to identify the events leading up.
As I mentioned, in April 2003 the Canada Firearms Centre left the Department of Justice to join the Solicitor General's portfolio as a separate agency, and I was appointed the commissioner shortly after, when Bill C-10A came into effect.
One of my first orders of business as a separate agency of government was to build capacity, primarily in our operating and financial areas, which, as you know, based on the Auditor General's 2002 report, was an area that was particularly problematic. I recruited a chief financial officer who over the course of the fall built the accounting capacity of the Canada Firearms Centre.
It was in the course of doing that and analyzing the books and records that were in place that we identified the possibility that the way the charges for the development costs of CFIS II had been booked against the appropriations year over year may have been in error. This was discussed with the Office of the Comptroller General at the chief financial officer level, and they concurred that an error had occurred.
Based on that--and it's now late January 2004--we realized that if all of those charges had to be booked in 2003-04, we would not have sufficient money in the budget. The time to submit supplementary estimates (B) was fast approaching, so the first order of business was that I advised the minister that we may need supplementary estimates, otherwise the Canada Firearms Centre could blow its vote.
Then we took the matter to the more senior officials at Treasury Board Secretariat, Office of the Comptroller General, and Public Safety to have this matter more fully analyzed. That led to a conclusion, based on a number of factors including a legal opinion, which is referred to to some extent in the Auditor General's report, that those amounts did not effectively constitute a liability that would require the establishment of a charge against the appropriation in that year.
Based on the conclusion coming out of that process, supplementary estimates were not required. Instead, we noted it in our accounts, our departmental performance report, as an unrecorded liability.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The direct costs are those that are reimbursed, and the supporting departments have a strong notion of what those are: there was activity, they're billing the program for it, and they're being reimbursed.
The indirect costs are ones for which there's no recovery. They have to assume those costs themselves.
What we found was that each department had a different means of doing it. There is no across-the-board cost accounting system in the Government of Canada, and so we had departments such as Corrections Canada using a formula based on prisoner days, and they would include various slices of overhead in that, whereas the RCMP had little cells of people working and contributing to the parts of the program, and so they could say that group's cost is about this amount, and they would charge that. There was no uniformity.
The centre was in the unenviable position of having to more or less accept these as given. It doesn't really have the authority to impose an accounting policy on another department. However, we felt that because there was no uniformity it would be better if some consistency were applied and the centre at least vetted them to know what it was receiving in the door and could report on that basis.
It's not a huge deal, but it's something that's significant enough, and it should be tidied up.
If I may, Mr. Chair, to be precise, the opinion was with respect to the $21.8 million in 2003-04. As I indicated earlier, the $21.8 million was identified by our own accounting staff at the Firearms Centre. The initial impression, and I think the expected opinion of the accounting professionals, was that it was something that should have been charged to the appropriation in that year. Of course, that would have required supplementary estimates or perhaps to exceed our vote.
When we raised this matter with the Treasury Board Secretariat and with the Department of Public Safety, because Canada Firearms Centre is part of the Public Safety portfolio, questions were raised about the nature of the amounts. Suffice it to say—and I don't think anyone would disagree—this is a complex contractual arrangement, regardless of how you conclude the accounting. It involves contractual amounts, amounts out of the contract, and there are delayed costs, and there are a number of such things.
Questions were raised about those in order to be certain about the actual amounts that should potentially be booked that year. In addition to the work of the accounting people, both in the centre and in the Comptroller General's office in the Treasury Board Secretariat, it was suggested that in order to get behind the issues of debt versus liability—or what's in and out of the contract—it would be useful to have an expert in that field of law do an analysis. That triggered a request, received by the Department of Justice, to identify an expert in that area who would prepare the legal opinion. That will soon be made available to the committee members. It was that opinion that largely determined the decision not to seek supplementary estimates, or the decision that we would not exceed the appropriation.
If I can, along those lines somewhat, is it prudent or not prudent, in view of what has transpired financially, and given that the chiefs, as you've mentioned, are finding it to be a great tool—a necessity and an overall enhancement to safety—to then at this point dismantle the program, after the financial expenditures, and when the program is now essentially under control and reasonably managed, as you've said?
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I think it's great that we have all our witnesses here today. I'm sure yesterday they all took a grilling on the same financial issues as we're dealing with today. I find it unfortunate we can't really get any answers in terms of the public safety side, which of course is what this committee is about. So I'm going to have to go back to some of those financial questions.
One question I have is that in the Auditor General's report going back to 1997, there's discussion about the fact that there were sole-source contracts that were amended--they were originally below $25,000. Then there were multiple contacts for $24,000. Was anyone ever held to account for these contracts, which clearly were outside of the guidelines? They were under the $25,000 and then they must have been brought to the attention of the government. Has anybody been held to account for the fact that these contracts over and over were really outside the guidelines?
Mr. Chair, there are two questions raised there.
It wasn't solely within the Firearms Centre, because when issues like this arise, it's common practice, particularly frankly with the Firearms Centre concerning which attention to our expenditures is subject to such scrutiny we want to get it right.... We naturally engaged the Treasury Board Secretariat and the Office of the Comptroller General as well as the Department of Public Works and Government Services, which were the contracting authorities. As a normal course of doing business, we would have consulted and engaged anyone who had an important contribution to make in that whole exercise. As I mentioned earlier, the Department of Justice also become involved to the extent of providing a legal opinion.
On the second part of your question about ministerial involvement, the minister was advised of the possibility of the need for supplementary estimates--that fact is documented in the Auditor General's report--but the pursuit of the issue and the determination of the way forward was handled by officials.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I would like to go to Mr. Baker. As a parliamentarian, what I'm seeing is that there was a decision made, but there seems to be disagreement also from the Comptroller General as to whether this was the right thing to do or not, from reading yesterday's.... As a parliamentarian, I have to decide which is right and how it works. Having been there myself, I know sometimes there are disagreements. This is one of those where there is disagreement, and they happen in the system.
What I need to know is this. Given that there is disagreement, was there a request by the minister at that time to treat the $21 million in that fashion?
I had, as commissioner of firearms, responsibility to put to Parliament, and through the minister, the most accurate financial records possible. In fact, if you look at departmental performance reports, for instance, there's an attestation that I sign and that the chief financial officer signs. That's a duty I have under the Financial Administration Act, that is, to report accurately. At no point was I directed to follow any particular course.
What I conclude from this is that there is disagreement. I'm not going to go over this again, with all the questions that have gone before, but there was obviously no mal-intent on the part of the officials--they got a legal opinion--and at some point the differences of opinion will be resolved. I just wanted to make sure that my questions had to do with what might have been behind the action.
I want to go to something else, because I have a particular interest in the gun registry apart from the financial issues. My personal interest has to be with the survival and the strength of the registry.
I have two questions. One is to Ms. Fraser. Is the gun registry now operating reasonably well? You're saying that it's being administered much better in terms of the cost and so on. Is it stable and operating reasonably well at this point?
There's still work to do; there's no question. As a public servant with 27 years experience, I can say there's work to do in every government organization.
For instance, in the area of reporting to Parliament, one of our principal preoccupations was to make sure the core data about the firearms program was correct. We want to make sure that with the number of licences, the number of registrations, the number of accesses to the data system and so on, we have good information. Without that, you can't even think of doing more sophisticated analysis and recording.
But the data is useful. It's not perfect; more work can continue to be done to refine the data in the system, without any question. The IT system has been a particular challenge from the outset. Building the existing system...that continues to be the system that supports the Canadian firearms program. Of course, the new system and our attempts to get that off the ground, which have been plagued by a number of challenges over the last few years, are quite well set out in the Auditor General's report.
Thank you very much for coming.
I have a very great interest. I want to let you know, to let all your departments know, that I worked for 30 years for another civil service, and I know that all civil servants do the best they can with what they're presented.
My history is 30 years as an Ontario Provincial Police officer, so I did work under the old FAC system, which I'll refrain from commenting on, except to say that under that system, which I believe was originally created by the then Justice Minister Campbell, and knowing how that system operated, we would know probably within a very short period of time.... All those who had firearms acquisition certificates would, when they acquired a firearm, have to register that firearm. So that information at one time was all with the federal government, and some day I'd like to find out what happened to that. I have a suspicion--and it wouldn't have cost a billion dollars.
Going back to some of the questions in regard to the $39 million, the special report of the Auditor General stated that the Department of Justice officials could not provide documentation showing any analysis or process by which the decision was made to report the $39 million in liability relating to the CFIS II, and government decisions limited Parliament's control of public spending in paragraph 25.
I have a couple of quick questions on that. Was there simply no documentation, or has this been misplaced? Secondly, how specifically were decisions made to report or not report the $39 million?
I note that Mr. Ganim, from the Department of Justice, is here and may be able to better lend some answers to those two questions.
In terms of the question, as Mr. Sims has referred to earlier, this was a transaction that we were asked to set up in 2002-03 at the year-end. But I must tell the chair and the committee that consideration was never given to the $39 million. What we were looking at and what we were planning for at that time was the first payment of the three-year contract. All documentation on the contract called for payment over three years. So it was never in our planning numbers, never in our bookkeeping numbers, that we were going to pay or have to record costs against the entire contract or the delay costs. It just wasn't on our radar screen.
When we were asked by the Canada Firearms Centre to set up a PAYE for the $10 million, what we did was look at the transaction against the existing contract. The existing contract called for the Crown to basically take acceptance upon certification of the system. The system could not be certified for delivery. It was basically Mr. Hession and HLB Decision Economics Inc. that had looked at the system and confirmed that the contract was in some trouble in terms of delivery.
They were to deliver these goods and services by the month of January of that year. The contractor had informed us that there was going to be a six-month delay on a contract that was going to be for nine months. They were also reporting at that time $15 million of cost overruns on a $32 million contract--$15 million. Therefore, when we looked at it, as a chief financial officer, I basically came to this conclusion: how could I sign section 33 of the Financial Administration Act, which basically says that your goods and services can be certified in accordance with the contract, when in fact the contract was not delivered on? Therefore, we did not set it up as a PAYE that year, but I must say we did not consider the delay costs or the entire price of the contract.
The other point I'd like to bring to the attention of the committee is that since we were not able to do that, we did work with the Treasury Board Secretariat to ensure that the $10 million of that first payment was transferred into the next year. So if you go to the supplementary estimates (A) of the Canada Firearms Centre for 2003-04, you will find that the first transaction in the first supplementary estimates (A) was the $10 million of that payment that we could not make. We brought that money forward so the Firearms Centre could have the cash to pay when the contract was upfront.
In terms of documenting the decision, again, this was something that, when we looked at it, we basically discounted quite quickly because we didn't feel it was a legitimate charge to the appropriation. Once we found out, as we've been hearing here, that there was concern about the error, and it was a reported error that I had made with my head of accounting operations, we did put a two-page memo to file--albeit a year late, I don't disagree with that--explaining what our rationale for our decision was, because we knew it would be challenged and under review. Back in 2002-03, we did not write anything to file.
The other question is for Mr. Baker. In referring to Mr. Norlock's comment about the firearms registry, he claimed that this information is in the hands of the federal government. I've been a system engineer before. I know the difference between information in the hands of government and information in a database—in an information system that's accessible. For example, filing a paper with the government is not useful, because no one can get access to that information within minutes without using manpower to go through the file.
Your comment about the difference between this firearms registry managed by the Canada Firearms Centre, regarding the accessibility of data, compared to the one before....
Mr. Chair, first of all, I apologize; I haven't had personal exposure to the old firearms acquisition certificate regime.
I can point out a couple of key differences, of course. One is that the real change occurred with the Firearms Act of 1995 coming into effect, which required universal licensing of all firearms users, regardless of the type of firearm, and registration of all firearms. The numbers of people and firearms covered by the Firearms Act is considerably greater than what would have been entailed by the FAC regime.
Secondly, with respect to discussion on expenditure, a considerable feature of the Firearms Centre is a central database that makes information on all users and firearms available to police or others across the country.
The first thing I wanted to ask—it's more of a comment, and maybe somebody can make a comment on it—refers back to something that Mr. Chan just talked about, the 5,000 hits and the police use of this registry. It's my understanding, in talking with some of the police services, that it's what I would call a bogus number, because every time they access the Canadian Police Information Centre, it automatically triggers a hit on the Canada Firearms Centre. Therefore, it may have nothing to do with value coming from the Canada Firearms Centre, but is triggered automatically. Is that correct?
Perhaps, Mr. Chair, I could start with that—and I believe the Auditor General may have something to say.
Up until a couple of years ago, we had been reporting the number of licence holders against an estimate undertaken by government, I believe, in 2000 or 2001 that some 2.2 million or 2.3 million Canadians owned firearms. We would indicate the number of people with licences as a percentage of that. We stopped that practice a couple of years ago, a decision I took in the reporting because we did not have the means to confirm the number of people who owned firearms in the country—and I don't think anybody does, frankly. And while the estimate was done using good statistical methods, it was not something that I felt we could rely upon sufficiently in order to report against.
Now, the Auditor General has pointed that out as perhaps a deficiency in the reporting.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Brown, in his opening remarks, hit upon something when he pointed out that this is the public safety and national security committee, not the public accounts committee. So I'd like to discuss public safety, as it relates to the gun registry. For the purposes of my questions, I'd like to assume that in a perfect world the gun registry would contribute to public safety.
What troubles me about the gun registry is its efficacy. I have three examples: the Auditor General mentioned undeliverable mail ranging from 7% to 23%; the Firearms Center does not know the status of 62% of the firearms for which registration certificates were revoked between July and October of just one year, 2005; and in paragraph 4.58 of the report, the Auditor General points out that the Firearms Act required that the 1.2 million prohibited and restricted weapons in the restricted registration system were supposed to be re-catalogued, if I could put it that way, into the new system by January 1, 2003, but to this very day, half of them haven't been catalogued, if I read the thing correctly. The Auditor General says, of course, the RWRS remains operational, so the information on those firearms is still available. Well, big deal, because under paragraph 4.59 it's admitted that the information is outdated and incorrect.
How can this system then contribute to public safety and national security, given these statistics the Auditor General has found? And why has the centre been unable to comply with the law with respect to RWRS for three years?
Mr. Baker, and then Mr. Sims, perhaps.
I'll start with the RWRS, if I may, Mr. Chair, and then maybe we could work backwards, because I think that was the main question.
This is the registration system that preceded our current database, and we did have about 1.2 million prohibited and restricted firearms in that database. In 1998 when we went over to the new system, we did write to all of these people; we did try to follow up and tried to get them to register. That's gone on for the last number of years. We've worked with enforcement agencies throughout Canada. As of late in this last year, we've tried with the Surrey detachment in B.C. to go out and find these people. It's an activity that is ongoing. We are trying to find this other half a million people—or the firearms, actually, because there'll be fewer people—to try to correct the situation. It's ongoing, and we have been pursuing it and realize the importance of it.
So the Auditor General reported that the information is available, but it's an interim solution. It's a very difficult activity.
This is a quick one. The question that Ms. Davidson asked keeps popping up. What I don't understand is that if this is automatic that the hit comes from an individual line officer pushing a button for something else and it hits on.... In 2003, when I think you started, we were at about 1,500 to 2,000 a day. We jumped very rapidly to 5,000, and we're now actually at 6,500 today. So if it was automatic, why was it not 6,500 when it started and why is it 6,500 now?
I have a quick comment and then a quick question.
Ms. Fraser, I hope that when you are accessing the users of this information you ensure that.... You know, people at the top of any organization sometimes have certain exigencies that somehow couch their responses. It's the men and women who actually do the work who would best be able to give you that information. I don't know how you can access that, but I do wish you good luck and I do hope.... I have many links to those men and women and I would not be taking the position I am if I saw this system as being a huge benefit to the men and women who are prepared to put their lives on the line for our citizens.
For a more political question, you are, and rightly so, reluctant to get involved with the politics of this issue. I commend you and the other members here for that. But from the standpoint of this committee getting to the real reasons as to why things are the way they are, do you feel it would be beneficial to this committee if we were to access those ministers of the program? There were some questions posed today that you felt reticent, and rightly so, to answer. Do you feel the committee might benefit from the testimony of those ministers who give the direction to the civil servants and to the commissioner?