This meeting has significantly changed. We were supposed to have here the new commissioner, who is nominated for a six-month period. It is fundamental to our democracy that commissioners appear in front of committees when they're nominated. This last minute decision not to appear is a contempt for the importance of our parliamentary institutions.
I also noticed that the Privacy Commissioner has not been allowed to appear in front of the committee on Bill . This is a habit that the Conservatives are getting into, of muzzling commissioners. It is fundamental to ensure, when we make nominations of this importance to Canada and to Canadians, that we have a chance as parliamentarians to question the competencies and the quality of the nominee. I think it's unconscionable, Mr. Chair, that the commissioner is not here today.
What happened? I need to know what happened, first of all. This meeting has been cut in half, and something fundamental to the health of our democracy has been tampered with. I expect some kind of justification. The commissioner just cannot decide, “I'm going to wake up this morning, and Parliament doesn't matter.” He or she, depending on the commissioner, has a responsibility to come here when called upon and to be questioned.
I think this is a serious matter that we need to give full consideration to before we hear from our other invitees today.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I had a conversation yesterday with the commissioner's office, and there seems to be some confusion around his appearance concerning what he was appearing under. He was notified that he was to appear as interim commissioner, and on the notice of meeting we always write where he is coming from. It said that it was from the office of the commissioner.
So the confusion could have come from there in the sense that his office was probably thinking that he was asked to appear as a commissioner. But underneath, there was the name of the commissioner, Mr. Friday, and it said “Interim Commissioner”, so it was in that capacity that he was invited to appear.
It seems that at his office there was some confusion about that fact, and what I received as information is that he would probably be nominated later, and there was an absolute willingness from his office to appear later as the commissioner—a permanent commissioner, if you wish.
This makes absolutely no sense. That's why I wanted to work this through, so that we're communicating to Canadians that there is a new commissioner who has never been vetted by a parliamentary committee. The commissioner has been invited, we understand, under very specific directions to appear concerning the nomination itself, and the interim commissioner is saying, “No, I don't think so.”
Mr. Chair, with all due respect to those who have made a decision in this matter—and those decision-makers are not in this committee, but outside of this committee—we have had a very serious breach of trust already occur with a former Public Sector Integrity Commissioner. That commissioner was never allowed to appear before this committee. That commissioner was never asked.... The report of the Auditor General was never allowed to be heard by the public accounts committee, which interfaces with the Office of the Auditor General.
Now we have an interim commissioner who holds a very important office—important not only to us as Canadians, but to our parliamentary system and to our system of governing the public sector in a fair and responsible way—and this person has just said he won't appear before us because he's a bit confused.
I am very confused, Mr. Chair. I would like to have the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner come before us so that we can meet him.
To make it clear, I'll read the motion from Mr. Ravignat and then the amendment.
If I have it correctly, Mr. Ravignat's motion was “that the committee summon Mr. Joe Friday, interim commissioner, to appear on March 24, 2015.”
Mr. Byrne's amendment is that after “that the committee”, Mr. Byrne would like to see “inform” instead of “summon”, so it reads “inform Mr. Joe Friday, Interim Commissioner, that his presence is required on March 24, 2015 in front of the committee.”
That would be the amendment to the main motion.
You have heard the question. The vote is on the amendment. All those in favour of the amendment, please signify in the usual manner.
(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])
The Chair: The vote then is on the main motion. All those in favour of the motion, please signify.
(Motion negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])
The Chair: We will carry on with the orders of the day.
You have a point of order, Mr. Warkentin.
Mr. Chair, this is where we move into murky waters because those who would suggest that we should be careful about our relationships with officers of Parliament, and that we should understand that they are the masters of the House, not us, does no service to the work we do in this committee or as parliamentarians.
An alternative, a reasoned amendment, was offered to collapse the situation and provide some diplomatic resolution to this, which was refused by the government, clearly for a good reason, because while they may protest that this is inflammatory and unnecessary and that their motives should not be impugned here, it is clear to everyone listening to this and watching us and hearing our words that there's more to this than meets the eye.
Mr. Chair, the government was offered a reasoned solution to a diplomatic problem that has now morphed into something clearly much larger because now the government wants us to invite. We are going to the lowest common denominator now because a meeting was offered and rejected, and now this committee is left to simply invite an officer of Parliament to appear before us, as opposed to expressing the expectation that they must appear before us.
This has become escalated at this point in time, and unnecessarily so. I'm not very comfortable about the notion of inviting an officer of Parliament to come before us so that we can examine the nomination and offer a report to the House of Commons as to whether or not we agree or disagree with the nomination. It is our fundamental responsibility as a committee to examine this nomination and to report to the House, not to invite, to expect an appearance by someone who would assume such an office.
I'm not very pleased right now. I thought we had a reasoned opportunity to de-escalate the situation, but now I think we are getting very clear instructions from the government as to who is in charge. Is it the executive or Parliament? The government is telling us it's the executive.
I will not support this.
I fully agree with my colleague, Mr. Byrne. This has become about clarity, and it's about clarity to the Canadian public with regard to who has the right to call an officer of Parliament. Is it the officer of Parliament who decides, just on a whim, whether or not he's going to show up and be accountable to the Canadian people whom we represent? Or does the committee have the power to make sure that this person is accountable? This is just a fundamental issue of our democratic institutions.
I'm sorry that my Conservative colleagues don't see this. They were elected to represent their constituents. That's the fundamental role we play. That means that you have responsibility like I do to ensure that officers of Parliament are accountable. The relationship between the executive, the officers of Parliament, and committee, is a fine balance. That relationship is essential to the health of our democracy, and that's not an exaggeration. That's just political science 101. You have to make sure that there is a check and balance between the power of committee, the power of the executive, and the officers of Parliament.
The reality is that they are accountable to us. Whatever the executive would like to do to interfere in the nomination process—and that's a whole other issue, the transparency and accountability for the nomination process—but at a minimum you would think that when a letter is sent to a commissioner, that letter is positively received.
It stinks. Something happened. I think Mr. Byrne is right. These are murky waters and we have no clarity as to why, unless the clerk has more information as to why the commissioner decided to come, and then suddenly.... What was it, the day of the meeting, Mr. Chair? No, the day before, it was yesterday, right?
Mr. Chair, because we have witnesses, we can get on with it. We could continue the hyperbole for a long time here.
What I suggest we do then, if you want, is to make a motion to reinvite the witness and give the witness a chance to come here and explain, as opposed to condemning him before he's even before us.
If it's in order, I will move a motion to reinvite the witness, and you set the date, as chair, as to when the witness appears.
If you could leave the actual wording to us, Mr. Ravignat, we can express that tone—that the committee is not pleased that the commissioner couldn't attend. In a diplomatic way, we can express this and urge his attendance by invitation at the next meeting.
Is there any further debate on the amendment?
(Amendment negatived [See Minutes of Proceedings])
The Chair: The amendment does not carry. The debate, then, is on the main motion, that the committee invite the integrity commissioner to the next available meeting.
Is that acceptable, Mr. Kerr?
I'm trying to understand this motion and look at it from a French perspective. I feel that the word “invite”, which I would translate as “inviter”, does not express the agent's obligation to appear before Parliament. It does not remind him of his obligation to appear before Parliament.
I know that the word “summon” was initially proposed, and that would probably be translated as “convoquer”. However, I would translate “convoquer” as “convene” or “call”. The word “summon” may be too strong. It may be lacking the diplomacy and the respect due to the position, but I think the word “inviter” absolutely doesn't render the idea of a legal obligation to report to Parliament. I don't think that term is appropriate. That is why I will vote against the motion.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Just for information, we could not return to the word “summon” because it has already been voted down within the context of the same meaning. We can't vote again on the same issue twice.
Is there any further debate? Seeing none, the question is on the motion by Mr. Kerr.
(Motion agreed to [See Minutes of Proceedings])
The Chair: The motion is carried and I believe the issue is resolved for the purposes of this meeting.
We will move on then to the orders of the day.
I offer my great apologies to the representatives here today from Shared Services Canada. First they were made to wait until the vote had finished in the House of Commons, and now they've had to suffer through a prolonged debate about committee business.
One of the witnesses was forced to leave already. Elizabeth Tromp, the acting senior assistant deputy minister and chief financial officer for corporate services, unfortunately had to excuse herself. Perhaps someone else can read her presentation.
Mr. Radford, if you wouldn't mind, introduce the rest of your panel and proceed with Ms. Tromp's presentation.
My name is Kevin Radford. I'm the senior assistant deputy minister of operations, and I'm accompanied by Manon FiIlion, director general of finance and deputy chief financial officer at Shared Services Canada.
We are pleased to be here today to discuss the funding that our department is seeking, as provided under supplementary estimates (C), tabled recently in Parliament.
I will start by updating you on the progress the department has made in delivering on its mandate to transform, consolidate and standardize how the government manages its IT infrastructure, particularly in the areas of email, data centres, telecommunications and improved security.
The email transformation initiative is a complex project that involves converting 63 separate email systems and 3 technology platforms of 43 organizations to a new system. Shared Services Canada has now begun to migrate to the new system. The plan is to migrate all departments over the course of the fiscal year.
The department's data centre consolidation is moving ahead. Shared Services Canada currently has three operational enterprise data centres in Gatineau, Borden—on the Canadian Forces base—and Barrie that provide the Government of Canada with the capacity needed to move data and applications out of old data centres and into the new. Shared Services Canada has closed a total of 49 legacy data centres over the past two years. At the end of this initiative, the government's data centre footprint will have shrunk from 485 to no more than 7.
Under the telecommunications transformation program, as of December 2014, almost 38,000 traditional land-lines have been migrated to the more cost-effective voice over Internet protocol, and just over 11,000 traditional land-lines have been migrated to cellular services. SSC is also upgrading and better connecting federal video conferencing and enhancing Wi-Fi services.
Shared Services Canada is also delivering on its mandate by consolidating and standardizing the procurement of workplace technology devices. These include operating system software and basic desktop applications such as word processing software. While the government spends about $660 million a year in this area, Shared Services Canada is negotiating new contracts and now buys these essential tools in bulk, providing consolidated savings.
Shared Services Canada is developing a more integrated approach to improve security for the Government of Canada. Working closely with our security partners, we have created a security operations centre that provides 24-7 prevention and detection services, and a dedicated response and recovery team that directly supports our partner departments. These security services include a supply chain integrity process that is part of all Shared Services Canada's procurements.
I will now turn to the supplementary estimates overview. The supplementary estimates (C) for Shared Services Canada represent an increase of $39.9 million in the department's reference levels.
The first component is $34.3 million in new funding. The majority of this new funding, $32.5 million, will be used to create a more secure IT environment for the National Research Council, following last year's cyber-attack. Shared Services Canada, in collaboration with the National Research Council and Communications Security Establishment Canada, is building a new and secure information technology infrastructure for the National Research Council on an accelerated basis. A portion of the supplementary estimates' financing for the National Research Council is to acquire new network services to take advantage of our new data centre infrastructure and the associated security benefits of this new architecture.
The remainder of the new funding outlined in supplementary estimates (C)—$1.8 million—will support the IT infrastructure that will allow two of our partner departments, Employment and Social Development Canada and Citizenship and Immigration Canada, to upgrade their IT applications to reflect the reforms implemented in 2014 in the temporary foreign worker program, as well as provide additional storage and database capacity and connectivity.
The second component of Shared Services Canada's supplementary estimates (C) is proposed net transfers from our partner organizations, some for adjustments related to Shared Services Canada's creation and others related to specific projects and initiatives.
Let me share with you a couple of highlights of these transfers. Proposed for transfer from Public Works and Government Services Canada is $1.8 million. The transfer is for the closure of three legacy data centres in Ottawa and one in Toronto. From National Defence, $1.3 million is identified for transfer for services and equipment in support of the Mercury Global military wideband satellite project, as well as for support of IT-related renovations at the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario.
All these activities are helping Shared Services Canada to improve savings, security, and service. Moreover, by providing secure, robust, modern IT infrastructure, Shared Services Canada is helping our partner departments to achieve their priorities while they deliver services to Canadians.
My colleagues and I will be pleased to answer your questions. Thank you.
Mr. Chair, committee members, I am pleased to be here today as the Chief Financial Officer of Public Works and Government Services Canada, or PWGSC, to discuss the department's 2014-2015 supplementary estimates (C).
With me are Brigitte Fortin, Assistant Deputy Minister of the Accounting, Banking and Compensation Branch, and Pierre-Marc Mongeau, Assistant Deputy Minister of the Real Property Branch.
PWGSC supports the consistent delivery of high-quality services to Canadians and measured value for the tax dollars with which it is entrusted. These ongoing achievements are the result of sound financial management and a steadfast focus on client service.
With responsibilities that range from preserving the Parliament buildings to issuing all Government of Canada payments, PWGSC provides a diversified portfolio of services that support the Canadian public, parliamentarians and public servants, and also help departments and federal agencies deliver on their mandate.
In these supplementary estimates (C), the department is seeking net funding of just over $51 million, bringing PWGSC's 2014-15 net spending authorities from $2,930 million to $2,981 million. Within the requested funding is $17 million to cover non-discretionary expenses associated with the Receiver General's acceptance of bank and credit cards, such as price and volume increases in banking fees and postage fees. The card acceptance initiative is helping the government fulfill its e-commerce commitment while reducing the administrative burden associated with cheque and cash payments. It also offers increased payment options and greater accessibility for Canadians. In this fiscal year there is over $4 billion of bank and credit card payments made by Canadians through more than 10 million electronic card transactions.
These supplementary estimates are also seeking the authority to access just over $16 million from the sale or transfer of 13 real property assets that occurred during this fiscal year. These proceeds of sale will be reinvested in the life-cycle management of PWGSC's multi-billion dollar asset base. More specifically, these funds will be used for material and direct labour costs, management fees, construction supervision, and the design of projects that are required to maintain the integrity of assets. Such projects include work on roofs, exterior claddings, as well as mechanical and electrical systems.
The department is also requesting the reimbursement of $9 million related to the cost of office space occupied by employees who administer pension funds. Pursuant to the Public Sector Pension Investment Board Act, Bill , the costs associated with the administration of the public service's major pension funds are to be charged to the respective funds and not borne by federal departments.
As a result of responsibilities transferred from the former Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation to PWGSC in June 2014, $5 million is being requested for environmental and other obligations. The department's new responsibilities associated with the transfer of Cape Breton operations fall under three main areas. First is the management of lands impacted by local mining, including the remediation, long-term maintenance, and monitoring of former mine sites and water treatment facilities. Second is the management of former miners' benefits, such as early retirement incentive programs, medical benefits, and life insurance coverage. Third is the portfolio management of real property holdings encompassing over 800 properties covering some 12,500 acres.
PWGSC is also requesting $2 million to cover occupancy costs at the National Library and Public Archives building, which serves as the substitute location for the current ceremonial events room for the House of Commons until the renovation of the Sir John A. Macdonald Building is complete.
Finally, PWGSC will receive a net amount of $2 million from other government departments. This is mainly for the remediation of the south jetty at the Esquimalt graving dock in British Columbia, as part of the federal contaminated sites action plan. This is consistent with our effort to lower risks to human health and the environment, to benefit local communities and to reduce the burden of future environmental liability for all Canadians.
In keeping with the government's priorities of job creation, economic growth and long-term prosperity for Canadians, the department supports the consistent delivery of high-quality services to Canadians and a continued focus on value for money.
Thank you, Mr. Chair and committee members.
My colleagues and I would be pleased to answer your questions.
Thank you, Mr. Lakroni and Mr. Radford, for your presentations.
Committee members, we have now heard the arguments in favour of supporting supplementary estimates (C) for 2014-15 for the Department of Public Works and Government Services and Shared Services Canada.
I believe we have time for one complete round of questioning, but I would like to put the question to the committee and vote on these supplementary estimates before the end of the day today. I ask you to please keep that in mind. We will need 10 minutes or so. We can either approve these estimates, we can defeat these estimates, or we can reduce these estimates. Those are our options when the time comes.
Going directly to five minute rounds of questions, we have Mr. Mathieu Ravignat for the official opposition.
Yes, I'll give you a quick update on the status of the email transformation initiative, and then I'll turn it over to my colleague to give you more precise information around the costs.
With respect to the email transformation, we already said that it's a Bell CGI contract. It is a project that we are currently using with wave zero in our own organization. We've migrated 4,100-plus users. We are ensuring that service is of a sufficient standard from a client satisfaction, a user satisfaction, server perspective for ourselves before we launch with our partner departments.
With respect to savings, we have booked $50 million in savings by the end of this fiscal year in accordance with the consolidation of the 63 email systems, which were referred to in our opening remarks, with the launch of this particular program.
I'll turn it over to Manon.
Mr. Chair, thank you for the question.
I'll respond to the security piece first and then turn it over to my colleague for the specific savings associated with the telephony modernization projects. As we move forward with respect to security we have established a security operation centre. This is a 24-7 capability that looks at all of our intergovernmental networks. It looks at all of our infrastructure and it does continuous monitoring and vulnerability assessments. We also have put in place an incident recovery team and an incident response team that's available to all of our partners should some type of security event occur.
With respect to the security of the telephony service itself, we work closely with our Communications Security Establishment. They recently launched a standard for land-lines and for traditional land-line architecture, but also for the voice over IP implementations. They made recommendations up to protected B conversations, and they asked for our partner clients to mask those conversations because telephony security is only as good as the point-to-point interface. I don't want to get too technical, but what it means is that if I'm on a land-line and I'm calling you on a cellular phone the security is really only as good as the cellular phone. That is what we've done with respect to security and with respect to savings.
I will turn that over the Madam Fillion.
I want to thank the officials for explaining these various expenditures to us.
To help people understand, I would like to point out that supplementary estimates (C) is the third request you are making in addition to an initial budget that was established for fiscal year 2015-2016 and that mainly covers the early-2015 period. The idea is to explain the figures a bit, so that Canadians can understand what you are asking them in terms of budget increases.
I see that the department is requesting an additional $17 million to cover expenses associated with the acceptance of bank cards. I'd like to understand what that is about. Why was that additional $17 million not set out in either the main estimates or the two other supplementary estimates? What part of that increase covers additional fees for new banking software that would make it possible to accept a new payment technology? People may be wondering. What portion is intended for new equipment to allow presumably more transactions to be processed?
Could you explain to us a bit more why you are asking for new investments that were not planned until now? More particularly, I'd like you to reassure Canadians that the additional money will not be going into the pockets of the banks to make them even richer. The Canadians we meet daily tell us that they are paying too much in bank fees and that interest rates on their credit cards are too high. How can we assure them that this money is well invested and is not being used to generate profits mainly for banks?
Thank you for the question.
There are several parts to your question. I will try to respond to each of them.
Can we predict certain increases? We can plan, but it's difficult to be exact because it's not easy to predict what department will increase its expenditures, how many Canadians will use the technology or even the Internet, or pay in a different way. We have models, but the projections they generate are only right to a certain point.
I have an example for you. Electronic transactions have increased by about 75% in two years and will continue to increase. That has a number of benefits. From 2012-2013 to 2014-2015, revenue across the federal government went from $2.7 billion to $4.7 billion.
All right. I may be sharing my time, if I have time at the end, with my colleague here, Mr. Kerr.
The cyber-attack was a big issue for Canadians. They were quite concerned about Canadian data, etc., so I wanted to ask Shared Services this. How can we be assured that another attack would not occur? What steps have you taken in these new systems? I was happy to hear about this security centre, which is 24-7, and all the different things that you've done to put that into place and to provide those kinds of services for all the different departments, but can you give us a more in-depth understanding of how we can be assured as Canadians that this attack will not recur?
Thank you, Mr. Chair, for the question.
With respect to the National Research Council and the incident that occurred there, I will try to explain just very briefly. I've talked already about the capability around our security operations centre, but maybe we can reach back a couple of years to when we had a cyber-incident that happened at Treasury Board and at the Department of Finance. The Department of Finance and the Treasury Board were able to continue working because they were on the secure networks of the government. We were able to basically cut off their access to the Internet and they could carry on with business.
With the National Research Council it was much different. They were working outside the government networks. There were many distributed sites across the country and they had varied Internet connections at all of these different sites. The strategy was around the containment of that particular security incident. We worked very closely with the National Research Council in developing that particular plan. Obviously, we had to try to minimize the impact on their operations, so it wasn't as simple as Finance and Treasury Board and allowing them to continue to work. We had to work with them around the containment and to make sure we protected ourselves from the particular incident.
The first order of business was obviously to protect the rest of government from this particular threat. Using the security operations centre and our capable folks who work within Shared Services Canada we were able to do that, as a first instance.
Going forward, the entire program of Shared Services Canada is around upgrading as per the 2010 Auditor General's report on the state of IT infrastructure. By building new data centres we are building in security by design. By reducing the 50 wide-area networks and contracting with our supply chain integrity under national security exceptions, so we know of country of origin, etc., all of this is to put security by design into our new networks as we go forward.
On the issue around the National Research Council and the expense that was associated with it, the nature of that particular threat meant we actually had to physically replace all of the equipment, all of the networks, etc. This was a very sophisticated act as has been discussed in the media, and this necessitated a complete replacement. We couldn't just clean it and use it again. It required a complete, new infrastructure.
In nine or ten short weeks, again working closely with the Treasury Board, working with our security partners, leveraging the new data centres at Gatineau, we were actually able to create a brand new infrastructure working with the vendors' and the telcos' brand new wide-area networks, and create a green environment from which NRC can now operate. We are working closely now with NRC, National Research Council, to migrate their workloads from the contaminated site that's been contained, scrubbing that data and moving that into the new infrastructure.
That's just one example of what Shared Services Canada and the creation of Shared Services Canada can do with respect to security.
Thank you, Ms. Young, and thank you for the very informative five-minute session that was.
I'm going to call it here and make a judgment call as the chair. We need a few minutes to do the votes on the supplementary (C) estimates and it's going to take a few minutes to get through them all.
We've had an equal number of rounds and if it's the will of the committee, I think we should thank our panels from Public Works and Government Services, and Shared Services Canada, and dismiss them, and the committee can carry on with the votes on the estimates.
Thank you so much, and I apologize for keeping you waiting longer than you planned on being here, but it was a very worthwhile exercise, Mr. Lakroni, Mr. Radford, and your teams. Thank you.
I don't think we need to suspend the meeting. I'm going to go right into the votes on the supplementary estimates, but let me say at first I'm very proud of the committee in one sense, in that we made a commitment that we would do a more thorough and robust examination of the estimates, and under this group of supplementary estimates that were referred to this committee, we have examined $730 million out of a total of $733 million that was sent to our committee, so even though it may seem like a hurried process, we are doing our job as a committee of government operations and estimates. I'm quite proud of us there.
The process, as you know, colleagues, is that we will vote as a committee to approve each individual vote, and then I will need a motion to report to the House of Commons the intention and the will of the committee.
So let me begin if everyone's ready.
CANADIAN TRANSPORTATION ACCIDENT INVESTIGATION AND SAFETY BOARD
Vote 1c—Program expenditures..........$301,000
(Vote 1c agreed to on division)
Vote 1c—Program expenditures..........$2,232,365
(Vote 1c agreed to on division)
PUBLIC WORKS AND GOVERNMENT SERVICES
Vote 1c—Operating expenditures..........$49,789,150
(Vote 1c agreed to on division)
Vote 1c—Operating expenditures..........$5,733,840
Vote 5c—Capital expenditures..........$28,551,260
(Votes 1c and 5c agreed to on division)
Vote 1c—Program expenditures..........$900,000
(Vote 1c agreed to on division)
TREASURY BOARD SECRETARIAT
Vote 20c—Public service insurance..........$246,132,199
Vote 30c—Paylist requirements..........$400,000,000
(Votes 20c and 30c agreed to on division)