As per your committee order of reference related to vote 1 under the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer's main estimates for 2018-19, I am glad to report that our estimates have been considered by the Speaker of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Commons, who conducted their thorough due diligence. Following that, the PBO's CFO and DCFO—Sloane Mask—exercised oversight attesting to our budget requirements. As per parliamentary procedure, our budget has been referred to your committee for final approval.
The PBO's budget totals $7.6 million, including a total voted budgetary requirement of $7 million, as well as a statutory budget component of $600,000 to fund the employee benefits program.
The budgetary request for the PBO's first full financial cycle as an independent entity supports the fulfillment of Parliament’s desire for transparent, timely, and credible electoral platform costing, in addition to funding non-recurring transition expenses to establish the office in accordance with Bill . The request can be detailed as follows: a transferred appropriation from the Library of Parliament of $2.6 million for direct operating costs; $1.5 million to enhance economic, analytical, and administrative capacity; and $2.9 million for professional service and transition requirements.
For the current year, the $7 million is because of the transition to a new structure—outside the Library of Parliament—through the requirement to establish service agreements and the anticipated increase in requests from parliamentarians and parliamentary committees because of changes to our mandate.
For the next fiscal year, which also corresponds to a general election year, the amount requested will be $7 million as well, but this time mainly because of the statutory obligation to assess the cost of election platforms. Subsequently, the annual budget of the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO), will decline once again to $6.5 million a year. It will be constant during the first three years of the new, or the next Parliament.
As per the PBO's legislative mandate to provide impartial, independent analysis to help parliamentarians fulfill their constitutional role, which consists of holding government accountable, we published last week a report on the 2018-19 main estimates, which support the second appropriation bill for the current fiscal year. It follows the 2018-19 interim estimates, which was tabled in Parliament on February 12, 2018.
The government's expenditure plan and main estimates for 2018-19 outline $276 billion in total budgetary spending authorities. This represents an increase of approximately $18.1 billion compared to the total budgetary authorities identified last year, in 2017-18.
Statutory budgetary authorities are projected to be $163 billion in 2018-19, which is an increase of $7.2 billion compared to the total estimated statutory spending in 2017-18. Seniors' benefits and the Canada health transfer are two of the largest contributors to this increase, and are set to rise by $2.6 billion and $1.4 billion, respectively.
The federal organizations with the largest increase in their total budgetary authorities from the main estimates 2017-18 are the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, with $7.1 billion; Finance, with $3.8 billion; Employment and Social Development Canada, with $3.5 billion; National Defence, with $1.7 billion; and Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, with $709 million.
Finally, Mr. Chair, in November 2016, the PBO applauded the government's objective to enhance Parliament's role in upfront financial scrutiny. More recently, in our May 1 report, we said that the changes reflect an effort on the part of the government to improve alignment between the budget and the estimates. However, full reform requires that alignment to be accompanied by an alignment with parliamentary procedure, which means providing clear, specific, and transparent information to members in the object of the vote itself, which we haven't seen and therefore reported.
We welcome the statement of the President of the Treasury Board, who said that he would now correct the situation by including the table in the vote for the supply bill.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. We will be happy to answer your questions.
I do not know anything about that, but I'm starting to realize it.
An amount of $500,000 will be used for the transition. We will have to rewrite the services we provide. The library will provide us with services, and it will be on a cost-recovery basis. The reason we are continuing with the Library of Parliament, at least for two years or until the next election, is precisely to make the transition.
We must also ensure that the next PBO—my term is coming to an end—will have the authority to change the service agreements with the library. The $500,000 will be needed to rewrite policies and service agreements. You will also have to negotiate with a union. When the new legislative requirements were imposed on us, the union followed up for a while, but now we have to start the process again. Of course, there are costs associated with that.
The following year, the $500,000 will not be used to make the transition, but rather to purchase specific data to calculate the cost of the measures in the election platforms and to provide additional support. We well know that it will be brutal—forgive the expression—to do this calculation 120 days before the election period. It must be provided in a timely fashion to all political parties individually and confidentially. We will then need help to do the translation and analyses more quickly, as well as to enter into service agreements with departments. We are negotiating with each of the departments to obtain this service.
No, I don't, because this is more of a procedural issue than a budget issue.
I mentioned in my opening remarks that having alignment between the budget and the main estimates is a good thing. Aligning that with the wording of the vote and with parliamentary procedure is imperative. Personally, I think there was some kind of bad link between this alignment and the parliamentary procedure. Not everybody understands, as you or the clerk or the parliamentary procedural people do, that sometimes what the executive wants to do isn't necessarily easy to do in parliamentary procedure.
I think the wording for vote 40 is okay as is, but you vote on one amount, $7 billion, and that's it. We've had discussions with some people who know way more than I do in terms of procedure. You can try to amend the vote, but the only thing you can amend is to reduce that amount of $7 billion, nothing else.
That's why, with the tables somewhere in the supply bill, I don't know how they will do it. I don't know the wording either, but that would help the procedure.
Good morning, everyone. Thank you for being here.
I would first like to clarify one point. As I understand it, in the context of our parliamentary system, the government has to be accountable for its expenditures to the public, but that is not the case with the opposition. If the government makes a decision, the government, not the opposition, is the one that has to account for it. My comments relate to the drafting of the bill or, in this case, the vote.
Certainly the opposition would still like to have a say, but ultimately, who will be responsible for the vote?
It will be the government, will it not?
Opposition members are a part of that accountability through Parliament, and the government is accountable to Parliament. In any event, perhaps I misunderstood what you said. I can look at the transcript, but I'll move on to my questions.
I want to express my respect for the work you do. I'm sure that nobody at this table would disagree that you do tremendous work on behalf of Canadians and are very helpful to us as parliamentarians in your work.
In your opening remarks, you mentioned that the President of the Treasury Board promised to include the language and the dollar figures from table A2.11 in his eventual supply bill. I understand from your answer to the other question that you've had that conversation with him.
Last Thursday, I asked him why he chose that particular moment to share with Canadians and to announce that he actually intended to do what you had suggested would be an improvement to his bill. I was particularly disappointed that his answer to that was to begin to spin a yarn about his twin four-year-old children, how they sometimes behave irrationally, and how we, as parents, sometimes placate our children who have irrational concerns.
How do you feel about that characterization? It was in fact you, among other experts, who had pointed out the shortcomings and the challenges to accountability that are presented by vote 40. He has characterized those critics as irrational and said that perhaps they could be placated by putting the language in.
In French, it's “doing a bacon strip on the floor”— which is for the interpreters.
I cannot comment more than that, but the point we raised, as I mentioned in my opening remarks, was that it is the legislative mandate of the PBO to raise these kinds of issues. I was clear that we reported what we saw in the wording, and what we saw in the process.
I agree that maybe some department people are not really happy about it, but it is our legislative mandate to report that to parliamentarians, because, as you mentioned, parliamentarians vote. It's a democratic vote. Parliament votes on these budgets. Yes, with a majority, the majority will win most of the time, but it is the responsibility of the PBO to tell parliamentarians what we see in these kinds of processes.
Again, I think there was a disconnect between what the executive wanted to do—aligning the budget and the main estimates, which is a good thing—and the procedure. I think there was something they missed at some point in terms of making it happen in the procedural approach, in the parliamentary approach to that vote.
Thank you, all, for coming.
I need a bit of clarification.
My colleague asked if Australia is the gold standard, and you said yes, because it has integrated the estimates and the budget process. You referred to the 2012 recommendations by OGGO. Out of the 16 recommendations, we're still talking about the same things: accrual accounting, integration, etc., so we haven't really moved forward. The Treasury Board president has taken a bold step in pushing the agenda, and for that he should be thanked. He's at least trying it. We cannot be the naysayers saying that it doesn't happen, that it shouldn't happen, or that we're still falling short. Yes, we are falling short, but it is a step in the right direction.
The Treasury Board president has instituted many measures to align it. He gave us the interim estimates on March 1, and then the main estimates on April 16. I'm an accountant by profession, so when I look at a main estimate and it doesn't make sense to me when I'm voting on it, it is frustrating. I can appreciate the consideration that you guys have, because in 2009 some of the line items that were meant for G20 went into building gazebos for the then Treasury Board president's riding. I can understand it. We are all very skeptical.
My question is about the A2.11 attachment, which lays out a detailed, line-by-line allocation that the Auditor General says is legally binding for the government. Why is there a conflict between your interpretation of what this does and that of the Auditor General, when the Auditor General actually sits down with Finance, determines how money is going to be allocated, and then does the audit? I am a little confused. Can you help me out?
Good afternoon, Mr. Chair and members of the committee. Thank you for inviting the Privy Council Office, the PCO, to review our 2018-19 main estimates and departmental plan.
My name is Matthew Shea. I am the Assistant Deputy Minister of Corporate Services and the Chief Financial Officer of PCO.
I am accompanied today by Ms. Marian Campbell Jarvis, Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet, Social Development Policy; Mr. Shawn Tupper, Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet, Economic and Regional Development Policy; and Mr. Rodney Ghali, Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet, Impact and Innovation Unit in the Privy Council Office.
As you know, the mandate of the PCO is to serve Canada and Canadians by providing professional, non-partisan advice and support to the and the ministers within his portfolio, and to support the effective operation of cabinet.
PCO supports the advancement of the Government of Canada's policy, legislative, and government administration agendas and coordinates responses to issues facing the government and the country.
The head of the PCO is the Clerk of the Privy Council. The clerk also acts as secretary to the cabinet and head of the public service.
PCO has three main goals: to provide non-partisan advice and support to the Prime Minister, portfolio ministers, cabinet, and cabinet committees on matters of national and international importance, including policy, legislative, and government administration issues faced by the government; to serve as a secretariat to the cabinet and all of its committees, with the exception of the Treasury Board committee, which is supported by the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat; and to foster a high-performing and accountable public service.
Like the Department of Finance and the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, the PCO is a central agency, and it exercises a leadership role across government departments and agencies to provide advice to the and cabinet as well as to ensure the coherence and coordination of policy development and delivery.
I'd like to begin with a brief overview of the 2018-19 main estimates and the 2018-19 departmental plan. PCO is seeking $166.4 million overall for its core responsibility, which is to serve the and cabinet, and for its internal services.
PCO will coordinate the government's efforts to deliver policy and initiatives by using a whole-of-government approach. This will include strengthening diversity and inclusion, including support to the special adviser to the Prime Minister on LGBTQ2 issues and ensuring that perspectives of transgender, non-binary, and two-spirit Canadians inform the Government of Canada's collection, use, and display of sex and gender information.
It will also include reviewing relationships with Canada's indigenous peoples and aiding the working group of ministers' review of laws and policies, as well as the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, as part of Canada's continuing effort to advance reconciliation, as well as bilaterally and multilaterally collaborating with provinces and territories on key priority areas in order to maintain and advance intergovernmental relations.
It will include ensuring that Canada has an open and accountable government, in part through regular non-partisan updates on the status of ministerial mandate letter commitments posted on the mandate letter tracker website and by supporting the government's commitment to open, transparent, and merit-based selection processes for Senate and GIC appointments.
It will also include coordinating and supporting international trade negotiations, including NAFTA, as well as supporting the 's international travel and participation in summit-level meetings; coordinating the development of legislation and policies with regard to national security and intelligence, and responding to global concerns and threats to exports, investments, and the safety and security of Canadians; public service renewal and modernization, including the innovative impact Canada initiative and a commitment to the advancement of healthy workplaces that promote diversity and inclusion, are free from harassment and bullying, and foster innovation; and, finally, improving, strengthening, and protecting Canada's democratic institutions by supporting initiatives relating to political party leaders' debates, the , and political fundraisers.
We will continue to support the in his role as Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and Youth, and coordinate the development of policy informed by engagement with youth and youth-serving organizations, in partnership with the Prime Minister’s Youth Council.
As part of ongoing modernization efforts, we will measure performance using the departmental results framework, an approach that will focus on results rather than activities. We will also employ such analytical tools as gender-based analysis to assess policy and program implications for women, men, and gender-diverse people.
We will continue to replace and upgrade current IT infrastructure and systems as part of our information management and information technology project.
This brief summary of PCO's 2018-19 departmental plan touches on a few of the means by which PCO will continue to support the clerk as head of the public service, the Prime Minister, and cabinet as part of a whole-of-government approach.
Mr. Chair, members of the committee, thank you for the opportunity to provide you with this context.
We would now be pleased to answer your questions.
I would like to thank the four PCO officials for being here.
It's always enlightening to see how the Privy Council Office operates.
Mr. Shea, your presentation addressed some very broad issues, and it allowed me to see that you help the Prime Minister's Office and the ministers' offices in their daily work, but I would like you to give us more details.
There are two points I would like to raise, which you touched on towards the end of your presentation.
Can you tell us more about the gender-based analysis, so we can find out what it could change? How do these tools help you give good advice for developing policies? I imagine that this kind of analysis allows you to develop policies that are in line with the philosophy of the Prime Minister and his cabinet. Can you talk a little more about this?
In general, the process would be that the inquiry itself recommends an amount for each of the families. They send it to us with that recommendation. The Clerk of the Privy Council approves, and I sign the contribution agreement.
From my recollection, it's never taken more than a couple of days, at most, from the time we receive a document to the time we get approval. We move these extremely quickly. We view our role as being administrative in nature. We're not making a decision around whether we think one person should get the money over another. We're taking those recommendations and making sure that all the forms are properly filled out and that we have the information, for example, with the contribution agreement.
We've worked with the commission to develop template contribution agreements to ensure that it's expedited as much as possible. We meet every two weeks with a working group we've put together to make sure that any time there is an issue, we deal with it.
There have been times when there have been comments in the media. I'm not sure those are reflective of the views of the inquiry, either. We have a very strong relationship with them, in particular the executive director and the chief commissioner.
I believe my predecessor addressed some of those at a previous committee appearance, but I would reiterate that our service standards are fairly quick when it comes to all the things you mentioned.
Accommodation is probably the most complex, because there are a number of pieces to that. If you decide to move the office from one location to another, there are leases to negotiate and more complexities there. For HR generally, we're talking about three business days, when we get all the information, to produce a letter of offer.
For financial transactions, once we have all the information, it's very quick to do the payments. For security clearance, last time I checked, the average was 15 business days for a secret security clearance. I should note that the security clearance requirements are set by the commission. They have the ability to decide that they'd rather do reliability clearance, if they feel they need to do that more quickly.
On the whole, I would say that right now our relationship with them is very positive, and our service standards are something they're quite happy with. I have not heard any of those messages in the five months I have been working with PCO.
The impact Canada initiative was launched in budget 2017 as a whole-of-government approach to accelerate what we call outcomes-based funding approaches. These are approaches that governments around the world have used with respect to public service spending. They orient the spending toward outcomes, as opposed to activities and outputs.
We launched the smart cities challenge last fall, which was one of the signature programs announced in budget 2017. The clean tech challenge was also announced in budget 2017. There are going to be five separate challenges being launched in the clean tech space over the next several months, the first one being this week. Those are the two main initiatives.
We're also working in areas such as indigenous housing, growing perishable foods in the north, addressing Canada's opioid crisis, and looking at marine conservation. These are initiatives we're working on in close collaboration with all the responsible departments and agencies, as well as outside stakeholders. The first tranche of initiatives, 10 or so in total, will unfold over the next 12 months.
As we test out these new partnership models, these new financing models, we will be scaling up across all discretionary grants and contributions funding. The idea is that at some point the initiative should come to an end, once we see success in it, but that will take time.
Okay. While you're finding that, let me go to another question, because we're short on time.
On page 8 of your DP, there's a comment that PCO “supports the development and maintenance of a high performing Public Service” and fostering a healthy workplace. This committee did an incredible job on updating the whistle-blower act, and there was unanimous agreement on the recommendations, on which the government has not followed through.
How do you feel when your mandate, stated right in your own departmental plan, is “the development and maintenance of a high performing Public Service” and fostering a healthy workplace, when we've done nothing to update the whistle-blower act? It prevents abuse and harassment of public servants, which, if you've read the various departments' staffing surveys, ranks very high as an issue, as high as 45% or 55%.