Thank you, Madam Chair.
I'm delighted to be here with you this morning.
Today I'd like to focus on supplementary estimates (A), and I look forward to the discussion.
I'm delighted to be joined here by Yaprak, Renée, and Brian, our officials.
As you will see on slide 3 of the deck, supplementary estimates occur three times a year and present information to Parliament on spending that was either not sufficiently developed in time for inclusion in the main estimates, or has since been refined to account for new developments in programs or services. We want to make it easier for Parliament to hold the government to account.
To that end, I'm pleased to say that for the first time, supplementary estimates (A) compare funding announced in this year's budget with funding requested through this year's estimates. In the words of the parliamentary budget officer, this provides Parliament with “additional ability to provide scrutiny to the Government’s finances”.
What's more, we're making progress in better aligning the budget and estimates processes so Parliament can approve funding in a more timely manner. In fact, this year's supplementary estimates (A) include funding for 33 items announced in this year's budget. That compares with 11 items in 2015 and six items in 2014.
The PBO has said that these improvements “will ensure parliamentarians are more easily able to scrutinize major legislative aspects of budget 2016”.
We've made considerable improvement in aligning these processes.
In fact, more than 60% of the forecasted expenses in budget 2016 are included in the supplementary estimates (A).
Madam Chair, the Government of Canada is committed to fulfilling our commitments to Canadians and investing in the priorities of Canadians.
I draw your attention to the major voted items. Some of the highlights include $1.7 billion in funding for short-term investments in public transit, green infrastructure, and existing programs; $1.6 billion for affordable housing and social infrastructure projects; almost $503 million to maintain and upgrade federal infrastructure assets; $499 million in funding for a new contribution program called the post-secondary institutions strategic investment fund; $278 million for recapitalization of engineering assets, and for repairs and maintenance of federal buildings to provide a safe, healthy, and secure workplace;
$254 million in funding related to the assessment, management and remediation of federal contaminated sites;
—thank you to our translators for their patience—
$232 million to maintain mission critical information technology infrastructure; $202 million in funding to address climate change and air pollution; $150 million to resettle 10,000 additional government-assisted Syrian refugees in 2016;
$113 million for non-passenger screening; $112 million for airports; $112 million for Canada summer jobs; and $104 million in funding to support first nations communities in the construction of public infrastructure on reserve through the first nation infrastructure fund.
We seek Parliament's approval of these important investments in Canadians and their communities.
I'd like to walk you through the reconciliation table. This table compares funding announced in budget 2016 with funding requested through the 2016-17 estimates to date.
We begin with the figure for 2016-17 estimates to date of $251.4 billion.
The estimates exclude some spending that does not require annual spending authority from Parliament, but is reported as government spending in the budget, so we need to account for these items by adding them to our total. The largest is EI benefits at $21.1 billion. Most EI costs are paid directly out of the EI operating account rather than a departmental appropriation and are therefore not specifically included in the estimates. They are, however, incorporated in the budget.
The next is the new Canada child benefit at $20 billion. While it's considered an expenditure for government financial reporting purposes, Parliament doesn't authorize annual spending for this item or for other tax expenditures or refundable tax credits.
Other items in this category where spending is not subject to annual parliamentary approval include expenses of crown corporations and revenues credited to departmental appropriations. This category totals $19.6 billion. We must next account for differences in the accounting basis.
The budget is present on a full accrual basis, whereas the estimates are presented on a modified cash basis. This results in an addition of $4.8 billion. One of the objectives of this reconciliation sheet is to try to explain that in a transparent way.
Next is budget 2016 and other measures not yet approved by Treasury Board. These are items that have been approved and earmarked in the fiscal framework, but parliamentary spending authority has yet to be sought for them. This includes the remaining budget 2016 spending measures.
The difference exists because the budget is forward looking and presents expenses anticipated for a given year, while the voted expenditures shown in the estimates refer to amounts that have already received Treasury Board approval as of a particular date. This results in an additional $4.9 billion to our total.
The budget forecast also recognizes that some amount of spending included in the estimates will lapse at the end of the fiscal year, and either be reprofiled to future years or simply remain unspent. The subtraction of $6.1 billion to our total represents the lapsing of authorities that, if used, would have resulted in expenses.
Finally, we have the last category, “Other”. I'll be pleased to explain this more granularly in the Qs and As. This category totals $1.4 billion and represents a number of diverse factors, including provisions for the cost of future liabilities and cost increases.
This brings us to the budget 2016 expense total of $317.1 billion. With the changes we've made in the reconciliation table, we're again improving the openness, transparency, and accountability of our budget and estimates processes together with accountability to Parliament. This is just the beginning. Because of timing issues determined in part by the House's Standing Orders, the budget items for a given year are not reflected in the main estimates for the same year.
Simply sequencing the main estimates presented to Parliament after the budget rather than before would mean that we would not need to table spring supplementary estimates just two months after the main estimates. This would be a big step forward and a significant improvement.
I know that you have been engaged with this as a committee and that you've engaged with representatives from other governments, both within Canada and from other countries, including Australia, to learn about their budget and estimates processes. I look forward to working with you and to benefiting from some of the research and study you're doing on this on how to better align the budget and estimates processes so that Canadians can more easily track how government spends their money and so that parliamentarians can hold governments to account.
I'll conclude my remarks there. My officials and I would be pleased to answer any of your questions.
I understand that was nine minutes.
I can start, and then I will ask Brian to provide some further thoughts.
First, the progress we've made so far has been in part because of a deeper level of co-operation among Treasury Board, Finance, PCO and PMO in terms of the budgeting process. We've been very closely aligned with the Treasury Board engagement throughout in terms of the work, such that when the budget comes out.... You know, we are getting closer to that objective of budget and main estimates simultaneously, as it is in Australia.
The advantages of that are that funds can flow more quickly. In the past there has been an 18-month delay from when a budget comes out and when the funds actually flow. It takes a much greater co-operation between central government agencies, like TBS, Finance, PMO, PCO, but also individual departments. One of the things we're doing, as part of our results and delivery agenda as the government, is actually requiring a more results focus on reporting as we're moving forward. This will require a much more closely aligned process in terms of budgets. As Treasury Board approves expenditures, departments will be required to report on results in a much more robust way than has been the case in the past. There's going to be greater integration going forward.
In terms of the election year, there will always be some challenges around that. We now have fixed election dates, barring any changes on that, but we have fixed election dates. There will always be some challenges as governments become elected, new governments with new mandates, and that will be incorporated into it, as has been the case this year. In fact, despite an election year this year, we've actually seen progress on these.
Brian, you may want to add something there.
There were two points. First of all, in his report on supplementary estimates (A) on May 18, the PBO was quite complimentary or encouraged by the fact that we've included a reconciliation table that allows one to crosswalk between the accrual budget and the cash estimates. There are a number of reasons why there are differences, and this committee heard on Tuesday some of those differences with regard to Australia where they plan on accrual and they control in cash. That is one important difference.
Another is the spending universe. Quite simply, the processes, the budgets and the estimates, do serve two fundamentally different purposes. The budget is completely forward looking and encompasses all known or anticipated expenses of the government, whereas the estimates only include the cash required for departments to deliver their programs and services, and we heard that is similar to the Australian approach.
Because of that, there are certain elements where departments don't require cash. Employment insurance is part of that. It is not funded out of the consolidated revenue fund. It is funded through a specified account for EI, and therefore it is excluded from the estimates, but through this reconciliation we have backed it back in so that one can do a comparison of total expenses in the budget and the numbers presented in the main estimates.
It is fundamentally that difference in terms of purposes of the document and the fact that quite simply, some elements of government spending are not included in the estimates because they don't require appropriations.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Mr. Brison, welcome to our committee.
This morning, I am concerned. Just like me, you attach importance to our two official languages, French and English. You know how important it is for our public service to be perfectly operational in both official languages. However, there are some very troubling reports.
According to a report obtained under the Access to Information Act, the machine translation software does not work at all. Public servants are not happy with it. That's the first problem.
The other problem is that Public Services and Procurement Canada is saying that everything is just fine, and that the software is working well. There is a problem with that machine translation software, which has caused a second problem that I would describe as serious. The software is so bad that our officials are going on public networks to translate government documents, which is a security issue, Mr. Minister.
Can you reassure us this morning as to the steps that will be taken to address the shortcomings of the machine translation software?
As you said, it is paramount for us to do something about climate change. As a government, we have to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, as well as to green our operations. Our priority is also to raise this issue with other governments and the private sector.
As a government, we have many opportunities to improve our approach, whether in our buildings, our operations, our trucks, our cars, or our procurement in general.
Public Services and Procurement Canada plays a very important role in the government. Our , Joyce Murray, is truly a leader in terms of
the greening of government operations. As we move forward, this is going to be part of...we will be investing more, and we'll be investing smartly. It doesn't necessarily mean spending more sometimes.
By making our buildings more eco-efficient, we reduce our energy costs. If we consider the
life cycle costing and not just upfront costing as a practice, it creates greener procurement. This is something which, when I was minister of public works in Paul Martin's government, we worked closely on with Environment. You can, just to put it in perspective, have a significant positive impact on reducing the cost of government if you build and renovate more with greener approaches.
In addition, as a government, with green procurement, we can also create a lot of economic growth in green industries. We are working in close co-operation with Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, given that this department is mandated to promote green industries.
Reducing our greenhouse gas emissions while driving economic growth in the industries of the future, the green industries, is a key focus for our government.
No, the $31 million, so that's for this year's involvement and not just in the future for a dispute. Perfect.
Getting back to the Canada summer jobs program, and you may not be able to answer this, but we know it's been doubled, and I've heard from quite a few different constituencies, where they were not for profits, etc., that they were cut from 16 weeks to nine weeks, and then money was allocated, but not approved.
In my riding, for example, we had 650 allocated. We had more than that for requests. People who were approved were cut back, and every single one was cut back from 16 weeks to nine weeks. I've heard this from quite a few constituencies across the country, but then $150,000 was left unused. We've heard a lot, that it's doubled, it's created this and this, but in quite a few constituencies when we spoke to them, their comment was, “We don't know, that was the direction.”
Madam Chair, I wanted to point out that we are in favour of the requests presented to us today and we intend to support them.
Mr. Minister, we are just by Wellington Street, where a demonstration is getting under way. Just now, in your remarks, you mentioned tractors. Very shortly, the street will be packed with tractors. Farmers from the Bellechasse region, for which I am the MP, will be among the protesters.
Yesterday, during question period, your government reiterated its support for supply management. Clearly, as the saying goes, it is good to walk the talk. Are you able to tell us whether your department will help find a solution, which is ultimately very simple, to reclassify diafiltered milk? Is your department handing that matter?
If not, as an MP and minister from a rural area, are you going to push for a solution to this situation, which is having a real impact on the market? We are talking about a milk cartel. These are dairy farmers who live in your riding. They are working families. Could you give us some indication today as to how your government will respond to the calls from these farmers who have taken to the streets of Ottawa?
I thank you very much because results-focused government is something that's really important, which we want to demonstrate to Canadians. They provided us with a mandate to implement a progressive and ambitious program, and we have to deliver it.
I think that in politics and in government we usually focus on policy assuming that the execution of the policy will go fine, when in fact that usually doesn't happen. We are trying to focus more on execution. There is a new agenda and results committee of cabinet, and a new unit within PCO led by Matthew Mendelsohn, focusing on that, as well as the Clerk himself and the team at PCO. This is a whole-of-government approach that we are working on with each department and agency.
Treasury Board is central to this. There's the flow of new investments through which we have an opportunity to play a role in terms of establishing metrics with the department and measuring results. It's also the stock that is huge, about $250 billion per year. As we work with departments and agencies over a period of time to evaluate that stock, we can really make government a lot more efficient and effective.
For governments at all levels—I believe in Canada, it's around 35% of GDP—simply operating government more efficiently and being more results focused can really make a big difference in terms of the productivity of the country, in terms of wealth and prosperity.
I commend to you a speech I gave this week to 700 executives in the public service at APEX. I commend to you any of my speeches. They're really good.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Hon. Scott Brison: But this one, I believe, we've put up. Even my deputy, who's really difficult with me sometimes, said it was pretty good.
I was just joking, but it did lay out broad strokes.
I want to come back to this committee to go through some of the reform within government. From a parliamentary committee perspective, I think it is really your wheelhouse in terms of effective operations of government. This is something that I really do want to come back to. I can give you a better overview on the 21st when I'm back on that.