Good afternoon to all members of the committee.
I am honoured to be here and to have been named Minister of Public Services and Procurement. I look forward to establishing a constructive relationship with all of you on this committee.
Thank you for inviting me to testify before your committee.
Our Prime Minister has emphasized the importance of these committees, and I am committed to treating this committee with respect, given the important work that you will be doing. I look forward to working with all of you. Your work will be important in helping me advance the priorities set out in the mandate letter I received from the Prime Minister. I welcome our exchanges on these issues as we move forward.
Departmental officials and I are here today to answer your questions about the supplementary estimates (C) as well as the departmental performance reports for Public Services and Procurement Canada and for Shared Services Canada.
Public Services and Procurement Canada acts as government's principal treasurer, accountant, and real property manager. As the government's central purchasing agent, it buys everything from pencils to military equipment. It also supports our efforts to communicate with and provide services for Canadians in the official language of their choice.
Shared Services Canada was established to deliver one email system, consolidated data centres, reliable and secure telecommunications networks, and non-stop protection against cyber-threats. The department does this across 43 departments, 50 networks, 485 data centres, and 23,000 servers, all to make information more secure and easier for Canadians to access.
At the heart of both of these organizations is a commitment to service and an ongoing effort to operate more efficiently and cost effectively. A great deal of the work takes place behind the scenes, but that makes it no less vital. For instance, Public Services and Procurement Canada was directly involved in meeting our government's commitment to welcome 25,000 Syrian refugees. The department secured essentials like winter jackets, travel, housing, and food, while Shared Services provided necessary IT services and operational support.
Many of our key priorities were laid out in our mandate letter, including prioritizing the national shipbuilding strategy. Our government is renewing the Canadian Coast Guard fleet and outfitting the Royal Canadian Navy so it can operate as a true blue-water maritime force. Seaspan's Vancouver shipyards and Irving Shipbuilding in Halifax have invested millions of dollars to rebuild their facilities to allow them to build Canada's vessels efficiently. Work is well under way on the LEED projects, the offshore fisheries science vessel in Vancouver, and the Arctic offshore patrol vessels in Halifax. The shipbuilding strategy is good for Canada. It is creating jobs, building industrial capacity, and renewing the fleets. Canada has not built ships for a generation. That is why we have recently hired a shipbuilding expert to provide us with advice on all facets of shipbuilding.
We are also looking at ways to ensure more accurate planning and costing. The government is developing new costing methodologies to enable more precise budgeting forecasts. Going forward, we will be regularly refreshing our budgets and timelines so that we are not working with outdated costing.
We are determined to ensure that all of our activities are conducted as openly and transparently as possible. Canadians and stakeholders should be well informed of our shipbuilding plans, costs, progress, and challenges. Therefore, Canadians, journalists, and parliamentarians will receive regular updates on where we stand with our various shipbuilding projects.
We are committed to making progress in other areas as well. The Build in Canada innovation program bridges the pre-commercialization gap for the many Canadian businesses that have new and innovative products and technologies to sell. We will improve administration of the program so that matches between innovative companies and government testing departments are made much more quickly.
Departmental officials and I are partnering with suppliers and these key stakeholders to make it easier for Canadian companies to do business with the government. We are determined to simplify and better manage government procurement and to focus on practices such as green and social procurement that support our government's economic policy goals.
Improvements are also at the core of the work at Shared Services Canada, where modernizing the government's IT infrastructure is key to the digital array of information services that Canadians expect. Sixty legacy data centres have been consolidated into three enterprise-class data centres. This cuts costs, increases data security, and improves services to partner and client organizations.
SSC plays a vital role in protecting our national cyber infrastructure and Canadians' data on all federal networks. Security has been upgraded through a new 24/7 security operations centre that monitors and responds quickly to cybersecurity incidents, reducing both the number of critical IT incidents and the time it takes to resolve them.
Both Public Services and Procurement Canada and Shared Services Canada are refining procurement. They are speeding up the process of informing industry of solicitations being tendered. This allows bidders more time to respond with innovative solutions that meet the government's needs.
Another example of innovation, modernization, and the future direction of government operations is the transformation of the Government of Canada's inefficient 40-year-old pay system.
The new pay system, called Phoenix, was implemented just two weeks ago, on February 24, and the first pay cycle has proven to be a success. So far, it covers 34 departments involving 120,000 employees. The remaining 67 departments are scheduled to come online soon.
The department is also pushing forward in real property management, design, and green construction. Public Services and Procurement Canada has been recognized for high-quality work in infrastructure projet planning, design, construction, and heritage expertise, and for other services to clients.
The Des Allumettes Bridge, which connects Ontario and Quebec near Pembroke, Ontario won a Canadian Institute of Steel Construction 2015 design award for excellence in steel construction. The Tunney's Pasture master plan received a national award for comprehensive planning-best practices, as well as a national award of merit for urban design. The James Michael Flaherty Building, at 90 Elgin Street, received a city of Ottawa award of merit in the Ottawa Urban Design Awards.
Public Services and Procurement Canada is also a world leader in sourcing property management services from the private sector. This approach has saved Canadian taxpayers about $700 million over the past two decades. It was one of the first organizations in Canada to commit to meeting the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, LEED, gold standard in new construction. Major renovations must meet the silver standard.
Nine of the ten new buildings constructed for the government across Canada in recent years are certified LEED gold. The tenth, 30 Victoria, across the river in Gatineau is LEED platinum, the highest level possible. This underscores our commitment to green, energy efficient buildings.
Construction work led by the department is happening around the country and generating important work for Canadians. Over the next two years, we anticipate major repair projects will be completed on several key assets. These include the Esquimalt graving dock in British Columbia and the Alexandra Bridge, which connects Ottawa and Gatineau, a few blocks from here. In addition, a new Government of Canada pay centre is currently under construction in Miramichi, New Brunswick under a lease contract arrangement.
Parts of Parliament Hill and the surrounding blocks are also undergoing significant renovations. The rehabilitation of the Sir John A. Macdonald Building has been completed. The revitalization of the Wellington Building is nearly finished. Work continues on the significant West Block rehabilitation project, as well as others. Committee members will be happy to know that each one is on time and on budget.
As part of my mandate, I have also been asked to undertake a review of Canada Post to ensure Canadians receive high-quality postal service at a reasonable price. The independent review will consider all viable options and provide Canadians with an opportunity to have a say in the decisions about Canada Post's future.
I am hoping that this committee will play an important role in the Canadian consultation process as we reach out to Canadians to get their feedback once a task force, that we will be putting in place, will have done its work. This is an important task and we are taking steps to ensure that we get the process right.
Turning now to the 2015 supplementary estimates (C), Public Services and Procurement Canada is seeking net funding of just over $83 million, increasing its approved funding to $3.22 billion.
This requested funding is needed mainly for the management of federal real property, the reconstruction of the Grande Allée Armoury in Quebec City, and the continuing rehabilitation of the Parliamentary precinct, as well as for fees that will allow Canadians to do business with the government using credit and debit cards.
The 2015-2016 supplementary estimates (C) for Shared Services Canada represents an increase of just over $54 million to $1.58 billion. The funding requested is needed mostly to enhance the Government of Canada network and cyber system security, to support the government response to the Syrian refugee crisis, and to offset the incremental costs of providing core information technology services to client departments and agencies.
While we have made progress on several fronts, there is still much work to be done. Both departments will look for opportunities to better deliver programs and services and to improve results for Canadians through sound management. Overall, the keys to success are innovation, process-busting, and common-sense changes. I have confidence in the ability of the public service to embrace all three. Already I have met hundreds of dedicated, enthusiastic, and professional departmental employees in so many communities, and I intend to continue to do so. I know that we can work together to meet the expectations of Canadians.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. I'm happy to take the committee's questions.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Madam Minister, welcome to the committee. It is a pleasure to have you here. I would also like to acknowledge the officials you have with you. You can count on robust and constructive opposition from our side, I hope, in the greater interest of Canadians. That is why we are all here for, after all.
Madam Minister, in your presentation, I liked your commitment to the shipbuilding strategy which, as you have recognized, is a major engine of job creation here, especially in Vancouver, Halifax and Lévis. I am also delighted that you intend to provide us with regular updates about the evolving costs and the progress of the projects. Canadians expect us to be sure that the contracts awarded by the Canadian government are completed on time because we are dealing with taxpayers' money and, of course, because we are in a competitive environment. We have been entrusted with a great responsibility.
My first question is about the shipbuilding strategy issue specifically.
After the election, I printed this passage from your election platform, your plan. You say that you want to strengthen the navy while complying with the requirements of the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy. Of course, those are investments that will allow the navy to be operational, but that will also create jobs. Clearly, we want to create jobs in Canada.
I had the opportunity to tell you about an article about the tugboats, as they are called. It raised the possibility of having them built somewhere else. So, can you confirm this afternoon that the jobs will be created in Canada, as part of the shipbuilding strategy, as you committed to do?