As it is 11 o'clock, I will call the meeting to order.
Welcome to meeting number 31 of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates. The committee is meeting today to begin its study on the outsourcing of contracts.
We have representatives here today from the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, Public Services and Procurement Canada, and Shared Services Canada.
Today's meeting is taking place in a hybrid format, pursuant to the House order of June 23, 2022. Members are attending in person in the room and remotely using the Zoom application. Regarding the speaking list, the committee clerk and I will do our best to maintain a consolidated order of speaking for all members, whether they are participating virtually or in person. I'd like to take this opportunity to remind all participants of this meeting that taking screenshots or photos of your screen is not permitted.
I'd like to welcome the witnesses. For opening statements, we will start with the Treasury Board, then hear from PSPC, and finally SSC. You will each have five minutes to make an opening statement.
We will start with Mr. Franco.
You can begin.
My name is Emilio Franco. I'm the executive director responsible for procurement policy within the office of the comptroller general at the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat.
I'm pleased to be here today with my colleagues from Public Services and Procurement Canada, as well as Shared Services Canada.
I will begin by explaining how the Treasury Board Secretariat supports the management of investments and procurement.
The Office of the Comptroller General is responsible for providing functional direction and assurance on financial management, the management of our services and acquired assets, and internal audits across government.
Specifically with respect to services and acquired assets, the Office of the Comptroller General provides policy and guidance to investment planning, projects and procurement.
Government procurement ensures that the Government of Canada has the necessary tools and expertise to successfully deliver programs and services, while ensuring best value to the Crown through fair, open and transparent processes.
The procurement of services is used to complement the work of Canada's professional public service and enables the government to acquire special expertise and meet fluctuations in workload. Shortages in certain groups and specific geographic locations also make the use of professional services necessary to maintain operations. For example, service contracts are put in place for nurses to deliver temporary health care in northern Canada, where support is critically needed. Service contracts are also put in place for firefighters brought in to help quell forest fires in British Columbia. The government also requires services to operate and maintain our assets and facilities, such as cleaning our buildings and repairing our vehicles.
While Treasury Board sets the policy direction for government procurement, deputy heads of federal organizations are responsible for ensuring the resources are in place to deliver on their respective organizations' mandates. This means that the decision to use procurement to meet operational requirements rests with the departments and falls under the responsibility of the respective deputy head. Ultimately, departments must exercise due diligence and the effective stewardship of public funds when awarding contracts, which are required to be issued in a fair, open and transparent way in accordance with the Treasury Board's policies, laws, regulations, guidelines and frameworks concerning procurement.
In closing, let me reiterate that procurement is an essential part of how the Government of Canada delivers programs and services to Canadians. The government has the processes, systems and controls in place to ensure that procurement is conducted in a manner that upholds the values of fairness, openness and transparency while meeting public expectations in ensuring best value.
Thank you again for the invitation today. I would be happy to answer your questions concerning the Government of Canada's procurement policies.
I'll pass it to my colleague.
Good morning, Mr. Chair and members of the committee.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak to Public Services and Procurement Canada's outsourcing procedures in my role as associate assistant deputy minister of procurement.
I am joined today by my colleagues. Kim Steele is PSPC's assistant deputy minister of digital services and chief information officer, and Ron Cormier is director general, business and technology solutions sector.
As you are aware, Public Services and Procurement Canada, or PSPC, procures goods and services on behalf of departments and agencies throughout government. These procurements range from office supplies to military equipment and everything in between. The department buys, on behalf of other federal organizations, some 24 billion dollars' worth of goods, services and construction each year from nearly 10,000 suppliers.
Public Services and Procurement Canada works in conjunction with Shared Services Canada to procure information technology services for departments and agencies that offer digital services to Canadians, and we do this in the context of the laws, regulations, policies and directives that govern procurement; including those set by our Treasury Board Secretariat colleagues.
As with all of our contracting actions, Public Services and Procurement Canada seeks to enhance access, competition and fairness in a way that aims for the best value to the Crown and the Canadian people.
The department’s procurement processes are implemented with the goal of accountability and integrity, and there are checks and balances in place to ensure government contracting withstands the highest scrutiny.
Additionally, every effort is made to make sure that our processes are open and fair to bidders.
That scrutiny extends to contracting out for services, including professional services and information technology services. The decision to make-or-buy, which is often referred to as outsourcing, is made by our clients, and can be done for several reasons. They include accessing specialized skills or knowledge that may not exist in departments, including skill shortages in information technology areas of expertise, which are in high demand across the government and the private sector.
These services may also be contracted out if there is a need to transfer knowledge that is not available within the public service, or to provide surge short term capacity that cannot be met with the human resources in place in departments.
Before IT services are contracted out, the client departments are responsible for making all reasonable efforts to use existing or new employees of the public service. They are, therefore, responsible for making the make-or-buy decisions. Once they have made that decision, we manage the procurement process.
In doing so, PSPC has mechanisms in place to ensure that cost estimates and contract values reflect actual expenditures. For example, for task-based contracts, such as the contracting of human resources, expenditures are tracked against submitted time sheets, which the clients review to ensure that the hours worked are accurate and reflect the work completed. For solution-based requirements, such as conducting studies and producing advisory reports, contracts are often based on firm prices, and competition establishes pricing and provides the assurance of value for money.
I should note that small to medium enterprises make up the vast majority of Canadian suppliers that receive government contracts, approximately 88%. Along with the department's work to ensure that small and medium enterprises are engaged in federal procurement, PSPC procurement specialists are leveraging the government's buying power to support social and economic goals. This includes helping to generate jobs and growth and to increase the participation of under-represented groups. For example, to help the government meet the target of awarding 5% of federal contracts to indigenous businesses, procurement specialists may choose to restrict their supplier search to only those suppliers who have identified as indigenous. This is in line with the procurement strategy for indigenous businesses.
PSPC is also developing a supplier diversity program, which is a core component of the supplier diversity action plan announced by the government in January of this year. I know that these topics will be explored by this committee at upcoming meetings.
To conclude, I would like to emphasize that PSPC remains committed to ensuring that our procurement processes are open, fair and transparent. This extends to contracts for human resources and IT services. In the end, this will ensure the best outcomes and best value for Canadians.
Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the committee, for your invitation to appear today.
I am happy to be able to address you today, and answer your questions along with my colleague.
I'm the assistant deputy minister of networks and security at Shared Services Canada. I am joined today by my colleague Samantha Hazen, assistant deputy minister and chief financial officer.
The current digital landscape is a highly complex system of network infrastructure. Shared Services Canada is modernizing our IT infrastructure. To realize the vision of a digital government, we must deliver end-to-end digital services to public servants and Canadians. A high-performing and resilient enterprise network is a key underpinning enabler of a digital government.
Technologies are rapidly changing. It is essential that the Canadian government keep pace, and as the COVID-19 pandemic has shown, it's even more critical in a crisis. SSC has taken an enterprise approach to modernization. This means that SSC continues to consolidate, standardize and modernize networks across government. We are ensuring that our strategy is aligned with current best practices and is adaptable to future requirements for our network and security services.
To get where we want to go, SSC has been investing in the development of standards, IT infrastructure, contracts consolidation, and technology simplification and standardization, as well as a modernized procurement strategy. SCC has established a robust project management process that involves assessing all potential options to deliver new services or address new needs. After looking at best practices, capacity and existing solutions, SSC determines the process that best allows it to deliver products and services that are cutting-edge and aligned to global best practices and offer extensive support and functionality to users.
As we continue to effectively modernize how we deliver digital services to Canadians, we are increasing our workforce and investing in attracting and retaining talent from across Canada. We are committed to continuing to train our existing workforce to adapt to a rapidly changing IT landscape and emerging needs. Our employees are our greatest asset.
The complexity of our IT infrastructure and the speed with which we are modernizing do not always allow us to use in-house expertise. When working with external service providers, our employees provide the guidance necessary to ensure success in all of our initiatives.
Over the past two and a half years, we have adopted digital solutions to unprecedented challenges at lightning speed. In these times of rapid changes to technology and security, speed and scale matter. Execution and implementation matter. In order to effectively deliver on our initiatives, we comprehensively assess our business objectives and determine the best way to meet them.
These are situations where we must rely on commercially available resources in order to focus on the strategic side of a project. Examples would be the mobile device service, which offers three types of cellular plans and a broad selection of mobile devices, and the Government of Canada's wide area network, which is a fully managed network service that interconnects our partner or client locations across metropolitan, regional, national or international boundaries.
When we are required to outsource, SSC conducts transparent, open and fair processes as per the Government of Canada's policy on the planning and management of investments and the directive on the management of procurement. Our employees are critical in ensuring that these processes are successful. Whenever possible, SSC uses competition to get the best value for Canadians.
Industry has been and will continue to be a critical stakeholder as we work to transform the federal government's information technology infrastructure systems. SCC's procurement strategy involves leveraging private sector expertise through early engagement, flexible process and the ability to mitigate the risks.
Our agile procurement process 3.0 is a highly collaborative approach to procurement that will also help the Government of Canada with its socio-economic and climate-related policy objectives. Our strategy includes reducing the barriers to entry for small and medium-sized enterprises and companies run by women, Black or indigenous people, persons of colour and other under-represented groups.
In 2021-22, 66% of SSC-funded contracts, valued at approximately $746 million, were awarded to small and medium enterprises. Of these, 90% of the total number, which is also 90% of the value of those contracts, were awarded to Canadian small and medium-sized enterprises. There is an impressive array of Canadian small and medium enterprises, and we are encouraged to cast a wider net in procurement opportunities to tap into that knowledge and innovation. SSC is committed to getting more Canadian companies involved in competing for government contracts.
Shared Services Canada is working hard to create economies of scale, more secure and reliable services, faster turnarounds, enhanced collaboration, reduced risk and an agile procurement process that is fair and transparent, ultimately better serving Canadians.
For the public accounts, of course, I know the letters of representation have been signed off on, but they haven't been published yet. Parliamentarians, unfortunately, do not have access to them yet. Maybe you could let us know.
I'm going to stick with the general outsourcing to the consulting companies. Over the last five, six, seven years, the size of the public service has grown quite rapidly. Without benefits, salaries are about $50 billion.
If we use.... Two years ago, the dollars spent on consulting companies rounded up to $17 billion. That's almost a 34% add to our cost for providing what perhaps many people think the public service should be offering.
Does the Treasury Board have a sense of concern about this almost ghost department making up such a large amount and about the criticisms that a lot of these reports should be done by our ever-expanding public service? What does it say about the size of our public service if we have to outsource so many contracts to the Deloittes of the world?
I'm going to switch over to Public Works, please.
I want to give you an example. I have an order paper here, and this is only one of four we've put.... This one is about 500 pages, listing all of the contracts given out to various consulting firms. This one is Deloitte. I'm looking at three dates, a week apart, each one worth $72,000 for scene security and event security services. Basically, Deloitte was hired three separate times to see if the contract was awarded fairly and in a transparent manner. It's a quarter of a million dollars, repeating the same item three times in a row.
Do you find that justified, PSPC?
Maybe I can add to that from Shared Services.
As my colleague from the Treasury Board was saying, it's a combination of both. It's the specialized expertise but also just the incremental capacity that we need. The nature of our business right now means that the demand exceeds capacity. In addition to our own workforce, we do need to increase our capacity to deliver on all of the projects, especially when we adopt new technology as part of our network modernization initiatives right now, which we've actually posted on our website.
Adoption of the cloud is fairly new for the government. This is where we would probably also need extra capacity and expertise. We're deploying software-defined networking. We're adopting zero-trust architecture. Those are actually new technologies, new ways of doing things for us. Specialized expertise to complement our own capacity is required.
Actually, it's very similar to what my colleague from PSPC said. Obviously, we're running a large portfolio of projects here at Shared Services Canada. The ability to grow fast is very often important. This is done by leveraging professional services in a number of cases. Very often, we have a start date, end date and clear deliverables. Those are perfect opportunities to augment our capacity by leveraging private sector resources.
You mentioned COVID. That's also a good example. When we need to respond to a crisis and to a surge of demand, for us it's absolutely critical that we have in place contracts, so that we can tap into those resources fast and for a short period of time. It allows us to help our existing staff with this increased demand.
Thank you for the question.
I wasn't here a decade ago in this particular role. However, ongoing investment in maintaining technology is something that needs to occur on a regular basis. With the rapid evolution of technological change, we need to continue to invest in keeping our applications and systems up to date and current, in order to ensure that we address security threats, as an example.
Unfortunately, sometimes it can be challenging to maintain those systems and keep them up to date. When that happens, we fall behind, so additional investments may be required. The best practice is to maintain our applications and continue ongoing investments in ensuring that the systems are maintained, stable, current and up to date.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you to the witnesses for being here and for making the effort to give your speeches partly in French, which is greatly appreciated.
I will turn to Ms. Royds, who I think is better able to answer my questions.
Ms. Royds, in recent years, we have heard about situations where mainly women were used as contract workers in the public service for their entire career. However, when it came time for them to get permanent status, to have the same social and retirement benefits as permanent public employees, they were laid off temporarily for two, three, four weeks. Then they were rehired to do exactly the same work.
The result is that even if they spend their lives in the public service doing the same job as a public servant, they never get the same benefits.
On the one hand, why did this practice exist?
On the other, does it still exist now?
Thank you very much for the question, Mr. Chair.
In that particular instance, it would be important for me to outline that we have policies in place to mitigate against the instances of what would be called an “employer-employee relationship”. We have particular policies in place to ensure that when we put contracts in place and bring in outsourced resources, we're doing so for a specific task or deliverable or a specific solution.
That, again, is to mitigate against the exact instance of what could be considered an employee-employer relationship, whereby someone would take on a role, like a public servant, as an employee of Canada. We have the policies and procedures in place to—
Since when has this policy that you mentioned been in place?
Can you assure me that, right now, there are no women on contract—I say women, because they are mostly women—doing exactly the same job as the full-time public servant working beside them, but without the pension and benefits?
Can you assure me that no contract worker runs the ongoing risk of being laid off for two or three weeks the moment she could get a permanent position, only to be rehired to do exactly the same job?
Can you assure me that this practice is no longer in place?
Thank you very much for the question, Mr. Chair.
As I indicated, we have the policy and procedures in place to mitigate against the risks of such an employee-employer relationship.
I have my colleague from the Treasury Board Secretariat, which would be the owner of the policy for the Government of Canada. As indicated, we're a common service provider. We support the work of particular government departments to put in place their procurements.
However, to speak to the broader policy, my colleague might be better placed to provide the background that was being sought.
The position of the Government of Canada in ensuring that measures are taken to avoid employer-employee relationships has been a matter of policy for quite some time, both in our previous procurement policy, which was the contracting policy, and now reinforced in our new directive on the management of procurement, which came into effect in May of this year.
The new directive specifically requires that both contracting officials and departmental officials responsible for engaging in contracts are aware of the risks of creating employer-employee relationships and that they're taking measures prior to and during the performance of a contract to avoid those risks occurring. It includes terms and conditions in contracts to make sure that the nature of the arrangement in place is very clear to the recipients of those contracts and that those conditions protect the government in the case of an employer-employee relationship being created.
Natural Resources is currently outsourcing two full-time senior ATIP consultant resources. They've invited suppliers to bid on the one-year contract, with three one-year options to extend. The estimated value of the contract is $3.75 million.
Based on that estimate, the contract would work out to about $469,000 per year for an ATIP consultant. I'll hazard a guess that this is well above what an ATIP officer would be paid as a public service employee, and I'm imagining that a significant amount of the contract will go to the firm awarded the contract and not the person actually doing the work.
What are the policies around contract renewal? For example, do companies have an automatic right to exercise an option to renew? Also, is a contract for up to four years, potentially, addressing a short-term staffing shortage?
Maybe someone from PSPC or the Treasury Board can answer.
When a government contract goes out to tender, it is required to outline the full scope of the requirement, including, as you mentioned, option years. It is not a requirement to exercise those option years, but they are available to mitigate risk for the government in the event that there is a need to no longer continue the services or to address other matters that may arise in the contract.
Without getting into the specifics, because I have not seen the contract or the requirement you mentioned, there may be a number of provisions in the contract that expand the scope or require additional resources, which may increase the overall value of the contract. Without getting into the specifics of the contract or seeing the details, I wouldn't be able to particularly answer that question, but perhaps I'll turn to Mollie to expand on it.
Again, thanks very much for the question.
In terms of speaking to any particular trend, I'm not in a position to speak to a particular trend.
Again, as the common service provider, we are responsible for managing the procurement processes associated with the requirements of our particular departments. We do support particularly in the IT space.
As my colleagues from PSPC and Shared Services Canada have indicated, we support a number of technology projects and transformation projects that are being undertaken at the moment by the government, which do require us to seek the services and specialized skill sets of a range of contractors to support the work that is being undertaken, but I am not able to speak to any particular trend.
In 2019, the HUMA committee adopted a unanimous report on precarious work. That was the result of a study required by a PMB put forward by the . That required, among other things, that the federal government stop using temporary help agency workers and work with ESDC and other government departments to properly staff government services using permanent employees.
The federal government, shamefully, is the country's largest user of precariously employed workers, who are subject to the whims of temp agencies. This report was never addressed by the government, as an election immediately followed.
What steps are you taking to ensure this recommendation is met in an expedient manner? I'm sure someone can answer this.
I can go ahead. Thank you, Mr. Chair, for the question.
At Shared Services Canada, as my colleague Mr. Nadeau mentioned, our employees are our greatest assets. As such, the department has been investing in growing our workforce over the past five years.
We are, indeed, working towards reducing the reliance on temporary help and increasing support through our employees. We have increased our employees over the past five years from just under 6,000 to now just under 8,000 federal workers at Shared Services Canada.
Perhaps I'll start, and then my colleagues, if they wish, can add on.
I'm not aware that we track in that manner, Mr. Chair, but we do have a process where our technical authorities, which would be our client departments, are responsible for the business cases and the cost estimating that is undertaken, which is consistent with the Treasury Board directives and policies. Then, at PSPC, we manage the procurement processes, which we mostly will do, obviously, on a competitive basis—
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you, Mollie.
The Government of Canada has approximately 400,000 contracts and amendments each year. I would say, anecdotally, that the majority of them are simple and straightforward requirements where I would expect the quoted price matched the final contract value.
There are a number of complex procurements that are conducted by the Government of Canada every year. These procurements are complex in their nature. Often the deliverables or the final outcome is uncertain and there is an evolution in collaboration with the contractor to achieve a result. It is difficult to then assess whether the increase in contract value is the result of the activities that are engaged in with the contractor to ultimately solve a problem, or whether it is an increase from the originally estimated quote.
As Mollie mentioned, that is not information that the Government of Canada tracks at the granular level. We can say that the information is typically publicly disclosed through proactive disclosures where all contract amendments over $10,000 are made publicly available on the open government portal.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you to all the witnesses.
My question is for Ms. Royds.
Ms. Royds, in your opening remarks you said, “The department buys, on behalf of other federal organizations, some 24 billion dollars' worth of goods, services and construction each year from nearly 10,000 suppliers.” You also indicated that about 88% of those are from small and medium-sized businesses.
Also, I understood from your opening remarks that you work with SSC to procure IT services. Within the IT services, you talked about access to specialized knowledge, knowledge transfer and dealing with some surge of the services.
IT consultants are easily the largest group of professional services that the government contracts externally. Can you explain why and what types of services are actually being outsourced?
Thank you for the question, Mr. Chair.
At PSPC, as a common service provider we are responsible for managing the procurement processes on behalf of our client departments. They are responsible for establishing the requirements of the individual procurement. They tend to do so for a variety of reasons, such as, in particular, when specialized skill sets are being sought to support a particular project or initiative, when surge capacity is required, when we need independent external advice or when we are lacking the expertise within an individual department.
Again, we are doing this on behalf of other government departments across the Government of Canada, so our role as a common service provider is then to manage those particular procurements.
Can you please do that? Thanks.
I would be very interested to know how IT services are broken down by department and by the services. I understand you're not making decisions, but you're making the procurement and I'm sure you have measures in place.
I have about a minute and a half.
You mentioned that the transfer of knowledge is one area of IT services. I'm not sure whether I should ask you or Mr. Nadeau at SSC. I'll ask the question and hopefully one of you two can answer.
The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada has suggested that for IT contracts, there is no mechanism to transfer knowledge and expertise back to the departments and agencies after a project is finished. You said that one of the elements of IT services is transfer of knowledge. Is this actually the case, and is it always the case?
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I’m not sure where I should direct my question, but I suppose I could direct it to the Department of Public Works and Government Services, since it involves contracts.
You’ve been saying from the beginning that you hire externally, that contracts are awarded externally for specialized services, services that we do not offer. However, it has come to my attention, particularly on the Saint-Jean military base, that there were contracts for basic janitorial services, such as sweeping and cleaning the bathrooms.
Why can’t the department have its own employees for this type of work, which is neither specialized nor temporary? Mopping floors, scrubbing toilets and doing basic janitorial work are daily tasks. Why, then, did you go through procurement, and why aren’t you using internal resources? Again, these are not specialty or temporary services.
Furthermore, how do we ensure that companies, whether they’re retained for Defence or any other department, arrange the same benefits for their employees that the government offers its own public servants?
Mr. Franco, global research shows that governments pay more, for poorer service, when public sector work is contracted out. In fact, in 2018, the UN special rapporteur on poverty and human rights discussed privatization as being a cause of poverty while still costing governments more.
What analysis have you done on the total cost of contracted-out work, including the cost of procurement, compared to bringing this work in house?
Mr. Franco, I just want to come back to you. I realize you might have limited oversight on this, but is there a sense within Treasury Board—again going back to, I suppose, Treasury Board as the gatekeepers or protectors of the taxpayers' purse—that perhaps the outsourcing is out of control? I think that in 2014 it was about $6 billion a year, growing to $16.7 billion. Is there any sense of worry or concern that we're growing, again, this hidden wing of the public service over which there is clearly very little accountability or oversight?
Before you answer that, I'd like to bring up the example of a quarter of a million dollars going to a consulting company to say, “Don't buy sensitive security tech from a despotic regime.” The example I brought up earlier to PSPC.... There are four examples. I actually looked up the item on the web. There were four $71,000 contracts given by PSPC on behalf of the RCMP for fairness monitoring on an RFP. Basically, for over $280,000 we got four identical reports with a one-paragraph answer.
There's no oversight of value for taxpayers' money. Who is going to step up to protect taxpayers? Who will step up? Treasury Board clearly is not, even though I believe it should be responsible. How do we get a handle on this?
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I'm going to come back to a subject that Ms. Vignola brought up in her first line of questioning, because I think we need to clarify a little bit. Ms. Vignola was talking about the idea of people, usually women, who were working in the same jobs as others who were civil servants and then were being terminated and rehired, spending their entire careers without getting benefits. Both of the answers then revolved around how to prevent employee-employer relationships, and it didn't sound like we were getting to the point that Ms. Vignola was making about protecting the little person.
The employee-employer relationship protects the government from not being the employer, but it doesn't protect the little person who is allegedly being forced to do a job and then labour laws are not being complied with properly. I don't think there is such an issue in the federal government, so I want to give the opportunity to everybody to come back and clarify.
Ms. Royds, let's say we hired someone, not outsourced someone, to be a civil servant. The federal government would not simply terminate someone before the 12 months of their continuous protection would apply under the Canada Labour Code, because that person would normally be under collective agreements and would be fairly treated. We would not simply be summarily dismissing people and bringing them back willy-nilly or we would have multiple union issues in every department. Is that correct?
Thank you for the question, Mr. Chair.
There is a legal test for whether or not a contractor is an employer or an employee. There are four parts to that test, I believe, in Canada. It speaks to such elements as the use of tools, risk of opportunity, risk of loss and a few other considerations. I'm not a lawyer, so I don't want to expand on that too heavily, but there is a framework under which we can determine whether or not there is a risk of an employer-employee relationship.
Part of the training that procurement professionals receive is to help them identify what those criteria are to make sure they're mitigating them in their contracts. As I mentioned, in our policy we do have a requirement that the business owners or the individuals across government engaged in hiring outside resources are aware of these risks and are taking steps to manage them.
I'll start with the answer.
As you highlighted, there are two elements that Public Services and Procurement Canada is responsible for: namely, the code of conduct for procurement and the integrity regime, which goes into greater detail in terms of your question.
From a procurement policy perspective, the Government of Canada's procurement policy highlights that procurement should seek to obtain socio-economic and best-value outcomes. “Best value” does not necessarily mean the lowest price. It also considers the broader socio-economic value that a contract may be obtaining. The Government of Canada has a number of programs to help ensure that the contracts, in many cases, are meeting similar requirements as may be the case for public servants.
For example, Employment and Social Development Canada's labour program has the federal contractors program, which has a requirement that suppliers to the Government of Canada with a resident workforce of more than 100 people, or a million dollars, put in place employment equity obligations. This is a program we have.
In a number of cases, while it may not be prescribed by law, contracting officers also put requirements in their contracts that contractors must abide by, which may cover a number of the legal obligations we have within Canada, such as official languages—the requirement to provide services to the public in both official languages.
These are things we would put in place through contract, all of which are permitted through our policy framework and encouraged as the kinds of things to consider in how we conduct our procurements.
Mollie can speak to PSPC's area of responsibility.
I'll give you one example, and perhaps you folks can help me understand it.
I'm not picking on this company. It's just because this is a big number: According to the numbers I have, in the 2021-22 fiscal year, Brookfield Global Integrated Solutions did over a billion dollars in business with the federal government. Over $200 million of that was in professional services. That's a substantial number. That's a nice piece of business Brookfield has with the federal government.
On the professional services side of things, if I wanted to find out what those contracts were for, how much those contracts were bid on, and how much they came in at, how would I? Is that readily available? How can the public find out whether there's value there?
Can anybody answer that for me?
I'll speak on a broad basis. I believe the contract with Brookfield is a PSPC-managed contract. Mollie may have specifics on it.
The majority of procurements are conducted in a fair, open and transparent way, which means that the initial requirement is posted for public competition on the Buyandsell platform, now the CanadaBuys platform. They are made publicly available, which is the first indication about what kinds of services are being sought under contract. The contract would be required to detail what services are expected to be provided.
As I previously mentioned, once a contract is awarded, if the contract is above $10,000, that information is made publicly available through our proactive disclosure website on the Open Government website, with any subsequent amendments issued against that contract.
Thank you for the question.
What we call the resulting contracts.... When a procurement is made publicly available for competition, the solicitation that's issued includes a copy of the contract. That's how the public can see what the potential contract will likely look like.
As we mentioned, once the contract is awarded, information regarding the contract is made publicly available on proactive disclosure, but the specific contract and its minutes themselves are not. Typically, that information is considered commercially confidential information under the Access to Information Act. It can be called upon. There may be a provision of some information if requested through the ATIP process, should the public be interested in a particular contract.
I have one last question before my time runs out.
The last number of years have seen record government expenditures. I'm not trying to make this political. Is there a point at which the senior public service members, such as you, go to ministers or to the government and say, “You know, at this point, it might be time to take a look at what we're doing here; maybe take a break and find out if we're getting value for dollars here”?
It seems to me, as Kelly McCauley was saying, that a lot of this stuff seems to be getting out of control. If you add up Deloitte, KPMG and all these companies, it's way over $100 million a year for them as well. I looked up Iron Mountain. It's $14 million a year, every year.
Is there a point at which we need to go back and say that enough is enough and that we need to take a look at whether we're getting value for all these contracts and find out which ones are not mission-critical, as you might want to say?
Thank you for the question.
Without getting into the specifics of the program delivery for Indigenous Services Canada and health care in the north, what I would say is that in many cases, as I mentioned in my remarks, supplementing our professional public service is an important way to respond to both urgent shortages and urgent situations.
I could assume, in the case of health care, that if there's a need in a particular area for additional medical support that is likely urgent and time-critical, engaging services from the outside and contracting for those services would be an essential way of meeting that need and ensuring that those services are provided.
Thank you very much for the question, Mr. Chair.
I believe that my colleague outlined earlier in the session a little bit about the procurement policies we have in place and how we seek to ensure that the government's broader socio-economic objectives are included in our procurements. In particular, related to ensuring.... We talked a little bit already about the government's target associated with the 5% of indigenous. We also have requirements associated with greening and with other government priorities.
I would actually turn to my colleague, Ron Cormier, who could speak a little bit about how we include these particular items within our individual procurements, associated with our policies and approaches.
I will turn quickly to Ron, please, just to give a quick example.
Thank you for that, Mollie.
In terms of examples, there are a number of different types of contracts that we enter into on behalf of our clients. One that I would draw attention to is a series of supply arrangements. In order to make the procurement process more efficient across government, PSPC, as a common service provider, makes those available and departments use them to be able to contract a little more efficiently and quickly by using some elements that we've done the groundwork for.
As part of those, we work with our supplier community to identify within that community, for example, which suppliers are either indigenous-owned or indigenous-led. Within those instruments, for example, if I'm a client department and I'm interested in using one of those tools to be able to contract, I'm presented with options that will allow me to select indigenous suppliers within that inventory. Moreover, when those suppliers exist and have made themselves known to the Government of Canada, the selection methodologies are structured in such a way that you'll always be presented with an indigenous choice.
On some of our lower-dollar instruments, we're also trialing some additional socio-economic policies that can bring a similar degree of flexibility to help other equity-deserving groups. We're looking at whether that's something we can do in the future more broadly.
With individual contracts—large ones that are publicly tendered where there's a request for proposals—we're also now working very actively with all the client departments that come to us for service to help them strategize on how they can achieve their indigenous 5% component as part of contracting. We have to take into consideration Canada's complications globally using the trade agreements as a guidepost to ensure that Canada meets those obligations. Within that framework, we're able to, for example, lend weight in the bid evaluation process to companies that can offer significant subcontracting or even set aside primary contracting opportunities to suppliers that are indigenous-owned or indigenous-led.
We have great interpreters, obviously. It's been a really difficult time through COVID. We've seen a lot of them have workplace health injuries and we value them so much. I'm going to ask a question around that.
What are the costs of outsourcing translation to freelancers, given that they may not reflect the added expenses related to payroll, invoicing, fallout with clients, etc., which add to the overall cost? What are the anticipated costs of outsourcing interpretation services to freelance interpreters?
Okay. Thank you for that.
Frequently, rigid government budget practices are the reason for contracting out. They'll do this even though the services are not up to necessary standards. An example can be found in a study done at the Royal Military College in the mid-2000s:
The anecdotal assessments gleaned with respect to this particular approach where that inferior results were noted. During this lengthy period, the cleaning standard fell far below what was required for RMCC, especially in the critical residential spaces.... It was observed that in an effort to increase the profit margin the contract cleaners were using inferior or improper cleaning products which resulted in additional maintenance, environmental problems, and health and safety issues resulting in unfit living conditions for Cadets.
At DND in particular, services are often contracted out because the salary and wage envelope provided to base commanders is insufficient to meet salary needs, while they are provided with extremely generous private services budget lines, basically incentivizing privatization.
What steps are being taken to ensure that the quality of the service to the public and to other government departments is the first order of business?
I'll speak first from a policy perspective, and then my colleague, Mollie, may wish to speak from a practice perspective.
From a policy perspective, it's important that procurements that are put in place are actively being managed from a performance perspective. We're very clear in our policy that it is our responsibility to be documenting, monitoring and investigating issues of contractor performance as they arise over the course of the contract, and to be leveraging the appropriate measures, either by law or under that particular contract, to address the documented issues.
Maybe there's a practice perspective, Mollie, that you may wish to add.
I just want to ask a quick question of the three departments here—just a really quick yes or no. Do you believe that taxpayers are getting fair value for the money, for the billions being spent on outside contracts, yes or no?
Why don't we start with PSPC? If I'm putting you on the spot, just say, “You're putting me on the spot. It's an unfair question.” That's fine. That's very fair. That's not my intent. If you feel strongly about it, feel free to answer.
The follow-up question I was going to ask the three of you, especially TBS, is this: How should we move forward to ensure that there's proper oversight and transparency on the spending to ensure that taxpayers are getting fair value, considering as well the exponential growth of the public service at the same time?
PSPC, can we start with you?
Thank you for the question, Mr. Chair.
Again, as we have indicated, this is an area that would be in each individual department's accountabilities and responsibilities under the appropriate legislation, as well as the various oversight bodies.
I know we've previously spoken to the role played by the Treasury Board, as well as the Auditor General and our own individual responsibilities as public servants for ensuring value for money for Canadians. Certainly, as PSPC, we take that responsibility very seriously as we ensure that we run fair, open, transparent and competitive processes as a common service provider and ensure that value for money.
We have spoken to the reasons for which we do—
Sorry, let me interrupt you there.
When we talk about fairness—I look at PSPC—a lot of the commentary today is, well, we have a fair, transparent bidding process. I'm arguing that lots of these contracts shouldn't even get to a bidding process. There's a real disconnect between me, I think, and what my colleagues opposite are saying. A lot of these contracts perhaps shouldn't even be getting to that bid. It almost seems that the feedback we're getting is, well, it's okay because we're fairly giving Deloitte a quarter of a million to tell us not to buy sensitive security equipment from despotic regimes.
How do we move forward so we're not putting forward such—I'm going to be blunt—wasteful outside contracts? I don't care if they're fairly awarded to Deloitte to tell me not to buy from the dictatorship of the Communist Party. How do we get to not sending out so many contracts? Does that need to start with the Treasury Board? Does it start with education to every single department?
Maybe I can start from a Shared Services point of view.
It is on a case-by-case basis for us. With respect to the decision leading to whether or not we outsource, we follow a pretty robust process internally. All options are always being looked at with a focus, obviously, on best practices, our own capacity, whether there is an existing solution in place and whether or not we can build and operate in-house. Our preferred delivery method has always been to take advantage of the internal resources first.
The right decision process, combined with the right balance between government employees and consultants, especially in the IT field, so far, I think, has actually led to the best value in delivering IT services to our clients.
Thank you for the question.
As was mentioned, the procurement policy highlights and encourages, in fact, broader considerations for socio-economic and environmental considerations within procurement. This means that departments are actively encouraged, under the Treasury Board's policies, to look at how they can incorporate manners and approaches that will allow the participation of, particularly, small and medium-sized Canadian enterprises in the procurement process. For example, there are requirements to unbundle so that smaller companies can participate in individual requirements, rather than bringing something together that allows only large multinational companies to participate.
This is something we've taken an active policy position to support, and I know that a number of initiatives and programs are in place, particularly within Public Services and Procurement Canada, regarding social procurement, which they may wish to speak to.
Actually, the vast majority of our contracts are with Canadian companies, including small and medium-sized enterprises, but taking advantage of the private sector is key for us. A number of our key services allow us.... Again, we have no choice but to leverage capacity and the nimbleness of the private sector and rapidly adopt an innovation solution, typically at lower cost for Canadians.
We have a combination of both, but the vast majority are Canadian-based. When we outsource a turnkey solution that includes the hosting of data, for example, it is a must. It has to stay on Canadian soil. This is specified in many of our contracts.
In other cases, we have no choice. We also have partners right around the world. We are actually managing 200 locations connected to our network that are outside of Canada—all of the missions and embassies around the world—so we do have contracts in place, obviously, with service providers outside of the country.
The first question is for Public Services and Procurement. It's just a general question, and it's in regard to the National Capital Commission and some of the work it's doing in the parliamentary precinct here, the redevelopment. I don't think I've ever really had a good answer to it.
This is a world where it seems like people will not be going to the office as much as they did in the past. There is this big redevelopment project that was announced in the last number of months to add, I think, close to 200 office spaces here just on Wellington and Sparks. Did anybody ever look at that and say, “We already have probably 500 too many office spaces downtown. Maybe we need to redevelop it, but we don't need to add another 150 office spaces”? Do your information and your data show that we're short on office spaces or that we have a surplus of office spaces downtown here?
I want to go back to the question on some of the professional services with Deloitte, KPMG, Ernst and Young, and PricewaterhouseCoopers. There's a pretty long list of professional services they provide. Many of them, I would suggest, are not mission-critical. They amount to tens of millions of dollars. Is there an initiative out there to review all these professional services contracts that are let to these companies and to really find out if they are mission-critical or just nice-to-have?
I see one on the list that's about doing a workshop. It seems like an endless list of expensive things. Maybe they're only $10,000 or $20,000, but they somehow manage to add up to tens of millions of dollars.
It's fine if nobody wants to answer. I don't blame you.
Well, here's another one. I'll just throw this one out there. Is it a conflict of interest to have accounting firms come in to advise CRA? I'm asking Procurement, Treasury Board or anyone else. Is it a conflict of interest to have them come in and consult with CRA on how to conduct its business and then, on the other side of the table, they're the ones that are constructing contrived ways for corporations and wealthy clients to not pay taxes? Is that a conflict of interest? Is that something you folks have raised in your time in the public service?
Thank you for the question.
I've highlighted throughout the testimony that our new directive puts a stronger focus on ensuring that procurements are managed in a way that delivers real results for Canadians. It's consistent with our socio-economic and environmental objectives. One of the things our new policy frame put in place in May of this year allows that broader balance of not just cost but also socio-economic outcomes.
In terms of improving our outsourcing practices, we have an opportunity moving forward, particularly supported by the activities of Public Services and Procurement Canada through their social procurement programs, to look at how we can incorporate some of these broader considerations when we are outsourcing. That's in terms of achieving benefits for Canadians and also achieving things like our 5% commitment with indigenous businesses either directly or through subcontracting.
There are a number of opportunities to improve how we outsource, particularly in terms of how those outsourced procurements can incorporate a broader value for Canadians through the various objectives we have at hand.
Thank you. Maybe I can start.
When it comes to IT, especially with the managed service, those services are more and more commoditized-type services. It just does not make sense for the government to build its own cellular network, for example, or satellite-type services. This is where we go to the private sector and we typically purchase those services as fully managed services.
In my opening remarks, I also mentioned our wide area network and all of the fibre and circuits—it doesn't matter if it's fibre or copper—connecting the 4,000 locations we have across the country. Again, we're taking advantage of commercial services. From a business point of view, it's just best practice. This is the right thing to do. It always results in a lower IT cost to the government.
I'll just say, for the benefit of the committee, that Mr. Johns has sent the text of the motion to me. I sent it for an emergency translation about a half an hour ago, but I have not yet received the translation. I cannot distribute anything on behalf of the committee that is unilingual. I cannot distribute the text.
If the committee wishes to reread the text into the record, the interpreters are following along and they do have the text as well, but I cannot distribute the text at this time. However, there is no prohibition for Mr. Johns moving the motion or the committee entertaining debate on it, even though the French text is not currently available.
Ms. Vignola has asked...and I see Mr. Housefather's hand is up too, so I will recognize him.
Before we do that, I'm going to thank the witnesses for participating today and for all of you having a chance to say something to the committee. All three of you were asked to provide further information, so when you collect that information, if you give it to the clerk, the clerk will distribute it to the committee.
At this point in time, I will dismiss the witnesses for today. Thank you for being here with us.
Mr. Johns has put forward a motion.
Mr. Housefather, go ahead.
I was wondering if you and Mr. Johns would be amenable, given that we don't have a copy of the motion, to put in some time in Thursday's meeting to discuss it. Perhaps we could add Ms. Vignola's as well. That would give us a proper amount of time, maybe at the end of the meeting, to have a more fulsome debate of both. I'd like to have a chance to see this in writing and discuss it with my colleagues.
The same is true of Ms. Vignola's motion. There would have to be amendments to that one as well. I'd prefer it if we could have more time to discuss it, rather than do it in six minutes at the end of a meeting.
I was wondering, Mr. Chair, if that might be possible.
Last Friday, you all received a copy of the notice of motion, which I will take the time to read out, in keeping with our practices:
That, pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), the committee undertake a study of the expenses of the Office of the Governor General’s Secretary for its representation activities abroad and in Canada for the years 2015 to the present; that, in light of the information disclosed during the meeting on Thursday, September 22, concerning the testimony of representatives of organizations related to the decision-making process and the use of budgets by and for the Office of the Governor General’s Secretary, the committee invite the following witnesses to testify:
Christine MacIntyre, Deputy Secretary, Policy, Program and Protocol Branch, Office of the Governor General’s Secretary;
Stewart Wheeler, Chief of Protocol of Canada, Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development;
Senior officials of the Department of Canadian Heritage;
Senior representatives of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police;
Any other witnesses whom the committee deems appropriate to invite;
that testimony take place over for at least three meetings and that the committee begins its study on Monday, October 24, 2022; that Department of National Defence, Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, Department of Canadian Heritage and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police table the financial reports of the expenses incurred during the trips of the Governor General from 2015 to present, as well as copies of invoices associated with the March 2022 trip to the Middle East of the Office of the Governor General’s Secretary, broken down by trip and by item of expenditure including, in particular, accommodation costs, catering costs, caterer costs, travel costs, security costs, and costs for alcohol and drinks, indicating the number people included for each delegation; that the said documents be submitted in English and French and forwarded no later than Friday, October 21, 2022, at noon to the Clerk of the Committee and that the Clerk forward them upon receipt to the members of the committee; that the committee report its observations and recommendations to the House.
I know that the motion is particularly lengthy, which is why we put it on notice.
The reason I am asking for this is simply that, after our committee meeting, we obtained the details through a newspaper. And yet, the witnesses we had were, apparently, unable to give us certain numbers because they didn’t have them on hand, even though a newspaper was able to obtain them on very short notice. I am not saying that the committee was duped, but there are questions to ask about how prepared, informed and competent people were able to appear before a committee without any numbers, when a newspaper was able to get them.
Furthermore, we must make sure that expenses are actually reviewed, that taxpayers are aware of what happened over the last five years. We also need to be able to establish a comparison. My request is not at all belligerent. I simply want to be able to make comparisons and get the final story. I won’t go so far as to say that it is insulting, but I think we must ask detailed questions and give people time to prepare. The motion was tabled in early June 2022. Some preparation was still required, some information had to be gathered. And yet, the committee was unable to get those numbers, when a newspaper received exact details.
My goal is simply to shed light on the situation and be able to make recommendations, with all due humility, to ensure that this type of situation never happens again. These are tax dollars from our taxpayers, some of whom are having trouble making ends meet.
And then there are the emails we received. Since we are on the list for the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, I imagine that some of you received quite a few.
Personally, to date, I have received 500 or 600 emails from people who are outraged by these expenditures. That said, I am a Francophone, which means that Francophones are more likely to write to me than to you. That being said, there are still nine the Anglophone provinces. And so, I imagine that you received many more than I did.
That’s the long and the short of it.
I had the opportunity to read the motion. In my mind, I compartmentalized it into certain aspects. I started with the value. I agree that we need to really look at and understand the money that the taxpayers entrust us to spend in the right way. Then there are protocols in place. Gaps have been identified. There are mitigation strategies. From a value proposition of a study of this nature, I definitely support it.
I also looked at the sense of urgency. I looked at the sense of urgency versus other topics that are in play. I had the opportunity to do a little bit of number crunching. By the end of this week, we will have completed our first session on procurement diversity. We will be left with three more sessions on outsourcing contracts, three more sessions on procurement diversity, and at least one session on shipbuilding. I believe the supplementary estimates (B) are going to come to our committee, so there are going to be at least two meetings on the supplementary estimates (B). Based on my numbers, a total of about nine meetings are in front of us.
Now we have another motion, which is relevant to outsourcing, so that's now 10. This will take us way beyond the 24th. With the prescribed start date of October 24, I'm just looking at a pragmatic sequencing of events that we have and then comparing the urgency of that. I don't want to undermine or in any way say that this is not important. I'm not talking about the importance. I'm talking about the urgency.
Also, I want to be able to discuss why there would be three meetings. Do you have in mind that each one of the departments would be discussed separately? I'm just trying to understand. Three meetings means about six hours. In this session, we will have only another six or seven meetings remaining, if there is anything else we want to do. This would be 50% of what's left. I'd really like to get an understanding of that. The start time, which I talked about, would be around October 24.
Also, there's the volume of data. You've gone back to 2015. Can you expand on that? Why 2015? I would understand if you said, “I would like to get an understanding of the breakdown of 2022 and the specific trip.” Then, if other information revealed itself, you would be in a position to come back and say, “Hey, you know what? This thing popped up, so now I would like to get a better understanding.” Going back to 2015, I feel.... I'm just talking about myself. That's the time when I started. Why not 2010 or 2019?
Again, going back to 2015 is going to generate a lot of information. A lot of information on that will be coming to us on October 21, and then we will need to process that to get to a meaningful contribution on October 24. It is an amount of information that I personally won't be able to process.
I would like to put on the table that I see the value. Again, it has to be put into perspective—the urgency, the scope, the number of meetings, the start time and the volume of data being asked for. It would be good to get some feedback on that so we could put it into perspective. I'm sure we'll have an opportunity to work together, if you're amenable, over the next while to address the urgency, the value, the scope, the number of meetings, the start time and the volume of data, and probably, in a very structured manner, to have one meeting to get an understanding of what happened in 2022, and then see whether we'll discover something else.
To me, this is going to open up a floodgate. It's a shotgun approach, and I understand that. If the objective of this, which I truly see the value of, is coming up with recommendations, I'm not sure how that shotgun approach is going to give us that.
I thank you for listening.
Thanks, Mr. Jowhari, and thanks, Ms. Vignola, for the motion.
In general, I'm in support of the motion, for the big reason that we were all here when they testified, and we got a copy of all the receipts. Both parties from the Governor General's office and the RCAF very clearly either mistakenly misinformed or misled this committee or purposefully misled this committee. There were very specific questions on the costing, which we were misinformed of, and very specific questions on the menu, which we were very clearly misinformed of.
I want this committee to hear from them on why the committee was mistakenly or purposely misled on two very simple, basic questions that all witnesses had all the information of. It wasn't like our previous witnesses earlier today, where, quite honestly, on some of the items, it was, “Well, I don't know, because it's pulled out from five years ago.”
All of our witnesses had the answer very clearly, and yet they gave the wrong information to the committee. I would like to support this and have them come back and explain to Canadians. I got 1,300 emails in one day on the issue after the Taxpayers Federation sent it out. I'd like to get to the bottom of the issue and get the straight facts.
So I'm going to support it.
Thank you so much, Mr. Chair.
My suggestion is indeed that we move this to Thursday.
Let me explain.
I was also very disappointed to read in the news, the day after our meeting, a list of invoices that seemed different from the information we received. That said, if it were a matter of getting a meeting with witnesses who were present, with proof of all of the expenses associated with the trip, it could be relatively easy to accept. However, I am seeing something here that is much larger. It will cut into the studies on diversity in procurement and on the issue of subcontracting, which we are currently studying. It follows up on the Defence study, currently ongoing because Mr. McAuley asked to add meetings too.
So, it seems a little unfair to me that important studies for the Liberal Party and the NDP, which we’ve been waiting on for seven or eight months, are being pushed back again because of another study. I don’t agree with that. I think three meetings is a lot. If we have to go back to 2015, it involves Governor General expenses associated with the Government of Canada, because that’s the year the Liberals were elected. You all know there’s no connection between one government and the next and how the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General operates.
I would therefore like to move amendments. I prefer the opportunity to give the amendments more thought, to bring them to the attention of committee colleagues from all parties and try to establish a consensus before Thursday.
I propose to look at this carefully on Thursday, but to look at the amendments first.
First, I really appreciate the motion, and I support most of it. The only thing is around dates. I agree that we should be going back from 2010 to the present so that we get a full, wholesome look at the expenses over the last 12 years. That said, if we go back to 2010, we should probably give them a bit longer to get the documents to us. It says October 21. Maybe we can extend that to October 31, and maybe we can find a compromise, such as that we start this study no later than November 15, so that we can get it done before Christmas and the holiday season.
However, I agree that we have a lot of studies on the go right now, so it's kind of hard to shelve three studies and add another one, and then we're working on four studies. I'm hoping Ms. Vignola would be open to those kinds of changes, but I do think we should also look at the previous government: What is the difference? Is there a significant decrease or increase in expenses?
Also, for this study, I want to make sure that we get accurate information. By giving the government a bit longer, a few weeks, we can make sure that we get the right information because, clearly, when we're reading in the paper the next day after they testify here that the information has changed, that's not okay. So, I want to make sure that we get accurate information.
Those are my thoughts and my feedback.
I am asking for three meetings, the main reason being I don’t want all of the witnesses to be heard at the same time, if we need to summon witnesses in addition to the three we heard from at the beginning. By having three meetings, which could last about an hour, it would ensure we don’t have a huge panel of witnesses. We could concentrate on those who are present. It’s a matter of time management for questions. It is sometimes disagreeable when three, four or five witnesses appear at the same time, and we have very little time to ask questions. By spreading it out over three meetings, that helps every single one of us, not just me.
As for the calendar, why do we need to go back to 2015? You called my attention to the fact that 2015 is the year the Liberal government was elected. My main reason truly is to get a comparison. The recently appointed Governor General has not made a lot of trips. By going back to 2015, we cover the two years with no travel. That would lead to a better comparison. We could cover from 2010 to 2022, if we want to compare; I see no problem there. We could even go back to 1867 and compare costs with an adjustment for their current value. The goal isn’t to put the government in hot water. I hope you’re starting to get to know me. I am counting on efficiency. I want to make sure taxpayer money is well spent and we understand those expenses, which is why I suggested we go back to 2015. It has nothing to do with Mr. Trudeau’s government being elected. I’m not seeking to establish comparisons with the years of Mr. Harper’s government. It’s simply because we had a pandemic. If that had not happened, I would only have gone back five years instead of seven.
It is indeed a great deal of information, but it should have been collected already. Evidently, it’s already been done because reporters got it before we did. I’m asking to have the same information as them. I am aware that this means a lot of information, but when it comes to invoices, they only apply to travel in March, and not the last seven years. You know I like to sleep, eat and see my family outside of work, like the rest of you.
As for the dates to receive documents and start meetings, naturally, sooner would be better. I want to understand the situation quickly. I don’t like being in the dark.
That said, I agree with Mr. Johns’s suggestion: October 31 for receiving documents and November 15 for the first meeting. Those dates are acceptable. I am comfortable with that. However, I don’t like being in the dark and I prefer to get out of it quickly. Just like on the highway, we don’t like being in the dark.