That's okay. I understand your sensitivity, but I did try to be careful to say it was your position, not you personally.
All I want to do is read into the record, Chair, from the Hansard of May 21, 2013, and I have not had a chance to do this yet. I was in the chair, and it was the 41st Parliament. We had Mr. Ferguson here. I want to read this. The reason I was doing the ramp-up, which my honourable colleague didn't much care for, was that this is key.
This is Mr. John Williamson taking the floor:
I don't have too many questions, just a couple. The budget reductions are optional for your office; you could opt in. That's my understanding, that for your office and for the offices of all the officers of Parliament, it was a request from the government that you undertook. It that correct?
Ms. Lyn Sachs:
Yes. We received a letter from Minister Flaherty, I guess, at the time encouraging us to do as the other departments have, but it was definitely our decision to proceed.
Mr. John Williamson:
My follow-up question is this. Do you feel the budget is adequate for you to discharge your duties as required?
Mr. Michael Ferguson:
Again, Mr. Chair, a certain amount of the work we do is required—financial audits, special exams. There are specific legislated requirements for us to do those. Certainly our budget is sufficient to do those things.
Then we have a certain amount of our budget for performance audits. The performance audits are really where we have discretion in terms of how many we do.
There was a decision taken a few years ago, because part of the consideration of the office in performance audits is also the ability of this committee—and maybe other committees, but this committee in particular—to deal with the volume of work we produce. I think a few years ago there was a determination of the right number of audits we should be doing, and we have more or less adjusted to that.
Right now we feel we will be able to continue to do the number of performance audits we have planned.
And that is why, Chair, it is accurate for the opposition to rise on the floor of the House of Commons and say that for the first time in the history of Canada, the Auditor General's office has advised Parliament that they do not have sufficient funds to carry out their work plan.
And that's why I wanted to read this in here. That's Mr. Ferguson acknowledging that he could have said “no”, and also acknowledging that in saying “yes”, there would be no reduction in the performance audits, and as somebody who was there, I can tell you that we did not miss a beat.
That's why I find it so appalling that the only answer we get from the minister responsible for not giving the Auditor General's office money they need—$10.8 million—is that it's because of a decision that happened in 2011. That's their only answer, and it's not even true.
At the very least, I would hope the government members and the staff would take back to the minister that she has an obligation, first of all, to tell the truth, and secondly, to give us a real reason why that money is not there, or pony it up. But do not keep pointing to some false dialogue about what happened with the Conservatives the last time. Everybody here knows that if there were even a little bit of guilt on the part of the Conservatives, I'd be making sure that during my comments, they'd be wearing it.
On this one, they're innocent of the charge that in 2011, they did exactly what the Liberals are doing now. No, they didn't. And the Auditor General's statement that he could do the work is consistent with what we've heard over the years I've been here until this time. That's why it's so disheartening that it would happen under a government that ran on a platform of respecting Parliament and parliamentary committees.
Chair, that was what I wanted to put on the record. I appreciate the opportunity, assuming that we will have the hearing on Thursday, and, if not, it won't be that hard for me to get the floor back one way or another.
I'm prepared to withdraw my motion and allow the letter, as we agreed unanimously today, to go forward. I'm going to remain optimistic that the Thursday meeting will happen the way we hope and it won't be a problem, otherwise we're into a whole other thing that we don't want to be in and we don't need to and I don't think we will be. Other than that, I think for the purposes of this committee and this subject, I'm done.