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View David Christopherson Profile
Quite frankly, if it doesn't happen, it's sending a pretty bad message, because it would look like they're afraid, and I don't think that's the case.
View David Christopherson Profile
Hopefully, everything will go as....
I just wanted to mention to Mr. Arseneault that “deal” is not a bad word. I mean, “backroom deal” sounds bad, but when my friend Alexandra came in and said—we were still in camera, so I hope I'm okay saying this—that we had “white smoke”, it meant that we had come to a meeting of the minds. It meant that we had a deal, just like they do it at the Sistine Chapel when they have a deal. So the word itself is not necessarily negative; it depends on what kind of deal you're cutting.
The letter is done now. That piece is good. I appreciate that. I thank my colleagues for the good-faith bargaining. Hopefully, we'll go on the optimistic note that Thursday will happen. There are two last things for me. One is to say my final bit. There are a couple of things I want to put on the record. You've acknowledged that I'll have the time to do that. I will not take long. You have my word.
The very last thing would be to formally withdraw my motion, in which case, then, we're moving on. Hopefully, this gets picked up and the fight continues in the House, where it needs to be.
The main reason, Chair, that I wanted to have a couple of minutes for closing remarks is that it's incredibly frustrating to consistently see the President of the Treasury Board, every time...and I don't think there's been an exception. Every time she's been asked a question about this $10.8 million, we get a side discussion about what happened in 2011. That was eight years ago. The essence of the message from the President of the Treasury Board to the Conservatives—and to the NDP, suggesting that we sort of went along with this and didn't care—about why the government is denying the AG's office the $10.8 million it needs to do all of its chapters, including cybersecurity, is that what they did was so awful, they need to put it in comparison. To me, that's an argument that says, at best, that, yes, what we're doing is awful, but it's not as awful as what they did.
It's very frustrating, because that's all the minister has to say. The minister has not given one substantive reason why there isn't the $10.8 million that the Auditor General office needs to finish off the chapters they want to do, including on cybersecurity. They've given not one solid answer. We as Parliament deserve better than that, especially since the Auditor General is our employee. It's our staff person. It's Parliament's staff person, not the executive council's. They're not part of the broader public service. They work for, are accountable to, and are hired and fired by Parliament. If the executive council, the cabinet, is going to deny that funding, then at the very, very least they should give a reason why. Just saying that the other guys did it too doesn't cut it, especially for a government that went out of their way to say four years ago, when they wanted power and got it, that, oh, we're going to be different; we're going to treat committees different; we're going to respect Parliament; we're going to be the most amazing thing you've ever seen; and we've had our last first-past-the-post election. There were all these great enunciations.
I'm not running again, so I don't need to do much more of that. I have competent colleagues and a successor—I see Kent is applauding that I'm not going there—but it doesn't change the fact that it is really frustrating for a parliamentarian who has no interest in partisan politics right now. I have zero interest in that. It does nothing for me. I don't need a headline. As I already mentioned, I wanted this to be nice and quiet. This is the opposite of what I was looking for, but it does need to be underscored. As someone who has been around here for a while and who has some strong feelings about these matters, I do know a little bit about it. It is just unacceptable what is happening here—that the executive council, the very group that has to answer for the Auditor General's reports, is saying that his office can't have the money.
I had a delegation come in. I won't say what country it was from. It was maybe before your time, Chair. It might even have been when I was chair but about six or eight years ago. What was interesting is that they had the legislation independent of the Auditor General. They had the independent legislation, just what you would hope for, as good as Britain's and as good as ours. It was good.
The committee was structured—
View David Christopherson Profile
I'm getting my dander up here.
Don't you people understand deals? Don't you know how to negotiate? There was an agreement that I would be given a short period of time. I'm nowhere near using up what would be classified as short. Does it bother you that much that I'm saying something I might have said the other day, when I only have one real message? This government said it was going to do things differently, and it has been the most draconian against the Auditor General that I've ever seen.
View David Christopherson Profile
—and not necessarily the position of my honourable colleague, I will get to the one point that I have not made and that I want to make.
It says—
View David Christopherson Profile
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.
View Cheryl Hardcastle Profile
I'll be really quick. I know that we're pressed for time.
I'm just going to quote Teresita and say thank you for fuelling this fire in our bellies.
View Brian Masse Profile
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you for being here.
Under testimony at another committee, the new Minister of Rural Economic Development has said that none of this motion will be made through either legislation or regulation. That was clarified. I was quite surprised by that, but they are important discussions that we're having. Some of these matters still have time to be done, but unfortunately, the government doesn't seem prepared to support that.
Having said that, I want to clarify something. The CRTC, with regard to your submissions today, talked about download speeds of at least 50 megabits per second, Mbps, and upload speeds of 10 Mbps. The original investment is 25 and five. Can you clarify that? You presented here today the overall of 50 and 10, but my understanding is that you've allowed 25 and five. Is this not correct?
View Brian Masse Profile
That's going to create quite a problem, though, because obviously that service requirement of 25/5 is a lot less and has technical problems. Is that to rural and remote communities? Are they communities that are identified, for example, as more indigenous areas? Are they more remote? What are the sacrificed areas? Quite frankly, if you're not willing to live up to your own objectives, why would the private sector actually have any incentive to do that?
View Brian Masse Profile
If you do, at 25/5 it'll have unlimited buffering. That's what's going to be happening with the users. Quite frankly, if $750 million was announced with regard to the 2016 decision to reorient the money that's being collected, I find it hard to believe that we'd build a second-class-citizen system in place right now. What's the duration of time that an applicant will get if they can actually have their speeds right now? What's going to be the timeline to meet what the rest of Canadians are going to be delivered in terms of the 50/10?
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