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Results: 121 - 135 of 159
View Pat Kelly Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Knubley, in response to Mr. de Burgh Graham's question, you spoke about having achieved acceptable value for money in several different ways. The findings of the Auditor General quite clearly say that they found that Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada did not implement its connect to innovate program for broadband in a way that ensured the maximum broadband expansion for the public money spent. The program did not include a way of mitigating the risk of government funds displacing private sector investments.
Again, I ask you to square your acceptance of the Auditor General's findings and your earlier remarks.
John Knubley
View John Knubley Profile
John Knubley
2019-02-21 10:22
There are always issues of value for money, and we agree with the Auditor General that in doing our work, we should pay attention as a priority to value for money. We are pointing out that in this case, this particular program was being delivered to the remotest areas where there was not a lot of private sector investment interest, and therefore it is important to understand that value for money is not just about competitive private sector investment.
It's also about leveraging funds with the provinces. It's about leveraging funds with the communities, and ensuring that you get the right technology to help the community in a way that will be long-lasting.
View Pat Kelly Profile
CPC (AB)
That is understood. There is no private sector investment to displace, because you were in an area remote enough that a private sector operator could never profitably invest in a place. I wouldn't consider that displacing private investment, just because you've spent money there and not had it matched.
John Knubley
View John Knubley Profile
John Knubley
2019-02-21 10:24
I'll give you a few cases where the projects took place. One would be in northern Quebec, where we were very partnered with Quebec. In fact, the partnership there is probably a model for how we move forward with an integrated collaborative strategy. We had common applications and common investments. We provided, depending on the area, between 90% and 100% of the funding because there was no investment.
In northern Ontario, five communities are currently served by satellite. Again, no, there's private sector involvement in terms of the satellite, but in terms of moving to a more fibre-to-home operation—
View Pat Kelly Profile
CPC (AB)
Fair enough. I understand that, but the Auditor General states in the report that they are concerned that the program was to avoid displacing private sector investment, and they're concerned that is a failure of the department, that the department—
John Knubley
View John Knubley Profile
John Knubley
2019-02-21 10:25
I would maybe rephrase it, not as a failure but as an agreement with the Auditor General, and note that every time we do a project on broadband in rural and remote areas, the challenges, the balance, the public investment and the private sector investment...we try to do the project in a way that does not crowd out private sector investment that otherwise would have taken place.
John Knubley
View John Knubley Profile
John Knubley
2019-02-21 10:25
The other thing I would just emphasize—maybe you should turn to the Auditor General office after I say this—is that they were looking at the design phase of our project. Again, I think we've moved past the design phase, and we're talking now about—
Lisa Setlakwe
View Lisa Setlakwe Profile
Lisa Setlakwe
2019-02-21 10:26
If I could just add, I think that what the Auditor General said in particular was that we didn't specifically ask companies or applicants why public funding was required. In our estimation, we assessed that. We didn't specifically ask them to pronounce on that, but we assessed those things when we were looking at the applications. That was one.
Philippe Le Goff
View Philippe Le Goff Profile
Philippe Le Goff
2019-02-21 10:26
Sure. I would add to what has just been said that there was no mechanism in the design of the program to verify whether the project would have been funded by the private sector at a lower cost.
View Kevin Sorenson Profile
CPC (AB)
I don't have any other questions, but I typically explain to our guests that, when we meet like this, we provide a report following it and I do as a result have a couple of questions that have been given to me by the analysts.
Before we get to those questions, I would that although this is a highly technical type of meeting that is televised, many Canadians may be watching it because they watch these types of programs—though their eyes may just glaze over. As Mr. Christopherson suggested, a majority of Canadians live in urban areas and say, “Connectivity problems, what problems? I can game, I can watch a movie, and I can do so many different things.”
However, the Auditor General's report explains the reason for this study, namely, that in 2016 about 96% of urban Canadians had access to broadband Internet speeds of 50 megabytes per second for downloading data and 10 megabytes per second for uploading data, but only 39% of Canadians living in rural and remote areas had access to those speeds.
I represent a riding that is not so much remote as very rural. Within my central Alberta riding, there are what we call the “special areas”, where I know that, when I get into those areas for meetings, I will just have to watch the phone trying to connect. This gap between urban and rural areas is part of why the Auditor General's office did this study, and out of the study, although there has been some improvement over the years, there are some troubling facts.
I should also say—and some of our analysts have worked on indigenous files before—that in paragraph 1.8 of its report, the Auditor General's office noted that “The Commission called broadband a 'transformative enabling technology' and concluded that any Canadian without broadband access is profoundly disadvantaged.” You know this, but I want the viewers watching to understand why this is so significant.
Governments have stated that we want to see improved health care for our indigenous people and those in remote and rural areas. We want to see specialized health, where they have access to specialized health. Part of the universal health care act says that universality, accessibility and reasonable access to common delivery are very important. Those are three of the five principles of the Canada Health Act. Well, specializing in health care in remote areas means that we need broadband, and that it has to be a priority.
I think all of us realize that it's going to be costly. It was costly originally to get a railway out to the far remote parts, but we said we had to do it. Consequently, this is what governments have said.
Health care, education.... If we're going to see indigenous and remote areas of the north, especially the eastern Arctic, improve their lot in life and have more opportunities, it's going to be through education. How do they do it? We do it through broadband, so that's why it's important.
If anyone is going to have a business in those special areas, in rural areas—so many home businesses are now starting up—they completely rely on being able to have the opportunities with this business because of broadband and access. This is part of the reason.
We have 15 minutes left, so pardon the rant.
Then we get into page 13 of the report, and we see, “Lack of transparency in the selection process”. This, to me, is one of the big problems, and we've talked about it today, the lack of transparency in selecting the processes for delivery.
View Kevin Sorenson Profile
CPC (AB)
Here's the problem for most Canadians, if they're watching.
Connect to innovate had $500 million available for allocation to successful applicants. The program received 892 applications, with funding requests for $4.4 billion. In some cases, there were multiple projects covering overlapping areas.
Here's the problem: “We found that the Department used a three-step process to evaluate applications. First, it screened the applications and assessed their merit.” That was the initial screening. “Second, officials from the Department and the Minister's office assessed funding options, each including a different mix for eligible projects.” Finally, in the third step, “the Minister provided conditional support approval on selected projects.” All of these areas—not so much area number one, but the other two areas—can be politicized and could be problematic. I'm not stating that it was a roadblock in any way, but certainly it can be viewed as one.
In paragraph 1.57, the Auditor General's office “found that there were a number of considerations to select projects”. The applications came in and “there were a number of considerations to select projects, but the application guide did not specify the relative weight of each criterion used in the project selection process.” The people applying didn't really understand the weight to each part of it. “Projects were less likely to be funded if they did not align with provincial and territorial priorities. However, these priorities were not made public. In our view, the Department should have made the weights and priorities public.”
Does the department agree with that?
John Knubley
View John Knubley Profile
John Knubley
2019-02-21 10:33
The answer is that we did not assign weights, because there are different solutions in different areas. We assess the community needs and the technological requirements, and they vary from place to place. We believe that it is not appropriate to set one specific set of weights.
Results: 121 - 135 of 159 | Page: 9 of 11

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