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Results: 1 - 30 of 333
View Julie Vignola Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you for being with us this evening, Mr. Duclos.
The Treasury Board Secretariat contributes $282,000 to the Open Government Partnership, and sits on its board of directors.
How is it possible for the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer, an independent organization, to have said in its report today on the 2020-2021 supplementary estimates (B) that “the amount of information that is publicly available to track this spending is lacking, thus making it more challenging for parliamentarians to perform their critical role in overseeing Government spending and holding it to account”?
For members of Parliament, everything is perfectly transparent. Why is this not the case for the government? This is one of the three aspects mentioned. How can the government fail to be transparent when it contributes to the Open Government Partnership, and sits on its board of directors?
View Jean-Yves Duclos Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you for having asked that question Mrs. Vignola. It allows me to link these two aspects.
For many years now, Canada has been an important, and even a key, player in the Open Government Partnership, and we take great pride in this. Not only do we learn from best practices abroad, but we also give insights to other governments through our openness and transparency.
As for accountability, openness and transparency during this COVID-19 pandemic, you are absolutely right about the fact that things have been moving very quickly. And programs have been adjusting as quickly as the situation evolves. Just today, as you mentioned, measures have been identified. We will be called upon to vote tomorrow on a bill that would yet again change some key aspects of the government's economic response.
Information is nonetheless transmitted effectively and transparently. On the Open Government Portal, there are 316 postings exclusively about COVID-19 that can be consulted at any time. If you go to the GC InfoBase—
View Julie Vignola Profile
BQ (QC)
Excuse me for interrupting, Mr. Duclos. We have indeed received all kinds of information on COVID-19. But I'm talking about budgetary transparency. As members, if we spend $50 on gifts at a Dollarama store, it shows up in our budgets. Now when ordinary mortals—and I include myself in that group—look at budgets, they wonder what that's all about.
I'm not talking about the COVID-19 budget here. We know now what PPE means because we hear about it all the time from the media. What I am talking about is the everyday grind of Parliament. We wonder what such and such a line item means. It's all so fuzzy. And yet the data are there. The problem is simply that the disaggregation process creates a lack of transparency somewhere.
How can there be so little routine transparency, except for the COVID-19 situation, when you are in the Open Government Partnership?
You have to walk the talk. In other words, you have to be consistent.
View Jean-Yves Duclos Profile
Lib. (QC)
I'm going to add two things to what I said earlier.
First of all, in addition to the Open Government Partnership portal, there is the GC InfoBase, which contains all the detailed financial information about COVID-19.
Secondly, we acknowledge just how difficult it is for committee members and members of Parliament to monitor it all. It is incredibly complicated. A lot is happening. Accounting methods are not the same at the Department of Finance as they are at the Treasury Board. Today, we are discussing the main estimates. These are estimates, not the actual amounts that will have been spent by the end of the fiscal year. The estimates and the actual expenditures have to be reconciled. There is the cash method of accounting and accrual accounting. It's very complicated for everyone, but we are doing our utmost with respect to transparency.
View Matthew Green Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I'd like to welcome back the honourable member Yves Duclos. I always enjoy your presence and certainly your leadership. Welcome to all of your staff here, as well.
I want to follow up on the Parliamentary Budget Officer's bombshell of a report on the financial and fiscal analysis of federal pay equity. You may recall—and I've shared this story before—that my mother used to work for Industry Canada. I can remember being a teenager and her explaining to me why she received an equalization payment as a federal member of government because, as a woman, she wasn't getting paid the equivalent to her male counterparts. Fast forward 20 years. Here we are today.
We know from the report that the “PBO requested information from the Treasury Board regarding the valuation of administering this legislation and implementing a proactive pay equity regime within the federal public service”, yet the Treasury Board “refused to disclose information or data regarding employee compensation.” This is on page 8 under section 2. Furthermore, “This included the number of employees who were impacted in each occupational group, and related increases in employee wages and benefits attributed to the Pay Equity Act. The information was deemed to be a confidence of the Queen's Privy Council”. It left the PBO to rely on “publicly available sources in its analysis of employee compensation for the federal public service.”
With a Treasury Board and a government that claims to be open by default, how do you justify not giving the PBO the critical information it needs to be able to provide Parliament with a critical analysis on federal pay equity?
View Jean-Yves Duclos Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Green. I can certainly also say that it's a great pleasure to be with you—although not in person, but virtually. Thank you for your insistence, as always, on a society that is both strong and fair.
Certainly one source of fairness, as you said, is to ensure that people providing equal work are paid equally as well. It's something that we did achieve at the end of the first mandate. We were very proud to pass the first ever proactive pay equity law with the support of the NDP. We're grateful for your support, and certainly grateful for your continuing interest in this. This is an extremely important piece of the commitment that we want to continue.
Given that this is a bit complex, I did in fact talk about this to Sandra Hassan who is going to give you some of the details that you are interested in.
Sandra, you're still there, I believe?
Sandra Hassan
View Sandra Hassan Profile
Sandra Hassan
2020-11-04 19:38
Absolutely, Minister.
Thank you for your question.
As indicated, the Pay Equity Act has been passed, but has not yet come into force. The government is presently working on the regulatory package that is necessary to bring that act into force. One thing—
View Matthew Green Profile
NDP (ON)
Thank you for that, but that does not answer the question on why you refused to provide this critical information to the PBO. It begs the question about this government's willingness to be open and transparent.
We're not even talking about the public. We haven't even gotten into the years that people have had to wait with ATIP.
I say this respectfully, Ms. Hassan, and to the honourable President of the Treasury Board and ask: what is your justification, sir, for not fully cooperating with the Parliamentary Budget Officer on this request?
View Jean-Yves Duclos Profile
Lib. (QC)
Because we have full confidence in our ability to collaborate with representatives of the public servants and in our most respectful relationship with the representatives of public servants, the bargaining agent. We also have a very respectful relationship with the PBO because we also believe very strongly in the importance of sharing the information that is useful—
View Matthew Green Profile
NDP (ON)
That's not what's in the report, sir. The report says that TBS refused to disclose information or data regarding employee compensation. This is a budgetary officer of the House of Commons responsible for reporting back to us in a fair way. This is not cooperation. This language, where you refused to disclose information or data, is damning, sir. I'd like for you to answer why you wouldn't cooperate with them.
View Jean-Yves Duclos Profile
Lib. (QC)
I have three things on that First, we do have a high degree of esteem for the work of the PBO. Second, we always need to provide the information that is appropriate for the PBO to do its work. Third, the secretariat and all government organizations have the responsibility to provide accurate information that is of the level the PBO is expecting. Therefore, not all information can be provided in any particular format. We need to provide that in the format that is respectful of both our relationship with bargaining agents and our relationship with the PBO.
View Francis Drouin Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. By the way, please make sure when a question is asked that we can hear the answer. I'm having a hard time understanding, particularly in a virtual meeting.
I would like to thank the minister and the senior officials for joining us.
Some members often think that we are responsible for the everyday tasks and that we should do more micromanaging. That is not usually our role. Ours is more like a board of directors. We take care of governance and it is up to the public servants to do the professional work, as they have.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we received feedback from all members of Parliament. This feedback was essential. As a member from the national capital region, I would like to thank all public servants, who did incredible work. If you had asked me a year ago whether it would be possible to create a program in under a month, I would have said no. But we did.
Mr. Minister, I would like to thank you, your team and the entire government.
I would now like to return to the various questions Mr. Green asked. I would like Ms. Hassan to finish commenting in response to Mr. Green's questions, including the one about the Parliamentary Budget Officer.
Sandra Hassan
View Sandra Hassan Profile
Sandra Hassan
2020-11-04 19:51
Thank you for your question.
I'll add to my colleague's answer.
The process is in its early stages. A legislative framework and a regulatory framework will come into force in the next few months. That will be followed by negotiations with bargaining agents at every stage. Many elements therefore remain to be put in place and negotiated, and the regulatory framework isn't finalized yet. Consequently, the estimates that were made were very preliminary. We won't be able to provide those public figures until we've finished implementing the legislative and regulatory frameworks as well as the negotiations that will lead to the initial agreements with the unions for potential pay equity adjustments. So we'll be pleased to do that. At this point, however, we're too early on in the process to have those kinds of figures.
View Dane Lloyd Profile
CPC (AB)
You're not committing to provide that, so I'll move to my next question, Minister.
I did appreciate that the Canadian Press reported last May that you sent a letter to your cabinet colleagues asking them during this time of pandemic to put a high level of importance on access to information, accountability and transparency.
I was so shocked just this last October to see your colleague, the Minister of Health, say a few weeks ago that it wasn't really that important to her and that she didn't consider it a priority. Were you offended that the health minister basically ignored your letter from last May?
View Jean-Yves Duclos Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you for raising that point.
I think everyone, including all of my colleagues, understands the right that we all have to access information even though we are in a pandemic. At the same time, we all understand that the COVID-19 pandemic is creating enormous pressure on the public service. The public service is stretched and overstretched. Because of that, we also need to be understanding of the challenges they face in trying to meet their responsibility of providing—
View Dane Lloyd Profile
CPC (AB)
I understand that, Minister, but your colleague, the health minister, said it wasn't a priority at all. It's not a matter of allocating resources. She said it wasn't a priority. Were you offended that she just disregarded your request that they put resources into transparency?
View Jean-Yves Duclos Profile
Lib. (QC)
What I can tell you is that all departments and all institutions—a total of 131—now have at least partial and, in many cases, full abilities to provide access to information. All departments and all institutions at the federal level, including PHAC and Health Canada, do have the ability now to provide information.
Marlene Poitras
View Marlene Poitras Profile
Marlene Poitras
2020-11-03 11:14
Tansi. Kinanâskomitinâwâw.
Thank you all for the invitation to speak with you today.
With the rise in cases of COVID-19 across the country, we have seen a rise in cases among our first nations and with that the concern and fear for our people has also risen. In times like these, it is incumbent upon us to not only focus on the crisis at hand but to look at the steps that brought us to where we are today and to identify the steps we need to take in the future to protect against these situations.
As you are all aware, first nations experience greater health, social and economic inequities than the rest of Canadians, which makes us particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. Our nations face chronic housing shortages, lack of access to drinking water and poor access to quality health services, as well as many other challenges. The health and well-being of first nations in Canada has been and continues to be affected by colonial governing structures, inconsistent policy schemes and underfunded program allocations. Collectively, these systemic issues impact the daily lives of first nations people both on and off reserve.
Ongoing experiences of racism in the health care system exacerbate these issues. First nations have an inherent and treaty right to health. Our treaties have established our treaty right to health through the obligation of the Crown to provide medicines and protection through the “medicine chest” clause found in Treaty No. 6. Treaty No. 6 also contains the pestilence clause under which the modern context is understood to be for the Crown to provide assistance in times of natural disasters, diseases and pandemics. These treaties speak to the beginning of first nations' relationships with the Crown, and it is these relationships that continue to be at the heart of what needs to be worked on.
This pandemic has highlighted the inequities in this country and exacerbated existing challenges. It has also shown us where the relationships between first nations and federal, provincial and territorial governments require more effort. This is the time when we need to draw on each other's strengths and support one another through transparent and respectful communication and joint decision-making. Leaders across the country were forced to respond to the COVID-19 crisis quickly, with limited information, and make decisions for the well-being of their people rapidly, but too often first nations were the last to receive information and were left out of the decision-making process at the federal, provincial and territorial tables. There is room to be better, and as first nations we look to the Crown to support our relationships with the provinces and territories.
It is particularly important, as we plan for vaccine distribution, to ensure that first nations' needs are considered as per the National Advisory Committee on Immunizations' recommendations. Throughout the pandemic, first nations have done much with very little. We have been innovative and creative and stretched our human and economic resources to respond to this threat. However, with the second wave of the pandemic and with the threat of the third in the future, first nations' capacities to respond are dwindling. Had more been done earlier to support our technological infrastructure and human capacity, first nations would not be as vulnerable to the impacts of COVID-19 as they are now.
First nations continue to rely heavily on the funding provided through Indigenous Services Canada to support the pandemic response. We were pleased to hear of the additional investments announced on Friday, but more will be needed before this pandemic is over. The investments made by the federal government to support all Canadians during the pandemic have been important and necessary. However, I want to emphasize that this unprecedented level of funding has shown us that first nations have not been a funding priority in the past, even though our people have been living through chronic health, mental health and addiction epidemics for years. Had more meaningful investments been made earlier to address systemic issues and build capacity, our first nations would not be as vulnerable as they are now. These investments are needed so that first nations are better prepared for future pandemics and emergencies. First nations need to be a priority.
We have an opportunity to learn from our experiences with the pandemic to date, to be stronger in our response together as we move forward. First nations need to be afforded equitable opportunities to make it through the next waves of the pandemic with minimal illness and loss of life.
As Dr. Tam stated in her recently released report, no one is protected until everyone is protected. Into the future, first nations need to be provided opportunities to be part of the economic recovery and response. Let us not return to normal. Let us work together to provide a better way forward for first nations and all Canadians.
Hay-hay. Knanâskomitinâwâw.
View Geoff Regan Profile
Lib. (NS)
Let me ask you about your suggestions on how to accelerate the process for reunification.
You've talked, of course, about the IT system; maybe that'll be the focus of your comments and perhaps you have other suggestions, but maybe there are other things you would like to focus on.
David Edward-Ooi Poon
View David Edward-Ooi Poon Profile
David Edward-Ooi Poon
2020-10-27 17:06
Thank you for the opportunity.
The IT system is a huge ask, but we do believe it is necessary to bring Canada into a new generation of a post-COVID world, in which immigration helps Canadians and is accessible to Canadians.
We also suggest the following. We need an ombudsman to operate for the people when it comes to IRCC and CBSA issues. There is currently no independent oversight of those two bodies.
At the moment, Faces of Advocacy has taken that role, so I'm very grateful that we've had high-level conversations with people working at the ministry of IRCC, and well as Health and CBSA and Public Safety.
However, it should not require the strength of a 9,000-person grassroots movement led by a guy with a gaming headset in order to get justice for these people. It should be done in a manner that is easily accessible to the public, and this ombudsman is how we could deliver that transparency. That is something that I have a lot of ideas on, and on which I can get more information.
When it comes to making the system better overall, CBSA has a mandate to be transparent, and right now the only system we have for any communication by the general public is to email an inbox that already has, according to IRCC, 17,000 requests in it.
If we have an urgent thing, if Donna McCall's children needed to see her before she died, this is an ineffective system that needs to be overhauled.
Everything comes down to infrastructure and resources, and that is what the Faces of Advocacy will be [Technical difficulty-Editor].
View Jenny Kwan Profile
NDP (BC)
Okay. Thank you.
This brings us to this question of transparency and accountability as well, Dr. Poon, and that's what you raised. For a long time the NDP has called for an ombudsperson in the immigration system. This is a problem that didn't occur just because of COVID. This has been an ongoing problem with successive governments.
Am I hearing you correctly that what we need now is an ombudsperson who can oversee complaints, who can investigate, for example, systemic issues that exist in the immigration system, so that we can make corrections in these areas and move forward to support people such as you and others who are struggling in the immigration system?
David Edward-Ooi Poon
View David Edward-Ooi Poon Profile
David Edward-Ooi Poon
2020-10-27 17:20
I thank the ministry for allowing me access to high-level workers. Because of that, we were able to quickly identify that the form was broken. We were able to quickly identify that the Americans had no place to message, and we are able to quickly identify the missing 50 or 200, depending on how many we actually confirm.
Because of this, we need an ombudsperson, not only for IRCC, but for the CBSA as well. Just today, we had a reply back from the IRCC. Whether it's a system error or human error, they say, “Your form was not filled.” I looked at the form myself. It was the October 8 form completely filled. The challenge is that the October 8 form was flawed.
Now, if this person had no ombudsperson, if the Faces of Advocacy did not exist, there would be no way to bring it up to the high-level people, so I'm thankful to the ministry for allowing me that connection. But we need someone official. We need an ombudsperson, and the Faces of Advocacy will fill that role until that position is there. Or we can take it—
View Jenny Kwan Profile
NDP (BC)
I'm glad that Faces of Advocacy is doing such tremendous work, but there are of course many other people who are not getting that support. The system shouldn't be that way.
Dr. David Edward-Ooi Poon: Correct.
Ms. Jenny Kwan: For example, I know individuals where the ministry itself admits it made an error and still the person has to go through the entire process from the beginning, which is really putting their lives into upheaval. That's the reality of where people are at today. We have situations where the ministry staff, the agents, for whatever reason, would give differing information to people, and this goes on and on.
View Gord Johns Profile
NDP (BC)
What would you like to see this committee recommend that this government do to make changes within the Department of Fisheries and Oceans that go beyond symbolic measures of reconciliation?
Paul J. Prosper
View Paul J. Prosper Profile
Paul J. Prosper
2020-10-26 17:28
What I'm thinking is that the concept of reconciliation has to have some real substance. One cannot look at these rights reconciliation agreements that were reasonably put forward in 2007, which are essentially, “Here's some money; you're going to be under our rules, and by the way, your treaty rights are going to be on hold for 10 years.”
True reconciliation is recognizing Mi'kmaq law. We have a constitutional base, and that has to be reconciled with federal law within the Fisheries Act. It has to do with more than just saying there's access. It has to provide an element of self-governance. What our people, our fishers, our community members are looking for is something that reflects the true nature of the treaty relationship that exists—something different.
View Gord Johns Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you.
Chief Gray, we know that at this committee we're going to hear repeatedly that Mi'kmaq fishers practising their inherent right to fish is a threat to conservation and a threat to peace and civility. We even hear indigenous people being labelled as criminals and threats. In my mind, the real issue has been DFO's inability to protect the right to fish and adequately support negotiators trying to establish what a moderate livelihood is.
What recommendation would you make to DFO to change its behaviour and engage in good faith not only with the Mi'kmaq but with indigenous fishers right across this country?
Darcy Gray
View Darcy Gray Profile
Darcy Gray
2020-10-26 17:30
First off, I think it has to be meaningful work with the communities or the nations, however they're engaging with them, and providing the support for true governance that ensures the safety and sustainability of the fisheries. In the end, they have to be willing to make a decision.
In our experience, we negotiated for two years on a co-developed management plan for our treaty fishery. For two years we worked on that. The night before we were about to put it in place, we were told, “I'm sorry, we can't do that.” That, to me, is unacceptable. That, to me, is part of the problem. If we're going to dance for two years and spend a lot of money, time and effort trying to come up with a solution and be told no in the end, that's frustrating.
View Gord Johns Profile
NDP (BC)
I really appreciate your talking about how fisheries can be managed jointly. We believe that it should be nation-to-nation dialogue in how fisheries should move forward. Where I live in the Nuu-chah-nulth territories, the commercial fishers and the recreational fishers understand that it is the minister representing commercial at the negotiating table, negotiating nation-to-nation dialogue on quota and on establishing fishing rights.
However, they also have a management table in our region called “West Coast Aquatic Management”. It's a really great model. Everybody is sitting at the table talking about their management plans, including the nations with their management plans. Everyone's excited about it. They say it was working tremendously, but the department basically stepped away from the table. They've been almost invisible. They stopped resourcing the table over the last decade.
Can you cite any examples in your region where there were things that were working and the department stepped back and stopped supporting those discussions?
Go ahead, Mr. Barron. Maybe I'll start with you again.
Michael Barron
View Michael Barron Profile
Michael Barron
2020-10-26 18:30
There's nothing I can think of right off the top of my head, but just in the little bit of dealings I've had up until this situation, DFO here in our local area has been fairly good in working with the industry. Since this stuff happened in October and up until now, they've kind of ceased all communication federally and locally, so....
Lesley Burns
View Lesley Burns Profile
Lesley Burns
2020-10-22 11:38
Thank you. I think I can get through the material and also leave some time for questions. We can, of course, come back at another time.
We offer several workshops. This is a version of our orientation. We offer a more in-depth workshop on effective questioning and also issuing recommendations. One that we did as a pilot several years ago for the federal public accounts committee, and have been back several times to do, is on reading the public accounts.
I'll return to our material about planning for now. We're at slide 23, if you want to follow along.
The most effective committees plan. Prior to going into a hearing, they'll plan their work. You'll have a method for choosing what audit reports you're going to look at and in what order. You'll probably have a steering committee set up as a shortcut to making some of those decisions at the committee. Then you'll also want to decide as a committee, in advance of a hearing or investigating a report, what your shared purpose for delving into this report is.
They say that you should be able to close your eyes in a hearing and not know what political party people are speaking from. In Yukon, they've started preparing all of their questions and then divvying them up among members. You may come up with a question or your party may come up with a question, but it might not be you asking it in committee. Those are a couple of examples of ways to be working together. Setting that shared purpose is important.
Moving on to “constructive engagement” with witnesses and presenters who come to the committee, your goal in having a hearing is to get information to end with a unanimous report. The report should be unanimous because you are giving direction to the public service on what to do. The public service is used to politicians disagreeing. It's what you do, but when you come out with a cross-party statement giving direction, it gets attention. That consensus really matters.
When you have the witnesses in front of you, you want to keep in mind that time is important. It's not just your committee time that's taking you away from other valuable work, but also the time that an audited entity spends preparing for that hearing, the time of that deputy minister in that hearing. Those things all add up.
Sometimes deputy ministers will come in front of you and won't have the answers on hand. That's understandable. Sometimes the material goes back years. There is nothing wrong with asking them to make a submission in writing. It's a good practice to have a deadline for submitting that, and if you're not sure how long it's going to take them to gather that information, it's completely fair to ask them how long they think they will need to get it to you. You have support staff who can help you follow up to get that information from the department.
Carol mentioned the “one and done” idea. You don't want them coming into that meeting and then walking out and saying “Phew, it's over.” They need to know that you're going to go back as a committee to follow up.
We have prepared some pocket cards. Some of you have seen these ones before. I will make sure that the clerk has electronic versions available to send to you, and if you want the physical versions, we could get those out to you as well. They give you some quick pointers on asking effective questions and issuing recommendations, and also on cross-party collaboration, which I'm going to get into.
Before I do that, I'm going to go ahead to slide 25, which says that “Without follow-up, there is no accountability”. That's returning to the notion that if a department walks in and says they're going to do everything that the Auditor General has recommended and here's how they're going to do it, if you don't go back and check on that—and you have methods to do that through reports that you request, the committee's progress report—you may not know whether they've done it. You can call them back for another hearing if you're concerned that progress hasn't been made. The audit office always has the option of doing a follow-up audit, if that's necessary.
I like to associate this with having teenage children. You ask if they have done their homework. Often, you probably check. Is their bedroom clean? Do you open that bedroom door and check if it's clean? If you don't, you have probably developed a lot a trust in your children. That's excellent. Maybe write a parenting book.
I'm going to touch on one last thing in terms of our good practice. The number one thing we see missing from committees that aren't effective is cross-party collaboration. I've already touched on some of the reasons it's so powerful for the public accounts committee. The reason this is such a challenge for elected officials is that it's not what you're used to doing in your job.
The analogy I like to make is to hang your party colours up at the door. Public money has no party, so when you're looking at the implementation of policy, that party affiliation is not as relevant.
Slide 30 describes some partisan behaviour. There are many different ways politicians can be partisan. Some of them are subtle and some are more obvious. You have all of the foundational structure in place in your committee to be non-partisan. You have the timing of the speakers, an opposition chair and an entrenched follow-up process. It's really up to you as individuals when you walk into that room to make the decision that you want to work towards the collective goal and have in mind that you want to improve public administration.
We have some tips on slide 31 on how you might want to go about doing that. A lot of you are probably sitting there thinking that this is a really far-fetched idea, especially coming from somebody who has never been an elected official. I am going to leave delving into that topic to the four former chairs who will be speaking after us. They can speak to you from the experience they have on the importance of collaborating with other parties and the impact that can have.
I'll turn it back over to you, Chair, for any questions from the committee.
Thank you.
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