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Michel Doiron
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Michel Doiron
2015-05-26 8:48
Thank you kindly, Mr. Chair.
Good morning, Chair, members, mesdames et messieurs.
As the chair said, my name is Michel Doiron and I am the assistant deputy minister for service delivery at Veterans Affairs. With me today is my colleague Bernard Butler, the acting assistant deputy minister of policy, communications, and commemoration.
I wish to thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today on an issue of importance and great interest to veterans and their families, and that is those elements of the government's response to your committee's report of June 2014, titled “The New Veterans Charter: Moving Forward”, that are contained in economic action plan 2015, or Bill C-59. The legislation, if passed, will amend the Canadian Forces Members and Veterans Re-establishment and Compensation Act, commonly known as the new Veterans Charter, to address a number of the concerns and gaps that have been identified.
There are essentially five legislative amendments/provisions contained within the bill.
The first provision introduces a purpose clause “to recognize and fulfil the obligation of the people and Government of Canada to show just and due appreciation to members and veterans for their service to Canada” and further provides that the “Act shall be liberally interpreted so that the recognized obligation may be fulfilled”.
The second significant provision enhances Veterans Affairs Canada's ability to support transition to civilian life. It authorizes Veterans Affairs Canada to provide information and guidance to Canadian Armed Forces members and veterans on the benefits and services that may be available to them in order to help them transition and to make decisions on applications for benefits and services prior to release.
There are three additional amendments that effectively create new benefits for veterans. These new benefits will strengthen the government's support provided to seriously disabled veterans and their families through the new Veterans Charter.
The first benefit, known as the retirement income security benefit, RISB, would provide moderately to severely disabled veterans—those who need it most—with continued assistance in the form of a monthly income support payment beginning at the age of 65.
The second benefit, the family caregiver relief benefit, would provide eligible veterans with a tax-free annual grant of $7,238 so that their informal caregivers, often their spouses or other devoted family members, will have flexibility or relief when they need it while also ensuring that veterans' care needs are met.
The third benefit, the critical injury benefit, or CIB, would provide a $70,000 tax-free award to support the most severely injured and ill Canadian Armed Forces members and veterans.
These new benefits will complement the existing suite of services and benefits available through the new Veterans Charter and add depth to the supports available both to those injured in service to their country and to their families from the Government of Canada.
As announced in the budget, additional staff will also address delays in service delivery, especially for the most seriously disabled and their families. We will hire more than 100 permanent case managers for improved one-on-one services. More than 100 new disability adjudication staff, temporary and permanent, will improve the processing time for veterans who submit an application for a disability benefit application. This is part of the department's commitment to service excellence.
Thank you for listening.
I will now open the floor, Mr. Chair, to any questions the committee may have for Bernard or for me.
Nancy Cheng
View Nancy Cheng Profile
Nancy Cheng
2015-05-13 16:28
Mr. Chair, we counted about 60 such recurring report requirements. There are ad hoc requests as well, so we're not counting ATIP requests or parliamentary requests in terms of information needed from departments and agencies. Working with the Treasury Board Secretariat, because they didn't actually have a complete inventory, we sat down with analysts to try to figure out what was the quantum there. On a recurring basis, there are about 60 of them.
At the outset, we would not have had a complete list to choose them from, nor were we trying to be representative in the selection. We wanted a bit of a combination of different natures. One for transparency, which seems like a good one, is the proactive disclosure of contracts. Larger contracts often should be subjected to public scrutiny, so information like that is put out there and people can see it for transparency purposes. Weighing that with some that would support accountability requirements and some that might be also for internal purposes as well, we wanted to have both the Treasury Board and the Public Service Commission, so that's why the staffing accountability report was chosen.
There wasn't a particular magic formula that we used, but we wanted a combination of different types of audit reports to choose from.
View Andrew Scheer Profile
View Andrew Scheer Profile
2014-05-29 11:03
Thank you, and good morning. It's always a pleasure to come and visit this great group of parliamentarians.
I am very pleased to be here today, along with Marc Bosc, the deputy clerk of the House of Commons, and Mark Watters, the chief financial officer.
We're also joined by other members of the House administration's executive management team: Stéphan Aubé, the chief information officer; Richard Denis, the deputy law clerk and parliamentary counsel; Pierre Parent, the chief human resources officer; and Kevin Vickers, the sergeant-at-arms.
Today, I will be presenting the House of Commons' main estimates and the supplementary estimates (A) for 2014-2015. I will begin with a presentation on the main estimates and will conclude with information on funding requested in the supplementary estimates (A).
The 2014-15 main estimates total $413,725,137. This represents a decrease of 3.5% compared to the 2013-14 main estimates funding levels, and a 7.2% reduction from the 2012-13 main estimates. For reference purposes, you have received a document outlining the year-over-year changes for the main estimates between 2013-14 and 2014-15.
I'll proceed by providing an overview of each line item, along with four major themes: budgets for members, House officers and presiding officers; House administration; reductions under the structural operating review; and employee benefit plans.
To start, I would like to speak to the budgets for members, House officers, and presiding officers. Even when we exclude the reductions achieved under the strategic and operating review, this portion of our estimates was reduced by over $1.1 million. This figure includes both the statutory increases to the sessional allowance and additional salaries, as well as the statutory reductions to the members of Parliament retiring allowances account, and the retirement compensation arrangements account. The reductions seen as a result of both pension adjustments amount to $1.9 million.
As you may remember, the cost to the House of Commons for contributions to members' pension plans is determined and managed by Treasury Board, based on actuarial calculations.
Let us now look at matters that relate to the Administration of the House of Commons.
First, you will note that the main estimates allocate $1.4 million for increased transparency resulting from changes to the public reporting of members' expenditures.
This funding requirement is further to the announcement made by the Board of Internal Economy in October 2013 that we will move to an enhanced disclosure format, as well as towards quarterly reporting for the Members' Expenditures Report.
Notably, these changes to improve transparency will include the presentation of service contracts as a stand-alone category, separate members' accommodation expenses for members' per diem expenses, and subdivide the hospitality category. Additionally, more information will be made available regarding the use of all special travel points, and this will, as well, be disclosed quarterly.
The first enhanced quarterly members' expenditure report covering the period from April 1 to June 30 will be published by September 30 of this year.
While the funding requirements are not reflected in these main estimates, I do want to mention that the members' expenditure report for the second quarter of fiscal year 2014-15 will be further enhanced to bring House of Commons reporting for travel and hospitality expenses in line with proactive disclosure practices of ministers' offices. Extensive system changes are currently under way and will be reflected in a further report which will be available to the public by December 31, 2014. Increasing transparency has been a priority of the Board of Internal Economy for some time, and the board remains committed to finding ways in which we can continue to improve.
Moving on from disclosure, the main estimates also allocate an additional $190,000 in compensation for House administration employees. This funding is specifically used to cover economic increases for 2014-15 for collective agreements ending after March 31, 2014.
Additionally, the main estimates once again account for temporary funding for two parliamentary conferences: the 40th  Annual Session of the Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie and the 11th Conference of Parliamentarians of the Arctic region. These two upcoming conferences will be excellent opportunities to showcase Canada, foster parliamentary diplomacy and advance Canadian objectives internationally.
The funding decisions for both of these conferences were taken by the Board of Internal Economy, in keeping with the recommendations by the Joint Interparliamentary Council.
The 40th annual session of the Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie requires temporary funding of $184,000 for 2014-15. This session will be taking place this July in Ottawa.
Further, the 11th Conference of Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region requires temporary funding of $132,000 for 2014-15. The event will be held in Whitehorse this October.
There is also a $25,000 increase that is required for pages' remuneration under the House of Commons page program. In December 2010 the board approved a permanent annual increase to the compensation for pages that is equal to the average increases in tuition fees at the University of Ottawa and Carleton University. I am certain we can all agree that we want to continue to recruit top young Canadians for the page program. By linking their pay to their tuition rates, we ensure that they remain fairly compensated for their valuable work. For fiscal year 2014-15 the annual compensation for each page increased by $536 to $13,584.
Finally, you will note that the main estimates reflect reductions for two instances of temporary funding: the online recruitment tool and asset management. This combined funding of $669,000 is no longer required.
Let us now turn to the reductions that are being achieved as a result of the House of Commons strategic and operating review. As you know, on March 12, 2012, the Board of Internal Economy approved a savings and reduction strategy that is seeing spending for the House of Commons decrease by $30.3 million, or 6.9% of the overall budget.
For the 2014-15 main estimates, the reductions amount to $13.5 million and are being achieved through a number of key initiatives that I will cover briefly.
Notably, there are reductions to House officers' office budgets in keeping with the decreases per year for the past two fiscal years. These amount to savings of $600,000.
Additionally, the reductions include significant savings that have been achieved by the increased use of flight passes and low-fare economy travel. As you well know, regular travel is a necessity for members, and it is an area in which we have been able to collectively achieve substantial savings.
The constituency office furniture and equipment improvement fund will be eliminated in 2014-15, resulting in savings of more than $1.5 million. This fund was used to supplement existing stocks of equipment and furniture for members' constituency offices. Going forward, members will make use of their own office budgets should they wish to supplement or improve their office furnishings.
Furthermore, savings of $3.6 million are being achieved through the reduction of personnel-related costs. Since January 2014, employees of members, House officers, and research offices are being granted vacation leave in lieu of automatic lump-sum vacation payments. This change brings our practices in line with the standard practices used by nearly all public and private sector employers.
For 2014-2015, there are further reductions to the Liaison Committee funding envelope. These reductions are in line with measures taken by members of parliamentary committees, as they too continue their ongoing efforts to limit spending and find efficiencies.
Additionally, further cost savings and reductions for the House of Commons Administration are being achieved through a combination of budget reductions, administrative operational efficiencies, attrition and a limited number of workforce adjustment situations.
The House Administration management team has put forth great efforts to limit the impact on its employees, and where there have been impacts, a work force adjustment policy is in place to facilitate employment continuity for indeterminate employees.
The final item that is included in the 2014-15 main estimates is a reduction of $1.6 million to employee benefit plans. This is a non-discretionary statutory expense that, in accordance with Treasury Board benefit rates, has decreased from 17.4% of salaries to 16.5% of salaries.
This concludes our overview of the House of Commons main estimates for 2014-15.
I would now like to move on to the House of Commons request of $5,048,736 in supplementary estimates (A). This request included funding for three items.
The first item, which was previously approved by the board, is for $81,000 to fund a 1% economic increase for House administration senior managers as of April 1, 2013. This economic increase is in line with the 1% increase approved by the Treasury Board for the executive group throughout the federal public service.
The second item, for $1.2 million, is for a 2014-15 annual adjustment of members' sessional allowance and additional salaries. This funding is statutory in nature and is based on an index published by Employment and Social Development Canada.
The final item included in the supplementary estimates is funding of $3.8 million required for the ongoing yearly maintenance and life cycle replacement costs for information technology assets. As established in the Long-Term Vision and Plan, there is a need to equip all buildings in the parliamentary precinct with information technology and related infrastructure required for access to information services in order to ensure the effective functioning of Parliament.
The board approved this funding on a five-year basis starting in 2014-2015, and the House Administration must return to the board on a yearly basis to refresh the five-year estimates via the main estimates process.
I am confident you will agree that the 2014-15 main estimates and supplementary estimates (A) reflect both the Board of Internal Economy's and the House of Commons' commitment to continued cost containment. We have been able to find efficiencies and make reductions by carefully analyzing our expenditures. While I am pleased that the main estimates I discussed here today represent a 7.2% reduction over those I presented two years ago, I assure you that we will continue to make every effort to find further efficiencies while providing high-quality support to parliamentarians.
At this time we would all be happy to answer your questions.
View Andrew Scheer Profile
View Andrew Scheer Profile
2014-05-29 11:17
Perhaps I could ask Mark to answer regarding some of the specifics in terms of the percentages, but I can tell you that most of it will be going to staff, to bringing on employees to manage all of the transactions.
One of the points that came up during the discussion on this was that members of Parliament and their staff travel a great deal more than even ministers and staff of ministerial offices and other sectors of the public service do, so tracking all of that will require additional human resources. There will also be some one-time software costs and licensing types of expenditures for the computer aspects of disclosure.
I don't know if we have a more detailed breakdown with regard to percentage.
Mark G. Watters
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Mark G. Watters
2014-05-29 11:18
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Chair, we are planning on hiring—well, we actually did because this was done in the fall of last year, and the committee agreed with the request for supplementary estimates last year to fund this partially—13 employees, 11 of those in my sector, in finance, and 2 in IT, as well as ongoing support for the good care and nurturing of those employees, in terms of offices and supplies, and those types of things, and mostly to look after the interrelationship with the members.
We get a lot of questions from members about their accounts and those are answered as those transactions are processed. Often they're answered again. When the reports are ready to be published, we get questions and members say, “Can you please recall for me and reconcile for me the use of my points? I'd like to go over those reports again in more detail.” We do a lot of transactional work and mostly clerical work with members and their offices.
View Linda Duncan Profile
Thank you, Mr. Chair. That's a good foray into what I was about to ask.
Thank you, all of you, for appearing today.
I notice in your reports that one of the key responsibilities of the Public Service Commission is to ensure integrity and non-partisanship in staffing. If you are doing the staffing, and given that the Parliamentary Budget Officer does not report directly to Parliament but through the Public Service Commission, a number of allegations and concerns have been raised about the process of the hiring of the PBO, and suggestions made that the process may have been politicized.
I'm wondering why the interview panel has not been made public to try to bring some integrity back into that very highly contentious hiring process.
Anne-Marie Robinson
View Anne-Marie Robinson Profile
Anne-Marie Robinson
2013-05-02 12:27
Thank you for the question.
I should clarify that the Public Service Commission is responsible for appointments under the Public Service Employment Act, so that would not include other Governor in Council appointments you mentioned. Any of the other GIC appointments are not governed by the regime of the Public Service Commission, so we are not responsible for the appointment of the Parliamentary Budget Officer.
Laurie A. Henderson
View Laurie A. Henderson Profile
Laurie A. Henderson
2012-12-12 15:38
Thank you.
Thank you for providing the Yukon government the opportunity to comment on these changes.
By way of background, I will note for you that the Yukon Surface Rights Board Act has its origins in the Umbrella Final Agreement and the 11 Yukon first nation final agreements that have been signed into effect by the Government of Canada, the Yukon government, and 11 Yukon first nations.
Chapter 8 of these agreements established the framework for the Surface Rights Board legislation, and the Yukon Surface Rights Board Act came into force on February 14, 1995. Additional responsibilities of the board are established in other pieces of legislation, including two Yukon statutes: the Quartz Mining Act and the Placer Mining Act.
The amendments to the Yukon Surface Rights Board Act that are contained in Bill C-47 have been under discussion for some time. The Yukon government was first contacted about the amendments in the fall of 2011 by officials from Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.
In January of 2012 there was a meeting between federal officials and Yukon government representatives to discuss the proposed changes. That meeting was followed up a number of months later in August with a letter, wherein the federal government was actually seeking views on the specific changes that are now in the bill.
In September of this year, Yukon advised those federal officials that it had no substantive comments on the proposed changes. That continues to be the case today; the Yukon supports the changes and believes they will make board operations more efficient and cost-effective.
Two of the changes in Bill C-47, particularly the amendment of section 10 and the amendment of section 11, which authorize a member whose term has been terminated or expired to continue to act as a member until a decision has been made on the matter before the board, will ensure efficiency in resolving disputes. Without this provision—and we have certainly run into this situation with other boards and committees in the Yukon—if a member's term does expire or is terminated prior to rendering a decision, the hearing may have to be restarted, and that obviously would incur additional costs for both the proponents and the board officials. The Yukon government sees this change as quite positive, and it is welcomed.
The third change in Bill C-47 involves the amendment to section 23 of the Yukon Surface Rights Board Act. This one requires the auditor of the board to audit the accounts, financial statements, and financial transactions of the board each year and to report on the same to the board and the minister. In the Yukon's view, this change again will help ensure financial accountability and transparency in the board's financial management. As it does for the other amendments, the Yukon supports this change and sees it as an improvement over the past arrangement, whereby the financial statements were actually audited by the Auditor General of Canada.
In conclusion, we would like to reaffirm the Yukon government's support for these three changes. Thank you for the opportunity to appear today.
Michael Ferguson
View Michael Ferguson Profile
Michael Ferguson
2012-10-25 11:37
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Chair, I am pleased to present my report, which was tabled in the House of Commons last Tuesday.
I am accompanied by Assistant Auditors General Jerome Berthelette and Wendy Loschiuk, as well as by Glenn Wheeler, the principal responsible for the audit of transfer payments to the aerospace sector.
The report contains the results of that audit. In the first chapter, we looked at how Public Works and Government Services Canada, Health Canada, and Human Resources and Skills Development Canada plan their use of professional service contractors. We found that the departments plan their needs for employees and contractors separately. This hampers their ability to assess whether they have the best mix of employees and contractors to meet their objectives.
Departments need to consider the full range of options that will enable them to most effectively deliver programs and services to Canadians.
I'll move now to our report about grant and contribution program reforms. In May 2008 the government announced an action plan to reform the administration of grant and contribution programs and to streamline the administrative and reporting burden on recipients. Our audit looked at whether the government has adequately implemented this action plan. We found that the government has in fact focused its actions where they're most important. Treasury Board Secretariat has provided leadership and guidance to federal organizations to make the necessary changes, and these organizations have acted on most of their obligations. The government has made good progress in implementing the 2008 action plan. Now it needs to determine if the actions taken have made a difference for recipients.
Let's turn now to our audit about what government is doing to help protect Canadian infrastructure against cyber threats. Critical infrastructure includes the power grid, banking and telephone systems, and the government's own information systems. The government has a leadership role to play in ensuring that information about threats is shared, and it has to improve the way it does this. This is important because officials are concerned that cyber threats are evolving faster than the government can keep pace.
In 2001 the government committed to building partnerships with the owners and operators of critical infrastructure systems to share information and provide technical support. We found that 11 years later, those arrangements are not fully operational. Similarly, the Canadian Cyber Incident Response Centre has only been operating eight hours a day, five days a week. It's not the 24/7 information hub it was designed to be in 2005. Furthermore, it's not being kept abreast of cyber security incidents in a timely manner.
Since 2010, the government has made some progress in protecting its own systems and building partnerships to secure Canada's infrastructure. The government must now ensure that the sector networks are in place and working with the Cyber Incident Response Centre.
We are also reporting on how National Defence and Veterans Affairs Canada manage selected programs, benefits, and services to support eligible ill and injured Canadian Forces members and veterans in the transition to civilian life.
There are many support programs, benefits, and services in place to help ill and injured members of the military make the transition to civilian life. However, we found that understanding and accessing these supports is often complex, lengthy, and challenging. The lack of clear information about programs and services, the complexity of eligibility criteria, and the dependence on paper-based systems are some of the difficulties for both clients and departmental staff.
We also found inconsistencies in how individual cases are managed and problem-sharing information between the two departments. As a result, forces members and veterans did not always receive services and benefits in a timely manner or at all.
National Defence and Veterans Affairs recognize they need to work together on solutions. I'm pleased they've accepted our recommendations, including to streamline their processes to make programs more accessible for ill and injured forces members and veterans.
The next report also concerns National Defence—specifically, how the department is managing its real property at 21 main bases across Canada. The Canadian Forces rely on real property such as buildings, airfields and training facilities to carry out missions. These assets are valued at $22 billion. I am concerned that the department is not yet adequately maintaining and renewing its assets.
We found several weaknesses in the department’s management practices. For example, the approval process for construction projects is cumbersome and slow. It takes an average of 6 years to approve projects over $5 million.
We also found that National Defence is behind in its spending targets for maintenance and repair, and recapitalization. As such, weaknesses in National Defence’s management of real property could jeopardize the Canadian Forces’ ability to carry out its missions. National Defence recognizes it needs to improve and change its approach to managing real property.
We also looked at two programs that provide repayable assistance to support industrial research and development in Canada’s aerospace sector. Since 2007, Industry Canada has authorized almost $1.2 billion in assistance to 23 Canadian aerospace companies through the Strategic Aerospace and Defence Initiative and the Bombardier CSeries Program. Industry Canada has done a good job of managing most of the administrative aspects of the two transfer payment programs. However, we found that the department has been slow to measure progress against program objectives and report results publicly. Repayable support to the aerospace sector represents a significant investment on behalf of Canadians. Industry Canada has a responsibility to ensure that funding contributes to meeting the government’s objectives in this area.
Finally, in our audit focusing on long-term fiscal sustainability, we found that Finance Canada analyzes and considers the long-term fiscal impact of the policy measures it recommends. However, at the time of the audit, the government had yet to make public its reports on long-term fiscal sustainability. Analysis that provides a long-term budgetary perspective would help parliamentarians and Canadians better understand the fiscal challenges facing the federal government.
The department has accepted our recommendations. Following the tabling of my report in Parliament, the department issued its first long-term analysis for the federal government. We also recommended that the department publish, from time to time, an analysis for all governments combined—federal, provincial, and territorial—to give a total Canadian perspective.
Mr. Chair, that concludes my opening statement.
We will be happy to answer any questions you may have.
Joe Sardinha
View Joe Sardinha Profile
Joe Sardinha
2011-10-20 15:32
Thank you very much for this opportunity. Through the miracle of modern technology we're able to participate in these consultations, something I would like to do in person, but unfortunately I'm still harvesting my apple crop here in B.C. It's a little bit late this year, so that has kept me at the farm.
In terms of science and innovation, I believe the right mix of investment in research will lead to innovation at the farm level, resulting in a more competitive and, more importantly, a profitable farm sector. We need to get it right. We also anticipate that the risk management tools we have today and are developing for the future would experience a decline in demand if we do get that basic research flowing correctly throughout the industry.
Research is a vital part of agriculture's unbroken record of improvement in quality and productivity. It is particularly important to Canada as a nation of exports with vast agricultural capacity. Canada has a stake in advancing farm productivity, with research as a key component.
Food security may not be an issue in Canada but it is an issue as food supplies tighten. In Canada we're looking more at the issue of rising food prices than food shortages. Comparing this to the Canadian agricultural sector, where the road of productivity is allowed to slide compared to other competing jurisdictions, we know that other world areas have higher yields than Canada, and we have to continue on the research and innovation front to maintain our competitiveness in that regard.
The value of inventions that are created in Canada can alone compensate for the investment in productivity enhancement. This is particularly important to the tree fruit industry in terms of variety development or the plant breeding programs we currently have. It's key to the innovation in the tree fruit sector.
I want to address a question that we developed here. It states, what are the interests of agricultural producers, especially tree fruit growers in research? Growers are most keenly interested in improvements to horticultural practices, for example, more efficient irrigation, more efficient pruning/thinning, picking, grading, and storage of produce, using automation and computer technology. As I've said, the development of new varieties that are suited to our northern climate is extremely important, as is more environmentally friendly pest control, which builds on successes of integrated and area-wide pest management, enabling producers to manage both current and emerging pest and disease issues. We are an importing nation and seem to be landing new insect and disease species on our shores on an ongoing basis.
What is the reality? We've seen with Growing Forward 1 that the delivery of research programs to high-value Canadian horticulture needs to be upgraded so that we are competitive and build value for Canadians.
The switch that established national research science clusters was well intentioned but poorly implemented. It took longer that expected to launch and the criteria and eligibility of research projects changed up to the final moment.
The Canadian Horticulture Council assumed the role of administrator of the edible horticultural science cluster and has done a commendable job in dealing with the many changes to the science initiative since its inception. Under the CHC's guidance, the Canadian apple industry, a very big part of which I am in, invested substantial effort in synthesizing provincial research priorities into national research priorities. The industry then worked to develop its top three project proposals, as did other commodity representatives of the CHC. Application deadlines were met, but the guidelines changed after the fact, and two of the industry's three proposals were turned down because they involved federal research employees at AAFC research centres—some of the criteria that was not spelled out from the outset of the industry developing its research priorities.
The process really undermines the industry's confidence in investing all this time and effort when projects are rejected for what we feel are new and inconsequential reasons.
Following that debacle, the CHC was informed just this past summer that additional unallocated funding existed for the horticultural science cluster. It was a last-minute scramble by all to submit new project proposals in a very short timeframe to take advantage of this additional funding that no one knew anything about prior to the government's announcement. The apple industry did submit for a new project, but this was done in a very ad hoc way and it didn't really follow the priority-setting process that we had used in identifying our previous three projects.
So was it the right project for our scarce resources? Perhaps not, but it certainly exposed some inadequacies in the funding process, and certainly all the changes we've been hit with in the cluster initiative have led to much confusion.
If agricultural associations are willing to commit their share of research investment, it's perhaps time that government programs are made more transparent at the outset, and certainly the science cluster initiative could have used more transparency and better program development because we saw far too many changes throughout the implementation of the program. We need less bureaucracy so as not to sideswipe industry’s efforts to capitalize on research that I believe will ultimately enhance the competitiveness and profitability of the agricultural sector.
We do have some Growing Forward 2 recommendations that we'd like to propose to your committee. The government has increased other types of agriculture and processing research at the expense of horticultural practices, often referred to as primary production research. We recommend ensuring the level of funding for research and horticultural practices be balanced with other research needs.
The government has let key research positions go unfilled when retirements occur or are imminent. In a round of consultations a few years ago, this was a high priority to resolve, yet no strategy is emerging, and the erosion of our science capacity continues.
For tree fruit, we recommend that a weed scientist, a post-harvest physiologist, and a plant breeder be hired to replace recently retired or soon to be retired scientists at the Pacific Agri-Food Research Centre in Summerland.
We recommend that advisory committees for research stations, composed of producers nominated by provincial commodity associations, be re-established, with meaningful input into business plans, including succession planning for researchers and adequate and balanced resources required for senior researchers and technical staff to ensure a balance between horticultural and other types of research.
Lastly, we recommend that the federal government provide incentives for consolidation of research. We believe that research can take on a more focused approach throughout research stations across Canada. We recommend that Agriculture Canada's research branch take strong measures to re-establish consolidation of research activities, such that we may not have a model where we're doing horticultural research at every station across Canada, but we will have what I believe will be centres of excellence for applied research that will deal with horticultural issues, grain, grains and oilseeds issues, and animal and livestock issues--so it is more targeted, much more efficient, and we can have the appropriate expertise placed at those positions.
I would like to thank you for this opportunity to present. I did want to speed it up, so if there are any questions, I would be more than willing to answer them.
Thank you.
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