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Michel Doiron
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Michel Doiron
2015-05-26 8:48
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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.
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View Gerry Byrne Profile
Lib. (NL)
Thank you.
I'll ask Mr. Campbell, then. You suggested to us to specifically ask our witnesses about what were the plan and the timeframe for reporting to Parliament on the delivery and economic impact of the economic action plan. What specifically have they left out that you suggest they need to be more forthcoming with?
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Ronnie Campbell
View Ronnie Campbell Profile
Ronnie Campbell
2012-03-13 9:31
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I didn't hear the government say on what date or approximately what date they intended to table the report that assessed the impact of the economic action plan.
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Richard Dicerni
View Richard Dicerni Profile
Richard Dicerni
2011-09-28 15:33
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Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, for inviting us to your first meeting.
I've been asked to do a bit of an overview of the department. I will start by noting my two colleagues: Simon has been with us for over a year now, and Kelly has been with us for two or three years.
I'd like to give a brief overview of what the department does and speak briefly about the industry portfolio, which encompasses the granting councils and so forth.
Now, first things first. We note on the first slide that we work with and support four ministers:
Mr. Paradis, who is the current minister; Mr. Goodyear, who is the Minister of State (Science and Technology) (Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario); Mr. Bernier, who is the Minister of State (Small Business and Tourism); and Mr. Clement, who has maintained his responsibilities for FedNor.
If you come and visit the department, you will see that, as public servants, we support the work of four ministers.
If you turn the page to Industry Canada's mandate, I'd like to focus on each of our mandates and then discuss with you some of the initiatives we are involved with in each.
The department in the portfolio seeks to achieve three overarching and interrelated objectives. First is to develop and administer sound marketplace policies and programs. Second is to foster and encourage a knowledge economy. Third is to support small, medium, and large business. Let me speak to each one of those.
In terms of the marketplace, it is important that all modern economies have sound, effective marketplace policies. People need to know what the rules are; people also need to know what the framework policies are. The department contributes in a number of ways to this. I'll give you a few examples. Within Industry Canada lies the Competition Bureau, which is very active in making the marketplace work. It is currently involved, for example, in reviewing the Maple Group's desire to acquire TMX. Recently it got involved in and sought to take remedial action against the Canadian Real Estate Association for anti-competitive rules that it thought the association was imposing on real estate agents. So the Competition Bureau is one framework policy program.
We also work with the Department of Canadian Heritage on a very important piece of legislation dealing with copyright. That's important framework legislation.
We also administer—and my colleague Simon is the lead on this—the Investment Canada Act to ensure that transactions which are subject to the act are of net benefit to the country.
Other offices within Industry Canada include the Canadian Intellectual Property Office, where we issue patents and trademarks; Measurement Canada; and Corporations Canada. So there is a whole series of small agencies whose purpose it is to make sure that marketplace programs and policies work to the benefit of Canadians, both consumers and businesses.
Second is the knowledge economy. In 2007 the government released its science and technology strategy on maximizing its investment in S and T for the benefit of all Canadians. The department is very directly involved in this, but also with partner organizations in the portfolio, which I'll speak about in a few minutes.
I'll give you a few examples of the initiatives that the department has taken to encourage and support the knowledge-based economy.
We managed the Knowledge Infrastructure Program. As part of the Economic Action Plan, within the department we spent $2 billion, which resulted in further spending of $3 billion for post-secondary institutions and the private sector. In total, $5 billion was invested to increase the quality of the infrastructure in colleges, CEGEPs and universities across the country. Some 500 projects have been supported through this program.
We also launched the Canada Excellence Research Chairs Program. With a third party, we designated 19 recipients around the world and invited them to come to Canada. They were granted chairs worth $10 million over seven years. I think that we found a fairly extraordinary class of individuals.
We have other programs, including the Centres of Excellence for Commercialization and Research. All of this is intended to support the knowledge-based economy.
Third is support for business. As I said, the department is involved in supporting small, medium, and large businesses. We work on a wide range of projects and initiatives. Obviously, the department was quite involved during the auto restructuring in working closely with the U.S. government, as well as with GM and Chrysler, to assist in their restructuring, which I think has turned out to be a good initiative.
We also work closely with the aerospace sector. We have a program that supports partnerships, which contributes to Canada punching above its weight in regard to civil aviation market share in international matters. This program has supported a number of initiatives across the country--Magellan in Winnipeg and Pratt & Whitney in Montreal--and I think it's an essential part of our tool kit to support the aerospace industry in order to always achieve higher degrees of productivity and innovation.
We also have programs in the department that support small-business financing, whereby we will insure some loans that are provided by financial institutions.
So that's it in a nutshell, and I say “in a nutshell” because I've appeared before some of you in the past to discuss certain specific programs, and this is a very brief overview of what the department does.
Let me briefly talk about some of the policy and legislative initiatives that we are working on presently.
On the digital economy strategy, including spectrum auctions, the department released last year a discussion paper about auctions pertaining to both the 700 megahertz and the 2,500 megahertz. The minister recently had further consultations. The assumption is that over the course of the next two or three months some fundamental orientation will be identified, so either later this year or early next year, some decisions around the spectrum should be made public.
Building the critical infrastructure is one of the major pillars of the digital economy strategy. Other pillars include enhancing skill sets and ensuring that there is a very solid statutory framework. I can refer in that respect to the spam bill that was passed. I can refer to the copyright bill, which will be, I believe, shortly reintroduced, and to our PIPEDA legislation. Those are important statutory pillars.
There's also another pillar that is related to improving ICT adoption. One of the key aspects that explains the difference in productivity between Canada and the United States is the lack of ICT adoption by small and medium-sized businesses. We are working with the Business Development Bank to enhance awareness among SMEs regarding the usefulness, from productivity and competitiveness perspectives, of higher ICT adoption.
Speaking of the BDC, we are also working on the BDC's legislative review. Every five to ten years, the BDC act must be reviewed, so we're in the process of looking at how well it has done over the last five to ten years and identifying possible enhancements to its legislative mandate to support more effectively Canadian SMEs and Canadian entrepreneurs.
The department is also working under Mr. Bernier's stewardship on a federal tourism strategy to bring together in a more focused manner the various elements that are in play at the federal level to support tourism.
Lastly, in terms of policy initiatives, I would note that the government asked Mr. Tom Jenkins, chairman of OpenText, to launch a panel on research and development last October. We expect him to be submitting his report in October of this year. This panel will focus on the expenditures of the federal government in support of R and D in order to make sure we have the right mix between tax expenditures and program expenditures.
Overall the government spends about $7 billion in this area; $3 billion or $4 billion of that is for tax expenditures, and the rest for a series of programs.
In terms of legislative initiatives, I mentioned copyright and PIPEDA. They are two of our major initiatives in regard to our digital economy strategy. I believe these pieces of legislation will be reintroduced shortly.
Let me say a word on the Industry Canada portfolio. I would draw your attention to pages four and five. If you look at those two together, it will be more productive.
I would now like to speak about Industry Canada's portfolio.
First, with regard to the obligation to be accountable, all these agencies and corporations are headed by executives or presidents whose position is at a level equal to that of the deputy ministers, meaning that they do not work for me; they are part of the Industry Canada portfolio. As deputy ministers, Simon and I have some duty to supervise what they do and how they do it. If things are not going well, that clarifies our interventions a little. Still, these organizations are independent entities. I am sure that these people would be pleased to meet with you and tell you about their activities.
Please allow me to give you an overview of these institutions.
The National Research Council, which has been around for 90 or 100 years, is focusing on two interventions: the IRAP, a very useful program for supporting SMEs and launching new businesses, and institutes across the country that aim to increase the commercialization and the participation of the private sector in certain targeted sectors.
We have two granting councils: the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. They support fundamental research in universities. In the case of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, we are talking about approximately $1.1 billion, and with the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, it's approximately $700 million. A large part of this is recouped by the Indirect Costs Program. The grants they are awarded equal about $300 million. As part of the Science and Technology Strategy, these are obviously important partners, given that they work with the universities and, increasingly, with colleges.
There is also the Canadian Space Agency, in Saint-Hubert, which aims to support space exploration and the space industry.
I spoke earlier about the Business Development Bank of Canada, in Montreal, which supports some 29,000 or 30,000 clients annually through loans. It played a significant role during the economic crisis by increasing the credit available to entrepreneurs to ensure that the money was circulating in the economy.
The portfolio also includes Statistics Canada, which has just completed the census and the National Household Survey. As you know, the census went well, and the participation rate was high at 98.1%, which is very good. I think that Statistics Canada will soon make public the results of the national survey.
There is also the Canadian Tourism Commission, located in Vancouver, and it promotes tourism.
I'll stop now.
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View Tony Clement Profile
CPC (ON)
By staying focused on balancing the budget and reducing the debt, we aim to keep taxes low and promote long-term economic growth.
We want to ensure Canada continues to be a place where people invest their money and grow their businesses. We want to ensure Canada will offer Canadians opportunities to work and contribute to their communities. These are the objectives driving us. And despite the large injection of stimulus funding we made over the past two years, I am pleased to say we are on track to balancing the books by 2014-15, a year ahead of the plan outlined in March.
Our government's commitment to this goal is clear in the responsible spending plans set out in the 2011-12 main estimates and supplementary estimates (A). The main estimates currently total $250.8 billion in expenditures for operating and capital costs, transfer payments, and the public debt charge. This represents a reduction of $10.4 billion in planned spending from the 2010-11 main estimates.
Also in the main estimates, program and operating votes are down by about $720 million, or 1.5%, from the 2010-11 main estimates. This amount is accounted for mainly by the winding down of the infrastructure initiatives we had under the economic action plan. The reductions also include a $3.4-billion decrease in planned statutory spending on interest and other costs.
Also shown in the main estimates is a $1.1-billion decrease resulting from the implementation of the harmonized sales tax.
The 2011-12 main estimates are in line with decisions from budget 2010 and previous budgets. Budget 2010 outlined our three-point plan to balance the budget. The first part of that plan is the winding down of the stimulus. The second part includes a number of measures to ensure the government lives within its means.
These include a freeze on the operating budgets of departments, and many other measures to restrain the growth of spending. But they do allow for some flexibility to implement budget priorities, among other things, and to accommodate cost pressures related to essential services.
Essentially, we have taken the same approach to balancing the books as Canadian families have. They have looked at their expenses and set priorities. They expect their government to do the same, and that's what we have been doing to great effect.
The third part of our government's plan to balance the budget includes continuing the strategic reviews on all of our program spending. This process requires departments to assess whether programs are achieving their intended results, are effectively managed, and are appropriately aligned with the priorities of Canadians and with federal responsibilities.
In 2010, the last year of the first four years of strategic reviews, 13 organizations were involved. They identified savings of more than $500 million annually. Together with measures to restrain the growth of national defence spending, this first cycle of strategic reviews resulted in $11 billion in savings over seven years, and more than $2.8 billion in ongoing savings.
Eliminating the deficit will also require new actions planned in the most recent budget, including the strategic and operating review. This process will involve the efficiency and effectiveness of government operations and programs in order to ensure ongoing value for Canadians. We will put about $80 billion of direct program spending under the microscope. The goal is to find at least $4 billion in ongoing annual savings by 2014-15. Every organization will be asked to develop two scenarios: one representing a 5% reduction, and one representing a 10% reduction in their spending. Unlike strategic review, the spending base will include all operating expenditures, including wages, salaries, and professional service contracts, for example, as well as grants and contributions, capital, and payments to crown corporations. Indeed, about two-thirds of the review base is represented by operating expenses. With this approach, we are taking a page from the private sector, which regularly conducts operational reviews to find areas for cost savings and productivity gains.
This is the first time in 15 years the government has conducted a review of the scope, and we believe that challenging times like these can also be opportunities to look critically at the programs and services we provide, their relevance, and how best to deliver them.
Let me also take a moment to describe the highlights of supplementary estimates (A), both government-wide and TBS-specific. Supplementary estimates (A) are part of the normal parliamentary approval process to ensure that previously planned government initiatives receive the necessary funding to move forward.
Specifically, the government-wide Supplementary Estimates (A) support the request for Parliament's approval of $2 billion in expenditures in 19 organizations. This amount is within the spending level specified in Budget 2010. In the Treasury Board Secretariat Supplementary Estimates (A), we are seeking $1.3 billion. This amount results from the Secretariat's role in funding a cash-out of severance pay for public service employees. This is happening in accordance with the collective agreement for three occupational groups, signed on March 1.
All these measures are part of the government's larger commitment to the prudent management of taxpayer dollars.
Mr. Chair, I'm proud of the government's economic record and its plan to ensure Canada remains at the forefront of economic growth and job creation. These main estimates and supplementary estimates (A) show the government is on track to implement its freeze on operating budgets.
As I mentioned earlier, program and operating votes are down by about $720 million from the year before. Also, if you compare spending in the estimates tabled to date for 2011-12 to total spending put before Parliament for 2010-11, you actually see a $2.7 billion decrease, excluding transfer payments and public debt.
Mr. Chair, we are also committed to improving the accountability and transparency in reporting to Parliament, and have been so for some time. For example, there are changes to the format of the 2011-12 main estimates. Part I now includes the trend of the budgetary main estimates accounts for the last ten years. In part II, for each department and agency we have added a brief description of the mandate or purpose of the department and the department's explanation of the major reasons for a material change in requirements from the previous year.
This change to the format of the main estimates is on top of improvements we have made over the past decade to supplementary estimates documents. These include a listing and description of horizontal initiatives requesting funding through supplementary estimates, and that means initiatives involving two or more organizations; an expanded introduction that includes descriptions of the largest dollar-value items; and summaries of authorities by ministry.
In addition to my responsibilities as President of the Treasury Board, I am also the minister responsible for FedNor, the Government of Canada's economic development organization serving northern Ontario. It's a position I've held proudly since 2006. In this regard, I'm joined today by Industry Canada's assistant deputy minister for regional operations, Mitch Davies, and at the back, FedNor's director general, Aime Dimatteo, should be around here somewhere, I hope.
Since April 2006, FedNor has invested more than $263 million in over 1,240 projects to benefit northern Ontario's economy. Our goal is to ensure that these investments and projects are having a positive impact on the economy of northern Ontario communities.
I was pleased to see that budget 2011 included a further commitment to northern Ontario of $4 million over three years to establish a cyclotron laboratory in Thunder Bay. This investment, through FedNor, will help create medical isotopes for early detection of cancer cells. The Government of Canada is pleased to support the Thunder Bay Regional Research Institute as it continues to develop new leading-edge technologies and products in medical science and research that will benefit the world.
Starting this August, we'll be taking another step to improve accountability and transparency in reporting to Parliament. We will require federal departments and crown corporations to prepare quarterly financial reports and to make them public. This will allow each department to provide a window into its own financial situation on a quarterly basis and give parliamentarians and Canadians enhanced information on government spending. It will facilitate timely oversight by parliamentarians of government expenditures and it will complement other information currently provided by the government, such as departmental performance reports and the annual public accounts of Canada.
I’m joined by the Secretary of the Treasury Board, Michelle d’Auray, and by other officials here, Bill Matthews and Christine Walker, and I previously introduced Mitch. At this point we are certainly here to take your questions.
Thank you, Chair.
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