Opinion

Is Trudeau’s climate plan up in smoke?

But, if Prime Minister Justin Trudeau drops his support for the Kinder Morgan pipeline, he risks gravely disappointing Rachel Notley, Alberta’s NDP premier and a fast political ally of Trudeau in a province where the Liberal name was toxic for decades, writes Susan Riley. The Hill Times photograph by Jake Wright

By SUSAN RILEY


Spin Doctors


SPIN DOCTORS

KATE PURCHASE, CORY HANN, IAN WAYNE, MATHIEU R. ST-AMAND, AND DAN PALMER

“The countdown for a 90-day notice to renegotiate NAFTA has begun. How should Canada approach these talks?”

By LAURA RYCKEWAERT



Questionable transfers from Statistics Canada to Shared Services Canada

By WAYNE SMITH

I have been monitoring the relationship between Statistics Canada and Shared Services Canada using Access to Information. The most recent batch of records from Statistics Canada showed that Statistics Canada had transferred $14.4 M in the last few months of the 2016-17 fiscal year to Shared Services Canada. This transfer is problematic in several ways. It demonstrated my point when I resigned that SSC is inefficient, will result in higher IT costs for Statistics Canada and will therefore damage the statistical system by forcing Statistics Canada to redirect money from statistical programs to SSC. But there are some other very interesting aspects to the transaction. The money is coming from a very large surplus on 2016 Census collection operations that was realized on my watch. Since Statistics Canada is separately and directly funded for the Census my view and the view of my immediate predecessors was that unspent funds could not be redirected to other purposes unrelated to the Census, as is being done here. I believe parliamentarians will be unhappy to see what is being done here. Another aspect is the poor management demonstrated by this plan. Statistics Canada and Shared Services Canada are acting as if purchasing additional IT infrastructure is a one-time cost and portraying it that way to Ministers and to the Clerk of the Privy Council. Two seconds of thought will lead any reasonable person to understand that this infrastructure will wear out and need to be replaced and apparently neither SSC nor StatCan have any plan for where this money will come from in future. For IT hardware the future is only 3 to 5 years away. Also completely ignored are the operating costs of the equipment purchased. Finally there are strict rules around moving money between fiscal years. Generally, departments are not allowed to pay for significant acquisitions in one year and have them delivered in subsequent years. Given that this plan was put in place toward the end of the third quarter of the fiscal year, and given that IT acquisitions, especially those involving SSC are notoriously slow, often taking the better part of a fiscal year, delivery of the IT infrastructure being funded by StatCan is unlikely to have occurred by March 31, 2017. Statistics Canada has to contend with this issue when it carries out surveys for other departments. If SSC is allowing departments to prepay for IT infrastructure, I believe it is breaking the rules of financial management. A similar case occurred in the 1990s with Canada Communications Group, resulting in a scandal and eventual removal of the head of the agency. So I have written the attached opinion piece. It is technical and a tad long and may not fit the Hill Times but I am presenting it to you for your consideration.