Archived - Review of the 2012–2013 Main Estimates of the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages
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Notes for an appearance before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Official Languages
Ottawa, May 10, 2012
Graham Fraser - Commissioner of Official Languages
Check against delivery
Beginning of dialog
Mr. Chair and honourable members of the Standing Committee on Official Languages,
I would like to thank your committee for its interest in the operations of the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages. The relationship between Parliament and my office is of the utmost importance.
I am accompanied today by Lise Cloutier, Assistant Commissioner, Corporate Management; Ghislaine Charlebois, Assistant Commissioner, Compliance Assurance; Sylvain Giguère, Assistant Commissioner, Policy and Communications; and Colette Lagacé, Director, Finance.
The Office of the Commissioner has a budget of $21.9 million, including $2.3 million in benefits for 2012–2013, to support it in its mandate. Our workforce is 163 full-time equivalents.
Those of you who have been sitting on this committee for some time know that our operations are divided into three program activities: protection of Canadians’ language rights, promotion of linguistic duality and internal services.
This categorization of activities has not changed. However, due to financial pressures, we must re-evaluate the allocation of our resources. Some components of these activities could be modified.
The federal budget released on March 29 indicated that our organization will not be directly affected by the deficit reduction exercise, but that:
The Commissioner of Official Languages will contribute to the Government’s expenditure restraint efforts by reallocating operating savings towards necessary information technology investments.
In other words, our Treasury Board submission for $6.4 million over four years to modernize our information technology and information management systems has been refused. This amount represents 7.8% of the Office of the Commissioner’s budget for this period. All the data I am presenting today, as well as the recently tabled Report on Plans and Priorities, take into account this major investment, which we have to make. Every sector of my organization must contribute. The Office of the Commissioner will continue to carry out all its functions, but some activities may be reduced or postponed. Rest assured that complaints remain my priority, and investigations will be conducted as usual. Eventually, a new case management system will help us become even more efficient in our work.
Protection of language rights
To implement our first program activity, protecting the language rights of Canadians, the Office of the Commissioner intervenes in various ways with organizations subject to the Official Languages Act. Its key tools are: complaint resolution through investigations, audits, performance evaluations of federal institutions and court remedies. My staff and I regularly intervene with many federal institutions in order to prevent violations of the Act, rather than waiting until they occur.
The expenditures planned for this activity are $7.1 million, which is 32% of the budget. To assume this additional financial burden, my three-year audit plan will be revised.
In 2012–2013, we will be publishing last year’s audits of Industry Canada and Parks Canada. To improve services to both the travelling public and the general public, we will continue to work with institutions present in airports. The legal actions against Air Canada and CBC/Radio‑Canada are proceeding normally and a decision should be rendered by the end of the year in both cases.
Transfer of federal funds for official languages to the provinces and territories
The transfer of federal funds for official languages to the provinces and territories is very important, and so I am planning to conduct an audit to examine the situation. This audit will not extend beyond my mandate or the resources I have at my disposal. It will be a horizontal audit on a limited number of federal institutions. It will not be a financial audit, but rather a review of the accountability process.
Promotion of linguistic duality
Then, with respect to our second program activity, promotion of linguistic duality, the Office of the Commissioner communicates regularly with parliamentarians, official language minority communities, federal institutions and the Canadian public. Canadians enjoy the full benefits of a country where two major language communities live side by side, thanks to our research, studies, communications products, and discussions with many key people.
The expenditures related to this activity are $7.2 million, which accounts for 33% of the total budget. Again, this budget must absorb part of the costs of modernizing our information technology.
In the March 29 budget document, the government announced that funding for the Roadmap for Canada’s Linguistic Duality will continue until it expires in 2013. Those responsible for turning the various components of this initiative into concrete results welcomed this news. However, I remain vigilant about the cost cutting undertaken by the federal administration as a whole. Federal institutions must evaluate the impact of their cutbacks on official language communities and on their own capacity to incorporate Canada’s linguistic duality into their operations.
Among other initiatives, we will be concluding a study on federal institutions are managing language training, and we will be publishing a new publication entitled “Linguistic Rights 2009-2011” which will summarize and analyse recent legal judgments involving official languages. We are also organizing a fourth forum on the relationship between cultural diversity and linguistic duality, which will be held in Montréal.
We will continue to promote three very useful tools created in recent years: the Leadership Competencies Profile for Official Languages for public service managers, the practical guide to promoting official languages when organizing a major cultural or sporting event in Canada or abroad, and the map of second-language learning opportunities in Canadian universities. The Office of the Commissioner’s 2011–2012 annual report, which will be published in October, will look at how Canada’s two official language communities are open to linguistic duality. This fall, we will launch Facebook and Twitter accounts that will allow me to communicate directly with Canadians. I hope you will follow me.
Our third program activity, internal services, allows the Office of the Commissioner to bring together resources that support the organization as a whole, including asset management, finance and human resources management. They are essential to any organization and ensure that taxpayers’ dollars are used efficiently and transparently.
This activity is allocated a budget of $7.6 million, which is 35% of our total budget. To modernize the information technology and information management system that makes up part of this activity, internal services is reviewing how it delivers a number of its services. Specifically, we will implement an action plan in keeping with the A‑base review conducted last year, and look at the shared services model for the internal services to officers of Parliament. A new videoconference system will help reduce travel expenses for me and my staff.
In addition, the Office of the Commissioner will continue to apply accountability mechanisms, particularly the performance measurement framework, and we are in the process of completing internal audit on investigations practices, to which we will respond to the recommendations.
We are also following up on the 2011 Public Service Employee Survey. The Office of the Commissioner’s results are very encouraging. Not only are they quite positive compared to the results for the public service as a whole, but our employees’ satisfaction level has increased significantly since the last survey in 2008. I am very pleased to report that the Office of the Commissioner’s employees enjoy their work and recognize excellence in their workplace.
Accountability of officers of Parliament
Parliamentarians are rightfully interested in the activities that officers of Parliament undertake to fulfill their mandate and how they manage the public funds that are entrusted to them. Like the other officers of Parliament, I continue to advocate for a permanent parliamentary funding and monitoring mechanism regarding the role of Parliament and the independence and distinct nature of the mandates of its officers, which would show the government’s commitment to the sound management of public resources.
Thank you for your attention. It would be my pleasure to answer your questions.