Auditor general’s business audit of school performance deferred—MacDonald

March 12, 2009

GOVERNMENT BILLS

Bill 18Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Statutes Amendment Act, 2009

Bill 18, Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Statutes Amendment Act, 2009, was debated by Committee of the Whole. Sponsored by Minister of International and Intergovernmental Relations Ron Stevens, the bill amends 11 acts to ensure government statutes are consistent with the British Columbia–Alberta Trade, Investment and Labour Mobility Agreement, which comes into full effect April 1, 2009.

Minister of International and Intergovernmental Relations Ron Stevens: “Mr. Chairman, I’m very pleased that we’re just a few weeks away from fully implementing Canada’s most comprehensive interprovincial trade agreement. As I’m sure most members in this House now know, by April 1 more than a hundred regulated occupations will have full labour mobility between Alberta and British Columbia. All skilled tradespersons such as plumbers or welders or highly trained professionals like teachers or nurses certified in Alberta or B.C. will be able to move between provinces and keep working without having to go through extensive recertification or retraining. . . .

“While the amendments are being handed out, I’ll address some of the points that have been raised. I actually addressed some of those in second reading in my closing remarks, so these really are supplementary to those answers I provided at that time.

“One or more of the hon. members raised concerns over the misconception that there was no debate over the TILMA. The fact of the matter is that every step toward reaching the TILMA has been made public in one way or another. There were website postings, news releases, consultations with affected groups. In fact, Mr. Chairman, there was consultation with over 200 representatives from the MASH sector. . . .

“Mr. Chairman, during the debate it was suggested that the TILMA will lower labour standards. The answer to that is: not true. In fact, both Alberta and B.C. have specifically committed to promoting high labour standards. We’ve worked together with more than 60 regulatory bodies that represent the hundred professional and skilled trade occupations covered under the TILMA. These regulatory bodies are directly involved in these negotiations, which is why we are very confident that high standards will continue. In most cases we are finding that mutual recognition is the option most regulatory bodies are going with. . . .

“Mr. Chairman, after our extensive consultation with the MASH sector we reached agreement on new procurement thresholds under the TILMA. The thresholds are now $75,000 for goods and services and $200,000 for construction. Under the AIT, agreement on internal trade, thresholds were $100,000 for goods and services and $250,000 for construction projects.”

Bill 21 Appropriation (Supplementary Supply) Act, 2009

Bill 21, Appropriation (Supplementary Supply) Act, 2009, received second reading. Sponsored by President of the Treasury Board Lloyd Snelgrove, the bill authorizes supplementary payments from the General Revenue Fund in 2008/09, including $750,000 for the Office of the Auditor General for a variety of special systems audits.

Hugh MacDonald (LIB—Edmonton-Gold Bar): “What the Auditor is going to do with that money, I don’t know, but I do know what is on the Auditor’s wish list that needs to be done and cannot be done. . . .

“Education: improving school performance. That was to be a knowledge of business audit project. That has been deferred, no date given.”

Len Mitzel (PC—Cypress–Medicine Hat): “The hon. member in his opening statements and through his whole thing spoke to a bunch of the audits that were not done, and he spoke to them under the assumption that these weren’t done because of the lack of money. The hon. member might want to comment on whether the Auditor General perhaps decided that he didn’t want to do them at this time or that there weren’t enough other contractors, other auditors and other consulting firms, available to be able to do these.”

Mr MacDonald: “I would also like to point out to the hon. member that with the change in economic conditions, regardless of whether it’s a construction worker or an auditor, there are a lot more of both available now. I’m not putting words in the office of the Auditor General on the floor of this House, but from what I understand from the discourse we’ve had with the Auditor General, it’s much easier now to hire and retain outside audit staff for the office. There are certainly peaks in the auditing season, which the Auditor General has explained to us very well, and these resources are available. But it was clear in Public Accounts yesterday that an additional $2 million is needed for this vital work.”

Bill 22Appropriation (Interim Supply) Act, 2009

Bill 22, Appropriation (Interim Supply) Act, 2009, received second reading. Sponsored by President of the Treasury Board Lloyd Snelgrove, the bill authorizes interim payments from the General Revenue Fund in 2009/10, including $1.1 billion for Alberta Education, until the budget estimates are approved.

Kevin Taft (LIB—Edmonton-Riverview): “The fiscal year begins April 1. All kinds of organizations depend on provincial funding for them to make plans for their fiscal year. Some organizations have fiscal years that begin in September, like many school boards. Regardless, all of those organizations depending on provincial funding have to plan. If they, as many of them do, begin their fiscal year April 1 and they do not know how much provincial funding they’re going to get, they cannot properly plan. So we are building inefficiency and difficulty into our public financing system because of this process.

“I was very pleased when the Premier announced – I think it was two years ago – that one of his priorities was to move the provincial budget process earlier in the year. It’s an easy way to make the public sector across the board in Alberta more efficient. It’s just basic good sense. Unfortunately, we have not achieved that. In fact, we haven’t even come close.”

To review the status of legislation of interest to the Association, please consult Bills and Motions 2009.