Investing in Canada Plan

Opening Statement to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts

Investing in Canada Plan

(Report 9—2021 Reports of the Auditor General of Canada)

11 May 2021

Karen Hogan, Chartered Professional AccountantCPA, Chartered AccountantCA
Auditor General of Canada

Madam Chair, thank you for this opportunity to present the results of our audit report on the Investing in Canada Plan. Joining me is Nicholas Swales, who was the principal responsible for the audit, and Gabriel Lombardi, who led the audit team.

The Investing in Canada Plan is important because the government is investing $188 billion over 12 years to generate long-term economic growth, improve the resiliency of communities, support the transition to a green economy, and improve social inclusion and socio-economic outcomes for Canadians.

Our audit examined whether Infrastructure Canada and key federal organizations could demonstrate that the plan was meeting its objectives and whether they were providing complete, reliable, and timely reporting on the plan to Canadians.

Overall, we found that Infrastructure Canada was unable to present a full picture of the results achieved and progress made under the Investing in Canada Plan. The absence of clear and complete reporting on the plan makes it difficult for parliamentarians and Canadians to know whether progress is being made against the intended results.

Specifically, we found that the department’s reporting on intended results excluded almost half of the government’s investment. The reporting did not capture the more than $92 billion of funding that was committed before the plan’s creation in 2016. Although this issue was raised soon after the creation of the plan by one of its oversight committees, and later in a 2019 internal review, we found that this reporting gap remained unresolved.

For the other half of the funding, Infrastructure Canada and its federal partners developed a reporting framework that includes expected results and indicators. But they did not report against the framework consistently and comprehensively. The clarity of the reporting was also affected by inconsistent information received from the partner organizations.

We were further disappointed to observe that the plan made no mention of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, even though the plan could play a significant role in achieving some of them. The government has recognized the importance of collaboration among federal organizations to meeting these goals.

We also found that funds were not being spent as quickly as originally planned. Approximately one fifth of the spending intended for the first 3 years was moved to later years. In addition, half of the total allocated spending is now planned for the last 5 years of the plan. No one was tracking the impact of delayed spending on the plan as a whole, which means that the plan’s objectives may not be met.

The issues affecting the Investing in Canada Plan are not new. We have seen similar problems in many past audits in areas requiring cross-departmental or cross-jurisdictional collaboration, such as those involving Indigenous issues and climate change. This audit is yet another example of the need for the government to act on known issues, in this case the need for broad collaboration and clear reporting on results for this large initiative.

We made a comprehensive recommendation to Infrastructure Canada to improve monitoring, tracking, and reporting on progress, and the department agreed with it.

Madam Chair, this concludes my opening remarks. We would be pleased to answer any questions the committee may have. Thank you.