2022 Reports 5 to 8 of the Auditor General of Canada to the Parliament of Canada—Auditor General of Canada’s Opening Statement to the news conference

2022 Reports 5 to 8 of the Auditor General of Canada to the Parliament of CanadaAuditor General of Canada’s Opening Statement to the news conference

Good morning, and thank you for joining me. I want to begin by acknowledging that we are gathered on the traditional unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinaabeg people.

When I look at the 4 performance audit reports we’ve released today, I see a common thread where government organizations are often slow to effectively use the means at their disposal to provide the best possible outcomes for all people. As these audits show, outcomes are always far‑reaching. Sometimes, it’s our most vulnerable populations who are disproportionally affected by the failure of government organizations to actively manage issues.

Let’s start with our report on emergency management in First Nations communities.

We found that Indigenous Services Canada did not provide First Nations communities with the support needed to manage emergencies such as floods and wildfires, which are increasing in both frequency and intensity. Many First Nations communities are disproportionally affected by emergencies because of their remoteness or socio‑economic circumstances.

Over the last 4 fiscal years, Indigenous Services Canada has spent about $828 million on emergency management. The department’s actions were consistently more reactive than preventative. It is spending 3.5 times more money on responding to and recovering from emergencies than on supporting communities to prevent or prepare for them. According to Public Safety Canada, for every $1 invested in preparedness and mitigation, $6 can be saved in emergency response and recovery costs.

First Nations communities identified many infrastructure projects to mitigate the impact of emergencies. Indigenous Services Canada has a backlog of 112 of these infrastructure projects that it has approved but not funded. Funding and building approved infrastructure projects, such as culverts and dikes to prevent seasonal floods, would help minimize the impact on people and the cost of responding to and recovering from emergencies.

Many of the issues we are raising today in this audit were findings in our 2013 audit of emergency management on reserves. I’m frustrated that almost a decade later, there has been little to no improvement. For example, Indigenous Services Canada still has not identified which First Nations communities most need support to manage emergencies. If the department identified these communities, it could target its investments accordingly.

I’m going to turn now to our audit of cybersecurity of personal information in the cloud. This audit looked at whether select federal organizations had the right controls in place to prevent, detect, and respond to security events that could compromise Canadians’ personal information stored in the cloud.

When federal organizations decide to store Canadians’ personal information in the cloud, they are responsible for securing and protecting that information. To do so, they are supposed to apply the baseline set of controls established by the Government of Canada. Our audit found that these controls were applied and monitored inconsistently across the departments we examined. As cyberattacks everywhere are becoming more frequent and sophisticated, gaps in controls increase the risk of security breaches.

We also found that, although the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat first directed federal organizations to consider the use of cloud services 4 years ago, it still hadn’t provided a long‑term funding plan for cloud adoption. It also had not provided government organizations the tools needed to calculate the costs of moving to cloud applications and securing information stored there. These are necessary for federal organizations to plan and ensure that they will have the people, resources, and expertise needed to secure and protect information.

The government needs to act now—while departments are in the early stages of transitioning to the cloud—to strengthen the use of controls to prevent, detect, and respond to cyberattacks.

The adequacy of tools and technologies was also a concern in our audit of maritime surveillance in Arctic waters. In this audit, we looked at whether federal organizations had the tools and maritime awareness needed to monitor traffic and respond to safety and security incidents in this region.

The warming climate is increasing the accessibility of Canada’s Arctic waters and generating new economic opportunities—for example, in the mining, commercial fishing, and tourism industries. This increases foreign interest and competition in the region and brings a higher likelihood of unauthorized access, safety incidents, illegal fishing, and marine pollution.

We found that the government had not acted to address long‑standing issues affecting the surveillance of Canada’s Arctic waters. As a result, the federal organizations who are responsible for safety and security in the region have an incomplete picture of vessel traffic in the Arctic.

Gaps in the surveillance of Arctic waters and concerns about Canada’s aging equipment have been known for many years. Our audit showed that these concerns persist. The renewal of vessels, aircraft, satellites, and infrastructure needed to monitor maritime traffic and respond to safety and security incidents has been delayed to the point where some equipment will likely need to be retired before it can be replaced.

Examples include Transport Canada’s and the Canadian Coast Guard’s aging icebreakers and patrol aircraft that are nearing the end of their service lives. Although plans to replace these are underway, there is no contingency plan if the delivery of replacement vessels is further delayed. This could undermine Canada’s presence in Arctic waters.

The government urgently needs to address the long‑standing issues noted in our audit to put equipment renewal on a sustainable path and protect Canada’s interests in the Arctic, including an improved capability to respond to threats and incidents.

Let me go now to our last audit, on the crucial issue of chronic homelessness. In this audit, we looked at whether Employment and Social Development Canada and Infrastructure Canada worked to prevent and reduce chronic homelessness.

We also looked at whether the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation contributed to this objective by delivering federal housing programs and services that address the housing needs and improve housing outcomes for vulnerable Canadians, including those who are experiencing chronic homelessness.

Our audit showed that, although 5 years have gone by since the launch of the federal government’s National Housing Strategy, there is still no organization in the federal government taking the lead on Canada’s target to prevent and reduce chronic homelessness by half by 2028. In addition, the organizations did not know whether their efforts so far had improved housing outcomes for vulnerable Canadians.

For example, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation—as the lead for the National Housing Strategy—has spent about half of the roughly $9 billion it committed to the strategy, but it did not know whether those most in need benefitted from the initiatives. This was because the corporation did not measure the changes in housing outcomes for priority vulnerable groups, including people experiencing homelessness.

We also found that some rental housing units created under the strategy that the corporation considered affordable were often unaffordable for low‑income households and vulnerable groups. In addition, the corporation had not assessed whether those most in need were being housed.

One of my biggest concerns is the lack of federal accountability for achieving Canada’s target to reduce chronic homelessness by half by 2028. Infrastructure Canada and the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation should be coordinating their efforts to deliver on the National Housing Strategy’s objectives and get a roof over the heads of individuals and families.

Thank you for your attention. I am now ready to answer your questions.