OPENING STATEMENT OF KAREN
HOGAN, CPA, CA
AUDITOR GENERAL OF CANADA
BEFORE THE STANDING COMMITTEE
ON ENVIRONMENT AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
ROLE OF THE COMMISSIONER OF THE ENVIRONMENT AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
8 March 2021
1. Mr. Chair, thank you for inviting us to appear before the committee today. I am pleased to introduce Jerry DeMarco, our new Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, who joined the Office of the Auditor General of Canada on February 1st.
2. Mr. DeMarco previously served as Commissioner of the Environment within the Office of the Auditor General of Ontario. Before that, he oversaw several administrative justice organizations at the federal and provincial levels. He holds a law degree and master’s degrees in environmental studies, management, and science. It is an honour to have Mr. DeMarco join our office.
3. I am also accompanied by Andrew Hayes, Deputy Auditor General and former interim Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development.
4. Mr. Chair, I recognize that the issue before us today is one of policy and, therefore, that it falls entirely to the discretion of the legislator. However, I would like to take this opportunity to convey the merits of having the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development within the Office of the Auditor General of Canada.
5. The OAG applies exacting auditing standards to provide Parliament with objective, fact-based information that it can use to hold government organizations accountable to Canadians. This applies to all of our audits, including those of the Commissioner. We are auditors, not advocates.
6. Operating under the Auditor General Act, the Commissioner has broad access to all of the government information required to conduct his work and is required to report directly to Parliament. The Commissioner’s reports are all referred to your committee, in support of its accountability function.
7. Since the creation of the Commissioner role in 1995, the OAG has built an expertise in environmental and sustainable development issues, through a diverse professional staff with backgrounds in biology, environmental sciences, environmental law, and economics, to name a few. While you may be used to seeing the Commissioner’s influence in performance audits, the environmental expertise is leveraged across all of the OAG’s work, including financial audits and special examinations of Crown corporations.
8. For example, in our review of financial statements, we audit the government’s liability for contaminated sites. When auditing corporations like Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, our scope includes environmental considerations and their impact on the corporation’s financial results and business processes.
9. We view this synergy of expertise across the OAG as a strength. I want to note that two provincial auditors general offices have either a commissioner of the environment or a commissioner of sustainable development— Ontario and Quebec.
10. At a time when issues relating to the environment are so closely entwined with social and economic factors, it is important that we not work in silos. By leveraging and integrating our environmental and sustainable development expertise across all of our work, we can address issues more comprehensively and holistically.
11. This need for better integration has prompted the OAG, in recent years, to weave into all of its audit work the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, which Canada adheres to. As Canada is faced with responding to crises, such as climate change and biodiversity loss, and is called on to foster sustainable development across government decisions, the OAG’s integrated approach may serve as a model for working horizontally to address cross-cutting issues.
12. Mr. Chair, the volume of all of our performance audit work was affected as we dealt with funding constraints, including reports issued by the Commissioner. With our new permanent funding that was announced in the 2020 Fall Economic Statement, I can assure you that the tide will turn. In fact, starting this year the Commissioner will return to presenting several audit reports per year.
13. Lastly, the OAG enjoys an enviable reputation nationally and internationally and is considered a leader in public sector environmental auditing and in auditing the implementation of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. Our expertise is sought by auditors the world over.
14. Mr. Chair, I will now turn to Mr. DeMarco to close these remarks.
15. Good afternoon. I also wish to thank the committee for inviting us. As I am new to this position, I may not have been here long enough to answer all of your questions today. However, I can assure you that I am greatly committed to my new role as the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development. I look forward to working with this committee and all parliamentarians to support you in keeping the government accountable on environmental and sustainable issues.
16. Mr. Chair, we are now ready to answer the committee’s questions.