Estimates - ITO (17 May 2006)

Crown and Central Agencies Committee

From Crown and Central Agencies Committee Hansard
17 May 2006

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Estimates for
Information Technology Office

Mr. D'Autremont: — Thank you, Madam Chairman. I’d like to welcome the minister and his officials here today. On page 100 of the budget book under vote 74, it lists allocations for the office of geomatics coordination. Exactly what is that money being used for?

Mr. Antunes: — So there’s one of the functions of the Information Technology Office has, is it has responsibility for coordinating geomatics policy across executive government. So there’s two individuals that work on improving the way government shares data and collaborating on some of these geomatics or GIS [geographical information systems] type of initiatives.

Mr. D’Autremont: — So is this money allocated then for ITO [Information Technology Office] to ensure that there’s connectivity between the various government departments, that they can talk to each other, so that if somebody is using Microsoft Word documents that the other departments can receive Microsoft Word? Or exactly what are they doing?

Mr. Antunes: — Geomatics is a geographic information system so it’s more about . . . You can represent information in databases, and then it’s a way to take the information that’s location-based in databases and display that on a map. So there’s a number of departments that use map-based information for analysis and decision making. So we have . . . And there’s also some standards related to mapping and surveying and those types of things.

So this group does some of those policy functions for government as well as coordinating the needs of various departments. So there’s no hardware or software. It’s really just two staff that basically manage and try to coordinate government’s initiatives on geomatics to make sure we’re doing things in an enterprise-wide approach.

Mr. D’Autremont: — Thank you. Isn’t this then similar to what ISC [Information Services Corporation] is doing with their geomatics?

Hon. Mr. Thomson: — This is somewhat different in terms of the approach. Historically this was initially moved out of a number of different government departments, brought together into SPMC [Saskatchewan Property Management Corporation] I think about eight years ago, seven or eight years ago. And then when ITO was created, it migrated from SPMC to the ITO.

It is different than what ISC does in that ISC is specifically responsible for land titles registry. So this deals with a number of different government departments that deal with land management basis so Department of Environment, Department of Industry and Resources, I guess formerly Energy and Mines, a number of these different government agencies that deal with land-based policy. Agriculture and Food would be one, and Highways.

Mr. D’Autremont: — Isn’t though ISC developing or has developed a geomatics . . . They took over the geomatics from the organization that was doing it for department of municipalities at the time, Rural Development or . . . They had a geomatics branch there. ISC took it over.

If say in Environment you need an overlay for the different game zones, couldn’t they just build that onto the base that ISC has already in place to do their mapping with? Because mapping there is a major component of what they’re doing. Rather than having a separate branch under ITO, couldn’t you just simply overlay over the map of Saskatchewan the particular elements that are needed for each department in the sense of the game zones for Environment or where the highways run for the Department of Highways?

Hon. Mr. Thomson: — Yes, that would be one of the options. What had happened is initially these policy positions were included with ISC and have since moved back to the ITO. These are largely policy positions. And so they don’t deal with the specific mapping issues. It’s not specifically the technology as much as it is the enterprise architecture issues that go with it.

Mr. D’Autremont: — So this is then salary, office space expense for two individuals dealing with policy of mapping for the various branches of executive government. Wouldn’t the branches of executive government be doing that within their own branches to determine what they need for those components?

Hon. Mr. Thomson: — Yes, they may well have within each department additional specialized resources to deal with that. One of the areas that we know needs to be improved within government is the ability to coordinate the various resources on an interdepartmental basis. That’s one of the key objectives of a central agency like ITO is, through using a small additional resource, be able to better coordinate government’s response. And so it’s to make sure that the department of X is not headed in a different direction than the department of Y in terms of a GIS policy.

Mr. D’Autremont: — This just seems to be to me a bit of a duplication of effort that it’s either in ISC or it’s in the various executive branch departments where they’re utilizing these services and have a specific need for a specific map. So I’m not still sure why ITO has this expenditure there. Is it simply a coordination effort that they’re ensuring that the rest of government is following the proper policies?

Hon. Mr. Thomson: — That’s correct. This is a coordination function. If it were not in the ITO, the coordination function would be performed by individuals in another department, but those resources would need to go with them. So it was a decision that because it is a policy and a coordinating responsibility should be attached to the central agency, not attached to the vendor, which in this case is ISC, or simply left to the individual agencies to go madly off in their own direction.

Mr. D’Autremont: — So when ITO is coordinating the efforts of the other branches of executive government, are you going in some manner of supervising or regulating, checking that they are following the policy? Or is this simply policy development that is then passed on to the various branches of executive government for them to follow?

Hon. Mr. Thomson: — In short yes. That is what these functions are there to deal with which is to make sure there is coordination. There is an executive committee that is comprised of various officials from different government departments who work together. It is to make sure that we don’t end up with competing systems or competing directions in terms of GIS policy. It is actually, although it may seem somewhat counter intuitive, it is actually an attempt and provides us with the ability to streamline service.

Mr. D’Autremont: — You mentioned that there are two staff in this position. Are those staff of equal stature in the sense of they have the same qualification position, or is it one senior member and one junior member of staff?

Mr. Antunes: — There’s two staff members. They each have the same class of qualifications. One deals more with the technical issues with respect to mapping and surveying and those types of things. The other person deals more with the policy and the coordination aspects, but they’re both of equal level.

Mr. D’Autremont: — So it’s not a senior manager and a clerical staff type of situation?

Mr. Antunes: — No.

Mr. D’Autremont: — Okay thank you. On supplementary estimates, you have 243,000 expenditure there for central services, IT [information technology] coordination and services to external agencies. What was that money spent on since this is coming out of last year’s budget actually?

Mr. Antunes: — Yes, so as we went through the year, there’s a number of departments that joined the ITO partnership so what happened is those positions transferred over to the ITO. The money on these positions — I think we talked about this in the last session — the money, the positions transferred over with the dollar so the ITO overspent their budget by the amount equivalent to the salaries for those positions. The other departments, in this case I believe it was Finance and Learning, under spent by the same amount of money. So that was part of it, and then the other part was related to providing services to other public agencies.

Mr. D’Autremont: — Okay. Was this transfer of money, was it done through warrant, or was it done through billing by ITO to Learning and the other departments that did the transfer?

Mr. Antunes: — Yes, so what happens is the positions moved over to the ITO. The ITO started to pay their salaries, so the ITO incurred their costs. We did not recover those costs back from a different department, so as a result, we didn’t have the budget to pay for them. The budget stayed behind, and the budget was originally in another department. So as we paid their salaries, we incurred the costs. The other departments then had a savings, a corresponding savings, because they weren’t paying their salaries.

Mr. D’Autremont: — I don’t . . . It may have happened, but I don’t recollect seeing surplus budget left over in those departments for the salary costs that were transferred to ITO. And this seems to be a new expenditure rather than a transfer. There was a transfer of employees, but the money for to pay those employees I’m not sure came over.

So what happened to that money? Was it utilized in some other manner within those departments, or was it transferred back to the Consolidated Fund such that the Consolidated Fund ended up as neutral with this transfer?

Mr. Wincherauk: — I wouldn’t be aware of how the other departments spent those funds. But what would have happened at the end of the fiscal year, the new dollars for this fiscal year were transferred from Finance and Learning to the ITO. So you would actually see the transfer at that point in time.

Mr. D’Autremont: — But you incurred the costs in last year’s budget though. So you’re . . . It’s corrected for ongoing. You got the bill for last year, but you didn’t get the revenue to pay the bill with. Somebody else was left with that revenue. And I was just wondering if it came back into the Consolidated Fund or was it used up within that department?

Hon. Mr. Thomson: — I would need to look specifically at those two departments. But in theory what happens is that the money is then simply transferred through within the GRF [General Revenue Fund]. There should be a corresponding under expenditure in those two departments.

Now if that money ends up being reallocated because of other pressures which in . . . from what I’m familiar of with both departments, I think was simply managed through. I don’t think there was a call for additional expenditure in either Learning or . . . I’d have to look at what Learning’s need was. I think that had to do with it was an internal central agency cost.

And so in terms of the actual budgets in those subvotes, we’d need to go back and take a look. This is something that if the member is interested, we could explore it at Public Accounts. It’s largely an accounting issue of how the transfers work.

Mr. D’Autremont: — Thank you, Mr. Minister. Just it’s interesting to see how the money moves around in government. And sometimes it’s not always clear exactly where it went and who got it. Not that I’m suggesting there was anything nefarious about it. Just that sometimes tracking the money becomes a little more difficult.

I had an opportunity to look over the minister’s report, Minister’s Advisory Council on Information Technology report, and it’s an interesting report. Some things I agree with. Some things I have concerns with.

One of the areas though that I found interesting, and I raised it either in committee the last time, or in one of our discussions at least, was the intellectual property considerations as to what’s happening. Where is IT going to go with this?

I know that in some of the other departments copyright protection, copyright ownership, and intellectual property rights is a serious problem, that government seems to absorb that intellectual property and those copyright ownership into government rather than leaving it with the developer of the product, whatever it may be. What has ITO been doing to ensure that the intellectual property remains with the developer rather than with government?

Hon. Mr. Thomson: — We’re still working through with industry on this, but the member’s quite right, the issue around intellectual property is a significant debate within not just Saskatchewan but indeed across the sector. And this is a debate that touches both the private sector, government, and indeed academia as we deal with it. We’re still working through . . . We have not yet come up with a response on what to do with the intellectual property issues. But the report I think has been helpful at least in helping focus the discussion.

Mr. D’Autremont: — While government may certainly have a need for a particular program, the base of that program, the basic software OS [operating system] that’s being used in it and the usage of that is also applicable in a lot of other areas.

And while government may have a particular form or overlay that they need to utilize for their services, if the base of that program can be used elsewhere, that certainly provides for a commercial opportunity for whoever the government had contracted in the first place to supply that. And that would give an opportunity to build the IT industry in Saskatchewan if that is available to be commercialized outside of government, while government may retain those particular items that deal, that are specific for government — you know, let’s say protection of health care information or something like that.

But the whole database to operate that, you know, should be made available through whoever it was that developed that for commercialization and utilization for export or within the province with another entity. So I think it’s important that these intellectual property rights be settled within government so that whoever, when government contracts an IT supplier or software developer to do a project, that they know that I can build it for ITO, but I can also then commercialize that some place else. And so that would help actually I would suspect in lowering the cost to ITO if they know that they can also sell some place else.

Hon. Mr. Thomson: — It’s fair to say that we generally agree with that approach in terms of a model for development, but as I think the member knows from previous discussions we’ve had in the last few years, there’s also a significant debate about the government’s reliance on proprietary software as opposed to open-source standards. And I am sure that neither he or I are particularly interested in re-engaging in that debate today, but this is a significant dialogue that goes on within the industry. It is one which continues to evolve, and we continue to be interested in, and we will continue to work with industry on.

Mr. D’Autremont: — Yes I’d just like to note after the minister’s comments that Linux seems to continue to grow and while most of it remains open-source, there is certainly a developing amount of it that is not open-sourced, that is specialized and commercialized. So in the use of Linux there is certainly problems, but there are opportunities as well.

Another one of the comments in the minister’s advisory report talks about improving government service delivery to the people of Saskatchewan by establishing a formal mechanism that would enable companies and government to collaborate on integrated service delivery initiatives. What has ITO been doing along this line in working with the private industry to develop those kind of services and deliveries?

Hon. Mr. Thomson: — One of the key issues that we needed to address is through the consolidation efforts to make sure that government is aware of what its needs are and what the opportunities are associated with that. And so we are currently establishing an interdepartmental agent working group to look at what other opportunities there may be to move forward with citizen service delivery through IT enabled solutions.

I would expect that we will be in a better position perhaps as early as this fall. Certainly I would hope for next year to be able to identify what the approach is and then to work with private sector vendors in moving that agenda forward. This is an area that I think we’ve got big opportunity in terms of improving simply the face of government and its opportunity to allow more citizens to more actively engage government services through another channel.

Mr. D’Autremont: — What kind of impediments has this intergovernmental . . . coordinated group finding that they’re having with working more closely with the private sector?

Hon. Mr. Thomson: — We’re just in the process of establishing it now, and I think it’s fair to say one of the biggest impediments is simply the government has not yet identified the need or the opportunity attached to it in terms of what it is that could be done. And certainly once we get into that, we’ll get into a discussion — I have no doubt — about whether we are looking at a large, single, seamless approach or whether we’re going to deal with some kind of de-bundled sectoral approach or whether it’ll simply be government by government looking for some kind of integrated approach. And this is really what we’ll need to work with.

But first we need to establish what the opportunity is and then identify how it is we will engage the private sector in it. And that’s what the working group is just starting to get into now.

Mr. D’Autremont: — Yes, I think the word seamless is one that would raise some concerns within private industry on this is that it . . . if seamless was to mean that it would be all done through one central agency. We talked the last time about the packages being too big when a contract is let, so that the smaller software developers, the smaller IT firms within Saskatchewan may not have the capacity individually or in a small group to be able to absorb that size of a particular large contract and that there is a need to break the larger contracts down into more manageable pieces that the smaller IT companies or a group of smaller IT companies can make a tender on.

Hon. Mr. Thomson: — That’ll be one of the issues we’ll have to look at. That being said, there are also I think significant opportunities for Saskatchewan-based operations through the larger IT companies to supply that kind of a service that will obviously potentially create jobs here, whether that is ISM [Information Systems Management Corporation], IBM [International Business Machines Corporation], EDS [Electronic Data Systems], CGI. We could go through the list of them. I mean there’s a number of them there that could potentially do that kind of work. I suspect at the end what there’ll be is some combination of work available to the sector as we move forward if we can identify the opportunity appropriately.

Mr. D’Autremont: — Yes, I think that’s what the smaller businesses are looking for is an opportunity to participate, and if ITO was to issue one call for tenders on a huge project then only two or three companies within the province would have the ability to actually absorb and deliver that kind of a huge process. I know the small companies have a fear that if it’s given to the majors that it may get farmed out across the world to supply the services, and they may not get an opportunity to participate. And they’ve also expressed a concern in the past that if they have to do all their tendering through a larger firm, they’re concerned about their proprietary information and the intellectual property that they have being somehow lost to the larger firm. So that’s one of the concerns that they have as well.

Hon. Mr. Thomson: — Well we’re certainly aware of that issue. It’s raised with me from time to time. And the other issue that is raised is that frankly a lot of these small firms like to be able to identify the Government of Saskatchewan as one of their clients. And they like to be able to showcase that work.

What we need to identify is what type of work is available. And I suspect if we were to move on a citizen service delivery initiative, that there would be a sizable amount of work attached to it. At least upfront that will, I would believe, lead us to some cost savings as we move along. But there are a number of different components to it that would be potentially made available. And I don’t think we should expect that it would be us simply going out and looking for one company to deliver a single product to us.

I would also indicate that we have done a fair amount of work in terms of supplier development with the larger agencies in terms of encouraging them to subcontract with Saskatchewan-based firms and make sure that jobs that could be created here, are created here, and that they use those as anchors for drawing other work into the province.

I think we’re in a better position than we were five years ago, and I would argue that industry would likely reflect that as well.

Mr. D’Autremont: — Well thank you, Mr. Minister. I note on one of the concerns that was raised was the availability of bandwidth at commercially competitive rates. And this book was 2005. And I think to some extent that is improving across the province. SaskTel has provided high-speed wireless. I’m not sure if it’s as perhaps as broad a bandwidth as what some are looking for, but it’s certainly expanded. But there’s also a development of private commercial operators across the province that are supplying services as well.

So I think it’s growing. I’m not sure. Has the government been looking at what they can do to provide a larger bandwidth, if there is a role for government even in this to provide a broader bandwidth, particularly in those areas where there is significant amounts of traffic?

Hon. Mr. Thomson: — Yes, we work with SaskTel primarily, but we do work with also the universities through SRNet [Saskatchewan Research Network Incorporated] and their consortium with CANARIE [Canadian Network for the Advancement of Research Industry and Education] and others in terms of dealing with the bandwidth issues that are there.

I think the issue comes down to two main areas. One is the amount of bandwidth that we have connecting the major urban centres. And the second is how we push more bandwidth out into rural and remote areas. And those are the two big issues that we need to continue to deal with. There’s obviously an increasing demand for bandwidth in both of those areas. And we just need to continue to work on it.

CommunityNet II and the work we’re doing with BCOM is significant in terms of expanding access to high-speed Internet into rural areas. And we’ve done a fair amount of work with the Brand — broadband for rural and northern development — the federal program to make sure we’ve got more of this into the North. So we are continuing to work on that.

As well, I know SaskTel has been really focused on how it is that they can expand the infrastructure, make sure they’ve got the infrastructure in place to deal with increased demand.

Mr. D’Autremont: — You mentioned a federal program. I’m not familiar with it. I wonder if you could give a little bit of elaboration on a federal program, what kind of dollars they’re putting in.

Hon. Mr. Thomson: — I can get you a note on it. I don’t know if it still exists or not. We’re still trying to sort out what still exists and what doesn’t out of the budget. But I can get you a note on what the Brand program is.

Mr. D’Autremont: — One of the more interesting comments that I saw in the minister’s advisory report deals with public sector competition with IT providers and the statement that many feel that SaskTel is a particular problem. And I know that in the past there has been some concerns about SaskTel being in competition with IT providers across the province, that it has tended to discourage for some period of time, investment. I’m not sure that that continues to be the case.

But what has the minister done with the commentary and the recommendation that SaskTel’s role be clarified as to its involvement in IT?

Hon. Mr. Thomson: — We continue to work with SaskTel in terms of identifying opportunities where they can encourage sector development and work with private sector companies to expand the overall economic opportunity for the industry.

And SaskTel is, I think, both understanding of its role as needing to be a corporate leader and good corporate citizen and obviously its need to continue to perform and to compete in markets where we have an opportunity for it to derive new revenues. So this is a bit of a dual role that SaskTel works with.

We identify as much as possible with them where we think they can work in terms of supply or development initiatives and what they can do to secure a strengthened IT sector.

Mr. D’Autremont: — I think for the local IT industry it’s more of a question what is SaskTel doing in Saskatchewan rather than what’s SaskTel doing someplace else. And that’s where they may feel somewhat threatened by SaskTel when SaskTel is providing commercial competition in other jurisdictions, and then maybe looking at bringing that commercial competition back into Saskatchewan where SaskTel has an overwhelming position.

And not so much maybe in the delivery right to the home of the Internet connection but on the software development side of the industry that there seems to be a concern of what SaskTel’s role was going to be on that. Is SaskTel going to be in some way the supplier to ITO and to government, or you know is . . . What availability do the other providers have in accessing government contracts? So I think that’s probably part of the fear that the business side of the equation is concerned about with SaskTel.

Hon. Mr. Thomson: — SaskTel for us is certainly a potential supplier of IT services, and there’s no doubt that they are one of many companies that we would call upon to deal with potential IT needs. But I want to be clear that they are not the sole supplier of IT services, and in many cases they’re not the preferred supplier of IT services to government.

And so this is a case where we as a government agency on behalf of the Government of Saskatchewan look to which companies we believe are best positioned to provide services, and we seek those out. It’s not a case that we look exclusively to SaskTel, nor do we particularly exclude them. But we’re mindful of what their capabilities are and those of other companies within the province and try to find an appropriate balance.

With respect to the business situation with SaskTel itself, I’m not in really a position to comment on it other than to say that I think they are certainly interested in making sure that they remain commercially viable and continue to have a wide range of products that Saskatchewan people demand. And this is of course the long-standing debate we’ve had in this Assembly between the two parties on issues of core services versus the modern role for the Crowns.

Mr. D’Autremont: — Recommendation no. 5 in the report talks about the need to clarify the goals of Information Technology Office with respect to in-sourcing and outsourcing. Does the department have a stated policy on where sourcing is done?

Hon. Mr. Thomson: — I think it would be fair to say that we need to clarify what the position would be. It is a difficult one, in that the private sector obviously would like us to have a much larger outsourced approach. It is fair I think to say that SGEU [Saskatchewan Government and General Employees’ Union] and the employees who currently hold those jobs would prefer not to be privatized and would want to see more development within the government. So we attempt to deal with both issues. We want to make sure that the employees that are within the government, that we are able to work with them and utilize their ability as much as possible while at the same time looking for continued opportunities to work for the private sector in terms of development.

Mr. D’Autremont: — So there is no defined policy within ITO then as to either in-sourcing or outsourcing. It’s more on an ad hoc basis?

Hon. Mr. Thomson: — It would depend in part on the type of activity and what the history of particular projects are. Obviously we have a number that are migrating in that have had historically for one reason or another private sector involvement, others that have historically been done by government employees. I’m advised that about 60 per cent of our work is done by the private sector, and about 40 per cent is internal.

Mr. D’Autremont: — One of the other recommendations was, and I know government does this with the Crown corporations and the term used here is first jobs program, to provide assistance for students and job opportunities. I can remember the member from Saskatoon Nutana standing up in the House talking about the student program within the Crown corporations. Has the government given any consideration to develop a similar program to that with private IT industry?

I know in the past that there was some of this at one point in time where students could get summer jobs with some assistance from government. Is the government considering that kind of a policy?

Hon. Mr. Thomson: — We have not looked at specifically targeting that into this sector. I think it is worth noting that in that regard, this agency is probably reflective of what the industry itself sees, and that this is the youngest government department in the government, I would note, headed by the youngest of the ministers in the cabinet and . . . although aging with every appearance before this committee.

But it is a young sector. It’s one that’s vibrant. It’s one that attracts a lot of young people, and I think in terms of an incentive, I don’t know that we need to be there as an incentive. It is a sector that attracts a lot of young people. It’s really a question of just expanding opportunities through more growth for economic activity.

Mr. D’Autremont: — I know some of the other ministers are perhaps questioning the age consideration. You know I think they’re maybe commenting on not just chronological age but perhaps on appearances as well as to who’s younger and older. But I’m not going to get into that.

One of the other comments that is made within the report deals with public-private collaboration and the need for more trust to be built between public and private. What moves has the government made to build this because obviously within the report here that type of a comment comes up from time to time. I know comments that have been directed to me from industry have a concern with that as well. And I think government needs to step forward to try and alleviate any of those concerns, not just in words but in actions as well. So what has the government been doing specifically to alleviate that?

Hon. Mr. Thomson: — We have been pleased to host two symposia in the last two years to invite private and public sector companies to come together to talk about IT sector development. There are, I think, two issues that still need to be addressed. One is the recognizing that there is a concern within government about outsourcing and that sees every expansion that goes to the private sector as a threat to the jobs that currently exist. On the other hand, there is a view within the private sector that believes government does not have a legitimate interest in providing its own IT services.

Somewhere between those two is where the trust will come and where the real opportunity for growth will come. And this is what we’ve been trying to do with the, in fact, with the minister’s advisory committee, with the symposia that we’ve established, with the ability for us to move forward with consolidation to provide a more consistent approach to dealing with IT service delivery with competition for various programs and with the build-out of new services.

It is a difficult issue to deal with because there are . . . These are very strongly held views and deeply held fears, and really remain issues that are, I think, not healthy for the sector and simply are going to need to be worked on over time. But I believe by providing stronger leadership and a clearer direction that we can bridge some of the divide that is there.

Mr. D’Autremont: — Thank you, Mr. Minister. That’s one of the comments made in the summary of the IT summit. And another was that Crown sector competition can be an inhibitor to growth, which goes back to fears about SaskTel and those kind of things.

I think a major part of the problem is that both sides of the equation are looking at the pie as a finite amount, that there’s only X number of dollars available. And then it’s a question of how those dollars are distributed rather than looking at this as a growing entity, that there is opportunities for both in there. And then it becomes a question of percentages rather than real fixed dollars for both sectors. So that if there’s $100 and each is getting $50 now, there is always going to be competition for either side to try and get more of that piece of pie. But if there’s $200 in the pie and then it becomes a question . . . well who gets more of the additional $100 because they still retain the 50 that they hold.

So I think that’s where we need to be going in this province, is not simply looking at this as a limited amount of opportunity, but rather a growing amount of opportunity where everybody can benefit. I think that should be the role of ITO, is in developing a bigger pie rather than simply distributing a small piece.

Hon. Mr. Thomson: — I would agree in a large part with what the member has said with this caveat. I think that there’s still a greater efficiency that we can drive into the system and the current expenditures. And I am not of the view that simply because a company or an agency, a government agency, currently undertakes work of a certain value that they are forever entitled to it.

I think as protectors of the taxpayers’ money, we need to always seek that efficiency also. So what we have been trying to do is, in some cases through consolidation, shrink expenditures in some areas so that we can then use that money for new service delivery or expanded application development or improved services in areas like helpdesk or whatever else we may have.

Every time you deal with these issues, you upset the apple cart a little bit. And I know that there are a lot of companies who have not been happy that we have wanted to go back out, and through rebundling of packages, wanted to seek a better price point for the Saskatchewan government. But we have both a responsibility to taxpayers and a responsibility to the industry, and we try to find an improved balance to it. I do believe that through the consolidation initiative that we will be in a better position to spend money more wisely and hopefully, as a result of that, enable industry to be able to attract more jobs, private sector jobs, more private sector investment, and other private sector contracts into their book of business and expand.

Mr. D’Autremont: — I would certainly agree that there is a need for efficiency in the wise expenditure of public funds. And those funds obviously come from one place, and that’s the taxpayer. But with a growing tax base, when we have a growing economy and a growing province, then everyone will benefit. And I think we need the efficiency, but we need the growth as well. So I think that’s all the questions I have for the minister.

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