Auditor General Sheila Fraser
November 29, 2006
Auditor General Sheila Fraser
News stories on Auditor General Sheila Fraser invariably describe her as a "straight-talking," "no-nonsense," "tough-minded" woman who regularly "slams" governmental sloppiness with her "scathing" commentaries and her "fearless" and "far-reaching probes."
Fraser was appointed to her 10-year term as auditor general of Canada on May 31, 2001, succeeding former auditor general Denis Desautels, who by comparison now seems like a candidate for the Government of Canada version of the National Hockey League's Lady Byng Trophy for gentlemanly conduct.
Fraser is the first woman ever to hold the office of auditor general, which goes back to 1878, when MP John Lorn McDougall was appointed to the job. Back then, the job was the responsibility of the deputy minister of finance, who was charged with examining and reporting on past transactions of the federal government, and approving or rejecting the issue of government cheques.
The auditor general's office website says the reports "listed every single government transaction, from the purchase of bootlaces to contracts for bridge building [and] was expected to report on whether public money was spent the way Parliament intended."
The history continues:
"New legislation, the 1977 Auditor General Act, clarified and expanded the Auditor General's responsibilities. In addition to looking at the accuracy of financial statements, the Auditor General was given a broader mandate to examine how well the government managed its affairs. The new Act maintained the important principle that the Auditor General does not comment on policy choices but does examine how those policies are implemented."
In June 1994, the Auditor General Act was amended to provide for the production of up to three reports per year in addition to the annual report.
Fraser has a staff of 525, with a budget of more than $60 million. In October 2003, after Fraser had been on the job for two years, The Globe and Mail carried a lead editorial that began:
"Sheila Fraser, Canada's estimable Auditor-General, has a history of plain speech. Her audits tend to be thorough and pointed, but painstakingly fair-minded. As a result, her rebukes have a political heft that can be devastating."
Sheila Fraser timeline:
Sept. 16, 1950: Born in Dundee, Que.
1972: Earns bachelor of commerce degree from McGill University.
1974: Becomes chartered accountant.
1981: Made partner in firm of Ernst & Young.
1993: Awarded the Prix Émérite for "noteworthy service to the auditing and accounting professions."
1994: Designated "Fellow" by the Ordre des comptables agréés du Québec. She had moved to Quebec City in the early 1980s to learn French. She met her husband Henri Gagnon in Quebec City where they raised three children: Daniel, Emily and Laura.
1999: Joins civil service as deputy to her predecessor Denis Desautels.
2000: Becomes fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants.
May 2001: Appointed auditor general, becoming the first AG to be promoted to the top job from within, and the first woman to hold the job.