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Supporting Strategic Objectives

The House Administration has established four strategic objectives that reflect its vision, values and mandate. These objectives provide a focus for its efforts and serve as a guide for activities during the 39th Parliament and into the 40th Parliament.


The House Administration's Strategic Objectives

  1. To respond to the evolving role of Members and the institution;
  2. To enhance ongoing services to Members and sustain the institution;
  3. To promote understanding and to support the advancement of legislative institutions;
  4. To apply the highest standards of public sector governance in a parliamentary context.

This section of the Report to Canadians describes the House Administration's accomplishments during the 2008-2009 fiscal year in support of those objectives. It also identifies the Administration's major commitments for 2009-2010.

1. To Respond to the Evolving Role of Members and the Institution

Supporting the Evolution of Parliamentary Practices and Rules

The House Administration staff drafts amendments to the Standing Orders of the House in accordance with instructions from Members of Parliament and then updates the procedural reference works made available to Members of Parliament for Chamber and committee work. To that end, the Compendium of House of Commons Procedure is regularly updated to integrate changes to practices and usages in the House, as procedures continue to evolve. In addition, a duty-clerk is always available to respond to procedural questions from Members of Parliament, their staff or members of the public.

Photo of the Strategic Outlook for the 39th Parliament

Following the election held in the fall of 2008, the House Administration staff updated publications for distribution to new and returning Members of Parliament. Staff also responded to telephone calls seeking information on procedural questions from Members of Parliament, their staff and members of the public.

Ensuring a flexible technology infrastructure

The Parliamentary Precinct's information technology network has been upgraded in Precinct buildings to ensure a more reliable and manageable platform for the delivery of information services. In 2008-2009, the House Administration completed the implementation of a secure, reliable and central information-storage environment for Members. In addition, it renewed network services for Members' constituency offices to provide fast and flexible communications services.

In 2008-2009, the House Administration completed the migration of the desktop environment to the new platform. The project is part of an ongoing software and hardware lifecycle program. These tools will enable the House of Commons Administration to take full advantage of the latest technology to respond to the ever-evolving needs of its clients and the institution.

Improving Members' Access to Parliamentary Information

In 2008-2009 the House Administration provided Members and the public with live and on-demand audio access to all public committee events. ParlVU is an Internet portal where Canadians and the media can see and hear Parliament live and on demand, in both official languages. Building on investments made in the House of Commons IT and broadcasting infrastructure, rich media (i.e., media that include advanced technologies such as streaming video) can be repurposed, linked contextually to published text and provided on demand. Whether it is parliamentary schedules acting as virtual gateways or video clips that tell a story, ParlVU provides an information service that is relevant to Canadians.

The House Administration will introduce new services to improve Members' access to parliamentary information. Transcripts of parliamentary proceedings will be available to add context within the ParlVU portal.

In the past fiscal year, the House Administration introduced a new service to improve access to the voting records of Members of Parliament. The Parliament of Canada Web site can be used to access information by vote, by bill, by political party or by individual Member.

Just prior to the end of the 39th Parliament, the House Administration made enhancements to the committees section of the Web site. The improvements provide Members, staff and the public with better access to information regarding committee members and witnesses and also offer improved subscription features that enable users to follow the work of committees. Over the 40th Parliament, it is expected that usage of these features will increase. This will permit further refinements to better serve parliamentarians and members of the public alike.

A software tool for publishing both paper and electronic documents and improving document workflow is being used to improve the process supporting the publication of documents for the International and Interparliamentary Affairs Directorate, specifically to electronically track a report from start to finish. Such a tool will facilitate the entire publishing process from the draft stage to the final step of tabling a report. It will also be used to manage and publish articles for the Compendium of House of Commons Procedure, making it easier to update and maintain this important online resource.

The administrations of the House of Commons, Senate and Library of Parliament continued to be governed by a common long-term vision and strategy for the enhancement of parliamentary information services throughout Parliament. In the fiscal year 2008-2009, the Parliamentary Information Management (PIM) Committee, representing all three institutions, developed a governance model that clearly defines roles and responsibilities, thereby enabling all participants to work together effectively. In addition, it established a tri-institutional group that began examining information on legislation, one of the priorities established by PIM.

In the coming year, PIM will continue its efforts towards the goal of producing more integrated and coherent information services for clients. In particular, a tri-institutional project team will work towards building on recommendations that would result in increased efficiencies and eliminate redundancies.

In the coming year, the House Administration will undertake a review of its procedural publications, specifically their content and the processes used to produce them. In an effort to increase efficiency and to offer the most accurate and timely procedural information to Members, staff will focus on developing a living-documents strategy.

2. To Enhance Ongoing Services to Members and Sustain the Institution

Renovating the Parliamentary Buildings

The Long Term Vision and Plan for the Parliamentary Precinct ensures that the Parliament Buildings and grounds are preserved as heritage assets and national symbols of Canada and meet the accommodation and operational requirements of Parliament.

Working in collaboration with Public Works and Government Services Canada, custodian of the buildings, the House Administration staff, in its role as knowledgeable client, continued to ensure that the planning, design and installation of facilities, information technologies and infrastructure meet the requirements of Members of Parliament, their staff and parliamentary functions.

Planning continues on the major rehabilitation of the West Block, with restoration work under way on the north towers. To enable the rehabilitation of the building to proceed, interim spaces are being created in the Wellington, La Promenade and the former Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography buildings for committee rooms, Members' offices and support functions displaced from the West Block. Interim spaces have been created for the administration functions that have been moved out of the Wellington Building.

Improving Information Technology Services

Using voice-recognition technologies, the House Administration now offers real-time closed captioning of Question Period in both official languages. In addition, closed captioning is now available for special events in the Chamber, such as the budget speech and economic statements.

No Room of Their Own

When the first Centre Block was designed in 1859 to house the Parliament of the Province of Canada, the architects, the Department of Public Works and even parliamentarians themselves assumed Members would require little more than the basic amenities of a desk, a chair, a wardrobe and reading lounges. Only the Speakers of the two Houses had their own offices.

Providing Members with accurate and high-quality information and services is of paramount importance to the House Administration. An upgrade of the Financial Management System is well under way and scheduled for deployment in late 2009. The upgrade will provide additional functionality to both Members and the House Administration. As part of the Finance Data Quality Program launched in early 2009, an assessment of financial-system controls showed a high level of integrity and security.

A purchasing tool has been developed that is integrated with the House Administration's financial system. It will allow Members to purchase supplies online and have their financial information updated simultaneously. The House Administration will launch it as a pilot in early 2010 and, once the pilot results have been assessed, will deploy it to all Members.

Photo of Parliament under construction, 1863

Parliament under construction, 1863

View of Main Front and Entrance Towers.
Photo: Samuel McLaughlin/Library & Archives Canada/C-000773

Refining the Business Continuity and Resumption Plan for the House of Commons

Ongoing planning ensures that the vital business of the Chamber and committees can continue in the event of an emergency situation requiring the House of Commons to relocate. The House Administration has identified critical service needs for all the areas of the House of Commons.

Cutting-edge Information Technology Right from the Start

The roots of information technology go much further back than the appearance of computers in the House. The Parliamentary Precinct boasts a number of firsts.

1867-Electric (battery-powered) call bells were installed in the original Centre Block.

1877-Prime Minister Alexander Mackenzie made the first commercial telephone call in Canada from room 310 West Block to the Governor General's residence.

1927-The first-ever nationwide radio broadcast originated on Parliament Hill.

1928-The first Canadian transatlantic telephone call was made from the Centre Block to Cardiff, Wales.

1957-The opening of Parliament by the Queen was the first time Her Majesty had used live television to address citizens in any country of the Commonwealth.

1959-Simultaneous translation (interpretation) was introduced to the floor of the House of Commons and the press gallery.

1977-Regular TV and radio broadcasts from the Chamber began.

1995-The Parliament of Canada Web site was launched to provide worldwide access to parliamentary information.

2004-ParlVU Service was launched to provide worldwide access to live video and audio proceedings.

Over the past year, staff defined, designed and tested a Business Continuity Management (BCM)-Alternate Chamber Plan for the moving of the Chamber to a different location within the existing Parliamentary Precinct boundaries. In addition, staff developed a BCM-Alternate Centre Block design plan that, within 48 to 72 hours of a declared event affecting the usability of Centre Block, would enable the House of Commons to operate essential services in an alternate location outside of the existing Parliamentary Precinct boundaries.

Training and Orientation for Members and Their Staff

The Members' Orientation and Election Readiness Program assists new Members of Parliament as they assume their new functions by ensuring that Members have the administrative, financial and procedural information and services they need.

As an innovation this past fiscal year, the program introduced the concept of Liaison Officers. Assigned to new Members of Parliament, the Officers assist them in navigating their way around the shoals of the first few weeks in their new functions.

In addition, the administrative orientation component of the program was redesigned to make it more targeted, with improved documentation for Members. Staff also improved services offered to Members of Parliament who are transitioning to private life.

The House Administration also designed a tracking and reporting system to identify milestones, document processes and improve the quality and timeliness of the information provided to management.

During the fiscal year 2008-2009, a risk assessment was undertaken to clarify the processes and accountability for the Members' Orientation and Election Readiness Program. In 2009, staff will develop the results of that assessment into a risk-mitigation plan.

The House Administration provided training sessions to Members and their staff on the subject of Members' allowances and services, and will be putting into place a formal program whereby training sessions will be offered on a regular basis.

Keeping the House of Commons Secure

The Master Security Plan (MSP) was completed during the last fiscal year. It outlines the strategic security direction for the Parliamentary Precinct for the next several years. This comprehensive plan will see the security services of both the Senate and the House of Commons working with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) toward maximizing their interoperability. It proposes a series of strategic initiatives to evolve security practices on Parliament Hill based on the predominant themes of incident prevention and security integration. Central to the plan is recognition that the MSP will strengthen security and safety in the Parliamentary Precinct while it promotes a welcoming environment for all those who visit.

3. To Promote Understanding and to Support the Advancement of Legislative Institutions

Updating Major Publications on Parliamentary Procedure

Work is under way on the final stages of the drafting, review, translation and design of the second edition of House of Commons Procedure and Practice. Originally published in 2000, this book is a comprehensive study of the House of Commons jurisprudence that examines the forms, customs and procedures established since Confederation. This new edition, to be published in the fall of 2009, will take into account changes to the Standing Orders and practices of the House since the release of the first edition. It will also include a number of revised and reorganized chapters, several new graphics and a more complete bibliography that lists reference works by chapter.

Photo of iron gates, west entrance of Parliament Hill

Detail of iron gates,
west entrance of
Parliament Hill

Photo: © House of Commons/
Holly Loranger

Over the last fiscal year, the House Administration also published a number of other procedural works, including the Selected Decisions of Speaker Gilbert Parent and updates to the Guide for the Speaker and Chair Occupants, the Glossary of Parliamentary Procedure, the Private Members' Business Practical Guide, the Committees Practical Guide, the Petitions Practical Guide, Amending Bills at Committee and Report Stages and the Guide for Witnesses Appearing before House of Commons Committees.

Providing Learning Opportunities for Parliamentarians and Legislative Officials from jurisdictions in Canada and Abroad

Staff offered numerous information and training sessions on procedural topics to Members of Parliament, their staff, employees of the research services of the various caucuses and the House Administration. Of particular note is the ongoing seminar series geared specifically to new Members of Parliament and their staff on general topics such as the parliamentary cycle.

Partnering with the Senate and the Library of Parliament, the House of Commons hosts its Parliamentary Officers' Study Program two to three times a year. This two-week program affords an opportunity for senior parliamentary staff from foreign legislatures and Canadian jurisdictions to learn about procedural, administrative and research practices and services provided to parliamentarians.

To improve the ongoing training of procedural staff, the House Administration will undertake a review of the monthly sessions offered by Table Research Branch, which provides information and advice on parliamentary procedure. The goal will be to evaluate whether the subject matter is suitable and appropriate, and whether improvements are necessary.

Even security is a tradition

Barracks Hill was chosen for the Parliamentary Precinct because it provided a natural boundary, with protective topography along the east, north and west perimeters. Designers equipped the south boundary of the new precinct with a continuous fence featuring clearly defined entry points for pedestrians and vehicles, and all entrances had wrought iron gates that could be closed in emergencies. The wide expanse of open lawn was itself a security feature.

4. To Apply the Highest Standards of Public Sector Governance in a Parliamentary Context

Strengthening House of Commons Management Practices

In 2008-2009, staff in the Committees Directorate undertook a detailed review of practices and processes related to committee travel to ensure they were clear, up-to-date, effective in mitigating risk and consistent with other policies. Staff developed an action plan to modify a number of processes, in concert with partners in Finance Services and at the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

Photo of the Parliamentary Officers' Study Program

Parliamentary Officers' Study Program, February 2009

Back row from left to right: Mr. Hrvoje Sadaric (Croatia - Parliament); Mr. Chandradasa Kuruppu (Sri Lanka - Parliament); Mr. Lacille De Silva (Sri Lanka - Parliament); Mr. Suzaul Islam (Bangladesh - Parliament); Mr. Richard Sono Agyapong (Ghana - Parliament); Mr. Claus Dieter Koggel (Germany - Federal Council); Mr. Simon J Uirab (Namibia - National Assembly); Mr. Takeaki Yaoita (Japan - House of Representatives); Mr. Nicolas Besly (United Kingdom - House of Lords); and Mr. Montree Rupsuwan (Thailand - Senate).

Front row, from left to right: Ms. Anne Stokes (Ontario - Legislative Assembly); Mrs. Nataliya Kozlovska (Ukraine - Parliament); Ms. Susan Sourial (Ontario - Legislative Assembly); and Ms. Fay Paterson (New Zealand - House of Representatives).

Photo Credit: © House of Commons

Promoting sound stewardship and effective management of public resources is a priority for the House Administration. The following initiatives are directly aligned with meeting the objectives of the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) Model-a more strategic approach to financial and resource management that promotes responsible stewardship of resources, accountability and transparency.

The House Administration is implementing an integrated investment-planning framework to enhance the planning process and ensure investments continue to be made strategically. As part of a formal cycle of integrated investment planning, now in its second year, priority investments for achieving the House Administration's strategic objectives in support of the work of Members were confirmed. With respect to financial reporting, the House Administration's financial statements continue to be audited by an external firm. In 2008, the auditors issued an unqualified report.

The House Administration also launched a procurement manual and training program to ensure that goods and services essential to supporting the work of Members are acquired in a fair and cost-effective manner. In addition, it updated the Procurement Policy and began work on updating the Asset Management Policy, the Prepaid Expenses and Deferred Charges Policy and the Recovering Property and Privileges of Departing Employees Policy.

The House Administration will begin implementation of an automated procurement-management system in late 2009 that will reinforce sound financial-management practices and strong stewardship of public resources, key elements of the CFO Model.

Managing Parliamentary Information

As the foundation is laid for the upcoming PRISM migration, the House Administration has moved integral parts of the Journals Plus application to a new platform where the updated Procedural Review and Libraries modules have been created. This provides the House Administration with an improved and flexible system for recording and sharing information on procedural events and also enables the use of a standardized vocabulary when describing these events. The advantage is that the same vocabulary will be used when describing procedural events.

Sustaining a Motivated and Effective Workforce

The House of Commons, like many employers, will be facing challenges in the coming years to recruit and retain talent at a time when the Canadian workforce is experiencing an increase in retirements and as the market for skilled employees becomes more competitive. To address these challenges, the House Administration has developed a corporate human resources strategy that will position the House to recruit strategically, retain new employees by means of engagement and training strategies, and provide support and development to leaders so that they are well equipped to carry out their roles. These strategic initiatives will ensure that the House of Commons continues to have an engaged and ready workforce to support the work of Members in committees, in the Chamber and in the constituencies and that the organization is regarded as a best employer in a competitive marketplace.

The corporate human resources strategy includes initiatives such as the development and alignment of competency models in all service areas, which emphasize competency evaluation and learning and development needs, and the implementation of corporate succession planning across the House Administration. The development of the succession-planning program is under way and will be aligned with a leadership-development program to ensure that the organization's leaders have the knowledge and skills they need to support and lead a complex and multi-generational workforce.

An integral part of the human resources strategy will be to provide performance statistics to measure the success of initiatives in the areas of retention and employee satisfaction. As part of its goal of managing talent, the strategy includes the creation of an employer brand to enhance the recruitment and retention of our key asset, the staff of the House Administration.

PRISM is a House of Commons technology program for managing procedural information, publishing parliamentary publications and supporting the planning of parliamentary events. Representatives from the service areas of the House Administration currently using PRISM will work to establish business-led governance to support ongoing investments. In the coming year, consultations will be undertaken with users, and processes will be developed to initiate, review and approve projects, as well as to validate and deploy solutions. Within the updated PRISM framework, these solutions will facilitate the production of parliamentary publications and allow information to be retrieved in a more timely and efficient manner.

Journals Plus is a database application that was originally developed to help Procedural Services manage publications and information (Standing Orders, Questions of Privilege, Table Research Branch library files). Many of its modules, along with their relevant information, have been migrated to PRISM's Procedural Review and Libraries module, a more stable and flexible platform.

Improving Environmental Management on the Hill

The House Administration participates in Partners for a Green Hill, an active environmental committee that includes representatives from the House Administration, the Senate, the Library of Parliament and Public Works and Government Services Canada. The committee is finalizing a sustainable-development strategy designed to ensure the continuous improvement of the environmental programs in the Parliamentary Precinct.

In the development of renovation and construction plans under the Long Term Vision and Plan for the Parliamentary Precinct, the House Administration continued to integrate best practices and standards of sustainable development in the context of a heritage setting.

Photo of Audrey O'Brien, Clerk of the House of Commons, speaking to employees during an Open House event

Audrey O'Brien, Clerk of the House of Commons, speaks to employees during an Open House event

Photo: © House of Commons


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