Thank you, Madam Chair.
My name is Kathleen Owens. I'm the assistant comptroller general for assets and acquired services within the Treasury Board Secretariat.
It's an honour to be here today to talk to you about Treasury Board policy as it relates to heritage considerations in the management of federal real property.
As you may be aware, the Treasury Board Secretariat is the administrative arm of the Treasury Board, which is a committee of cabinet that acts as the government's management boards and provides leadership to federal departments through the approval of government-wide administrative policies and directives.
One area of administrative policy deals with the management of assets throughout their lifecycle, from acquisition, to their use, maintenance, and disposal. It's the policy requirements around the management of federal real property that I'm here to talk about today.
First, a bit of background.
Federal real property belongs to Her Majesty, and the management of federal real property, with the exception of office space, is decentralized. Twenty-six departments and agencies have administration of federal real property, ranging in size from small organizations with only a few holdings, to large departments, like National Defence or Parks Canada.
Canadians can find information online on the inventory of the federal government's more than 20,000 owned and leased properties through the Directory of Federal Real Property. I gave you the web address for that directory.
The Treasury Board policy on the management of federal real property was approved in 2006 and applies to all departments and agencies listed in schedules I, I.1, and II of the Financial Administration Act. Given that not all these entities manage real property, the policy effectively applies to 26 custodial departments. I would note that the policy does not apply to crown corporations, with the exception that crowns are required to do reporting unless precluded by specific legislation.
The principle of sound stewardship underlies the policy's main objective, which is to ensure that federal real property is managed in a sustainable and financially responsible manner throughout its life cycle and to support cost-effective and efficient delivery of government programs.
With respect to heritage, the Treasury Board policy requires deputy heads to do three things.
The first is to ensure that the heritage character of federal buildings is respected and conserved throughout the life cycle. Buildings that are 40 years of age or older, whether crown owned or buildings that a department is planning to purchase, must be evaluated by Parks Canada for their heritage character.
Second, for the heritage buildings they administer, departments must seek conservation advice for recognized heritage buildings and consult with Parks Canada before demolishing, dismantling, or selling a recognized heritage building or before taking any action that could affect the heritage character of a classified building.
Finally, when departments have underutilized or surplus classified and recognized heritage buildings, they must make best efforts to arrange for appropriate alternative uses, first within the federal family and then outside the federal government.
Ultimately, deputy heads of departments are accountable for complying with these and the other requirements of the Treasury Board real property policy. The secretariat monitors departmental performance in the management of real property and can make recommendations to the Treasury Board on needed policy changes or specific departmental transactions.
The effectiveness of real property policy requirements is something that the Treasury Board Secretariat is currently examining as we undertake a policy reset exercise to reflect a more modern approach to comptrollership, as indicated in our president's mandate letter.
Over the past months, we have held consultations with departments and have heard how many organizations are challenged with conservation of heritage buildings. Given the significant rust-out issues faced by custodians resulting from under-recapitalization of real property assets, investment in heritage buildings can be expensive and represents an additional cost that falls outside the custodians' core program mandates. Finding appropriate alternative uses of heritage buildings no longer needed for federal programming purposes can also be difficult, particularly for assets in small communities.
As we develop our recommendations to the Treasury Board on the policy changes, the secretariat is looking at how we can incent real property custodians to make prudent management decisions in alignment with both sound stewardship and government priorities. In addition to looking at how we can protect our most valuable federal heritage assets, we are also looking at how real property management rules can leverage real property to improve the availability of affordable housing, meet the government's commitments to the greening of its operations, advance reconciliation with Canada's indigenous peoples by ensuring the duty to consult is respected, and improve the accessibility of our buildings for all Canadians.
I'd also like to note that a horizontal review is currently under way that may also ultimately influence the management of federal heritage buildings. The horizontal fixed assets review was announced in budget 2017. It's led by the President of the Treasury Board, and it's looking at the management of government federal real property by asset class. Horizontal issues, such as heritage considerations, are expected to be addressed in the final report and recommendations of the review.
I'd like to close by noting that the committee's study and report is very timely. We certainly expect it will inform how we look at our policy and the fixed assets review work, which is under way.
I'm happy to answer any questions. Thank you.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you for the opportunity to appear and speak about how we at Public Services and Procurement Canada are successfully managing heritage buildings in our portfolio.
I'm happy to share with you the important work we have undertaken and are continuing to undertake at PSPC to preserve, use, and ensure the adaptive reuse of both the classified and recognized heritage buildings for which we are responsible and accountable.
Heritage, an inheritance from the past, is an important component of our culture as a nation. Protecting and preserving our natural and cultural heritage for the benefit of present and future generations is a fundamental component of our contribution to the sustainable development of our society and our country.
Our department acts as steward for various public works such as buildings, bridges, and dams, and national treasures such as the parliamentary precinct and other heritage assets across Canada. Of course, I will give the opportunity to my colleague Rob Wright, assistant deputy minister of the parliamentary precinct branch, to present the valuable work done by his team on Parliament Hill.
First of all, I want to underline that what you may think of when heritage implications kick in is probably much broader than you would have anticipated in relation to the federal context. The reason is that each building over 40 years of age is subject to evaluation for its potential heritage characteristics. Within the Public Service and Procurement Canada portfolio, many of our crown-owned complexes were built over 40 years ago. As a result, a large portion of our portfolio will, in the near future, be subject to evaluation by the federal heritage buildings review office of Parks Canada. This represents a significant amount of property and infrastructure.
PSPC's real estate portfolio is one of the largest in Canada, covering almost 7 million square meters. The federal built heritage includes sites, structures, and monuments that have recognized historical value, such as buildings, houses, battlefields, forts, archaeological sites, cultural landscapes, canals, and historical districts. The federal government's basic inventory of built heritage consists of about 1,300 federal heritage buildings and 206 national historic sites, of which PSPC is the custodian of 148 designated assets.
For decades, PSPC has provided, and continues to provide, federal departments and agencies with services that support the management and protection of Canada's federally owned heritage buildings, landscapes, and engineering works. We use our unique expertise and knowledge of both traditional and innovative technologies to provide specialized, multidisciplinary, professional, and technical expertise to assist custodians and conserve our nation's heritage.
Based on our mandate, we have accumulated sound experience in managing built heritage, and I believe PSPC has an important role to play in sharing what we have learned around heritage conservation services within the federal government community. Our experience to date has also influenced how we are preparing to manage our heritage activities into the future. We are taking a proactive approach and have already integrated our environmental and heritage services, as these groups must work closely together to ensure the efficiency and effectiveness of the heritage portion of the PSPC portfolio.
We provide three main services in this regard.
First, in terms of heritage conservation advisory services, we provide conservation advice in the fields of architecture, structural engineering, landscape architecture, and material conservation. We define qualifications required for consultants and contractors who undertake conservation work, and assist with pre-qualification processes, managing standing offers, and incorporating conservation considerations into contractual documentation. We also assist with submissions to regulatory bodies such as the federal heritage buildings review office of Parks Canada, or the National Capital Commission, by providing strategic advice and guidance.
Second, in terms of heritage conservation documentation services, we provide heritage recordings, which are measurable electronic drawings, photographs, and models that help with understanding the condition and construction of an historic place. We create a host of guidance documents to explain the heritage designation of a property, including conservation briefs, conservation guidelines, historic inventories, and master plans. We conduct assessments of the condition of the asset to achieve a detailed technical understanding of its physical and historical integrity.
Third, in terms of heritage conservation compliance support services, we help federal departments and agencies comply with their heritage conservation responsibilities under the Treasury Board policy for the management of real property. We prepare written compliance reviews that analyze a particular intervention to determine its level of compliance with established conservation policies, standards, and guidelines, including reviews of intervention in support of Parks Canada's regulatory role, heritage conservation reviews of planned proposals for custodians of federal heritage buildings or national historic sites, and technical authority reviews of work proposed on historic assets to ensure compliance with real property contract requirements.
It's important to mention that within PSPC we have taken additional steps to ensure that environmental sustainability and heritage considerations are integrated into our processes and also that they are part of our holistic decision-making approach.
As well, by creating a sound heritage buildings policy framework, we have clearly identified the roles and responsibilities, and established the implementation processes needed to support PSPC's compliance with the heritage-specific requirements of the Treasury Board's policy instruments.
These requirements, in place to protect the heritage character of federal buildings, are to be met while respecting other federal government objectives, such as accessibility, sustainable development, and life-cycle management. Some of these include the policy on the stewardship of federal heritage buildings and the national project management system policy for managing heritage properties projects.
We are going even further by developing specific benchmarks and performance measures for the condition of our heritage buildings. We will begin reporting to Parliament and to Canadians in 2018 on the condition of heritage buildings and improvements to their condition as a result of management activities. Having this information to inform our investment decision-making will support the continual improvement and effective stewardship of our heritage.
I am proud of all the work we have done to date in finding the right balance between maintaining the heritage aspects of our portfolio and adapting buildings for more modern uses and requirements. However, this process has certainly led us through a series of opportunities and challenges as we navigate the current legislative framework that governs built heritage.
It's important to mention that the mandate "to protect the nationally significant examples of Canada's natural and cultural heritage in national parks, national historic sites, national marine conservation areas, and related heritage areas" belongs to the Parks Canada Agency, as affirmed in the Parks Canada Agency Act of 1998. As a result, PSPC's mandate is to manage and preserve the heritage buildings that are part of the PSPC portfolio.
Currently, in order to fulfill our mandate responsibilities, we're applying a framework consisting of several layers of policies and a federal act. I'll take some time to enumerate just what this framework consists of, which we are navigating.
In the absence of a federal act specifically regulating heritage buildings, we are governed by the Federal Real Property and Federal Immovables Act. We also follow the Treasury Board policy instruments, including the policy on management of real property, the directive on the sale of transfer or surplus real property, and the guide to the management of real property.
What this means for PSPC is that we are seeking conservation advice from Parks Canada on heritage issues. We are additionally consulting the federal heritage buildings review office of Parks Canada on classified and recognized buildings. Finally, we are using best efforts to arrange for appropriate alternative uses for underutilized or surplus heritage buildings from our portfolio.
The federal heritage buildings review office's evaluation criteria are based on international conservation principles as well as historical associations, the architecture, and environmental considerations. As a final step, the is responsible for approving the heritage designation of federal buildings.
As you can see, there are many factors at play that PSPC as an organization must consider in managing the built heritage under our purview, and in many cases applying all these factors has an impact on the timelines of projects as well increasing their costs.
We can likely all agree that throughout the years, heritage conservation philosophy and practices have evolved to focus more on adaptive reuse of heritage buildings, rather than simply conserving them as they are. This gives me the opportunity to say that the management of the heritage buildings portion of our portfolio is a very sensitive and complex endeavour, and we have some challenges to address while making our best efforts to turn them into opportunities for the benefit of Canadians.
The source of our challenges is often based on heritage preservation requirements that may conflict with contemporary users' needs, such as accessibility, thermal comfort, and security, among others.
Due to time constraints, I will mention briefly two of these challenges.
The interdisciplinary character of the heritage buildings management requires a clear and strong portfolio management approach, including various technical competencies and expertise from architects and engineers who specialize in heritage buildings, as well as the involvement of social sciences representatives such as historians, sociologists, and cultural ethnologists. We ensure that we have teams in our organizations that employ the brightest specialists to be involved in the protection and the management of our heritage buildings.
In terms of greenhouse gas emissions reductions, environment, and sustainable development, our current challenge is to find the most efficient and effective measures to achieve a carbon-neutral heritage building. However, at the same time, this challenge provides us with a unique opportunity to integrate the synergy of heritage conservation and sustainable development into mutually beneficial goals and results.
Despite this, PSPC has had a number of success stories, and I am pleased to share a few of those with you today.
The West Memorial Building is a classified federal heritage building and World War II memorial. PSPC experts have been actively planning ahead in view of improving the building's thermal performance while protecting its important heritage value, as part of it's upcoming rehabilitation.
The Lester B. Pearson Building was built in 1970-73 to house the national headquarters of the former department of external affairs, currently Global Affairs Canada. Designed in the late-modern architectural style, this building has been designated a classified federal heritage building. The building will be undergoing a major rehabilitation and has been identified as a showcase project to demonstrate innovative solutions and leadership in the field of sustainability.
Finally, there is the St. Andrews lock and dam, which includes the 270-metre long Caméré Curtain Bridge Dam, spanning the Red River at Lockport, Manitoba. Built in 1907-10 by the Department of Public Works, it was designated a national historic site of Canada, and in 1990, a national historic civil engineering site by the Canadian Society for Civil Engineering. The heritage value of this site is carried in the design and materials of the structure itself, in that this engineering work is perhaps the only surviving moveable dam of its type in the world.
It is important to note that these successes are largely based on our interdepartmental collaboration with Parks Canada Agency, the Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office of Parks Canada, the National Research Council, the departments of Environment and Climate Change Canada and Natural Resources Canada, and a large number of other federal organizations.
In conclusion, despite some objective challenges regarding the use and reuse of heritage buildings within our departmental mandate, PSPC is committed to, first, manage and protect the heritage buildings in our portfolio based on the highest national and international standards. Second, we are committed to serve as a federal example of leadership for the federal family in this area. Third, we are committed to preserve our built cultural heritage for the benefit of present and future generations. Finally, we are committed to integrate an adaptive reuse approach, which will allow heritage buildings to support the government's agenda.
Thank you. I'll be pleased to answer questions after Rob speaks.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
My name is Robert Wright. I am the assistant deputy minister responsible for the parliamentary precinct within Public Services and Procurement Canada.
Canada's parliamentary precinct is home to one of the largest concentrations of heritage buildings in the entire country. Of the 34 crown-owned buildings in the precinct, 28 hold a federal heritage designation, of which 18 are recognized and 10 are classified. This includes, of course, the buildings on Parliament Hill, which rank among the world's best examples of Gothic revival architecture, as well as several other important heritage buildings along Sparks and Wellington Streets, including, of course, the building we're in today.
Public Services and Procurement Canada has a significant stewardship responsibility in conserving these iconic buildings, which belong to all Canadians. They are important historically and culturally, but they also play a critical role in the day-to-day operations of Parliament. Caring for them is therefore not only a cultural imperative but a business one, too. For Parliament to continue to fulfill its duties, these buildings must be restored and modernized to 21st-century building standards, which include provisions for sustainability, accessibility, and modern technology.
One of the key challenges in doing this type of work is balancing the integration of the new with the old. In meeting this challenge head-on, we put in a great deal of effort to know our buildings inside and out, and to develop a thorough understanding of the construction methods, materials, and craftsmanship that were used to build them in the first instance. With the help of heritage experts in and outside of government, such as the federal heritage building review office of Parks Canada, we perform detailed heritage recordings to identify heritage character defining elements in advance of all major work.
Together with independent building condition assessments and ongoing building screening, we use this information to make sound investment decisions and to plan work accordingly into three general streams.
The first is repair and maintenance. This is generally for routine work that aims to keep the buildings operating as part of performing regular assessments of building condition and the heritage character defining elements. Examples of repair work include stone repair, interior plaster repairs, sculpture repairs, and repairs to heritage stained glass.
The second stream is recapitalization, which is done to address health and safety issues in advance of major work. These critical interventions are undertaken on our most important heritage buildings while they remain occupied and operational. They include such things as stabilizing towers, chimneys, doorways, and windows. These are not stopgap measures, but rather permanent investments that help to reduce the cost and complexity of future work while protecting their intrinsic heritage value.
The third and final stream is rehabilitation, which is performed on buildings showing signs of significant and pervasive deterioration. These projects are stem to stern, and bring to the fore the challenging work of balancing heritage conservation, adaptive reuse, and modernization.
Completed and ongoing major rehabilitation projects within the precinct include the Library of Parliament, the Sir John A. Macdonald and Wellington buildings, Postal Station B, Canada's Four Corners Building, the Government Conference Centre, and the West Block.
The completion of the Government Conference Centre and the West Block next year will enable us to initiate what is arguably the most important project to date, the Centre Block.
In parallel with launching the Centre Block, we'll be working with the department of crown-indigenous relations and northern affairs, along with first nations, Inuit, and Métis Nation leadership, and of course, local stakeholders to develop the vision for a national space for indigenous peoples at 100 Wellington, the former American embassy.
It's a clear and flexible portfolio management plan that helps us to know where we're going over the long haul and what to execute next. Our work in the precinct is guided by the long-term vision and plan, a comprehensive strategy for the entire portfolio that aims to address the health and safety of these 19th-century Parliament Buildings, to modernize the buildings to suit the needs of a 21st-century Parliament, and of course, to preserve our built heritage.
This framework is critical in helping us establish clear priorities based on a thorough body of evidence that is reviewed and validated. This portfolio and priority-setting approach is essential to our work to restore and enhance the original character of these buildings while creating a safe, functional, and modern environment for everyone who uses them.
Also key is working with the right people, collaborating with the users of the buildings, and partnering to develop innovative solutions for upgrading the buildings without impacting their heritage character, and doing so efficiently and effectively.
We work hand in hand, of course, with our partners in the House of Commons, as well as with the Senate, the Library of Parliament, and the Parliamentary Protective Service to deliver the long-term vision and plan. We also leverage a broad array of experts in heritage, architecture, and engineering, as well as project management, to prepare, challenge, and validate designs, costs, and schedules.
We have also formed valuable partnerships with a number of universities that are helping us to overcome technical challenges and strengthen these 19th-century heritage buildings to meet 21st-century building codes by leveraging unique research capacity and expertise. This includes, for example, using 3-D imaging to improve the design, construction, and operations of Canada's Parliament Buildings.
Together, it's these relationships that are helping us in delivering the program effectively and in finding the right balance between heritage conservation and modernization.
The combination of a clear long-term plan, precise shorter-term priorities, and a broad network of experts are key in enabling us to execute this work successfully and in ensuring that we are conserving these iconic heritage structures while making them safer, more accessible, environmentally sustainable, and equipped with the latest in technology, to help Canadians across Canada connect with their Parliament.
Rehabilitating and modernizing Canada's Parliament Buildings, albeit challenging, is as historic a process as their original construction, and will pave the way for them to serve Canadians for the next 150 years.
Thank you. I'm happy to take questions.
Thank you, Madam Chair. I would like to thank you first of all for welcoming me to the committee.
These are extremely relevant topics, especially in Canada's sesquicentennial year. I commend you for making park admission free of charge. It is actually 's initiative, as I understand it, which is quite confusing since it should have been announced by , but was instead announced by Ms. Joly. It is hard to figure out. Heritage buildings are the responsibility of Parks Canada, but it was the minister of Canadian Heritage who made the announcement. Oh, well.
I can tell you that I took advantage of it. I visited Banff Park. I went to Île du Havre aux maisons, I saw the new set-up of the picnic grounds on the beach. It is magnificent. I also visited Cape Breton Island, and Alexander Graham Bell's house, in Baddeck, which in my opinion perfectly illustrate your mandate.
I also visited the Louis S. St. Laurent National Heritage Site, in Compton. It was very interesting, but also very old-fashioned, very antiquated and very outdated, compared to the iPad world that our young people live in now. I could see my little nephew snoring.
I will not talk about the atmosphere there should be at Churchill National Park, because it must be very difficult in Churchill. It was a good initiative. I think young people from Kingston would be happy that the Churchill initiative was located in the old train station. The train station in Churchill was a good choice, I think. It was the most important place to rehabilitate. It is difficult right now, but I think the site is very nice and very representative, but it is of course a bit antiquated.
According to the notes in the documents prepared by Mr. Ménard, a number of witnesses mentioned that you—I mean Parks Canada and Environment Canada—are perhaps not best placed to fulfill the federal responsibility for heritage buildings.
Do you think we should consider a new way division of responsibilities? I am asking because places like Kingston are one thing, but in Montreal, for example, the new CHUM was created.
Moreover, I commend you for what you manage with the NCC and Parliament, and for all the work you do. It is spectacular. It is a huge responsibility. In Montreal, there are truly some flagship buildings, such as the Royal Victoria Hospital, the Montreal Children's Hospital, and the Shriners Hospitals for Children. There are many buildings that are suddenly “abandoned”, or some might say “vacant”, whereas others will enthusiastically refer to them as nice prospective condo developments.
So when organizations such as Heritage Montreal, to which Dinu Bumbaru belongs, say to be careful and wonder what can be done with those facilities, to whom should they turn?