Thank you very much, Mr. Chair and members of the committee. It's a pleasure to be here.
As Speaker of the House of Commons, I will be presenting the main estimates for fiscal year 2019-2020 for the House of Commons and the Parliamentary Protective Service. I am joined by officials from both organizations.
Representing the House of Commons administration we have Charles Robert, Clerk of the House of Commons; Michel Patrice, Deputy Clerk, Administration; and Daniel Paquette, Chief Financial Officer.
From the Parliamentary Protective Service, we are joined by Superintendent Marie-Claude Côté, the service's Acting Director; and Robert Graham, the service's Administration and Personnel Officer.
I'll begin, Mr. Chair, by presenting the key elements of the 2019-20 main estimates for the House. These estimates total $503.4 million. This represents a net decrease of $3.6 million compared with the 2018-19 main estimates.
I want to point out—I think members probably know—that the main estimates have been reviewed and approved by the Board of Internal Economy at a public meeting.
The main estimates will be presented along five major themes, corresponding to the handout that you received. The financial impact associated with these themes represents the year-over-year changes from the 2018-2019 Main Estimates.
The five themes are as follows: cost-of-living increases; major investments; conferences, associations and assemblies; MP retiring allowances and MP retirement compensation arrangements; and employee benefit plans.
I'll begin with the funding of $4.9 million that is required for cost-of-living increases. This covers requirements for the House administration, as well as for members' office budgets and House officers' budgets. Ensuring that members and house officers have the necessary resources to meet their evolving needs is essential. The increase to members' office budgets, the House officers' budgets, and the travel status expense account provides members and House officers with the necessary resources to carry out their parliamentary functions on behalf of their constituents. These annual budgetary adjustments are based on the consumer price index.
Additionally, members' sessional allowance and additional salaries are statutory in nature and are adjusted every year, in accordance with the Parliament of Canada Act.
Cost-of-living increases are also essential to recruitment efforts for members, House officers and the House Administration as employers, and funding for these increases is accounted for in the estimates.
I'll now move on to the funding for major investments that the board approved, a net increase of $600,000 in support of major House of Commons investments. In light of the renewal of many parliamentary spaces, investments are also needed to deliver support services to members. One notable example of this service delivery initiative has been the implementation of a standardized approach for computer and printing equipment in constituency offices across the country.
This initiative was launched as a pilot project this year and following the next general election will be implemented in all constituency offices. Its purpose is threefold: to ensure parity between the Hill and the constituencies' computing services, to enhance IT support and security, and to simplify purchasing and life cycling of equipment in constituency offices.
As part of the long-term vision and plan, the Parliamentary Precinct continues to undergo extensive restoration and modernization to support the efficient operations of Parliament and to preserve Canada's heritage buildings.
The recent West Block rehabilitation project and the construction of the new Visitor Welcome Centre were milestone achievements and, in many ways, will serve as models for the upcoming rehabilitation of Centre Block.
The lessons learned from this project's successes can help guide us in restoring our heritage buildings to their former glory while also incorporating the modern functionality required to support Parliament. For the Centre Block project, the House of Commons administration is committed to engaging members to ensure they're involved in discussions on the design and operational requirements for the building during every step of the project from its outset to its completion.
As the heart of our parliamentary democracy, Centre Block of our Parliament Buildings has great symbolic importance to all Canadians. However, it's also a workplace for members and their staff or will be again once the House returns there. Therefore, their continuous involvement will be crucial to the success of this historic undertaking. Along with the board and its working group, this committee will serve as a forum to consult with members about their views, expectations and needs on a regular basis.
Let us now turn to parliamentary diplomacy. The sunsetting of the funds included in the 2018-2019 Main Estimates for conferences and assemblies resulted in a decrease of $1.4 million in the 2019-2020 Main Estimates.
Whether welcoming visiting parliamentarians and dignitaries to the House of Commons or participating in delegations to foreign legislatures and international conferences, MPs play an active role in parliamentary diplomacy. Two important events will be hosted in 2020-21. The 29th annual session of the Parliamentary Assembly, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, will take place in Vancouver, British Columbia, in July 2020. The 65th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference will be held in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in January 2021. May I say that's an excellent choice. I'd love to take credit for it; I had nothing to do with it, but it's still an excellent choice. Both of them are, of course.
I will now touch on the total funding reduction of $9.3 million for the members of Parliament retiring allowances and members of Parliament retirement compensation arrangements accounts.
The MPs' pension plan serves more than 1,000 active and retired senators and members of the House of Commons. The plan was established in 1952 and is governed by the Members of Parliament Retiring Allowances Act. In January 2017, the contribution rates for plan members increased to bring their share of the current service cost to 50%, thus reducing the cost that must be funded by the House of Commons.
The final item included in the House of Commons main estimates is a funding requirement of $1.6 million for employee benefit plans.
In accordance with Treasury Board directives, this non-discretionary statutory expenditure covers costs to the employer for the public service superannuation plan, the Canada pension plan and the Quebec pension plan, death benefits, and the employment insurance account.
I would now like to present the 2019-20 main estimates for the Parliamentary Protective Service, or PPS. For the 2019-20 fiscal year, the budget request for the PPS totals $90.9 million, a modest decrease from the last fiscal year. Within this total, $9.1 million are attributed to statutory requirements, which comprise employee insurance, pension and benefits.
Since the amalgamation of the former parliamentary security services nearly four years ago, the PPS has made important investments and achieved considerable progress in strengthening security on Parliament Hill and within the parliamentary precinct.
Mr. Chair, before I speak about their specific funding requirements, I would like to say once again how grateful I am, and I know all members are, for the protection that PPS members provide to everyone who works here and who visits. These men and women strive to promote a safe and positive experience for more than a million visitors each year.
Before each financial cycle, and prior to requesting additional resources, the service conducts a comprehensive analysis of its operational and administrative requirements. In keeping with their strategic priority of sound stewardship, they take every measure to meet the operational needs of both houses of Parliament with existing resources. When additional resources are required, proposals undergo several levels of review and oversight before they are included in the estimates.
For fiscal year 2019-20, the key funding requirements include $1.4 million for 15 full-time equivalents to cover additional posts in new Senate buildings; $775,000 for the establishment of an asset management program to properly maintain security equipment and uniforms; $650,000 to build on existing security investments at the vehicle screening facility, where the service processed an average of 300 vehicles a day last year; $5.5 million in permanent and temporary funding for various payments as a result of labour negotiations; and $600,000 in additional administrative staff in information technology, asset management and communications.
Approximately 92% of the overall annual budget of the service funds the salaries of over 500 uniformed operational members and more than 100 civilian positions. This is in addition to the members of the RCMP who are assigned to the service to provide front-line support.
As the operational lead, the RCMP also provides the service with the necessary operational training. This knowledge transfer from the RCMP to PPS is progressing well, with an increasing number of operational units, such as the mobile response team now being led by the service. For this reason, the service is requesting an additional 70 full-time equivalents through the cost-neutral strategy of reducing RCMP front-line support over the next two years. We'll see that shift happening.
This past year, the service screened nearly a million people, seized 23,000 prohibited or restricted items from visitors, managed hundreds of public demonstrations and events, and addressed numerous security incidents involving acts of civil disobedience on Parliament Hill and within the parliamentary precinct. They also intervened as first responders for various incidents.
In preparation for the move to the interim accommodations, the service also redesigned its posture by maximizing the use of existing resources across all parliamentary buildings. They refocused operations on their protective mandate, which allowed them to redeploy resources more strategically and with greater flexibility.
Additionally, the service is prepared to meet the new operational challenges associated with the increasing number of visitors at the new visitor welcome centre, an expanded jurisdiction of the precinct consisting of new parliamentary buildings and the larger physical separation between both Houses of Parliament. As you know, Mr. Chairman, moving out of Centre Block to this and other locations has required us to be a bit more dispersed.
They have also introduced additional measures to improve the management of health and well-being of the workforce. Over the last two years, involuntary overtime has significantly decreased. They have implemented a drug and alcohol policy in response to the legalization of cannabis, enhanced the training curriculum for protection officers and detection specialists, launched an employee engagement survey and improved the accommodations program to facilitate an early return to work.
These measures are aimed at not only promoting healthy living among its workforce, but also to help ensure that employees return home safely from work.
The service had the unique mandate of protecting the legislative process—and in doing so, must remain agile and responsive to any threat made against the Parliament of Canada across 40 locations. This means a continuous operation, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to be able to detect and respond rapidly to emerging global and domestic threats, and to adjust their security posture accordingly.
Last summer, uniformed members intercepted and arrested an individual who breached the security perimeter during the changing of the guard ceremony on Parliament Hill.
They also operate in a multi-jurisdictional environment, which requires a high degree of collaboration with law enforcement and intelligence partners. In the last year, they have strengthened communications with their partners and met with trusted international counterparts to share best practices and develop new ways forward in the field of protection.
This concludes my overview of the 2019-2020 Main Estimates for the House of Commons and the Parliamentary Protective Service. My officials and I would be pleased to answer questions. If members have any specific questions with respect to the security posture or labour negotiations, I would recommend that the committee go in camera for that discussion.
Speaker, it's good to see you again for the last go-around. It's the last go-around, guaranteed, at least between you and me. With any luck you'll be here many times again, Speaker, and I wish you well on that, but this is our last go.
I know you'd be extremely disappointed if I didn't raise the issue, along with my good friend Mr. Graham, of PPS, but I will take your advice. Your comment at the end was that, if it's due to labour relations, we should do it in camera. It sounds as if we're going in camera anyway, and I will have a couple of questions and will ask for an update.
We'll do that maybe in camera, Chair.
I'll limit my remarks to some financial questions.
In your presentation, a couple of pages in, you said that there's a $650,000 allocation to build on existing security investments at the vehicle screening facility, which we, of course, lovingly refer to as the car wash. Here's my question. The thing was designed, studied, built. By my recollection, there was at least one major upgrade. There may have been even more, but there was at least one major upgrade since then.
Now we're looking at another $650,000, so my question is this. When is the darned thing going to be done, and why weren't the issues that are being addressed now not addressed in the beginning when the planning was done?