Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
“Police”: that's an interesting word to use.
Voices: Oh, oh!
Hon. Geoff Regan: It's a pleasure to be back before the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs to present the House of Commons supplementary estimates (B) for the fiscal year 2016-17. I'm also pleased to have been invited to present the supplementary estimates (B) on behalf of the Parliamentary Protective Service, or PPS, as I will call it.
Mr. Chairman, you have mentioned the people who are with me here at the table. I thank you for that.
With me are members of House administration's executive management team: Stéphan Aubé, chief financial officer; Philippe Dufresne, law clerk and parliamentary counsel; André Gagnon, acting deputy clerk; Benoit Giroux, director general of parliamentary precinct operations; Patrick McDonnell, deputy sergeant-at-arms and corporate security officer; as well as Pierre Parent, chief human resources officer.
Let me begin by noting that all of the items included in the House of Commons supplementary estimates (B) have been presented to and approved by the Board of Internal Economy. Together, this represents an increase of $22,624,714 in funding levels for fiscal year 2016-17.
To facilitate our discussions today, we prepared a handout outlining the line items that were included in the supplementary estimates (B). You'll be glad to hear that I won't read it word for word.
Having served as a member of this committee in the past, I recall a distinct preference for brevity, and so I will provide what I hope is a quick overview of each of the five line items under discussion, in the order that they are presented in the handout. This will leave more time for questions later.
The items include funding for: the carry-forward of the operating budget; security enhancements; renewal of the constituency communications network services, or CCN as we call it; committee activities; and, members' sessional allowances and additional salaries.
We're seeking a carry-forward in the amount of approximately $13.7 million through the 2016-17 supplementary estimates (B).
This request corresponds to the board's carry-forward policy, a policy that's been in place since 1995. The policy allows members of Parliament, House officers, and the House administration to carry forward unspent funds from one fiscal year to the next, up to a maximum of 5% of operating budgets in their main estimates.
The ability to carry funds forward increases our budgetary flexibility, reduces the pressure to spend at the year-end, and provides and incentive for those who underspend their budgets. In short, it helps us better manage our finances.
This carry-forward practice is also in place across all federal government departments. However, unlike those departments, the House of Commons must seek such carryforward funding through its supplementary estimates, and not from Treasury Board.
The funding will be allocated to budgets for members, House officers and the House administration. Notably, the House administration's allotment will be used to fund priority areas such as investments that support the administration's strategic plan, as well as those that ensure the timely replacement of much-needed IT infrastructure.
With respect to security, we remain committed to our collective safety and that of the parliamentary precinct. To that end, we have sought temporary funding of $4.2 million for fiscal year 2016-17 as reflected in our next line item. This funding supports the House of Commons Corporate Security Office, or CSO, which works closely with its colleagues in the PPS.
The CSO has been facing increased demands for its services, including in the areas of accreditation, security clearance, event and visitor access services, constituency security, and threat and risk assessment. Indeed, the CSO's security advice, guidance, and training remain in high demand. As well, we're asking for more from the office.
For example, in response to a number of security assessments, including the independent assessment requested in 2014 by the previous speaker, a number of initiatives to enhance our security are under way.
Additional funding is helping to build on these, including measures to improve the constituency office security program, install self-registration kiosks for visitors, and modernize the security camera system.
A moment ago, I mentioned members' constituency offices within the context of security. We understand that access to state-of-the-art communications for members is a priority, whether they're in Ottawa or back in their constituency offices. That's why we've have sought a temporary increase of $2.1 million under supplementary estimates (B) for this fiscal year, which is item 3 in the handout.
The additional funding is helping to support the replacement of the current constituency communications network, or CCN, with what I think we aptly call the “enhanced constituency connectivity service”, or ECCS. This new Internet-based service will provide members with a seamless and always-connected experience, no matter the location of their constituency office.
The enhanced constituency connectivity service, or ECCS, is designed to equal the excellent service that members already receive in their Hill offices, by providing them and their staff with secure access to the parliamentary precinct network as well as Internet connectivity and other WiFi services, from coast to coast to coast.
Under item 4, committee activities—and not just this committee, obviously—you will note our request for a temporary increase of $1.5 million for fiscal year 2016-17. This increase is due to a renewed demand by many of the 24 standing committees to engage with Canadians who live outside of the national capital region, as well as the requirement to support the work of the Special Committee on Electoral Reform.
More specifically, temporary funding for committees under the global committee envelope was increased by $800,000 in 2016-17. Again, this reflects the budget requirements of the increased committee activities outside the national capital region, including enhanced consultations. An additional $678,000 was provided to fund the work of the then newly created Special Committee on Electoral Reform.
It is my understanding that the experience so far demonstrates that there is public demand for such increased consultation. That said, let me emphasize that we continue to allocate funds for committee activities with the utmost rigour. For instance, measures have been taken to reduce the costs of committee travel, including by limiting the number of members travelling with each committee and ensuring that only essential staff accompany the committee for meetings outside of Ottawa.
That brings me to the final line item in your handout, in the amount of $1.1 million for fiscal year 2016-17 and subsequent years. This amount represents an increase to salaries for members, House officers, the Speaker and other presiding officers: a 1.8% increase to members' annual sessional allowances and additional salaries over the previous year. The increase, which was approved by the Board of Internal Economy, took effect on April 1.
As you know, members' sessional allowances and other additional salaries are statutory under the Parliament of Canada Act. Such increases are based on an index published by Employment and Social Development Canada and reflect the average percentage increase in base-rate wages for a calendar year in Canada resulting from major settlements negotiated in the private sector.
Now let me turn my attention to parliamentary protective service, the PPS. Since its creation, on June 23, 2015, PPS has been working diligently to ensure operational excellence through the execution of seamless service delivery in support of its physical security mandate throughout the parliamentary precinct and the grounds of Parliament Hill.
Efforts to enhance operational excellence through a series of resource optimization, coordination and professionalization initiatives remain ongoing.
I'll now provide you with an overview of supplementary estimates (B) for 2016-17, which total $7.1 million, including a total voted budgetary requirement of $6.7 million and a statutory budget component of $367,000 for the employee benefits plan. Please note that this request represents unfunded requirements to support new and ongoing initiatives, and PPS was able to reallocate funding within an existing budgetary envelope to defray a portion of the total cost of the requirements.
PPS is requesting $1.7 million in funding from its 2015-16 operational budget carry-forward. This funding, in addition to the $3.1 million in additional funding that's being requested, will be used for a series of security enhancement projects. These projects are intended to address a significant number of the recommendations stemming from the reviews of the events of October 22, 2014, and to stabilize a protective posture in response to the requirements associated with the long-term vision and plan.
To further the integration and realize the benefits on interoperability, PPS is requesting $655,000 to support the consolidation of the PPS operational and operational support employees into two distinct facilities. This consolidation will enable PPS to secure sufficient office space for its current FTE base, ensure the necessary informatics are in place to support operations, streamline the quartermaster processes, facilitate the process of integrated briefings and resource deployment, and continue to work towards the creation of a unique PPS culture.
Over the past several months, a series of reviews were conducted to make the best use of our professional resources while exercising resource stewardship in support of our overall operations. To that end, PPS is seeking $445,000 to support resource optimization initiatives. As a result of this investment, PPS will be realizing a $2.5-million return on the investment/savings, in the coming fiscal years.
This funding will also be used to defray some of the costs incurred in coordinating the address to Parliament by the President of the United States of America, and I'm referring to the address that already occurred, just so nobody thinks that we have something planned. I don't know about that. We'll see.
PPS remains committed to preserving the openness and accessibility of Parliament, while maintaining the responsive and appropriate public safety and security measures that are necessary today, given the evolution of our domestic and international threat environment.
As always, PPS is proud to serve and protect, and operational and employee excellence remain its highest priority.
If its accomplishments over the past 18 months are any indication, PPS is well prepared to address the current global reality, as well as any future challenges to the physical safety and security of the parliamentary precinct and the grounds of Parliament Hill.
You will be pleased to hear that this now concludes my overview of the House of Commons supplementary estimates (B) for 2016-17 as well as those for PPS.
Along with the staff members present, I am happy to answer any questions you may have.