Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. I'm delighted to be back at the procedure and House affairs committee, where I spent some quality time while I was the parliamentary secretary to the government House leader between 2001 and 2003. It's nice to be back again, this time of course answering questions, or trying to, instead of asking them.
I'm pleased to be here with Superintendent Mike O'Beirne, the acting director of the Parliamentary Protective Service, and Mr. Robert Graham, the acting corporate services officer for the protective service. We're also joined by other members of the PPS management team: Superintendent Alain Laniel, the officer in charge of operational support; Inspector Marie-Claude Côté, the officer in charge of operations; and, Melissa Rusk, executive officer and senior adviser to the director.
Since its creation on June 23, 2015, the PPS has made significant progress in unifying the Parliament Hill physical security mandate and in establishing itself as a single and independent parliamentary entity. Over the course of fiscal year 2016-17, its first full financial cycle, the PPS has implemented a series of new operational and organizational initiatives while addressing the complexities of the evolving external security environment.
In September 2016, a supplementary budget request of $7 million was approved to support ongoing costs for Parliament Hill security, one-time initial costs for the launch of resources optimization initiatives, and the requirements stemming from organizational structure developments.
In support of PPS' determination to build on the progress to date, which includes further strengthening its capacity to support an autonomous security service throughout the Parliamentary Precinct and the grounds of Parliament Hill, I am here to present PPS' supplementary estimates (C) and main estimates requests.
I'll begin by providing an overview of the PPS supplementary estimates (C) request, which totals $2.39 million, including a total voted budgetary requirement of $2.3 million and a statutory budgetary component of $90,000 to fund the employee benefit plan.
The total voted budgetary requirement is related to funding for an operational contingency fund and additional administrative requirements.
The PPS is seeking an operational contingency fund in the amount of $2.1 million dollars, which will be used for operational requirements not anticipated earlier in the year, including security for the Canada 150 celebrations on December 31, 2016, and for future requirements that may occur prior to the fiscal year-end.
In addition to the operational contingency fund, we are requesting a sum of $200,000 to fund administrative requirements. This includes funding for payroll, language training, and Employee Assistance Program services that the House of Commons Administration is providing to PPS on a cost-recovery basis throughout the 2016-2017 fiscal year.
Due to external labour relations factors, including delays associated with the negotiations surrounding the future collective bargaining units, PPS is requesting funds to cover the anticipated additional external legal services.
I hope I'm not going too fast for the interpreters, who I know do a fabulous job, but it can be challenging with someone who speaks as quickly as I do.
Let us now turn our attention to the PPS's main estimates request for 2017-18, which totals $68.2 million. This includes a voted budget component of $62.1 million and a $6.1-million statutory budget requirement for the employee benefits plan.
This 2017-18 main estimates request represents a $6.1-million increase over the PPS's 2016-17 main estimates submission. In addition to its permanent voted budget of $56.3 million, which was approved in the 2016-17 main estimates and established as a result of Bill , the PPS is seeking an additional $6.1 million in permanent funding to support the ongoing implementation of security enhancements and to further stabilize its organizational structure.
Several reviews were conducted following the events of October 22, 2014, resulting in 161 recommendations for the improvement of security on Parliament Hill. The PPS received temporary funding approval in September 2016 to launch its mobile response team, or MRT, initiative. The implementation of this initiative will address a significant number of these 161 recommendations and enhance the PPS's overall response capacity. PPS is requesting permanent funding in the amount of $1.2 million to further implement and sustain the needs of this initiative.
To support the continuation of the Senate's previously approved security enhancement initiatives, additional funding in the amount of $787,000 will be transferred to the PPS on April 1, 2017, given the direct alignment with the PPS's mandate.
PPS is also seeking permanent funding in the amount of $3 million to stabilize the protective posture in the newly reopened Wellington Building, and to uphold pre-existing third party security agreements throughout the Precinct.
Given the anticipated increase in the number of visitors to the Precinct and grounds of Parliament Hill throughout Canada's 150th anniversary celebrations, a total of $400,000 in temporary funding is required to support the costs of the baggage screening facility at 90 Wellington through 2017-2018. This renewed temporary funding request will not only enhance the visitor experience but will enable PPS to evaluate this facility's effectiveness, feasibility and long-term sustainability.
This results in a cumulative request of $5.3 million for previously approved and new security enhancement initiatives throughout the Parliamentary Precinct and the grounds of Parliament Hill.
In addition to the aforementioned funding request for operational enhancement initiatives, the PPS is seeking a permanent increase of $886,000 to fund a series of corporate service requirements. This includes funding for full-time communications resources to support the PPS's internal and external messaging, along with the funding that is necessary to fulfill its existing service-level agreements with the House administration for the provision of human resources, as well as information and technical services.
In closing, the PPS remains steadfast in its commitment to operational excellence through the provision of professional physical security services throughout the parliamentary precinct and the grounds of Parliament Hill, something that I think is very important. It's certainly important to me for the security of everyone who works here and all those who visit us here.
To further enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of its service delivery model, the PPS will focus on the ongoing implementation of existing and new resource optimization initiatives, the identification of opportunities to leverage innovation, and a strengthened commitment to collaboration with its various parliamentary partners.
This concludes my overview of the PPS's supplementary estimates (C) and 2017-18 main estimates request, Mr. Chair. I look forward, and we look forward, to the questions that are to come.
Thank you very much, Chair.
Mr. Speaker, it's good to see you, sir, and your delegation.
If I may, I would like to touch on the new screening process. I assume it has been covered in some of this. As you know, there have been some serious concerns raised about this whole new issue.
I want to draw attention to your remarks, Speaker, in the last paragraph of page 1 at the bottom, where you refer to supporting an autonomous security service.
In camera, you and I have had discussions about just how autonomous this is, and if I get time I'll come back to that, because it's anything but. However, I would like to ask you just what the current status of the suggested new screening process is, sir.
If I may, sir, of the two areas that have jumped out so far, one, of course, is the media itself, through the press gallery, their organized representative body, and also people who work for members here, or may in the future. They're raising serious concerns that tie into the notion of being autonomous.
Once we start getting into anything to do with the RCMP, we see that it is not autonomous at all. Nobody suggests that the RCMP is autonomous, and yet they're responsible for security in this building.
We still have this facade of an independent security service, but at the end of the day, in a crisis, when the rubber hits the road, the Prime Minister will dictate to the RCMP commissioner, who will then issue orders that will be followed. If they have time, I'm sure they'll loop in the Speaker, but if it's a big enough emergency, sir...and we've had some of these discussions in camera, which I can't divulge.
The reason I'm raising that, sir, is that once we start bringing in the press gallery, the free press—and we see the issue of defending the right of the press in a free democracy roiling away south of us—who decides what the threshold is going to be as to who gets accredited?
Now we have linked the ability of the press to be in the building to do their job with the ultimate control of the security service that's going to decide whether or not they are entitled to a badge to work here.
Help me and others to understand why this shouldn't be a concern when it certainly seems like it is.
Thank you for your presence here today.
I'm new to this committee, so I apologize if my questions are basic, but they will just help me get up to speed.
First, what I'd like to say is just to commend the security team. They're absolutely fantastic.
As a new member of Parliament, I have to tell you that I'm not only impressed with the professionalism, kindness, and compassion in how they wish to take care of us and do take care of us, but also want to commend you and all those responsible for the oversight of the security here.
In that same spirit I also want to make sure that they are at the top of their game, that they are able to do the job they are set out to do. I have had some conversations, which get back to MP Graham's questioning, with respect to overtime and fatigue levels of the security service.
Superintendent O'Beirne, we started that conversation but then I think we got sidetracked a bit. You mentioned the concept of being fully staffed and that you've done research in that regard to determine what it takes. Do you have the number of current security officers that you have and the number you would need—because my understanding is that we need more based on the overtime hours—to be satisfied that you are fully staffed?
You're correct in that the overtime is always at the forefront of our concerns, and not only from a fiscal risk perspective, but also as a wellness concern for us. To that end, I'll mention that we've developed a multitude of initiatives geared towards employee wellness—physical and mental health initiatives. That is certainly at the forefront of our concerns.
From an overtime perspective and how that translates into our posture, as I mentioned, the coming together of the three separate entities was at a time when there were a multitude of security changes on Parliament Hill, on the grounds and in the precinct. As we've come together as a security entity, we have had the opportunity, for example, to optimize our levels at areas such as, let's say, the vehicle screening facility where we continue to employ our defensive posture strategy of multiple layers of security. As I mentioned, we've had some optimization there when it comes to resourcing pressures.
To your question about the actual number, you'll be pleased to hear that we just launched one of our training courses yesterday, which sees our brand new recruit class starting. It's a nine-week training course, so we're looking forward to having them join the force for the upcoming summer months.
I mention that because this is an ongoing effort for us as we position ourselves as well for the 2018 LTVP pressures of the decommissioning of Centre Block and also the ramping up of other areas.