Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. It's a pleasure to be back before you in my role as Speaker of the House of Commons to present to you our supplementary estimates (B) for the fiscal year 2017-18.
As you know, this appearance is an opportunity for the House of Commons to present the approved additional funding for previously planned initiatives, each of which is designed to maintain and enhance the administration's support to members of Parliament and to the institution itself.
You may have gotten a sneak peek of what I am about to present to you when the Board of Internal Economy reviewed and approved the estimates last month, at its first public meeting.
I'm here today to add some details and answer your questions. I'll also present, as you mentioned, Mr. Chairman, the supplementary estimates (B) for the Parliamentary Protective Service, or PPS. As you may have noticed, I'm joined by our House administration's executive management team and the leadership of the PPS.
I will begin this morning's presentation by highlighting the key elements of the 2017-18 supplementary estimates (B) for the House of Commons. These total $35 million in additional funding and bring the House of Commons' estimates to $511 million for the fiscal year.
For a more detailed breakdown of numbers, I would draw your attention to the handout that we've provided to the committee to help facilitate our discussions.
As you can see, there are 10 line items included in our 2017-2018 supplementary estimates (B). I will address each of these in the order in which they appear. This will be followed by a presentation of the supplementary estimates for PPS.
As you will note, most of the line items—eight of them, to be precise—fall under the broad category of voted appropriations. The remaining two items represent statutory appropriations.
To begin, our first line item confirms that temporary funding in the amount of $15.4 million has been sought for what is technically known as the operating budget carry-forward.
The board's carry-forward policy allows members, 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 their operating budgets in their main estimates. This practice follows that of the Government of Canada and gives members, House officers, and the administration more flexibility in planning and carrying out their work. The House of Commons carry-forward has been approved by the Board of Internal Economy, and further to a Treasury Board directive, is reflected in our supplementary estimates.
The next line item relates to security enhancements to the West Block that are needed as part of the long-term vision and plan. As you may know, Public Services and Procurement Canada, the lead partner in this ambitious, multi-year plan, recently confirmed that the restoration of West Block is scheduled for completion next year. Once ready, that heritage building will serve as our new temporary home.
I can't go into further detail about the $5.3 million that is required to enhance overall security at West Block without going in camera, as I'm sure colleagues will understand. However, I do want to take this opportunity to confirm that we are doing the required due diligence on security matters and that a detailed plan has been approved by the board.
In addition, we have sought $4.4 million in 2017-18 to fund economic increases for House administration employees. This increase reflects the results of the negotiations with four of our bargaining units. The total sought includes both temporary funding for retroactive payments and funding for permanent, ongoing labour costs.
The next item represents a $2.7 million investment in the overarching digital strategy to modernize the delivery of parliamentary information to better support the work of members of Parliament, their staff, and the administration, as well as to maintain the solutions and systems that underpin the strategy. The planning, development, and launch of our digital strategy this past spring marked a significant step forward—one of many to come—in making the House a leader in the sharing of parliamentary information.
I should mention that the strategy also includes efforts to evolve our intranet for members to transform it into a one-stop source for important information that members expect from the House of Commons.
You may recall that this past May, when I last appeared before this committee to present our main estimates, I spoke to you about the work of our parliamentary committees and associations.
I mentioned to you then that there was a growing demand for Canadian parliamentarians to meet with citizens from across the country as well as internationally to help better shape our country's policies and actions, both at home and around the world.
Accordingly, an additional $1.7 million for fiscal year 2017-18 was included in the supplementary estimates (B) to support the activities of our committees and to support the 15th Plenary Assembly of ParlAmericas. This conference, which is to be hosted by Canada, is scheduled for September 2018 in beautiful Victoria, British Columbia.
The next line item in the handout—funding in the amount of $1.4 million—was sought in 2017-18 to usher in two changes to the way we do business.
The first will see the budget structures for the House officers and national caucuses modernized to allow for a more effective management of their operations. That change came into effect on April 1, 2017.
The second extends the proactive disclosure of expenditures from members to all House officers and national caucus research offices. I'm happy to confirm that our first House officers expenditures report will be published in June 2018. The latter represents the latest step taken by the board to increase the public's understanding of its role and of the expenditures of the House of Commons. The opening of the board's meetings to the public, which I mentioned earlier in this presentation, is another notable example.
I would direct your attention now to the next line item, which deals with the House administration's continued efforts to modernize our food services to members and others, and deliver these in the most efficient way possible.
We have sought $1 million in funding to provide a more client-focused experience and to prepare for the move of our parliamentary dining room to the West Block, including related upgrades to our food production facility.
The changes that will be introduced include a new breakfast service at the parliamentary dining room, a new catering kitchen team for final preparations and plating, revised menus to appeal to changing palates and accommodate off-site preparation, year-round service in two cafeterias in the parliamentary precinct, and a core complement of employees, including new hires, to respond to the increasing demand for service.
The last item you will find in the voted appropriations section of the handout relates to $835,000 sought for pay and benefits services in 2017-18. Given the challenges, this funding will ensure a more reasonable workload for employees who provide this service, as well as help better meet the needs of members and other clients.
Ten new positions are being funded on the pay and benefits team within the human resources services. The increase in our staffing complement will, among other things, provide for the establishment of a call centre to respond to pay and benefits questions, as well as a dedicated pension services expert to act as a go-to resource for members for pension-related matters.
There are two final items to address related to the House of Commons supplementary estimates (B). These fall under the category of statutory appropriations in the handout.
To begin, $1.6 million in funding was sought for the employee benefit plans in 2017-18, in accordance with a Treasury Board directive. In addition, a further $793,000 was required for the annual adjustment to members' sessional allowances and additional salaries as per the Parliament of Canada Act. This represents a 1.4% increase effective April 1, 2017.
As you know, the adjustment is based on the average percentage increase in base-rate wages for each calendar year resulting from major settlements negotiated in the private sector in Canada.
This concludes my presentation of the supplementary estimates (B) for the House of Commons.
Now I would like to turn, Mr. Chairman, to the Parliamentary Protective Service, which continues to build and strengthen its capacity to provide security services throughout the precinct.
Let me begin by providing an overview of the PPS's supplementary estimates (B) requests for 2017-18, which total $14.7 million. This includes a voted budget component of $14.2 million and a $489,000 statutory budget requirement for the employee benefit plan.
Following a determination that the PPS is responsible for the ownership, upgrade, use, and operation of physical security assets used to protect Parliament Hill, the project aiming to upgrade the video surveillance system and replace the vehicle screening facility crash barriers was transferred to PPS.
PPS is requesting temporary funding in the amount of $5.3 million for the 2017-18 fiscal year in order to proceed with the first stage of the video surveillance project, in line with the long-term vision and plan construction schedule.
This funding request includes $200,000 in this fiscal year to begin the work to replace the vehicle crash barrier system currently in place. The funding will help reduce the risk of vehicular attacks, a tactic that—as we all sadly know—has been recently used around the world with increasing frequency.
The PPS is also requesting temporary funding of $1.3 million for incremental costs related to this year's Canada Day events.
Permanent funding of $1.1 million is being requested to enable the PPS to permanently staff positions in information services, training, physical infrastructure and emergency planning, asset management, and major events planning.
Temporary funding of $909,000 is also needed to advance operational support projects, which include additional information management support and the inventory management system to help PPS move away from manual records, and to cover the cost of equipment and uniforms for new recruits.
In addition to the operational support funding requests, PPS is seeking a permanent increase of $1.1 million to fund service level agreements established with the House administration for financial operations, the financial system, information services and human resources support.
PPS is requesting $1 million in temporary funding to proceed with retrofits and renovations to facilities at 180 Wellington Street and the Centre Block to make more efficient use of the space available. These projects have been planned and costed with the support of the House of Commons Real Property Group.
In line with the economic increases implemented at the House of Commons and to honour agreements signed prior to its creation, the PPS is requesting funding for salary increases for its unrepresented employees and members of the security services employee association. The cost for the 2017-18 fiscal year will be $693,000, which would cover retroactive and current year increases.
Finally, the PPS is requesting access through the supplementary estimates (B) to the 5% carry-forward in the fiscal year 2016-17 in the amount of $2.8 million.
This concludes my presentation, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for your kind attention. My team and I are happy to answer any questions you may have.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, Mr. Speaker, Clerk, and other guests.
Speaker, it won't come as a big shock to you that I'm probably going to focus most of my remarks and concerns on PPS. I don't want to let you down.
At the risk of sounding as if I'm bragging—because I'm not; I'm just laying out some bona fides—as a former solicitor general of Ontario, I was the civilian head of the OPP, so not only do I not have an angst about state police, I'm quite proud of them and proud of my previous affiliation with them. That said, I for one do not believe that the transition is going well at all. Again I want to underscore my belief that it is totally unacceptable for the Prime Minister to control the guns that are in Parliament.
Just as an aside, since it's my time, my good friend Raoul Gebert, who was a former chief of staff to Tom Mulcair, was bringing some guests from Germany, and they asked what we were doing and what I was going to focus on. They just about fell over when they found out that Parliament itself didn't control the guns that are in Parliament to protect Parliament.
Notwithstanding that I can't change that with one speech, I will keep making as many speeches as I can until I can reach critical mass and have it changed so that Parliament is in charge of its own security. However, we are where we are.
We're going to raise some issues in camera, so it's not my intent to play any games. Speaker, I think you know I don't do that. If you feel in any way that I'm getting too close to the confidential side of the negotiations, please jump in. I would urge you to do that. That's not my intent. However, I think it's fair game to ask the following questions.
The PPS are raising concerns with me about the new equipment being bought. The PPS side of things pays the bill, but the RCMP gets the equipment. I've even had vehicles pointed out to me, and people telling me they were bought with PPS money. The RCMP have that one, and that's the one PPS gets; it's an older vehicle.
This is what I'm told; I could be wrong. Weapons are being purchased that have the RCMP stamp on them, which in itself is fine, but if it's PPS money, their concern is that it's going to gravitate to the RCMP. They get shiny brand new weapons with the stamp and everything, and PPS is handed older brother's clothes.
I'm seeking some guidance, some edification, and ultimately some assurances with regard to this issue. I'll leave it there, Speaker, and ask you to comment and direct me to anybody with you who you feel is appropriate.
Thank you, Chair.
Thanks for the question, Madam May.
There are a couple of pieces I think I need to address on your question that I'm hoping will be helpful.
In the first case—and as I said, I will go into this in more detail later on—our ability at this point to enter into collective bargaining with the three associations that are currently in place for PPS is very limited. The legal advice I have is based on the law that created PPS, the Parliament of Canada Act. Within a certain period of time after the creation of PPS the employer or any of the parties had the opportunity to go to the PSLREB, the labour board, and make application to ascertain the number of bargaining units that will be part of PPS.
That application was made in 2015. The legal advice that I have received is that I cannot enter into collective bargaining until the PSLREB makes that decision, so we have been seeking alternatives into what we can do in the meantime. I'm as frustrated as anybody else with the delays. We did have our first hearing—last week, in fact—with the PSLREB on exactly that. I am hopeful that it can be resolved in reasonably short order, but there are further hearings required. In the meantime, the legal advice I'm getting is that I cannot collectively bargain. We have therefore been actively seeking alternatives to collective bargaining, actively looking for potential means of solving specific issues outside of the collective bargaining world.
In terms of the members of the former House of Commons security services who are now PPS employees and those who were involved in the incident on October 22, 2014, absolutely I agree with you that these people are to be commended. They are professional. They are proud, and they have every right to be. I certainly wouldn't want to say anything that would lead anybody to believe that I have nothing but the greatest respect for what they did, and what they do every day to keep this place safe, but the other issue is that we have a dress and deportment policy that was created in consultation with all three associations. Any alteration to the uniform is in violation of that policy.
When this first started in June, prior to Canada Day, I had newly arrived at the end of May. I started in this position at the end of May and I was very open to looking for alternative solutions and, as such, was very flexible in terms of any discipline at the time. I didn't want to go there at the time. Since that time, we were able to provide the former House of Commons security services employees, who are currently represented by SSEA, with the economic increase that was part of an agreement before PPS was created in 2014. That was part of the action I took in June. We got them that economic increase. I got an agreement that the labour action would cease, and that's what happened. Everybody went back to uniform.
Subsequent to that, we signed what I'll call a labour peace agreement, a memorandum of understanding, with that association, basically saying that there will be no further pressure tactics on the part of the union and that they will adhere to the dress and deportment policy, and we agreed to go forward into mediation of specific grievances. We did that, and we absolutely did it in good faith. I categorically deny that we were there in bad faith.
Of course, I can't go into the specifics of the mediation. We came to the table and actively tried to find an agreement. We were not able to reach that agreement. Both parties were very far apart. The nature of mediation is that it does not always result in an agreement. It doesn't mean either party was there in bad faith, so I deny that.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I also want to thank you, Ms. Malcolmson. We are very happy to have an opportunity to speak with you today about why Bill should be votable in the House of Commons.
Since your committee is in charge of all the prerogatives of Parliament, the decision you have to make is important.
There are three main arguments I would like to put forward at the beginning.
First off, as you will see, Bill is in fact quite a different piece of legislation from the government bill, Bill , and therefore should not be considered the same question as Bill , which is currently on the Order Paper.
Second, the subcommittee was incorrect in applying the criteria to Bill because it was similar to Bill at the same meeting where it applied different criteria, it seemed, to Bill , which was declared votable, despite being on the same subject and amending the same Canada Elections Act as Bill and Bill . There's an inconsistency there.
Third, allowing the subcommittee decision to stand is allowing the government to violate the separation of private members' business and to let it do through the back door what the rules were designed to forbid through the front door: to deny individual members their right to vote on their preferred item of private members' business.
As we all know, government bills are subject to party discipline. Private members' bills have been the exception to this, and in our bible, which is O'Brien and Bosc, House of Commons Procedure and Practice, it is clear that these rules were developed over decades, leading to a system based on the following fundamental characteristics: each member should have “at least one opportunity per Parliament to have an item of Private Members' Business debated” and voted upon, and “each item in the Order of Precedence would be votable, unless the sponsor opted to make it non-votable.”
The basic premise for PMBs is that government business is fundamentally different from private members' business. This premise was put in place to protect individual initiatives from members against the power of majority governments, including the power to try to knock off a bill.
Now, to emphasize the differences, the House has many rules built in to reflect the separation of government and private members' business. Amendments to private members' motions can only be moved with the consent of the sponsor. PMB recorded divisions, as we know, are done row by row in the chamber, and not by party. The lottery is designed to exclude ministers and parliamentary secretaries from PMBs, and if the committee makes a decision and it is appealed, the appeal is done by secret ballot on the floor of the House of Commons. The only other time this arises is when we elect a Speaker at the beginning of Parliament.
I would like to pass the microphone back now to Ms. Malcolmson, who will explain why Bill is so different from Bill .
There were two bills, Bill and its predecessor, which I tabled as Bill in February 2016, just a month after we had been sworn in. Then I reintroduced a new version of it in April 2017: Bill C-352. It's very skinny. The government's bill, tabled 10 days ago, Bill , is much more hefty. That's my first point of comparison.
I will show you how these two bills are not redundant and how they are not contradictory. I urge you to deem my private member's bill votable.
There are a number of points of comparison.
With regard to national strategy, Bill C-64 is not a national strategy. The word does not appear once in the legislation. The government's briefing notes make that clear as well. It's not a national strategy; my bill is all about developing a national strategy.
The next comparison is with regard to royal recommendation. Bill C-64 requires the appropriation of public revenue and, as such, has received a royal recommendation. My bill does not.
With regard to penalties, in Bill C-64 there's a compliance and enforcement regime that is extensive. It creates a whole new set of violations and penalties for abandonment of vessels. My bill does none of these things. Arguably, my bill would make it easier to actually enforce those penalties in Bill C-64.
Another related point of comparison is enforcement tools. In Bill C-64, there is a whole suite of tools for enforcement provided to the Minister of Transport, a number of fines. My bill does none of these things.
With regard to enforcement officers and the justice system, they're also very different. Bill C-64 creates powers for enforcement officers, for the Transportation Appeal Tribunal, for the justice of the peace, for the Attorney General. Bill C-352 does none of these.
With regard to receiver of wreck, my bill designates the Canadian Coast Guard as the receiver of wreck. This was the same in Jean Crowder's bill in the previous Parliament, which a number of members of the government supported at that time. In the government's bill, that's not the approach. Bill C-64 keeps it as a multi-jurisdictional approach and keeps the receiver of wreck within the umbrella of the Minister of Transport, so again they are different approaches, not duplicative.
With regard to consultation, in my bill the Minister of Transport would consult with stakeholders and coastal people to discuss the development of a strategy. That's not envisioned in Bill C-64.
With regard to international conventions, Bill C-64, the government's bill, would implement the Nairobi International Convention on the Removal of Wrecks. My bill requires the government to assess the benefits of acceding to that convention. Again, they're compatible, not duplicative or in conflict.
A vessel turn-in program is something that coastal communities have been requesting for more than a decade. On the model of the cash-for-clunkers program, this would be a way to deal with the backlog of abandoned vessels. Bill C-352 has that as one of its key elements. This bill has been endorsed by the Union of BC Municipalities and, across the country, by at least 50 different coastal organizations and harbour authorities. That is not a part of Bill C-64. Again, they're completely different. Bill C-64 does not legislate that.
In order to deal with the backlog of abandoned vessels, my bill has a number of measures that would legislate to address the backlog of what Transport Canada says might be thousands of abandoned vessels. Bill C-64 does not have measures to deal with the backlog, so again they're not in conflict, not contradictory, but arguably compatible.
A fund for vessel disposal modelled on what Washington state implemented 15 years ago is not addressed in Bill C-64, and the transport minister's briefing notes make that very clear. A fee associated with vessel registration going into a pool to deal with emergency removals is not something that is in Bill C-64. It is in my bill.
Amendments to other acts are another point of difference. Bill C-64 amends other acts, including the Navigation Protection Act, the Oceans Act, the Canada National Marine Conservation Areas Act, the Crown Liability and Proceedings Act, the Customs Act, and the Transportation Appeal Tribunal of Canada Act. My bill does none of these things.
Turning to review mechanisms in Bill , there's a review proposed on the fifth anniversary of the day the bill comes into force. That would be to the committee of the Senate, the House of Commons, and/or of both Houses of Parliament. My bill only requires the transport minister to prepare and table a report to Parliament.
There are many more points of comparison. I haven't run through them all. I just hope that is sufficient to convince you that these two bills are distinctly different. They're not contradictory; they're arguably compatible. They have the same big-picture aim, but the House can absolutely hear both of them, and I sincerely believe the minister's bill would do better with mine in place.
I urge you to reject and overturn the subcommittee's ruling and I urge you to rule that my abandoned vessel private member's bill be deemed votable.
I'll turn it back to my colleague, Peter Julian.
Good. Thank you very much.
Colleagues, as much as possible I'm not seeing this as an NDP colleague, but very much trying to see it as Mr. Reid does: this could be anybody, and it's a question of members' rights.
I came from 13 years at Queen's Park, the largest province in Confederation. We didn't have this. When I got here and found out this idea of votable, I was like, “What? You mean somebody else gets to decide whether what I want to do gets put to a vote?” In large part, that's why you come here: it's to make sure you're going to have an impact.
The whole concept blows me away, and in the nearly 14 years I've been here, this is the first time it has come to rear its ugly head in saying to a member that they can't have their bill come forward.
I ask colleagues to stand back and look at it that way and not necessarily as a government or an opposition member. The appeal procedure is there for a reason. Mr. Julian has gone out of his way to remind us that no one, including government, should be able to do through the back door what they're not entitled to do through the front door. It's a basic tenet of how we do our business here.
I don't fault the analysts. They did their job. Now we have an opportunity to do our job. We're not bound by any of that. There's an appeal process for a reason, and if we take that decision today, then Ms. Malcolmson will get her full rights. If we don't, it will go to the House, or at least she has that option, and the House could say they're going to give Ms. Malcolmson her rights. The fact that we had the analysts do their job is not meant to be the end of the line.
I urge colleagues as much as possible to not start going back down the ugly road of deciding whose issues deserve to be debated and voted on. Each of us should have that sovereign right. Few sovereign rights are left to individual members in this system. This is one that I think collectively we need to work hard to preserve.
To round out my comments, Mr. Julian, there was a comparable bill at the subcommittee, Bill , from the member for Terrebonne, and apparently they made the right decision on that one. If you take the circumstances and apply that thinking, it should leave us with a different conclusion here, which is to allow the bill to be voted on.
I ask Mr. Julian to explain quickly what that argument is from his point of view.