Interventions in Board of Internal Economy
 
 
 
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View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2019-05-30 11:46
I do think that the situation that was identified was very unusual, in that the job continues whether or not you're a parent. There's an expectation that you will continue to represent the riding. There are not really a lot of analogous situations where somebody has a child and is on maternity leave, but then is still expected to work. There isn't an apples to apples type of comparison that can be made here.
In a general sense, I think that the comments that we shouldn't have anything that would be seen to be greater than what would be available to our constituents are ones that I'm moved by. I don't know what exactly that number is. I'm open to proposals. I think Madam Chagger perhaps has an idea.
I think that we have to be careful about expectations. You can imagine that a minority government may only sit 18 months, and if you say that somebody has 13 months during which they can be absent from the chamber, that could be quite challenging in establishing an expectation. The numbers as they are, I think, are a little generous. I think we have to come up with something perhaps a little different than what's on the table.
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2019-05-30 11:52
I completely concur with that timeline. I'd just make the observation that—because I also agree with Mr. Strahl—on the surface of it, you could leave the policy as was and it would seem as though the policy would be equal to what employees have today. In other words, the penalty is not all that large—8% is not that significant.
The real issue is what we're broadcasting as acceptable. When you're charged, it isn't necessarily about the fact that you are having a reduction; it's kind of broadcasting that you're doing something wrong—that you're not attending the House and, therefore, you're being penalized.
Conversely, if we say that you can have a year, then people are going to think that it is—excuse me, it's not a year; we're talking about 13 months.... People are going to come into the job, become pregnant and then say now they can disappear for 13 months—if we put the policy in—and I don't think that's appropriate, given the nature of the work and the demands of the House, particularly if there's a minority government time frame.
I think having that period of four to six months—which is recommended as a minimum by international labour standards—is appropriate. It broadcasts that we do want to encourage members to be able to have children and families while they conduct this work. But it gives some parameters around what those expectations are, so that if somebody decides to take on this employment, then they will know what they're facing and what those expectations would be.
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2019-05-30 11:57
I think you raise an excellent point with respect to the position that a party could be in, and not only in a minority situation. You could have a very thin majority situation where the numbers would be impacted by members' having families. Therefore, as much as we have a policy in place, the policy effectively becomes irrelevant because the party's going to exert enormous pressure on those individuals to come back and be present for votes that might precipitate an election.
I don't know, and maybe it's a question I could ask, because I don't think we can force pairing. You could have a sort of gentleman's agreement or an agreement in principle, but I don't believe there's any way to compel parties to observe that. For example, I think it would be entirely appropriate to have mandatory pairing, but I don't think there's any way of enforcing that. Am I correct in that?
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2019-05-30 11:59
The point that would make, first of all, is there's an expectation at PROC that we're going to give them some sort of direction. I think that's important.
I'm very sensitive, Ms. Bergen, to the points you're raising. I think that the issue of pairing, of being able to assure that you're not creating a precarious situation in the chamber as a result of these policies, has to be considered. In its absence, it would frankly render this policy irrelevant, because it doesn't matter whether or not we say that somebody can be on maternity leave if there is a circumstance where their vote is demanded or there's going to be an election. We know what's going to happen.
I don't think that any policy we recommend....There has to be something, and if we can make it in such a way that we can be assured that it would be enforced, I think we should look at it.
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2019-05-30 12:06
Yes, I concur with that. I'm comfortable moving forward on that basis.
I don't want to slow this down because I understand the need to make a recommendation to PROC and that it can make a decision quickly, and that we have a limited amount of time in our calendar. Perhaps in the future, however, I'd like to be able to address the issue of pairing and gaining assurance that there's actually a means to protect that leave. That also is in a situation of serious illness, right? We've seen this before when somebody is in very poor condition and they're being brought back into the chamber to vote because otherwise it would precipitate an election. To me that seems to me an unfair circumstance, and it's certainly unfair that somebody would be pulled. It makes sense that they're going to be doing work in their riding and are continuing to be in the riding, but to be pulled back in that period, I think, is problematic. I think if we could have that looked at and perhaps have something come back to us, then we could make a recommendation to PROC—
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2019-05-30 12:07
Okay. My problem is that I don't know what that mechanism is. I don't necessarily want to slow this process down, but I would be interested in understanding what tools would be at our disposal to be able to effect that—so that people who are on a serious medical leave are not in a situation where they're being dragged out of a hospital bed and into the chamber. If we could have something that assured that pairing were present.... I think it's a good time to have that conversation, frankly, because we're not in a heightened situation at the immediate moment with a minority government where there could be a very tight vote.
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2019-05-02 12:04
Mr. Speaker, I have some sympathy for this because I think the rules are somewhat opaque right now. Things have evolved such that there's a number of different online fora that people can advocate for the work that they're doing in Parliament. It becomes complicated when you have something like a free website or a website that is paid for by an electoral district association, or a Facebook page which is provided completely free, or an Instagram page, where you're talking about your work. But then, when you drive traffic to it, I think that becomes the issue.
I think we're going to have to be clear on where that boundary is. I recommend setting in place fines but on a prospective basis once we've made these rules very clear. I'll suggest to you where I think the difference lies.
If your electoral district association pays for your website and that website simply talks about your work as a parliamentarian and it can also talk about your work in the constituency on a partisan basis, I think there's no problem. When you put that into a householder or when you use House resources to advertise that, then you're using House resources to promote it and therefore to drive traffic to something that could raise money, drive people to fundraisers or things of that nature. I think that is the concern here, if I understand it.
If I were to go one step further—and I think this a more salient point that isn't addressed here—if we take a look at a medium like Facebook and you use your House of Commons resources to buy targeted Facebook ads to get more people to like your Facebook page, then you subsequently use the people who have been added to that Facebook page as a result of House resources targeting those people to then invite them to a fundraiser or invite them to a nomination meeting or a rally for an election purpose, then this is where I think we have a problem. If you're using House resources to promote something, that then pulls it into the domain of being a vehicle of your job as a parliamentarian and therefore it has the usual restrictions around not being able to use it to promote fundraisers and things of this nature, it's an important boundary to keep. This is particularly in view of the fact that a lot of advertising is moving in that direction.
I don't think it's particularly clear to members, as it would not have been to Mr. Angus, that, hey, look, my EDA is paying for their website so no one should be hassling them about this. The answer is that they're using House resources to promote it. I think we have to be very clear with that, and it has to extend beyond websites. Giving anything in the way of a punishment up to this point would be unfair because it is not as clear as I think it needs to be. On a prospective basis, we need to be very clear and we should have fines. I suggest that they be escalating because if the fine is small enough, then somebody can say that it's worth it. If they can add 10,000 people to their Facebook and they can do a lot of fundraising off it, then frankly, it's worth some small fine.
That would be my recommendation: to come back with fines on a prospective basis that would be escalating and a policy that would relate to more than websites but also include Instagram, Facebook or other digital channels that people could use, where they would use House resources to promote it. That line has to be drawn exceptionally clearly.
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2019-05-02 12:13
I'll try to cut the line. I agree that it's difficult. I think that members of Parliament who are going to have Facebook pages are going to have other sorts of digital presence, and that's fully appropriate, and it's obviously fully appropriate to be partisan as well, including fundraising and organizing of events, so I'm not suggesting that at all.
The line that I'm drawing, and I'll just be very explicit to make the point, is, let's say I took $5,000 of House resources, advertising, and paid for targeted Facebook ads to drive up the number of people who are following me on Facebook. Then I work with my EDA with those new people who have just been added as a result of the budget that I've taken from the House of Commons to drive up my numbers to promote a fundraiser in my riding. I'm then deriving a direct benefit from the utilization of House resources.
The line I would draw is to say that, if you use a Facebook page or a digital medium, and you drive traffic to it, so in other words, you buy that traffic or you promote it in a householder or a ten percenter, then you are converting that into a House asset. If you make the decision as an EDA to purchase the eyeballs using EDA dollars, it's different.
You're absolutely right, Candice, that in the course of our business.... Let's say I have a particular image—and this may be hard for members to believe—or I have a particularly eloquent speech in the House of Commons, and I post that online, and it drives a lot of traffic, and it drives a lot of people to like my page, which I then subsequently use to raise money. It's not a perfect line, but I think that we need some kind of line because—I don't do it—it would be a remarkably effective strategy for me to take all of my advertising money, spend it on Facebook, and then work in conjunction with my EDA to capitalize that for fundraising purposes and for electoral purposes.
Today, as I read the rules, there's really nothing stopping me from doing that. That should worry us a lot more than whether or not a householder is driving somebody to a website. Maybe I shouldn't even say this out loud, because it would be such an effective strategy, but the fact that this strategy exists on the table today could be capitalized with enormous effect. I'm not sure that we want to leave that out there, because I think that it's really not the intention of what the allocation we're given is for.
Let's face it. If the rules don't block something, somebody with more ambiguous morals who is industrious will fill that grey space in utilizing this. That's why I'm saying that this is an opportunity in the ambiguity of where we are today to cut clearer and more defined lines here before it becomes a larger problem, and there's a greater move towards this digital world than a smaller one. I think we all acknowledge that. That's why I think it's incredibly important for this body.
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2019-05-02 12:24
Thank you.
For the purposes of this discussion, dividing this into two parts makes a great deal of sense, further to Mr. Strahl's point.
I think we can say this matter is closed. The members advised this shouldn't be done, and that we send a reminder of the existing policy to members and encourage whips to have conversations with their caucus to ensure compliance, but it raises a very important issue, one which I think we have to draw a line on.
To make the last point on this, my view, just as Mr. Strahl said, is that it shouldn't come into force until a new Parliament, just to make it as clean as possible, but ideally, this body would deal with it before, if possible, so the new Parliament could start immediately with a fresh slate.
I'd make the following types of distinctions. I have about 30,000 followers on Facebook. If I decide to use my House of Commons budget and House of Commons resources to promote that Facebook page, it gets converted to a House of Commons resource. If that Facebook page is only ever paid for by my EDA, I can do whatever I want with it. I can fundraise on it. I can be politically active on it. I'm not suggesting that we have this full debate today, but I am saying that we have to have an understanding because, frankly—and I'll end on this point—the amount of traffic you're going to get from putting your website on a householder, the number of people you're going to get to donate is really not a big deal compared to using a medium like Facebook with your advertising dollars to drive traffic to it and to monetize that thereafter.
It's a completely different tactic and it would be highly effective. Right now it's the Wild West on that, and I don't think people have realized the extent to which that's the case. I agree changing the rules midstream...but I think that we need to have some rules for when this place comes back, because that digital world is moving at a very rapid pace, and right now this is a big hole.
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2019-05-02 12:30
Not to belabour the point, but I think it's an important one. Let me ask the question directly.
Let's say I decided to spend $5,000 today on targeted Facebook ads to increase the number of likes on my Facebook page. Does that, under the rules today, mean that the Facebook page is then effectively a product of the House and I would no longer be able to advertise political partisan events on it? I don't think there's a member in the House who knows that it's the rule today.
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2019-05-02 12:32
I'm sure there has been no audit of whether or not this activity is occurring. Whether the public wants it or not, I think it is inappropriate. However, the reality, as I understand it today, is that there are no rules against it. For all I know, it's happening today in the absence of rules. I'm not hearing that there is any validation of what's happening there, which means that this could very well be a widespread practice today. I don't know, and we don't have any guidance on it.
The only suggestion I'm making is that recommendations on this matter come back to the BOIE so that we can provide clarity in this respect.
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2019-04-11 11:55
I, too, Mr. Speaker, enjoyed an involuntary sabbatical and so speak with some experience on this.
I agree absolutely that it is an incredible shock for people who go through it, because it consumes all of your life. It becomes more than a job; it becomes almost your identity, so it becomes a very trying experience. I think the extension of the employee assistance program from six months to a year is very important because of the fact that in the first six months people are often still just absorbing what happened. It can take some time to do that, so I think ensuring that people are in a good mental state is incredibly important.
I agree, as well, on the point about contacts. The cellphones that are allocated come from a central bank. When you arrive here, you have to give up your cellphone number and get a new cellphone number. For people who are trying to establish themselves thereafter, to lose that phone number is particularly challenging when they are making a transition. I can understand when you're coming in that you're trying to guard a certain number, but I wonder if there's a way of releasing those numbers on the other side so that members can maintain the same contacts.
Similarly, I can understand that we don't want people advertising that they have a parl.gc.ca email address, but there should be a way, when emails go there, because they're effectively dead, for the server to reroute them. In other words, for at least a period of time, that email traffic coming through their P9 and only their P9 could be rerouted in some way, because that's limited and personal traffic. I think that's a very key point. After two or three weeks suddenly all of your contact information is gone, and it becomes hard for people to maintain contact.
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2019-04-11 12:07
I have one other thing—and I'll raise this with the Association of Former Parliamentarians—but what happens when somebody loses? Only somebody who has lost can really understand what that process is and what it means.
I think it would be very helpful if, in a volunteer capacity—and I'm sure it can be arranged—there was some sort of proactive reach-out after a certain period of time from former parliamentarians to connect with people who've lost, to talk about their experience and how they were able to successfully navigate it.
Maybe you could work with them to formalize that process, because I think it's a unique experience. For me, having contact with people who had lost, and who navigated that, was enormously helpful. I didn't find anybody else who quite understood what I was going through. I think some sort of formalization of that would be important.
I think that those of us who remain after these events—and I've gone through many events where I've lost a lot of colleagues—realize that the madness of the job continues. We're continuing to be pulled between our ridings and Parliament here in Ottawa. To carve out the extra time to reach out to colleagues is incredibly difficult. Former parliamentarians, I think, would be the right group. You get a letter saying, “Welcome to Former Parliamentarians”. A lot of people don't really want to be in that group. It's not an exciting email or letter to get. Reaching out differently, I think, would benefit them as an organization and would benefit members as well.
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2019-02-28 12:06
I'll just say thank you for the work that's done on an ongoing basis and for what's proposed here.
My reflection is that caucuses use these services differently, depending on what internal policies they actualize. My anticipation is that we'll use these additional resources a lot, not because I necessarily anticipate a lot of HR problems—although I do think these things arise—but it's more because good HR policy is about being proactive, about creating environments where there is a network of support to be able to catch and remediate issues early, before they advance.
I've expressed concern in the past, but I won't belabour the point now. There probably will be more needed as we modernize our HR practices overall, but certainly this is a step in the right direction and I am favourable.
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2019-02-28 12:41
Before we go in camera, I'm looking for a quick update on two items that I know were brought to the attention of the board. I believe they were looked at. One dealt with the secondary expenses of then minister Kenney during the period he was saying he was living in his mother's basement, from 2013 to 2015. I'm wondering if there's an update on that. The second was with relation to Charlie Angus. I know there was an issue with his website and solicitation of memberships and also with ads for his federal election nomination being placed, which I believe was done in error.
I'm just looking for an update on those two items.
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