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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I'll call the meeting to order.
We'll start off with the minutes of the previous meeting.
Do you have any comments or questions?
As there are none, the minutes of the previous meeting are adopted.
If you don't mind, we'll go straight to item 3 on the agenda. Mr. Stanton and his team are here, and they have some very important things to do at noon. So I would not want them to be delayed in case we need more time to deal with agenda item 2. Is everybody in agreement? No one is against the change. It's perfect.
We'll go to the LTVP working group recommendations, and to Mr. Stanton, the chair of that working group.
Please proceed, Mr. Stanton.
View Bruce Stanton Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Good morning, colleagues.
As you know, I'm reporting here today as the chair of the long-term vision plan working group. I'm joined here again by officials who are on this project on a daily basis. We have Susan Kulba, with digital services and real property section here in Parliament; and Rob Wright and Jennifer Garrett from PSPC.
To update you on essentially two main points that arose out of our meeting on February 5, the first is to share some costing information that has been shared with the working group from PSPC, and, secondly, to put in front of you our recommendation for a concept design option for the main entry to the Parliament welcome centre.
Before we go to those, I want to give you a few little photos of a presentation on the progress of construction, which continues to move along well and remains on track with respect to all of the project plans.
On the first item, PSPC presented their approach to establishing a full costing for the Centre Block project. They outlined the key project decisions that have been made so far that have impacted the overall costs, including preserving the existing size or footprint of the House of Commons, for example, the size of the Parliament welcome centre, and things like the proposed use of the existing light courts and light wells.
To build on this, they went on to itemize some of the remaining decisions that will further add to the accuracy and overall costing of the project.
To give you an idea of where the project is currently, in terms of expenditures relative to budget, the initial allocation for Centre Block was $655 million. This was for the five-year period, fiscal 2017-18 through until fiscal 2021-22. To date, $150 million of that $655 million has been spent, and that has been used to enable the design and construction activities, including interior demolition work and the abatement of hazardous materials.
With regard to the second part of that budget relating to the Parliament welcome centre, an initial budget of $106 million was allocated, again for the same five-year period, 2017-18 through to 2021-22, the next fiscal year. To date, out of that $106 million, $35 million has been spent, and that's been used to essentially complete all of the design elements as well as to begin the excavation activities.
As a final note on the cost side of this equation, decisions have been taken that have helped to put some precision around these costs. I point to a decision, first of all early on, when, as an example, the House of Commons chamber was established with a decision not to make it any bigger than it currently is—to keep the existing footprint. That essentially avoided a cost of an extra $100 million, had we chosen to expand it.
Secondly, on the Parliament welcome centre, you will recall that we opted for the medium-size approach to the welcome centre, and that was $120 million less than had we gone for the larger welcome centre.
Public Services and Procurement Canada, or PSPC, will stay in touch with its parliamentary partners to make the other important decisions this spring. Turner & Townsend will complete the construction cost estimates and benchmarking reports, after which we will have more information for you.
We also received an update from Centrus, the architectural firm responsible for the Centre Block, on its work since the fall to refine the access strategy for the Parliament welcome centre.
Indeed, you may recall that we have used an independent design review panel, or IDRP, to provide advice during the development of this important part of the project. This committee is comprised of reputable professionals in the design community who have experience with issues related to the project.
It was created last fall by PSPC, with the support of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, to provide an independent assessment of the main entry project. This entry and its location are extremely sensitive from a heritage perspective and given their potential impact on the front lawn of Parliament.
After considering the review panel's concerns and suggestions, Centrus officials presented us with various options for the central entry, and then indicated which one they preferred and which received unanimous consent from the panel members. They liked the simplicity and elegance of this option and the way it mitigates the impact on the heritage elements surrounding it.
The preferred option locates an entrance on either side of the central stair. You'll see before you on slide 4 a plan view of what we mean, with an added pathway on each side departing from the central walkway as you approach the central stairs, each leading directly to each new entrance.
The geometry of the paths themselves is drawn from the existing geometry. You'll see that the pathways, the symmetry or the geometry, if you will, of the paths on either side of the walkway very much mirror the approach taken by the Pearson-designed entrances under the Peace Tower.
Some advantages of these entrances are the fact that they're visible. Each of them will be visible from the central walkway, so it's an intuitive and easily understood pathway for visitors who have never been to the Hill before. It's a gentle slope towards the new entrances, so these will be ramps that help improve accessibility and will not require handrails. Thirdly, the entrance design is simple and is accomplished with as little intervention into the heritage features and materials as possible. There's minimal impact on the use of the lawn that is enjoyed by so many for activities throughout the year.
We as a working group had the opportunity to ask questions and have a discussion with the IDRP to understand and explore the design that they had presented, and we are satisfied and believe that the proposed option responds to any concerns as to how the entrance might interfere with or encroach upon the front lawn and that it meets the operational requirements of the Parliament welcome centre.
Based on the merits of the proposed option, the working group recommends that your board endorse this design option for the central entry to the welcome centre.
I'll welcome any questions or suggestions the board may have on those concept options.
Our next steps will be to review the key elements of the decisions advocated by PSPC in order to establish the basic costing. After reviewing each of these key elements, we will make recommendations and seek your advice.
We will also be meeting with our Senate colleagues in the coming weeks to discuss the proposal to fill the skylights in the Centre and East Blocks, and we will inform you of the outcome of our discussions.
I thank you for your attention, and I'm happy to take any questions that you may have.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Are there any questions or comments for Mr. Stanton?
Not seeing any, I want to thank Mr. Stanton and your team for coming today and filling us in on where we're at.
View Bruce Stanton Profile
CPC (ON)
That's great. Thank you very much.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
It looks very good. Thank you for all of your hard work.
Do we have the agreement of everyone to proceed?
Very good.
View Bruce Stanton Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you.
We will now turn to item 2: Business arising from previous meeting.
Are there any questions or comments?
Mrs. DeBellefeuille, you have the floor.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I misheard: are we at item 2 or item 1?
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
We are at item 2.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
We are at item 2, so we are now talking about the business arising from the previous meeting.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
I have a few comments and a few requests to make to the members of the Board of Internal Economy, or the board for short.
So far, we have done a good job, and there may be a few things left to address in relation to all the means used to allow for better interpretation and participation of members of Parliament in both official languages. I had the privilege of attending the last meeting of the Liaison Committee, where we discussed the report on parliamentary committee expenses that was tabled in the House of Commons today.
I asked a few questions that I am submitting to you to see if the board would agree to formally make this request to the clerks and the Liaison Committee. I was curious to know how many headsets had been purchased, which was not mentioned in the report. However, it is an indicator that would tell us how many headsets we manage to send to witnesses so that they are able to testify and have their comments interpreted into both languages. I would like to pay tribute to all the work the clerks do. They have made a dashboard to ensure that witnesses are called and that the connection and the equipment is tested before they appear.
It would be interesting to draw up a follow-up dashboard. Indeed, since new practices are being introduced to improve witness participation in both official languages, we should ensure that their testimony is properly interpreted and that they have a good connection and functioning equipment. However, in order to be able to evaluate these measures, records must be kept on each committee and each witness so that the board can then determine whether the continuous improvement process has been successful or whether more resources or other means are required to further improve it.
I would like to propose today that the members of the board compile the number of headsets that have been purchased in the latest report that was tabled in the House today. In addition, can the clerks create a dashboard to track new measures to assess their effectiveness as they are introduced and to continuously improve them? They would report to the board in the next quarter so that together we can be proud of the efforts we have all made to ensure that all members and witnesses are able to work in either official language and are assured that their interventions are properly interpreted.
I submit this request to you under item 2, Mr. Speaker, but I do not know if my colleagues agree with me.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Do we all agree with these requests?
Everyone is in agreement.
Mr. Janse, would you like to say a few words on this? I know it's within your purview.
Eric Janse
View Eric Janse Profile
Eric Janse
2021-02-25 11:20
Thank you, Mr. Speaker and Mrs. DeBellefeuille.
Following the discussion at the Liaison Committee meeting earlier this week, I have already begun discussions with my team and with our colleague, Mr. Stéphan Aubé. Yes, we will be able to provide statistics to the Liaison Committee and the board on the number of headsets. We will also be able to provide, as you have suggested, a dashboard to record the number of incidents. We hope that the statistics will show a decrease in incidents as a result of the new process we will have put in place.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you very much.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you for your intervention.
Are there any other questions or comments? Does everyone agree on item 2?
Since everyone is in agreement, we now move on to item 4.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I'm sorry, Mr. Richards. Please go ahead.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
While we're on the topic of interpretation, it might be a good time to discuss the point that I want to raise as well. As you know, Chair—and I'm sure others are aware—I had raised a question of privilege in the House about this issue. You didn't find a prima facie case for it, but it doesn't mean that it isn't an issue and one that maybe we should discuss. It centres around the resources that are available for committees.
We're finding that committees are being prevented from continuing their meetings or finishing items of business they're needing to finish, particularly when there ends up being a filibuster or something like that. We even had it go so far that one day when there was only the one meeting, there we still not resources available apparently.
I think we do need to have a discussion about this and how we might find ways to ensure that those resources can be made available. Maybe it's a question for some of our folks in administration. Are there ways that we can find to address these things so that they don't occur?
Whether it was considered a breach of privilege or not, it certainly is problematic to the workings of Parliament when a committee is prevented from continuing its work based on a lack of interpretation available or rooms, or things like that. Is there something we could do to be looking at ways to focus the resources or to bring in new resources to help address these challenges?
I'm not sure if there's someone here who is able to address those points, but I think it's something that we do need to have a conversation about.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I believe Mr. Patrice and Mr. Gagnon have some comments on that, but if it's okay, we'll go to Mr. Julian first. He may have some points, and then they can answer all the questions at once.
Mr. Julian.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
I agree with Mrs. DeBellefeuille and Mr. Richards. It is problematic.
Our country advocates the equality of the two official languages. This means that in committees and in Parliament, we must have access to interpretation services at all times. Interpreters are extremely dedicated and they work hard. However, there is a significant lack of resources, which has already been recognized, but is now critical.
Unfortunately, in all likelihood, there will be a third wave of the pandemic. This means that resources will have to be in place for parliamentarians to continue their work in virtual mode.
The issue that has just been raised is crucial. It is important that we respond by putting the necessary resources in place to ensure that employees are treated well and that their health and safety are not jeopardized.
In addition, committee members must be able to meet while having the resources to work.
For all these reasons, I stress the importance of responding to this urgent need, as my colleagues have done.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Gagnon, can you answer the questions that have been asked?
André Gagnon
View André Gagnon Profile
André Gagnon
2021-02-25 11:25
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Thank you, Mr. Richards.
Thank you as well, Mr. Julian.
Following the Speaker's ruling on the events in the health committee that led to the question of privilege raised by Mr. Richards, there was a protocol that was shared with all of the parties that would essentially guide the administration with respect to requests from committees either to pursue—
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.
The interpreter tells me that Mr. Gagnon's microphone is not near his mouth and that this makes interpretation difficult.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
All right. If I may, I would like to point out that when Skype is running in the background, it causes problems. This is what I have found with my own computer. When Skype, Teams and Zoom are running, there is interference between them.
You can check on your computer whether Skype is working.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
This is not the case for me.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
On our side, it is more when we talk. I just wanted to share this information with you.
I give the floor back to Mr. Gagnon.
André Gagnon
View André Gagnon Profile
André Gagnon
2021-02-25 11:27
I am sorry for all this.
I was, I believe, on the issue of protocols issued to the parties to manage requests arising from extensions, extensions of [Technical difficulty].
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Gagnon, we can't hear you at all because of technical problems.
We will therefore give the floor to Mr. Patrice, who is here.
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2021-02-25 11:27
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
I am not going to presume to know what Mr. Gagnon was going to talk about. He can continue along the same lines later on.
Indeed, the question of resources is of great concern to us in the administration. We are in further discussions with our partners to try to assess and determine the extent to which we could add slots for committee activities, particularly when the House is sitting. As you are aware, committee resources and activities have increased significantly, particularly since November.
According to the figures and statistics, which I will be happy to provide to the board members, the rate of time slot usage is much higher than in previous years. The House Administration and its partners are doing their utmost to meet the needs of members and provide them with the time slots they require.
As for the weeks when the House is not sitting, I want to report, with respect to resource issues,
the unfortunate incident at the Friday meeting when there was only one committee meeting, when we could and should have supported that committee. It was a miscommunication that occurred. We own that mistake. The protocol will no doubt avoid a situation like that recurring.
In the non-sitting weeks, there's definitely more availability of sitting time, whether it's for committees or associations, because the utilization rate of those weeks is not as high as during sitting weeks.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Are there any other questions or comments?
Are we ready to move on to the next step or the next item?
I see that we are.
We'll go on to item number four, which is the extension of certain temporary COVID-19 measures to the fiscal year 2021-22.
We'll go to Monsieur Paquette, chief financial officer.
Monsieur Paquette.
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
Daniel Paquette
2021-02-25 11:30
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
This presentation follows up on the analysis with respect to temporary measures in effect due to COVID-19 that was presented to the board last December. At that meeting, the House administration advised the board that we would continue to monitor the use of those various policies, the expenses that members were incurring and how they were to evolve. We would then return here to the board for any recommendations, if any were needed.
I must note that these temporary measures are all set to expire on March 31, 2021.
We have observed that the use of these temporary measures has continued since the last analysis I presented to you in December. Despite the pandemic, members of Parliament continue to provide services to their fellow citizens. As a result of our consultations, we understand the need to maintain these measures for an extended period of time.
The House administration recommends that the board, as part of the measures taken to address and mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic, approve extending the temporary measures through March 31, 2022. These temporary measures include the purchase of consumable items to ensure that COVID-19 preventive measures are in place in constituency offices, and an increase to the advertising limit to communicate with constituents.
Mr. Speaker, this concludes my presentation. I'm open to any questions the members may have.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Do we have any questions or comments?
Mr. Julian and then Mr. Richards.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I'd like to thank Mr. Paquette and the House administration.
I certainly support the extension of these measures. In our case, in downtown New Westminster where my constituency office is, those measures have allowed us to put up plexiglass panels to protect our employees. We're in a very high-traffic area in the downtown area. Even though our office is largely functioning virtually, when constituents do need to come in, my staff are protected.
I think that these measures have been sensible, and they've been effective, allowing members of Parliament to make the important adjustments that come with this pandemic.
The new variants of COVID-19 are worrisome, as we all know, and many people are predicting a third wave coming this spring. It makes sense, then, I believe, for us to extend the measures so that members of Parliament and their employees can be protected and can continue to serve their constituents in a way that protects everybody.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Very good.
Mr. Richards.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
I agree. There's been some usage or take-up of these measures. I would certainly agree with extending them.
I guess where I would have an issue is this. We're talking about an extension to March 31, 2022, and we're hearing from the government that by the end of September we will have all Canadians vaccinated who want to be vaccinated. One would assume, then, that at that point we'd be able to make some kind of a shift in terms of Parliament's moving back towards more normal sitting scenarios, or certainly something closer to that. Obviously, some of these measures, then, would no longer be needed as well.
If the government does fail to meet that target, we can always look at extending it beyond September—that is, if the government isn't able to live up to the promise it's made. If it does, then we should be able to see some change in these things in September.
Perhaps what we should do right now is to set the renewal date as September, and we can always look at it again, if needed, in September.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I now give the floor to Mrs. DeBellefeuille. Mr. Deltell and Mr. LeBlanc will follow.
You have the floor, Mrs. DeBellefeuille.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I do not agree with what my Conservative colleague just said. In fact, I rather agree with the proposal before us that it be extended until March 31, 2022, that is, the end of the fiscal year.
It is important for members to be in a position, as of April 1, to set their budget, to include the amounts in their budget planning. I think it makes sense to allow the extension until March 31, 2022. I would find it strange if we told members to be careful with their budget because the measures are in effect until September 30. Some of the measures relate to advertising costs and may be part of community support planning. As we know, the pandemic does not affect all provinces the same way.
I think the proposal to extend is logical in light of what we have experienced this year. According to the statistics and the results, the cost won't be higher for the House Administration if we save on certain budget items to be able to finance these measures.
Personally, this makes sense to me and is respectful of the members who want to plan their budget for next year. I think it makes sense that decisions of a parliamentary nature should be in effect at the end of September.
I second Mr. Julian, who also agrees with the proposal. In addition, I encourage the members of the Board of Internal Economy to join us.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
We will now go to Mr. Deltell, followed by Mr. LeBlanc and Mrs. Petitpas Taylor.
View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I think it's also important to understand that—and we've all done this in our ridings—most of the significant spending on internal infrastructure has already been committed, which is normal, by the way. All of us may have some adjustments to make, but a lot of the spending has been done. I think being able to adjust that for September is very consistent, as well, with what we decide in the House. Our measures are in place until September because we operate on a semi-annual basis. Normally, we adjust our spending very well when we see that the need is still there.
I believe that we do not deprive ourselves of anything. It's worth considering this option, given that we've already spent a significant part of our budgets in this regard and that we're also consistent with our work in the House six months at a time. If, by any chance, we find in September that people who have not been vaccinated want to be vaccinated and the third wave of the virus hits hard—no one is safe—we can reverse the decision and extend these measures without any difficulty.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. LeBlanc, you have the floor.
View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
Lib. (NB)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I also agree with Mrs. DeBellefeuille and Mr. Julian.
I accept Mr. Paquette's recommendation.
I get Blake's comments if the government fails to vaccinate people by the end of September, etc. I get all of that. That should maybe be reserved for question period.
I think we have to be careful. The idea that certain public health requirements, as Mr. Julian said, to protect the staff who work for us or protect constituents who may visit constituency offices.... Some of those decisions, as advised by public health officers, may be separate and apart from the vaccination schedule.
I wouldn't suggest that this committee has views on appropriate public health measures. I would suggest that those decisions that MPs need to make to protect the people who work with us and constituents who visit us would coherently be subsumed in a financial year. That's why I accept the recommendation put forward by Monsieur Paquette and endorsed by Mr. Julian and Madame DeBellefeuille.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
We will now give the floor to Mrs. Petitpas Taylor and then to Mrs. DeBellefeuille.
Mrs. Petitpas Taylor, you have the floor.
View Ginette Petitpas Taylor Profile
Lib. (NB)
Thank you so much, Mr. Chair. I will be very brief.
I'm just wondering if we know how many offices have required a deep cleaning as a result of COVID exposure within their offices. In asking that question, I'm also wondering if we have a workplace health and safety protocol in place in the event of workplace COVID exposure.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
On the first question, we'll go to Monsieur Paquette.
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
Daniel Paquette
2021-02-25 11:40
I'll transfer that to our CHRO. She's the one responsible for the health and safety programs.
Michelle Laframboise
View Michelle Laframboise Profile
Michelle Laframboise
2021-02-25 11:40
Thank you, Mr. Paquette.
Yes, we do have that information. I don't have it at hand right now, but I absolutely will follow up and make sure that the members of the board get the information requested.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I believe Monsieur Patrice has an answer for part of that question.
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2021-02-25 11:40
Up to this time there have been no expenditures submitted for the deep cleaning of an office.
For the protocol, we'll provide that information to the board.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mrs. DeBellefeuille, you have the floor.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
We all know that, traditionally, we try to get along with each other. So, if the position of our Conservative colleagues does not change, given my little training as a mediator, I propose a compromise. The document before us contains seven recommendations. What I understand from what my colleagues said is that recommendations 1, 2 and 3 seem to be of particular concern to them, being directly related to contamination, decontamination and equipment purchase. In contrast, recommendations 4, 5, 6 and 7 are more related to the efforts of members in their ridings to support organizations that provide essential services, advertize their work, and promote their services. One recommendation even allows members to solicit donations for food banks or United Way agencies.
Here is my counter-proposal. If we could agree at least on recommendations 4, 5, 6 and 7, which I think are appropriate for the whole of next year, we could maintain them. If you are concerned about recommendations 1, 2 and 3, perhaps we could look at them together and see if we can remove them from the proposal. That way, together we could come to a compromise and accept some of the recommendations we have before us.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
All right, thank you.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
That seems reasonable, frankly. My concern was that we're talking about putting in place measures related to COVID, but if we expect the entire population to be vaccinated by September, those measures would no longer be needed.
I think what we're talking about here, Claude, is some of the advertising and things like that. That was where your concerns were, that people be able to plan ahead for things like that. I think that's actually a sensible compromise and one that would satisfy me that we're not putting measures in place that will no longer be needed beyond September.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I believe Mr. Julian has a comment as well.
Mr. Julian.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I would like to thank Mrs. DeBellefeuille for proposing this compromise.
Health specialists are saying very clearly that we probably won't be out of the woods for another year. So I don't think that vaccination dates should be part of our decisions today.
We should decide to put all possible measures in place to protect the public and our employees and to continue our work as parliamentarians. It is for this reason that I fully support the recommendations of Mr. Paquette and the House Administration. However, as Mrs. DeBellefeuille said, I understand that we are an entity that advocates unanimity and consensus, so I am prepared to support her proposal.
I am not ready to say that we will be out of the woods in September. I hope so, but I don't think so. If we rely on projections, especially if we take into account the new variants of the virus, we may unfortunately have to wait at least a year before we can say that we are out of this pandemic.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mrs. DeBellefeuille, you have the floor.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, allow me to summarize my proposal.
I propose that items 1, 2 and 3 be extended to September 30 and that items 4, 5, 6 and 7 be extended to March 31, 2022. The Board of Internal Economy could reconvene around August to determine whether items 1, 2 and 3 should be extended beyond September 30.
It is not because I am proposing this compromise that I feel that it is not necessary, but given the way we operate, I think it is an acceptable compromise, as long as we give ourselves the means to re-evaluate recommendations 1, 2 and 3 around the month of August or before the start of the fall session in September.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Is everyone in agreement?
Voices: Agreed.
Hon. Anthony Rota: Therefore, items 1, 2 and 3 will end on September 30, subject to revision, and the following items will remain in effect for the remainder of the fiscal year, until March 31, 2022.
We will now move on to the fifth item on the agenda.
On the financial report for the third quarter of 2020-21, again we have Monsieur Paquette making the presentation.
Monsieur Paquette.
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
Daniel Paquette
2021-02-25 11:47
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I am going to present the quarterly financial report for the third quarter of 2020-2021.
Quarterly financial reports compare year-to-date financial information for the current fiscal year to the same quarter the previous year. As with the first quarter and second quarter reports presented earlier this year, we are once again comparing two atypical years.
This year, the pandemic is affecting our spending trends, while the previous year was marked by a general election. As a result, our comparisons will be influenced by the atypical spending patterns that you may have already noted in our reports.
Let us now turn to the report. As of December 31, the approved authorities for fiscal year 2020-2021 were $539 million. There have been no changes to our approved authorities since my second quarterly report to you in December.
Expenses to December 31 totalled $344.2 million, a decrease of $6.2 million, or 1.8%, from the previous year.
The most significant decreases in expenditures relate to the continuing decrease in travel as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Decreases have also been seen in the areas of training and hospitality across the whole organization, as well as the reduction of temporary help services for members and House officers—also all as a result of COVID-19.
The temporary closure of some of the food services facilities and the printing facilities earlier in the year has led to reduced costs for materials and supplies, which have been partially offset by the purchase of consumable items such as face masks and hand sanitizers that are used across the House of Commons.
Expenditures for computers, office equipment, furniture and fixtures have also decreased, primarily due to changes in the timing of some of our life-cycle activities. This decrease was partially offset by costs incurred for purchases to support virtual House proceedings and committees, and costs incurred for equipment that enabled House administration employees to work remotely during this COVID pandemic.
On the other hand, expenditures for salaries and benefits have increased, mainly due to additional spending on members' employee salaries and the cost of living increases for members and House administration staff. These increases have been partially offset by the reduction in the number of employees for members and House officers, delays in some of the staffing and a reduction in part-time costs and overtime as a result of the pandemic.
Finally, the report does provide a comparison of the utilization of our authorities, which shows a decrease of 3.4%, which is not unexpected given the current situation. Also, given this current situation surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, we are closely monitoring and considering any potential savings, as well as any financial impact that may have on our funding decisions due to this truly exceptional year.
Mr. Speaker, that concludes my presentation.
I am ready to answer questions from members of the committee.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Do we have any questions or comments?
If everyone agrees, we will take a two-minute break and then we will continue in camera.
[Proceedings continue in camera]
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Let us start the meeting.
The first item on the agenda is to adopt the minutes of the previous meeting. Are there any comments about the minutes? Shall we adopt the minutes?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Hon. Anthony Rota: We now move to business arising from the previous meeting.
Mrs. DeBellefeuille, did you want to make a comment? You have the floor.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Great.
Is the raise hand button working? Can you see it?
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
We now move to business arising from the previous meeting.
Mrs. DeBellefeuille, did you want to make a comment? You have the floor.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Yes, I can see your hand is raised.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Okay.
I can hear an echo of my voice. I can hear myself speaking. I don't know whether it is supposed to be like that.
I hear myself with a delay, like an echo. I am probably hearing the sound in the meeting room.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Yes, we're having that issue today, but I believe it has been resolved here.
It happens to me a lot. When it does, I remove my headset and hold it in my hand to speak into the microphone. Then I put my headset back on. It is a bit of a chore, but until the issue is resolved, that is what we can do.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Is that better now?
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
No, it's not working.
So I will try to concentrate.
Mr. Chair, I would like to ask you a few questions to follow up on business arising from the previous meeting.
At the last Board of Internal Economy meeting in December, we closed the meeting with a recommendation that [Technical difficulty].
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Excuse me, Mrs. DeBellefeuille, but we are having trouble hearing you. I don't know what is wrong.
Am I the only one hearing the sound cut in and out? The interpreters appear to be hearing that too. So we have a problem.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Would you like me to try removing the headset, Mr. Chair?
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Apparently, the problem is on Parliament's end. The problem is over here.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Okay.
Should I go on?
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I believe we will have to suspend the meeting. I don't know what else to do until the issue is resolved.
Could you continue speaking, please?
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Okay.
I wanted to ask you something about Mr. Janse's appearance. The Board of Internal Economy authorized the letter to be sent to the Liaison Committee, that is, to Ms. Sgro, who was then to forward the letter to all chairs of [Technical difficulty].
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
It's very hard to understand what you are saying. We will therefore suspend the meeting for a few minutes.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
I will try without the headset, Mr. Chair.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I don't think the problem is on your end. It is here in the room.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Is that better, Mr. Chair?
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
It is still the same.
Stéphan Aubé
View Stéphan Aubé Profile
Stéphan Aubé
2021-01-28 11:14
It is not on your end, Mrs. DeBellefeuille.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
We will suspend the meeting temporarily. I don't know how long it will be, but please wait. We will see what happens.
We will leave it in the hands of the technicians.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
We will pick up where we left off.
We dealt with the first item on the agenda. We were on the second item, business arising from the previous meeting.
We will proceed with Mrs. DeBellefeuille.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I can still hear the echo of myself, but I hope the sound is clear on your end.
Mr. Chair, I was referring to the letter that the clerk assistant, Mr. Janse, was authorized to send in your name on behalf of the Board of Internal Economy to the chair of the Liaison Committee, Ms. Sgro. The purpose of the letter was to communicate certain recommendations and observations with respect to interpretation.
The observations were that interpretation into French is hard to do at the moment because of issues with the technology. From the time committees began to meet until the end of September, 86% of witnesses testified in English. That put pressure on the technology to make high-quality interpretation available to francophone members.
Ms. Sgro forwarded the letter to all committee chairs on December 8. How many committee chairs sent the letter to the other members of their committee?
Was the letter well received, Mr. Janse?
Did the chair of the Liaison Committee feel committed to a mission of awareness and promotion with the other committee chairs? Did she impress upon them just how significant the proposals were to ensuring quality interpretation for francophone members?
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Janse, you have the floor.
Eric Janse
View Eric Janse Profile
Eric Janse
2021-01-28 11:27
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you for your question, Mrs. DeBellefeuille.
Ms. Sgro's office sent the letter to the chairs of all other standing committees. Most chairs forwarded it to all members of their committee. A few did not, but we are following up with them to urge them to send the letter to the other members.
Because the letter went out in mid-December, not many committee meetings were left before the House adjourned for the holidays. Committees are starting to sit again this week. So we are hoping to obtain some feedback to find out whether things are better now than they were before the holidays.
We are planning to hold a Liaison Committee meeting in the coming weeks. All committee chairs, including Ms. Sgro, will be able to discuss it.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Do you have a question, Mr. Julian?
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
My question is on the same subject.
If the letter has not been forwarded to all committee members, it's important that it be sent to them right away. We must ensure that Parliament works well in both official languages and that high-quality interpretation services are available to everyone. I am a little concerned to find that some committees have not yet discussed it.
It is really important that the letter besent to all members so that steps can be taken to ensure that the two official languages are on equal footing during virtual sittings of the House and the committees.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Janse, do you have anything to add?
Eric Janse
View Eric Janse Profile
Eric Janse
2021-01-28 11:29
We will urge committee chairs who have not forwarded the letter to do so in the coming days. We hope that all members sitting on committees will have received the letter within the next few days.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Are there any other comments or questions?
We’ll go on to number 3, the printing and mailing services program enhancement proposals, and we’ll turn it over to Ms. Rebekah Kletke, chief operations officer.
Ms. Kletke.
Rebekah Kletke
View Rebekah Kletke Profile
Rebekah Kletke
2021-01-28 11:30
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Members of the board, as you know, the current operating environment resulting from the pandemic has required the House administration to adapt and find solutions to ensure that members of Parliament and their teams are able to continue to perform their parliamentary functions. One such example has been in the area of printing and mailing services.
On April 17, 2020, the Board approved that, from April 17 to July 30, 2020, members be authorized to provide their constituents with information on COVID-19 using external printing services, with costs to be charged to the central House administration budget.
A report distributed to board members on December 14, 2020, provided an assessment of the way access to external suppliers worked this past spring. This report showed that costs for the initiative were higher compared to in-house equivalents, that the level of service varied across Canada and that the external production time frames were the same or longer than in-house production time frames.
I am here today with a submission seeking direction from the board on initiatives to enhance and improve the printing and mailing services available to members of Parliament. These areas for improvement are aligned with the discussion held at the previous board meeting and the feedback we have received during this challenging period. With these objectives in mind, the House administration recommends that we proceed to examine the following aspects as prioritized by the Board of Internal Economy, with a view to identifying potential changes to our printing and mailing services.
We would look at internal processes and tools to determine the measures needed to decrease the current average internal production timeline of 12 days. We would look at the possibility of setting up framework agreements with printing facilities across Canada in consultation with Canada Post so that internal production time frames can be supplemented and enhanced with external search capacity during peak periods, and we would also look at access to broader external services through existing mechanisms, building on the lessons learned from the spring of 2020.
Our goal is to gain approval in the spring for a comprehensive analysis, with proposals aligned with the priorities set by the Board.
I would be happy to answer any questions you may have and take note of any improvements you suggest.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Very good. We'll continue.
I believe Mr. Richards has a question or a comment.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
I suppose it's probably more of a comment.
I'm hearing that you're going to come back with a proposal, and that's great. I think that's wonderful. I have had a number of caucus members come forward to me with issues that they've had. I guess one thing I want to make clear for when proposals are being developed is that, although there have been some issues that have developed in terms of the length of time it's taking to get things printed, I don't know that it should be the singular focus of the efforts to make improvements.
The focus that I think I've heard more from members who have spoken to me has been more about lack of certainty in terms of the production times. I understand that there are fluctuating levels, so addressing that is important. I like the suggestion you're making about having some ability to have arrangements with outside suppliers where there are higher periods of time.... Obviously just before Christmas would be one of those examples. I think that's a great idea.
However, the other issues that arise, in the same vein, are more the inconsistency. Sometimes there have been issues where people are told to get something out for a certain date. You have to have it in.... I'll choose some dates out of the hat. Let's say they're told that in order to have it out by mid-December, it has to be in by the end of October. The member is intending to have it go out mid-December, but then things are ahead of schedule and it goes out mid-November and it's not an appropriate message to be going out in the middle of November, for example.
It's working with members to ensure that the service is provided as stated. That might mean needing to ensure that the production timeline is respected and hasn't gone over, because maybe if it goes over, now the member is sending something that's no longer appropriate to send. In other cases, it might be putting it out at an inappropriate time, too soon, because production was ahead of schedule.
It's really working with the member to ensure they're given a date for when their piece would go out, when it goes to production, and that date is respected and adhered to, whether that means rushing the process or whether that means, in some cases, storing it for a few weeks because it's been produced ahead of schedule. It's really about meeting those service schedules.
I'll give you one other similar example, and I'm talking about my own example. I've had times where we have requested certain folds on a product—I've gone so far as to ask that I see the folds as part of the proof—and then they still go out with a different fold.
Those are service standards that aren't related to length of printing, but it's an expectation by a client, and the member of Parliament, I would believe, should be seen as the client. If they're asking for a certain fold on a product, or they're asking for a certain date that they want the product to go out, we should seek to do that. It's making that clear.
Those are some of the issues that I've had raised in my caucus. I like some of the suggestions you're making, but to make it clear, it's looking at ways to improve those service standards and have more of a customer service focus model that is being sought.
I appreciate your taking this back and looking at ways that we can make improvements.
Rebekah Kletke
View Rebekah Kletke Profile
Rebekah Kletke
2021-01-28 11:37
Thank you very much, Mr. Richards, for your comments.
Certainly the three items that we brought today require some potential investment.
Further to your comments regarding the planning process, we started following our holiday card and peak period this past December, looking at making some changes to our planning process to get exactly at some of the issues you raised today. We're already working on that. They are internal process changes. The team has some really great ideas in that respect, and to bring that flexibility around planning to the table and more clarity around when products will be going out.
We'll certainly take back your other comments, and we'll work internally to meet what you're asking for.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you. That's appreciated.
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