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Results: 101 - 200 of 1240
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Now we'll go to Mr. Richards.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Thanks, Mr. Speaker.
Again, I find myself in agreement with Mr. Julian here.
On the suggestion being made now—and I have spoken of this a couple of times—the problem is that we're taking one element of a discussion and pulling it out of the discussion, and it just doesn't work that way. There are implications for other parts of the discussion on this. To try to pretend that you can pull out the one element and have a discussion about it and then vote on it, and then come back later to what the administration has suggested we do—which is to have the full discussion in camera, with the ability to ask the legal questions, etc., and then make decisions about the matter more fulsomely—I don't see the logic in that. It doesn't do this important matter justice.
I noted the examples used, I think by Mr. LeBlanc, from previous Parliaments, where there were in fact some votes that occurred. I believe I know the circumstances, and it was simply a matter of one party seeking to avoid being sanctioned, I guess, for what the board was finding as wrongdoings.
When we're talking about something like that, I can understand and appreciate why there might be a need to remove the principle of consensus that we operate, if it's just a matter of someone trying to protect themselves. We're not talking about something like that here. We're talking about three parties all agreeing that we need to follow the suggestions that the administration has made and have a proper discussion about a matter and move forward with the agenda as presented by us.
That is very different from what those examples were. To differ from the idea of consensus here on something like that, where you have three parties all in agreement that we need to do things the way they've been suggested by the administration, and one party is suggesting we disregard the advice we've been given and proceed to break up a matter into little chunks and deal with it separately, is not the same thing, in any way.
It puts everyone here in a very difficult position, because we all want to try to do this in the appropriate way, have all the facts, and to make sure that all of the questions are answered and deal with this fulsomely. We're being put in a position here where the expectation is to do otherwise. I just think that's very unfortunate, and not a good precedent.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
The proposal seems to be—and I'll see if we have a consensus on it—to continue with the agenda and deal with this item in camera, and then come back in public and make a decision then.
I see some puzzled faces. Maybe that's not the next step. I see heads going back and forth, and that we don't have consensus.
Mr. Holland.
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2021-05-13 12:22
Of course, it would make no sense, and let's be very clear, I'm not going to put Mr. Dufresne.... Mr. Dufresne can correct me—and I'll put it this way—if I am misspeaking.
There is absolutely nothing out of order for this body to go in camera and ask all of the questions it wants to. Any legal question, any matter that has to be dealt with in camera, can be exhausted in camera, and then we can come out of camera and then vote on whether or not Mr. Lemire will appear before committee. There is absolutely no violation of....
I realize we don't have a consensus. I'm saying that I am moving a motion that we go in camera. People can ask all of the questions they want in camera. We can exhaust all of the in camera questions, and then we can come out and answer publicly the matter of whether Mr. Lemire will appear before this body.
I'll move that as a motion.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I think that's where we're going to have to go, then, because we don't have consensus on that item.
Mr. Julian.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Mr. Speaker, I have point of order.
I understand the importance of the issue that Mr. Holland has raised, but he is throwing aside the whole approach that the BOIE must take and has taken for generations. As Peter Milliken so clearly lined up—he's the former speaker who provided such great guidance for parliaments, both majority and minority—there isn't the forcing of the votes; there isn't the calling of motions; there aren't amendments. There is a different approach within the BOIE.
I think what you're hearing from a number of members of the BOIE is a concern about how Mr. Holland is bringing forth this issue. It is not the issue itself. The issue itself we are all seized with. It is an important one. There are important legal ramifications that we absolutely need to be asking questions about and getting answers to, but the idea that you can simply move a motion as if the BOIE were just like a standing committee is simply inappropriate. That's the point I've been stressing repeatedly, and as our presiding officer, Mr. Speaker, you simply have the right and all of the precedents to say, “There isn't a consensus. Let us move to the agenda as written.”
This issue of course is not going away. I think every single member has expressed its importance. We want to start to get to the next steps, and the way to do that is to have the legal questions answered. We got advice at the beginning of this meeting that this type of legal advice, which is so important, is for an in camera portion. That is the very clear guidance. We have it as part of the agenda.
We don't force votes. We don't try to impose a majority view. We seek to come to a consensus. On this issue, which is so important, it is even more important to come to a consensus about next steps.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I'm just going to move on to Mr. Holland, followed by Mr. Richards.
Mr. Holland.
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2021-05-13 12:26
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
As has already been mentioned, this is a convention. It's one that we all try to follow. It is one that sometimes has to be deviated from. What we don't do is take naked photographs of one another and post them all over the world. What we don't do in a reasonable place of employment is allow one person to take a photograph of a fellow employee naked, against their will, and put it in the public domain. What I don't do is accept that this issue isn't important enough, simply because we have a tradition of doing things a particular way—even though that tradition has moved many different ways in other instances—and say, “Sorry, Mr. Amos”. The really confounding part about this is that my motion is very simple: We move in camera. You can ask every question you want in camera.
You can exhaust all questions, Mr. Dufresne. You can examine every angle of this. I have a simple request on behalf of Mr. Amos and the offence that was done to him, one request to demonstrate to Canadians that we take this matter seriously. That is the very simple matter that, after all of those legal questions have been exhausted, we take a vote as to whether Mr. Lemire should appear before this committee or not, just as we made a decision with respect to Mr. Weir, just as we made a decision with respect to Mr. Kang, just as we made a decision with respect to Ms. Ratansi, just as we made decisions that were very public on whether or not other members would come before this body, in camera or not.
I'm simply asking that the vote take place publicly so that we demonstrate the seriousness with which we take this matter—and yes, I'm willing to deviate from tradition. Yes, I'm willing to do what other members have done in this body before and, in exceptional circumstances, move it.
It was Madame DeBellefeuille herself who said that this circumstance was without precedent. If it is without precedent, then it demands that we take action. On that basis, Mr. Speaker, I ask that we vote on the motion that we go in camera, that this matter be fully exhausted, and that we have a simple vote as to whether or not Mr. Lemire will appear before us, in camera or not, and that it be public.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Okay. We have Mr. Richards next.
Before we go to Mr. Richards, I just had some information given to me that we'll try this one more time. What's being proposed—and again I'll need your consensus for this—is that we continue with the agenda and when we go in camera we have a chance to discuss this further, and then come back out of camera once that's done and vote on the item at hand.
Is that acceptable to everyone? Basically, we're continuing with the agenda. It shouldn't take very long. We'll go in camera and then come back out to make a decision. Do we have consensus?
Yes, we will continue with item number two, which shouldn't take very long.
Do I have consensus? Okay, we have consensus. There have been different variations of it, but let's continue.
On item number two, business arising from the previous meeting, are there any items? Seeing none, we'll move on.
On mental health and wellness resources and professional development for members and their employees, Madame Laframboise and Robyn Daigle have a presentation.
Michelle Laframboise
View Michelle Laframboise Profile
Michelle Laframboise
2021-05-13 12:29
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Our submission today is to provide the board with information—
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I'm sorry, Madame Laframboise. I'm going to have to interrupt you for a second. I'm sorry.
Mr. Richards.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, I have a point of order. With all of the extended debate that occurred around that, I actually had my hand up to deal with something related to the business arising from the previous meeting.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Oh, I'm sorry. Okay.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
I think I just got lost because of the fact that there was such a long discussion there that flowed from the first person to put their hand up.
If you don't mind, it really is a brief comment and a quick question.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Okay. We'll be very brief, if you don't mind, but thank you for pointing that out.
Madame Laframboise, I'm sorry.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
From the previous meeting, I had made the suggestion that we seek to have you send letters to Quebec and Ontario ministries of health to make sure that we can have vaccinations for essential workers here in Parliament.
I see that what you have done is written to the federal Minister of Health, which so be it, I suppose. However, I wonder if you had a response to that letter and if you can share that with us.
Obviously it's critical that we ensure that these workers who are essential to the functioning of our Parliament and our seat of democracy here have the opportunity to be considered essential workers and get their vaccinations so we can keep them safe.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
There is no response as of yet.
Monsieur Patrice, has there been a response yet? No.
Maybe we'll push a little harder. I'll instruct our team to push on it again.
That's very good. Now we'll continue.
Ms. Laframboise, you have the floor.
Michelle Laframboise
View Michelle Laframboise Profile
Michelle Laframboise
2021-05-13 12:31
Thank you.
Our submission today is to provide the board with information on the mental health and wellness, as well as professional development resources, currently available to members and their employees and to seek the board's direction on whether they feel that additional resources are required to meet their needs.
In regard to mental health and wellness, there are currently several different venues to access their resources.
First, there's the employee and family assistance program, which provides confidential and immediate support for personal, work, health and well-being issues. This support service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at no cost to members, House officers, research offices, their employees and members of their immediate family.
Then there are the services and offerings provided by the wellness team of the House administration, including programs and services to support a healthy lifestyle and general well-being, and access to nurse counsellors who specialize in mental health, coaching and support, as well as referrals to external resources for health issues.
The health and wellness team offers yearly lifestyle improvement programs, wellness webinars and virtual conferences.
If members or their employees require access to specialized medical services for wellness, such as massage therapists, physiotherapists and others, they are often able to claim these expenses through their health care insurance plan.
In addition, the House Administration has offered a number of mental health and wellness training opportunities to the members and their staff in the context of COVID-19, such as information sessions, webinar series and virtual conferences. Finally, under current Board of Internal Economy policies, members may use their office budget to participate in workshops, conferences and courses offered. The cost of attending mental health and wellness workshops is an eligible expense, which may be reimbursed.
Recently, some caucuses have considered offering additional mindfulness resources to their members and staff, and plan to offer weekly mindfulness sessions to this group. If the board so wishes and requests, the House Administration can offer this type of service to all members of Parliament and their staff, taking into account such factors as technology needs, method of supply, and other resources currently available.
With regard to the issue of professional development, the House administration provides a number of training programs to members' offices, many of which are primarily offered by House resources with no charge to the MOB. In addition, members and their employees may attend external workshops, conferences and courses, such as language training, media relations and presentation skills training, and computer software training, and charge allowable costs to the MOB.
If so directed by the board, the House administration could explore additional options for providing professional development opportunities to members and their employees as well as additional resources. In exploring this possibility, we would determine if there are specific requirements for professional development that should be addressed through the House administration that are not currently being addressed, as well as how these additional professional development offerings would be financed and whether or not additional funding would be required.
As such, we ask the board to provide direction on whether to explore offering additional mental health and wellness resources to members and their employees as a service provided by the House administration, and whether to explore changes to the existing professional development regime.
Merci. I remain available to answer any questions.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Are there any questions?
Mr. Holland, and then Madame DeBellefeuille.
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2021-05-13 12:35
Thank you very much.
I want to take the time thank you, Madame Laframboise, and the whole team for the additional tools and support that you have been bringing on board for our staff—the staff of all parties. It is sincerely and deeply appreciated. This period of the pandemic has been particularly challenging for our employees. These resources have been an enormous help to them in doing their jobs, and in doing their jobs in an environment that supports them and is healthy. Thank you for everything you have done.
I have two observations. I know that I have made these to you elsewhere. One is that we have work to do to now socialize everyone to all of the tools that are available. We're all going to have to take those on. There are two areas that I am particularly interested. For the sake of scope, I will focus only on those for today.
One is that we have embarked on having mindfulness sessions for our employees across the country. We've already done a couple of days. We're doing that on our side, on the caucus side. I would commend it to the use of other parties. It has been a wonderful tool. We've had a great pickup in participation. It's been a wonderful tool of wellness.
I'm very much vendor-neutral on who that would be, but I appreciate your saying that you would consider exploring that as being something that is available to employees from all parties. I am very encouraged by that. I'll let that come back at another date and other parties to indicate if they have an interest in it. Perhaps you could canvass them.
One matter that I wanted to put specifically to the board today is in the realm of professional development. I had a look at the utilization of MOBs for the purposes of professional development, and it's almost nil. It makes sense, because the pressures on MOBs are absolutely enormous right now. The last thing that happens, unfortunately, is dollars for the professional development of employees if you want to go further than some of the excellent training modules that you have. This can be in conflict resolution. This can be in mental health and resiliency. It could be language training. Right now we're hearing from employees across the country the frustration that they don't have access to what is normal in other workplaces.
I have a specific suggestion for the board that we could do on a trial basis of a year and then examine its efficacy. Particularly given the year our employees have had, as a demonstration of our support for the work they do and our commitment to their well-being and professional development, we would establish $10,000 that would be added to the MOB that could only be used for the professional development of staff. I had an opportunity to talk to all whips about this. Those dollars would ensure that employees across the country, with an average of five people working in an office, would have about $2,000 per employee to build resiliency, to build their strength in conflict resolution and to have additional language training. That would go a huge way toward demonstrating support for the work they do.
When we're talking now about a performance management system, typically a performance management system has organizational goals that you set and also professional development goals that should be part of any employee's development and goal-setting. Right now there are no dollars for that. That's something that I think we need to change. I would seek the support of other members to add that as an additional support.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
All right.
We'll now go to Mrs. DeBellefeuille, followed by Mr. Richards.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Ms. Laframboise, I would also like to add my voice to that of Mr. Holland to tell you that your entire team was able to offer support and, above all, adapt to the particular context of the pandemic.
I dare to name Ms. Mercier, from your team, who is the human resources advisor for the Bloc québécois. We asked her for specific training on mental health, because the employees needed tools and intervention strategies to detect or screen for signs of distress among our fellow citizens who call our offices, who call for help, and who may even resort to suicide.
Many citizens in our constituencies phoned our offices. Our staff were completely overwhelmed because they didn't necessarily have the professional foundation or skills, or haven't developed clinical skills to be able to take these kinds of calls.
Frankly, I did not experience this during my first terms of office. This is the first time that such a large number of citizens have called us and expressed distress and great despondency. This requires our teams to be informed about mental health resources in their respective constituencies. They also need to develop first-line intervention skills, to be able to assess the seriousness of the call and the level of distress. Our staff need to be able to make connections to protect the person and offer a little more support than is usually available in the constituency offices.
I wanted to thank you, because you offered the mental health training to all caucuses. About 60 people, members of Parliament and staff, participated, including 26 members of the Bloc teams, whether members of Parliament or staff. That training was great. It was so well designed that after only one hour, everyone came out 100% satisfied, with better tools to intervene.
I think it shows that your organization is very nimble, very flexible, able to adapt to changing needs, and able to deal with the issues that our teams face in Ottawa or in our constituencies. So, I know this is a long speech, but we don't take enough time to thank you for the really important work you do.
I now turn to another subject.
When I read your presentation, I realized that there are several services that I didn't know existed, even as a whip. You know, we don't always have time to go to the House's Source site and to look at everything you offer. I was surprised to learn a lot of things that I couldn't share with my caucus. I'm sure they're not even aware of this, nor are the staff of all our teams.
So, with your permission, I would be grateful if you would make the summary of your presentation available so that I can first promote what is being offered free of charge, what is being done by your teams, so that we can find a better way to disseminate this information in our caucuses. I don't have as much experience as some of the other people around the table, but I do have some experience, and I have learned things that I want to share with my caucus and my team members. If the members of the Board of Internal Economy agree, we could make a summary available, which you could share with us, and we could make a presentation to our own caucuses. This is my first request.
On another note, I understand Mr. Holland's request to support the professional development of our teams, our workers, our caucus members, and our employees on the Hill or in our ridings. I completely agree. Personally, I am currently on leave without pay, for civic duties, from the Quebec public service. All employees had about $1,000 or $1,200 a year to upgrade their skills and get additional training. I wonder about the $2,000 and $10,000 amounts, because I know that a lot of training is offered free of charge.
If a survey of members of all caucuses showed that many of them wanted mindfulness training, I am sure that your team would be able to develop it and to offer it at no cost. Training like that would clearly come under the central House budget.
I am not opposed to having our constituency budgets increased so that an additional $10,000 can be allocated to professional development for our staff, and I don't want Mr. Holland to see this as opposition to his suggestion. I feel that the need is justified. However, would it be $10,000? How would it be managed?
I have a lot of questions. Actually, the range of services and the expertise in your department are so great that I want to ask you instead whether you have courses that our teams could take and that your teams would develop, to meet the needs that Mr. Holland has identified.
I do not want to oppose an increase in the budget for staff training, development or even co-development. I would just like to find out whether your service has the flexibility required to increase the range of your offerings, which could perhaps meet the needs. I will be able to tell you what I decide after I hear your answers.
For the moment, I am still a little undecided about Mr. Holland's request. I still have to be convinced that $10,000, or $2,000 per staff member, is a good expense.
However, if your service cannot provide that kind of training, I would be quite inclined to agree to Mr. Holland's request.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Okay.
Ms. Laframboise, do you have any comments?
Michelle Laframboise
View Michelle Laframboise Profile
Michelle Laframboise
2021-05-13 12:46
Thank you for your comments, Mrs. DeBellefeuille.
Let me add something. Appendix C has a list of the courses presently available to members and their employees. The training we offer is relatively broad. It covers topics from office management to employee well-being and interpersonal skills. If it became clear that we needed something else, we would be prepared to do the research to find out what could be provided by our employees or by resources that are already available. Otherwise, we could find a way to make it available to you.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Now we'll go to Mr. Richards.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Thanks, Mr. Speaker.
I have just a couple of questions. I'll start first with the area of mental health and wellness and then I'll move to professional development.
On the mental health and wellness front, maybe it's in the evaluation you've done here and I missed it, but it's a fairly extensive list of mental wellness initiatives that are available to employees and to members.
Have you identified anything, when you compare it to what would typically be available in either the private sector or elsewhere, that you would see as typical mental health resources that members or members' employees wouldn't be eligible for, either by being reimbursed through their MOB or through their employee health plans, etc.? Have you identified anything that are gaps based on comparable options available to the private sector?
Michelle Laframboise
View Michelle Laframboise Profile
Michelle Laframboise
2021-05-13 12:48
If you look at the employee and family assistance program, for example, it is among the best in its class. I would suggest from my experience, having worked in a variety of organizations inside and outside of the federal family, that the programs that we offer are absolutely the best in class. As well as having the EAP, having in-house services, including nurse counsellors on staff, for example, is definitely a huge part of our wellness piece. We do a lot of training and we do try to stay ahead of the trends so we always know what's coming up. The challenge has been that this last year, these last 14 months, have been exceedingly difficult and have given mental health a whole new world to work in. We're working with not just regular workplace events anymore. There are organizations that can offer more. We have seen organizations that have perhaps bigger wellness staff. I would suggest that the programs we offer and the training currently available meet the majority of our needs.
That being said, for something like mindfulness, we don't currently offer it, but it is something we would be absolutely happy to look at. Mental health and wellness are an ever-changing field. We do try to stay current with the trends to make sure we can offer the services.
While we have some excellent offerings, the challenge remains access. We can tell an employee that they can get reimbursed for certain services, but through the health care plan. Then getting access to your GP to get the prescription and then getting access to a therapist or getting access to other specialized services can be a bit more of a challenge. While we may have certain offerings, access remains a challenge, not only for our employees but also for Canadians in general.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
I was going to ask that question, because I think that's a problem that is not just specific to us. It seems to me I hear that from people, whether they are constituents or other folks I talk to. Getting access to those services seems to be a general problem across this country. That certainly isn't specific to us. I do appreciate that.
With regard to the mindfulness sessions, I don't know about the other caucuses, but obviously Mr. Holland indicated that his caucus has engaged in them. Are those currently something that can be paid for under parliamentary budgets or by the individual MPs or caucuses to have their employees involved through some kind of House officer's budget or otherwise? Is that something that is currently able to be paid for? How are those being conducted?
Michelle Laframboise
View Michelle Laframboise Profile
Michelle Laframboise
2021-05-13 12:51
We don't offer the mindfulness right now. It's being done separately, but it's something that—
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
I know you're not the ones offering it, but Mr. Holland has indicated that at least their caucus has in fact conducted these sessions. Have they been able to use parliamentary budgets to pay for those? Is that something that would be eligible under a parliamentary budget currently?
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2021-05-13 12:52
That's probably a question directed to me.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I'll let Mr. Holland answer that if....
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
If you can answer it, Mark, that's great.
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2021-05-13 12:52
We have resources that we've decided to deploy to that purpose in support of employees.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
So those are parliamentary resources you're able to access now, or not?
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Okay. I just wanted to know whether or not that was something that could be done currently.
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2021-05-13 12:52
It is. My point on that is that we're happy to do it on our side. We've had a really positive response using our House office budgets for that. Individual caucuses could do it as well. It's just a thought that it might be a good thing to offer across the board to all employees. We've had a really positive response on the impact for our employees.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you. I appreciate that, Mark.
On the professional development side, I would assume that other caucuses do this as well, but I know that within our caucus we do provide pretty extensive professional development for our members and employees—different professional development training sessions, briefing sessions, etc. I'm wondering whether in your survey of opportunities currently available to members and their employees some of those robust offerings, of which you have given us some examples here, were taken into account.
Michelle Laframboise
View Michelle Laframboise Profile
Michelle Laframboise
2021-05-13 12:53
I'm sorry, I'm not sure I understand the question.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Maybe it's unique to our caucus. I don't know. I'd assume and hope it's not. Certainly there are a host of professional development opportunities provided within caucuses themselves. You've laid out some examples of professional development opportunities. I'm just wondering if that's been factored in and taken into consideration in that survey you've done.
Michelle Laframboise
View Michelle Laframboise Profile
Michelle Laframboise
2021-05-13 12:54
The list that we have here has not taken into consideration what individual caucuses have prepared and delivered themselves.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
I think I was hearing from you that you believe there's a pretty extensive list of things that are available. Possibly, it might be a good thing occasionally to come to this board and seek suggestions for things that could be added to your list.
Setting that aside for a second, there seems to be some suggestion that maybe we add a dedicated portion of the MOB for professional development. I'm not clear on whether the issue of getting professional development opportunities to people is in fact a lack of financial resources available to members. I would assume, given there's an extensive list of opportunities that you provide that, from my understanding, can be charged to the MOB.... Is there a financial barrier to MPs to provide these things or is there some other reason they're not being provided to employees?
The question would be how many MPs are spending right to their cap? Maybe that's why they're squeezing these things out. How many MPs are squeezing within $10,000 of the cap of their MOB? I'm trying to determine if a financial barrier actually exists or not. It may not be a need to provide more dollars to the MOB in order to facilitate these things. There may be another problem.
I understand the problem that we're trying to fix. I certainly support the idea that we would want to try to ensure that professional development opportunities are available to employees and members where needed. I'm trying to determine if we're actually hitting the right problem in the way we're trying to solve it. I don't know if you have that kind of information. If you don't, maybe we can get it.
How many MPs are currently squeezed right up to the cap on their MOBs? How many are within $10,000?
Michelle Laframboise
View Michelle Laframboise Profile
Michelle Laframboise
2021-05-13 12:56
I know that we did take a look at that. My understanding is that they don't all use to their cap. Robyn, do you have additional information?
I'm not sure if the CFO is on the line anywhere here. I understand he was looking into—
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
Daniel Paquette
2021-05-13 12:56
I can take that question.
Looking at the trends over the last few years—obviously the last fiscal year and the previous one are not necessarily typical years—what we normally see as a trend is that about 25% of the members spend more than 95% of their budget. I don't necessarily have the $10,000 mark, but if you take 95% of their budget, they're spending less than $18,000 of the top of their budget. That's about a quarter of the members. The rest would still have some flexibility.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
I guess it depends on what part of that range they'd be in, if it's closer to the $18,000. We're talking about less than 25%, obviously. It could be 10% or 15%. I'm just trying to get a sense of whether that's the barrier here.
I think I'm hearing that it may be a barrier for some members. We all have to make choices about how we use our resources. I guess that's no different than anywhere else. It doesn't sound to me like it's a huge issue when you have less than a quarter who are.... It would be a barrier in those cases. It could be a matter of prioritizing.
That answers my question. Thank you.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I believe Mr. Holland has a question or a comment.
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2021-05-13 12:58
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
I hear Blake's point. When we were talking about this point, one of the things I said was that when there are no dedicated resources for something, it doesn't happen.
As a case in point, right now, 0.013% of a member's budget is used for professional development, and that includes members themselves. When we talk to our employees, the reason for that is that there's never any discussion of the fact that those dollars would be available. There are some great training modules, but the problem we have is that if a member wants to go deeper in language training, for example, or a member wants to take a course on how to better deal with difficult case work, difficult constituents, conflict management, mental health and resiliency, there really isn't anything to support that culture of professional development for our employees.
Given the fact that we've gone through such a difficult period of time, where employees on the front line have been, over the past 14 or 15 months, subject to so much strain, I think it's a good idea, generally. It's been present in every organization I've worked in, and a wonderful gesture of support for our employees.
What I'm suggesting.... Claude talked about $2,000 an employee. I'm not against that, but I thought it would be simpler to say $10,000 per office dedicated exclusively for the purpose of the professional development of employees. The reason being is that there may be somebody who has one course that costs $3,000, and another person has a course that costs $1,000.
My suggestion is that we take a year, take a look at what kind of uptake there is, encourage our employees to participate and utilize this, and if at the end of the year we feel that was not a successful endeavour for whatever reason, we can sunset it.
It's something that, at least in our conversations with our employees, would be very meaningful to them. Culturally, it would send a really important message about our believing in their professional development.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2021-05-13 13:00
I'll move that for consideration, and if there's consensus on that, great.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Richards, do you have another point?
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you.
I hear Mark's point that unless there are dedicated resources for something, it doesn't happen. We do have, within our MOBs now, dedicated portions for certain things. We're not talking about an extensive problem of MPs who cannot seem to do anything within their budget. That's not the issue. It's the idea of dedicating funds toward it.
Perhaps $10,000 is the right dollar amount to start with, or maybe it's $5,000 or $2,000 that Claude is suggesting, whatever it might be. Rather than adding to the budget, we would dedicate a portion within the existing budget. That would sort of deal with the issue of making sure that something is dedicated, without adding to the budget. It doesn't sound like there's a need to do that in order to accomplish this. As Mark said, it's a matter of dedicating funds toward it.
Whether it's a percentage of the budget or a dollar figure, however we want to do it, perhaps we can do it that way, where we make the suggestion that it's $5,000 or 1%. Whatever it is, that amount would be dedicated from the existing budget toward professional development.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Very good.
I'm looking at the time, and we're past our 1 o'clock finish time.
Do we want to extend the session? I know there's a certain interest in this item in particular, but we also have other items as we get closer to QP.
Is there consensus on what we want to do with this session, its being 1 o'clock?
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Is that to allow this discussion to finish? Is that what you are saying?
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
To what point: just for this item?
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Just for this item, yes.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Okay, just for this item. The others we'll take up when we come back.
Very good.
The floor goes to Mrs. DeBellefeuille. She will be followed by Mr. Holland.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I don't want us to leave with Mr. Holland's proposal unresolved. In my view, it is really worthwhile. I am not opposed to additional funds coming from places other than our budgets. I have to tell you sincerely that I do not really agree with the money coming out of our budgets and being set aside for this, as Mr. Richards suggests. This is because our budgeting for the year is already done.
Mr. Holland's proposal is a good compromise. In fact, if we agree and if Mr. Paquette can show us that it's financially possible to add a fund specifically for the professional development of our employees, starting this year, the suggestion could be really helpful. We would need to document the process, showing whether the budget was used, what training was taken, and so forth. We would also need to evaluate it in order to come to a better decision, given how the budgets are to be allocated and used by April 1, 2022.
In that way, we would be looking out for our employees who, as was previously mentioned, are going through really difficult and unprecedented situations. We could set this up this year, the one that started on April 1, and use the amounts set aside for it, as well as our operating budget, to help our employees meet the new professional challenges. We could use it as somewhat of a pilot project, evaluate it at the end of next year, determine whether it met the employees' needs and whether it is a workable solution. We could then decide whether we were going to continue it.
I am quite in favour of that compromise proposal, which meets the needs of our employees. So I am in favour of Mr. Holland's initial proposal.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Go ahead, Mr. Holland.
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2021-05-13 13:05
Thanks, Mr. Speaker.
I totally agree with Claude. I think that, if we scale back members' existing budgets, it's going to come as a major shock to members to suddenly find out t they have less money.
The second point is that, for a lot of members who go up to that 95% mark, they do so because they're in ridings where constituency offices are much more expensive or staff are much more expensive. People in certain metropolitan areas have a much bigger strain. While we have some provision for that, we don't really have a lot to compensate for the fact that if you're in downtown Toronto, downtown Vancouver, or other environments, there are a lot of extra costs. What we would be doing in effect is saying that professional development would only be available for some offices.
I like the idea of doing it, as Claude has suggested, on a temporary basis. We can do it for this fiscal year, review it next year, and see what the uptake is. Yes, I would support what Claude just said.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Go ahead, Mr. Richards.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Thanks.
I'm not opposed to the idea here, as I think I've indicated already. It's something that I know I certainly do within my office, and I think it's a great thing for others to do. I'm also aware that, as employers, we make our own decisions. I sort of hate the idea that we start to get prescriptive about how people spend their office budgets. I like the idea of enabling this. I don't even mind the idea of dedicating funds, but I think that if we start to say, “Okay, we're going to add this much to your budget for this", then what comes next, right? It gets to the point where we're starting to be very prescriptive about how people spend.
All MPs make decisions accordingly. For example, we have a dedicated portion of our budget for advertising now. I choose not to advertise; I don't spend that money. I believe there are better ways to utilize my MOB. Others make different decisions, and that's fine. I just don't like the idea of our starting to get into dedicating a bunch of things to....
I like the idea of professional development. I don't mind the idea of considering setting it aside, because I agree that sometimes if it's not set aside, it doesn't get used for something, but I don't like sort of, “Here's a pool for this, and here's a pool for that”.
My thinking is that I maybe just don't have quite enough information at this point. I understand where Mark's coming from with people in areas where constituency lease costs are high in large ridings where they have to have more than one office and things like that. Often, then, people are spending to the cap. That is why they're doing it. If that's the problem, perhaps we need to look at that and whether those supplements for some of those areas are done appropriately or in the right way.
I would just like to get a bit more information before I make a decision on this. For the 25% that are more than 95%, can we break that down a little better? How many are within $5,000 of their cap? How many are within $10,000 of their cap? Then we'd have some sense of what we're talking about there. I'm not suggesting that I'm opposed to this. I just don't think I have quite enough information to make a decision that I would want to add to MPs' budgets at this point.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2021-05-13 13:08
My apologies, Mr. Chair. I thought when we spoke as whips.... I misunderstood. I thought we were closer to consent than we were.
What I'll do then is to withdraw the item. We'll go back and have a conversation as whips to try to answer Blake's questions, and we'll return with this item once we have a consensus.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
That's good.
If there are no more comments on that.... That was part of my understanding of the consensus. We're basically instructing HR to explore offering additional health and wellness resources to members and to employees of the House and administration. We're also directing them to explore changes to existing professional development regimes. I will add as well that they consult with whips to see what they're looking for so that we can have options when we return to make a decision.
Do we have consensus on that? Does that make sense?
Mr. Richards, do you have a comment?
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Yes, I just have one quick comment, Mr. Speaker.
I had a very brief conversation with Mark about this, and certainly, as I indicated at this meeting, I think it's a good discussion to have. I'm supportive of the idea of making sure that professional development is provided, but we never did get into any detail.
I'm happy to do that, but I'll still ask for the the information I've just asked for. It would be helpful to me in knowing the appropriate way to approach this. If we could still ask the administration to provide the information about how many MPs are spending right to the cap, how many are within $5,000 of the cap and how many are within $10,000, that would be very helpful to me.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
We have that request on the record, and it will be brought to the board.
Mrs. DeBellefeuille, do you have a question or comment?
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
I would like to make one final comment on this, Mr. Speaker.
If you are letting the human resources people do the analysis that Mr. Richards is asking for, I believe that last year must not be used as a reference, because it's not representative. Because of the pandemic, we spent less in certain areas, so we have to use a wider reference than just last year. In that way, I feel that the analysis would be more accurate.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you very much. That is a good point.
With the direction given, if there are no further questions, we will adjourn today's meeting and continue the agenda at the next meeting.
I declare this meeting adjourned.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
We have everyone here, so we'll get this meeting started. The agenda is before you.
This is meeting number 16 of the Board of Internal Economy. Welcome.
We'll start with the minutes of the previous meeting. Is everything in order? Are there any comments?
If everything is fine and we're all in accordance, we'll move on to item number 2.
Item number 2 is called “Business arising from previous meeting.“ Are there any comments or changes to be made?
Mrs. DeBellefeuille, you have the floor.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
I just want to follow up briefly on the minutes, the appendix of which deals with the statistics for pre-testing of parliamentary committee meetings and all the efforts that are being made by the House of Commons Administration to make our meetings more acceptable in terms of interpretation in both languages, whether it is from English into French or from French into English.
On the one hand, I would like to thank the Administration for keeping this dashboard, which is very revealing for me. I am really happy to see that the pre-testing is leading to improvements. Over the months, thanks to the dashboard, we have been able to see that the Administration has achieved a very interesting degree of efficiency in facilitating the interpretation and the participation of witnesses, so that they are heard in both languages. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Administration for providing us with this data, which allows us to see the improvements.
On the other hand, since these improvements are so interesting, I would like us to be able to communicate them to the Liaison Committee so that the chairs are also aware of all the efforts that are being made, particularly with regard to the percentages of incidents or events that result in meetings being extended. All committee chairs must be made particularly aware of this fact. If the Board of Internal Economy agrees, I would propose that we make these documents accessible to the chairs of all parliamentary committees.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Is everyone in agreement?
No one tells me otherwise.
Mr. Julian.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I fully agree with sharing this data. We have indeed put in place some arrangements that have greatly improved the situation. There is still work to be done, of course, but I think it is important that this information is passed on to the chairs of the committees and the Liaison Committee. Indeed, this information is important.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Thanks.
With the sort of analysis that was done, I noted that it was focused on instances and some of the numbers. I have two questions. First of all, I notice that the largest category was “not significant” as a reason. I'm not sure what would fall into that category. I'm curious what would fall under that category.
Secondly, I think the issue is more about the use of resources in terms of the amount of time that's used, rather than the number of instances. In many cases, when you're talking about an extended bit of debate, what you're talking about is maybe that you accommodated the full round of questioning, so the meeting went over by a few minutes. I don't think that's really what we're talking about that stretches the resources. We're talking about when there are filibusters or things like that, which drag a meeting on for hours beyond its end.
I would be really curious to see these categories broken down, rather than by instances where they have occurred, by the number of hours for which they've occurred. I think that would be far more telling in terms of what is actually a drag on the resources.
Is that something you could go back and do, to provide that information? I think that would be far more useful to both us as the board and to the committee chairs as well.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Who can answer that?
Eric Janse
View Eric Janse Profile
Eric Janse
2021-04-22 11:10
I can perhaps answer that, Mr. Speaker, and Stéphan can jump in if he likes.
Absolutely, we could provide that information. It will take a little bit of time, but certainly we could by the next board meeting, Mr. Richards. It's not something that we can generate from the system. It's something we have to do manually, but absolutely, we could.
In terms of your other question, the other category, you're right. Even though we had provided to our clerks a number of categories they could check off as to why a given committee went beyond its two-hour expected adjournment time, in many, many cases, other reasons were given.
You're right. All totalled, it came up to a significant number—24%, I believe. There were things like the time it took to transition from one panel to the other and things of that nature. Each one of those was less than 1%, but we didn't put it in the chart or the chart would have had too many bars.
Again, in terms of your other question, providing stats as to the time, we can certainly provide that.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you. That would be much appreciated.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
If there are no other comments or questions, we'll move on to item number 4.
Number 4 is for reimbursement of accommodations, meals and incidental expenses for self-isolation. Our presenter here will be Mr. Paquette.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
I have a point of order, Mr. Chair.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Certainly, Mr. Richards, go ahead on a point of order.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Just on item number 3, I know it was removed. I just wondered why. I believe it was one party that asked. I don't know if someone could provide us an update, whoever it was who asked for it to be removed, as to why it was removed.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Certainly. I'll just pass it on to Mr. Patrice, who can comment on that.
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2021-04-22 11:12
Yes, there was a request by one party, the members of the Liberal Party, to remove the item because they were not ready to proceed. After discussion with the chair of the working group, Mr. Stanton, he agreed to defer the matter to subsequent meetings.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Are there any other questions on number 3?
We'll move back to number 4.
Mr. Paquette, Ms. Laframboise, you have the floor.
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
Daniel Paquette
2021-04-22 11:12
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
With this submission, I am seeking the board's directions about the request made by a member for temporary exceptions to the board's bylaws and policies. The member is requesting that you temporarily allow for reimbursement of members' accommodations, meals and incidental expenses for voluntary self-isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically when travelling between the national capital region and the constituency.
Existing board regulations and policies do not generally allow for members to be reimbursed for the costs they incur in quarantining themselves near their homes. Guidelines issued by provincial and territorial public health authorities generally indicate that alternative accommodation is not necessary. However, guidelines can vary considerably from one province or territory to another and tend to change very quickly. For this reason, we are consulting with you to determine if a temporary exception would be appropriate during this exceptional period.
This concludes my presentation. We can answer questions from members.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Are there any questions or comments?
Mr. Rodriguez, you have the floor.
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I have not analyzed this for hours, although I have talked to several people, but instinctively, I am opposed to this. I don't feel comfortable. It's like saying that someone can come to Ottawa, go home, rent a hotel room for a fortnight, come back to Ottawa, go home, and again, get a paid hotel room for a fortnight.
We are trying to discourage travel, that is, we are trying to limit the presence of members in the House. I think we are setting an example ourselves by limiting this presence to those who live in or around the national capital region.
I don't feel comfortable with that at all.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Are there any other questions or comments?
Mrs. DeBellefeuille, you have the floor.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Chair, I agree with Mr. Rodriguez on this issue. I agree with his motives and I will tell you another reason why I, for one, feel uncomfortable.
In every riding, essential workers, including nurses and orderlies, leave their homes, husbands and children to work in a hospital, a long-term care centre or a health and social service centre, and return home at the end of the day. These people are at risk because they are helping potentially sick people. They can be contaminated.
I'm not comfortable with the idea that a member of Parliament has the privilege of sparing his family by quarantining himself in a hotel room for which he'll be reimbursed when thousands of essential workers do not have that privilege. That sort of adds to my refusal to support this request and to Mr. Rodriguez's arguments. I think it's a difficult situation for everyone, both for essential workers and for members of Parliament. It is not easy to do our jobs right now. It is difficult for all our families.
So I would be quite uncomfortable to respond favourably to this request and to be granted special status.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Are there any other questions or comments?
From what I hear, this request is not approved. So we're going to set it aside.
Let's move on to item number 5, the reimbursement of voluntary carbon offset credits.
Mr. Paquette, you have the floor.
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
Daniel Paquette
2021-04-22 11:16
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I am making a submission to obtain direction from the board on a request that has been submitted by three members of Parliament regarding the reimbursement of voluntary carbon offset credits.
Last month, the board received a letter stating that the new regulations of the Assemblée nationale du Québec allowed for the reimbursement of carbon offset credits purchased for travel between the constituency and the Assemblée nationale as well as for the energy consumption of their premises related to constituency office activities.
In their letter, the members ask the board to consider adopting similar practices for members of the House of Commons.
Under the current board bylaws and policies, members and their authorized travellers may only use travel resources provided to them in the fulfillment of their parliamentary functions. Although travel is necessary to carry out these functions, the purchase of carbon offset continues to be a voluntary measure that is not imposed by any legislation or regulation and is considered to be a traveller's personal choice.
Also, current bylaws and policies do not allow members to use goods and services provided by the House to donate to any cause or benefit, or support a third party. In 2015, the board considered a similar request at which time it determined that the purchase of carbon offsets for travel did not constitute an auditable use of House resources and would be deemed a donation. The House administration has been applying this decision since then.
Following this recent request, we are seeking the board's direction on this matter. Should the board direct the administration to consider the reimbursement of voluntary carbon emission offsets purchased by the members, then the administration would perform the needed analysis and consultation and come back to the board with the appropriate recommendation to be able to do so.
This concludes my presentation. We are ready to answer questions from members.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Paquette.
Are there any questions?
Are there any comments?
We have Mr. Julian and Madame DeBellefeuille.
Mr. Julian.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
It is worthwhile, I believe, for these issues to be considered and recommendations to be made within the Board of Internal Economy. The climate crisis affects everyone. So far, I think we have not addressed the way in which members travel. This travel will likely start again later this year, once the third wave has passed.
It would be a question of determining how we can improve our policies on these issues. I think it would be important to do that analysis and to discuss it in the next few weeks or months.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you.
Now we'll go to Mrs. DeBellefeuille, followed by Mr. Rodriguez.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
I agree with Mr. Julian's intervention on this subject.
Today is Earth Day. What a great day to discuss a project like this! I understand the arguments and I have read the documentation. I think it is worthwhile. Between 2015 and today, the climate change situation has evolved a lot, and I think we should allow ourselves to analyze it a little more thoroughly.
For example, the members who wrote the letter mention the decision of the Assemblée nationale du Québec to certify, through a call for tenders, two or three credible organizations, within well-defined limits, to allow for the reimbursement of carbon offset credits for all travel in ridings and on Parliament Hill.
You know that the current government has promised to plant trees as a way of offsetting greenhouse gas emissions. This is just one of many ways. Many organizations can currently offset their greenhouse gas emissions by planting trees.
I know that for today, we did not have any expectations, and I do not think that members expected us to settle the debate, but rather to start a discussion to come to a good decision in future Board of Internal Economy meetings, to see how everyone can do, as a member of Parliament, to also participate individually. One way is to offset our greenhouse gas emissions. The Assemblée nationale du Québec has made a decision. We could study it carefully. There may also be other models among Five Eyes members.
I am therefore in favour of continuing our reflection on this issue.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
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