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.