Interventions in Board of Internal Economy
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Very good. Are there any other questions?
I sense that there is agreement on this item. Agreed?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Hon. Anthony Rota: We'll move on to the next item. We'll go on to number 4.
We will now move to item 4, legal and legislative services to members of Parliament. Presenting today are Philippe Dufresne, Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel, and Daniel Paquette, chief financial officer.
Philippe Dufresne
View Philippe Dufresne Profile
Philippe Dufresne
2019-12-12 12:45
Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the Board of Internal Economy.
This is a funding request for the provision of legal and legislation services to members of Parliament. We offer these services to all members of Parliament so they can carry out all of their parliamentary functions, including drafting of private members' bills and amendments. We provide legal advice and representation to opposition MPs as managers, and in relation to their role in their riding. There have been major changes in the legal and legislative context for members of Parliament, which has led them to request additional support.
There are three major changes. The first is that we now have 10% more members of Parliament. That has resulted in a matching 10% rise in our workload and in requests for advice and representation.
We have dealt with that 10% increase through the addition of four positions that have been risk-managed by the House administration, representing a 13% increase in the team.
Two other major changes have occurred since 2015, one on the legislative side and another on the legal side.
On the legislative side, we have seen a significant increase in the number of messages and amendments from the Senate following the adoption of bills by the House. In the 41st Parliament we had two messages, and in the 42nd Parliament we had 32, so 16 times as many.
That increase has resulted in delays, longer timelines for the preparation of private members' bills by my office, and longer timelines for the preparation of amendments. In terms of the time and potentially the quality of the services, that touches on one of the fundamental roles of members of Parliament. We would like to see that delay reduced. It's now at 48 sitting days for the preparation of a private member's bill, and we would like to bring that back to 30 sitting days, which it was before, if not fewer.
On the legal side, the last Parliament saw the adoption of four acts that bring in new legal obligations on members and on the institution, so these are quite significant. They are Bill C-58, on proactive disclosure; Bill C-65, on health and safety and the prevention of harassment and violence; Bill C-81, on accessibility; and Bill C-86, on pay equity.
These bills have brought, or will bring, with them obligations in terms of all aspects of members' work, and they will bring in complaint mechanisms that will require legal advice and legal representation.
To address this change, we are first asking the Board of Internal Economy to stabilize funding for the four positions added and managed by the House Administration. We're also requesting funding for three additional positions, bringing the total to seven: four legal and three non-legal positions. This would help us to cope with the new context.
This would allow us to reduce the timelines and to provide more proactive services to members, and it would allow members to meet the new legal obligations, since 2015.
I can now answer your questions.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Rodriguez, you have the floor.
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
Lib. (QC)
I have a short question about procedure. We have 12 minutes left, and I'd like to know what items should be discussed and adopted so that these people can function. What do we need to do before adjourning?
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Items four and five are the most pressing.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Yes. We're now on item four. If it pleases the committee, we will finish up item four.
Are there any questions about Mr. Dufresne's presentation?
Mr. Julian, you have the floor.
View Peter Julian Profile
I have only one question. I'd like to know whether we should adopt item five today.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Yes, item five is key because it concerns the budget. We need it to continue our work.
View Peter Julian Profile
Especially in the context of a minority Parliament, getting the legislation right is of primary importance. We've seen the cost of getting legislation wrong and of court challenges that ultimately cost taxpayers millions of dollars, so I do support this particular expenditure because of that.
View Mark Strahl Profile
I understand that the four additional positions are currently paid for out of the carry-forward for the House administration, so you're asking for those four to come into your budget line, plus an additional three.
Do we know how much money that will then free up for House administration, and do we know what that will then be allocated to?
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
Daniel Paquette
2019-12-12 12:51
When we look at the carry-forward, usually we look at some of the priorities we have, various projects that are going to be in-year activities. Since the money is not guaranteed from year to year, we try to make sure we don't use it for a permanent pressure of that nature so that we're looking forward.
Some of it does go into some life-cycling of our assets and some of the other projects that come forward to support the members, so it's not usually determined ahead of time.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you.
Are there any other questions? Are we all in agreement?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Hon. Anthony Rota: On number five, proposed 2020-21 main estimates, we have, as the presenters, Daniel Paquette, chief financial officer; and Elaine Valiquette, senior director in financial planning, resource management and corporate policies.
Monsieur Paquette.
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