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Rebekah Kletke
View Rebekah Kletke Profile
Rebekah Kletke
2021-03-25 11:36
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I am pleased to present a submission seeking approval from the Board of Internal Economy to amend certain regulations and policies. As a result of a request from a member of Parliament, the House Administration has reviewed the Board's policies regarding the distribution of householders and mailings to constituents residing outside Canada. The Members By-Law currently provides that householder and constituency mailings may be distributed only within the member's constituency.
The restriction of householders and constituency mail to within the constituency of the member means that members' constituents living outside of Canada do not receive these mailings. Constituents who reside outside of Canada and are registered to vote with Elections Canada are recorded in the international register of electors, which is provided to members annually by the Chief Electoral Officer. After the general election held in October 2019, there were 167,392 electors in the international register of electors.
In recognition of the need for members to communicate with all of their constituents, including Canadian Forces and other Canadians living outside of Canada, the House administration is proposing updates to the board's policies on householders and constituency mail.
First, the House administration proposes that the policy regarding householders be changed to allow members to send householders as addressed mail to their constituents living outside of Canada whose information is included in the international register of electors provided by the Chief Electoral Officer. Costs for additional copies of householders would continue to be charged to the members' office budget, and envelope costs and costs for international postage would also be charged to the MOB.
Second, the House administration proposes that the policy regarding constituency mail be changed to allow members to send a portion of their original constituency mail allocation as addressed mail to their constituents living outside of Canada, whose information is included in the the international register of electors. Envelope costs and international postage for constituency mail sent to constituents living outside of Canada would be charged to the MOB.
These recommendations, if approved, will allow members to use householder and constituency mailings to communicate with all their constituents, including those living outside of Canada.
This concludes my presentation. I would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Thanks for the presentation, and I appreciate the attention this has received. I think an important matter was raised. I'll ask a question and make a suggestion at the same time.
I'm wondering if this fully captures the aspect of military personnel and their dependants. I assume that in your consideration this would include military personnel outside of Canada. That's a question. But what about those within Canada who would be stationed on a base outside of the constituency where they are electors? I'm wondering if this captures them. It doesn't seem that it would.
I have a suggestion to make. In points one and two you talked about adding addressed mail, the householder or constituency mailings for constituents living outside Canada. That's how you've termed it. I wonder if we could make it “constituents living outside of the electoral district” or something like that, because although it would capture, I assume, military members and their dependants who are stationed outside of Canada, I'm not certain that it would capture those posted on a base within Canada who are electors elsewhere. I want to make sure they are captured as well. I think it's important to ensure that all of our military personnel are receiving the same opportunity to get communications from their MPs.
Would the suggestion I've made capture all of those people, or do you believe you've already done so?
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2021-03-25 11:41
Thank you, Mr. Richards.
You're totally right. The proposal as presented right now is about Canadians living abroad, but it doesn't capture constituents who may live outside a riding. To reach those types of constituents, they would need to modify it. If it's the wish of the board, we could definitely make that change to the submission to capture Canadians outside of a riding who are registered abroad and those within Canada.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Do you think the suggestion I'm making would capture all of them, or do you have another suggestion?
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2021-03-25 11:42
We would look at the wording to make sure it captures what you addressed, but there are also other constituents. For example, it could be students who are registered in a riding but studying, for example, in another....
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Yes, good point. I'd like to see us capture that. I'll make that suggestion. If other members are willing to consider that, I think it's important to include those people as well.
I have something else, but I think what I'm going to do is lower my hand, Mr. Speaker, and raise it again so that we can deal with this particular aspect. I have a question that relates to printing and mailing, but I think it's better that we have this discussion first. I will raise my hand to bring that up afterwards.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I understand the proposal, but I cannot give my support to my colleague Mr. Richards at this time. I don't have the information for a comprehensive analysis. For the time being, I am in favour of adopting the submission before us and reflecting on this proposal at the next meeting.
I have other questions, but perhaps they are not appropriate for this meeting. I would like to understand the full implications of this proposal before we add it. I'm not opposed to it, but I would like to have more analyses and recommendations from the House Administration before deciding on this issue.
View Ginette Petitpas Taylor Profile
Lib. (NB)
Thank you so much, Mr. Speaker.
In the same vein as the previous speaker, I wasn't planning to speak to this, but I'm wondering how we would capture students within our ridings who are in other areas, or military personnel who perhaps are not living at home and are at another base.
With respect to the proposal that's been brought forward, there's a registry in place, an international registry. How would we be able to capture people who are living outside of their riding if they're not registered in a specific area? I'm just looking for a bit of clarification on that.
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2021-03-25 11:44
It would be the information, as I understand.... We're not providing those lists, but it would be based on the lists that MPs receive pursuant to the Canada Elections Act. We could look further into what information they provide you in the lists. It's clear that for people abroad you're getting a mailing address, but it could be the same thing in relation to other constituents. We would need to have a better understanding of the list that is provided to MPs on a confidential basis.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
As long as we've addressed anyone else who wants to comment on this particular suggestion, I would like to move on to another topic. It appears that's the case.
I'll make one last comment on this. I'm hearing the concerns that were raised about ensuring that there is a way to capture those people. I think there would be, because if I understand the proposal correctly, it would be on us to address them based on the information we have available to us from electors.
If it's the feeling among members that we approve this, we can ask them to come back with a suggestion on how to deal with people within Canada. As long as there's a commitment that they can find a way to capture those people in a satisfactory way, we will be seeking to approve it. If we're satisfied with this, I would be comfortable doing it that way, because I think it's important that we find a way to do this. As long as we make a commitment that we're.... As long as they can come back with a way to show us that this can be captured in a reasonable way, we would be seeking to move forward. I'd be comfortable with that approach.
There is another issue I want to raise. I can't remember which meeting it was, but at a previous meeting I had raised the topic of service standards with printing and mailing services. I know that some suggestions were going to be brought back to us on how those could be improved. In the last little while, some additional concerns have been raised to me by members of my caucus about some of the delays and things like that, so obviously we still have work to do there.
I'm wondering what the status of that is and when we can expect to see something come forward to us. Is there any update you can provide to us on the work being done to improve those standards? Can you bring something back to the board with suggestions on that?
Rebekah Kletke
View Rebekah Kletke Profile
Rebekah Kletke
2021-03-25 11:48
Sure.
We are planned to come back. We're on the forward agenda for the May board meeting, with the further analysis that's been done. That follows the submission we brought to the last board meeting. That's when we're planning to come back.
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 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 Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
There are some laudable suggestions in the document. My own experience, anecdotally, with the external suppliers, the local suppliers, was that what made the difference, and why we were able to get things out more quickly—during a pandemic, of course, it's vital to get information in the hands of my constituents—was the mailing delay that came from Ottawa.
We have very talented staff in Ottawa, they do a terrific job in the printing centre, but often, it's a two-week delay getting it from Ottawa to New Westminster—Burnaby. For the external suppliers, in our case, even though it's correct to point out that they may not be as efficient and may not understand the Canada Post preparation as well as staff in Ottawa, the reality is that, once it's actually dropped at the post office, it's a one- or two-day delay, as opposed to a one- or two-week delay.
That needs to be taken into consideration. We have a vast geography, and the mailing times add complexity to mailings that are particularly tied to specific events. It makes a difference to be able to use local suppliers for certain types of mailings.
I agree with enhancing the printing team in Ottawa. There's absolutely no doubt that would mean that things could be produced more quickly for our constituents, but I also believe local suppliers definitely have a place. In the case of a British Columbia MP, it means that the overall length of time is quicker, even if it takes twice as long to produce the printing, because it takes 10% of the time to actually do the mailing and get it into the riding.
I wanted to give you that feedback, because that needs to be taken into consideration as well when we're looking at the overall proposal that comes to the BOIE.
Rebekah Kletke
View Rebekah Kletke Profile
Rebekah Kletke
2021-01-28 11:40
Thank you, Mr. Julian.
We certainly appreciate your comments and will take that into consideration. We're also looking at adjusting our planning practices, as I mentioned following Mr. Richards' comments, so that instead of first in, first out, we would plan according to the location of the constituency, so that those that might be farther from Ottawa would get done sooner rather than later in our planning process, to hopefully shorten the time frame.
We'll certainly take that into account. Thank you for your comments.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Good morning, Ms. Kletke.
First, I would like to acknowledge the fact that, within your department, you directed two of your managers to consult the whips of all caucuses on what could be improved and therefore to gather information from all recognized parties in the House.
I want to thank you for that because it shows me that you are committed to improving your department and better serving members in the House of Commons. I also want to thank you for the fact that I felt I was heard. I know that the two managers I met with last week accepted and even appreciated some of the recommendations, the improvements, that I wanted to see. I am therefore very grateful to you for that good practice that other departments will hopefully choose to adopt.
I fully agree with your recommendation. I don't know if it is the fact that we are close to Ottawa, but we noticed that the 12-day service standard was often exceeded. The average was about nine days. We are quite satisfied with the timeframes. Of course, we would like to bring them down from 12 to nine or even between five and nine, as you suggest. In the age of social media, we often want to communicate quickly with our constituents about situations or activities, or even about information related to the pandemic. Everything moves so quickly these days. I feel that, while maintaining its quality, its thoroughness and its professionalism, our printing service must do the best it can to reduce its turnaround time throughout the process, from submission to mockups, production and mailing to the public.
I want to thank you because I'm sure we will be pleased with your proposals and those that you will make in the spring, since you have understood how important it is for members to send out quality information [Technical difficulty] and that meets the need for more urgent communications.
I also noticed that you paid special attention to publications of 5,000 copies or less, which are perhaps not being used optimally. Members may benefit from becoming more familiar with this type of publication since it is a much shorter process. If you opened it up to local businesses, we might be able to use this parliamentary tool more often for more urgent publications. It's a tool that may be underused, at least by my caucus.
So I thank you once again, and I agree with the recommendation you have submitted to us today.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Are there any other comments?
Are we okay to go ahead with the recommendation presented in the report?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Hon. Anthony Rota: We're going to suspend temporarily to go in camera. It shouldn't take more than a few minutes. I want everybody to stand by if you don't mind, as we make sure everything goes in camera.
[Proceedings continue in camera]
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
I have just one thing I want to touch on.
After the last presentation, my colleague Mr. Deltell was asking about printing and mailing. I've had certainly a number of complaints, for lack of a better way of putting it, from my caucus in terms of capacity constraints. There are longer periods of time required to get things completed, which is making it so that things aren't really being received by constituents in a timely enough fashion. It's almost, for lack of a better way of putting it, old news by the time they receive it.
I wonder if, in this context of the pandemic, you would be able to bring forward on a priority basis some type of proposal for our consideration to renew the temporary measure that allowed for external printing. I had a lot of very positive feedback about that, and I think many members were finding it very helpful in this context. We should be looking at renewing that.
Is there any way we could have a proposal brought to us on how that could be done?
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2020-12-03 12:25
I have heard the same concerns as you have. I can guarantee you we'll look at quickly making a proposal that will allow us to address those concerns.
View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you for your presentations, gentlemen.
Have you done a comparative evaluation of the average cost per member for the production of householders by the House of Commons printing service and by local printers?
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
Daniel Paquette
2020-12-03 12:27
An analysis is under way. I'll let Ms. Kletke tell you about that. I know that the evaluation should be forwarded to the members of the Board of Internal Economy in the coming weeks.
Rebekah Kletke
View Rebekah Kletke Profile
Rebekah Kletke
2020-12-03 12:27
Thank you, Mr. Paquette.
We've just completed that analysis. As Mr. Paquette said, we'll send you the results of the evaluation as soon as possible next week.
With respect to the comparison of services used, the House printing service processed 87 householder requests, whereas outside suppliers handled 269.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I would like to ask a question.
Will the analysis include information on turnaround times for both the private sector printers and government printing services?
Rebekah Kletke
View Rebekah Kletke Profile
Rebekah Kletke
2020-12-03 12:28
Thank you very much for your question.
The analysis focuses on three points. We've included a comparison of costs and turnaround times, as well as other information on service levels across Canada. We observed that there were indeed different levels of service depending on the regions.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
I'd like to know the date when we'll receive the report.
We'll of course have to mail out other householders early next year. Since we're still in the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, knowing whether our offices can do business with local printers could make a difference.
If we don't receive the report within a few months, we'll lose that opportunity to mail householders to our fellow citizens.
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2020-12-03 12:30
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
We intend to send you the results of the analysis in the coming weeks.
As a result of the concerns expressed and Mr. Richards' question, we also intend, as soon as possible, to send the members of the board a written submission concerning the decision that must be taken with respect to access to external printing services.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Chair, first I would like to congratulate printing service employees because they meet their standards. Every member's office is well informed of the entire process. From the start of that process to the mailing of their householders, standards are met, including those respecting the number of days or weeks.
I have exhausted my householder budget despite the pandemic, yet the printing service hasn't failed to meet its standards even once. It's important to know that. Part of the responsibility for meeting turnaround times falls to the teams that create householder content, both in the ridings and on the hill. These people have a deadline to meet, a period of three weeks from start of process to mailing. That may not be fast enough for some, but the fact remains that established standards are met. I want to emphasize that.
The advantage of using a local printer is, first, that it would support a local business. That's a positive. We would also have control of the process and the number of days involved. That varies locally, but it's true that it also varies across Quebec and, I imagine, across Canada. Back home, in less than five days, I can get 46,000 copies of a householder of the same quality as that of the House printing service, and turnaround times are shorter.
I'm eager to see the analysis. We're always somewhat reluctant when we discuss privatizing printing services. What will happen to employees if the work is farmed out to businesses in our constituencies? Using our printing service guarantees uniform quality. Formats must be used and graphic standards met, and there's the whole issue of householder standards. Because those standards are applied, all members are put on an equal footing. I care about the fact that 338 members can come and go through the same door, and all of them are treated equally.
The supply of services in the private sector is excellent in some regions and less so in others. In this case, are we going to create a two-tiered system? Some members from urban areas may have access to better services in the private than the public sector, and others may have less leeway and have to navigate the House printing service bottleneck.
I'm eager to read your analysis. These are matters that concern me. They require a fair and equitable decision, but they must especially take into consideration taxpayers' ability to pay. Ultimately, I'd like to know whether it will cost taxpayers more money to print our publications in the private sector or whether the price the House printing service charges is reasonable for all taxpayers.
I just wanted to set the tone for the debate we'll soon be having.
View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
It's entirely fair and relevant to recall that the work the printing service does here in the House of Commons always meets all the requirements that Mrs. DeBellefeuille has rightly mentioned. Quality is never sacrificed. It is always there.
If many members wish to deal with local businesses, that will free up time for those who prefer to use the House service. We could thus save time. If you make this proposal, it might be good to know what percentage of members are involved—20% or 50%, for example. Could we estimate the production time that could be saved? Could we shorten it from three weeks to two weeks, one week or eight days? I'm asking a good question. It would be a good if your evaluation could answer it.
View Mark Strahl Profile
CPC (BC)
Mr. Chair, I wasn't sure if this should be in the minutes or the business.
I asked a question at the last meeting when we were deciding on an exception for printing costs. I asked what the difference in the costs of the postage would have been for Mr. Waugh if he had used the House's preferred rate as compared to when he chose to do that mailing himself. I'm just wondering if that information has been found and if it could be shared with the group.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Yes, I remember going through that.
Who will be able to answer that with detail?
Monsieur Patrice.
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2020-07-10 13:10
The information has been sent. I'm just trying to locate the information right now.
I don't know, Rebekah, if you have the information right at your fingertips. We're looking for it.
Rebekah Kletke
View Rebekah Kletke Profile
Rebekah Kletke
2020-07-10 13:10
I'll find it and I'll pull it up.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
If it's okay with everyone, we'll proceed. When it does come up, we'll interrupt and present the information.
Does that work, Mr. Strahl?
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2020-07-10 14:14
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
We have located the information. The mailing cost for the member at that time was $6,590 at the rate he was charged. If he'd been charged the preferred bulk rate, it would have been $177. The difference was $6,400, essentially.
View Mark Strahl Profile
CPC (BC)
Thank you, I guess. That's a tough bill to swallow, but thank you.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Are there any other comments on that?
Everybody's had the chance to swallow? They can talk now? Okay. Very good.
We'll now address item five, the extension of temporary exceptions for advertising and Internet service expenses.
Mr. Paquette, you have the floor.
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
Daniel Paquette
2020-07-10 14:15
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
At their meeting in April, the board approved temporary measures to include additional detailed information in their advertising around local, community, government and not-for-profit organizations that could be of interest to their constituents with regard to COVID-related matters, and to be able to solicit donations for registered Canadian charities, also pertaining to COVID-related programs. This decision also included the possibility for members to reimburse Internet service charges to their employees who are now teleworking. This decision had an expiry date of June 30. Given the continued challenges around COVID, the administration is proposing that the board approve the extension of these temporary measures until the end of the fiscal year.
View Mark Strahl Profile
CPC (BC)
I support this. I would like, perhaps, the staff to come back. One of the provisions here that we are not extending is the ability to do printing in our constituencies, to have a local printer provide services. I would like to see a report on what the uptake was and what we found the cost differences were. I personally did two householders in that time frame, both printed locally, which helped a struggling local business and I had a great interaction with them. I've heard from a number of my colleagues as well who quite liked that arrangement. I would like to get an idea of how it went, perhaps for a future meeting.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Okay, very good.
I'm just getting a message here that that's not a problem. The report will be sent.
Maybe I'll defer to Monsieur Patrice. What time frame would we be looking at for that report to come in?
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2020-07-10 14:18
I think it would be beneficial for the board to do it in two steps, so we'll send a report, in terms of information that could come up in the following weeks, and maybe come to the board itself at its meeting to have the discussion and the exchange.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thanks, Mr. Chair.
I agree with Mr. Strahl.
In terms of the printing in the riding, normally, since we are on the other side of the Rockies, 5,000 kilometres away from Ottawa, printed material that goes out takes weeks to arrive in B.C. With local printing, it landed on the steps of people's homes in New Westminster—Burnaby five days after being printed. That's five days compared to often a month. I'd be very interested in seeing that report as well, because there is no doubt, for those of us who are far away from Ottawa, that it makes a huge difference in terms of our constituents actually getting timely information, and around COVID-19 that was extremely important.
I certainly agree with renewing this, and I would even suggest extending it in terms of printing. My concern is that we're putting these on MOBs. Again, for example, the cost of Internet access isn't the same in ridings across the country. In an urban riding like mine, it will cost a lot less than it might in a rural or northern riding. It seems to me, for fairness, so that all members of Parliament are treated the same way, that it would make a lot more sense to have those costs go onto the central budget than to have them assumed by members of Parliament, meaning that members of Parliament in certain parts of the country will have to pay more out of their MOB, which means they will have fewer resources to actually serve their constituents.
I'd like to put that out for the appreciation of the board. We'll also get a sense of whether the administration would have any opposition to having those Internet costs absorbed centrally.
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
Daniel Paquette
2020-07-10 14:20
Yes. I think part of the discussion and decision to put it into the MOB was that when we established the possibility of charging them for Internet connection for their employees, it was one way of just putting it out there, having that permission and not putting a lot of instructions or parameters around it.
We know there are various Internet packages out there that are often in the form of bundles, with different speeds or data capacity. By putting it into the MOB, we gave the responsibility to the members to ensure that whatever was being charged was appropriate for their needs. If we were to put it into the central budget—and, given the current circumstances, I can't say I would have any objections—we would have to establish the parameters and have those approved by the board to make sure that this is what we are accepting will be charged for the central budget.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Okay. Are there any other questions?
Do we have approval for this? Is everybody fine with this?
I can see that you're fine.
We're expecting this report in a few weeks.
We are on number six, “Annual report on the House of Commons policy on preventing and addressing harassment for 2019-2020”.
Ms. Daigle, you have the floor.
View Mark Strahl Profile
CPC (BC)
I'm sorry, but just going back a bit—we kind of cruised through this—I don't believe I signed off on the “communicating with constituents” part. We moved quite quickly through this, and I'm trying to follow along on my iPhone. I have a question on this part of the agenda.
I guess printing and mailing services restarted today. The previous policy allowed us to print materials in our ridings until June 30. I just want to make sure we're still being allowed to print materials in our ridings until June 30. I'm a little unclear as to whether or not that's allowed for all products. Is it still strictly for COVID-19-related communications? How strictly is that being interpreted?
I know that a lot of our colleagues will want to move ahead, but I just want to make sure we aren't being too restrictive on printing in the ridings scenario. I think it will help clear the backlog right now if we do allow some flexibility for printing to occur in the ridings. I just want clarification on how that clause is being interpreted.
Rebekah Kletke
View Rebekah Kletke Profile
Rebekah Kletke
2020-06-01 15:09
The purpose of our presentation today is to give an update on the original “communicating with constituents during the COVID-19 situation” initiative, as well as to ask for an extension of the policy changes that were put into effect surrounding that initiative. As well, we'll be talking a little about some adjustments we've made internally to the services we'll be providing to MPs.
Very quickly on your question, Mr. Strahl, on the content for the current initiative that allows MPs to print externally, we are reviewing that content and ensuring there is some COVID-19, but we are not applying a strict percentage on the content to allow it to go ahead or not with external printers.
During the implementation of the communicating with constituents program, we've been able to serve the needs of 150 MPs. Actually, this week, it's up to 200 requests that we've received. Those requests are currently at various stages of production. Those 150 requests alone have generated over 1,300 emails with external suppliers and MPs, and a lot of administrative back and forth. On average, there have been 12 days between the submission of a request and the delivery of the product to external providers for delivery to Canada Post, around the same time frames we see with our own printing and mailing services time frames.
There have been several other challenges related to the program. To your point, Mr. Strahl, we see expanding content needs and other service needs coming in, such as envelopes and stationery. The availability of Canada Post has been a challenge, as well as availability of external suppliers in some regions of the country. The challenges are outlined in detail in the submission you received last week.
Even though we've been able to find solutions to some of the challenges with the program, we have still decided to reopen the printing and mailing services to meet the needs of MPs. We will be reopening with a limited format in order to continue to expedite the production time frames and distribution of materials.
Another key aspect of limiting the formats will allow us, as the House administration, to manage our staffing levels and respect physical distancing protocols on the floor of our production facility. We keep the health and safety of our employees front of mind in this decision. Other services, such as envelope processing and personalized stationery, will also be available to members. The program approved by the board on April 17 will continue to be available to members to communicate COVID-19-related messages with external service providers until the end date originally approved by the board.
The decision we're seeking from you today is to consider extending the policy changes related to the inclusion of logos and COVID-19-related messages from local community, government or not-for-profit organizations that would be of interest to constituents and to encourage donations for registered Canadian charities on matters related to COVID-19 in printing content for the remainder of the fiscal year, whether it's printed internally or externally.
We look forward to expanding the suite of printing services to meet the evolving communication needs of MPs, and I will be happy to take your questions.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Actually, I want to make sure I understand what this is all about. You're proposing to extend until the end of the fiscal year, March 2021, the suspension of regulations and policy that were supposed to end on June 30.
You also suggest that members of Parliament could communicate information related to COVID-19 through advertisements for food banks, or solicit donations that are related to COVID-19. Having said that, will we also be able to communicate content that is not related to COVID-19 in future parliamentary mailings?
Before the House was suspended, several members had already sent business cards or stationery to the printing department. Will the work of the printing department resume where it left off or will requests related to other aspects be set aside altogether?
Rebekah Kletke
View Rebekah Kletke Profile
Rebekah Kletke
2020-06-01 15:15
Briefly, I would say yes to both questions.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
In short, if members have put work on hold, work which was delayed because of the suspension, that work will resume. Do I understand you correctly?
View Mark Strahl Profile
CPC (BC)
I apologize for jumping ahead, Mr. Rota. Clearly, I should have just waited for item number four. I appreciate Rebekah's presentation.
Again, we're extending the policy until March 2021, but we are only extending the external printing exemption until June 30. Is that what we agree to?
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2020-06-01 16:02
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I am here today to present a request for exception pertaining to a member's expense claim for external printing. The submission provides a summary of the timelines and the facts of the situation.
The expense claim is for external printing in excess of the 5,000 copy limit allowed in the current member's policy. The member incurred these expenses during the period after the internal printing facilities were closed and before the board approved its alternative measures during the COVID pandemic.
The member's policy requires that all printing in excess of 5,000 similar copies must be done through our internal printing facilities to ensure conformity to the policy and, very importantly, access to the preferred mail rates. The current policy also makes the member personally responsible for any amount in excess of the allowed limits.
Given the current situation, the member is asking the Board of Internal Economy to consider a departure from existing practices. The administration proposed two options in the submission. The first option would be to maintain current practices and have the member be personally liable for the excess amount. The second option would be to allow an exceptional waiver and that the excess amount be charged to the budget of the member's office.
We are seeking direction from the Board of Internal Economy on this matter.
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2020-06-01 16:03
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
It's not a question; it's a comment.
We make a lot of requests for people who make mistakes, and it's very uncommon that I would suggest a member bring this forward.
I appreciate that normally these matters wouldn't come forward, but after I spoke with Mr. Blois, I realized it was an honest mistake that was happening around wanting to get out information on COVID-19. We did change the policy a couple of weeks later, and in this case, the member is proposing that he charge his member's—
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2020-06-01 16:06
I was just going to say that the member acknowledges that he made a mistake. I just feel that it was an honest mistake. It was an effort to communicate around COVID-19, and I know there was a lot of anxiousness that a lot of members had. The policy for external printing was changed a few weeks later.
The member is not proposing to charge the House of Commons central budget, but is suggesting that he charge his own MOB. Given that it would go against his own MOB, and given the fact that I think the error was made innocently, and having had conversations with him, I would seek approval from the board to provide support on that basis.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
My question is for Mr. Paquette.
Are many of the members who inadvertently made this mistake paying for the expense without having requested an exception from the Board of Internal Economy?
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
Daniel Paquette
2020-06-01 16:07
I am currently aware of only one case, but it is not at all on the same scale. We are only talking about a few hundred dollars. It is not on the same scale as the situation we are talking about.
View Mark Strahl Profile
CPC (BC)
Quickly, I know what we're going to do here is to charge the member's office budget. It didn't take a lot of work to figure out that a lot of the staff members had come over from Mr. Brison, so I'm a little unsure. I've been involved in politics at the staff and MP levels for a number of years, and you've never been able to do what he did, certainly not without the approval of PAMS.
He was a month ahead of where the policy was, but there was apparently enough COVID stuff in there to allow it. Was the printing expense within the acceptable range? I know that issue was raised in our previous document. The cost for some external suppliers was way too high and PAMS had to go back and either say no or negotiate. Was the range acceptable?
I certainly have never heard of members going out on their own and mailing things under anything other than the negotiated frank rate or the rate for unaddressed ad mail. What was the additional cost because the member went outside of the contract for unaddressed ad mail that the House of Commons has with Canada Post?
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
Daniel Paquette
2020-06-01 16:10
The member did meet the requirement. There was COVID-19 content in the document. The printing itself was within reasonable parameters, and the cost for printing, although a little higher than we'd seen, was not excessive.
The big part of the cost was the post, because, from my understanding, it was the printer who went to Canada Post and got the normal bulk rate, no corporate discounts whatsoever. Canada Post was not aware that this mailing was for a member of Parliament, so it didn't invoke any of the advantages we have for that. That's where the large majority of his excess cost came from. It's the postage, because it was a third party that mailed it for him.
View Mark Strahl Profile
CPC (BC)
That's my question. Are we allowed to use our MOB for bulk mailing? We're trying to retroactively cover him a bit here because of what he did. He made a mistake, but does the mistake ever extend to...? What is the cap on postage? Is that the 5,000? Is that where that comes in? I'm trying to understand this.
We want to give some grace when mistakes are made, even though we might have questions about them, but the mailing part is concerning to me because we have never had a policy allowing us to contract for bulk mail, not that I'm aware of. That is what I'd like to know. What was the difference in cost between what he did and what would have been done had he waited a month and been approved?
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
Daniel Paquette
2020-06-01 16:12
I don't have the exact difference between what it would have cost had we processed it ourselves and what it cost him doing it on his own.
The 5,000 limit is just on the printed materials. There has to be more than 50% difference in the material if you are going to print more than 5,000. At this point, we really don't have that many specifics in our guidelines on the limitations of using any kind of mail couriers for packages or things of that nature. We don't have that in our parameters. It's really just about the printed copies.
I don't have the specifics of what would have been the cost for us, at this point. We can probably get it for you after the meeting.
View Mark Strahl Profile
CPC (BC)
I would just say, if we take members at their word that it was an honest mistake, and obviously the buck stops with those of us who sign of on these things, so, if it's charged to his MOB.... We don't want to put a member out $13,000 or whatever it would be, but I would simply say I hope that when other members come with the same honest mistake type of defence, that we extend similar grace in those situations and not simply act based on what colour hat we wear around the table.
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