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Results: 1 - 30 of 52
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 Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Do we have any questions or comments?
I see none.
Do we have approval of the report?
I see heads nodding. Very good.
We will now move on to item 8, which pertains to a request for exception for outdoor furniture.
Mr. Paquette, you may go ahead.
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
Daniel Paquette
2020-07-10 14:32
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
A member is asking the board to consider his request for reimbursement for outdoor furniture. The space the member is leasing includes exclusive access to an outdoor area. In order to use the space, the member purchased two tables and six chairs, for a total of $2,958.
Given that this was a non-standard purchase, the administration completed its assessment in accordance with the existing board policy. We concluded that this type of furniture is not typically needed in an office, nor is it needed in order to enable a member to carry out their parliamentary function. So that is our conclusion, that it is not office furniture. Furthermore, we conclude that it is not transferrable, since members' constituency offices do not typically include outdoor space that can be furnished and used by the member. As a result of our assessment, the expense was denied.
As per the member's request, we are seeking the board's direction on the review for this matter.
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
It's not so much a question I have, as it is a comment.
My understanding is that the rules make no mention of patio furniture. We would be setting an unacceptable precedent, were we to grant the request. As mentioned, this type of furniture does not count as office equipment. If we agree to reimburse a member for patio furniture, next, we could have someone asking to be reimbursed for a barbecue, and it would never end. I think denying the expense was the right decision.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Did the member contact the House administration before making the purchase? I don't mean through a formal letter, but did they make any sort of inquiry? It's clearly an unusual request.
My constituency office has an outdoor space. Would I be allowed to buy patio furniture? It's clear from looking at the file that there weren't any formal inquiries, but did someone from the member's office or the member, himself, reach out to finance services about it?
Once I know that, I'll comment further.
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
Daniel Paquette
2020-07-10 14:35
According to the notes in my report, the member didn't ask for any information, formally or informally, before buying the furniture.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
All right. Thank you.
This is a member with considerable experience, not just at the federal level. I think reimbursing a member for the purchase of patio furniture would set the wrong precedent. Had the member made some sort of attempt to contact the House administration, or had there been some ambiguity as to whether the expense was eligible, I'd be more inclined to consider the member's request.
The Board of Internal Economy should advise all members, especially new ones, that if they want to make an unusual purchase, they need to submit a formal request beforehand to make sure it's an eligible expense.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Paquette, would you care to comment?
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
Daniel Paquette
2020-07-10 14:37
No, thank you.
View Mark Strahl Profile
CPC (BC)
Thank you.
I certainly agree with the previous two colleagues who agree with the recommendation from the House administration. I think if you go down this road, perhaps members who do not have patio space.... Obviously, under no circumstances would the House administration approve creating a patio space for an existing office. To say that your office has room and you could put a little patio in a courtyard or expand your space to the outdoors—I don't think that is a reasonable expense for taxpayers.
We had an example earlier today of where a new member had an additional cost of $6,400. It was absorbed within this member's office budget, so you could argue that there was no additional cost to taxpayers. It was still within the existing budget. It seems to me this may be where members believe they have more experience, or they believe they know the rules, or they believe they won't be captured by the members' allowances and services manual. We're dealing with a number of people who were here in a previous regime, when there was a lot more discretion given to members on how they spent their office budgets, or we're dealing with new members who either don't lean on staff or don't seek information from their whips early enough in the process.
I would say this simply as a global measure. It seems to me that when the House administration is onboarding people, clearly, with the number of cases we're dealing with where people are printing and mailing householders on their own or buying patio furniture, there almost needs to be a “do not” circled in bright red ink. There's clearly some disconnect between what members believe they can do early on and what they can actually do. Ignorance of the rules should really not be an excuse here. We're here to make those judgment calls, but it seems to me that perhaps we can review this with the goal of avoiding these kinds of discussions in the future. I know that this is rare and is not a huge percentage, but clearly there are some members who believe they can do things that they clearly should not be doing. I'm hoping we can find a way to avoid those situations in the future.
I just make that as a broad comment, perhaps for the team that looks at onboarding. I wonder whether that needs to occur before the member is sworn in, almost as soon as they're announced as preliminary winners from Elections Canada, almost a “spend no money, do nothing, until you've talked to House administration financial management”. I throw it out there as maybe a way we can improve that system.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I listened to what my fellow members had to say. They seem to be focusing on the patio set, not on the item or its purpose. I more or less agree with them. I know this won't change the outcome, but it's still worth explaining.
Yes, he's an experienced member, but it didn't occur to him that the expense would be denied, because he was focused on the opportunity to meet with constituents in a safe outdoor setting with sturdy furniture made in Quebec of recycled materials. The furniture can also be used indoors. You saw the photos in the file. It's not a conventional patio set any member of the public can buy. It's special.
The Board of Internal Economy also needs to consider the fact that members in the regions can practise politics differently than those in heavily populated areas. More and more, members have office spaces with access to areas where they can meet with constituents outdoors. For example, my office is in a heritage building with a beautiful large gallery. I might've decided to buy chairs so I could meet with constituents outside, while still on the property where my constituency office is located. I think the member was under the impression that, if he furnished the space, it would give him a place where he could meet with more constituents or where people could eat, while adhering to physical distancing, especially during the pandemic.
Given the cost and the unusual nature of the expense, I see why he should have sought permission first, which he didn't. Nevertheless, I don't think we should be closed to the idea. I'll come back to what Pablo Rodriguez said about setting precedents and members buying barbecues. Let's not forget how much many members spend to put on barbecues for their constituents. It might save taxpayers money if we organized our own barbecues.
All that to say, it's not an idea we should reject out of hand. I don't think the Board of Internal Economy should take an overly conservative view of the matter. It should focus on the fact that practising politics differently also means providing access to spaces that may not have been available a few years ago.
Be that as it may, I realize I'm probably the only one who thinks we should broaden our view of a member's role and the ways they communicate with their constituents.
I know this request is going to be denied, but I want to make clear that I agreed with my fellow member's rationale. We will accept the Board of Internal Economy's decision.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Any further comments?
Do we have a consensus, or do we have approval for the report that's being presented to us right now?
Mr. Julian, did you have something to add to that? I noticed your hand went up.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
I want to be sure I understand. Is the House administration recommending that we not allow the expense to come out of the member's office budget?
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Yes, that's exactly right. Do we have unanimous agreement on the recommendation?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Hon. Anthony Rota: All right.
I'll just clarify that, if the recommendation isn't unanimous, the existing decision stands, in other words, the request is denied.
We're going to go in camera. I'm going to ask everyone to sign out for a few minutes, and we'll start again in 10 minutes. It's now 2:46. Let's say we will start again in camera at 2:55, if that's okay. That should work out well.
[Proceedings continue in camera]
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I want to welcome everyone.
Welcome to the sixth meeting of the Board of Internal Economy.
I want to thank everyone for coming and for being in our virtual space today. As you know, this is all done through video conference and it is being televised, so we have people out there watching. I'm sure they're all very riveted to the screen. Welcome to everyone who's watching.
We'll start off today with the minutes from our previous meeting. Is everyone okay with the meeting? Are there any comments? Should anything be brought up?
We'll accept the minutes and continue.
Two, is there any business arising from the previous meeting? Okay.
The next step, then, number three, is the ratification of the walk-arounds. The three items were signed by all members in the past couple of weeks.
The first item is communication with constituents during the COVID-19 situation. Is everyone still okay with that? We can ratify it? Good, that one's done.
The second item is House of Commons preventative measures during the COVID-19 situation. Is everybody fine with that? Then we'll continue.
The third item is constituency office expenses related to COVID-19 prevention in the workplace. Is everybody fine with that as well?
Yes, Mr. Strahl.
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