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View Andrew Scheer Profile
Thank you so much. It's always a pleasure to come before this committee and to present the main estimates.
I'm pleased to be here today with the acting clerk, Marc Bosc, and Mark Watters who, you will remember from the last time we were here, is the chief financial officer. We are also joined by Stéphan Aubé, chief information officer; Philippe Dufresne, law clerk and parliamentary counsel; André Gagnon, acting deputy clerk, procedural services; Benoit Giroux, director general for parliamentary precinct operations; Patrick McDonnell, deputy sergeant-at-arms and director general of the protective service; and Pierre Parent, chief human resources officer.
Today I will be presenting the House of Commons main estimates and the supplementary estimates (A) for 2015-16. I'll begin with a presentation of the main estimates and will conclude with the information for supps (A).
The 2015-16 main estimates total $443,449,000. This represents an increase of 7% over the 2014-15 main estimates funding levels.
For reference purposes, you have received a document outlining the year-over-year changes for the main estimates between 2014-15 and 2015-16. I will proceed by providing an overview of each line item in the main estimates along four major themes: budgets for members, House officers and presiding officers; House Administration; electoral boundaries redistribution; and employee benefit plans.
I will start with the budgets for members, House officers and presiding officers.
At its meeting of March 3, 2014, the Board of Internal Economy acknowledged an increase of 2.2%, effective April 1, 2014, to members' annual sessional allowance and additional salaries. This funding is statutory in nature and is in accordance with provisions in the Parliament of Canada Act. The increase amounts to $1.2 million for all fiscal years beginning with 2014-15.
There are also several items in the main estimates that relate to the House of Commons administration.
The first item included under this theme is funding of $5.7 million that is required for ongoing maintenance and life-cycle replacement costs for information technology assets resulting from the long-term vision and plan. This plan will result in modernized buildings and information service platforms for parliamentarians over the next 25 to 30 years, ensuring the continued availability of appropriate space and services.
Next, as you know, improving the disclosure of members' expenses has been an ongoing priority for the board. The members' expenditure reports are now published on a quarterly basis and provide considerable enhancements in the reporting of travel and hospitality expenses that are intended to ensure alignment with the Government of Canada's proactive disclosure of ministerial expenses.
To this end you will note that the main estimates allocate $3.3 million for fiscal year 2015-16 and subsequent years to sustain improvements in the public reporting of members' expenditures. Permanent funding is required to expand claim processing and verification, as well as monthly and quarterly reconciliation processes, to respond to additional inquiries from members' offices and to ensure an appropriate level of support and training for members and staff.
The main estimates also include temporary funding in the amount of $758,000 for the 24th annual meeting of the Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Forum. This upcoming conference for parliamentarians representing the 27 member countries of the Asia-Pacific region will be an excellent opportunity to foster parliamentary diplomacy, advance Canadian objectives internationally and showcase Canada's west coast. Planning is already well under way for this meeting that will take place in Vancouver in January 2016.
The main estimates also allocate additional resources related to security. Security within the parliamentary precincts has always been a priority, but in the wake of the incident last October and heightened terrorist threats, an enhanced security posture has been necessary. To fund the arming of all House of Commons uniformed protective service personnel, temporary funding in the amount of $932,000 was requested through the supplementary estimates (C) for fiscal year 2014-15. Permanent funding of $533,000 is required for fiscal year 2015-16 and subsequent years.
If the committee would permit, I would also like to provide a brief update on some of the other advances that have been made to enhance security for parliamentarians, employees, and visitors to Parliament Hill.
In the coming weeks we'll be finalizing our review of the internal and external reports that have come as a result of the attacks on October 22. I will be reaching out to key stakeholders, including the board, caucuses, independent members of Parliament, House administration employees, and others to provide what information they can about this terrible incident and the steps we have taken to help reduce risks in the future.
While for our own security I am limited in the amount of specific detail I can provide about our security posture and some of the improvements to the physical security of our buildings, I can say that work on conducting an independent security assessment is progressing well. Further, we have implemented a program to oversee and monitor security enhancements and various physical security upgrades to buildings in the precinct and they are progressing as planned.
Recently, it was announced that there are new protocols in place for visitors to Parliament Hill. Tickets are now required to visit the Peace Tower, the Memorial Chamber and the East Block. Additionally, visitors are only permitted to bring one bag into the Parliament buildings and there is a size restriction. Ticketing and bag check services are offered at no charge at 90 Wellington Street, across from Parliament Hill.
Security at constituency offices has also been a focus of our attention, and we have worked with members and their staff to assess and enhance these particular security needs. The deputy sergeant-at-arms and director general for the protective service contacted hundreds of local police departments across the country in communities where constituency offices are located to ensure that these premises will be regularly patrolled and included on the priority response list.
I'm especially pleased to report that the progressive development of an emergency notification system has begun. Once it is fully deployed, this system will be able to reach all parliamentarians and employees to provide reliable information and clear instructions should there ever be an emergency in the future. These important messages will be able to be simultaneously transmitted through email, voice message, text message, and desktop pop-ups.
Finally, as you know, last October I requested that the Ontario Provincial Police conduct an independent investigation into the death Michael Zehaf-Bibeau. The OPP has completed its investigation and I have received a copy of the report. A redacted version will be available to the public in the coming weeks. The House of Commons incident response summary will also be released to provide additional context on the events of October 22 and to provide further detail about the improvements that have been taken to enhance security in the precinct in recent months.
Returning to the main estimates, an additional $78,000 in compensation has been allocated for House Administration employees. This funding specifically covers the 1% economic increase approved in 2013-14 for senior managers, in line with the economic increase granted by the Treasury Board to its senior management.
Additionally, the main estimates provide a $22,000 increase for pages' remuneration. Compensation for our pages increases in lockstep with the average increases in tuition fees at the University of Ottawa and Carleton University. I have no doubt that we all want to ensure the page program remains competitive and continues to attract the brightest and the best from across the country.
You will note that the main estimates also reflect reductions for two instances of temporary funding following the hosting of two parliamentary conferences: $227,000 for the 40th Annual Session of the Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie, which took place in July 2014; and $167 million for the 11th Conference of Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region, which was held in October 2014. This funding for these two very successful conferences is no longer required.
We'll now move on to funding that is allocated for the electoral boundaries redistribution. Following the latest census, 30 new constituencies will be added for the next general election. To address the financial implications of these 30 new constituencies, the main estimates include temporary funding of $17.5 million for fiscal year 2015-16 and permanent funding in the amount of $24.5 million for fiscal year 2016-17 and subsequent years.
This funding takes into consideration requirements for members, including pay and pension, travel, telecommunication services, office budgets, and parliamentary and constituency office expenditures, as well as additional funding requirements to enable the House administration to support the institution and to ensure the same level of service for the expanded membership.
The final item that is included in the main estimates is an increase of $967,000 to employee benefit plans for fiscal year 2015-16 and subsequent years. This is a non-discretionary statutory expense that, in accordance with Treasury Board benefit rates, has been adjusted from 16.5% of salaries to 16.8% of salaries effective April 1, 2015.
Let me turn now to supplementary estimates (A).
This now concludes our overview of the House of Commons' main estimates.
I would now like to speak about the House of Commons' request of $15,981,000 for supplementary estimates (A). This request includes funding for 5 items.
The first item addresses funding in the amount of $1.2 million for the increase to members' annual sessional allowance and additional salaries, which became effective April 1, 2015. This funding is statutory in nature and follows an index published by Employment and Social Development Canada. The funding request associated with this 2.3% increase for 2015 also takes into account the impact of 30 additional members following the next general election.
The second item included in the supplementary estimates (A) is for $6.5 million for the implementation of new security measures across the parliamentary precinct. This includes the measures I referred to earlier and other actions taken as we continue to assess our security posture within the precinct
The third item, for which funding of $3.8 million is requested, pertains to the increased resource requirements resulting from the commissioning of the Sir John A. Macdonald Building and the building at 180 Wellington Street as part of the long-term vision and plan.
The fourth item also relates to the House of Commons' commitments emanating from the long-term vision and plan. Specifically, funding of $2 million is required for the maintenance and life-cycle costs of building component assets.
The final item included in supplementary estimates (A) is for funding of $2.4 million for the economic increases for House Administration employees. The agreement provides economic increases of 1.5% for 2014-15, 0.75% for 2015-16 and 0.75% for 2016-17. The funding will be used to cover economic increases for employees of the Protective Service, the Procedural Clerks and Analysis and Reference sub-groups, the Technical group and unrepresented employees at the House of Commons.
This concludes my overview of the House of Commons 2015-16 main estimates and supplementary estimates (A). At this time I would be happy to answer any questions you might have.
View Andrew Scheer Profile
For the specific aspects of where we are in the construction and rehabilitation process, I'll turn it over to Marc and he can give us an update.
In response to your last question, I'd be happy to arrange for a tour. I was able to take a tour about a year and a half ago now with the Board of Internal Economy. All the board members were walked through. It was amazing. For those of you who have been in the West Block or have had offices there, we saw it right down to the bare bones, right down to the red bricks and steel girders, before they started putting things back. It was very interesting to see. It was completely unrecognizable, for those of you who have walked through it. It's a tremendous amount of work. I can't overemphasize how much work goes into completely removing everything from the structure and then putting it back in.
We will work with your committee chair to schedule an appropriate time that fits in with the construction cycle as well. We'll start coordinating that, and then I'll ask Marc to fill in on the specifics of your question.
View Andrew Scheer Profile
The entire Centre Block will be vacated, both the House and the Senate side, both chambers, and all the offices.
View Andrew Scheer Profile
I stand to be corrected by the people who work more on this on a day-to-day level, but it can't begin until West Block is finished, because we need to have a place to move members into, and obviously the chamber has to have a place to go to.
As Marc mentioned, the timelines are being met, so the expectation is that once West Block is completed, the move can start here.
View Andrew Scheer Profile
If I could clarify that, these aren't reductions because the conferences came in below expected costs. These are represented there simply because when the funding was sought to host them in the first place, it was sought in the main estimates. Now that the conferences have been completed and we're not going to host them again, they're being taken out of the main estimates. We can certainly come back with information about the actual line item costs and what they ran to.
When parliamentary associations or international forums come for approval to be hosted, we do a lot of work to make sure they're done in a frugal way. There's always a budgetary process that looks at keeping costs in line and at practical considerations.
We can certainly come back on that specific item, but the reason you're seeing that reduction in the main estimates is simply because it was held and it's not being held again. They're being removed from the main estimates.
View Andrew Scheer Profile
I can touch on a couple of points or areas in your remarks.
As we all know, a motion was passed by both the House and the Senate back in February requesting that each respective Speaker begin the process. You probably have the wording there. It had two aspects. One was to have the overall direction of security on the Hill be taken over by the RCMP, but in a way that would not only respect the rights and privileges of members and the institutions but also protect the employment of the existing House of Commons and Senate security officers.
After that motion was passed, Speaker Housakos and I had the opportunity to meet with Commissioner Paulson to do exactly what the motion asked us to do. We had a very robust discussion on all the things you've just mentioned. My impression of that meeting and the ongoing discussion is that all the partners on the Hill want to make this work. There's a real desire to accommodate those concerns through the lens of improving security. We've had great cooperation going back and forth, including the drafting of an MOU that would flesh some of this out and that maintains the position of both Speakers as the embodiment of the powers of each House and the rights of each House.
View Andrew Scheer Profile
Because the budget implementation bill is still before the House, I can't go into too much more on that. It has to be passed and receive royal assent, so I don't want to get too far down the road on that.
But I can tell you, based on the discussions we've already had with RCMP personnel in looking at how this will work, that there is a great spirit of cooperation and mutual respect on both sides. I'm confident that we'll get to a place that satisfies both the concerns of individual members and the need for security, and in a third way, recognizes the great contribution the men and women of our security forces played on October 22, played before October 22, and continue to to play today.
View Andrew Scheer Profile
Yes, the Speakers are fully involved in the search and selection process. As you know, the act that is before you prescribes that it has to be a member of the RCMP, but beyond that, the Speakers have to be satisfied that they are the right person for the job.
View Andrew Scheer Profile
As you can appreciate, there are a lot of considerations into the best way to make this information public. The OPP looked at the entire incident. We decided that we would commission our own report, because our own service personnel were not automatically included in the report that was going to be done for the RCMP. Ever since then we've really been trying to work with the RCMP to make sure that we're moving in the same direction and we're working in a complementary fashion.
As you can appreciate, a report that includes the names of security personnel, the names of constables, where people were standing at what time, and where resources were deployed, some of that information would.... It would not be appropriate to release that. It would actually do far more damage to security than enhancements, so we're currently in the process of deciding the best way to make that public.
View Andrew Scheer Profile
As you pointed out, it wasn't a statement that I made. It was a motion passed by the House instructing me to carry out a certain course of action, which I respected, as did Speaker Housakos.
I think you will appreciate that I don't want to be drawn into a debate about a bill before the House. That would be a difficult position for me to be in. I can only assure you and assure members of the House of Commons security detail that every person who has worked on this file since October 22, and indeed February 25, is focused on all parts of that motion: enhanced security under the direction of the RCMP, protecting rights and privileges of members of Parliament in the House, and the employees. Every conversation we have about how best to implement the new system contains that.
We are working in a very cooperative fashion, I have to say. I think it would be fair of me to say that Commissioner Paulson understands this. The RCMP understand it. The individual constables understand it. We're currently working toward a model that respects all those aspects of that motion.
View Andrew Scheer Profile
It's my pleasure to be here.
Mr. Chair, we had the opportunity to chat last night, and I know you're not presenting in the next election, not running again. I just want to say what a pleasure it has been for me, as Speaker, to work with you in your position as chair of this committee. This is probably the committee that the Speaker deals with most, and I want to thank you for your service to this committee and to the House itself.
Voices: Hear, hear!
View Andrew Scheer Profile
Thank you. It's always a pleasure to be in front of my favourite committee. Thanks for having me.
I am pleased to be here today, along with Mr. Marc Bosc, Acting Clerk of the House of Commons, and Mr. Mark Watters, Chief Financial Officer.
We are also joined by the other members of the House Administration's executive management team: Mr. André Gagnon, Acting Deputy Clerk of the House of Commons; Mr. Soufiane Ben Moussa, Chief Technology Officer; Mr. Louis Lefebvre, Director, IT Operations and Services; Mr. Richard Denis, Deputy Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel; Mr. Pierre Parent, Chief Human Resources Officer; and Mr. Kevin Vickers, Sergeant-at-Arms.
Today I will be presenting the House of Commons supplementary estimates (B) for 2014-15. These proposed supplementary estimates for the House of Commons total $15,913,000. I would like to note at the outset of this discussion that all items included in the supplementary estimates (B) were presented to and approved by the Board of Internal Economy.
For reference purposes, you have received the document showing the appropriations. The first line item is for $10,307,000 in funding in accordance with the carry-forward policy. This policy, which has been in place since 1995, allows members, House officers, and the House administration, to carry forward lapsed funds into the new fiscal year up to a maximum of 5% of the previous year's main estimates voted authorities. The ability to carry funds forward increases budgetary flexibility, reduces the pressure to spend at year-end, and provides an incentive to underspend budgets. The House of Commons carry-forward policy is similar to that of the federal government, except that for the House of Commons, unlike the case for federal departments, funding for the carry-forward must be obtained through the supplementary estimates and not from the Treasury Board.
The second item allocates $3,820,000 towards enhancing transparency through the Members' Expenditures Report.
Further to approving quarterly reporting and an enhanced reporting format for 2014-2015, at its meeting of April 7, 2014, the board decided that members' travel expenses incurred under the travel points system, as well as hospitality expenses, be reported in a manner similar to the ministerial-style proactive disclosure used by the Government of Canada.
As a result, the second-quarter report of 2014-2015, which will be published in December of this year, will include the names of travellers (except for dependants), the departure dates (except for regular travel points), the points of departure, the destinations, the purposes of travel, the numbers and types of points used, the total costs of transportation, as well as accommodation and per diem expenses for all regular and special trips charged against the travel points system.
For hospitality expenses, the report will include the dates, types, purposes and locations of the events, the suppliers, the number of guests, and the costs of the events. All subsequent quarterly reports will also contain these disclosures.
Increasing the disclosure of travel and hospitality expenses to the standards currently used by ministers involves significant system changes and business process improvements for members, their staff, and the House administration. The additional funding will also be used for resources to expand claim processing and verification, as well as for monthly and quarterly reconciliation processes, to respond to additional inquiries from members' offices, and to provide more assistance and training to members and their staff.
Increasing transparency has been a priority of the Board of Internal Economy for some time, and the board remains committed to finding ways in which we can continue to improve.
The next line in the amount of $1,616,000 involves severance pay for some House administration employees, more specifically the procedural clerks and analysis and reference group, which is the last bargaining unit to reach an agreement. In the summer of 2011, the Treasury Board informed the House of Commons of its intention to eliminate the accumulation of severance benefits for voluntary departures. It requested that all federal departments, crown corporations, and separate employers, including the House, address this issue with their staff. The board accordingly decided to adopt the same approach to voluntary departures.
This decision eliminates the accumulation of severance benefits, and presents employees with three options: to immediately cash out their severance, to retain the previously accumulated weeks of severance to be paid out upon resignation or retirement, or to cash out a portion of severance with the remainder to be paid upon departure.
As such, additional funding was sought through the supplementary estimates (B) in order to account for the cash-out of these benefits. As per Treasury Board directives, unlike federal departments, funding for severance cash-outs for the House of Commons must be obtained through the supplementary estimates
The final line item is funding of $170,000 for the 24th annual meeting of the Asia Pacific Parliamentary Forum. The APPF is a conference for parliamentarians representing the 27 member countries of the Asia-Pacific region as well as parliamentarians from eight observer countries and members of the diplomatic corps of these countries.
According to an established rotation, Canada was expected to host in 2017, 20 years after hosting its last annual meeting. However, given that many events are planned across the country for the 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017, Canada was able to negotiate with other member countries to allow a deviation from the normal rotation. As a result, Canada was invited to host the conference in Vancouver in 2016. This conference is an excellent opportunity to showcase Canada, foster parliamentary diplomacy, and advance Canadian objectives internationally. Funding in 2014-15 will be used to initiate the planning process for the 2016 conference.
This concludes my overview of the House of Commons supplementary estimates (B) for 2014-2015.
At this time, we would be happy to answer your questions.
View Andrew Scheer Profile
I should mention that the policy I referred to is an existing policy that the House administration has, at the moment, for House administration employees, so it's not part of the supplementary estimates. I don't think, depending on their usage, there would be additional cost because it's already here. It's already available for the House administration employees. That's what's been made available. It's an existing program.
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