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Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2019-05-30 11:20
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I am pleased to be here today to present to you the 2018-19 year-end financial report, and to obtain your approval to include the operational budget carry forward in the 2019-20 supplementary estimates.
This financial report has been prepared using the expenditure basis of accounting, consistent to the Public Accounts of Canada that will be published in the fall. It provides the final authorities and expenditures for 2018-19, along with comparative information from the previous fiscal year.
Parliament provides the House with authorities to enable it to support members according to the normal parliamentary calendar. The authorities for 2018-19, totalling $506 million, are $6.7 million or 1.3 % lower than the authorities for 2017-18.
The most significant changes are the $25-million decrease for members' pension plans, and the $10.6-million increase for continued investments in our LTVP project.
In 2018-19, expenditures totalled $487 million, compared with $490 million in 2017-18. That decrease of $3 million, or 0.6 %, is consistent with a decrease in authorities for 2018-19.
The expenditures are also presented by type of cost. Compared with previous years, salaries and benefits increased by $1.8 million. This is due to the one-time adjustment of $25 million made in 2017-18, as directed by the actuarial report of the pension plans for the members of Parliament.
This reduction was offset by significant investments made in staffing in support of major initiatives, such as the food modernization and optimization of services, the House officer expenditure disclosure, digital strategies to modernize the delivery of parliamentary information and the long-term vision plan.
Other factors that also contributed to the increase in personnel costs are the cost-of-living increase for House administration, along with increasing staffing action for members' staff.
In addition, expenditures related to rentals and licences decreased compared with 2017-18. That decrease is mainly attributed to changes associated with payment periods owing to the renewal of various licences to meet the terms of our agreements.
In addition, the decrease related to repairs and maintenance in 2018-19, compared with the 2017-18 expenditures, is mainly attributed to investments made in 2017-18 in security measures and resources.
Moreover, 2018-19 revenues increased modestly over the previous year's revenues. In total, our revenues increased by $1.8 million owing to services provided to federal government departments and organizations, and other parliamentary institutions, based on our cost-recovery system.
Finally, the report also provides comparisons of the utilization of our authorities between the two fiscal years. This does show a slight increase of 0.7% over the previous year.
It's important to note that the House of Commons promotes the efficient use of resources, and continuously strives to minimize requests for incremental funding, whenever possible. For example, the surpluses generated by the delay in the move to the West Block were reallocated to offset costs associated with other initiatives, such as our retroactive payment for the economic increase of House administration staff.
As mentioned, our authorities for 2018-19 were $506 million, while expenditures amounted to $487 million. This leaves us with a surplus of $19 million. This amount will correspond to the lapse that will be reported in the public accounts this fall.
Note that the surplus reflects the fact that the authorities received are intended to support 338 members. Due to the fact that by-elections were held in five constituencies during the past year, there were fewer MPs, and therefore less support was required, resulting in reduced spending overall.
This surplus represents 5.5% of the 2018-19 main estimates voted authorities. The House of Commons typically follows the government's practice of carrying forward any lapsed funds, up to a maximum of 5% of our voted main estimates. I'm seeking your approval today to include in our 2019-20 supplementary estimates a carry-forward of $17.4 million, representing that 5% of our last year's voted main estimates.
Mr. Speaker, this concludes my presentation.
I am ready to answer your questions.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2019-05-30 11:26
We play a support role in parliamentary precinct extension and renovation projects. Funding for those projects comes from Public Services and Procurement Canada. We support them, and they refund us for some of those projects, as well as for the tasks we carry out.
Our other services are provided by our information technology group, which manages the computer platform used by our parliamentary precinct partners. We collect their contributions—
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2019-05-30 11:26
It was budgeted, and we have agreements to recover those contributions.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2019-05-30 11:27
I think our collective agreements expired in 2017 or 2018. We are currently negotiating their renewal, and they could in fact reflect the normal cost of life increase, thereby influencing our future funding request.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2019-05-30 11:27
It will be public once the negotiations are completed.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2019-05-30 11:27
This report will be published at the end of the day.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2019-05-30 11:28
To address your first question, the transfer costs are the transfers of money that we pay to fund the activities of the various associations that Parliament is a member of. It's very specific to those particular items.
As for what we call the “election-related costs”, there are transition pieces here. The coming year is one in which various activities are reduced, because we're in election mode. Others increase, because of those transfers, and onboarding. We keep track of those very specifically. We don't have specific funding for that.
Looking at how we offset the surplus that may be created as a result of the incremental cost of the reduction of some activities, as I just mentioned, we do have a significant carry-forward that's going to remain. We will make sure to earmark part of that to cover some of these items, such as transition support and the onboarding program that we all know are part of that transition from the election.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2019-05-30 11:30
The Parliamentary Protective Service is an independent entity that has its own sources of funding. Its activities and the expenditures associated with its services or the collective agreements it applies stopped appearing in our authorities when the service was created in 2015.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2019-05-30 11:30
The Parliamentary Protective Service has its own budget, which is approved by the Speakers of both houses. We do not manage that budget, as the service reports to the Speakers of both houses.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2019-05-30 11:31
It would be up to the Parliamentary Protective Service managers to submit that request for funding to pay for those agreements.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2019-05-02 11:50
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I am here to present the findings of the House Administration's review on the use of House resources by a former member. The review focused on the member's secondary residence and related expenses from 2012 to 2016, while he was still a member.
On January 23, 2019, the Speaker received a letter from a member asking the House Administration to review the use of House Resources by the former member.
The current policies allow the members whose constituency is not located in the national capital region to designate a primary residence in the constituency or in the national capital region, and establish a secondary residence additional to their primary residence. Expenses for the secondary residence may be charged under the travel status expense account. This allows members to defray some of their additional costs of maintaining that secondary residence.
Furthermore, in the current policy, a primary residence is defined as a residence ordinarily occupied by the member, available for the member's occupancy at all times, and its main purpose cannot be to generate income. The current policy also provides criteria to help determine which residency to declare as primary. That is, members must consider various criteria such as which residence they will declare on their income tax returns, in which province they vote, have a health card, a driver's licence and register their vehicle, and what living arrangements they will have for their spouse and dependants.
Although the current policy has been in effect since May 2016, the former member's secondary residence expenses were reviewed while considering the board policies and bylaws that were in effect during the period of 2012 to 2016, which is the period in question when he was a member. Prior to April 2013, the applicable bylaws and policies defined that primary residence as a residence other than a seasonal or recreational dwelling. They did not specify that members had to provide supporting documentation showing their primary residence was their ordinary place of residence or was available for their use at all times. Once having met the requirements outlined by the bylaws, it remained the members' discretion to decide the location of their primary residence.
In June 2015 the board approved several changes to that policy relating to secondary residence and per diem expenses. These changes modernized the residency policy by revising the definition of a primary and secondary residence. They required that members provide that supporting documentation clarifying ownership or rental of their residence. They required that members declare at the start of every parliamentary session any changes and which one of the residences is the primary residence and which one was a secondary residence, and allowed members to claim those secondary expenses only if they maintained a primary residence that meets the definitions that are in the policies.
Finally, at its meeting in 2016 the board approved the criteria to help determine which residency members would declare as their primary residence.
The House administration has reviewed this matter and can report that the former member claimed secondary residence and per diem expenses while in the national capital region, and claimed expenses for travel between Ottawa and his constituency during that same period. The House administration has reviewed all the relevant proof of the primary and secondary residences that supported the expenses claimed by the former member and is satisfied that they all met the requirements that were in effect during that period of time.
The board, however, does have the exclusive authority to determine whether the use of the House resources by the member is or was proper.
Mr. Chair, this concludes my presentation.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2019-05-02 12:00
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I am presenting the findings of the House Administration's review on the use of House resources with respect to a member's designated website.
On January 29, 2019, the Speaker received a letter from a member asking that the House Administration look into the matter.
The Members By-law specifies that funds, goods and services provided by the House of Commons may only be used for carrying out members' parliamentary functions. It also states that the activities related to the solicitation of memberships of political parties and activities related to meetings of electoral district associations are not deemed to be parliamentary functions; therefore, House resources cannot be used for these purposes.
Under the current board policy, members must designate one website as their official site, and only that website, whether it is paid for through the member's office budget or not, must be compliant with the conditions set out in the Members’ Allowances and Services Manual. It may also be linked to the Parliament of Canada website and it may also be used in their advertising ten percenters and their householders.
The House administration has reviewed this matter and can report that as part of the administration's periodic review, the member's designated website was evaluated a total of five times between July 2016 and January 2019, and the House administration identified restricted content on the member's website on three separate occasions during this period.
At its most recent review, in January 2019, two pages which contained content related to solicitation of memberships of a political party and an invitation to nomination meetings were identified. The House administration has not contacted the member since the last evaluation; however, these two pages have since been taken down. The member has not claimed or charged any expenses related to his website posting to his member's office budget since the last general election in 2015. There is a letter addressed to the Speaker. The member has affirmed that these expenses were incurred by his member's district riding association, which is not restricted under the board's currently policies.
Since the House administration first identified restricted content on the member's website in June 2017, there have been several ten percenters and householders all featuring the designated websites that were produced and distributed to the member's constituency. The content of these documents was all found to be compliant with the board's current policies related to printed materials; however, the House administration is unable to confirm whether the member's designated website featured restricted content while the website appeared in these documents.
I will ask Monsieur Dufresne to provide some options for consideration for the board.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2019-04-11 12:10
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I'm here today to seek the board's approval on policy changes that we hope continue to contribute to support members in operating their constituency offices.
Our consultations with the members indicated that some current policies are unclear to them and could be more effective in providing that necessary support to manage their constituency offices. During our consultations, members expressed the need for increased support in vacating, moving, occupying and managing their constituency offices.
Specifically with these proposed policy changes, we aim to increase flexibility for members who are moving offices, ensure a smooth transition for office moves at the time of an election, clarify constituency office-related policies, and provide tools and support for the preparation of their office leases.
After reviewing all the information that has been compiled, the administration proposes certain changes regarding constituency offices.
Our first proposal is to allow more time for newly elected members to make decisions about their office locations. Members do feel pressure to select a new office very quickly after an election, and they find that the current four-month window for deciding where their office is going to be is not enough time to find that suitable office. We propose extending the period of centrally paid moves, following the election, to one full year in order to provide that additional flexibility.
Our second proposal is to align the winding-up period of both the parliamentary and the constituency offices to 21 days.
This is based on previous decisions of the Board of Internal Economy regarding the allocation of constituency office leases to the House of Commons Administration and on recent decisions of the board to allow members of Parliament to retain their employees up to 14 days after a general election, to better support members when closing and vacating their offices.
The administration should be allowed to propose that resigning members and members who are not re-elected vacate their parliamentary and constituency offices no later than 21 calendar days after the date of their resignation or the date of the general election. This would allow newly elected MPs to access offices earlier, without imposing an undue burden on MPs who have to vacate offices.
Additionally, we propose to provide additional support to members in selecting the appropriate office space. Members are encouraged to choose an existing office space that is already set up as an office to be used for that purpose. We propose to assist members in choosing a suitable office location by listing elements that an existing office should contain, such as a reception area, security measures and network capabilities.
To further help members choose that suitable location, we also encourage members to use a professional appraiser. This is a flat-fee service, and it would provide an estimate of an office space and its market value, and evaluate whether it's compliant with the necessary office elements previously mentioned.
Additionally, some office spaces chosen may require extensive renovations, creating long-term pressure on the member's budget. We propose that a priority be, before initiating the renovations, that the member be required to negotiate with their landlord and see whether these kinds of renovations really should be part of leasehold improvements, which are typically paid for by the landlord, although there are renovation expenses that are not covered by the landlord, and these would be charged to the member's office budget in the fiscal in which they are incurred. This would reduce the long-term pressure on the member's budget.
We are also proposing to amend the timelines for completing renovations.
Members of Parliament can currently undertake renovations at any time. As a result, there may be situations where MPs undertake renovations just before a general election. If they are not re-elected, the return on investment is not necessarily advantageous.
Our proposal is to limit the completion of renovation work to no later than three years after the date of a general election, or 12 months before the expiry of the lease. This would protect MPs from excessive use of resources that would not be available to them.
Next, we propose providing members additional mandatory and recommended clauses for inclusion in their constituency office leases. The proposed clauses allow members to terminate their constituency office lease in the case of landlord wrongdoing. They allow the House administration to be notified of any changes to leases, which will allow support to members in managing their lease and ensure the constituency office meets new accessibility and occupational health and safety standards.
Both the members and the House of Commons will benefit from the additional protection these clauses will afford.
Members who encounter difficulty including these necessary clauses in the given lease will need to consult the Office of the Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel for further guidance.
Mr. Chair, this concludes my presentation on this topic. We're ready to answer any questions.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2019-04-11 12:16
One of the objectives we're trying to help with here is to provide guidance to members so they are up and running as soon possible. Clearly, if you are not going to be assuming an existing office, you need to find something that is ready for you to move into quickly, that is already an office space and has the basic elements that you need. Minor renovations could be needed to fit your functionality. That's the first step we're hoping members will take, and then be operational as quickly as possible.
After that, clearly it's not always possible, depending on the scenarios, the constituency and finding those offices. The ability to do renovations is there. We want to make sure they are reasonable. We've had situations where members have had to incur significant renovations, and are paying for those over the term of the Parliament. It does tax their office budgets. Then they are limited in being able to do other things.
The guidance will be to talk to us so we can assist you. We have created some additional capacity within my team to provide that. There are experts in this field to help make sure that we do find the right office with you, and that it's up and running quickly.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2019-04-11 12:18
That's right.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2019-04-11 12:20
As for the first question, current policy requires that MPs consult us in advance when renovations are major. We have already had requests from MPs for renovations shortly before an election year. We were able to work with them and the renovations weren't done. In other cases, major renovations to the premises they occupied should have been made at the beginning of their term of office, for example, but this would have put them under budgetary pressure. We want to work with MPs to try to avoid these situations, where possible for them. For this reason, we want there to be guides and tools to support them. Since I have been here, I haven't experienced a situation where such renovations have been made. We want to try to avoid them, to ensure good management of public funds.
The 21-day period creates a balance. According to the existing policy, it is 17 days for the Ottawa office and 30 days for the constituency office. In addition, MPs are alone to do this work, unless volunteers can help them. The new measure allows MPs to be well-supported during their transition and to use employees for a period of 14 days, and these expenses can be charged to their office budget. This provides a more stable transition period. We consider a 21-day period to be reasonable.
Because the constituency office remains open, we want to ensure that the newly elected official can move into that office as quickly as possible. We are really trying to take into consideration both the difficult situation of the MP who has not been re-elected and that of the new Member who must be up and running quickly. During the consultations we conducted, the majority seemed to consider the 21-day period acceptable.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2019-04-11 12:23
I understand the situation. The 14-day period is a form that we had submitted to the Board of Internal Economy. Members of the board had determined that this was appropriate. If you have another need, we are here to support you and try to help you. If it seems to you that the 14-day period could be adjusted to better align it with the policy, we will certainly be able to consider this possibility.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2019-02-28 12:11
Thank you, Mr. Giroux.
The next recommendations relate to external printing services. Recognizing the needs of having greater flexibility when members communicate with their constituents, members may rely on external providers for printing services. The current limit for external printing is set at 4,500 copies, but feedback received indicates that the amount is not aligned with economies of scale in the industry and it is generally recognized in increments of thousands. Therefore, it is proposed to modify the policy regarding external printing services by increasing the limit to 5,000 copies when using an external printing service. This increase will be more advantageous for members, reducing their cost per copy.
In addition, over the years, the board has approved various policy changes relating to external printing services. These were in response to various individual specific issues relating to communications with their constituents and stakeholders. These changes created policy application challenges and confusion for members on how to apply these rules for external printing, so we would like to bring together these various rules a little better within our policy manual.
Therefore, we are recommending that the board reiterate that the documents printed externally are subject to the same conditions and restrictions as documents printed within the House printing and mailing services; require that the originating member's name and status as a member of Parliament appear clearly and distinctively in the printed correspondence; maintain the current policy whereby expenses for printing materials used at third party events and/or activities be charged to the advertising expenses, to be in compliance with the advertising policy; and maintain the current policy and limits to allow members to distribute mailing, correspondence and other printed materials to stakeholders outside of their own constituencies in the discharge of their parliamentary functions.
Finally, the last point is related to members' advertising at third party events and activities. Currently, members may advertise a third party event at up to $500 for printed advertising materials. Within that limit, there is a $250-per-advertisement charge for event signage or banners. This sublimit of $250 we recognize does not add value. It has been creating some confusion for members, and it has really added an administrative burden for them to manage these payments. Therefore, we propose to remove this sublimit of $250 per event advertising with signage and banners, and only maintain the single limit that members cannot exceed for their advertising at third party events and parties.
Mr. Speaker, this concludes our presentation. We're pleased to answer any questions the board members may have.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2019-02-28 12:39
Thank you, Mr. Dufresne.
From a financial perspective, as has already been indicated, there's been no incremental cost for the House administration on this matter. To assist the board members, we've determined the value of the use of our premises. It has been assessed by looking at the costs of renting comparable hotel rooms or conference rooms here in Ottawa. Those would have ranged between $350 and $1,000.
The administration today received a cheque in the amount of $500, but we have not deposited this cheque as we are still waiting for the board's decision to move forward with this matter. If the board finds that these bylaws have been breached, it can set the amount for the payment as an appropriate remedy for non-compliance.
Also, the board may wish to request that the House administration provide periodic reminders to members of these related bylaws.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2018-12-06 10:50
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
It is my pleasure to present a submission seeking the Board's approval to modernize certain policies in the Members' Allowances and Services Manual on office supplies and personalized stationery.
As has already been mentioned at the last board meeting, we're making many efforts to ensure that the House will be able to keep the cost of its operations within its existing overall budget. In order to do so, as we change how we do our business, we must ensure that we balance the utilization of the various individual budget envelopes.
As decided at the last board meeting, the cost of certain computers and printers will now be charged to a centrally managed budget instead of to the member's office budget, which is referred to as the MOB. In order to help balance this decision, we are proposing changes to certain other policies and practices that affect how certain costs are charged centrally or to the MOB—that is, an opportunity to balance the cost savings of the member's office budget resulting from the previous provisions.
This submission is also part of the House administration's ongoing commitment to ensuring excellence in the delivery of services to members. It is an opportunity to update and streamline the current policies on office supplies and stationery so that they are in line with today's business practices.
Our objective with the submissions is to ensure discretionary spending incurred by a member is applied against the member's office budget, to remove ineffective or restrictive limits and thereby reduce some of the administrative burden for members, and to simplify the purchasing process of office supplies and stationery for members.
I'll start with the discretionary expenses, which we are proposing should be charged to the member's office budget.
Currently, members are provided with paper and envelopes up to pre-set limits, as a charge against the central administration budget.
Members may, however, buy additional quantities, charged to their office budgets, if they so wish.
In addition, members wishing to purchase office supplies must currently choose among four different price lists in the House of Commons stationery catalogue, since some basic items are charged to the House administration's central budgets and others are charged to the MOB. This creates an administrative burden for members and their employees in the procurement of day-to-day supplies. Members select supplies for their daily office operations at their own discretion and based on their preferences, so these costs are most appropriately charged to their MOB. Streamlining the number of price lists and budgets for office supplies will simplify the procurement process and allow members to continue to benefit from House-negotiated prices for those office supplies.
It is proposed that the cost of non-standard size envelopes for parliamentary offices be charged to the MOB. The cost of paper and envelopes for constituency offices will be charged also to the MOB, and all costs associated with purchasing all office supplies will be charged to the MOB.
Another proposal in this submission relates to copying charges.
In 2013, the Board approved the replacement of the existing, single-purpose printers, copiers, scanners and fax machines in Members' offices by one networked, multi-functional device and one backup desktop printer.
The maintenance and support services for those multi-functional devices were authorized as a charge against the central administration budget.
Similar to office supplies, multi-function device copying usage charges are considered discretionary in nature. Therefore, the proposals to standardize the approach for delivering and managing computer and printing equipment in constituency offices would see these utilization charges applied against the MOB. The proposal to also apply the copy usage charge for the parliamentary office against the MOB would align the practice between the parliamentary and constituency offices.
In turn, we would like to propose the elimination of certain limits on some of the items that are provided centrally by the House.
The House administration currently provides members with established limits of a variety of goods and services to support their daily office operations and then to enable them to communicate with their constituents.
The House administration has observed that some limits are ineffective and too strict, specifically those dealing with paper, envelopes, letterhead and wish cards.
However, members may exceed those limits by using their office budgets to buy more supplies, if it becomes necessary.
To reduce the administrative burden to members and their employees associated with managing these limits and to modernize the business practice in light of the declining usage, the House administration is proposing to remove the applicable limits around paper, envelopes, letterhead and wish cards.
As well, as part of the printing and mailing modernization project and in in line with current office technology, we are proposing to centrally provide to members a reasonable quantity of paper and standard personalized printed envelopes in letter and legal formats for their parliamentary offices, and an electronic letterhead template as an alternative to hard-copy letterhead, while still providing reasonable on-demand printing of letterheads when required and a reasonable on-demand printing of wish cards with the envelopes.
To align the timing of these proposals, we recommend that the recommendations come into effect after the next election, which is in line with the managed computing proposal that was approved at the last meeting.
Mr. Chairman, this concludes my presentation for this submission. We're ready to answer any of the questions the board members may have.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2018-12-06 10:59
If we look globally overall, all the MPs combined, there is a gain of almost half a million dollars from more flexibility within the MOBs. Now, individually, the utilization of these various products or limits vary. We did the analysis for one point in time for one fiscal year. There was a handful of MPs who would have been a little short for that particular year.
Computers are usually not bought as one computer per year; they're bought in bulk. If we look at a full Parliament of about four years, we expect that the majority, if not all, would be as well off financially, if not better off.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2018-12-06 10:59
It's the aggregate, yes, not individual MPs, yes.
Voices: Oh, oh!
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2018-12-06 11:00
That's why the coming into force of these recommendations is after the next election.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2018-12-06 11:00
As we discussed at the last meeting, the computers have a life cycle of about four or five years. Sometime during the next Parliament they will be needing those computers. That's where the savings over that period of time will come for them.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2018-12-06 11:01
Again, thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I will now present the proposed 2019-20 interim and main estimates and seek approval from the board.
First I would like to point out that these estimates summarize all of the funding requests that relate to items previously approved by the board. As such, there is no new request for funding in this presentation.
The total proposed 2019-20 main estimates being sought for the House of Commons amount to $503.4 million, which does represent an increase compared to last year's main estimates.
The main estimates of the Government of Canada are tabled annually in Parliament. They represent the estimated spending plans for the upcoming fiscal year. In accordance with the Parliament of Canada Act, the House of Commons must compile its expenditure estimates for the upcoming fiscal year and submit them to Treasury Board for tabling along with the main estimates of the Government of Canada.
It is very likely that the government will table interim estimates for the 2019-2020 year at the end of January, as it did last year. The interim estimates contain the financial requirements for the first three months of this financial year, because the interim estimates form a sub-category of the main estimates. I emphasize that my presentation today is focused on the full main estimates for the 2019-2020 year.
The main estimates of the House include an estimate for statutory and voted expenditures. Voted expenditures are estimated at $350 million and they mostly include expenses for Members and House Officers, committees, parliamentary associations and exchanges, and the administration. The statutory expenditures are estimated at $154 million. They include salaries and allowances for Members and House Officers, contributions to retirement funds, and contributions to employee benefit programs for all.
Although the overall budget request is lower, there are various elements making up the main estimates that do fluctuate.
In terms of new funding requests that were approved during the fiscal year, these include the cost-of-living increase, based on previously approved policies and existing legislation. For example, the office budgets and supplements for members and House officers, as well as the travel status expenses accounts, have been increased by 1.5%, for a total of $2.4 million. This is in accordance with the adjusted consumer price index.
In addition, the sessional allowance and additional salaries for members and House officers have been increased by 1.7%, or $1 million, as provided by the Parliament of Canada Act.
The economic increases for House administration employees amount to $1.5 million, which is included in these estimates. These were approved earlier during the year by the board.
As for major initiatives, the funding includes $1 million for managed computing in the constituency, which was approved at the last board meeting. This is offset by $400,000 from planned variances of previously approved year-over-year changes in the funding profiles for such initiatives as digital content dissemination and our long-term vision and plan.
The main estimates also include a $9.3-million decrease in contributions to the members' pension plan due to the revised contribution rates for those members. It also includes a decrease of $1.4 million related to funding for conferences, associations and assemblies held earlier this year.
In conclusion, it is recommended that the Board approve the main estimates for the House proposed for the 2019-2020 year in the amount of $503.4 million. The proposed funds will be divided between two programs, $302 million for the Members and House Officers program and $201 million for the administration program. It is also recommended that an amount of $87.5 million be included in the interim estimates proposed for the same financial year.
I can now answer questions relating to these main estimates, and I can also take any questions that you may have about the in-year second quarter report on our financial activities for the current year, which is also provided in your package.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2018-12-06 11:07
The last time it was officially done was around the 2011-12 time frame, and significant adjustments were done at that point. I think reaching that threshold of $500 million opened everybody's eyes. As we're coming to the various submissions going forward, we rechallenge ourselves in making sure what incremental capacity is needed. If you notice, the submissions we came through over the last year always made sure to address the full cost of that new initiative and what incremental cost we're truly asking for and what we can absorb within existing capacities. We are keeping that in mind item by item and making sure we can go forward and justify the size of our current budget and operations.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2018-12-06 11:09
Thank you.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2018-12-06 11:10
In the case of the administration, there have been the cost-of-living increases and some of the costs related to the move and the increase in various services we're offering. When we look at the members' side, we see the adjustment of $9.3 million for the pension contribution. If I were to reverse out that one-time reduction, we're probably in a similar growth pattern because of the indexing and cost-of-living increases that we are all having.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2018-12-06 11:12
Thank you again, Mr. Speaker.
In May of this year, I appeared before the board to propose several amendments relating to our travel policy, and I did get the board's approval. In our continuous effort to modernize some of our policies to better support the members in doing their parliamentary functions, we're bringing to you today more topics to help us on that path.
The House administration recognizes that the challenges faced by members are becoming more and more complex with modern business practices, in particular in the characteristics of each of the constituencies, which require forward-looking, integrated and more flexible policies to move forward. Today's presentation follows up on requests that were made here to the board by members representing large, remote and sparsely populated constituencies to review their policies and recognize the high cost to serve and represent constituencies with their specific needs.
This is to help discharge some of their functions in those great distances between their borders, atypical or irregular population distribution, and the geographical challenges that limit their transportation alternatives. This is a complex matter for which we have been doing extensive consultation with members. This submission highlights the steps we have already taken to address some of these particular matters, as well as new ones we are proposing today. We'd like to get the board's support on a way forward.
I will ask José Fernandez to highlight some of the items in the submission. Then we'll be open to questions.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2018-12-06 11:19
In addition to these proposals, the House administration is also seeking the board's support to undertake a review of the budget and supplements, taking into consideration the evolving needs and requirements of members and the various challenges in particular ridings in order to carry out their parliamentary functions.
We will validate the scope of this review with your respective offices before we get started. The House administration will report back to the board on the results of this study and make recommendations that may include modification to the member's office budget supplements to ensure their relevance and appropriateness while continuing to meet the evolving needs of members. Such recommendations are intended to be brought forward only following the next general election, given the time we would need to do this assessment.
Mr. Speaker, I'm happy to answer any questions the members may have relating to this proposal.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2018-12-06 11:22
Usually it is bed and breakfasts, homes, private residences, places of that nature.
In terms of this scenario, I guess the accommodation would be the fee for the campsite and the kilometres, because they are travelling with their personal vehicle. On incremental costs relating to the usage of those assets, we've heard of the situation, but at this point we haven't a recommendation to bring forward to the board to adapt that policy for this circumstance.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2018-12-06 11:23
We do ask for supporting documentation.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2018-12-06 11:23
That's right.
I assume that all members are honest—
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2018-12-06 11:23
—and want to make sure that they do this.
We're looking at it right now. The situation is we have on file about 300 cases. That's why we are bringing it forward. The members are currently out of pocket. They're actually providing us evidence, signed by the people where they resided, for what they paid as a reasonable rate. We're at this point making sure that the members personally are not out of pocket for delivery of their parliamentary function.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2018-12-06 11:24
We get that last question quite often. I'll start with that one.
It is a very common practice. Right now, we use it for employees across various public services. When you are outside of your office and more than 16 kilometres away, you are allowed to collect a per diem, so that's where we got a reasonable number of kilometres. We used something that was already in common practice. That's where the number comes from.
As for the satellite phone, our assessment is that there are about 21 constituencies that could probably qualify for this, if the member identifies a need, but that depends on how they are travelling within their constituency. It's not a large proportion of members in terms of current cellphone coverage and where the population resides.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2018-12-06 11:25
The phone itself is about $1,200, which will be paid centrally, and then the usage will come out of the member's office budget.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2018-11-29 12:44
I guess what will come out of the central budget is the actual acquisition of the asset—
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2018-11-29 12:45
—and not the actual usage of it. You'll see that because of our own supply chain and the volume we buy for the Hill, our costs are significantly less than the $5,000 or $10,000 for those machines.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2018-11-29 12:56
As you see, yes, the funding is ramping up, and as you've already mentioned, it was a challenge to get out, even in the pilot project.
We realize that we can't do the big bang right after the election. In the year of the election, we're ramping up some portion, and then the following year we'll finish the rollout of all of the computers that we have.
That also means that we're respecting some of the life cycling of machines that have been recently purchased. We're not asking for all of the funding to roll this out the first year. We'll do as much as we can. We have almost a 60-40 split of what we can do in the first year, and then we can get up to full capacity during the second.
That's why they're ramping up the funding.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2018-11-01 11:27
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I am pleased to be here today to present the audited financial statements of the House of Commons for the fiscal year that ended on March 31, 2018.
I've provided an overview of the various financial reports we bring to the board to help members of the board in their oversight role for the House of Commons' financial activities. During this cycle, we cover the various financial results from prior years, the in-year activities, and some of the future planning activities for which we need resources.
As part of this financial cycle, you will recall that last June, I provided you with the year-end financial report for the fiscal year ending 2017-18. The purpose of that report was to present the comparatives between the spending authorities of 2017-18 and those of 2016-17.
Today I'm here to present to you the 2017-18 audited financial statements. They represent one of the many formal records of the House of Commons' financial activities and financial position, as of March 31, 2018. They are prepared by the House administration and present only one of the financial disclosures that we do for the public with regard to our House resources.
With respect to the financial resources, some of the disclosures we do are the Report to Canadians, which we'll be discussing later at this meeting; the Public Accounts of Canada; our quarterly financial reports; the members' expenditure reports; and the House officer expenditure reports.
The audited financial statements are prepared using the accrual basis of accounting rather than the expenditure basis of accounting. That means they reflect the activities of transactions and events in the period in which they occur, rather than in the period in which we've used the appropriations. The main difference to note is that the net cost of operations in these financial statements includes the services provided without charge, such as the operating costs for the various buildings we occupy.
We also have a statement of financial position, which includes our inventory, the capital asset less our amortization, the liabilities for employee benefits and sick leave, and the liabilities for vacation pay and compensatory leave.
These House of Commons financial statements were prepared in accordance with Canadian public sector accounting standards.
As you will hear in the following presentation, every year, these financial statements are audited by an independent external auditor. This year, it was KPMG, and some members of that firm are here today.
This year, and for as long as we've had audited financial statements, we have received an unqualified opinion. To me, this is a testament to the efforts made by my team to ensure that systems and practices are in place to ensure that reliable financial information is available for decision-making in all of our financial reports.
I would like to take a few minutes to present some highlights of the financial statements.
The financial statements provide an overview of the assets and liabilities of the House of Commons. As of March 31, 2018, the $79 million in assets consisted primarily of funds provided to the House of Commons to support its activities. Receivables are mostly amounts to be collected from federal departments and agencies and other parliamentary institutions. Capital assets are assets with a purchase price over $10,000.
On the other hand, as of March 31, 2018, the House of Commons' liabilities were in the amount of $80 million. They are mainly composed of amounts payable to suppliers and employee benefits.
Our cost of operations for 2017-18 has increased by approximately $60 million. Our net cost of operations fluctuates from year to year depending on various factors, such as the various initiatives presented in the House administration's strategic plan.
I'll mention a few that we had reported previously. They include the investments we've made into the renewal of our HR financial systems, our food service modernization, the digital strategy for modernizing the delivery of parliamentary information and our LTVP.
There are significant variances between the net cost of operations in fiscal years 2016-17 and 2017-18 for salaries and benefits, transportation, communications, publication, printing, repairs and maintenance. There was also variance in our revenues.
For the category of salaries and benefits, we have seen an increase of $61 million, which can mostly be explained by the one-time actuarial adjustments, as directed in the actuarial report on the pension plan for members of Parliament. There were also the economic increases for the House administration employees and the annual increases for members' sessional allowances and additional salaries. There were also some increases in our capacity to deliver on the various initiatives that had been presented in the strategic plan for 2016 to 2019.
For the category of transportation and telecommunications, we have seen a decrease of $2 million as a result of the one-time investment in 2016-17 for the Internet-based connectivity to deliver the constituency communication network for members.
There is also the category of advertising and printing, where we've had an increase of $2.1 million, mainly due to the promotions of the 150th anniversary of Confederation by the members, and there was also the increase in the House administrative printing cost as a result of the productions of the House of Commons Procedure and Practice book.
The repairs and maintenance costs were also increased by $3.7 million as a result of the security enhancements to the West Block and the activities related to our long-term vision and plan.
Our revenues increased by $10 million owing to the increase in services provided to other parliamentary institutions and the increase in revenues generated by our catering services, cafeteria and restaurant.
As of March 31, 2018, the total budget for the House of Commons, adjusted to conform to the basis of accounting for these financial statements, was $598 million. When we subtract the House of Commons expenses and add our revenues, it provides us with a surplus last year of $22.7 million, which was also indicated when I presented our year-end financial report for 2017-18 last June.
Finally, I want to inform you that we will be posting these financial statements to the House of Commons public website after this meeting.
I will now give the representatives from KPMG the opportunity to present their audit results of these financial statements, and we will be open for any questions that you may have after the auditor's presentation.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2018-10-04 11:24
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I am here today to present the first quarterly financial report for the 2018-19 financial year.
This is the first opportunity I've had since the end of our first quarter to come before the board to present to and support the board in its function overseeing the use of the public funds from the administration.
This report compares the financial information for the first quarter, which ended June 30 of this current fiscal year, with the financial information from the same quarter of the previous year. It is prepared on an expenditure basis of accounting, which is consistent with the Public Accounts of Canada. The approved authority in this report includes the House of Commons' main estimates, as well as other items that have already been approved by the board during that quarter.
As of June 30, the authorities approved for 2018-19, in the amount of $522.9 million, represent an increase of $11.9 million, or 2.3%, over the authorities for 2017-18.
The most significant changes are in the $10.6 million increase for ongoing investments in our long-term vision and plan.
At the end of the first quarter of 2018-19, the expenditures totalled $110.8 million compared with $106.6 for the same quarter of the previous fiscal year. This represents an increase of $4.2 million, or 4%.
If we look at the table in the report showing the expenditures by type of cost, you'll see that the significant increase in expenditures year over year was related mainly to salaries and benefits, which did increase by $5 million. This is due to the investments made in our long-term vision plan and other major investments, such as the adjustments to our food service modernization and the optimization of their services, the House officers' expenditure disclosure and the human resource service's capacity for pay and benefits. There were also other implications as a result of cost-of-living increases for many of our employees in the House administration.
There was also an increase in staffing actions compared with previously for members' staff.
In addition, the rental and licence costs for 2018-19 are considerably lower than those in the same quarter last year. The decrease is mainly due to the changes in the payment periods for renewing those software licences for our various office and network applications.
In these cases, payments were made in March rather than April in order to fully conform to the new agreements with our suppliers.
Finally, there's another table in the report that provides a comparison of our utilization of resources for year over year, which shows a slight increase of 0.3% compared with last year for the utilization of resources in that particular quarter.
Mr. Speaker, that concludes my presentation for this first quarterly report.
I am ready to answer questions from board members.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2018-10-04 11:29
To put everything into perspective, when we look at the actual project cost—the building, the construction and the installation of all the equipment in there—that is the Public Works project. It's not expenditures that are in our reports here. What we have are our adjustments to the capacity to support the newer building, the new technology and the new way of doing business. There is capacity to ramp up and get us in there, so there will be a reduction when I come back with the main estimates and things. We'll see a slight reduction, but it's not in any order of magnitude compared with the size of the project, because this entails the capacity to adapt to the new way of doing business in a very modern building.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2018-10-04 11:30
There is a surge, but it's not in the tens of millions of dollars. It's a smaller amount.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2018-10-04 11:30
I could probably ask Stéphan or somebody from the project to come to talk about this, but a big part of it is that services will be provided with more modern technology and tools. Historically, we've bought technology. We've bought upfront the licences and the use of them once, and we have them for the duration. Now everything is on an annual renewal. We have to pay an annual service in an annual capacity, and the fact that we have upscaled a bit of that piece.... However, I'll let our experts here give you more details.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2018-10-04 11:33
I appreciate that and the fact that you're new to the board. When we came to the funding about a year ago, we had almost a three-year outlook. We committed to the board that we would come back during that third year once we had really gotten used to running the new building and the new technology and the new way of doing business. At that point, we would adjust the funding appropriately to what we needed, with a full understanding of the implications of the new building. We will be coming back and getting into a level of detail that will bring you comfort, demonstrating that we are only using the money we need.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2018-06-14 11:19
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I am here today to present the 2017-18 Year-End Financial Report and to seek your approval to include the carry-forward of the operating budget into the 2018-19 supplementary estimates (A).
This financial report has been prepared using an expenditure basis of accounting, which is consistent with the Public Accounts of Canada, where these will be published this fall. This report provides the final authorities and expenditures for 2017–18, along with comparative information from previous fiscal years.
Parliament provides the House with authorities so that it can support members according to the usual parliamentary schedule. Authorities for 2017-18 in the amount of $513 million represent an increase of $44.8 million, or 9.6%, over the previous year's authorities.
The most significant changes involve the $21.6 million increase to the MP pension plan. There is also the $12.8 million increase for ongoing investments in the Parliamentary Precinct long-term plan and other major investments such as security enhancements in the West Block, the digital strategy to develop a modernized approach to the delivery of parliamentary information, the disclosure of members and House officers, and the expansion of the pay and benefits team.
Other changes include economic increases for various employees of the House administration, increases to the budgets of members and House officers, and increases to members' sessional allowances.
In 2017-18, expenditures total $490 million compared to $445 million in 2016-17. This increase of $45.5 million, or 10.2%, corresponds to the increase in authorities received in 2017-18.
The expenditures are also presented by type of costs. The most significant increase in expenditures for 2017–18 over previous years was the salary and benefits, which increased by $47.7 million. This increase was mainly due to a $25.2-million adjustment, as directed by the actuarial report on the pension plan for members of Parliament. This was offset by a decrease of $3.7 million due to the reduction of the employer contribution to the plan.
As well, significant investments were made in the staffing to support those major investments, such as the food service modernization and optimization of services, the House office expenditure disclosure, the digital strategy to modernize the delivery of parliamentary information, and the long-term vision and plan.
The other factors contributing to the increase in expenditures are the economic increases I previously mentioned, for which we had received the appropriation.
In addition, revenues for 2017-18 have changed significantly from 2016-17. Total revenues increased by $9.2 million, because of services provided to federal government departments and agencies and other parliamentary institutions, all on a cost-recovery basis. We also had a slight increase in revenues from caterers, cafeterias and the restaurant.
Finally, the report provides a comparison of the authorities to the expenditures for 2017–18. As mentioned, the total authorities were $513 million, while expenditures amounted to $490 million, leaving a surplus of $22.7 million. This amount corresponds to the lapse that will be reported in the Public Accounts of Canada. The surplus reflects the fact that the authorities received are intended to support 338 members. Due to the fact that by-elections were held in 11 constituencies during the past year, there were fewer members and less support was required, resulting in reduced spending overall.
The surplus represents 7.1% of the total estimates voted in 2017-18.
The House of Commons typically follows the government's practice of carrying forward any lapsed funds up to a maximum of 5% of the main estimates. Therefore, I'm seeking your approval to include a carry-forward of $15.9 million into the 2018–19 supplementary estimates (A), representing 5% of our year main estimates. As we do not expect to have any other items to include in our supplementary estimates (A), we are seeking the opportunity to get your approval here today for this carry-forward, instead of returning with a separate submission at a later meeting.
Mr. Speaker, this concludes my presentation on the financial reports.
I am ready to answer any questions the members of the committee may have.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2018-06-14 11:25
Yes, exactly.
Last year's carry-forward was $15.4 million and this year's is $15.9 million. The two amounts represent 5% of the voted items each year.
A large portion of this year's carry-forward, $6.9 million of the $15.9 million, represents the portion that will be transferred to members' budgets.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2018-06-14 11:26
At this point here, our total surplus is some $22.2 million. That, in essence, is the money that we haven't spent this year. We don't spend what we don't need.
The full amount goes back into the central fund. The carry-forward is an additional authority that we ask, through our supplementary estimates, to be added to this year's appropriation. The full amount goes back to the central account, and we ask for the additional portion, of which a portion goes back to the members. We make sure to reinvest the other portion in activities or projects that are there to support the members.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2018-06-14 11:27
It's difficult to say that the members may be more frugal.
The fact that we did have 11 by-elections this year means that those MOBs were less used than the other MOBs. For the carry-forward overall, the surplus for members is a little over 7%, while the one for the administration is around 3%.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2018-06-14 11:27
There were various contributing factors to that.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2018-05-24 11:20
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Last December, I appeared here to propose a number of policy changes, which you then approved. I am back today to talk about our efforts to continue modernizing members' policies so that we can be better placed to assist members in carrying out their parliamentary functions.
I will first present a series of proposals to modernize members' travel policies, and then, a proposed change to the end-of-year deadlines.
The House administration recognized that members' parliamentary function entails long workdays and extended periods away from home. These requirements have led members to express their needs for changes to travel policies for themselves, their employees, and their immediate family. The House administration has also reviewed the report from the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs and took into consideration the recommendations for possible amendments to the travel points system that would encourage members' families to reunite with the members.
We have also consulted with various members and House officers to get a good understanding of the challenges we were asked to address. The presentation today will also follow up on the board's December 7 request to clarify the definition of “designated traveller”.
After studying all the information we've compiled, the House administration proposes the following changes to the members' policies and by-laws on travel. The purpose of these changes is to ensure that all members receive the necessary resources to travel for their parliamentary functions.
The proposed amendments seek to promote a family-friendly environment for members of the House, enhance the support provided to members in the discharge of their parliamentary functions, clarify certain elements to increase members' policy understanding, and allow them to optimize the use of their resources.
The travel points system was introduced to ensure that all members have equal access to the travel resources no matter the size or location of their constituencies. It was also intended to respond to members' needs by providing resources to their employees and to immediate families. These travel resources are not only used by members, but they are also used by their designated travellers and their dependants. Today nearly half the members are parents of dependent children, and the travel resources required to maintain a balanced family life are creating pressures on members' travel allocations.
Currently half a point is deducted for each round trip taken by a member's dependant under the age of six and a point for each round trip taken by other authorized travellers. Our first proposal is to increase flexibility for the travel of younger dependants. We recommend that no points be deducted for the travel of dependants under the age of six nor for dependants with disabilities. One travel point would continue to be deducted for each round trip taken by other eligible dependants. Additionally, we've proposed to allocate additional regular points to members with more than one dependant of the age of six to 20. To alleviate the pressures on the travel resources of members whose families are larger than the Canadian average, the proposal would be to have eight regular points allocated for each additional dependant who is between the ages of six and 20.
Given that no travel points will be deducted from dependants with disabilities, or dependants under the age of six, no additional points will be allocated to them.
Furthermore, no additional points will be allocated to dependants between the ages of 21 and 25, because our data on the use of points does not show that this age category is putting a strain on members' travel resources.
On another matter, there is one additional element we are also looking to update to further clarify the eligibility of dependants for using members' travel resources. For each dependant who is in the student status category, we recommend that the members also provide at least annually the name and location of the educational institution at which the student is enrolled.
We believe these amendments to the travel policies will foster a more family-friendly environment in the House to support members in the fulfillment of their parliamentary functions, and by encouraging their families to use travel points to reunite with them.
The following proposal concerns designated travellers. During the December 7, 2017, meeting, the board said that it needed more clarity around the definition of designated travellers. The scope of this definition has changed over the years to adapt to members' evolving needs and realities.
To clarify the current definition, the House administration is proposing the following wording for the definition of designated travellers: Members may designate one person as a designated traveller to support them in their parliamentary functions. A designated traveller is typically the spouse or partner of the member. Members may not designate their employees or another member who is not their spouse or partner.
Another proposal relating to the designated traveller is the current one-year declaration rule. Currently, members must declare the name of their designated traveller, which remains in effect for 12 months or for the duration of the Parliament, whichever is shorter. Since members' situations and needs can evolve during this period, we recommend adding a provision to allow the chief financial officer, upon receipt of a special request, to permit a change in the declaration of designated traveller sooner, under certain circumstances, including death, divorce, or other significant life events.
The following policy change broadens the scope of travel authorized as members' regular travel. According to the current policy, regular travel is defined as travel between Ottawa and one's constituency. However, members regularly travel both within their constituencies and to large, neighbouring cities for their parliamentary functions, and often rely on the support of their staff.
The current practice consists in using special points for this kind of travel, which puts a strain on both the travel allocation and the ability to carry out certain parliamentary functions.
Therefore, we propose to expand the definition of regular trips to also include trips within the member's constituency and travel to the member's provincial or territorial capital. This means that all travel within the constituency would use regular rather than special points. Members may still use 25 of their points for special trips, which are trips in Canada other than those that are covered by the newly expanded definition of regular trips.
Members would now be provided with improved ability to travel within their constituencies, to and from Ottawa, and elsewhere, to discharge their parliamentary functions.
Another recommendation concerns family reunification. We want to clarify the policy's intent to specify the time and place in which reunification takes place. We recommend that a new guiding principle specify that the family reunification typically occurs while the House is in session, either at the member's secondary residence or another location where the member is exercising his or her parliamentary functions.
Finally, we are proposing to specify that authorized travellers can use travel points to join members travelling in their capacity as ministers, but only in two circumstances: First, if members are simultaneously carrying out a parliamentary function, and, second, when the House is sitting and the members' combined functions don't allow them to return to their principal residences.
Finally, given all the changes occurring in the travel industry, we are putting forward recommendations concerning additional eligible travel expenses. One recommendation would include class of travel, while a second covers pre-approval of travel programs. A third recommendation considers lawful alternative commercial accommodations or transportation services. The fourth recommendation concerns in-flight wireless Internet.
Regarding the class in which members are authorized to travel, we recommend specifying that members and their authorized travellers may use the most economical transportation available, regardless of the class of travel. To be more specific, members and their authorized travellers must travel at the class that they are entitled to, unless a higher class of travel is available at lower class fares. Members are encouraged to book such flights through our members' travel services, since doing so offers numerous benefits, such as substantial savings for the flight costs, corporate flight pass, and accident and other travel insurance.
Concerning the pre-approved travel programs, lawful alternative accommodations and transportation services, and the wireless Internet during travel, we propose to allow such costs to be charged to the member's office budget with supporting documentation.
These changes will enhance members' abilities to travel both within their constituency and to their corresponding provincial or territorial capital, which will allow them to better serve their constituents. The changes would also simplify the family reunification principle to provide better understanding and allocation of the resources so that members can be together with their families.
Before I go to questions on these changes, I would also like to take the opportunity to speak briefly on the other proposal, to amend the year-end timelines for June 30 to submit previous-year claims. To alleviate time pressures related to current processes for submitting previous year claims, we recommend that the chief financial officer be empowered to establish the date by which all accounts relating to a given fiscal year must be received in order for them to be eligible for reimbursement. This would allow members more flexibility to submit claims from the previous fiscal year against the current year's member's office budget while still respecting the prior year's limits included in the members' policies.
This change would optimize resources by offering members and staff more flexibility. It would also improve the efficiency of the claim process, and prevent members from having to pay out-of-pocket expenditures that would have been admissible.
Mr. Speaker, I hope this presentation clearly shows that the recommendations support an environment that is beneficial to both families and the House, facilitate members' understanding of the policies, and enhance the House administration's ability to assist members in their work.
I will be glad to answer any questions the board members may have.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2018-05-24 11:32
We currently have about 100 of such claims, which we end up denying. Many people understand the reimbursement policy, so we aren't aware of the number of unsubmitted claims.
Some members did agree to pay out-of-pocket expenditures related to their parliamentary functions.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2018-05-24 11:33
There is already a definition of disability in our guidelines and our policies, which is supported by our CHRO. I am sure that it is based on some of the other examples you've provided here, so it's not a guestimate; it's really based on a definition.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2018-05-24 11:34
I'm sorry, I lost my train of thought. What was the question?
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2018-05-24 11:35
The intent was to put it in the general pool, but to monitor to make sure that there is usage for family reunification. It was not going to be a hard control in monitoring. At this point, the members who will be getting these extra points have identified the need to use them for this purpose. If there was to be any kind of other use, we would bring it to the attention of the board.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2018-05-24 11:36
We haven't really dug into a lot of detail. It hasn't been an issue. The designated travellers are disclosed on the site. The intent that the designated traveller is the spouse or partner is respected at this point, in all cases.
If there's a need to have additional restrictions, we are open to adding those to the list.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2018-05-24 11:37
I think the intent was to allow the steps to do this. It's really just the steps of which form would be submitted and identifying the life events that would allow for a change within a shorter period of time.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2018-05-24 11:37
Typically, it would be the significant life events that would warrant the need to change the designated traveller.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2018-05-24 11:40
On the first point, we had a clarification of a question we had from another member yesterday. The House is in session from the Speech from the Throne, or when there's a prorogation or a writ, so what it includes is a lot broader.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2018-05-24 11:40
It's not when the House is sitting; it's when the House is in session. I can clarify from that perspective.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2018-05-24 11:40
The idea here of asking the members to identify the parliamentary function or the limitations is that the guiding principles do exist for travel, and this allows us to ask the member to provide us with that explanation. We never challenge it. Yes, it is the member's prerogative in terms of what a parliamentary function is and all that. This way here, we know that we can document our files and make sure that we, or my staff who process the claims, have the information to support the claims and the payments.
The idea here is that unless there's something really unusual, our fundamental principle is not to challenge the member but to make sure that we document the files so that we have everything to support the payment, respecting the principles.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2018-05-24 11:43
We're hoping that the additional emphasis on family reunification in policies will help members alleviate that concern. But yes, we do understand. It was brought to our attention. We can look into maybe other options at another point to address that.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2018-05-24 11:46
With regard to your first question about why it's the spouse or partner, I guess by using the word “typically” we know that there are going to be exceptions to this. Looking at the history of what a designated traveller has been—and we really have gone back—there was a point when there were various categories, and those categories were streamlined to family members or spouse. We went to the term “designated traveller” to avoid the reference just to “spouse” and to not be as general. It's always been related to the immediate family, though. We stayed within the frame of the history of the designated traveller process, so we thought we had addressed a bit of that concern by making it clearer while offering the options of special circumstances that may need to be accommodated here or there. If the board members here feel that we need to address it further, we can definitely take a look at it.
I think the responsibility for making sure that what the ministers do is part of their parliamentary function is well understood, and we can try to address it in the application of what's here. If we feel that it's not working well, we'll come back and make sure that we streamline this even better so that it's well understood in clarity and not just in application.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2018-05-24 11:49
It was here to help with clarity for the board members. We're open to suggestions and to move forward accordingly.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2018-05-24 11:51
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I will now take the time to ask the board to approve the templates of the House officers' expenditure reports, which will have to be published.
The publication of House officers' expenditures disclosure reports reflects the board's ongoing commitment to increased transparency and accountability.
Your approval of the templates of these reports of officers' expenditures in carrying out their parliamentary functions is one of the most important aspects of publishing these reports.
At its meeting on June 8, 2017, the board approved disclosure of expenditures for the Speaker and the other presiding officers, opposition leaders, House leaders, whips, national caucus chairs, national caucus research officer, and members who were former prime ministers.
The first House officer expenditure report will present a summary of expenses by category, and will cover the period of April 1, 2017 to March 31, 2018. The summary report to be disclosed in June will include for each House officer, their name, caucus, role, and the period of time in which they held the role for that particular fiscal year. The report will also include for each House officer, the total expenses by category, so their employee salaries, service contracts, travel, hospitality, and office expenses.
Starting in fiscal year 2018-19, expenses will be disclosed on a quarterly basis, within three months of the end of each quarter. The first quarter's House officer expenditure reports will be published by September 30, 2018. These quarterly reports will not only have the summary expenditure reports that I just explained, but will also have the detailed travel expenditure reports and detailed hospitality expenditure reports.
This graph here shows the templates of the officers' expenditure reports, the detailed reports of their travel expenditures and the detailed reports of their hospitality expenditures. If the board approves the proposed templates, the House administration will publish the officers' expenditure reports, based on the format presented today, on June 30, 2018, at the latest, as scheduled.
The publication of this report will benefit House officers by demonstrating the responsible management of taxpayer funds, highlight the board's commitment to transparency and accountability, and build a general public knowledge of House officers.
Mr. Speaker, I'm confident that these mock-ups proposed meet the intentions of the board.
I can now answer the board members' questions.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2018-05-24 11:54
The expenditures are charged to the officer in office. All expenditures accumulated before the change in officer are charged to the person who was in office at the time.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2018-05-24 11:54
Yes. That is why there is a category to determine when officers were in office in any given financial year. We know if things have changed during the year.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2018-05-24 11:54
It's very similar, but perhaps has slightly fewer details. Officers don't have the same operating expenditures as constituency offices, which advertise at the level of
House officers, ten percenters,
and so on. These categories don't exist because there are no expenditures of this nature.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2018-05-24 11:55
Expenditures are charged to the office held by the officer. They are part of the expenditures required for carrying out a support function in Parliament.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2018-05-24 11:56
The national caucus chair is a separate group that would be reflected in a separate report for that responsibility.
For the other piece, we're presenting total expenditures by category for the role. The actual breakdown of the nature of the budgets is in the policy. The policy describes which categories of budget are there. We're not doing the breakdown of each one of those by category in the disclosure.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2017-12-07 11:49
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I'm here today to look to obtain the approval of the board for the proposed 2018-19 main estimates.
The main estimates of the Government of Canada are tabled annually in Parliament and present the estimates of spending plans for the upcoming fiscal year. According to the Parliament of Canada Act, the House of Commons must compile its expenditure estimates for the upcoming fiscal year and submit these items to the Treasury Board for their tabling along with the main estimates of the Government of Canada.
The main estimates for the House of Commons include estimates for the statutory and voted expenditures. The statutory expenditures relate to the salaries and allowances of members and House officers, contributions to the members of Parliament retirement allowances, as well as some of the related contributions to the employee benefits plan.
The voted expenditures relate mainly to the expenditures of members and House officers, committees, parliamentary associations, as well as the expenditures for the administration, which is in support of the members and House officers.
The total proposed 2018-19 main estimates for the House of Commons that are being sought is $507 million, which represents a net decrease of $4 million over the 2017-18 total appropriation to date.
If I look at the larger portion of this variation, it is mainly due to a decrease of $4.8 million, and the proposed items that are included in this list have all been approved and discussed here at the board at different times. The in-year portion of these projects for certain of the items had also been proposed last month and discussed during our supplementary estimates.
To highlight some of these, there was the investments and expenditures required for the long-term vision and plan relating to the facilities, assets, campus-wide resource impact, and the information technology systems relating to that major project. There's also the food service modernization and optimization of their services. There's the digital strategy to modernize the delivery of parliamentary information.
These large investments were offset by some of the in-year temporary funding for particular projects, such as our security enhancement and our 2016-17 carry-forward.
In addition, in this submission, we are also looking for the approval to include the amount of $900,000 to support the office of the new deputy clerk, administration.
Finally, there's a technical adjustment that is included in the proposed main estimates to reflect the revised Treasury Board mandated rate for the employee benefits program, which is a reduction of about $1.6 million.
If you look at page 3 of your submission, we do have the main estimates allocated between two program activities. It's just to reiterate the decision that has just been made by the board will be reflected in these two subtotals, the transfer from members and House officers program activity to the House administration, that we will transfer the $219,000, but the total request of main estimates will remain the same. When we do our submission to the Treasury Board, it will reflect the decision that the board has just taken.
It is recommended that the board approve the 2018-19 main estimates for the House of Commons in the amount of $507 million. I am open to any questions you may have relating to this submission.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2017-12-07 11:53
I will let—
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2017-12-07 11:54
We are realistic. We will not be spending all the funds. Given the nature and number of parliamentary activities of the MPs we must support as an administration, they vary from year to year. We must also take into consideration the number of members sitting in the House for some time. As a result of the recent by-elections, we did not have to provide support to all the MPs and offices for a certain period of time. We always end up with a surplus because of reductions, or activities that did not take place.
Having said that, I think it's very important that the funding be available to support the activities and members as if the entire House sat for the entire period. We have systems and practices in place to ensure that our funds are used to support parliamentary activities and that, if there is a surplus, it is returned to the central account. In some cases, a small portion of up to 5% of our voted appropriations may be transferred to the subsequent year.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2017-12-07 11:56
Since 2015-2016, the security organization has been a completely separate entity. The portions of the budget earmarked for this purpose have been transferred to the new entity, which is accountable for its budgets, operations and activities related to the security of the organization. That group is no longer part of the House of Commons administration.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2017-12-07 11:57
They have their own budget, their own powers and their own parliamentary appropriations.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2017-12-07 12:02
At this point, there are no projects in the queue looking to come forward to ask for additional money. There will be, obviously, as I've already mentioned—not spending the full money—a carry-forward brought into the next fiscal year. We'll be at the point, when we do the supplementary estimates (B) next year, of asking for that authority to transfer those.
Given the trend over the last couple of years, the significance and magnitude of the projects that we have put on the block and need to manage and the move to the West Block, we're also really trying to focus on those initiatives so that we're successful at them and don't have to keep coming back for additional end growth. We're going to be limiting, as much as possible, the need to come back here, and we're going to focus on those very large initiatives that you approved in the last couple of meetings.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2017-12-07 12:04
That's right. In terms of members' allowances, the purpose of the index is to ensure stability, whereas the salaries of employees in your constituency offices are at your discretion.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2017-12-07 12:04
That's right.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2017-12-07 12:05
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I'm pleased to be here today to present a submission on behalf of the House administration seeking the board's approval to modernize certain policies in the “Members’ Allowances and Services Manual”. Prior to elaborating on the submission, I'd like to make a few comments to provide a brief overview of the three elements that provide that authority for the financial administrative matters related to members, House officers, and the House of Commons.
The Parliament of Canada Act grants the board the authority for the financial administrative matters with respect to members and the House of Commons, its premises, its service, and the staff. Under the authority of the act, the governance and administrative bylaws and the members' bylaw govern the use of funds, goods, services, and premises made available to members to carry out their parliamentary function. To serve as a foundation for the members, the “Members’ Allowances and Services Manual” is made available to Canadians on the House of Commons website. The “Members’ Allowances and Services Manual”, commonly known as the MAS, is a comprehensive guide to policies approved by the board relating to the budgets, the allowances, and the services for members, House officers, and research, in support of their parliamentary function.
As part of the ongoing commitment to ensure excellence in the delivery of services to members, the House administration periodically reviews the MAS and the members' bylaws to respond to feedback received regarding evolving requirements in the discharge of their parliamentary function. The proposed changes included in the submission aim to create greater flexibility to meet the members' requirements in fulfilling their parliamentary functions and reduce some of that administrative burden for members and House officers in managing the resources that are provided to them.
I am convinced that these changes will positively impact the way in which members provide services to their constituents in the discharge of their parliamentary functions and the ability of House officers to support their caucuses.
We recognize that issues faced by members are becoming more complex with the advancement of the technology and the particularities that characterize each constituency, requiring forward-looking, integrated and flexible policy alternatives.
With this in mind, the submission aims to reflect some of the current business realities and changing needs for members, ensuring that the “Members' Allowances and Services Manual” remains relevant. Furthermore, I want to add that we continue to work on assessing other aspects of the manual to make sure that it does stay relevant going forward.
I would like to take only a few minutes to present the recommendations outlined in the brief, in order to allow BOIE members to ask questions.
In terms of the special accommodations for members, it is recommended that the current policy be amended to allow for an enhanced consideration of requests related to special circumstances that may affect members' ability to fulfill their parliamentary functions. The scope of this amendment would not be limited to medical cases. It would also take into account each member's specific personal circumstances.
The Chief Human Resources Officer will continue to report annually on the funding provided to address members' needs.
Next, to improve the current support offered to families of deceased members, it is recommended that the policy be amended to include two round trips to Ottawa for each of the spouse, children, and two additional travellers; allow for the reimbursement of accommodation, meals, incidental expenses for the period not exceeding five days per trip; increase the time period for the employee assistance program for the former member's spouse and dependants from six to 12 months; and to quickly adapt to particular situations under these unique circumstances, allow the chief human resources officer to be provided with the ability to use the funds established for the special accommodation for members to reimburse additional reasonable expenses incurred in relation to the death of the member. These amendments would improve the existing support offered in order to better recognize the needs of a member's bereaved family to relocate the former member's household and personal effects following the death of a member.
The third recommendation in the presentation is to clarify the policy on interpretation services, specifically simultaneous interpretation for national caucus meetings.
Those expenses recognize the fundamental right to communicate in both official languages and are charged to a House central budget. Although those services are mainly provided by the translation bureau, we propose changing the policy when the services of external or contractual interpreters are used.
In particular, when meetings are held outside the National Capital Region, we suggest that travel expenses incurred by external interpreters be charged to the House officer's office budget.
The fourth recommendation relates to the sign language interpretation service required by members to communicate with hearing-impaired constituents. We've proposed to amend the policy to recognize that these expenses are related to the member's parliamentary function and as such should only be an allowable expense against the member's office budget.
With respect to the use of an official vehicle, we recognize that, rather than using two vehicles, it may be more practical for House officers provided with an official vehicle by the House for their parliamentary functions, to use that vehicle for personal purposes when it is not required for official business.
To this end, the proposal is to introduce a policy ensuring that the costs associated with the personal use of vehicles are reimbursed, using the kilometre rate set by the board and adjusted to take into consideration direct costs related to maintaining and using that vehicle.
The next recommendation is for the point of contact information on the member's advertisement. It is recommended that the mandatory requirement for a member to include their points of contact on ads be eliminated, but that the member clearly still indicate that the advertisement is done in their capacity as a member of Parliament.
These amendments recognize that members' means and purpose for communicating with constituents have evolved over time and that technology allows them to easily use search engines to find members' points of contact. Therefore, a more flexible approach is to allow the members to determine at their own discretion when it is necessary to provide their contact information in their advertisement, whether to serve the purpose of announcing a town hall, for example, or to promote the support they provide to their constituents, or even to issue congratulatory messages.
The next recommendation is for the small token items, which are items of minimal value provided in their capacity as a member of Parliament, such as pens or magnets. It is recommended that the advertising and hospitality policy be amended to allow for the purchase of these small token items solely to be eligible to be charged against their advertising limit rather than being charged to their hospitality limit.
These changes are intended to be effective as of April 1, 2018, to allow us to make the necessary changes for the members' expenditure reports, which are published each quarter on the Parliament of Canada website, and the associated systems and processes that we'll need to adapt.
This amendment will better reflect the intended purpose of the hospitality policy, as it relates to the use of parliamentary resources for courtesy and protocol functions.
In terms of meal tickets, some members participate in events in their communities, which allows them to communicate with many constituents in the same place. However, in the event that food is provided, there are often costs associated with those events that result in the members purchasing meal tickets.
With this in mind, it is recommended that the board formally introduce a limit for the purchase of meal tickets. This amendment confirms a practice that has been used by the House administration for many years and currently applies a limit of $125 per ticket. This limit will be reviewed periodically by the Chief Financial Officer, using the dinner per diem approved by the board. We will adjust our multiplying factor to take into consideration the protocol nature of the events.
Next, on the limits of the purchase of assets, it is proposed to amend the policy to allow the CFO to adjust the maximum allowable purchase price, quantity, or type of assets based on elements such as the members' office equipment standard, technology evolution, and market value. For example, we will continue to apply the board's decision from 2006 that had us adjust the kilometre rate and per diems based on the Treasury Board rates without needing to come back to the board to do this. That means this type of approach will be now integrated with our bylaws instead of having to be revisited every time.
In addition, we propose to amend the policy to allow the CFO to assess and permit the purchase of assets beyond these limits, where members have demonstrated reasonable and justifiable needs supported by written justification. Decisions in this regard will be made by applying the guiding principles previously approved by the board to manage assets and may include factors such as regional or special circumstances and availability of assets within the member's constituency. The CFO will provide annually to the board members a summary of the reports of the rates and limits set by the CFO as well as circumstances under which they have been applied.
These amendments recognize that the limits currently specified for the assets no longer respond to today's reality and that needs are changing rapidly and greater flexibility is necessary to support the members' parliamentary function in a timely manner.
Finally, with respect to the maximum rate of annual remuneration for members' employees, it is proposed that the policy be amended to allow the Chief Human Resources Officer to change the maximum rate of annual remuneration for members' employees based on major wage settlements reached by major groups across Canada. The same index is used to establish members' allowances.
The purpose of this proposal is to take a consistent and fair approach to changing the limit and to assist members in attracting and retaining skilled employees to support them in carrying out their parliamentary functions.
I hope this brief explanation of the submission provides an overview of the recommendations of the House administration, which aim to better support evolving requirements of members and House officers in the discharge of their parliamentary functions by creating greater flexibility and by reducing some of the administrative burden.
I trust that these proposed modifications address some of the feedback received from members and House officers. The House administration is now seeking the board's approval of these recommendations and the modification of the 10 policies within the submissions that are in our “Members' Allowances and Services Manual” and in the related bylaws.
We are open to taking any questions you may have on these topics.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2017-12-07 12:18
There is no financial impact right now. It is included in existing envelopes, be they central funds or specific funds related to the operating budgets for each item.
Everything will come into effect as soon as you approve the changes, with the exception of minor changes to our disclosure system.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2017-12-07 12:21
There were two options. One of them was to go to their whip and have the whip cover it out of the House officer budget, and the other was to pay it right now out of their MOB.
Often when we look at some of these, there are principles behind them to make sure that it is equitable and fair for all MPs. Having had that extra step, for some MPs maybe having access to the whip's budget, or not, was not necessarily fair for all the MPs in the House. It was a question of trying to come up...and having that comment and addressing that, and then clarifying that it is there and it is an allowable expense. That was one of the big clarifications we were adding, that incurring these costs is part of your parliamentary function and it is okay to charge it to the MOB.
Sometimes charging it or needing to talk to your whip created confusion: was it or was it not an allowable expense?
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2017-12-07 12:25
Okay, correct me if I go.... José is a lot more familiar with the policy than I am.
The intent of the designated traveller was to be able to have somebody who could travel for you and represent you, not just to come back to see you. We do have the other abilities when we come to the flexibility for family reunification for dependent children and for your spouse to come to join you at your secondary residence, and they are covered under the current point system, so the flexibility is to come up....
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2017-12-07 12:26
I will get to the exact definition and we'll make sure that we avoid the confusion that we're creating here.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2017-12-07 12:26
The flexibility. There was a reason.... I'd have to go back and actually look at the assessment and why the parameters were put in that strictly. We always come back and look at why they are in the MAS, why there are parameters there. There was an intent. I don't have those off the top of my head right now.
If we look at it right now, members may designate one person, other than one of their employees or another member who is not their spouse.
It is confusing, so I guess—
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2017-12-07 12:27
We can come back and consult with the members of the board and really understand who you are looking for, what is the profile, to make sure that we properly define what the role of this is and how it can be used, so that we adjust it to suit your needs. I mean, that's what the guide is here for; it's to help the administration support you in your parliamentary functions.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2017-12-07 12:28
Yes, I'll come back with that.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2017-11-23 11:31
With time, I think that providers of information services, tools and technology licences have evolved. In the past, when buying a licence, we paid a set price and kept the licence until we had to replace it. Now, as soon as we buy a licence, we have to pay annual fees to use it. That means we have to adjust and pay those annual fees to have the right to use the licences we bought, year after year.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2017-10-19 11:55
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I'm pleased to be here today to present the audited financial statements for the fiscal year ending March 2017. These financial statements present only one of the forms of financial reporting that we disclose to the public. We also have the report to Canadians, the public accounts, and the members' expenditure reports. We did retain the services of an external accounting firm, KPMG, that completed the audit and issued an unqualified opinion. This confirms that the financial statements properly reflect the activities of the House and that management maintains the systems of financial management and financial internal controls throughout the year. I also want to mention that the auditors had no other findings that could have required us to make any corrections or adjustments to our financial statements or changes to our financial process. To me, this is a clear validation of the great work of our staffs since this was also the first full year with our new financial statements.
These financial statements are prepared in accordance with the Canadian public sector accounting standards, which is different from the public accounts or even from our quarterly management reports. Let me point out some of these differences from the audit financing. In these statements we look at costs that are recognized when they are incurred. Tangible capital assets are amortized over their useful lives. Service benefits are recognized as earned during the year as opposed to charged against the authorities upon disbursements, and service provided without charge to the House by other government departments are also included.
I'd like to take a few minutes to present some of the highlights of these financial statements.
I will start with the statement of financial position, which provides the balance of our assets and liabilities as at March 31. These assets include our accounts receivable, our inventories, and our tangible capital assets. The liabilities include our estimates, like the future cost of employee benefits such as our severance and our sick leave benefits and the amounts payable at March 31 for salaries and to our suppliers.
As for the statement of operations and net financial position, it shows the net cost of operations, which we have seen fluctuate from year to year depending on various activities that can occur. Some of these events can be significant if projects are approved, if it's an election year, or when there is a change in the number of members sitting in the House.
The main reasons we look at the trends of costs of operations going up between 2015-16 and 2016-17 is that 2015-16 is lower than normal due to the fact it was an election year. In 2016-17 we see the full impact of the 30 new MPs and their constituency offices as a result of electoral boundary redistribution.
To get to some of the specifics of our expenditures, salaries and benefits did decrease by $2.5 million compared to 2015-16, but that is mainly due to the decrease of $20.9 million in severance benefit payments made in 2015-16, more specifically the amounts pertaining to members and their staff after the election. This was offset by the increase of $17.5 million for salaries and benefits for the additional staff in the 30 members' offices as a result of electoral boundary redistribution. Economic increases were also approved for a total of $1.1 million for several House administration employee groups.
The variance in accommodation is all due to the new facilities, Sir John A. Macdonald and 180 Wellington, which were opened. These costs are valued at about $8.3 million. Transportation and communication increased by $8.7 million, mainly due to the increased committee-related travel, in addition to the trends we see as a result of the election year and the new members in 2016-17.
The $1.7 million increase in rental is mainly due to the increasing cost of licence and maintenance agreements and our office equipment rental.
Professional services has increased by $6.5 million. This is mainly due to the consulting expenses for various initiatives that are presented in our House administration strategic plan 2016-17. Some of these initiatives are the strengthening of our IT security posture for the organization, the implementation of the mobile work environment for members and House administration, the renewed physical space as part of the long-term vision plan for the parliamentary precinct, the enhanced emergency management and security approaches, and the replacement of our human resource management system. In this category there was also the increased hospitality expense resulting from the increased activity of committees. Utility materials and supplies increased by $4.9 million. The increase here is mainly due to the printing activities compared to the election year and the increase in food-related costs due to the increase in sales.
Our information increased by $2.9 million, and as expected with more members, we saw an increase in advertising and printing and communication services costs.
Other categories did not vary significantly. We will be posting on our website these financial statements at the end of this meeting.
I am open to any questions you may have relating to the financial statements.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2017-10-19 12:01
I think we have many new initiatives in our strategic plan. Some of this is not permanent funding, but other projects will contribute to probably maintaining a significant portion of these specialty services.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2017-10-19 12:01
I think it will fluctuate with projects, a little up and down, but it will be higher than what it's been in the past.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2017-10-19 12:01
The addition of 30 new MPs, their new constituency offices and their employees caused a significant increase, which set a new standard. In addition, our strategic plan, which was put in place to try to modernize the administration and ensure the advancement of our parliamentary institution, will also help to keep costs slightly higher for the duration of this strategic plan, provided through 2019.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2017-10-19 12:03
If I look at the accommodation, the $8.3 million is all due to the costs relating to the Sir John A. Macdonald and 180 Wellington buildings. Also to note is the accommodation costs for all the buildings we occupy are managed by Public Services and Procurement Canada. This service is actually provided to us without charge. They need to calculate the actual value of that service provided to us. Since our financial statements are prepared in accordance with the Canadian public sector accounting standards, we must include the cost of those accommodations in these financial statements. They don't show up in our public accounts because it's not a charge against our authority. The whole $90 million you see, that is the charge for all of the accommodations, the buildings, that are operated by Public Works in the precinct.
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