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Results: 1 - 15 of 108
View Geoff Regan Profile
Lib. (NS)
Duly noted—and will do, I'm told.
Are the minutes approved otherwise?
They're approved. Okay.
Is there any business arising from the previous meeting?
Not seeing any, we will now move on to the modernization of policies related to communicating with constituents.
During the board's meeting on February 28, 2019, changes to the ten percenter program were presented for approval. Members discussed the introduction of a limit on the number of mailings that an MP can distribute under the proposed new program.
The initial proposal included a limit of six times the number of households in a member's constituency per calendar year. It was agreed that further examination of this limit was required. It's my understanding that since the last meeting, a revised proposal to establish the limit at eight times the number of households in a member's constituency per calendar year has been put forward and is supported. If this is indeed the case, the administration will monitor volumes and financial forecasts and return to the board for direction in any given year, if required.
Is it the will of the board to approve this revised proposal?
I think I'm seeing “yes”, so that's agreed.
That finishes point number three. You guys are really good.
Mr. Strahl.
View Mark Strahl Profile
CPC (BC)
Perhaps we could just have some clarification. I have the package of the different constituency mailers that are now available. Obviously, the 30-day rule now comes into effect, which we're used to having with our householder package.
Could you maybe just describe for our members, who I'm sure will be watching and also reading this transcript later, the differences between a constituency mailer and a householder, and whether or not the 30-day exclusionary period will apply just for certain types of mail? For instance, could you do two householders 30 days apart and a constituency mailer in between? Is there a coordination of those printed pieces, or are they on separate tracks?
Benoit Giroux
View Benoit Giroux Profile
Benoit Giroux
2019-04-11 11:47
Thank you, Mr. Strahl. Indeed they're on separate tracks. They are two different programs and they will remain two different programs. The main difference is the householder. You use one year of your allocation of a householder and you can cover your full riding. If you decide to do less in the householder, then it's your allocation. You use your allocation even if you do less.
For constituency mailings, you can break it out. Let's say you have a riding of 50,000. You can decide to send 5,000 in a given area of your riding, the next day 10,000 somewhere else, and so on and so on, up to your full household. That resets every 30 days. You can indeed do one householder and a full constituency mail at the same time, because the counter is for each program. They are not dependent on each other.
View Geoff Regan Profile
Lib. (NS)
I think Mr. Strahl is smiling, so I take it he agrees too. Good.
Thank you very much.
We are at the fifth point on the agenda: occupying, managing and vacating constituency offices.
On that topic, we'll hear from Daniel Paquette, Chief Financial Officer, Philippe Dufresne, Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel, and José Fernandez, Deputy Chief Financial Officer.
Mr. Paquette, the floor is yours.
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
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.
View Mark Strahl Profile
CPC (BC)
Just quickly, I recognize that the three-year guideline works very well in a majority Parliament situation. Obviously, it's more challenging in a minority. I guess that would fall back to the 12 months. I'm not familiar with this, as both of the times I've been elected, it's been in a majority setting. I know that there are challenges with signing leases with landlords for an indeterminate period of time.
I'm a little confused, though, about members being told to pick an existing space, but then they can have leasehold improvements built into their lease, and renovation costs assigned to their budgets. Those all sound contradictory. Is that just encouraging people, or will the bylaws—the policy—actually prevent some cases where someone might be going into, for instance, a brand-new building, built to suit, with lease incentives and all the rest of it? I'm unclear, from how you described it there. It seemed like there were three or four different options. The first thing said was, “Please choose something that's already built.”
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
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.
View Geoff Regan Profile
Lib. (NS)
I think what you're telling us is that whether they use an existing space or a new space, you're going to provide more suggestion than direction.
Is that right?
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
Daniel Paquette
2019-04-11 12:18
That's right.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I'd like to thank the guests for their presentations.
I have two questions, and perhaps some comments to follow up on your answer.
You mentioned that MPs had done renovations just before an election or that they had done so in order to increase the cost of their leases for each month that followed. Has this really been a problem? That's my first question.
My second question concerns the 21 calendar days. We have just discussed what happens to MPs who aren't re-elected. They have a job to do here: they have to box up everything they've accumulated during their work, which may be five, 10 or 15 years. It's the same for constituency offices; they have the same requirements. However, as I understand from this proposal, the period during which they can use an employee is limited to 14 days, but members have a 21-day period to do all this work.
Is it true that, according to the provisions, outgoing MPs can use an employee for 14 days?
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
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.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you for your answer.
I would recommend that this be more of a warning, so that the policy is clear to everyone. I fully agree with that. Other than in difficult situations such as a flood or the like, offices should not be renovated. I find this practice commendable and support it.
For the 21-day period, I find this practical, but only to the extent that MPs can have employees to help them. We set a 14-day limit for doing all this work, but we allow a 21-day period to empty the premises. This seems problematic to me. As we have just talked about, we must consider all the other things that the person is going through. Mr. Holland and Mr. Regan are well aware of the requirements that accompany this. I think it would be desirable for an employee to be able to help the member so that the work can be completed in 21 days. This facilitates the transition, as well as ensuring that the work is actually done. So, as Mr. Strahl mentioned, the new MP can move into the office and continue his or her work in the riding, which is very important.
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
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.
View Geoff Regan Profile
Lib. (NS)
I should point out to Mr. Julian—and he may know this—that one of the things the board decided not that long ago was that a defeated member would have the benefit of one paid employee for 14 days afterwards, to assist with that process. It's just an element that needs to be kept in mind. That's all. It might be of some interest.
I'm not suggesting that your point isn't well taken, by the way.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
We're making the period shorter, from 30 to 21. I'm suggesting that if we're shortening the period—and I think there are very good and solid reasons for that—we end up now in a situation where that newly defeated member, who is struggling with a whole range of things, is also endeavouring to meet that new deadline but without the new resources, or at least a few more days from an employee who can assist them in doing that.
I think that if what we are all seeking is a smooth transition, that seems to me to be a bit of a weakness in the proposal. Everything else I absolutely support. If we're moving the dates closer, I think it makes sense to allow that person to have somebody who can assist them in achieving that deadline.
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