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.