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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Okay. We have Mr. Richards next.
Before we go to Mr. Richards, I just had some information given to me that we'll try this one more time. What's being proposed—and again I'll need your consensus for this—is that we continue with the agenda and when we go in camera we have a chance to discuss this further, and then come back out of camera once that's done and vote on the item at hand.
Is that acceptable to everyone? Basically, we're continuing with the agenda. It shouldn't take very long. We'll go in camera and then come back out to make a decision. Do we have consensus?
Yes, we will continue with item number two, which shouldn't take very long.
Do I have consensus? Okay, we have consensus. There have been different variations of it, but let's continue.
On item number two, business arising from the previous meeting, are there any items? Seeing none, we'll move on.
On mental health and wellness resources and professional development for members and their employees, Madame Laframboise and Robyn Daigle have a presentation.
Michelle Laframboise
View Michelle Laframboise Profile
Michelle Laframboise
2021-05-13 12:29
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Our submission today is to provide the board with information—
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I'm sorry, Madame Laframboise. I'm going to have to interrupt you for a second. I'm sorry.
Mr. Richards.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, I have a point of order. With all of the extended debate that occurred around that, I actually had my hand up to deal with something related to the business arising from the previous meeting.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Oh, I'm sorry. Okay.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
I think I just got lost because of the fact that there was such a long discussion there that flowed from the first person to put their hand up.
If you don't mind, it really is a brief comment and a quick question.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Okay. We'll be very brief, if you don't mind, but thank you for pointing that out.
Madame Laframboise, I'm sorry.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
From the previous meeting, I had made the suggestion that we seek to have you send letters to Quebec and Ontario ministries of health to make sure that we can have vaccinations for essential workers here in Parliament.
I see that what you have done is written to the federal Minister of Health, which so be it, I suppose. However, I wonder if you had a response to that letter and if you can share that with us.
Obviously it's critical that we ensure that these workers who are essential to the functioning of our Parliament and our seat of democracy here have the opportunity to be considered essential workers and get their vaccinations so we can keep them safe.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
There is no response as of yet.
Monsieur Patrice, has there been a response yet? No.
Maybe we'll push a little harder. I'll instruct our team to push on it again.
That's very good. Now we'll continue.
Ms. Laframboise, you have the floor.
Michelle Laframboise
View Michelle Laframboise Profile
Michelle Laframboise
2021-05-13 12:31
Thank you.
Our submission today is to provide the board with information on the mental health and wellness, as well as professional development resources, currently available to members and their employees and to seek the board's direction on whether they feel that additional resources are required to meet their needs.
In regard to mental health and wellness, there are currently several different venues to access their resources.
First, there's the employee and family assistance program, which provides confidential and immediate support for personal, work, health and well-being issues. This support service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at no cost to members, House officers, research offices, their employees and members of their immediate family.
Then there are the services and offerings provided by the wellness team of the House administration, including programs and services to support a healthy lifestyle and general well-being, and access to nurse counsellors who specialize in mental health, coaching and support, as well as referrals to external resources for health issues.
The health and wellness team offers yearly lifestyle improvement programs, wellness webinars and virtual conferences.
If members or their employees require access to specialized medical services for wellness, such as massage therapists, physiotherapists and others, they are often able to claim these expenses through their health care insurance plan.
In addition, the House Administration has offered a number of mental health and wellness training opportunities to the members and their staff in the context of COVID-19, such as information sessions, webinar series and virtual conferences. Finally, under current Board of Internal Economy policies, members may use their office budget to participate in workshops, conferences and courses offered. The cost of attending mental health and wellness workshops is an eligible expense, which may be reimbursed.
Recently, some caucuses have considered offering additional mindfulness resources to their members and staff, and plan to offer weekly mindfulness sessions to this group. If the board so wishes and requests, the House Administration can offer this type of service to all members of Parliament and their staff, taking into account such factors as technology needs, method of supply, and other resources currently available.
With regard to the issue of professional development, the House administration provides a number of training programs to members' offices, many of which are primarily offered by House resources with no charge to the MOB. In addition, members and their employees may attend external workshops, conferences and courses, such as language training, media relations and presentation skills training, and computer software training, and charge allowable costs to the MOB.
If so directed by the board, the House administration could explore additional options for providing professional development opportunities to members and their employees as well as additional resources. In exploring this possibility, we would determine if there are specific requirements for professional development that should be addressed through the House administration that are not currently being addressed, as well as how these additional professional development offerings would be financed and whether or not additional funding would be required.
As such, we ask the board to provide direction on whether to explore offering additional mental health and wellness resources to members and their employees as a service provided by the House administration, and whether to explore changes to the existing professional development regime.
Merci. I remain available to answer any questions.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Are there any questions?
Mr. Holland, and then Madame DeBellefeuille.
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2021-05-13 12:35
Thank you very much.
I want to take the time thank you, Madame Laframboise, and the whole team for the additional tools and support that you have been bringing on board for our staff—the staff of all parties. It is sincerely and deeply appreciated. This period of the pandemic has been particularly challenging for our employees. These resources have been an enormous help to them in doing their jobs, and in doing their jobs in an environment that supports them and is healthy. Thank you for everything you have done.
I have two observations. I know that I have made these to you elsewhere. One is that we have work to do to now socialize everyone to all of the tools that are available. We're all going to have to take those on. There are two areas that I am particularly interested. For the sake of scope, I will focus only on those for today.
One is that we have embarked on having mindfulness sessions for our employees across the country. We've already done a couple of days. We're doing that on our side, on the caucus side. I would commend it to the use of other parties. It has been a wonderful tool. We've had a great pickup in participation. It's been a wonderful tool of wellness.
I'm very much vendor-neutral on who that would be, but I appreciate your saying that you would consider exploring that as being something that is available to employees from all parties. I am very encouraged by that. I'll let that come back at another date and other parties to indicate if they have an interest in it. Perhaps you could canvass them.
One matter that I wanted to put specifically to the board today is in the realm of professional development. I had a look at the utilization of MOBs for the purposes of professional development, and it's almost nil. It makes sense, because the pressures on MOBs are absolutely enormous right now. The last thing that happens, unfortunately, is dollars for the professional development of employees if you want to go further than some of the excellent training modules that you have. This can be in conflict resolution. This can be in mental health and resiliency. It could be language training. Right now we're hearing from employees across the country the frustration that they don't have access to what is normal in other workplaces.
I have a specific suggestion for the board that we could do on a trial basis of a year and then examine its efficacy. Particularly given the year our employees have had, as a demonstration of our support for the work they do and our commitment to their well-being and professional development, we would establish $10,000 that would be added to the MOB that could only be used for the professional development of staff. I had an opportunity to talk to all whips about this. Those dollars would ensure that employees across the country, with an average of five people working in an office, would have about $2,000 per employee to build resiliency, to build their strength in conflict resolution and to have additional language training. That would go a huge way toward demonstrating support for the work they do.
When we're talking now about a performance management system, typically a performance management system has organizational goals that you set and also professional development goals that should be part of any employee's development and goal-setting. Right now there are no dollars for that. That's something that I think we need to change. I would seek the support of other members to add that as an additional support.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
All right.
We'll now go to Mrs. DeBellefeuille, followed by Mr. Richards.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Ms. Laframboise, I would also like to add my voice to that of Mr. Holland to tell you that your entire team was able to offer support and, above all, adapt to the particular context of the pandemic.
I dare to name Ms. Mercier, from your team, who is the human resources advisor for the Bloc québécois. We asked her for specific training on mental health, because the employees needed tools and intervention strategies to detect or screen for signs of distress among our fellow citizens who call our offices, who call for help, and who may even resort to suicide.
Many citizens in our constituencies phoned our offices. Our staff were completely overwhelmed because they didn't necessarily have the professional foundation or skills, or haven't developed clinical skills to be able to take these kinds of calls.
Frankly, I did not experience this during my first terms of office. This is the first time that such a large number of citizens have called us and expressed distress and great despondency. This requires our teams to be informed about mental health resources in their respective constituencies. They also need to develop first-line intervention skills, to be able to assess the seriousness of the call and the level of distress. Our staff need to be able to make connections to protect the person and offer a little more support than is usually available in the constituency offices.
I wanted to thank you, because you offered the mental health training to all caucuses. About 60 people, members of Parliament and staff, participated, including 26 members of the Bloc teams, whether members of Parliament or staff. That training was great. It was so well designed that after only one hour, everyone came out 100% satisfied, with better tools to intervene.
I think it shows that your organization is very nimble, very flexible, able to adapt to changing needs, and able to deal with the issues that our teams face in Ottawa or in our constituencies. So, I know this is a long speech, but we don't take enough time to thank you for the really important work you do.
I now turn to another subject.
When I read your presentation, I realized that there are several services that I didn't know existed, even as a whip. You know, we don't always have time to go to the House's Source site and to look at everything you offer. I was surprised to learn a lot of things that I couldn't share with my caucus. I'm sure they're not even aware of this, nor are the staff of all our teams.
So, with your permission, I would be grateful if you would make the summary of your presentation available so that I can first promote what is being offered free of charge, what is being done by your teams, so that we can find a better way to disseminate this information in our caucuses. I don't have as much experience as some of the other people around the table, but I do have some experience, and I have learned things that I want to share with my caucus and my team members. If the members of the Board of Internal Economy agree, we could make a summary available, which you could share with us, and we could make a presentation to our own caucuses. This is my first request.
On another note, I understand Mr. Holland's request to support the professional development of our teams, our workers, our caucus members, and our employees on the Hill or in our ridings. I completely agree. Personally, I am currently on leave without pay, for civic duties, from the Quebec public service. All employees had about $1,000 or $1,200 a year to upgrade their skills and get additional training. I wonder about the $2,000 and $10,000 amounts, because I know that a lot of training is offered free of charge.
If a survey of members of all caucuses showed that many of them wanted mindfulness training, I am sure that your team would be able to develop it and to offer it at no cost. Training like that would clearly come under the central House budget.
I am not opposed to having our constituency budgets increased so that an additional $10,000 can be allocated to professional development for our staff, and I don't want Mr. Holland to see this as opposition to his suggestion. I feel that the need is justified. However, would it be $10,000? How would it be managed?
I have a lot of questions. Actually, the range of services and the expertise in your department are so great that I want to ask you instead whether you have courses that our teams could take and that your teams would develop, to meet the needs that Mr. Holland has identified.
I do not want to oppose an increase in the budget for staff training, development or even co-development. I would just like to find out whether your service has the flexibility required to increase the range of your offerings, which could perhaps meet the needs. I will be able to tell you what I decide after I hear your answers.
For the moment, I am still a little undecided about Mr. Holland's request. I still have to be convinced that $10,000, or $2,000 per staff member, is a good expense.
However, if your service cannot provide that kind of training, I would be quite inclined to agree to Mr. Holland's request.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Okay.
Ms. Laframboise, do you have any comments?
Michelle Laframboise
View Michelle Laframboise Profile
Michelle Laframboise
2021-05-13 12:46
Thank you for your comments, Mrs. DeBellefeuille.
Let me add something. Appendix C has a list of the courses presently available to members and their employees. The training we offer is relatively broad. It covers topics from office management to employee well-being and interpersonal skills. If it became clear that we needed something else, we would be prepared to do the research to find out what could be provided by our employees or by resources that are already available. Otherwise, we could find a way to make it available to you.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Now we'll go to Mr. Richards.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Thanks, Mr. Speaker.
I have just a couple of questions. I'll start first with the area of mental health and wellness and then I'll move to professional development.
On the mental health and wellness front, maybe it's in the evaluation you've done here and I missed it, but it's a fairly extensive list of mental wellness initiatives that are available to employees and to members.
Have you identified anything, when you compare it to what would typically be available in either the private sector or elsewhere, that you would see as typical mental health resources that members or members' employees wouldn't be eligible for, either by being reimbursed through their MOB or through their employee health plans, etc.? Have you identified anything that are gaps based on comparable options available to the private sector?
Michelle Laframboise
View Michelle Laframboise Profile
Michelle Laframboise
2021-05-13 12:48
If you look at the employee and family assistance program, for example, it is among the best in its class. I would suggest from my experience, having worked in a variety of organizations inside and outside of the federal family, that the programs that we offer are absolutely the best in class. As well as having the EAP, having in-house services, including nurse counsellors on staff, for example, is definitely a huge part of our wellness piece. We do a lot of training and we do try to stay ahead of the trends so we always know what's coming up. The challenge has been that this last year, these last 14 months, have been exceedingly difficult and have given mental health a whole new world to work in. We're working with not just regular workplace events anymore. There are organizations that can offer more. We have seen organizations that have perhaps bigger wellness staff. I would suggest that the programs we offer and the training currently available meet the majority of our needs.
That being said, for something like mindfulness, we don't currently offer it, but it is something we would be absolutely happy to look at. Mental health and wellness are an ever-changing field. We do try to stay current with the trends to make sure we can offer the services.
While we have some excellent offerings, the challenge remains access. We can tell an employee that they can get reimbursed for certain services, but through the health care plan. Then getting access to your GP to get the prescription and then getting access to a therapist or getting access to other specialized services can be a bit more of a challenge. While we may have certain offerings, access remains a challenge, not only for our employees but also for Canadians in general.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
I was going to ask that question, because I think that's a problem that is not just specific to us. It seems to me I hear that from people, whether they are constituents or other folks I talk to. Getting access to those services seems to be a general problem across this country. That certainly isn't specific to us. I do appreciate that.
With regard to the mindfulness sessions, I don't know about the other caucuses, but obviously Mr. Holland indicated that his caucus has engaged in them. Are those currently something that can be paid for under parliamentary budgets or by the individual MPs or caucuses to have their employees involved through some kind of House officer's budget or otherwise? Is that something that is currently able to be paid for? How are those being conducted?
Michelle Laframboise
View Michelle Laframboise Profile
Michelle Laframboise
2021-05-13 12:51
We don't offer the mindfulness right now. It's being done separately, but it's something that—
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
I know you're not the ones offering it, but Mr. Holland has indicated that at least their caucus has in fact conducted these sessions. Have they been able to use parliamentary budgets to pay for those? Is that something that would be eligible under a parliamentary budget currently?
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2021-05-13 12:52
That's probably a question directed to me.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I'll let Mr. Holland answer that if....
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
If you can answer it, Mark, that's great.
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2021-05-13 12:52
We have resources that we've decided to deploy to that purpose in support of employees.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
So those are parliamentary resources you're able to access now, or not?
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Okay. I just wanted to know whether or not that was something that could be done currently.
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2021-05-13 12:52
It is. My point on that is that we're happy to do it on our side. We've had a really positive response using our House office budgets for that. Individual caucuses could do it as well. It's just a thought that it might be a good thing to offer across the board to all employees. We've had a really positive response on the impact for our employees.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you. I appreciate that, Mark.
On the professional development side, I would assume that other caucuses do this as well, but I know that within our caucus we do provide pretty extensive professional development for our members and employees—different professional development training sessions, briefing sessions, etc. I'm wondering whether in your survey of opportunities currently available to members and their employees some of those robust offerings, of which you have given us some examples here, were taken into account.
Michelle Laframboise
View Michelle Laframboise Profile
Michelle Laframboise
2021-05-13 12:53
I'm sorry, I'm not sure I understand the question.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Maybe it's unique to our caucus. I don't know. I'd assume and hope it's not. Certainly there are a host of professional development opportunities provided within caucuses themselves. You've laid out some examples of professional development opportunities. I'm just wondering if that's been factored in and taken into consideration in that survey you've done.
Michelle Laframboise
View Michelle Laframboise Profile
Michelle Laframboise
2021-05-13 12:54
The list that we have here has not taken into consideration what individual caucuses have prepared and delivered themselves.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
I think I was hearing from you that you believe there's a pretty extensive list of things that are available. Possibly, it might be a good thing occasionally to come to this board and seek suggestions for things that could be added to your list.
Setting that aside for a second, there seems to be some suggestion that maybe we add a dedicated portion of the MOB for professional development. I'm not clear on whether the issue of getting professional development opportunities to people is in fact a lack of financial resources available to members. I would assume, given there's an extensive list of opportunities that you provide that, from my understanding, can be charged to the MOB.... Is there a financial barrier to MPs to provide these things or is there some other reason they're not being provided to employees?
The question would be how many MPs are spending right to their cap? Maybe that's why they're squeezing these things out. How many MPs are squeezing within $10,000 of the cap of their MOB? I'm trying to determine if a financial barrier actually exists or not. It may not be a need to provide more dollars to the MOB in order to facilitate these things. There may be another problem.
I understand the problem that we're trying to fix. I certainly support the idea that we would want to try to ensure that professional development opportunities are available to employees and members where needed. I'm trying to determine if we're actually hitting the right problem in the way we're trying to solve it. I don't know if you have that kind of information. If you don't, maybe we can get it.
How many MPs are currently squeezed right up to the cap on their MOBs? How many are within $10,000?
Michelle Laframboise
View Michelle Laframboise Profile
Michelle Laframboise
2021-05-13 12:56
I know that we did take a look at that. My understanding is that they don't all use to their cap. Robyn, do you have additional information?
I'm not sure if the CFO is on the line anywhere here. I understand he was looking into—
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
Daniel Paquette
2021-05-13 12:56
I can take that question.
Looking at the trends over the last few years—obviously the last fiscal year and the previous one are not necessarily typical years—what we normally see as a trend is that about 25% of the members spend more than 95% of their budget. I don't necessarily have the $10,000 mark, but if you take 95% of their budget, they're spending less than $18,000 of the top of their budget. That's about a quarter of the members. The rest would still have some flexibility.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
I guess it depends on what part of that range they'd be in, if it's closer to the $18,000. We're talking about less than 25%, obviously. It could be 10% or 15%. I'm just trying to get a sense of whether that's the barrier here.
I think I'm hearing that it may be a barrier for some members. We all have to make choices about how we use our resources. I guess that's no different than anywhere else. It doesn't sound to me like it's a huge issue when you have less than a quarter who are.... It would be a barrier in those cases. It could be a matter of prioritizing.
That answers my question. Thank you.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I believe Mr. Holland has a question or a comment.
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2021-05-13 12:58
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
I hear Blake's point. When we were talking about this point, one of the things I said was that when there are no dedicated resources for something, it doesn't happen.
As a case in point, right now, 0.013% of a member's budget is used for professional development, and that includes members themselves. When we talk to our employees, the reason for that is that there's never any discussion of the fact that those dollars would be available. There are some great training modules, but the problem we have is that if a member wants to go deeper in language training, for example, or a member wants to take a course on how to better deal with difficult case work, difficult constituents, conflict management, mental health and resiliency, there really isn't anything to support that culture of professional development for our employees.
Given the fact that we've gone through such a difficult period of time, where employees on the front line have been, over the past 14 or 15 months, subject to so much strain, I think it's a good idea, generally. It's been present in every organization I've worked in, and a wonderful gesture of support for our employees.
What I'm suggesting.... Claude talked about $2,000 an employee. I'm not against that, but I thought it would be simpler to say $10,000 per office dedicated exclusively for the purpose of the professional development of employees. The reason being is that there may be somebody who has one course that costs $3,000, and another person has a course that costs $1,000.
My suggestion is that we take a year, take a look at what kind of uptake there is, encourage our employees to participate and utilize this, and if at the end of the year we feel that was not a successful endeavour for whatever reason, we can sunset it.
It's something that, at least in our conversations with our employees, would be very meaningful to them. Culturally, it would send a really important message about our believing in their professional development.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2021-05-13 13:00
I'll move that for consideration, and if there's consensus on that, great.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Richards, do you have another point?
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you.
I hear Mark's point that unless there are dedicated resources for something, it doesn't happen. We do have, within our MOBs now, dedicated portions for certain things. We're not talking about an extensive problem of MPs who cannot seem to do anything within their budget. That's not the issue. It's the idea of dedicating funds toward it.
Perhaps $10,000 is the right dollar amount to start with, or maybe it's $5,000 or $2,000 that Claude is suggesting, whatever it might be. Rather than adding to the budget, we would dedicate a portion within the existing budget. That would sort of deal with the issue of making sure that something is dedicated, without adding to the budget. It doesn't sound like there's a need to do that in order to accomplish this. As Mark said, it's a matter of dedicating funds toward it.
Whether it's a percentage of the budget or a dollar figure, however we want to do it, perhaps we can do it that way, where we make the suggestion that it's $5,000 or 1%. Whatever it is, that amount would be dedicated from the existing budget toward professional development.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Very good.
I'm looking at the time, and we're past our 1 o'clock finish time.
Do we want to extend the session? I know there's a certain interest in this item in particular, but we also have other items as we get closer to QP.
Is there consensus on what we want to do with this session, its being 1 o'clock?
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Is that to allow this discussion to finish? Is that what you are saying?
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
To what point: just for this item?
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Just for this item, yes.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Okay, just for this item. The others we'll take up when we come back.
Very good.
The floor goes to Mrs. DeBellefeuille. She will be followed by Mr. Holland.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I don't want us to leave with Mr. Holland's proposal unresolved. In my view, it is really worthwhile. I am not opposed to additional funds coming from places other than our budgets. I have to tell you sincerely that I do not really agree with the money coming out of our budgets and being set aside for this, as Mr. Richards suggests. This is because our budgeting for the year is already done.
Mr. Holland's proposal is a good compromise. In fact, if we agree and if Mr. Paquette can show us that it's financially possible to add a fund specifically for the professional development of our employees, starting this year, the suggestion could be really helpful. We would need to document the process, showing whether the budget was used, what training was taken, and so forth. We would also need to evaluate it in order to come to a better decision, given how the budgets are to be allocated and used by April 1, 2022.
In that way, we would be looking out for our employees who, as was previously mentioned, are going through really difficult and unprecedented situations. We could set this up this year, the one that started on April 1, and use the amounts set aside for it, as well as our operating budget, to help our employees meet the new professional challenges. We could use it as somewhat of a pilot project, evaluate it at the end of next year, determine whether it met the employees' needs and whether it is a workable solution. We could then decide whether we were going to continue it.
I am quite in favour of that compromise proposal, which meets the needs of our employees. So I am in favour of Mr. Holland's initial proposal.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Go ahead, Mr. Holland.
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2021-05-13 13:05
Thanks, Mr. Speaker.
I totally agree with Claude. I think that, if we scale back members' existing budgets, it's going to come as a major shock to members to suddenly find out t they have less money.
The second point is that, for a lot of members who go up to that 95% mark, they do so because they're in ridings where constituency offices are much more expensive or staff are much more expensive. People in certain metropolitan areas have a much bigger strain. While we have some provision for that, we don't really have a lot to compensate for the fact that if you're in downtown Toronto, downtown Vancouver, or other environments, there are a lot of extra costs. What we would be doing in effect is saying that professional development would only be available for some offices.
I like the idea of doing it, as Claude has suggested, on a temporary basis. We can do it for this fiscal year, review it next year, and see what the uptake is. Yes, I would support what Claude just said.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Go ahead, Mr. Richards.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Thanks.
I'm not opposed to the idea here, as I think I've indicated already. It's something that I know I certainly do within my office, and I think it's a great thing for others to do. I'm also aware that, as employers, we make our own decisions. I sort of hate the idea that we start to get prescriptive about how people spend their office budgets. I like the idea of enabling this. I don't even mind the idea of dedicating funds, but I think that if we start to say, “Okay, we're going to add this much to your budget for this", then what comes next, right? It gets to the point where we're starting to be very prescriptive about how people spend.
All MPs make decisions accordingly. For example, we have a dedicated portion of our budget for advertising now. I choose not to advertise; I don't spend that money. I believe there are better ways to utilize my MOB. Others make different decisions, and that's fine. I just don't like the idea of our starting to get into dedicating a bunch of things to....
I like the idea of professional development. I don't mind the idea of considering setting it aside, because I agree that sometimes if it's not set aside, it doesn't get used for something, but I don't like sort of, “Here's a pool for this, and here's a pool for that”.
My thinking is that I maybe just don't have quite enough information at this point. I understand where Mark's coming from with people in areas where constituency lease costs are high in large ridings where they have to have more than one office and things like that. Often, then, people are spending to the cap. That is why they're doing it. If that's the problem, perhaps we need to look at that and whether those supplements for some of those areas are done appropriately or in the right way.
I would just like to get a bit more information before I make a decision on this. For the 25% that are more than 95%, can we break that down a little better? How many are within $5,000 of their cap? How many are within $10,000 of their cap? Then we'd have some sense of what we're talking about there. I'm not suggesting that I'm opposed to this. I just don't think I have quite enough information to make a decision that I would want to add to MPs' budgets at this point.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2021-05-13 13:08
My apologies, Mr. Chair. I thought when we spoke as whips.... I misunderstood. I thought we were closer to consent than we were.
What I'll do then is to withdraw the item. We'll go back and have a conversation as whips to try to answer Blake's questions, and we'll return with this item once we have a consensus.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
That's good.
If there are no more comments on that.... That was part of my understanding of the consensus. We're basically instructing HR to explore offering additional health and wellness resources to members and to employees of the House and administration. We're also directing them to explore changes to existing professional development regimes. I will add as well that they consult with whips to see what they're looking for so that we can have options when we return to make a decision.
Do we have consensus on that? Does that make sense?
Mr. Richards, do you have a comment?
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Yes, I just have one quick comment, Mr. Speaker.
I had a very brief conversation with Mark about this, and certainly, as I indicated at this meeting, I think it's a good discussion to have. I'm supportive of the idea of making sure that professional development is provided, but we never did get into any detail.
I'm happy to do that, but I'll still ask for the the information I've just asked for. It would be helpful to me in knowing the appropriate way to approach this. If we could still ask the administration to provide the information about how many MPs are spending right to the cap, how many are within $5,000 of the cap and how many are within $10,000, that would be very helpful to me.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
We have that request on the record, and it will be brought to the board.
Mrs. DeBellefeuille, do you have a question or comment?
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
I would like to make one final comment on this, Mr. Speaker.
If you are letting the human resources people do the analysis that Mr. Richards is asking for, I believe that last year must not be used as a reference, because it's not representative. Because of the pandemic, we spent less in certain areas, so we have to use a wider reference than just last year. In that way, I feel that the analysis would be more accurate.
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