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View Bruce Stanton Profile
CPC (ON)
Good morning.
Thank you, Mr. Chair. I'm delighted to be here today.
I'm joined by Susan Kulba, who is the DG and chief executive architect on the House administration side, as well as Rob Wright, assistant deputy minister with PSPC for the science and parliamentary infrastructure branch.
I'm here today as the chair of the LTVP working group, to update the board on our work since our last meeting, and will be seeking your support for the design direction regarding four areas: the lobbies, the galleries, the west light court, the west foyer light well, and a potential increase in space in the centre light court.
I'll also update you on two subjects regarding the independent design review panel and the issue of outreach to parliamentarians. I'll comment briefly on those last two items first.
On October 28, we discussed a plan for the engagement with our working group and the independent design review panel, IDRP, regarding the entrance to the Parliament welcome centre.
The IDRP is an eminent group of Canadian architects with extensive experience on projects of this nature. The working group had an opportunity to meet with them by Zoom on November 6, and we found their expert advice to be informative, helpful and consistent with the working group's opinion on things like the entrance design and retention of the front lawn and the Vaux wall.
We conveyed the importance of the House of Commons as a complex functioning workplace for parliamentarians, which also greets hundreds of visitors and guests daily and serves as one of Canada's most iconic heritage buildings.
We think the panel benefited from their meeting with us, and it will contribute to the panel's discussions and advice to PSPC in the time ahead.
Secondly, at our last meeting of November 27, we reviewed several means by which parliamentarians could become more involved and informed on the pace of work in Centre Block and even some possible areas where the working group could invite direct input, before interior formats and designs are finalized.
We anticipate that parliamentarians could be informed using various communications tools— video conferences, in-person meetings when they become possible again, website presence and video, as well as through the Speaker's regular newsletters. We believe that a project of this importance, not only to this cohort of parliamentarians, but to future ones, would benefit from direct input from the people who are at the centre of this large, complex workplace and centrepiece of Canada's system of government.
Turning to the four design recommendations, I would like to now discuss the lobbies, galleries and ideas for the existing light courts.
As you all know, the government and opposition lobbies are an important space for parliamentarians. It's where we conduct our parliamentary work, meet with colleagues, and where members will usually spend at least one ten-hour sitting day per week, and occasionally much longer. It's also the gathering place for votes and question period every day, all the while being close to our whip's and House leader's team and available at a moment's notice for duty in the House.
We've seen that this space was often overcrowded, and that's before the expected growth in MP numbers over the coming five decades, when these important spaces will be under even greater pressure. So, in finding ways to address the space pressure on the lobbies, the working group was presented with, and agrees with, a plan to expand the lobbies across two floors and parts of an adjacent courtyard.
This page shows a proposed plan for both floors. The second floor exists now. More space will be added on the ground floor.
The plan will keep the lobbies at the chamber level, but expanded vertically, to the ground floor, by adding a space at least as large as the current 2nd floor lobbies, with independent stair and elevator access for the level below.
The plan also includes expanded accessible washroom space. The image shows, in the centre of the plan to the left on the ground floor, that the washrooms are between the two lobbies and are exclusively for the use of parliamentarians and ground floor lobby staff.
In relation to the lobbies, we recommend for the board's consideration a design for both the government and opposition lobbies that includes additional support space located on the ground floor and adjacent courtyard, with dedicated vertical circulation for both.
Going to the galleries, on our meeting of October 28, the House presented us with a proposed design approach for the Centre Block galleries for our review and questions. You'll see the designs. On the left are the existing galleries on the third floor, and on the right is the proposal.
We recognize that the Centre Block galleries needed to be modified to become more accessible. The current physical design is well short of national building code standards for accessibility. In fact, prior to the closure of the building there was minimal accessibility. Meeting code and accessibility standards will result in a reduction of seating capacity in the galleries from 553 seats to 296.
The working group had a really good discussion regarding the average public attendance in the galleries over the periods of time that we experienced them, the extra demand during school visits and special addresses, and comparisons with comparable parliaments and legislative assemblies.
We asked the administration to investigate the possibility of using some flexible space in those galleries so that the design of the seating would permit a scaling-up, if you will, under those special circumstances, while assuring that it meets national building code standards. In relation to the galleries, we agreed to recommend that the board endorse the proposal of a design that complies with national building code requirements for accessibility, recognizing that there will be a significant reduction of available seating and that the architects be instructed to consider flexible solutions to accommodate more visitors.
That's the second item. Now we'll move on to the west light court and the west foyer light-well.
At our November 27 meeting we agreed on a conceptual design approach and strategy for the west light court. That's what you see in front of you now. That is an image of the west light court looking south. You would see the outer wall of the House of Commons on your right, with the stained glass windows, and then the lower levels as that area or space is closed in.
The primary purpose of the light courts is to bring natural light and ventilation to interior spaces not located on an exterior facade. This is an important part of the architectural and heritage character of Centre Block. We were informed that closing in the light courts at the roof level will provide significant improvements on energy performance for the building. The proposed design would convert the larger west light court into an open, light-filled space that would provide public access to the galleries, and where visitors to the chamber could circulate between level B1—that's the main level of the Parliament welcome centre—and levels two and three in Centre Block.
It would greatly improve the circulation of the public within Centre Block, but importantly, it keeps the original architecture of Centre Block intact. It also allows the light court to continue to bring natural daylight to the chamber and other interior spaces.
There's an additional light court on the west side. It's proposed that a new glass enclosure cover what's called the west light-well. This is right above the House of Commons foyer, essentially to provide natural light in the foyer area. This would effectively restore natural light to that area, intended as part of the Beaux-Arts planning for the foyer in the original structure. You will recall that there's a beautiful heritage glass laylight in the foyer ceiling. Currently, that whole light-well is closed in, due to damage and leaking, and so on, many decades ago. The idea would be to put a covering over it that would allow natural light to be restored to that light-well.
Accordingly, the working group recommends that the board accept and adopt the proposed design approach for both the west light court, the larger one, and the west foyer light-well.
The fourth and final item is the centre light court. This is a much bigger space. In the sectional view of Centre Block, I'd draw your attention to the purple area in the middle. The centre light court spans a much wider space, and in particular, the area above the roof of the Hall of Honour. If you were going down one of the interior hallways in Centre Block on the fourth or fifth floor and looked out towards the centre light court, you would see the roof over the Hall of Honour at the third level. The idea would be to add additional floors on top of that roof that would extend right to the top on floors four, five and six, and then, of course, join the north and south hallways in Centre Block on each of those floors.
We think it's an excellent opportunity to infill the space in Centre Block to add much-needed space for parliamentarians. Up to 600 square metres of space would be added to the functioning interior space and it would be done in such a way as to not interfere or reduce in any way the natural light that comes into the building. Also, of course, as mentioned earlier, by capping over the light court and still allowing natural light, it will permit much better energy efficiency for the building.
It should be noted as well that none of this infill would do anything to interrupt the features or construction of the Hall of Honour. It would all occur above that level.
We therefore recommend to the board that the proposed infill approach be endorsed for the centre light court with the expectation that conservation principles will be respected, and of course, the working group will return to you at a later time to discuss some options for the use of that interior space.
Overall, I'd like to congratulate all the members of the working group and all the parties for their contribution to the work. I realize that it's important for MPs to be involved in the project.
Finally, I would like to point out that the working group plans to hold another meeting early next year. I'd be happy over the coming months to come back with further updates as our work progresses.
Thank you for your attention. I'd be happy to answer any questions you may have or to provide more details on any of the points discussed.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you Mr. Stanton.
We'll now begin the question period.
Over to you, Mr. Julian.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you very much.
Thank you, Mr. Stanton.
I know there's a tremendous amount of work involved, in addition to all the other hats you wear, so our thanks to you and to the team of members of Parliament working with staff on this difficult issue.
I have a number of questions, so I'll just lay them all out. I think that is easiest.
First off, in terms of the centre light court infill, you haven't mentioned what the possible use would be for that shared space. It would be helpful to have a few more details on that proposal.
On the infill courts, the west light court and the light-well, those seem to me to be no-brainers. Having had an office a number of times on that west court, I know the amount of wasted energy that is required to heat the four walls of the courtyard rather than just covering it over and using that space far more effectively. On the light-well, it never made sense to me why that was blocked in the first place. Again, there's an energy loss there, so bravo for looking at that.
My concern about the galleries, quite frankly, is that we are cutting basically in half the participation of people who are able to come directly into the House of Commons and see parliamentarians at work. As someone who comes from the far west of Canada—5,000 kilometres away—I know that when any of my constituents make their way across Canada, they want to have the full experience of our democracy, and often, they want to be able to participate in the House of Commons. That hasn't been a problem generally, but if we're cutting the number of seats in half, I think that would be. I would raise concerns about that.
Yes, absolutely we need to have the ability for people with reduced mobility and people with disabilities to be able to participate fully. There are designated spaces that could achieve that, but I'm very concerned about the cuts in the number of people who can actively participate. Could you perhaps explain a little bit more? You mentioned a scaling-up on occasion. That may happen more often than not. Particularly when we open the new building, we'll have people coming from across the country to see it. We certainly saw that with the Library of Parliament, so if you could go a little bit more into that, I would appreciate it.
I gather that a dedicated internal vertical circulation is Ottawa-speak for stairs or an elevator, and I'm wondering in terms of the lobby what that actually means. It would seem to me that given the narrowness of the lobby space, what we are actually doing is having the lobbies one floor down, and how that access up and down is achieved is important.
My final question is the most important one. What are the cost differentials in doing this? I assume from the west light court and the light-well that the energy savings will probably be far beyond the renovation costs. For some of the other things, it would be helpful for us to know at least in a ballpark way what the differential is between what would be a scaled-down version and what could be proposed. As we're going through a pandemic, most Canadians want to make sure every dollar spent is spent effectively.
Nobody wants to see a deterioration of the Centre Block. Quite the contrary, they want to see a renovation, but they don't want to see frills. We have to be very conscious of that to make sure that every dollar spent is effective.
Those are my questions. Thank you.
View Bruce Stanton Profile
CPC (ON)
Mr. Julian, as usual, you have covered all the bases here, and I'll do my best to take them one at a time.
On the centre light court additional infill of those three floors, we did look at very preliminary options as to what that would add. That is one of the things I think we would like to come back to the board with. Potentially, I don't mind saying, this would be one area where, in reference to, say, consultations with parliamentarians, it would be something that we could chat with them about as well.
We're far from a decision as to what that interior format would need to look like, but as an example, one could anticipate that on floors four and five you could add up to, say, three different office suites on each floor, an additional six offices in there. Members should know that across the entirety of Centre Block the number of offices available will be reduced for a number of reasons, so it gives an ability to sort of catch up on some of that.
The sixth floor we believe, because it will be at the top of the building, affords the possibility—and again, not finalized—of creating a space for parliamentarians to gather. Senators and members will know that there are opportunities for that. We will get back to you with that and, again, it could be the subject of some consultation.
With regard to the galleries, Mr. Julian, your concerns were shared among the working group, real concerns with the overall reduction in the number of seats in the gallery. When we looked at actual attendance in the gallery outside of question period and special events, we all know as parliamentarians that, for the most part, the 553 seats were well above what was needed.
You're right, at certain special times of the year and certainly for an address to a joint chamber, senators and parliamentarians, when you need a full gallery.... That is why the working group suggested this as an example. If you look at the east and west interior walls, you'll see in the galleries' design—opposition, government lobbies and the Speaker's gallery—that some of those spaces protrude inward into the chamber. Those would be the locations for accessible seating. There will be occasions during those special addresses, as an example, where not all of that accessible seating will be needed. Similarly, perhaps in the north gallery, the design of seating could be done in such a way that it could, as we suggest, be flexible or scale up to accommodate more persons and still meet national building code standards.
We've asked the House administration and PSPC to come back to us, in this case, the House. I think Susan's team would come back to us with some suggestions. Sure enough, we'll have fixed seating and meet all the code for 296, but maybe there's a way some of that seating could be designed so that we could scale up to some standing room or some other means to accommodate more people on those special occasions.
Finally, we'll say that the 296, relative to the number of members who are in the House, is relatively consistent with the other chambers and legislatures that we looked at as well, comparing the number of members to the number of seats in the gallery.
In terms of lobby access and the idea of having an expanded lobby area on the lower floor, you all know that essentially what's on the second floor now where the lobbies are situated will effectively stay the same, with the exception of the area that protrudes into the light court on the right-hand side. There's a little bit of expansion there that will permit elevator access, for example, and other stair access for the opposition lobby side. On the lower floor you'll effectively have a space equal in size to the second floor, and each of those sides, both the opposition and government side, will have their own independent stairway and elevator so that members attending the lobby during the day can move up and down freely, and it would be fully accessible.
We appreciate that it will create some potential issues around keeping members connected to their whips and leadership teams while they are there. However, considering the number of MPs that the House will need to accommodate in the usual proportions over the next 50 years, if the same formula is kept in place—we're already under space pressures now—it's only going to get worse down the road.
Finally, on the cost differentiations on the light court proposals, I'm going to ask Rob to comment on that.
Rob Wright
View Rob Wright Profile
Rob Wright
2020-12-03 11:14
Sure. Thank you very much for the question, Mr. Chair.
I will speak first about the lobbies. We looked at two options essentially for the chambers. The option that is proposed here—and these costs include the work on the galleries in the chamber and for the lobbies—is costed at approximately $75 million. The alternative option, which was the expanded chamber option that we looked at, was a little in excess of $300 million. Those were the two comparative options that we looked at. The proposed option here, which again includes the work on the galleries, the chamber and the lobbies, would be approximately $75 million.
On the light-wells, as you quite correctly point out, there are a number of puts and takes from a cost perspective, so it is a little more complex. We could come back with cost comparisons on that, because there are the energy consumption considerations. The covering in the light-wells is essential to the sustainability strategy for the Centre Block. We have a carbon-neutral strategy for the Centre Block. Before it closed, the Centre Block was the worst performing from the perspective of energy performance, energy usage and GHG emissions within our portfolio. That is essential to the strategy, going forward.
The other thing that would be important to note is that, especially with respect to the west and east courtyards, the use of these courtyards provides universal accessible access for Canadians to the galleries. Without using the courtyards in this way, we would have to find another and probably more costly way that would impact the heritage components of the Centre Block.
This sidesteps a number of those issues. It is critical to the sustainability strategy, it is critical to the universal accessibility strategy and, as the Deputy Speaker indicated regarding the growth in the number of parliamentarians, it provides some additional elbow room for the building, which is critical. It's part of returning the Centre Block to the original vision of John Pearson, of making sure that there's symmetry, a light-filled space and common-use space for Parliament. This is essential and has been a bit lost over the years as functionality has, with the need for space, overtaken some of this common space.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
That's fine. Okay.
We'll go to Mr. Richards, followed by Mr. Deltell.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Just to follow along, one of my three questions was addressed already but I have two additional. I'll just follow up on the light court proposal.
We have the proposals for the west foyer, the west light court. Is there a similar proposal being put before our colleagues in the Senate for the east side and a light court there? I'm just curious on that front.
View Bruce Stanton Profile
CPC (ON)
Indeed, there is. You may know that there is a working group much like ours on the House side that is getting constituted this month to deal with these issues as well. There is an east light court as well that is primarily surrounded by the Senate offices, but it's worth noting that there are House of Commons offices that typically face onto that light court as well. That's the subject of some discussion right now. It has not been finalized as of yet, but we are in the midst of discussions with the Senate working group to meet with them, hopefully in the new year.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Okay.
Just as a follow-up on that, you mentioned that there are, for example, House of Commons offices that back into that area as well. How will the interface between the two work to ensure that things are coordinated in a proper fashion and we are not getting two very different outcomes on each side?
View Bruce Stanton Profile
CPC (ON)
We're looking at finding a way to certainly get agreement on what is done there, but I think that, overall, the core objectives are around ensuring that we are maintaining the heritage objectives and keeping the architectural integrity of this amazing building in place.
Yes, we can modernize it and make it better from an energy efficiency point of view, but we're going to do all we can to make sure that we walk that line between an incredibly complex and busy operating workplace and, at the same time, maintaining that integrity and keeping the character of the interior services and spaces in such a way that it retains those remarkable features for generations to come.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
There's one other question I have. It wasn't really within the scope of your presentation this morning, but I am really curious about the welcome centre and how that will now look in terms of the entrance.
Right now, of course, we have the one entrance in front of the Peace Tower. Is that preserved in this or will something be done? I've always found that a bit of an odd and very awkward circumstance. What are the plans for that going forward, or can you address that today?
View Bruce Stanton Profile
CPC (ON)
For the Parliament welcome centre, we did adopt an approach there that will have the main entrance for Parliament, if you will, essentially on either side of the main stairs, right in the centre section as you walk towards the Peace Tower, as you approach those main stairs.
The entrance for the public and for others is still somewhat part of a discussion on how we're going to finalize the uses. That's a discussion that's being had, and it's one of the things that the IDRP spoke with us about as well. It's to make sure that, as the public come up there, they'll enter what is essentially the centre point of the whole parliamentary triad, as they say: the East Block, West Block and Centre Block.
On what you will see on the surface, though, as you look from Wellington up towards the Peace Tower, much of that is essentially going to stay the same. The lawn will be the same size. The Vaux wall, that stone wall that originates from the original structure, will be there. Members and senators will still have their own private entrances, as they do now, at grade level, on the east and west ends of the building.
The main public will enter from the sides of the stairs and essentially go slightly downward at that point. The main level, B1, in the Parliament welcome centre is where most of the public will clear security and we'll have those features of the welcome centre there. It's from there that they would proceed. If they were going to the galleries, they would take the elevators up to the third floor from that location.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
When you say “the sides of the stairs”, do you mean the stairs that are there now—or were there—right under the Peace Tower? Are you talking about stairs that are going up from the lawn level?
View Bruce Stanton Profile
CPC (ON)
If you walk up that main walkway, there's that grand staircase that goes up to the upper level—we'll call it a mezzanine level, almost—that's at grade level with the entrance to the Peace Tower. It's at the base of those main stairs. The left-hand and right-hand sides are where you will go into the welcome centre.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Okay. I think that does address what I was concerned with, which is the way it was previously. We all know that there have been situations where someone is coming directly into the building. We're avoiding that situation now. Someone will have to clear security before they enter the main building itself.
View Bruce Stanton Profile
CPC (ON)
That's exactly correct. Yes.
Mr. Blake Richards: Okay.
Mr. Bruce Stanton: The fact is that it will be a prominent entrance. Wayfinding was an issue. As people walk up to this grand building, the entrance literally will be right in front of them. The closer they get to the building, they will immediately see that the entrance is welcoming them there.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
That's great. Thank you.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Very good.
Mr. Deltell, You have the floor.
View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, Mr. Stanton.
I'd like to address three points with you.
First, I'd like to speak about the floor area in the House of Commons. There are currently 338 MPs. Needless to say, while there won't be any work over the next two weeks, there will be for the next century. Demographics being what they are, we may well need more MPs. If so, it'll be difficult to expand the space if the walls are put up.
Have you looked into the potential number of MPs who might sit in the future House of Commons? If so, do you expect future alterations?
It's hard to see how the current configuration could sit 500 MPs.
View Bruce Stanton Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you for this relevant question, Mr. Deltell.
The working group took this into consideration. We have not yet had discussions about the details for this space. Over the coming year, we're going to examine options that could accommodate all the MPs.
The schedule for the renovation work shows that it'll be spread over 50 years, from 2018 to 2068. The current number of MPs is 338. By 2060, we expect that there might be as many as 460. We'll find a way to accommodate all MPs in the House of Commons. The Board of Internal Economy has already said that for the time being, it would like to keep the official opposition on the other side of the house.
The best approach would probably be to review the possible options for the future and to present several of these to the board.
View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
It's going to take a lot of creativity.
I have a highly technical question.
Are you going to keep the floors the way they are now?
View Bruce Stanton Profile
CPC (ON)
I'd like to ask Ms. Kulba to take this one.
There are several options, but this isn't the time to go into the details.
Ms. Kulba, do you have any comments about this?
Susan Kulba
View Susan Kulba Profile
Susan Kulba
2020-12-03 11:27
Thank you.
We've already established the available options for arranging all the seats in a way that would accommodate approximately 460 MPs, but they are still at the concept stage. More work is required before we can return to the working group with detailed plans. At that point, the possibilities can be studied and the best possible option for the House could be determined.
View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
Thank you, Ms. Kulba.
A month ago I was able to visit the worksite with some colleagues and enjoyed what I saw very much. The people there said they had not encountered many surprises because they had a good work plan even before the sod-turning ceremony, which is a good sign.
Do you have a timeline for completion of the work?
View Bruce Stanton Profile
CPC (ON)
We certainly do.
I'd like to thank you for having visited the Centre Block worksite. In fact, all members of the Board of Internal Economy are welcome to do so.
There have not been many surprises in the course of the renovation work on the Centre Block because we were indeed well prepared.
What was your question?
View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
The timeline for completion of the work was, to say the least, vague. There was talk of 10 to 20 years. Could we have a more precise idea of when the Centre Block renovation work will be completed?
View Bruce Stanton Profile
CPC (ON)
I'll ask Mr. Wright to answer your question.
Rob Wright
View Rob Wright Profile
Rob Wright
2020-12-03 11:29
Thank you very much for the question.
In fact, decisions about what we are discussing today are critical for coming up with a base budget and timeline. I'd say it'll be closer to 10 years than 20 years.
View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
Good. Thank you.
The third matter is more a comment than a question.
Mr. Stanton, I'd like to thank you and congratulate you on the quality of your French. Just because we've been talking about it so much of late doesn't mean we need to talk about it even more, but I did want to point out that you've always spoken French, and I'm truly grateful for it.
View Bruce Stanton Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you very much, Mr. Deltell.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
We'll now go to Mr. Rodriguez.
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. Deltell has asked the two questions I wanted to ask. Thank you.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Are there any other questions?
View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
I can confirm that there has not been any collusion, Mr. Chair.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
That's too bad. It's gratifying to see people working together.
Are there any other questions?
Mr. Stanton, thank you for your dedication. I know you've been putting a lot of time into this, and I want to thank your team as well. We look forward to seeing you again with more good news.
View Bruce Stanton Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you very much.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Stanton.
Do we approve the five recommendations?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
The Chair: Great, you have good news to bring back.
The next item is proposed 2021-22 main estimates. Our presenter is Daniel Paquette, chief financial officer.
Mr. Paquette, you have the floor.
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
Daniel Paquette
2020-12-03 11:31
Thank you Mr. Chair.
I'm here to present the proposed 2021-22 main estimates for approval by the Board of Internal Economy. The estimates summarize the funding for items already approved by the board. There will accordingly not be any new funding requests during this presentation.
The proposed main estimates for 2021-22 total $543.7 million, an increase of 5.3% over the main estimates for the previous year.
In compliance with the Parliament of Canada Act, the House must prepare an estimate of the sums that will be required to pay the expenditures for the fiscal year to come and shall transmit the estimate to the Treasury Board, with the estimates of the government of Canada.
The main estimates for the House of Commons include an estimate of voted appropriations and statutory items. The voted appropriations are estimated at $383.5 million. They include the expenditures of MPs and senior officials; committee, parliamentary association and exchange expenditures; and administrative expenditures.
The statutory items are estimated at $160.2 million. These include salaries and allowances for members and House officers; contributions to members of Parliament retiring allowances; and contributions to employee benefit plans.
These main estimates include the cost of living increases based on previously approved policies and existing legislation. These are the office budgets and supplements for members and House officers, as well as the travel status expense accounts for 2021-22, which have been increased by 1% for a total of $1.7 million. This is in accordance with the adjusted consumer price index.
The main estimates also include a budget adjustment of $1.2 million to some members' office budgets to account for changes in elector supplement, following the general election in 2019. In addition, the sessional allowance and additional salaries for members and House officers have been increased by 2.1% or $1.3 million, as provided by the Parliament of Canada Act.
Economic increases for House administration employees, which were approved by the board earlier this year, amount to $5.6 million, which has been included in the main estimates for the next fiscal year.
In addition, these main estimates include the funding related to initiatives that have recently been approved. That is a net increase of $4.5 million for the long-term vision and plan, $6.6 million for security enhancements for members, as well as the $5.2 million in funding to stabilize various administrative functions within the House administration.
The main estimates include a decrease of $1 million related to the funding for conferences, associations and assemblies, leaving $300,000 for the 65th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference, which was postponed from this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and is now planned to take place in August 2021.
Finally, an increase of $700,000 in contributions to members' pension plans has been included due to the revised contribution rates for members.
I would like to point out that while we are still considering uncertainty surrounding the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic and its continuing impact on operations and associated public health measures that will be required, these main estimates have been prepared using the planning assumption that operations would return to near normal during the upcoming fiscal year.
This has been done to ensure that sufficient funding is available to meet the needs of the House over the coming year. That being said, we'd like to assure you that we will continue to monitor these unprecedented and evolving situations, and will take any necessary adjustments over the course of the year to ensure we can continue to adapt operations of the House to make sure we meet the needs of members in the fulfillment of their parliamentary functions.
In conclusion, it is recommended that the board approve the proposed 2021-22 main estimates for the House of Commons for the amount of $543.7 million.
This funding will be divided between two programs: $321 million for members and House officers, and $222.7 for the House administration.
This concludes my presentation on the proposed main estimates. We can answer questions the members may have.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Julian has the first round of questions.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you very much.
I honestly find it disturbing that the main estimates show an increase of approximately 5% over last year. The inflation rate is around 1%. In the presentation you just made—and I thank you very much for it, Mr. Paquette—you say that salaries rose, which is normal, but also that expenses for computers, security and administration also increased. You also discussed the effect that the COVID-19 pandemic had during the past year and that it will also have over the next fiscal year.
Mr. Paquette, I'm going to ask you two questions. First, can you tell us, in general terms, about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and its potential repercussions for next year's main estimates?
Second, do you anticipate that the main estimates won't be as high? I think people expect that overall budgets won't increase significantly during the pandemic and that they'll be reasonable. If the main estimates rise considerably relative to last year, but the supplementary estimates are much lower next year, we'll approach a balanced budget. However, it will be more disturbing if there are just as many increases in the supplementary estimates.
Thank you for all the details included in these estimates.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Go ahead, Mr. Paquette.
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
Daniel Paquette
2020-12-03 11:38
There is an item on expenditures during the pandemic a little further on in the agenda. We'll be discussing the impacts on this year in greater detail. As for the current trend, some expenditures are lower because we can't travel, create events or provide training. The reductions are greater than the additional costs stemming from the need to adapt to this new environment. We will address those items in more detail.
Here's some brief background. Some changes have occurred in the House administration and the House itself over the past two or three years, and many new technologies have been adopted. There is the new Parliamentary Precinct as well as the West Block and the new buildings. New statutes are having an impact on occupational health and safety—you mentioned security, Mr. Julian—as well as accessibility.
What we see in the proposed main estimates for 2021-2022 is the investment we need to develop the competencies and capacity that will ensure this transformation continues into the future.
As for the supplementary estimates, all we have at this stage is the reprofiling of funds, which is one of our standard practices. We aren't anticipating these amounts. This year—and I mean the current year—we requested a little more than a reprofile of funds, since previously negotiated collective agreements had a retroactive effect. Without anticipating surpluses that might have resulted from the pandemic, we wanted to ensure we had the necessary funds to meet our financial requirements.
At this point, we believe that no projects or initiatives will raise our supplementary estimates above normal levels. We are seeking only the usual reprofile of funds for next year.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Are there any other questions? I see there aren't any.
Do we approve this recommendation?
Agreed. Very well.
Now we will move on to item five, quarterly financial report for the second quarter of 2020-2021.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Pardon me, Mr. Chair. I thought I had raised by hand and I hadn't. I did want to ask a couple of questions.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
We'll go back then. Please ask your questions. Mr. Paquette is still with us.
Please go ahead.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
There are a couple of things I wanted to touch on. One was similar in nature to Mr. Julian's questions, but I'll leave it for the second part.
The other side of this is that some areas have seen decreases as well. One of them was the office of the law clerk and also legal services. I'm just concerned because I know at the health committee, the law clerk indicated to us that there were some resource constraints he faced in vetting some of the documents that he is going to have to do in response to the order made by the House on the 26th of October.
I'm just wondering if we can have any comment on that decrease in resources, and whether the law clerk has the resources he needs now to be able to process those documents that the House and its committees have asked him to vet and to redact.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
That's very good.
I'll open it up.
Go ahead, Mr. Dufresne.
Philippe Dufresne
View Philippe Dufresne Profile
Philippe Dufresne
2020-12-03 11:42
Thank you, Mr. Richards.
The indication about increases in resources for the legal services at the House were increases that occurred in this past year. In terms of your question with respect to the committee, I did appear in front of the health committee last week and gave information about what we are expecting in terms of the potential volume of disclosure. We indicated that we had organized our resources to be prepared to deal with the task that the House has given us and we gave some parameters in terms of volume and the time that it would take us to review a certain number of documents.
To give a sense to the committee, there had been some testimony about documents being in the millions of pages. That gave us a sense that it may take some time, but we were prepared to do what was necessary to achieve our task.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
You don't feel there are any additional resources that you require to be able to complete that in a timely fashion.
Philippe Dufresne
View Philippe Dufresne Profile
Philippe Dufresne
2020-12-03 11:43
We indicated we could conduct the review of about 50,000 documents in seven days. There was talk of a much higher number than that, but we don't know yet how many we will receive. We also indicated that we would advise the committee as soon as we knew the specific number so that next steps could be considered.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
On the other side of things, I share the concern generally about some pretty large increases. Mr. Julian has addressed them to a large degree, but I want to touch on it specifically. Looking at line items, there are some pretty huge increases in specific line items. Two of the largest were employee relations, which is a 78% increase, I believe, and human resources service centre, which is a 76% increase. One of the others that is among the larger ones is occupational health, safety and environment, which is up 26%. Those all seem to group together in the category of labour and employment issues.
Is that driven by the pandemic or is there something else that it's responding to? Those are pretty alarming increases.
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
Daniel Paquette
2020-12-03 11:45
I'll start, and then ask my peer, Ms. Laframboise, to add to it.
Some of that are the increases related to when we talked about the capacity for HR services for members. That was increased last year, and now we're stabilizing the funding. Then there was some capacity relating to some of the new legislation that was also stabilized this year. If I'm not mistaken, there has been some reallocation of resources and alignments within HR.
I'll let Ms. Laframboise address the items more closely.
Michelle Laframboise
View Michelle Laframboise Profile
Michelle Laframboise
2020-12-03 11:45
Thank you, Mr. Paquette.
Michelle Laframboise
View Michelle Laframboise Profile
Michelle Laframboise
2020-12-03 11:46
In essence, one of the questions you asked was around the large increase to the HR service centre. That group is a new unit that was put in place in response to the implementation of the enterprise resource planning program and system. The ERP is an integrated resource planning function that, over the long term, is going to help us align and streamline our resources and stabilize the organization indefinitely, which in the long term will help us manage our funding and our resources better.
That is one piece of it. The other part you spoke about was occupational health and safety. There absolutely has been an increase in that function as a result of the implementation of Bill C-65, keeping in mind that we onboarded the members and the organization to a relatively significant piece of legislation, put in place the regulations, and adopted and incorporated new programs and new policies. There was definitely a significant amount of training to onboard Bill C-65. That is definitely an increase as well.
Our plan going forward is to stabilize the organization, to leverage the enterprise resource planning in the integrated business planning piece and to maintain and continue our protections and our policies under the auspices of Bill C-65.
Those are the bigger pieces of what you asked about.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
What you're saying to me is that it's been established in response to Bill C-65.
Michelle Laframboise
View Michelle Laframboise Profile
Michelle Laframboise
2020-12-03 11:48
A very large portion of it is Bill C-65.
As I mentioned earlier, we have 17 programs and policies that need amending. The employer's obligations are significant and require a lot of work up front. In the long term, hopefully we'll be able to stabilize that, potentially looking at aligning and streamlining some of those resources going forward. It is absolutely my plan to do that.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Okay.
More broadly, I want to get a sense of what measures are in place internally to slow down expenditure growth. Mr. Julian mentioned that we're seeing an increase of over 5% in what we're seeing here, but I believe if you look back from 2014 until now, there has been a 29% increase in the expenditures in the House's estimates. This is a pretty large increase over a five- or six-year period.
I'm wondering what measures are in place to ensure that this expenditure growth can be slowed down. What should the board being looking at? Is there any advice you can provide us on what we can be looking at as a board in terms of measures that can be put in place to ensure that we have stronger fiscal prudence and stronger controls and to make sure that we're not seeing these continual increases year over year?
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