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Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2020-10-08 12:05
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
The next two points, not only the quarterly report, are about financial information, and since the pandemic is influencing the majority of our financial trends, I will present them together. That way, we can get better organized for questions.
To begin, I will present the quarterly financial report and tell you about the decrease we have proposed for supplementary estimates (B) for this fiscal year. It should be noted that a quarterly report generally gives a good idea of spending trends from one year to another. However, in this case, we are comparing an election year with a year that is part of the COVID-19 pandemic context. In both cases, we are not talking about typical years, and so the trends cannot really make it possible to facilitate comprehension as is the case usually.
In the report dated June 30, the approved authorities for 2020-21, in the amount of $516.4 million, appear to indicate a decrease of $4.4 million compared with the 2019-20 authorities. That is because the Board of Internal Economy approved the $17.4-million financial rollover this past July, which could not be reflected in our report dated June 30.
If we look at the overall trends, we can see that there was an increase of $4.4 million for various important investments, an increase of $3.1 million for cost of living expenses and an increase of $1.7 million for budget adjustments following a general election.
On June 30, the expenditures totalled $114.3 million, compared with expenditures of $121 million for the previous year. That is a decrease of $7.4 million.
The expenditures are also presented by type of cost. The most significant decrease in expenditures relates to the reduction of $6 million in transportation and telecommunications. This is due to the significant decrease in travel as a result of the pandemic. The expenditures for professional and special services have also decreased by $2 million, which is also due to the reduction in service contracts, training and hospitality, again as a result of COVID. As well, there is the difference in timing of certain payments to our external partners during this period. This decrease was partially offset by the cost to accommodate the virtual House proceedings. In addition, the expenditures for materials and supplies have also decreased by $2 million. That is as a result of the temporary closures of the food service facilities and the printing facilities as a result of the pandemic.
On the other hand, expenditures for computers and office equipment have increased by a little over $1 million. This is primarily due to the purchase of equipment to accommodate the virtual House proceedings and committees and to enable certain employees to work remotely during COVID-19.
Finally, the report provides comparison between the utilization of authorities from one year to the next, and we see a slight decrease of 1.3%, which is not unusual, given the current situation.
It's also important to mention that the administration promotes an efficient use of resources and we continuously strive to minimize the request for incremental funding whenever possible. Given the current situation surrounding the COVID pandemic, we are closely monitoring and considering any financial impact when making funding decisions throughout the year.
Also, given what has happened, we have reviewed our request for the 2020-21 supplementary estimates (B). As you know, the COVID pandemic has resulted in the postponement of the 65th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference to 2021, as well as the cancellation of the 29th annual session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. Funding for these conferences had been included in our main estimates for the current year. With the change in plans, this funding will no longer be required this year. As a result, we have offset our request with the current request for a carry-forward for 2021 in the supplementary estimates (B), and as a result, we've revised our request down to $6.3 million for a carry-forward, instead of the $17.4 million.
As for the next point, given all the financial trends the pandemic has significantly affected, we prepared you a summary of the major expenditures stemming from decisions made in the current landscape.
To add relevance, we prepared a summary of expenditures by covering the period up until mid-September, which is a bit more useful for you. Contrary to the report I just presented, this one does not only concern the first quarter. This report includes the following expenditures: $1.4 million in investments for operating the virtual House; $1.1 million paid for outside printing; $287,000 for the purchase of equipment and supplies for members' offices; and the purchase of IT equipment and supplies totalling $396,000 for the administration.
It should also be noted that a significant realignment of our staff was necessary to support the new ways of doing things and that this did not directly impact our expenditures. We continue to monitor those changes. We will submit a report to the Board of Internal Economy with our future quarterly reports.
This concludes my presentation. I am ready to answer your questions.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2020-10-08 12:11
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2020-10-08 12:12
In terms of updating our expenses, the analysis period just ended last week. We'll give you a more complete analysis in a few weeks. The fact remains that, to date, all trends show that the savings exceed the additional disbursements.
It should also be noted that a portion of the savings relate to travel. However, since the members' travel is included the Members By-law, these funds can't necessarily be reallocated automatically. Regarding the other business expenses, the other travel related to voted appropriations, we can see that the savings exceed the expenses. Existing resources are actually being used to realign and support the new approach.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2020-10-08 12:13
I don't have an exact human resources analysis on hand. I know that, to date, there have been no layoffs as a result of COVID-19. However, perhaps Mr. Parent could provide some information on this matter.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2020-10-08 12:14
Those are only additional incremental disbursements. They're not the realignment at this point. We haven't gone down to that level of detail of what people have been doing—maybe different work or different contributions to everything here. Really, just incremental disbursements are what we've presented to you today.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2020-10-08 12:14
At this point, this is the analysis that we're currently working on, given that we do the periodic assessments and details, really, with our quarters. For a lot of the work you've mentioned, in the spring we were very reactive and did what we had to do to make sure everything was functional. Over the summer, those special projects really kicked in, and we deployed the necessary resources and capacity to support those. When we come back and do our second quarter report, this is the kind of analysis we can bring forward to you and bring more specifics related to that.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2020-10-08 12:16
There are many items on that report relating to material supplies and even the infrastructure of the MPs' offices, even the external printing, that were brought forward and accepted by the board.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2020-10-08 12:17
For the other work that had been brought in directly to our folks in technology to be able to make sure that the chamber was functional, Stéphan or Michel might want to add more about where that request came from.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2020-10-08 12:17
Yes, we will look and see what we can bring to you and at what level of detail.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2020-10-08 12:22
Thank you for expressing your appreciation. I'll pass on these words of gratitude to my team, which helps me prepare to answer your questions, as you can see, and to provide this information.
We're monitoring the various permissions already granted by the Board of Internal Economy. During the second quarter, we may determine the usage levels and whether additional permissions or adjustments are needed.
We also conducted a preliminary assessment of the balance between the amount paid out of the organization's central funds and the amount paid out of members' budgets. At the start of this work, we estimated that the savings were enough to cover the additional costs. That said, we must continue to monitor the situation and take into account the reality of each member. I agree with you that the members' realities vary depending on the location of their constituency offices. In any case, we can carry out this monitoring.
In terms of work tools, furniture and other items that employees may need to work from home, if the Board of Internal Economy asks us to do so, we can assess the requests and even draw a comparison with how other organizations support their employees who telework. We can provide this analysis at an upcoming meeting and propose some options for moving forward.
Some expenses were denied because of a reliance on existing policies. However, we know that our reality is different. Should the Board of Internal Economy make the request, we can conduct the analysis and come back with suggestions.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2020-10-08 12:25
Yes. We'll gather the necessary information.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2020-07-10 13:59
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2020-07-10 14:00
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I'm here to present the 2019-20 year-end financial report and to get your approval for the 2020-21 supplementary estimates (B).
Parliament gives the House authorities so that it can support members based on their usual parliamentary calendar. The authorities for 2019-20 totalling $517 million constitute an increase of $10.7 million, or 2.1%, compared to the previous year.
The most significant changes regarding the increase are $3.4 million and $1.5 million respectively for the increases in the cost of living for members and House officers and for the administration. There's also a $2-million increase for the carry-forward related to the various major investments made.
In 2019-20, expenditures totalled $506 million, an increase of $18 million, or 3.8%, compared to the previous year. In the report, expenditures are also presented by type of cost. We can see that the largest increase concerns salary and benefit expenses. The total of $17.3 million is mainly attributed to election expenses.
There are the severance payments for former members and their employees and the additional salaries that the administration paid to employees that it hired to support various election activities and orientation programs. In addition, there are salary increase expenses. The economic increases of certain administration employees contributed to this fluctuation.
Expenditures for computers, office equipment and furniture have increased by $5 million. This is primarily due to key investments in such activities as the implementation of managed computing for constituencies and the increased capacity for broadcasting and webcasting for committees. As well, given the year of an election, there were additional IT investments in the life cycle of the infrastructure during this period of time. On the other hand, a decrease of $5.8 million in transportation and telecom was mostly due to the decrease in travel expenditures as a result of the election period. Our revenues also went down by $5.9 million due to a reduction in services provided to federal departments and other parliamentary institutions, as well as a decrease in catering, cafeteria and restaurant revenue, all during the dissolution period.
Finally, the report provides a comparison between the 2019-20 and 2018-19 utilization. It shows a slight increase of 1.5%. It is important to mention that the House promotes an efficient use of resources and continuously strives to minimize requests for incremental funding whenever possible. For example, financial pressures that occurred over the course of the year, such as election-related costs and economic increases for House administration employees, were all managed within existing resources rather than additional funding being sought. As a matter of fact, over the past two years, other than the operating budget carry-forward, no additional funding was sought through the supplementary estimates process.
It is customary for government organizations to carry forward lapsed amounts of 5% of their main estimates. For the House, this equates to a maximum of $17.5 million. Therefore, I am seeking your approval to include the full carry-forward amount of $17.5 million into our 2020-21 supplementary estimates. This carry-forward will then be allocated to members, House officers and the administration according to existing policies. In addition, I'm seeking your approval to include $5.5 million in the 2020-21 supplementary estimates (B) relating to the 2020-21 economic increases for certain House administration that was approved by the board in February. I should also point out that, going forward, the requirements for these economic increases will be included in our main estimates for 2021-22.
In conclusion, as you know, the House is continuing to react and to adjust operations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including implementing appropriate measures on the Hill and in constituencies. I would like to assure you that we are closely monitoring the financial impacts associated with this situation. If needed, although it's not anticipated, a submission will be brought forward to address financial requirements through the 2020-21 supplementary estimates. In any case, we will report back in the fall on the impact COVID is having on our financial situation.
Mr. Chair, this concludes my presentation. I will take any questions.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2020-07-10 14:06
When we manage the overall budget from a cash flow perspective, we look at the full voted appropriation. A portion goes to House administration and then goes to the members. We know that during an election year, due to the period of reduced activities, some of these funds are not necessarily used on the members' side. Knowing this, we didn't come back and ask for supplementary estimates for something like the economic increase for last year and the retroactive implications of those. It was about $8.1 million just for that particular item. We also had the additional resources for the HR advisory services for members. That was $2.5 million. The actual election costs for the administration were a little over a million dollars.
Knowing that the cash was there in our voted appropriation, we didn't ask for the supplementary estimates. Between our programs, it shows maybe an overspend of our planned budget but not an overspend in our overall appropriation.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2020-07-10 14:09
The expenditures that will increase are the technology and telecommunications expenditures, given the establishment of the platform. We must ensure that everyone is well connected and that we have the necessary equipment.
The decreased costs include travel costs, because people aren't travelling. There are conference and committee costs, both for members and for the administration, whether the costs involve conferences or training.
At this time, we're monitoring the situation. We have tools built into our financial system that will enable us to provide a proper report this fall on the impact of these items. Right now, it's too early to quantify this and to determine where this will lead us. I think that we'll manage to do so by the middle of the year. I'll come back here to provide an update on the actual situation, once we've made these adjustments.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2020-07-10 14:11
Basically, the money for the Centre Block renovation comes from Public Services and Procurement Canada, or PSPC. These expenditures are not directly related to the administration. I said that our revenues were down because we have advisory services. We're recovering these expenditures from the department. This isn't a net expenditure for us.
I'll explain the $17.3-million increase.
A significant part of this increase, $11 million, is attributable to severance payments for members and their employees during the election period. The members' orientation provided by employees during the election period accounts for an increase of about $3 million. An increase of over $2 million is attributable to the human resources team that supports the members as employers.
There's also the increase in the cost of living. Retroactive payments arising from the signature of the collective agreements amounted to over $8 million.
My calculation is just over $17.3 million. However, this increase is offset by the $4-million decrease in the salaries paid by members during the year. During an election period, many members have fewer employees, and new members take some time to hire employees. There's a decrease in these averages.
Essentially, this increase doesn't concern the renovation of the Centre Block. Instead, it concerns the employees responsible for providing orientation and support services to members during the election period.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2020-07-10 14:15
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
At their meeting in April, the board approved temporary measures to include additional detailed information in their advertising around local, community, government and not-for-profit organizations that could be of interest to their constituents with regard to COVID-related matters, and to be able to solicit donations for registered Canadian charities, also pertaining to COVID-related programs. This decision also included the possibility for members to reimburse Internet service charges to their employees who are now teleworking. This decision had an expiry date of June 30. Given the continued challenges around COVID, the administration is proposing that the board approve the extension of these temporary measures until the end of the fiscal year.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2020-07-10 14:20
Yes. I think part of the discussion and decision to put it into the MOB was that when we established the possibility of charging them for Internet connection for their employees, it was one way of just putting it out there, having that permission and not putting a lot of instructions or parameters around it.
We know there are various Internet packages out there that are often in the form of bundles, with different speeds or data capacity. By putting it into the MOB, we gave the responsibility to the members to ensure that whatever was being charged was appropriate for their needs. If we were to put it into the central budget—and, given the current circumstances, I can't say I would have any objections—we would have to establish the parameters and have those approved by the board to make sure that this is what we are accepting will be charged for the central budget.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2020-07-10 14:32
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
A member is asking the board to consider his request for reimbursement for outdoor furniture. The space the member is leasing includes exclusive access to an outdoor area. In order to use the space, the member purchased two tables and six chairs, for a total of $2,958.
Given that this was a non-standard purchase, the administration completed its assessment in accordance with the existing board policy. We concluded that this type of furniture is not typically needed in an office, nor is it needed in order to enable a member to carry out their parliamentary function. So that is our conclusion, that it is not office furniture. Furthermore, we conclude that it is not transferrable, since members' constituency offices do not typically include outdoor space that can be furnished and used by the member. As a result of our assessment, the expense was denied.
As per the member's request, we are seeking the board's direction on the review for this matter.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2020-07-10 14:35
According to the notes in my report, the member didn't ask for any information, formally or informally, before buying the furniture.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2020-07-10 14:37
No, thank you.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2020-06-01 15:16
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
If you want to follow along, I know you have a lot of material in the binder related to this topic, but I'll be using the shorter deck to really walk through some of the key items here, and that deck is entitled, “Implementing the Proactive Disclosure Requirements”. That is for you to follow along with the presentation. Also in the materials you have are all the mock-ups that'll show you how the information will appear when we are able to publish to meet the requirements of the act. Today I'll really just focus on the items that pertain to the information that's going to be published and not necessarily on the format or the look and feel.
I won't be spending much time on slide 2 of the deck. It's just for background information. It really provides you an overview of the evolution of the last almost 20 years of what we've done around disclosure for the House of Commons. Obviously, I'm here today for that last step, in which 2020 will be the first disclosure, to comply with Bill C-58.
Slide 3 highlights some of the changes to what will be disclosed for members. With regard to travel, we will now be disclosing all travel incurred using House funds. For members, that will mean the detailed disclosure for travel that was basically covered by the MOB, not only the travel that was using the travel points system. For hospitality, there are no changes in the information that's going to be disclosed in terms of what we have been doing versus what the bill requires.
With regard to contracts, the column on the resources provided by the House will no longer be part of the quarterly report disclosure going forward. All contracts for which the member is the contracting authority will now be disclosed. In this case here, that means that all expenses incurred that would not already be disclosed under either travel, hospitality or the travel summary will be subject to detailed disclosure in this particular category. These expenses will be disclosed quarterly again, but they will not be cumulative as has been the case in the past, and they will still be published within 90 days of the quarter end.
On slide 4, changes for the presiding officers and House officers, there will be no changes to the information to be disclosed for travel or hospitality for these groups. When it comes to contracts, it is similar in that all expenses incurred that are not disclosed in the categories of travel, hospitality and salaries will also be disclosed in this category and again at the quarterly disclosure within 90 days of the period end.
One of the places we'll see the most significant changes is in relation to the House administration. I have that on slide 5. In all categories those disclosures will now start to happen. When we get to the travel and hospitality, it's all-encompassing so it will be all travel and all hospitality for all employees of the House, which will be disclosed in these detailed listings. For the contracts, we'll be looking at all contracts over $10,000, and we will also be disclosing the call-ups on standing offers that will be over $10,000 within that particular reporting period.
The expenses, again, are always disclosed quarterly, but what will be different for the administration is that this publication will be within 60 days of the quarter end, not 90 days. It's a little quicker after the period end.
Slide 6 gives you a bit of the changes pertaining to parliamentary diplomacy and committees. To meet the requirements for this group, changes are being made to the existing reports to meet all the requirements of the act. Parliamentary diplomacy will maintain their existing reports but add reports around delegations, around hosting and operating expenses, and around conferences. These reports will be published on the parliamentary diplomacy website also within 60 days. For committees, liaison has approved two proposals. One is a modification to the existing activity in the expenditure reports to break down the hospitality items. The new detailed travel expenditure report will also be added. Both of these will be disclosed on the committees website.
Also for this group, in order to meet the requirements of this act, IIA has asked for one additional resource, for the funding to cover at least 70% of the cost of that resource for the IIA.
In addition, the Access to Information Act provides two exceptions to proactive disclosure: security and parliamentary privilege. It is the Speaker of the House who has the authority to decide, and the administration will communicate to everyone in due course the process and criteria governing these exceptions. We will also conduct an analysis of all existing House contracts to determine the application of these exceptions, if any.
In conclusion, the administration has modified its tools and practices to meet the requirements of the act and we have a communication and training plan that is ready to be deployed to implement these changes.
To that end, we are here today to recommend to the Board of Internal Economy that it approve the recommendations presented in the submission. Specifically, we are asking the board to approve the proposed approach, changes to the disclosure reports, necessary amendments to the members' by-laws, changes to the Members' Allowances and Services Manual, and funding to cover the equivalent of 70% of a full-time employee.
We're ready to answer your questions. Thank you.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2020-06-01 15:23
We have been working with the legal counsel to make sure we were just disclosing what's required by the act, which is why some of the pieces, like the resources provided by the House, are not required and are not going to be in these detailed listings, but the interpretation has been taken to the extreme. We've worked with everybody in the organization to try to make sure we were meeting the requirements and not going overboard.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2020-06-01 15:24
It will say, “Mr. Paquette took this particular trip.” There will be detailed disclosure for all employees. This is different from what we'll see in the rest of the public service, where it's all employees and not just senior officials.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2020-06-01 15:32
Thank you.
The member's portal platform will be adjusted to ensure that all information required for disclosure is obtained. With respect to the paper process for senior officers, we do not anticipate any immediate changes, but we are currently reviewing this.
In light of recent developments, we need to update our processes to better collect information and submit it electronically. I am already meeting with the business process teams to carry out a project, in the not too distant future, to update our practices to reduce the administrative burden on members. We are working on it and it is certainly on our radar.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2020-06-01 15:34
The communication plan is ready. We will use all available platforms. We can meet caucuses in groups or online. Documents with instructions will be sent out. We have even prepared videos. All possible options have been considered to accommodate the needs and preferences of members.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2020-06-01 16:02
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I am here today to present a request for exception pertaining to a member's expense claim for external printing. The submission provides a summary of the timelines and the facts of the situation.
The expense claim is for external printing in excess of the 5,000 copy limit allowed in the current member's policy. The member incurred these expenses during the period after the internal printing facilities were closed and before the board approved its alternative measures during the COVID pandemic.
The member's policy requires that all printing in excess of 5,000 similar copies must be done through our internal printing facilities to ensure conformity to the policy and, very importantly, access to the preferred mail rates. The current policy also makes the member personally responsible for any amount in excess of the allowed limits.
Given the current situation, the member is asking the Board of Internal Economy to consider a departure from existing practices. The administration proposed two options in the submission. The first option would be to maintain current practices and have the member be personally liable for the excess amount. The second option would be to allow an exceptional waiver and that the excess amount be charged to the budget of the member's office.
We are seeking direction from the Board of Internal Economy on this matter.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2020-06-01 16:07
I am currently aware of only one case, but it is not at all on the same scale. We are only talking about a few hundred dollars. It is not on the same scale as the situation we are talking about.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2020-06-01 16:10
The member did meet the requirement. There was COVID-19 content in the document. The printing itself was within reasonable parameters, and the cost for printing, although a little higher than we'd seen, was not excessive.
The big part of the cost was the post, because, from my understanding, it was the printer who went to Canada Post and got the normal bulk rate, no corporate discounts whatsoever. Canada Post was not aware that this mailing was for a member of Parliament, so it didn't invoke any of the advantages we have for that. That's where the large majority of his excess cost came from. It's the postage, because it was a third party that mailed it for him.
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2020-06-01 16:12
I don't have the exact difference between what it would have cost had we processed it ourselves and what it cost him doing it on his own.
The 5,000 limit is just on the printed materials. There has to be more than 50% difference in the material if you are going to print more than 5,000. At this point, we really don't have that many specifics in our guidelines on the limitations of using any kind of mail couriers for packages or things of that nature. We don't have that in our parameters. It's really just about the printed copies.
I don't have the specifics of what would have been the cost for us, at this point. We can probably get it for you after the meeting.
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