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Results: 1 - 60 of 87
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 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 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.
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
Daniel Paquette
2021-02-25 11:30
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
This presentation follows up on the analysis with respect to temporary measures in effect due to COVID-19 that was presented to the board last December. At that meeting, the House administration advised the board that we would continue to monitor the use of those various policies, the expenses that members were incurring and how they were to evolve. We would then return here to the board for any recommendations, if any were needed.
I must note that these temporary measures are all set to expire on March 31, 2021.
We have observed that the use of these temporary measures has continued since the last analysis I presented to you in December. Despite the pandemic, members of Parliament continue to provide services to their fellow citizens. As a result of our consultations, we understand the need to maintain these measures for an extended period of time.
The House administration recommends that the board, as part of the measures taken to address and mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic, approve extending the temporary measures through March 31, 2022. These temporary measures include the purchase of consumable items to ensure that COVID-19 preventive measures are in place in constituency offices, and an increase to the advertising limit to communicate with constituents.
Mr. Speaker, this concludes my presentation. I'm open to any questions the members may have.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I'd like to thank Mr. Paquette and the House administration.
I certainly support the extension of these measures. In our case, in downtown New Westminster where my constituency office is, those measures have allowed us to put up plexiglass panels to protect our employees. We're in a very high-traffic area in the downtown area. Even though our office is largely functioning virtually, when constituents do need to come in, my staff are protected.
I think that these measures have been sensible, and they've been effective, allowing members of Parliament to make the important adjustments that come with this pandemic.
The new variants of COVID-19 are worrisome, as we all know, and many people are predicting a third wave coming this spring. It makes sense, then, I believe, for us to extend the measures so that members of Parliament and their employees can be protected and can continue to serve their constituents in a way that protects everybody.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
I agree. There's been some usage or take-up of these measures. I would certainly agree with extending them.
I guess where I would have an issue is this. We're talking about an extension to March 31, 2022, and we're hearing from the government that by the end of September we will have all Canadians vaccinated who want to be vaccinated. One would assume, then, that at that point we'd be able to make some kind of a shift in terms of Parliament's moving back towards more normal sitting scenarios, or certainly something closer to that. Obviously, some of these measures, then, would no longer be needed as well.
If the government does fail to meet that target, we can always look at extending it beyond September—that is, if the government isn't able to live up to the promise it's made. If it does, then we should be able to see some change in these things in September.
Perhaps what we should do right now is to set the renewal date as September, and we can always look at it again, if needed, in September.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I do not agree with what my Conservative colleague just said. In fact, I rather agree with the proposal before us that it be extended until March 31, 2022, that is, the end of the fiscal year.
It is important for members to be in a position, as of April 1, to set their budget, to include the amounts in their budget planning. I think it makes sense to allow the extension until March 31, 2022. I would find it strange if we told members to be careful with their budget because the measures are in effect until September 30. Some of the measures relate to advertising costs and may be part of community support planning. As we know, the pandemic does not affect all provinces the same way.
I think the proposal to extend is logical in light of what we have experienced this year. According to the statistics and the results, the cost won't be higher for the House Administration if we save on certain budget items to be able to finance these measures.
Personally, this makes sense to me and is respectful of the members who want to plan their budget for next year. I think it makes sense that decisions of a parliamentary nature should be in effect at the end of September.
I second Mr. Julian, who also agrees with the proposal. In addition, I encourage the members of the Board of Internal Economy to join us.
View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I think it's also important to understand that—and we've all done this in our ridings—most of the significant spending on internal infrastructure has already been committed, which is normal, by the way. All of us may have some adjustments to make, but a lot of the spending has been done. I think being able to adjust that for September is very consistent, as well, with what we decide in the House. Our measures are in place until September because we operate on a semi-annual basis. Normally, we adjust our spending very well when we see that the need is still there.
I believe that we do not deprive ourselves of anything. It's worth considering this option, given that we've already spent a significant part of our budgets in this regard and that we're also consistent with our work in the House six months at a time. If, by any chance, we find in September that people who have not been vaccinated want to be vaccinated and the third wave of the virus hits hard—no one is safe—we can reverse the decision and extend these measures without any difficulty.
View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
Lib. (NB)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I also agree with Mrs. DeBellefeuille and Mr. Julian.
I accept Mr. Paquette's recommendation.
I get Blake's comments if the government fails to vaccinate people by the end of September, etc. I get all of that. That should maybe be reserved for question period.
I think we have to be careful. The idea that certain public health requirements, as Mr. Julian said, to protect the staff who work for us or protect constituents who may visit constituency offices.... Some of those decisions, as advised by public health officers, may be separate and apart from the vaccination schedule.
I wouldn't suggest that this committee has views on appropriate public health measures. I would suggest that those decisions that MPs need to make to protect the people who work with us and constituents who visit us would coherently be subsumed in a financial year. That's why I accept the recommendation put forward by Monsieur Paquette and endorsed by Mr. Julian and Madame DeBellefeuille.
View Ginette Petitpas Taylor Profile
Lib. (NB)
Thank you so much, Mr. Chair. I will be very brief.
I'm just wondering if we know how many offices have required a deep cleaning as a result of COVID exposure within their offices. In asking that question, I'm also wondering if we have a workplace health and safety protocol in place in the event of workplace COVID exposure.
Michelle Laframboise
View Michelle Laframboise Profile
Michelle Laframboise
2021-02-25 11:40
Thank you, Mr. Paquette.
Yes, we do have that information. I don't have it at hand right now, but I absolutely will follow up and make sure that the members of the board get the information requested.
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2021-02-25 11:40
Up to this time there have been no expenditures submitted for the deep cleaning of an office.
For the protocol, we'll provide that information to the board.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
We all know that, traditionally, we try to get along with each other. So, if the position of our Conservative colleagues does not change, given my little training as a mediator, I propose a compromise. The document before us contains seven recommendations. What I understand from what my colleagues said is that recommendations 1, 2 and 3 seem to be of particular concern to them, being directly related to contamination, decontamination and equipment purchase. In contrast, recommendations 4, 5, 6 and 7 are more related to the efforts of members in their ridings to support organizations that provide essential services, advertize their work, and promote their services. One recommendation even allows members to solicit donations for food banks or United Way agencies.
Here is my counter-proposal. If we could agree at least on recommendations 4, 5, 6 and 7, which I think are appropriate for the whole of next year, we could maintain them. If you are concerned about recommendations 1, 2 and 3, perhaps we could look at them together and see if we can remove them from the proposal. That way, together we could come to a compromise and accept some of the recommendations we have before us.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
That seems reasonable, frankly. My concern was that we're talking about putting in place measures related to COVID, but if we expect the entire population to be vaccinated by September, those measures would no longer be needed.
I think what we're talking about here, Claude, is some of the advertising and things like that. That was where your concerns were, that people be able to plan ahead for things like that. I think that's actually a sensible compromise and one that would satisfy me that we're not putting measures in place that will no longer be needed beyond September.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I would like to thank Mrs. DeBellefeuille for proposing this compromise.
Health specialists are saying very clearly that we probably won't be out of the woods for another year. So I don't think that vaccination dates should be part of our decisions today.
We should decide to put all possible measures in place to protect the public and our employees and to continue our work as parliamentarians. It is for this reason that I fully support the recommendations of Mr. Paquette and the House Administration. However, as Mrs. DeBellefeuille said, I understand that we are an entity that advocates unanimity and consensus, so I am prepared to support her proposal.
I am not ready to say that we will be out of the woods in September. I hope so, but I don't think so. If we rely on projections, especially if we take into account the new variants of the virus, we may unfortunately have to wait at least a year before we can say that we are out of this pandemic.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, allow me to summarize my proposal.
I propose that items 1, 2 and 3 be extended to September 30 and that items 4, 5, 6 and 7 be extended to March 31, 2022. The Board of Internal Economy could reconvene around August to determine whether items 1, 2 and 3 should be extended beyond September 30.
It is not because I am proposing this compromise that I feel that it is not necessary, but given the way we operate, I think it is an acceptable compromise, as long as we give ourselves the means to re-evaluate recommendations 1, 2 and 3 around the month of August or before the start of the fall session in September.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Is everyone in agreement?
Voices: Agreed.
Hon. Anthony Rota: Therefore, items 1, 2 and 3 will end on September 30, subject to revision, and the following items will remain in effect for the remainder of the fiscal year, until March 31, 2022.
We will now move on to the fifth item on the agenda.
On the financial report for the third quarter of 2020-21, again we have Monsieur Paquette making the presentation.
Monsieur Paquette.
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
Daniel Paquette
2021-02-25 11:47
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I am going to present the quarterly financial report for the third quarter of 2020-2021.
Quarterly financial reports compare year-to-date financial information for the current fiscal year to the same quarter the previous year. As with the first quarter and second quarter reports presented earlier this year, we are once again comparing two atypical years.
This year, the pandemic is affecting our spending trends, while the previous year was marked by a general election. As a result, our comparisons will be influenced by the atypical spending patterns that you may have already noted in our reports.
Let us now turn to the report. As of December 31, the approved authorities for fiscal year 2020-2021 were $539 million. There have been no changes to our approved authorities since my second quarterly report to you in December.
Expenses to December 31 totalled $344.2 million, a decrease of $6.2 million, or 1.8%, from the previous year.
The most significant decreases in expenditures relate to the continuing decrease in travel as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Decreases have also been seen in the areas of training and hospitality across the whole organization, as well as the reduction of temporary help services for members and House officers—also all as a result of COVID-19.
The temporary closure of some of the food services facilities and the printing facilities earlier in the year has led to reduced costs for materials and supplies, which have been partially offset by the purchase of consumable items such as face masks and hand sanitizers that are used across the House of Commons.
Expenditures for computers, office equipment, furniture and fixtures have also decreased, primarily due to changes in the timing of some of our life-cycle activities. This decrease was partially offset by costs incurred for purchases to support virtual House proceedings and committees, and costs incurred for equipment that enabled House administration employees to work remotely during this COVID pandemic.
On the other hand, expenditures for salaries and benefits have increased, mainly due to additional spending on members' employee salaries and the cost of living increases for members and House administration staff. These increases have been partially offset by the reduction in the number of employees for members and House officers, delays in some of the staffing and a reduction in part-time costs and overtime as a result of the pandemic.
Finally, the report does provide a comparison of the utilization of our authorities, which shows a decrease of 3.4%, which is not unexpected given the current situation. Also, given this current situation surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, we are closely monitoring and considering any potential savings, as well as any financial impact that may have on our funding decisions due to this truly exceptional year.
Mr. Speaker, that concludes my presentation.
I am ready to answer questions from members of the committee.
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
Daniel Paquette
2020-12-03 11:56
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Now I would like to present the second quarterly report for the 2020-2021 year. I just discussed next year, but now come back to the current year. Since it's very difficult to explain this year's financial trends without considering the actual impact of the pandemic, I'm going to present the second quarterly report at the same time as the report we prepared for the update on pandemic-related expenditures. Items five and six will thus be presented together.
I'll begin with the quarterly financial report, which compares cumulative financial information from the current year with that from the same quarter of the previous year. I would emphasize that it's somewhat unusual to compare the two years as they are two atypical years. The factor we've cited this year is the pandemic, which has substantially affected our expenditures. Last year, it was the general election, which also had its own trends. The comparison between the two years is influenced by atypical spending habits, as we will see in the results I'm about to explain to you.
In the September 30 report, approved authorizations for 2020-2021 amounted to $539 million, an $18 million, or 3.5%, increase over authorizations for 2019-2020.
The most significant changes were a $5.9 million rise in economic increases for certain House administration employees, $4.4 million for significant investments and an amount of $3.1 million due to cost-of-living increases for members and senior officers. In addition, a $1.7 million increase in authorizations is attributable to budget adjustments following the general election.
As of September 30, expenditures totalled $230.8 million, compared to spending of $240.1 million for 2019-2020, a decrease of $9.3 million, or 3.9%.
The expenditures are also presented by type of cost. The most significant decrease in expenditures relates to the reduction of $8.1 million in transportation and telecommunications, which is due to the significant decrease in travel as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The expenditures for professional and special services have decreased by $4.8 million, mostly due to the reduction in temporary help for members and House officers, and training and hospitality across the whole organization as a result of COVID-19, as well as the difference in some of the timing of certain payments to external partners from one year over the next. The decreases were also partially offset by the cost of accommodating the virtual House proceedings and committees.
In addition, the expenditures for material and supplies decreased by $2.7 million due to the temporary closure of the food services and the printing facilities as a result of the pandemic. The decrease was partially offset by the purchase of consumable items such as the face masks and hand sanitizer used across the House of Commons.
The expenditures for computer, office equipment, furniture and fixtures has decreased by $1.1 million, primarily due to the differences in timing of certain payments from one year to another as well as a decrease in equipment purchased relating to the managed computing for constituencies initiative. The decrease was partially offset by the cost incurred for virtual House proceedings and committees and by the costs incurred for the equipment that was used to enable the House administration employees to work remotely during this pandemic.
I will also elaborate a bit more at the end of this presentation on some of the COVID implications of our various other costs.
I also note that salaries and benefits increased by $4.3 million, mainly due to the cost of living for members and their employees, as well as House administration. This increase was partially offset by the fact that we had a reduction in part-time staff and overtime as a result of the pandemic.
Finally, the report provides a comparison of the utilization of our authorities between the two years that shows a decrease of 3.3%, which was not unexpected given the current situation.
It's important to mention that the House promotes an efficient use of our resources, and we continuously strive to minimize the requests for incremental funding whenever possible. Given the current situation surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, we are closely monitoring and considering potential savings as well as any financial impact when making funding decisions in this truly exceptional year.
Given this, I'll take a couple of minutes to highlight the financial impacts the pandemic has had on the House spending. This is looking at the analysis that was provided in your tab 6 for background. You'll see that in addition to the reassignment of resources and the cancellation or slowing down of certain initiatives, we have had significant expenditures relating to specific measures taken for a total of approximately $4 million.
Those include about $1.5 million invested to accommodate the virtual House proceedings and committees; $1.2 million for external printing services; $340,000 spent for constituency office reconfiguration and COVID-19-related supplies; and $380,000 for the House administration for computer equipment and personal protective equipment such as non-medical masks and sanitizing products. We have also noted that we've had approximately $500,000 of administrative salaries and overtime specifically related to the activities for the current situation.
Overall, though, when looking at the various patterns that I mentioned previously, the reduction in certain costs like travel and material and supplies more than compensate for these increased costs related to the pandemic.
Mr. Speaker, this concludes my presentation. I can answer any questions members of the board may have.
View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you for your presentation, Mr. Paquette.
I'd like to make two observations. A figure of $341,000 is reported for the purchase of equipment and constituency offices reconfiguration. I'm referring to document 6 here. So the cost to fit up offices to accommodate people and to purchase disinfectants and masks amounted, on average, to $1,000 per constituency office. Is that correct?
View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
Daniel Paquette
2020-12-03 12:03
Yes. Some decided not to open their offices. In some cases, as a result of the existing office configuration, there was no need to erect a physical barrier or install transparent plastic panels. Quite a large number of members have not yet had to incur those expenses.
View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
I see.
One line above, I see expenditures of $1.2 million for external printing services for householders.
Is that the amount saved by the normal printing service, that is to say the House of Commons service?
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
Daniel Paquette
2020-12-03 12:04
I believe the economic gains are slightly less than the amount of that expenditure because we continued paying the salaries of employees at our printing centres. We saved money on equipment and supplies, but the figure I have combines all the services that were interrupted, including food services. So I don't have the exact amount for printing services.
View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
What were the duties or the output of printing service staff during that time?
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
Daniel Paquette
2020-12-03 12:05
We were in isolation, and employees were using the “other paid leave” code. The offices hadn't yet been configured, and the necessary adjustments had been made so employees could work safely in the printing centres.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Okay.
I guess the first question is that I don't know if there was maybe as much detail as I had hoped. Regarding the reassigned staff, I'm still a little unclear. I know that this was a question I asked previously. I think this is partly in response to that. I'm still a little unclear on those reassignments.
Can you give us a bit more of a breakdown on those? Are we talking about ongoing reassignments? Were these only temporary assignments? What sorts of reassignments did we see? I'm not asking for every bit of detail, but maybe you can give us some of the greatest in number in terms of the reassignments. What types of reassignments were they? What sorts of areas were people reassigned to and for what length of time?
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
Daniel Paquette
2020-12-03 12:07
Given that most of the reassignments that have been taking place relate to our DSRP team, I'll ask Mr. Stéphan Aubé if he wants to elaborate a bit more on what they basically are not doing or doing less of and doing now.
Stéphan Aubé
View Stéphan Aubé Profile
Stéphan Aubé
2020-12-03 12:07
Thank you for the question, Mr. Richards.
There are about 120 people within the DSRP, which is our shop here, who had to be reassigned from a roles perspective. Some of their duties had to be reassigned towards the support of the virtual Parliament, and we basically took a lot of the technical people that we had in operational issues. We had to stop some of the services so that we could reassign them to the support of virtual committees and the virtual chamber, sir.
That number represents around 120 people within my organization, who we reassigned from their existing responsibilities to their new responsibilities, recognizing the need that was created by the virtual committees and the virtual chambers.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
How much of that would be dedicated to other things? Obviously we're still making plans for other things such as a voting app and other ways to adapt. What sort of a percentage of these reassignments would be related to the development of future responses we're still working on?
Stéphan Aubé
View Stéphan Aubé Profile
Stéphan Aubé
2020-12-03 12:08
I've categorized in three buckets the resources that we've assigned to the virtual Parliament. There's the virtual chamber, and we have a group of around 30 people who have been reassigned and are dedicated to supporting the virtual chamber. There's a group of 77 that has been assigned to supporting the virtual committees. Also, then, there's currently a group of 13 that has been reassigned to the voting aspect.
For the voting aspect, there were different phases to it. At the beginning, from May to June, we had five people working on validating the concept. After that, it evolved, after the motion, from five to 13 in the fall, sir.
Specifically with the voting compared to the other one, I wouldn't say these are permanent resources assigned there. I'd say these are people who are working on that in addition to virtual chamber support and virtual committee support.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
That's understood. Okay.
Where have these people typically been reassigned from? In other words, what sorts of things are being left to the side or not being done to maybe the capacity we would have liked as a result of reassignments?
Stéphan Aubé
View Stéphan Aubé Profile
Stéphan Aubé
2020-12-03 12:09
I'll give you an example that you probably know. The ambassador service that we offer to members in the committees and also for their offices is a group of fewer than 20 people. We took that group and had to reassign them to the onboarding for members for virtual committees and also for the virtual chamber. That's an example of the changes we've made.
We've also had to reassign some of our security force to work on specific items relating to ensuring the security for these virtual meetings. We did some changes there. We also looked at the support that we offered for some applications to people who were working in that area. We basically also reassigned them to specific operations roles related to the virtual chamber and virtual committees. That's the type of decision we had to make in order not to increase costs to the organization, because the incremental costs from our perspective for virtual Parliament, as of September, were really around $1.2 million. We were able to maintain that incremental cost load because of the reassignments we've done.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
While we're on the topic of virtual Parliament, with regard to committees, we've obviously been told that with logistical issues and maintenance issues with the systems, the approach that we've been using, this hybrid approach for committee meetings, is going to have to stop for about a month during the upcoming winter adjournment. If I remember correctly—I might be off a little bit—but roughly from December 19, for about a month, we would see a shutdown. What we're told is that this would prevent committees and even Parliament, if it needed to be recalled, from being able to sit in any kind of a way, even if there is an emergency situation that develops.
We've seen that in the past this sometimes does happen while the House is in adjournment. Can we get a bit more of an explanation, especially for Canadians who might be following the proceedings today? What exactly is going on there? Why is it happening? What could be done to ensure that there is an ability for emergency situations to be dealt with? Could it be done in some kind of a staggered fashion so that even one committee could be accommodated where there might be an emergency? Obviously, there are reasons that needs to happen and we certainly wouldn't want to shut down our Parliament completely for a month if that was necessary.
Can we get some explanation on what's happening there and also an indication of what could be done to ensure that there is an ability to function in a limited capacity if an emergency situation arises?
Stéphan Aubé
View Stéphan Aubé Profile
Stéphan Aubé
2020-12-03 12:12
Mr. Richards, I will just make one comment to start. I can guarantee you that if there would be an emergency, the House would be able to return. That's the first point that I want to make. We pride ourselves on ensuring that the House sits, and we will guarantee that this happens if ever there is such an emergency.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Could I just add to that? In relation to committees, there are obviously times when an emergency committee meeting is required. Can we have the same assurance and guarantee that it would be possible, if needed?
Stéphan Aubé
View Stéphan Aubé Profile
Stéphan Aubé
2020-12-03 12:13
If there would be an emergency and the Speaker would require us to make this happen, Mr. Richards, we'd certainly find a way to make this happen.
Having said that, what we're planning to do is maintenance that we usually do when the House is not sitting. This year has been an extraordinary year. We haven't had a chance to do the maintenance that is required to some of our core systems. When I'm speaking about maintenance, I'm not talking about general IT maintenance of a network and stuff like that. I'm talking about the broadcasting systems that support the chamber and the committees. We need to do the necessary maintenance in order to prevent failures to these systems this winter, sir.
The approach that we've taken in order to minimize risk is that we're going to focus on the core systems at the beginning, during the Christmas period. We're going to be working over the Christmas period from the 28th through to the fifth in order to update and maintain these systems and replace the systems that need to be replaced during that period. Then after that, our plan, sir, is to start focusing on committee rooms, one at a time, in order to start ramping up the systems as we can.
We are taking a staggered approach in order to minimize risk to the organization, but it does have an impact on our ability to offer services to all the committees, as I have just mentioned, due to the changes we need to make.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
I understand. I want to just make sure to make it clear that we appreciate that there's been a lot of change and adaptation required. You guys have done a really good job of trying to ensure that we're keeping pace with what's required under very difficult circumstances. I do understand that this can sometimes involve stuff that's far beyond my comprehension in terms of technical capabilities.
I appreciate the work that you're doing. I really do appreciate the assurances you've just given us that there would be some way found to ensure that, in those urgent and emergency type situations.... That was my big concern. I'm really glad to hear that there will be ways to accommodate that, if needed.
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2020-12-03 12:15
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I'll just note that I'm noticing that these meetings are running a lot longer. The frequency of meetings is starting to increase significantly because we're taking a long time to get through the business.
I would encourage members to avail themselves of the opportunity before the meetings to try to go through as many of these questions as possible. We typically move through these agenda items a lot more rapidly. I'm just concerned that we're not getting through these items with how much time we have. I'm concerned about the frequency of meetings we're having with BOIE. We're going to start turning it into a weekly meeting here, Mr. Speaker.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
I agree with Mr. Holland on this. We have some extremely important decisions to get to. I've found the staff are very good at providing answers on the financial records.
There are also questions that really are a matter for House leaders and whips to discuss in another forum. We need to focus on the work that we need to do as a board of internal economy. For example, today I can't go past one o'clock and we're not going to get to the end of the agenda, which means we'll have to meet again next week. We're meeting now on a weekly basis.
Mr. Holland's comments are very valid. We have to be concise and focused. We have to do the work we have and ask the important questions, but there are many ways of asking those questions beforehand and also of making sure that the issues that are a part of another domain, like House leaders and the whips' meetings, are kept there.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you to both of you.
I just want to encourage all members, on a granular level, to maybe take a step up and look at what pertains to the Board of Internal Economy. That might be some good advice to look at. I'll leave it at that.
We'll move on to item number seven, which is support for members' employees' telework arrangements and temporary measures in effect due to COVID-19.
This seems to be the Monsieur Paquette show today. I'll let him continue.
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
Daniel Paquette
2020-12-03 12:17
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I'll let José Fernandez present this topic for me. He's my deputy CFO. He manages the team that reviews all these policies and has worked on it.
At this point here, since we're working remotely, I'll mention to him quickly that there's a lot of material in this next section. We'll abbreviate the presentation so that we can get to your questions as quickly as possible, given the time that we have going forward.
You have the floor, Mr. Fernandez.
José Fernandez
View José Fernandez Profile
José Fernandez
2020-12-03 12:18
Thank you, Daniel.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
This presentation follows up on an analysis requested by the board at its meeting of October 8 in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. There are two parts to this presentation. The first part is the support of members' employees' telework arrangements. The second part is on the temporary measures in effect due to COVID-19.
For the first part, the House administration reviewed its application of current bylaws and policies related to equipment typically required by an employee to perform their duties and the flexibility provided to members in the use of House resources to be more responsive to this exceptional situation. Just to shorten it a bit for the time, I won't go into the specifics here, but it's talking about the mobile computing and the portable computing devices and those used for printing.
As well, from a mental health and well-being perspective, the House administration has reminded members and their employees of resources available on the source website through the different webinar series that were offered there.
Last May, the board also approved COVID-19 temporary measures in constituency offices to support the implementation of the necessary preventative measures in accordance with the guidelines issued by public health authorities. This provided support to reopen constituency offices and for their employees to return to the office.
This brings me to the second part of the presentation.
Now I will address the temporary measures in effect during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the pandemic, members continued to serve their fellow citizens from their constituency offices, which are particularly important in these times of crisis. The Board of Internal Economy had approved several measures, the first being the purchase of consumable items up to a limit of $1,500 per constituency office. That means non-medical masks, hand sanitizers and stickers to be applied to floors. These are items that we're now used to seeing when we enter establishments open to the public.
The second measure was the purchase and installation of plexiglass barriers to enforce physical distancing guidelines. Here the limit was $2,000 per constituency office. Where the situation required, the limit could be raised to a maximum of $3,500 with advance approval. These expenditures were charged to the House administration central budget. We note that the trend was the same for both measures: approximately 90% of members spent less than 75% of the maximum allocated amount.
Lastly, the third measure concerns the cost of professional emergency cleaning and disinfecting services that were to be used in the event a confirmed case of COVID-19 was reported in a member's constituency office. Here again, we have received no requests for reimbursement for these services as of November 23 last.
With respect to advertising to enable members to communicate with their fellow citizens, the Board of Internal Economy had approved a limit increase to 20% of their budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year. Greater flexibility was also allowed with respect to advertising content. In particular, members were informed that they could distribute information about COVID-19 from certain organizations that might be of interest to their fellow citizens. As of November 23, nearly all members had used less than half that new limit, although there are slightly more than four months left in the fiscal year.
We have also assessed the impact of these measures on members' office budgets.
Finally, I will explain our assessment of the impacts of these temporary measures on members' office budgets for the current fiscal year.
We have compared the budget utilization with two previous fiscal years, given that the last fiscal year was an election year and its expenditure patterns are not typical. As of October 31, which is a little more than half a fiscal year, 99% of members used less than 60% of their office budget. We have seen here overall that the budget utilization is lower than in the last two fiscal years we compared it to. Restrictions on travel and gatherings imposed by governing bodies and public health authorities have contributed to a significant decrease in travel and hospitality expenditures.
In our review, we do not recommend any changes at this time to the temporary measures. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, the House administration will continue to monitor members' overall expenses and the specific impacts of the temporary measures. We would like to come back to you in the winter with our recommendations for measures for the next fiscal year. At that point, we would have almost a full year's worth of data, so we'd be better positioned to provide our recommendations to the board for these or other measures.
That concludes my presentation. I will be available for questions or feedback from the board. Thank you.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
I have just one thing I want to touch on.
After the last presentation, my colleague Mr. Deltell was asking about printing and mailing. I've had certainly a number of complaints, for lack of a better way of putting it, from my caucus in terms of capacity constraints. There are longer periods of time required to get things completed, which is making it so that things aren't really being received by constituents in a timely enough fashion. It's almost, for lack of a better way of putting it, old news by the time they receive it.
I wonder if, in this context of the pandemic, you would be able to bring forward on a priority basis some type of proposal for our consideration to renew the temporary measure that allowed for external printing. I had a lot of very positive feedback about that, and I think many members were finding it very helpful in this context. We should be looking at renewing that.
Is there any way we could have a proposal brought to us on how that could be done?
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2020-12-03 12:25
I have heard the same concerns as you have. I can guarantee you we'll look at quickly making a proposal that will allow us to address those concerns.
View Ginette Petitpas Taylor Profile
Lib. (NB)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
During the pandemic, we've all had to equip our home offices so we can perform our professional duties.
Mr. Paquette or Mr. Fernandez, can you say how many devices, such as laptops and telephones, were purchased to equip our home offices?
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
Daniel Paquette
2020-12-03 12:26
We've seen an increase in overall office equipment expenditures. Computer equipment purchases are governed by a very restrictive policy, and those expenditures are closely monitored.
The upward trend isn't necessarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We often see this trend in office equipment and furniture purchases in the year following an election, as new members need to adapt their offices or change equipment to suit their new duties. We've noticed an upward trend, but there's nothing alarming about it.
We don't have the inventory figures. In any case, when expenses are allocated, we don't always track the number of units purchased, such as the number of chairs. For computer purchases, we're still within the limits prescribed by the Board of Internal Economy's policy.
View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you for your presentations, gentlemen.
Have you done a comparative evaluation of the average cost per member for the production of householders by the House of Commons printing service and by local printers?
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
Daniel Paquette
2020-12-03 12:27
An analysis is under way. I'll let Ms. Kletke tell you about that. I know that the evaluation should be forwarded to the members of the Board of Internal Economy in the coming weeks.
Rebekah Kletke
View Rebekah Kletke Profile
Rebekah Kletke
2020-12-03 12:27
Thank you, Mr. Paquette.
We've just completed that analysis. As Mr. Paquette said, we'll send you the results of the evaluation as soon as possible next week.
With respect to the comparison of services used, the House printing service processed 87 householder requests, whereas outside suppliers handled 269.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I would like to ask a question.
Will the analysis include information on turnaround times for both the private sector printers and government printing services?
Rebekah Kletke
View Rebekah Kletke Profile
Rebekah Kletke
2020-12-03 12:28
Thank you very much for your question.
The analysis focuses on three points. We've included a comparison of costs and turnaround times, as well as other information on service levels across Canada. We observed that there were indeed different levels of service depending on the regions.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
I'd like to know the date when we'll receive the report.
We'll of course have to mail out other householders early next year. Since we're still in the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, knowing whether our offices can do business with local printers could make a difference.
If we don't receive the report within a few months, we'll lose that opportunity to mail householders to our fellow citizens.
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2020-12-03 12:30
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
We intend to send you the results of the analysis in the coming weeks.
As a result of the concerns expressed and Mr. Richards' question, we also intend, as soon as possible, to send the members of the board a written submission concerning the decision that must be taken with respect to access to external printing services.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Chair, first I would like to congratulate printing service employees because they meet their standards. Every member's office is well informed of the entire process. From the start of that process to the mailing of their householders, standards are met, including those respecting the number of days or weeks.
I have exhausted my householder budget despite the pandemic, yet the printing service hasn't failed to meet its standards even once. It's important to know that. Part of the responsibility for meeting turnaround times falls to the teams that create householder content, both in the ridings and on the hill. These people have a deadline to meet, a period of three weeks from start of process to mailing. That may not be fast enough for some, but the fact remains that established standards are met. I want to emphasize that.
The advantage of using a local printer is, first, that it would support a local business. That's a positive. We would also have control of the process and the number of days involved. That varies locally, but it's true that it also varies across Quebec and, I imagine, across Canada. Back home, in less than five days, I can get 46,000 copies of a householder of the same quality as that of the House printing service, and turnaround times are shorter.
I'm eager to see the analysis. We're always somewhat reluctant when we discuss privatizing printing services. What will happen to employees if the work is farmed out to businesses in our constituencies? Using our printing service guarantees uniform quality. Formats must be used and graphic standards met, and there's the whole issue of householder standards. Because those standards are applied, all members are put on an equal footing. I care about the fact that 338 members can come and go through the same door, and all of them are treated equally.
The supply of services in the private sector is excellent in some regions and less so in others. In this case, are we going to create a two-tiered system? Some members from urban areas may have access to better services in the private than the public sector, and others may have less leeway and have to navigate the House printing service bottleneck.
I'm eager to read your analysis. These are matters that concern me. They require a fair and equitable decision, but they must especially take into consideration taxpayers' ability to pay. Ultimately, I'd like to know whether it will cost taxpayers more money to print our publications in the private sector or whether the price the House printing service charges is reasonable for all taxpayers.
I just wanted to set the tone for the debate we'll soon be having.
View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
It's entirely fair and relevant to recall that the work the printing service does here in the House of Commons always meets all the requirements that Mrs. DeBellefeuille has rightly mentioned. Quality is never sacrificed. It is always there.
If many members wish to deal with local businesses, that will free up time for those who prefer to use the House service. We could thus save time. If you make this proposal, it might be good to know what percentage of members are involved—20% or 50%, for example. Could we estimate the production time that could be saved? Could we shorten it from three weeks to two weeks, one week or eight days? I'm asking a good question. It would be a good if your evaluation could answer it.
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