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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 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.
Daniel Paquette
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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 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)
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.
Philippe Dufresne
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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
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Michelle Laframboise
2020-12-03 11:45
Thank you, Mr. Paquette.
Michelle Laframboise
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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?
Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2020-12-03 11:49
I can reassure you that definitely in the last two or three years we have been putting a lot of effort into making sure, if we come forward with any requests for funding, we do an assessment and make sure we restabilize some of the resources and realign where we can to make sure the requests are only for what we need.
There has been a progression of many legislative changes or other demands around services. The cost of living is obviously one of the big ones here, and there are some pieces above and beyond that. There are incremental services when we look at some of the pieces of legislation around disclosure and legislation around health and safety. Then we have the increased capacity around services for members, around HR, around the security that's more recent and around the onboarding. The most significant portion of the growth over the last three or four years has been the onboarding and taking control of the various new buildings in the parliamentary precinct. For those we made sure we challenged the work with the experts and just asked for what we needed to maintain these various systems and the tools given to us for that assignment.
Many of these things are outside of the control of the administration to react ahead of time to try to manage these. We try to make sure our request for funding is limited to what is needed to maintain and support the infrastructure.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
I wanted to come back to this idea of finding ways to put in place controls for better fiscal prudence, but you sort of led me into my other question, which is about the fairly large increases in terms of the employment figures.
We saw an increase, I believe, from 1,827 to 2,214. That's about a 21% increase. It's a pretty big jump. A couple of the bigger jumps were in procedural services, which we saw go from 261 to 442, and then in the office of the deputy clerk of administration, which we saw more than double in size from 37 to 77. I'm wondering if that's an increase because there are more part-timers with the pandemic or if that's really a legitimate full-time equivalent increase. What's driving this huge 21% increase in the employment figures?
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
Daniel Paquette
2020-12-03 11:52
The report we provided to you, with the documentation at this time, represents the staff on force at the time we prepared the documentation. It gives you a full sense of how many people we have working at the precinct. Previously, the 1,700 or so people you saw were representing more or less the numbers that we're looking at: the actual full-time indeterminates, full-time long-term terms, or long-term terms part time. It didn't have some of our short-term seasonal workers and it didn't have many of the other people we have who are supporting and who are not necessarily there on a permanent basis at the precinct.
For you to have a full picture, we made sure we had the complete on-site at that particular point in time. My apologies; we should have had a note to that effect on the documentation that we were presenting a different number, not a growth in numbers.
That said, there has been some growth, given all of the items I identified earlier. Many of the services we offer require the capacity to support that, and that growth is there, but it's not the 21% difference that you see in the documentation.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
What you're saying is that what we're seeing there is a snapshot in time, and the 21% wouldn't be an accurate portrayal of the growth. What would be more accurate in terms of a percentage of growth?
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
Daniel Paquette
2020-12-03 11:54
I don't have that number in front of me. We could reproduce the report you received last time for the main estimates on the same basis so you can have that, and we can provide that to the board members to have a better analysis.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
That would be appreciated.
Could you ballpark that for me? I wouldn't hold you to it, of course.
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
Daniel Paquette
2020-12-03 11:54
No, I can't at this point, because I look at so many different numbers and I don't typically have the FTE numbers or full-time staff with the financial ones.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Perhaps you could give us a better picture of what the growth would be in terms of FTE.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Just going back to what I was on before with regard to measures that can be put in place, I understand about responding to legislative changes and things like that, but obviously 29% is far over and above inflation, for sure, in terms of the expansion of growth.
I'll throw out something that comes to mind for me. What about looking at requiring some sort of offsetting decreases where there are new increases in spending? Is that something the administration would welcome? What kinds of suggestions could you give us that we can look at in terms of ways we can ensure that we're not seeing such continual growth?
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
Daniel Paquette
2020-12-03 11:55
Definitely, we can work with the board members and list out all the various services that we provide and provide an opportunity to balance off and maybe reduce some of the service levels or the types of services we offer to support members.
We can also offer to look at what I'll call the back office that supports all of these to make sure we keep those under control going forward. We have been doing some of this, but we can definitely work with the members of the board to do a bit more.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I just want to reconfirm, based on the new questions, are we still in accordance with the recommendation?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Now we will move on to item five, quarterly financial report for the second quarter of 2020-2021.
I will let you continue your presentation, Mr. Paquette.
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