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Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
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.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, Mr. Paquette. I would just like to compare apples to apples.
There are additional expenditures of $3.1 million on September 17, but we see that some of the spending was reduced because of COVID-19. Yet, this continues in the financial statement of June 30. If we compare the money saved up until September 17 with the additional costs, what is the impact of COVID-19 on parliamentary operations?
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
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.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
I want to know how many employees on Parliament Hill have been dismissed or laid off since the start of the pandemic.
How many regular full-time employees have we lost? How many aren't working because of COVID-19?
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.
Pierre Parent
View Pierre Parent Profile
Pierre Parent
2020-10-08 12:13
Good afternoon, Mr. Julian.
We haven't laid off any full-time staff. We simply haven't called back the people who were on call. Under these circumstances, no full-time employees have lost their jobs. I can't give you the exact figures at this time.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Could you provide the figures at the next meeting?
Pierre Parent
View Pierre Parent Profile
Pierre Parent
2020-10-08 12:14
We should certainly be able to find those figures.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you.
On the $3.19 million specific to COVID, is that new spending only, or does it include the value of existing resources that would have been deployed towards pandemic-related items?
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
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.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Then you haven't been able to do any work towards getting some kind of an estimate of the value of the existing resources.
From sitting in PROC in the summer, I know that an indication was given to us there that on some of the work on virtual sittings and some of the work towards a smart voting app there had been no new costs incurred but a lot of existing resources and a lot of employee time were repurposed.
Do you have any indication—even initial estimates—of what kinds of expenditures or existing resources were put towards virtual sittings or the development of the voting app? I don't know that those things were actually authorized by this board. I don't know who authorized them. Maybe you could indicate that as well. I'm just curious to know if there has been any initial work done on the value of repurposing employees' time and any existing resources.
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
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.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Okay. You will be able to bring that to us, then. I could be mistaken, as I'm a new member of the board, but I don't believe that those would have been authorized by the board. They would have been authorized within administration itself. I'm not sure. Can you tell me that? That obviously would indicate that it would be all the more important that we get information to look at.
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
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.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Sure, but at the end of the day, you're indicating that this is something that you will bring back to a future meeting of the board to give us some sense of what the value of the reallocation of resources would look like.
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
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.
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2020-10-08 12:18
We'll delve into more details later, but just for further information, the virtual chamber and virtual committees were a result of a decision of the House, so yes, the administration did enter into expenditures in relation to that.
In terms of the estimates in the report you have for the expenses as of September 17, it does include overtime costs in terms of the resources that had to be deployed to support the virtual or hybrid committees and the chamber. We'll get more information for you.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I want to start by congratulating and thanking today's interpreters for the quality of their work and for their considerable expertise. We hear many interpreters, but I can say that today we have an all-star team. They do their work at practically the speed of light. I want to thank them for this.
Mr. Paquette, thank you for the quality and thoroughness of your presentation. I'm a good student and I do my reading. During my preparations, I ask questions. Today, I want to congratulate you for being very transparent, especially because you clear up matters that are sometimes complex. Thank you for this.
My questions will focus on what happens next. By this weekend, the entire province of Quebec may enter the red zone, probably for several weeks or even months. I'm thinking about all our decisions regarding certain expenses that weren't necessarily routine. I'm thinking of the disinfection equipment, the layout of the offices, the extension of the permission to advertise beyond the percentage allowed by the by-law, and all the changes made along the way to authorize members or their offices to incur expenses related to certain budget items.
At the next board meeting, do you plan to propose an extension of certain measures or other measures that could help members better handle their work?
I'm quite concerned because not all employees in our constituency offices have the furniture, ergonomic chairs and other work tools needed to carry out their work in compliance with health and safety standards. To date, for example, the finance services is still refusing to allow the purchase of a chair for one of our employees who must use the chair at home, since the chair is normally the property of the House of Commons. As employers, we recommend that all our employees work from home, so I wonder about our limitations. How can we better manage and support our employees from a health and safety perspective?
Also, as you may recall, the budget for Internet access increased because, in some rural areas, teleworking incurs exponential costs in this area. Members were allowed to claim these costs back from their main budget.
If the situation continues over the next six months, wouldn't this significantly affect the budgets of some members?
Wouldn't some members be adversely affected by the fact that they must pay more for Internet access than a member who lives in an urban area, for example, where this additional expense isn't included in their MP budget?
At the next board meeting, or at subsequent meetings, will we be looking at ways to help members carry out their duties in their constituencies in compliance with the health rules and the guidance provided by their governments? In our case, we're talking about the Quebec government.
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
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.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
If my colleagues don't object, we could ask for an analysis, but not immediately, since the analysis is comprehensive. However, the Board of Internal Economy could provide an overview.
I believe that most permissions expire on March 31, 2021. So before Christmas, we could be presented with an overview.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Is this okay?
Yes? Okay. Thank you.
I'll now give the floor to Mr. Rodriguez.
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
Lib. (QC)
What I had to say aligns perfectly with the points made by Ms. DeBellefeuille, who raised some extremely important issues.
I just want to make sure that this analysis will identify any changes or adaptations allowed as a result of COVID-19, and until when, and the type of additional authorizations that we must obtain from the Board of Internal Economy to continue running for the duration of this pandemic.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
We can expect to receive a report at the next meeting or the one after it.
Is that okay, Mr. Paquette?
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
Daniel Paquette
2020-10-08 12:25
Yes. We'll gather the necessary information.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Are there any other questions?
No? Okay.
We can see that overall spending has decreased in several areas, particularly in the area of travel by members and their staff and by House Administration staff.
We'll take a three-minute break and then continue in camera. We'll then proceed to item 8.
[Proceedings continue in camera]
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
We'll now move on to item four, which includes the 2019-20 year-end financial report and the 2020-21 supplementary estimates (B).
I'll turn the floor over to Daniel Paquette, the chief financial officer.
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
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.
View Mark Strahl Profile
CPC (BC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I note that the House administration budget was $186.6 million. The actual spend was $190.8 million, so $4.2 million more than anticipated was spent, I guess because members spent less and the monies were available for the House administration. Perhaps you just did say it and I misunderstood it, but what caused that $4.2 million spending over the anticipated budget?
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
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.
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