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Results: 1 - 30 of 46
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Sure. I appreciate.
I know you always have done everything you can, so I appreciate that. Thank you for the information.
I have another matter I want to raise quickly.
We have lost or will soon be losing three of the most senior procedural clerks in the House: Colette Labrecque-Riel, Beverley Isles, and as I understand now, André Gagnon. We're going to see his retirement soon. These are three of the most senior people we have. I think there's close to 100 years of combined experience there. One of them, literally, wrote the book on procedure.
First of all, we want to acknowledge and thank them for all of the work and the contributions they have made to this place. However, I suppose it also raises a question on which I want to see if we can get some information brought back to the board. I understand that each of them has at different times been on medical leave in the last few years and then have ultimately decided to retire early. They all strike me as pretty young despite their lengthy years of service, so it seems as though those retirements could be coming a little early. Losing even one of them is a huge loss to this House, but quite frankly, losing three of them is probably an immeasurable loss.
Can we get a report back on whether there has been any work done on determining whether there are any internal factors that have caused such a significant and unexpected turnover? Is there anything being done both to try to mitigate their loss and as to whether there's anything we need to correct to ensure that we're not finding something occurring that's causing three of our more senior people to choose to leave in what I would say seem to be early retirements?
Can we ask that the administration examine that and come back with something on that? If there's any comment now, I'd be happy to hear if anything has been done.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
It's a fair request. We'll ask the administration to come up with a report and find out if there's anything—
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
That's unless there's anything to report now. If not—
Michelle Laframboise
View Michelle Laframboise Profile
Michelle Laframboise
2021-06-10 11:23
Certainly, Mr. Chair. Thank you.
The only comment I would make at this time is, in my experience, people retire when they can and when they want to. If you have any questions specific to Mr. Gagnon's retirement plans, I would suggest that you ask him what his plans are, but he is eligible for and has opted to retire.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Given that, I think it would be good if we could ask that there be.... Any time you lose three senior people, especially when they seem to retire earlier than what would be expected, it's probably wise to examine whether there's anything internal that is at play there. Maybe we need to examine those things and determine whether there's anything we can do to ensure that we don't lose other folks to early retirement like we have these three.
It could well be that, in this case, it's just coincidence that three of our most senior people have all made that decision, but it's always important. I know if I were to lose three senior people from an organization, I would want to examine whether there's anything we need to do to ensure that we don't have further occurrences.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
That's a fair request. We'll put that forward and see about getting a report back.
I do concur with you. They are very useful and they will be missed when they leave.
Mr. Julian.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I would reiterate Mr. Richards' request. I am concerned with high turnover. When we lose three people, who've given so much to the House, in rapid order in what seems to be their stepping down early, it's a matter of concern.
I thank you, Mr. Chair, for responding to Mr. Richards' request. I also believe that at the next BOIE meeting, perhaps in camera, we should have a discussion to determine if this is something we should be concerned about.
I want to come back to Mr. Aubé, because we have two dynamics at work. One is the new variants. I don't think we can, at this point, anticipate that in September, if there is no election, the House would reconvene as if the pandemic didn't exist. We're all hopeful that, eventually, the pandemic will die down, but the variants have meant that there's been a third wave, and there's anticipation now of a fourth wave this summer. We have to plan for that, of course.
There are discussions taking place in other forums about how that will look over the course of the summer.
Perhaps I missed this, Mr. Aubé, but I'd really like to get the dates at this point when committees can meet. Committees will be meeting over the summer—there's no doubt about that. There will be issues that will come up that require committee participation. I gather there are provisions if the House is recalled, and that's good. Committees will meet.
You mentioned June 23, and it wasn't clear to me what the end date was in that first preference for the administration that committees not schedule meetings. You then talked about further dates, but I didn't grab the dates that were mentioned.
What are the very concrete blackout periods that we can pass on to our caucuses of the administration's preferences of when not to hold emergency committee meetings during the course of the summer?
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.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Perfect. When I heard the answer, I was kind of worried that she wasn't answering you directly, but she got to it and it was part of the next presentation, so it all worked out very well.
Are there any other questions or comments? Are we all in agreement?
We'll continue then.
The next one will be the implementation of the proactive disclosure requirements of the Access to Information Act in the House of Commons. The presenters will be Daniel Paquette, chief financial officer; Philippe Dufresne, law clerk and parliamentary counsel; and José Fernandez, deputy chief financial officer.
We'll let Daniel start.
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
Daniel Paquette
2020-06-01 15:16
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
If you want to follow along, I know you have a lot of material in the binder related to this topic, but I'll be using the shorter deck to really walk through some of the key items here, and that deck is entitled, “Implementing the Proactive Disclosure Requirements”. That is for you to follow along with the presentation. Also in the materials you have are all the mock-ups that'll show you how the information will appear when we are able to publish to meet the requirements of the act. Today I'll really just focus on the items that pertain to the information that's going to be published and not necessarily on the format or the look and feel.
I won't be spending much time on slide 2 of the deck. It's just for background information. It really provides you an overview of the evolution of the last almost 20 years of what we've done around disclosure for the House of Commons. Obviously, I'm here today for that last step, in which 2020 will be the first disclosure, to comply with Bill C-58.
Slide 3 highlights some of the changes to what will be disclosed for members. With regard to travel, we will now be disclosing all travel incurred using House funds. For members, that will mean the detailed disclosure for travel that was basically covered by the MOB, not only the travel that was using the travel points system. For hospitality, there are no changes in the information that's going to be disclosed in terms of what we have been doing versus what the bill requires.
With regard to contracts, the column on the resources provided by the House will no longer be part of the quarterly report disclosure going forward. All contracts for which the member is the contracting authority will now be disclosed. In this case here, that means that all expenses incurred that would not already be disclosed under either travel, hospitality or the travel summary will be subject to detailed disclosure in this particular category. These expenses will be disclosed quarterly again, but they will not be cumulative as has been the case in the past, and they will still be published within 90 days of the quarter end.
On slide 4, changes for the presiding officers and House officers, there will be no changes to the information to be disclosed for travel or hospitality for these groups. When it comes to contracts, it is similar in that all expenses incurred that are not disclosed in the categories of travel, hospitality and salaries will also be disclosed in this category and again at the quarterly disclosure within 90 days of the period end.
One of the places we'll see the most significant changes is in relation to the House administration. I have that on slide 5. In all categories those disclosures will now start to happen. When we get to the travel and hospitality, it's all-encompassing so it will be all travel and all hospitality for all employees of the House, which will be disclosed in these detailed listings. For the contracts, we'll be looking at all contracts over $10,000, and we will also be disclosing the call-ups on standing offers that will be over $10,000 within that particular reporting period.
The expenses, again, are always disclosed quarterly, but what will be different for the administration is that this publication will be within 60 days of the quarter end, not 90 days. It's a little quicker after the period end.
Slide 6 gives you a bit of the changes pertaining to parliamentary diplomacy and committees. To meet the requirements for this group, changes are being made to the existing reports to meet all the requirements of the act. Parliamentary diplomacy will maintain their existing reports but add reports around delegations, around hosting and operating expenses, and around conferences. These reports will be published on the parliamentary diplomacy website also within 60 days. For committees, liaison has approved two proposals. One is a modification to the existing activity in the expenditure reports to break down the hospitality items. The new detailed travel expenditure report will also be added. Both of these will be disclosed on the committees website.
Also for this group, in order to meet the requirements of this act, IIA has asked for one additional resource, for the funding to cover at least 70% of the cost of that resource for the IIA.
In addition, the Access to Information Act provides two exceptions to proactive disclosure: security and parliamentary privilege. It is the Speaker of the House who has the authority to decide, and the administration will communicate to everyone in due course the process and criteria governing these exceptions. We will also conduct an analysis of all existing House contracts to determine the application of these exceptions, if any.
In conclusion, the administration has modified its tools and practices to meet the requirements of the act and we have a communication and training plan that is ready to be deployed to implement these changes.
To that end, we are here today to recommend to the Board of Internal Economy that it approve the recommendations presented in the submission. Specifically, we are asking the board to approve the proposed approach, changes to the disclosure reports, necessary amendments to the members' by-laws, changes to the Members' Allowances and Services Manual, and funding to cover the equivalent of 70% of a full-time employee.
We're ready to answer your questions. Thank you.
View Mark Strahl Profile
CPC (BC)
First of all, Mr. Paquette, can you be clear that everything you're proposing here is required by the act? Is there any flexibility, or did the ship sail when royal assent was given to this bill?
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
Daniel Paquette
2020-06-01 15:23
We have been working with the legal counsel to make sure we were just disclosing what's required by the act, which is why some of the pieces, like the resources provided by the House, are not required and are not going to be in these detailed listings, but the interpretation has been taken to the extreme. We've worked with everybody in the organization to try to make sure we were meeting the requirements and not going overboard.
View Mark Strahl Profile
CPC (BC)
Can you confirm if the requirement for designated traveller expenditures being separated from...? I found it interesting that the House administration reporting requirement is a cumulative amount—that's what I understood you to say—that it will be a global number, or would it say, “Mr. Paquette took the following trips”?
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
Daniel Paquette
2020-06-01 15:24
It will say, “Mr. Paquette took this particular trip.” There will be detailed disclosure for all employees. This is different from what we'll see in the rest of the public service, where it's all employees and not just senior officials.
View Mark Strahl Profile
CPC (BC)
Okay. I have been concerned, and I've raised this issue before. If we're bound by the act, then.... I don't think I probably voted in favour of it.
When we allow our disclosure to put targets on our families, I have real difficulty with that. We saw this during the last election, when members and their designated travellers were singled out, targeted and exploited for partisan gain. Quite frankly, I don't know if there's room in this presentation for us to take another look at that. Perhaps we need to have a greater discussion around it.
I am troubled by what is meant to be shining a light on what members do actually discouraging members from taking advantage of the opportunities to reunite families. We all claim, from the Prime Minister on down, that we want this to be a more attractive place for families, for young professionals to engage in the political process, and then we absolutely eviscerate them because of the disclosure rules we have. People simply won't use the travel, etc., because they know their political opponents will target them for it.
I know we're bound by the law, and we obviously need to do whatever is required. We should consider having a discussion in the future about whether there is an unintended consequence here that punishes people with families—young families, especially—and will discourage those folks from either travelling so that they can keep their families together, or will discourage those people from seeking office at all.
I will leave it there. I don't know if we can deal with it right now, but I would certainly want to have that discussion in the future.
Philippe Dufresne
View Philippe Dufresne Profile
Philippe Dufresne
2020-06-01 15:27
I would add that we have reviewed the legislation. It is a broad legislation in terms of proactive disclosure. There are exceptions, as was indicated, in the Speaker's ability to invoke parliamentary privilege or invoke security with regard to the parliamentary precinct for expenditures of House administration.
We will look at the implementation of this. We will continue to monitor it to see if there are unintended consequences. This is something that can be looked at, monitored and possibly addressed. At this stage, this is the interpretation of the requirements as they stand.
View Candice Bergen Profile
CPC (MB)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
My first question is to follow up on the answer. I was under the assumption that this proactive disclosure was mandatory as per the act, and there wasn't necessarily room for interpretation. If there is, then I would suggest...because I agree very strongly with what my colleague, Mr. Strahl, brought forward.
Rather than wait to see if there are unintended consequences, I suggest we discuss those here, as well as any others, and try to address them now. If the act prescribes this to a T, then we have no choice. I guess you can elect a Conservative government and we could always change it again. I would rather that we try to deal with it at this point and try to make it the very best, so that we are complying with the act and we are disclosing what we need to disclose, but we don't have the consequences that we have identified here that could happen.
My other question has to do with the Speaker making these decisions. Is it prescribed in the act? I'm wondering how the Speaker would make the decision. Would it be at the request of a particular MP? What's the process and does the act lay that out, or how does the Speaker decide what doesn't need to be disclosed?
Philippe Dufresne
View Philippe Dufresne Profile
Philippe Dufresne
2020-06-01 15:29
I think there are two parts to your question.
First, what is being proposed here as a framework is the framework that, in our view, is required by the act as it stands. Now, there is the ability for the Speaker to make exceptions in specific cases, with respect to both parliamentary privilege and to security. On the specific process as to how that is implemented, if there are issues raised by members, they will be able to bring them to the attention of the Speaker.
It is provided explicitly in the act that the Speaker may make this determination, and if he does, on the basis of privilege, the information will not be disclosed. That decision will not be reviewable, whether in courts or before the Information Commissioner.
In terms of the exception for security, it deals with information disclosure for House administration and the parliamentary precinct, and it requires consultation with PPS.
Beyond that, there are more details that could be brought forward in terms of the documentation, templates and so on. However, those two specific exceptions exist and can be raised by members in individual cases, and that's something we'll be looking at.
View Candice Bergen Profile
CPC (MB)
I want to say thank you. It's good to see the templates of what the new disclosure will look like. It would be good if we could share those with our caucuses so they're aware, as well.
My question wasn't quite answered, and it could be because this is a new process. My point is that if there's any way that we can try to address the issue around our designated traveller, where our partner or spouse could be targeted for political gain, we want to try to mitigate that.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Chair, I think the transparency that this law promotes does encourage greater disclosure than before. I agree with Ms. Bergen on all the templates and on how to make it user-friendly and fairly easy for citizens to consult. I think it is quite a remarkable piece of work.
If members of our caucuses are to be more transparent and enter their data properly, the source platform and financial portal must be better adapted to reduce the time spent in front of screens filling out travel statements, among other things.
Both as a senior officer and as a member of Parliament, I'm experimenting with the portal. I do it on-screen as a member of Parliament, then I do it by hand as a senior officer. I was wondering if, when the act comes into force, the source platform and the financial portal will be adjusted and changed with respect to travel reports.
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
Daniel Paquette
2020-06-01 15:32
Thank you.
The member's portal platform will be adjusted to ensure that all information required for disclosure is obtained. With respect to the paper process for senior officers, we do not anticipate any immediate changes, but we are currently reviewing this.
In light of recent developments, we need to update our processes to better collect information and submit it electronically. I am already meeting with the business process teams to carry out a project, in the not too distant future, to update our practices to reduce the administrative burden on members. We are working on it and it is certainly on our radar.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Also, you talk about training for MPs in your work plan. How do you plan to organize the members' training? Will you be delivering it to caucuses? How do you plan to deliver this important training to the different caucuses?
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
Daniel Paquette
2020-06-01 15:34
The communication plan is ready. We will use all available platforms. We can meet caucuses in groups or online. Documents with instructions will be sent out. We have even prepared videos. All possible options have been considered to accommodate the needs and preferences of members.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I agree with my colleagues Mr. Strahl, Ms. Bergen and Ms. DeBellefeuille. When I look at all the forms that will be available online, I see the level of detail for partners and children. It talks about the exact location where the trips were made. Members can go to the Speaker and ask that this information not be made available to the general public. I understand the reasons one might have for doing that, but it seems to me that it also creates a certain imbalance. As Mr. Strahl said, we do not have time to go into this in depth today, but it seems to me that we need to take a closer look at the rules on how the Speaker could withhold information on the basis of privilege.
I understand there's some concern. I also understand the law we passed. It seems to me that we need a clearer framework to define how a member of Parliament could get out of this obligation. Members of Parliament may have very good reasons for doing so. As we know, some of their constituents may be engaged in some really unhealthy activities. Having access to all of this information about MPs' travel can be a cause for concern. I understand that.
At the next meeting of the Board of Internal Economy, could we determine in what situations this information could be withheld on the basis of privilege?
Philippe Dufresne
View Philippe Dufresne Profile
Philippe Dufresne
2020-06-01 15:37
The exception to privilege exists in law, and the Speaker will have to apply the interpretation of privilege as interpreted by the courts, that is, the rights of members, the immunity of the House, or a disclosure that would impede the proper functioning of the House.
With the exception of the security exception, it is limited to the security of persons and buildings within the parliamentary precinct. There is a framework that exists in the law. I indicated earlier that the template and the technical implementation of this will be clarified, but the content of the obligation and the content of the exception exist in the law, as well as the disclosure obligations, including expenses for travel of dependants and spouses.
What we are presenting here is really the template for the implementation of compliance with these obligations that are in the law, but there will be a case-by-case application by the Speaker if it can be established that the disclosure of a given piece of information from the House Administration will infringe either on privileges or on security in the precinct.
View Mark Strahl Profile
CPC (BC)
I just want to be very clear. When I was first elected, all of the travel that occurred for my office, which was for me, any of my family and any of my staff, came under my name. It was all disclosed and it was a global figure. Now, obviously it's per trip. That decision, as I recall, was not a legislative one. It was a board decision made in 2012 or so.
Am I right that it was an internal Board of Internal Economy decision to parse out dependant and designated traveller expenses so that they were separate line items on our public disclosure statements?
I think it's very critical that we understand this. We might be going back in time here, but I think we need to look at it. Is it required that my designated traveller information is revealed by this act, or does that reference back to a Board of Internal Economy decision made a number of years ago?
Second, I don't know if anyone has done this work, but it seems to me—and I say this for the public more than anything—that the requirements now for an opposition member of Parliament are much more detailed and much more stringent than they are for members of cabinet. The requirement for disclosure for travel and other expenditures is much lower for cabinet members than for members who are not even public office holders, in terms of that part of the act.
I would like a response to the previous question especially.
Philippe Dufresne
View Philippe Dufresne Profile
Philippe Dufresne
2020-06-01 15:41
Mr. Strahl, with respect to the proactive disclosure for travel expenses for members, the act, in section 71.05, indicates explicitly that it must include “the total cost for each of the following classes of expenses, including the costs for any other person such as a spouse or dependant who participated in the travel”. There is an explicit reference in the legislation, which is distinct from the situation prior to the legislation.
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