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Results: 601 - 700 of 1055
Lucie Séguin
View Lucie Séguin Profile
Lucie Séguin
2022-03-03 11:49
If I may, through the Speaker, the working conditions are much preferable in person right now in terms of both quality of sound and quantity of sound, for sure. In terms of ensuring the health and safety of interpreters as well as minimizing interruptions and maintaining the quality of the service, as things stand right now, when meetings occur in person, we have a better chance of—
View Blaine Calkins Profile
CPC (AB)
Well, obviously; I mean, the numbers support that 100%, right?
Mr. Aubé. do you agree?
Stéphan Aubé
View Stéphan Aubé Profile
Stéphan Aubé
2022-03-03 11:50
Yes, definitely, Mr. Calkins. As more participants take part in person, you should see a reduction. I wouldn't want to say that we have to remove it all, because you'll always have a case of a witness who has to participate remotely—
View Blaine Calkins Profile
CPC (AB)
Even prior to COVID, sir, if I may, we did have teleconferencing and sometimes video conferencing, but they weren't primary. They were a secondary use, when it was just not possible for witnesses to travel or they were from New Zealand or some other place like that.
I'm not suggesting that those things should not happen anymore; it's just to not rely on those as a primary mode of appearing before the House or a committee.
Stéphan Aubé
View Stéphan Aubé Profile
Stéphan Aubé
2022-03-03 11:50
Recognizing the existing technologies that are out there, sir, it's a fair statement that you'll see a reduction. The more that participants appear in person, the more the reduction you'll see in incidents. You should see that, sir.
View Blaine Calkins Profile
CPC (AB)
Well, I would hope that everybody here at this board would take that under advisement. It looks like we have no choice but to do what's right for our interpreters and return as quickly as possible to a non-hybrid parliamentary session.
Thank you to the witnesses.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Very good. Thank you, Mr. Calkins.
To all of the people who've asked questions, thank you for sticking to about five minutes.
Mrs. DeBellefeuille will now take the floor, followed by Mr. Julian.
Then we will go to Mr. Brassard.
No? You're good? Okay.
Go ahead, Mrs. DeBellefeuille.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I will be pretty quick, as a number of the aspects I wanted to cover have been raised by my colleague, the whip of the official opposition.
At the Board of Internal Economy, we have dedicated a lot of time to analyzing this issue and to worrying about our interpreters' fate. As you know, interpreters are essential to the proper operation of our democracy and to our participation, as parliamentarians, in the House of Commons and its committees. Sincerely, interpreters are indispensable, especially to unilingual members, be they francophones or anglophones.
I am adding my voice to the voice of my colleague from the official opposition. We will soon have decisions to make on whether to continue with or stop parliamentary work in a hybrid format. It should be pointed out that the pandemic has had a number of victims. In Parliament, the victims who have suffered permanent collateral damage are our interpreters. They have been going through hard times, and I think the figures are conclusive on this.
So I encourage my colleagues to take this into account in their discussions. As whip of the Bloc Québécois, I know that members of all parties like the hybrid model, but we have to remember that it was put in place temporarily to enable us to meet during the exceptional situation caused by the pandemic. The plan was for it to come to an end.
In a few minutes, we will probably have an opportunity to discuss our plan for reopening the parliamentary precinct. This reminds us that all the parties in the House of Commons will have to make decisions over the coming weeks. We must never forget everything we learned today. If we continue to sit in a hybrid format, the short-term situation will not be improved by studies whose conclusions will be known in two years or technological efforts by the IT team, and the number of accidents will continue to increase. Normally, work would have to be redone.
I am adding my voice to that of my colleague to say that, once we have to make decisions, we mustn't forget the following: if someone expresses the desire for Parliament to continue its work in hybrid format, that will send the interpreters a message that their health is of little importance to us.
In closing, Mr. Chair, rest assured that the health and safety of interpreters, who are very dear to us, will always be at the heart of the Bloc Québécois' concerns.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Ms. Séguin and Mr. Aubé, would you like to comment?
You are signalling that you would not.
Mr. Julian will now take the floor. And then I think we will be done.
Mr. Julian, go ahead.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I have always seen the Board of Internal Economy as a non-partisan forum, where we are not repeating debates we have already held in the House and where we should always focus on the House administration and the best way to apply the decisions made by the House of Commons. So I disagree with certain comments, which seem more appropriate in the House then at the Board of Internal Economy, which is non-partisan.
That said, could you confirm that a study has indeed been carried out by the National Research Council of Canada on the issue of interpreters and sound quality in the House of Commons?
Lucie Séguin
View Lucie Séguin Profile
Lucie Séguin
2022-03-03 11:55
Yes, the Translation Bureau did contract the NRC's services for a study on the amount and quality of sound, which we discussed a bit. That study was done with the full cooperation of House administration employees. The board is actually responsible for the health and safety of individuals, but it was important for us to involve partners in charge of technological infrastructure.
Mr. Ball could perhaps provide more details on this important study.
Matthew Ball
View Matthew Ball Profile
Matthew Ball
2022-03-03 11:56
We did contract the NRC to assess the quality and amount of sound reaching the interpreters in the facilities of the House.
Concerning the amount of sound, the report indicates that interpreters are indeed protected by the installed safety devices. The simultaneous interpretation consoles, which were replaced by the House of Commons, control in half a second any sound that exceeds 84 decibels. So the NRC confirmed that interpreters were protected when it comes to the amount of sound.
As for sound quality, it is different than it would be in person. As was said earlier, this is due to sound processing, its transformation and its compression by filters and the Internet. We want to better understand the impact of that sound processing on interpreters' health and hearing. We don't know that yet.
Matthew Ball
View Matthew Ball Profile
Matthew Ball
2022-03-03 11:58
Yes. I think it was previously sent to the Standing Committee on Official Languages.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you very much.
Unless I am mistaken, one of the study's recommendations was along the lines of what I said earlier, that the audiovisual system must be improved. Is that right?
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Aubé, could you answer this question?
Stéphan Aubé
View Stéphan Aubé Profile
Stéphan Aubé
2022-03-03 11:59
Yes, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Julian, the report states that NRC has observed the sound differences between the internal system and the external system. It seems that the report blames the internal system. However, from the administration side, we haven't been able to achieve the same results, even with other parties. We're pursuing our efforts. We've had several discussions with them to try to understand their findings.
The report contains some measurable and accepted observations. However, other observations haven't yet been accepted by the administration or confirmed by our independent tests.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
I'm reading from the report, which says:
This demonstrates that the AV system, in its present set-up configuration, used for ZOOM videoconferencing in the Committee Room 425 is non-ISO 20109 compliant.
Stéphan Aubé
View Stéphan Aubé Profile
Stéphan Aubé
2022-03-03 12:00
I would agree with that, sir. I would say that right now in the virtual world, in the virtual elements, we have not seen a system yet that can integrate with any of the systems that we use right now that would be ISO compliant.
That is a fair statement. The goal is to have a quality of audio that is similar to that, recognizing what's possible right now. We believe that what we are achieving is very close to that, but it is not to ISO standards. You can't say that all of the elements of the supply chain are ISO compliant.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Okay. Thank you.
Mr. Speaker, I think that we should also invite the union to one of the upcoming Board of Internal Economy meetings.
All my questions have been answered. However, I'm still a little concerned that the information from the union differs somewhat from the information provided here. I think that it would be good to clarify things with the union at one of the upcoming Board of Internal Economy meetings.
Thank you.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
We'll move on to the next item on the agenda.
It's the letter that we received from the International Association of Conference Interpreters and that you can find in our binder. It invites us to come here or to submit a document.
I would like to suggest that we ask for a document. That way, the information provided can prepare us for a visit if we deem it necessary.
What I'd like to do is ask that the AIIC submit the submission that they talked of—
Mr. Michel Patrice: And the union.
Hon. Anthony Rota: —and the union. I'm sorry. We'll get that from ACEP as well. With that extra information, we can see where we go from there. I think that would be a fair way to proceed.
From what I'm hearing and from what I'm feeling, I don't think there's any question that we want what's best for our interpreters. We don't want their health to go down a road that is going to hurt them or be something that they'll regret later in life. With that extra information, hopefully, we'll be able to answer some questions and improve their conditions.
Thank you to both Ms. Séguin and Mr. Ball for appearing.
Now we'll go on to the fourth item, which is the quarterly financial report for the third quarter of 2021. Monsieur St. George and Madame Valiquette will be presenting.
I'm sorry. I thanked our visitors, but I didn't thank our technical people, Mr. McDonald and Monsieur Aubé, for being with us. You've been very helpful. Thank you.
Mr. St George, you have the floor.
Paul St George
View Paul St George Profile
Paul St George
2022-03-03 12:03
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I'm here today to present the quarterly financial report for the quarter that ended on December 31, 2021.
Quarterly financial reports compare the year‑to‑date financial information of the current fiscal year with the year‑to‑date financial information of the same quarter of the previous fiscal year.
This unaudited report is prepared by the administration using modified cash accounting. I attest that the information in this report is accurate and reliable.
The $561.4 million in annual approved authorities for the 2021‑22 fiscal year amounts to an increase of $22.5 million, mainly for security support enhancements for members and for the information technology systems and facility assets relating to the long‑term vision and plan.
As of December 31, 2021, the House had spent $366.8 million. This amounts to an increase of $22.6 million compared to the previous year.
As shown on the slide, in terms of the member remuneration category, the increase is mainly due to approximately $3.1 million for members' severance benefits and approximately $2.5 million for increased travel following the gradual easing of public health restrictions.
As for the House administration category, the increase is mainly due to a retroactive additional amount that is estimated at about $11.7 million for economic increases. This retroactivity goes back three years. In addition, the administration continues to incur costs to adapt to the needs of members in virtual House proceedings and committees as well as for telework by the administration employees.
By the third quarter of this year, the House is reporting a budget utilization rate of 65.3%, which represents a slight increase of 1.4% compared to the prior year.
With that said, I want to report to the board that these results are on track with what was approved, and besides what was identified in the report, there are no other material financial variances or concerns to bring to your attention.
The specifics of the report and the variances can be found within your quarterly report package.
Mr. Speaker, that concludes my presentation. I welcome any questions the board might have.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Are there any questions?
Go ahead, Mr. Brassard.
View John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
As we quickly approach the end of the fiscal year, some of the carry-forward provisions and the exercises that have taken place in the past, I assume, will take place this time.
I understand that the House administration has some priority files. Could you indicate to the board what some of those priority files might be?
Paul St George
View Paul St George Profile
Paul St George
2022-03-03 12:07
Thank you for the question, Monsieur Brassard.
In terms of our carry-forward, we do expect to carry forward this year and we do a forecasting for the entire fiscal year. In terms of carry-forward files that we have had in the past, I would welcome Elaine Valiquette to provide some of the specifics for those files.
View John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
If I may, just to be clear, what specific projects do you have in mind for this year as well?
Paul St George
View Paul St George Profile
Paul St George
2022-03-03 12:07
This fiscal year our focus is on COVID-19, obviously, and the increased costs we're seeing for the House administration, as well as various other projects that we have in play.
Elaine Valiquette
View Elaine Valiquette Profile
Elaine Valiquette
2022-03-03 12:08
We're in the middle of doing our strategic planning exercise for the upcoming fiscal year. Projects are being submitted for funding out of the House administration portion of the carry-forward, and those decisions have not yet been made.
I don't know if there is....
Paul St George
View Paul St George Profile
Paul St George
2022-03-03 12:08
In terms of the projects that Elaine is referring to, we do have some larger ones in play. For example, we have one called CAMP, which is looking at how we manage assets within the House of Commons. That is a project that's been in place for, I think, two years, and it will continue for another three years. That would, of course, be funded through the excess carry-overs from year over year.
View John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
Paul St George
View Paul St George Profile
Paul St George
2022-03-03 12:08
You're welcome.
View John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
You've also noted in the report $1.7 million of spending this year as it relates to the pandemic. I know that in some of the past reports you've indicated that redeployment of employees from their usual employment to pandemic-related work has occurred. Do you have a sense right now of how many House employees have recently been deployed to pandemic-related responsibilities?
Paul St George
View Paul St George Profile
Paul St George
2022-03-03 12:09
I don't have the specifics with me. I'd be happy, though, to investigate further and provide that information to the BOIE.
View John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
I would like that. Thank you.
My final question relates to page 4 of the report, which speaks about the fact that House administration is monitoring the impact of the recent protests on House finances. What are some of the impacts you believe you're going to see?
Paul St George
View Paul St George Profile
Paul St George
2022-03-03 12:09
That is a very good question.
In terms of the impact, it is very immaterial to date. It was more on the resource side in order to ensure that the precinct was secured, essentially. However, at this time it will probably not show up in the results because of materiality.
View John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
You expect that most of that will be in relation to parliamentary security, then?
Paul St George
View Paul St George Profile
Paul St George
2022-03-03 12:10
That is correct, yes.
View John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Are there any other questions for Monsieur St George?
Then we'll move on to item number five, I believe.
Monsieur St George, I'll let you continue.
Paul St George
View Paul St George Profile
Paul St George
2022-03-03 12:10
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I'm here today to seek guidance from the board on certain temporary policies implemented to help members address the challenges related to the COVID‑19 pandemic. These policies are set to expire on March 31, 2022.
These temporary policies increase the advertising spending limit from 10% to 20% of the budget. Members may include in their advertising and printed material certain messages and solicitations for certain donations related to COVID‑19. Members may include the cost of Internet services for teleworking employees in their budget.
Mr. Speaker, you'll also find in your handout a letter from a member of the board asking the board to consider making permanent the increase in the advertising limit to 20% of the member's office budget.
The House administration has conducted a preliminary review of member spending trends since the implementation of the temporary policy to increase the advertising limit. As of January 31, 2022, 3% of members had exceeded the standard 10% limit. This percentage was 13% at the end of the previous fiscal year.
Pursuant to a board decision in December 2015, the member's office budget is increased each year based on the adjusted consumer price index. As a result, the purchasing power for advertising increases proportionately.
On April 1, the member's office budget will increase by 3.7%, with the cumulative increase over the past five years totalling 8.9%. This reflects an average increase of $3,531 per member in purchasing power for advertising.
The administration is suggesting that the board maintain the increased advertising limit, that is, until the end of June 2022, while the administration reviews the implications of setting it permanently.
Should the board decide to discontinue the increased limit when the administration presents its findings before the end of June, it will suggest alternatives that will minimize the impacts on members, considering that they may have already committed to spending plans for the entire fiscal year.
With regard to the reimbursement of net costs of Internet services incurred by member employees, 25% of members have made use of the temporary policy. There have been fewer Internet reimbursements this year compared to those of the prior year, when 35% of members submitted claims. As this policy impacts member employees who are teleworking, we are also suggesting and recommending that this policy be extended until the end of June 2022 and that the administration also return to the board with a recommended approach for the future.
In summary, the administration is recommending, first of all, that all three policies be extended until the end of June, and second, that the administration be provided with a mandate to assess the potential impacts of any further extensions or any change to these policies.
Mr. Chair, that concludes my presentation. Once again, I welcome any questions you may have.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Are there any questions or comments?
Mrs. DeBellefeuille, you have the floor.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased that the House administration is open to changing the advertising spending limit. There have been changes in advertising practices.
Members can now promote their services on all social media or through print media. We can post our services, telephone numbers and contact information in a variety of new places so that everyone can reach us as quickly as possible.
However, I still have some concerns about the administration's recommendation. Personally, I always plan my media placements. Like any good administrator or manager, we budget for the period from April 1 to March 31.
Your proposal seems like an odd practice for managers who must run everything responsibly. I don't really know what kind of commitments or arrangements you could propose if we were to commit more than our 10% at the start of the fiscal year.
I'm asking for the support of the board members. I think that we're prepared to change the advertising spending limit from 10% to 20%.
I want to tell the people tuning in that this doesn't affect our budgets. We aren't asking for an additional budget. We're asking for some flexibility, depending on our territory or province, that would help us use good management and adapt to our world.
I stand by my first request, which is a permanent increase in the advertising spending limit from 10% to 20%.
Since I'm participating in the meeting virtually, I can't interpret the body language of my colleagues. If my colleagues don't want to do this, could we at least ensure that the pilot project continues until March 31 rather than June? I think that ending the pilot project in June is a bad idea for managers who want to plan all their activities and media placements as of April 1.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Calkins, we will go to you next.
View Blaine Calkins Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you, Chair.
I have some questions in regard to how things line up with the recommendations and the policies that have been implemented tangentially, and how they are meant to serve each other. Notwithstanding the issue that Madame DeBellefeuille is bringing forward—I have some thoughts on that—the part that I want to look at is part C: “The reimbursement of reasonable high-speed Internet service costs for Members’ employees who are working from home in support of parliamentary functions, as a charge to the [member's operating budget].”
I guess this is what I'm curious to try to find out. I'm unclear as to whether or not the vaccine mandate policy, insofar as it pertains to not only the House, which seems to have somewhat different rules on masking and so on from the rest of the precinct....
Why would we not link the high-speed Internet service costs for staff who can't access the precinct with the policy that forces them not to access the precinct?
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. St George, you have the floor.
Paul St George
View Paul St George Profile
Paul St George
2022-03-03 12:18
As we go through the analysis, that may be a recommendation that we come back to the board with. At this time, we're looking at the three policies together, because they were adopted together, but they may have to be carved out and looked at individually.
View Blaine Calkins Profile
CPC (AB)
Michel, did you want to speak to that?
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2022-03-03 12:19
I just wanted to mention that the policy with respect to the reimbursement of high-speed Internet predates the vaccine mandate. It was at the beginning of the pandemic, when it was recommended that everybody stay home.
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2022-03-03 12:19
The policy—
View Blaine Calkins Profile
CPC (AB)
The employee's pass is disabled from accessing the precinct if they haven't provided proof of vaccination. Am I missing something?
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2022-03-03 12:19
No. You're right about that other aspect of it, but I'm saying that the policy—
View Blaine Calkins Profile
CPC (AB)
I understand. The policies were not related at the start, but now, because of the imposition of mandates, they're intertwined. That's my point.
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2022-03-03 12:19
There may be a relationship, but that's not the reason for us to be before the board.
View Blaine Calkins Profile
CPC (AB)
I understand.
The other question I have is this: How do you enforce having an increased amount for your budget for a quarter of a year over the annual reporting that members are required to report? How are you going to manage the ability of a member to spend something in the first quarter when their only requirement is to be within budget at the end of four quarters?
Paul St George
View Paul St George Profile
Paul St George
2022-03-03 12:20
When we come back with those options, we'll be bringing to the table various formulas. One that you could look at, for example, is a pro rata of the first three months and the last nine months, and that becomes an average moving forward. As Ms. DeBellefeuille said, another option is also just continuing for the remainder of the year.
We will bring two or three options for consideration. Be certain that whatever we bring forward will mitigate or manage that planning process.
View Blaine Calkins Profile
CPC (AB)
As my last comment, I'll go back to the proposal by Ms. DeBellefeuille to make the 20% increase on advertising permanent. Does she foresee or expect changes, or would she like to see changes made, in what can be advertised vis-à-vis party logos and other things, as part of our advertising policy? Are there other things she wants changed, other than the amount, or is it just the amount?
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mrs. DeBellefeuille, this question is for you.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Speaker, should I answer it?
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
The discussion concerns your proposal. I wanted to wait until everyone had finished asking their questions. However, some of the questions are about your two proposals. The floor is yours.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
To answer my colleague's question, my proposed rule change concerns only the percentage. The current rule is sufficient and it meets our needs. I would just like to see the advertising percentage increased from 10% to 20%, since this doesn't affect our total budgets.
The exceptions allowed during the pandemic should likely be repealed, since the reopening process has begun in earnest throughout the provinces. In particular, there's talk of stopping the use of masks in Ontario and Quebec. These measures were adapted to the pandemic.
With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I'll make two suggestions that we can discuss before making a decision. I can see that the House administration isn't suggesting that we make a decision.
Since the fiscal year ends on March 31, I'm proposing that the advertising percentage be increased from 10% to 20% effective April 1 and that the $500 limit per event be increased. I'll let my colleagues propose the amount of this increase. Personally, I would suggest that the current amount of $500 be increased to a maximum of $1,000. However, I would be more than willing to negotiate this.
I don't want a big discussion about rewriting the rules. I just want to ensure that we have some breathing room and a little more flexibility as we manage our upcoming advertising budget.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
That's fine. Are there any comments?
Mr. Brassard has a comment or a question.
View John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
I have. Thank you. It's in regard to the resources that are currently being provided by the House. We saw this increase in the budget because everything had shut down, including those resources.
Have we seen a significant uptake as a result of these resources now being provided? Are we seeing less advertising coming out of the members' budgets because they've now referred back to the House for their printing and advertising needs? Do you have any data that supports that, or have you seen anything with regard to that?
Paul St George
View Paul St George Profile
Paul St George
2022-03-03 12:24
At this time, we haven't gone into that depth of analysis comparing this year to prepandemic, or even through the pandemic until now. That's what we're proposing to do over the next three months.
View John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
Okay.
I took advantage of the advertising opportunities, and I know that many of my colleagues did, and the increase in budget, but I have seen myself pull back into the resources that have been provided by the House without using some of the external sources that we were using at the beginning of the pandemic. I expect you'll probably see an increase in the use of the resources that are currently being provided by the House, resources that weren't there at the beginning of the pandemic, which was the reason for this increase, as you are aware.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Seeing no other questions, I guess we have three options now. We have two that were offered by Madame DeBellefeuille and one that was offered by Mr. St George, the recommendation that we have in our package.
How do we want to start this? Do we want to start with the new proposals and then work our way back, or do we want to start with the recommendation that was made initially?
Is that a yes, Mr. Julian?
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Okay. We'll start with the recommendation that was made by Mr. St George.
Do we have acceptance of this recommendation?
Mrs. DeBellefeuille is opposed to this proposal. We don't have unanimous consent.
We'll move on to the next proposal, which is Mrs. DeBellefeuille's proposal.
That's to extend to March 29, 2023.
Does this work for everyone?
Mr. Julian, do you want to add anything?
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
I didn't really understand Mrs. DeBellefeuille's proposal. Does she want all these components to end by March 29?
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
She wants this measure to continue until March 29, 2023, instead of ending in June, because that's in the middle of a fiscal year.
Is that right, Mrs. DeBellefeuille? I want to make sure that I'm providing the correct information.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
The administration's recommendation had several components, and I disagreed with them. I actually agreed with some components, but disagreed with others.
I want to know whether the Speaker and all members agree that, from April 1, 2022, to March 31, 2023, the advertising spending limit should be increased from 10% to 20%.
I'm willing to make that compromise so that the House can conduct its analysis during the year. By April 1, 2023, we can decide whether to change the rule permanently or go back to the old rule. That's my first proposal.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
However, I would agree if her proposal were added to the proposal made earlier. If this advertising component were adopted in addition to the extension of all policies until June 30, I would agree with both these measures. However, I wouldn't agree with the adoption of this advertising proposal unless we were to adopt the other components suggested by the House administration.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Me neither.
Mrs. DeBellefeuille, I'll let you explain your proposal again so that we understand exactly what you mean. I gather that the suggestion was accepted and that it would apply until March 29. Is that right?
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Yes, except that I wouldn't agree with her proposal unless the other measures were extended until June 30, except for the advertising measure, which would end earlier because of the fiscal year. I would agree with the adoption of these two measures together, but not with the adoption of one without the other.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I'll make a proposal.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Go ahead, because you'll do it better than I could.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
The House administration's proposal contains several components. One component relates to my request to increase the advertising spending limit from 10% to 20% of the budget. I would have liked this change to be permanent. However, I'm willing to accept the extension of the limit for consideration until March 31, 2023.
I also agree that the Internet fee measures and the other measures in the proposal should continue until June. Basically, the change concerns the advertising spending measure.
I think that Mr. Julian meant that he would support my proposal if I phrased it that way.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
You're right, Mrs. DeBellefeuille. Thank you.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Do we agree with this?
Since I don't hear any objections, the decision is made.
For the next item, the committee will continue in camera.
I'll suspend the meeting for a few minutes.
[Proceedings continue in camera]
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I call this meeting to order.
Welcome to meeting number five.
This is February 17, 2022. The meeting is televised.
The first thing we're going to take care of is minutes of the previous meetings.
Is there anything that anyone wants to bring up?
So we have a consensus. We can proceed.
Mr. Julian, you have the floor.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I move that we begin the meeting in camera in order to discuss these matters.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Do we have everyone's agreement to go in camera?
All right. We'll take three minutes to go in camera.
As soon as we are ready, the meeting will resume in camera.
We'll start in camera in a few seconds, as soon as we're ready.
[Proceedings continue in camera]
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
We are ready to resume the meeting.
We now move to the second item on the agenda, which is business arising from the previous meeting.
Does anyone have anything from the previous meeting?
Ms. Bellefeuille, you have the floor.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I am happy to speak to this, particularly on the issue of interpreters and the dashboard that was in the Liaison Committee report.
I would like to thank all the clerks for preparing this dashboard for us. It allows us to follow the progress of the efforts made by the House administration to reduce as much as possible the technological problems, the sound problems and the problems that our interpreters have.
One of the problems with virtual work are the issues arising from connectivity and technical errors. This has an impact on the quality of the interpretation.
I'd like to thank the staff for keeping this dashboard; I know it's a lot of work, and it's in addition to their daily tasks. They did a good job.
I have looked at the dashboard, and I have found that there are still problems; the performance rate has not yet reached 100%. Improvements have been made, but there are still a lot of problems.
The fact that the committee meets through the Zoom application has implications for francophone MPs, primarily, but also for anglophone MPs. The latter need to hear the interpretation well when an MP speaks in French.
I am therefore asking that the dashboard be maintained. As I said, it allows us to follow the progress of the administration's efforts to correct the problems, in order to improve the quality of the sound, and therefore, the quality of the interpretation.
For two weeks, my team monitored the progress of all the committees. On the whole, I must say that we were surprised to see the many problems that there have been since the work resumed in January. I don't want to generalize, but this has happened in several committees.
One of the problems is that many members are still not using the equipment provided by the House.
For example, this morning at the meeting of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, one member attended the meeting using her iPhone headphones. I will not name the MP or her party — it was not mine.
So the interpreters are complaining about the sound quality.
In committee, there are also problems because the chair does not always respect routine motions.
According to a routine motion which has been adopted by all committees, the chair must say, before the meeting begins, that the tests have been carried out for all the witnesses. Few do so. The fact that the tests have not been carried out, or have been carried out too shortly before the start of the meeting, is a problem.
I know it is not your responsibility, but the chief clerk is with us today. Perhaps he could be asked to make the chair of the Liaison Committee, Ms. Sgro, aware of the importance of routine motions. It is the duty of a committee chair to respect routine motions.
As this is a new motion, the clerks should endeavour to remind the chair that they must ensure that the tests have been done.
At the meeting of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs two weeks ago, I learned, by chance, that members are no longer being tested. It is taken for granted that members are aware, after two years, that they should not come to the meeting without the right equipment.
As my colleagues know, repeating yourself is part of a whip's job.
In some committees, members were not using the equipment provided by the House, which made the job of the interpreters more difficult, as the sound quality is not the same.
Sometimes it also sounds like the sound is reverberating. I will report on some of those incidents.
As I am generous, I will give my notes on this to Mr. McDonald or Mr. Aubé. Sometimes the interpreters have difficulty working, because there the sound reverberates. Also, at the February 1 meeting of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, there was a lot of interference, which caused problems for the interpreters.
Also, on two occasions, the chair allowed witnesses to testify even though their cameras were not working. In my view, it is part of the rules of the game to see the faces of witnesses, unless they have made an agreement or the committee is meeting in camera for reasons of confidentiality or even security. However, in the instances I mention, this was not the case.
There is even one committee chair who let the meeting continue, even though there had been points of order because the interpretation was not working. At a meeting of the Standing Committee on National Defence, there was an anglophone witness whose interpretation channel was not working. So when the Bloc member asked him a question in French, she could not hear or understand his answers. As a result, this prevented active participation by the Bloc member, because the chair allowed the session to continue.
You will understand, then, that the struggle I am waging today in the Board of Internal Economy is important. It is about maximizing the participation of members, whether they speak French or English, and making sure that they have access to good services, but also reminding the clerks to be very supportive of chairs that do not respect the housekeeping motions and do not seem to be very sensitive to the participation of French-speaking members.
I consider that the clerk can do some of the work with the clerks and the Liaison Committee, but, as I am fortunate enough to be in the presence of my colleagues the whips of all the parties, I would say that there is some work for them as well. They could remind us of some of the rules that we have set together to maximize participation. It is a question of having adequate equipment, but also of having the concern that the sessions take place entirely in both official languages.
I have to tell you that I'm somewhat impressed. There have been changes, because we don't wait for the Board of Internal Economy to try to find solutions, obviously. Recently, the clerks decided to start doing technical trials with members again, because there was a lack of discipline, and this was among members from all parties.
In fact, at the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, several witnesses did not have headsets with microphones. When witnesses do not have proper equipment, it causes health problems for our interpreters. In light of the complaint filed by the interpreters' union, I am surprised that we still allow witnesses or members of Parliament to participate in meetings without the necessary equipment, when we know that a large proportion of work-related accidents affecting interpreters are linked to the quality of the equipment, among other things. I think we have a responsibility in this regard, and we should have zero tolerance.
We have been working virtually for two years. Normally, we should be a little bit better than this. I think everybody is making an effort, but it's not acceptable that witnesses don't have the necessary equipment and that we tolerate it. It's not acceptable that when the interpretation doesn't work and an English-speaking witness speaks, we don't care. I don't understand why I'm still reporting such cases.
I will be happy to provide this document to your team.
Mr. Speaker, I ask three things of you: that you ask the clerk to convene the Liaison Committee, to really raise awareness and provide guidance, and to have each party whip make important reminders to their caucus about the use of equipment, and maybe be a little bit stricter: if you don't have the proper equipment, you don't have the floor. That's the rule we had given ourselves.
On the other hand, if there is no interpretation, there is no testimony. If there is no interpretation, we cannot speak. If we continue to give the impression that it is not so serious, we trivialize the effects on the health and safety of our interpreters. I don't know if my colleagues agree with me.
So I will summarize my proposal: that the dashboard be maintained; that the Liaison Committee be seized of the difficulties we have talked about today; and that we be able to have answers, following the analysis that I will table of all the events with the dates and the names of the committees, in order to see if, indeed, we in the Bloc Québécois have the same analysis as your team regarding technology.
This must be an important point for the Board of Internal Economy because we care about both the health and safety of our interpreters, and the ability to participate in debates in both official languages, which is essential.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Ms. DeBellefeuille.
The three measures that you have asked for are very reasonable and very important to the committee process. In fact, they are rigorously applied in the House. So there isl'affiliation doit être mise à jour no reason why they should not be applied to committees.
I noticed that the clerk was taking a lot of notes. We will see that you get answers and several solutions as soon as possible.
Are there any other comments?
I'll give the floor to Mr. MacKinnon, to be followed by Mr. Julian.
View Steven MacKinnon Profile
Lib. (QC)
I will not repeat what Ms. DeBellefeuille said, but I thank her for her persistence. It is important to stress that we are of the same mind. In fact, it is unacceptable to us, on the government side, that meetings are not held in both official languages, on an absolutely equal footing, and it is essential that all measures be respected, whether it be testing, the use of the right equipment, and the rest.
Please be aware that, on our side, we constantly remind our members to use the equipment that has been provided to us. As for the House administration, I am always impressed with their diligence in sending the right equipment. They respond very quickly when we call on them in this regard.
I think that corrections, whatever they may be, must be made until we have absolute parity in the use of both official languages in our institutions, in the House of Commons and in its committees.
Thank you, Ms. DeBellefeuille. Rest assured that we will support any measures that may be introduced to help us in this regard.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Mr. MacKinnon.
We will now continue with Mr. Julian, Mr. Calkins and Mr. LeBlanc.
Mr. Julian, you have the floor.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I also thank Ms. DeBellefeuille for raising these issues.
In fact, these are questions of respect for the employees of the House. The interpreters do a magnificent job, often in difficult situations in this time of pandemic, when we often have to work virtually. The least we can do is to ensure that all interpreters are treated well—they deserve it—and that occupational health and safety measures are respected.
The idea of having the same rules at committees and in the House seems the least we can do. We need to protect the interpreters' workplace to limit workplace accidents.
Before I was a member of Parliament, I ran a social enterprise that provided services to the hearing impaired in British Columbia. My wife, Limei, is an audiologist. So I know how it can cause permanent injury to interpreters if they don't have the proper equipment to protect their ears. This is serious.
I am disappointed that some members, even after two years of working in virtual mode, have not yet realized that they absolutely must use official headsets, which protect interpreters and improve the sound. I am also disappointed that the committee chairs do not understand that the same conditions must apply to all witnesses.
I think this is a good plan of action, which we will have to come back to in a few weeks if we find that we don't have the co‑operation of the committee chairs. On the other hand, we could agree now with the whips of all parties that if people are not using the official equipment to work virtually on Zoom, they cannot speak in committee. That way, I don't think any member will continue to disrespect our interpreters. So this condition should be implemented immediately, as it is common sense.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
We'll now go to Mr. Calkins.
View Blaine Calkins Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I don't think anybody at the table is going to disagree that we need to be as respectful and as gracious as we can be with those who serve us in our duties in the House of Commons, particularly our interpreters.
I, for one, am probably the only one at this table—maybe there's one another—who absolutely, fundamentally requires the use of interpretative services. I wouldn't be able to conduct my duties here because I am unilingual member of Parliament.
On behalf of the Conservative Party—a number of my colleagues would be as unilingual as me—I want to extend my appreciation to interpretative services for the great work they have done.
There's a relatively simple solution to some of the concerns being raised here today. Some of us have been here a very long time. That doesn't mean that people who have been here for a longer time have all of the answers. From about March 2006, when I first came to this place, until about March 2020, we didn't have this thing called hybrid or virtual Parliament. All the problems we're discussing here today are in part because we are trying to accommodate— and rightfully so—the issues pertaining to conducting the business of the nation through a COVID pandemic.
We have asked for some reconsideration as we move forward—as restrictions are getting lifted in various other jurisdictions, like in the province of Ontario where the nation's capital resides—of the restrictions we have here in the precinct.
Perhaps one thing that we can tie in to that review would be what the pros and cons are when it comes to workplace safety for those who serve us and our needs as parliamentarians. Perhaps that should be taken into consideration. Perhaps we should make sure that consideration is given a little more weight if it's actually creating frustrations and causing workplace incidents, hazards or injury.
In my recollection, we had very few of these issues prior to adopting a virtual or hybrid Parliament. While I completely understand the nature of wanting to protect staff, we also have, as members of Parliament, parliamentary privilege, which means that we actually do have the right to address the House. I think we will have significant issues if we decide to challenge members' abilities to address the House even though we can prescribe the rules in which we do that. Look, we even have rules on what we can and can't wear in order to speak in the House of Commons. I have to wear a jacket and a tie, so a headset is not an unreasonable thing, but there could be potential challenges to that.
Members of Parliament are extremely busy individuals. We travel at great length. It's not inconceivable that somebody might find themselves delayed by a flight or by any other means and want to participate in their regular duties, thinking that the headset they left at their office would be replaced by the one at their home or their other office and got waylaid in between.
We can pack these things around. That's understandable. We have had things like teleconference before as well. I remember numerous teleconferences at committees where we didn't actually have video availability.
As long as we meet the needs of the staff, the communications equipment and the technology, I think we can proceed, but I can assure you that on behalf of the Conservative Party, I will be revisiting this issue with our caucus and making sure that people are using the equipment they ought to be using. It has been clear. We do have two years of experience in doing this.
The solution to me, colleagues, is quite simple. Let's start a plan moving forward to de-normalize hybrid or virtual Parliament and get back to the way things were two years ago. The vast majority of the problems we're talking about here today will simply disappear.
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