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Results: 1 - 100 of 155
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you.
Thank you for bringing that up, Mr. Julian. That's a good point.
While we're still public, do we want to cover item number 2?
This item pertains to business arising from the previous meeting.
Everything is okay? Good. We've done one. We've done two.
Now we'll go to number 4: “Cost Pressures on Members' Budgets”.
Mr. St George, you have the floor.
Paul St George
View Paul St George Profile
Paul St George
2022-06-16 11:10
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I am submitting proposals to the Board of Internal Economy that are intended to address questions raised by members of the board, that have been analyzed by the House of Commons Administration. These issues relate to the impact of rising costs caused by the growth in the property market and the increase in the limit on advertising expenditures.
The first question relates to constituency offices. Over the past five fiscal years, the median monthly rental costs of these offices have increased by more than members' budgets.
To provide members with greater budgetary flexibility, the administration is requesting that the board allow members to charge the equivalent of $3,000 per month for rental costs to the central budget. This amount is based on median constituency office rental costs.
The administration also requests that the board authorize the chief financial officer to review the maximum threshold annually based on the consumer price index.
The administration would monitor the impact of additional costs charged to the central budget, and if necessary, submit a request for funding through the 2022‑23 supplementary estimates and the 2023‑24 main estimates.
The second item relates to secondary residence rental costs, which is the largest expenditure under the travel status expense account. The administration observed that the average rental costs incurred by members have increased by about 20% over the past five fiscal years, while the account increased by approximately 10% during that same period. As a result, the administration proposes that the board approve a one-time increase of 10% to the travel status expense account to offset the increase in secondary residence rental costs.
The final item relates to the advertising limit, which was temporarily increased by 10% to 20% of members' office budgets, as of April 2020. The administration proposes that the advertising expense account limit be set permanently at 20% of the member’s office budget, to provide members with greater flexibility to communicate with their constituents during the pandemic.
Mr. Speaker, this concludes my presentation. I would be pleased to answer any questions that the members may have.
View Steven MacKinnon Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
I'd also like to thank the House Administration staff for their work. On behalf of many of my colleagues across party lines, I can certainly say that there are more and more challenges in providing services to the public.
A great deal of pressure is also mounting around wages, as Mr. St George mentioned. We are far from parity where staff is concerned. So we face a challenge in terms of keeping wages competitive as well. There are also issues in terms of where services are provided to the public.
We would prefer to be on main streets so we can be conveniently located for all our constituents. Rents are up across the board.
Thank you very much for your analysis, and I draw the same conclusions as you.
The geographic location of offices also presents challenges. You mentioned constituencies that are large in area or have a high population density.
In your analysis, do you plan to look at differences between ridings across the country, on which we could base future adjustments?
José Fernandez
View José Fernandez Profile
José Fernandez
2022-06-16 11:15
In our analysis, we looked at supplements provided to MPs based on the regions or constituencies they represent. In particular, I'm talking about the supplements provided based on the number of constituents and geographic location. The supplements are paid to account for the added pressures there might be in urban centres or in rural areas, where expenses such as travel costs can be a little higher.
We continue to monitor budget utilization to determine if there may be pressures in that respect.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thanks very much, Mr. Speaker.
This is an important question. We are, as members of Parliament, really the last line of defence for Canadians who are looking for support in a wide variety of federal issues and in interaction with federal ministries. My riding office in downtown New Westminster is an example of that. We've helped about 20,000 people over the years, but we're finding that there are more and more people who are coming in to seek assistance. As a parliamentarian, I have the job of making sure they get that assistance.
When Kabul fell there was literally a lineup. I'm on Carnarvon Street in downtown New Westminster. There was a lineup right under the SkyTrain station, and the lineup went around the block and into the area where the SkyTrain station is. The need is very big, but I've certainly found that with the high cost of rent, I'm not able to allocate as much of my budget to making sure that we're actually taking care of the increasing caseloads we're seeing.
I think this proposal helps to address that in part, but I look to the B.C. model. For B.C. members of the legislative assembly, the budget is actually taken out of their members' office budget. It is applied centrally. There are criteria, according to which, for each of the offices there are a certain set number of square metres; one has to make sure it's an accessible office; one has to make sure it has certain limitations in terms of visibility. All of that is set, and so all the members of the B.C. Legislative Assembly have basically the same criteria. It's a system that works extremely well. It means that those MLAs in high-rent districts aren't penalized in providing supports to their constituents compared to MLAs who live in communities where there is much, much lower rent.
My question to Mr. St George and Mr. Fernandez is to what extent they have examined the B.C. model. I would suggest, in terms of the recommendations, that part of those be to mandate the administration to look at the B.C. model and to make recommendations at a future Board of Internal Economy so that we can look at the best practice, which to my mind is, really, the one in B.C., in terms of ensuring that members' office budgets really go to providing services and not to the increasing amount of rent.
Were you able to look at the B.C. model? Is it appropriate that you'd come back with recommendations at a future meeting?
Paul St George
View Paul St George Profile
Paul St George
2022-06-16 11:19
Thank you for the question, Mr. Julian.
We did look at a couple of models. We do intend, obviously, to look at them further. However, currently, we feel that in the existing model we have we do have supplements that look at electoral and geographical locations. Therefore we already have various levers that are in place to ensure that there's equity from that perspective.
Certainly it's something we could go back to look at a little more closely. We'd have to come back with an understanding of what the full impact to the members' constituents would be, in terms of the contracts, the insurance, etc. We certainly can do that.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you. So you would be amenable to that.
Mr. Speaker, I'd like to suggest that we add to the instructions to the administration that they come back at a future meeting with recommendations based on best practices. Perhaps there are other jurisdictions that have taken a similar approach, but the B.C. model seems to me to have really appropriate ramifications for how we structure our work at the local level.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Do we have consensus on requesting that from Mr. St George? I believe we do.
Mrs. DeBellefeuille, you have the floor.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
I'm not sure. I understand the argument being made, but does it keep us from adopting these recommendations?
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
No, not at all. We're asking Mr. St George to submit a report so we can determine if there will be other solutions in the future.
We're good with that.
Now we'll go to Mr. Calkins, followed by Mr. Brassard.
Then it will be Mrs. DeBellefeuille's turn.
View Blaine Calkins Profile
CPC (AB)
Look, I don't necessarily have a problem with asking for it, but I think we're asking the administration to tackle something that's extremely difficult, considering the breadth of the country and the number of regions we have. The various costs associated with living in numerous cities in numerous provinces are going to be much more substantive than they are for simply looking after the needs and modelling after a single province, like British Columbia, with one relatively concentrated area. Two-thirds of the population of British Columbia live in the GVA-Victoria area. It's a completely different thing from what we have for the country.
I guess that doesn't stop us from trying, but I wouldn't want to be the one to have to undertake that task. I'm pretty satisfied with what we're actually doing right here.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
What exactly are we saying here? We're not asking for a report, or we are, or there's a problem with asking for some kind of examination?
Go ahead, Mr. MacKinnon.
View Steven MacKinnon Profile
Lib. (QC)
I would support Mr. Julian's suggestion that we have an analysis of some of the things that he mentioned. I endorse the proposal as a whole, unless there are further comments.
View Blaine Calkins Profile
CPC (AB)
I wanted to get some clarification on the travel status expense account, because this is problematic for some colleagues.
My understanding is that for those colleagues who choose to purchase a secondary residence or have a residence that they own here in the capital region, there is an allocation for them to...I think it's $50 a day, if my memory serves me correctly.
Can you confirm that's the case?
José Fernandez
View José Fernandez Profile
José Fernandez
2022-06-16 11:25
Yes. For the ones who own, it's $50 a day.
View Blaine Calkins Profile
CPC (AB)
That has been in place since 2003. Is that correct?
José Fernandez
View José Fernandez Profile
José Fernandez
2022-06-16 11:25
I don't recall, but we can find it.
José Fernandez
View José Fernandez Profile
José Fernandez
2022-06-16 11:25
It has been for some time.
View Blaine Calkins Profile
CPC (AB)
Any of the increase that we're proposing to the travel status expense account right now would be beneficial to people who stay in hotels or stay in a rented apartment. Would anybody who stays in a purchased residence see any change to that?
José Fernandez
View José Fernandez Profile
José Fernandez
2022-06-16 11:25
No, since the maximum they can claim is $50 per day.
View Blaine Calkins Profile
CPC (AB)
All right.
The other thing I would like to get some clarification on is the use of the travel status expense account for members, even when they're outside their home province. If a member of Parliament is outside of their home province, they must use the travel status expense account for any hotels or accommodations, whether they're in Ottawa or not.
Is that correct?
José Fernandez
View José Fernandez Profile
José Fernandez
2022-06-16 11:26
When they're outside the national capital region, they have a choice. They can either charge it to their TSEA or the MOB. That's why there's some...they can maximize. The TSEA is only for the use of the member. It's not for their employees. They can charge on this account the accommodation and per diem expenses they incur while travelling in the constituency, the province or elsewhere in Canada as well.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
I will be brief.
I want to thank the House Administration staff for doing an analysis based on documented data in record time. They listened to the staff in the members' offices, our staff and our teams. I support all the recommendations before us.
I agree with Mr. MacKinnon when he says that perhaps we should be doing more in-depth analysis of the supplements based on number of constituents and riding size.
It's more expensive for rural MPs to travel to their ridings. For example, the member for Lac-Saint-Jean said yesterday that it takes him an hour and a half from his constituency office to get to Normandin to attend a dinner, and that doesn't include the time it takes to get back. That's a total of three hours' driving time. It's a lot of time and mileage.
I agree with Mr. MacKinnon that these supplements must be reviewed at some point. I think it's important, particularly for ridings that cover a lot of area and include many municipalities, which translates into a lot of travel and driving to meet with constituents.
Thank you very much. I urge you to close the debate so that this passes.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Mrs. DeBellefeuille summed up the proposal well.
I would also like to thank the finance team for this.
I think the decision will lead to better quality services for the public. That's basically what the work of parliamentarians is all about.
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2022-06-16 11:30
There's something wrong with that other headset. I'm sorry, Mr. Speaker.
First of all, yes, I'll extend my thanks to the House Administration. The reality is that our offices provide essential functions on the front lines for Canadians. This will go entirely, I think, towards assisting constituency offices to be able to help their staff. I think that's important.
I have a question to follow up on Mr. Calkins' question. There hasn't been an adjustment in the daily amount for those who own a residence. I'm sorry; I just want to confirm that it's not contemplated to change that $50 a day in this as well. There's no adjustment to that.
Paul St George
View Paul St George Profile
Paul St George
2022-06-16 11:31
That is correct. It's not in the proposal today for an adjustment.
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2022-06-16 11:31
Okay. I was just curious what the logic was if there's an adjustment being made for 10% for the budget generally and for other related expenses but not to adjust that expense. It hasn't been adjusted in a long time. Would it not also make sense to adjust that?
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2022-06-16 11:32
Yes, given the discussion that we had today and the various elements that were raised, obviously it was our intention to proceed with a deeper analysis of all of the cost pressures and our different rules to simplify and clarify them. Obviously we'll consult with the various House leaders, whips and so on to address ongoing matters that would create issues. The administration will do that review in consultation with the various whips over the course of the summer to address any kind of inconsistencies or pressures that need to be addressed.
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2022-06-16 11:32
Just as a final point on that, Mr. Chair, if there is a process by which these things are adjusted automatically, as many other items are, so that we don't have to deal with this on an ongoing basis, it should be adjusted as costs change. It would change in the way that the per diems automatically change.
That makes sense so that we don't have to continue revisiting it, but I would just posit that, if you are changing the other amounts, and this amount hasn't been changed in a long time, it would seem logical to me that there also be a change there. That seems to be a bit of a miss.
I don't know if other people have the same feeling. I would be comfortable applying the change to that as well.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Then what we are doing is this. I seem to have consensus on the recommendations, and we will be coming back with a report. The staff will be coming back with a report on the office costs, possibly looking at the B.C. model.
From there, the other issues will be looked at on a separate basis, so we are good.
Very good, we'll continue then with item number 9, “Professional Development Project and Training for Members' Employees”.
I believe Ms. Daigle will be making the presentation. Am I correct?
Yes, okay, we'll let Ms. Daigle continue, and Ms. Laframboise will be there as well.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
We're going to number 5. It's the “2021-2022 Year-End Financial Report” and carry-forward to 2022-2023.
We have Monsieur St George and Monsieur Fernandez.
Paul St George
View Paul St George Profile
Paul St George
2022-06-16 12:19
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I would like to present to you the 2021‑22 Year‑End Financial Report. It compares the year‑to‑date financial information for this year with the previous year.
This is the first of two year‑end financial reports. The second report will be presented to the board this fall following the external audit. This report, prepared by House Administration staff, was not audited and is based on modified cash basis of accounting in accordance with Public Accounts of Canada.
I attest to the accuracy and reliability of the information contained therein.
Turning your attention to slide number 2, which relates to the year-end results, the authorities for 2021-22 total $547.6 million. Expenditures amounted to $510 million, leaving a surplus of $37.5 million. This surplus corresponds to the lapse that will be reported in the Public Accounts of Canada.
In next slide, as shown in the surplus analysis, the amount of $37.5 million is broken down as follows: 55% pertains to office budgets of members and House officers attributable to the general election, the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as other various items; 17% relates to the budgets of committee associations and exchanges, mainly due to the impact of the pandemic; while 28% pertains to House Administration, mainly attributable to job vacancies, the pandemic, as well as delays caused by global supply chain issues.
Annually, with the board approval, the House carries forward lapsed amounts of up to 5% of the main estimates, which corresponds to $19.2 million for this fiscal year. Therefore, a total of $6.8 million would be allocated to the office budgets of members and House officers. The remaining $12.4 million would be allocated to the House Administration and could be used to offset unforeseen operating pressures, as well as various member-related projects and initiatives: for example, the life-cycling of IT infrastructure not received last year due to supply chain issues, the continuation of corporate prevention programs related to occupational health and safety, improvements to members' financial management tools and the management of corporate assets.
Therefore, I am seeking the board's approval to include a carry forward of $19.2 million in the 2022‑23 supplementary estimates.
This concludes my opening remarks, Mr. Speaker.
I look forward to your questions.
View Blaine Calkins Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you for the presentation.
Based on the slide that I saw, the carry-forward that MPs have from the fiscal prudence or the election-related savings is $6.8 million. Is that right? And of that, the lapsed budgets for members of Parliament was $20.58 million. Did I remember that number correctly?
Paul St George
View Paul St George Profile
Paul St George
2022-06-16 12:23
From the prior year, that's $20.6 million.
View Blaine Calkins Profile
CPC (AB)
Yes, $20.6 million. That's that difference of $12.4 million you had up on the slide—and you listed a few projects that would be covered by that. I'm wondering if you could give me some more clarification.
It seems to me that it's money that should be allocated to improving the quality of service that members of Parliament can deliver. Can you assure me that the $12.4 million will be spent directly on things that improve the ability of members of Parliament and their offices?
Paul St George
View Paul St George Profile
Paul St George
2022-06-16 12:24
That is a very good question.
The surplus itself—the $12.4 million targeted for next year—as in previous years, is used for initiatives the House implements for various systems. For example, we have a very significant one next year that is referred to as the “expense management system”. That's creating a significant change to the way claims and transactions are processed by members directly. It's providing a system that is more efficient, at the end of the day.
It is also used to cover various pressures. For example, at the last meeting, we talked about retroactivity of salaries for certain members within administration. That is not a budget item within the authorities. Sometimes we will look at those surpluses. They may carry forward and be utilized to offset some of that.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you.
Are there any questions or comments?
Everyone is in accordance with the recommendation.
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Hon. Anthony Rota: We'll move on to number 10.
We have Ian McDonald, who will be presenting to us.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
We'll continue with number two.
This is business arising from the previous meeting. Are there any questions or comments on this? No? Good.
Let's move on to the third item: the Special Committee on the Canada-People's Republic of China. The speaker will be Ian McDonald, the clerk assistant.
Mr. McDonald, I'll let you take it from here.
Ian McDonald
View Ian McDonald Profile
Ian McDonald
2022-06-09 11:10
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
You have before you the request for an interim budget for the Special Committee on the Canada-People's Republic of China. This is the normal practice, which is to make a budget request whenever the House decides to create a special committee. The budget is set at $50,000 only for the start of the committee's work. After that, if the committee wants to travel, conduct other work, or incur more expenses, it must submit another budget request to the Board of Internal Economy.
View John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. McDonald, the House order allowed for a travel authority for this committee. I just want to make sure that the proper rules will be in place, including having the approval of this body if there is a need for this committee to travel.
Is that still part of your understanding?
Ian McDonald
View Ian McDonald Profile
Ian McDonald
2022-06-09 11:11
Absolutely.
Through you, Mr. Speaker, the $50,000 is really a start-up budget in case the committee incurs any expenses. If they need more than $50,000—if they want to travel or if they want to hire professional services—then all of those requests would have to come back to the board.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Very good.
Are there any other questions?
Very good, so we're okay with the recommendation of the $50,000?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Hon. Anthony Rota: Very good.
We'll go on to number four, members' advertising and hospitality expenses.
The presenter will be Monsieur St George, chief financial officer, and Monsieur Fernandez.
Paul St George
View Paul St George Profile
Paul St George
2022-06-09 11:12
I am pleased to be here today to seek approval from the Board of Internal Economy to update certain provisions of the advertising and hospitality expense policies.
The first item relates to the current policy, which provides that advertising costs incurred at third-party events cannot exceed $500 per event. This limit has not been revised since it was established in April 2014. On the other hand, MPs' office budgets are increased annually in line with the consumer price index. Therefore, the administration recommends that the Board of Internal Economy increase the limit for advertising to $660, in line with increases in members' office budgets since April 1, 2015. In addition, it requests that the Board of Internal Economy authorize that the chief financial officer may review the limit on an annual basis in the future and amend it as necessary. The chief financial officer will then inform the Board of Internal Economy of any changes to the limit.
The second item relates to tickets for events.
Under the current policy, members may claim the cost of a ticket for a community event, inclusive of a meal. In recent years an increasing number of organizations have started to charge an entry fee for their activities and organized virtual events without meals. The administration recommends that the board approve a policy change to allow the reimbursement of event tickets regardless of a meal.
Also for your information, on April 1, 2022, the maximum rate for tickets increased from $125 to $140. The chief financial officer would review this rate, along with the advertising limit, on an annual basis and adjust it accordingly.
Mr. Speaker, this concludes my presentation and I would be pleased to answer any questions you may have.
View John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
Just for clarification's sake on two issues, on the issue of charitable tax donations, if a member is to receive a charitable tax donation, the actual cost of the ticket would not be reimbursed. That remains in effect?
View John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
Okay.
And political fundraising events are not eligible for these types of expenses?
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
First, I want to thank the House of Commons administration for listening to the requests we made. The reality has changed and we need to adapt our policies accordingly. So I want to thank the members of the administration for their continued rigorous analysis.
I would like to ask a question about advertising costs. These costs were limited to 10% and have temporarily increased to 20%. Since we are going to amend regulations, why did you choose not to increase the percentage permanently, at this point?
To me, it would have been more appropriate to take the opportunity to increase the percentage from 10% to 20% in order to align the regulation with the advertising needs. Can you explain to me the reasons for this decision?
If you do not convince me, I may propose an amendment to your proposal.
Paul St George
View Paul St George Profile
Paul St George
2022-06-09 11:16
Thank you for your question.
We are looking at this limit at the moment. We propose, perhaps at the next committee meeting, to come back with a report and a recommendation. So that's ongoing.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
All right.
So you are suggesting I be patient. There will be another proposal next week, and I can debate and discuss it.
I find that compelling enough for me to withdraw my amendment.
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
View Blaine Calkins Profile
CPC (AB)
I would like just a little bit more clarification.
If a ticket shows, or you can decipher, the difference between the cost of attending and the charitable portion of the ticket, would this policy change allow for at least the ability to be reimbursed for the ticket cost, less the charitable donation cost, if that's determinable from whomever you purchased the ticket from?
Paul St George
View Paul St George Profile
Paul St George
2022-06-09 11:17
The concise answer to that question is “yes”.
View Ruby Sahota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I'm not sure if I quite understood that exchange. The answer is “yes” to if you can distinguish the charitable portion from...?
Could you repeat that, Mr. Calkins?
View Blaine Calkins Profile
CPC (AB)
What I'm asking, Ruby, is that, hypothetically, let's say a ticket to go to something is $150. The catered meal and the cost of going is $100, and the donation is $50 as a member. Because I would be there as a member, can I at least get the $100 back, and the $50 is just something that's out of my personal pocket, but then I'm eligible to claim it for taxes and so on, and the House is not allowed to reimburse that portion?
View Ruby Sahota Profile
Lib. (ON)
But if you can't distinguish, the whole purpose of this is that if there isn't a meal portion, you can still charge the full amount.
Paul St George
View Paul St George Profile
Paul St George
2022-06-09 11:18
We look at the claims individually. If we're able to make that distinction, obviously, if it's not reimbursable, we wouldn't. However, it's very difficult; in most cases we can make that determination, based on the backup that's supplied with the invoice, but if we don't, then obviously we'd have a conversation with the individual member to get a better understanding of it.
View Francis Drouin Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
It is good to see you in person.
Thank you for receiving us again with respect to our budget request, so that the Canadian branch can present the 49th annual session of the Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie, or APF, in Montreal in 2024.
For the record, my last appearance before you, on October 8, 2020, was to make the same request, but it concerned the 47th annual session planned for 2022. The health situation that has plagued us all has also taken a toll on our willingness to host this event, which should have been held next month. Given the risks, the executive committee of the Canadian branch decided on January 19 to postpone this meeting to 2024.
So I am back before you to provide an update on our budget for the same event, held in the same city, but this time in 2024. You will note that the largest portion of the cost increase for 2024 falls under the logistics category and is related to the audiovisual and transportation budget items. During the pandemic, a series of mergers and acquisitions occurred in the Canadian audiovisual industry, which, combined with inflationary pressures, drove up the costs of these services.
We have also included the meetings of the Association des secrétaires généraux des parlements francophones, or ASGPF, as well as the Parlement francophone des jeunes. That entity also sits in parallel to the annual session.
I can assure you that, as with the previous request, we will ensure that we honour the management of public funds for this event in the most efficient manner possible.
Thank you for your attention. I am ready to answer your questions.
View John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
In the last couple of years the board approved a $1.35-million budget for the 2022 annual session, plus a further $100,000 for the Parlement francophone des Jeunes, which was relocated. How much of those budgets was spent before the 2022 annual session was relocated, if any?
Jeremy LeBlanc
View Jeremy LeBlanc Profile
Jeremy LeBlanc
2022-06-02 11:06
The money that was spent on the organization of the conferences would have been solely for the staff salaries associated with the people working on the organization of that conference. There was money that was set aside from surpluses in the JIC envelope—so not supplementary funds. It would have been, I'm guessing, in the order of $100,000 to $150,000 on staff salaries, but no other expenses.
View Francis Drouin Profile
Lib. (ON)
If I can add to that, on January 19, there were major decisions we had to make. If we had cancelled in 2022, we would have incurred costs of $400,000, I believe, before December 31, and up to $800,000 before March 8. I believe it was around those dates. That's why we had to cancel. We just didn't know if it was going to happen or not, and spending $800,000 for a conference that may not happen was too risky for us.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you.
Are there any other questions?
I see that there aren't any.
So we'll move on to the sixth item, “temporary COVID‑19 financial policies”.
Our presenters are Paul St George, who is the chief financial officer, and José Fernandez, who is the deputy chief financial officer.
The floor is yours.
Paul St George
View Paul St George Profile
Paul St George
2022-06-02 11:33
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I am here today to seek the Board of Internal Economy's approval to extend two temporary policies that were put in place to assist members of Parliament in dealing with the challenges associated with the COVID‑19 pandemic and are due to expire on June 30, 2022.
I would also like to inform the board that the House of Commons administration has extended the offer of rapid antigen tests until March 31, 2023.
The first temporary policy allows members to include messages and solicitation of donations related to COVID‑19 in their advertisements and other printed materials. As the pandemic continues to evolve, the administration recommends that the board continue to allow members to do so until March 31, 2023.
The second temporary policy concerns the reimbursement of Internet expenses incurred by members' employees. Based on our research, 30% of MPs used this policy in the 2021‑22 fiscal year, compared to 42% in the previous fiscal year. As this policy has had an impact on MP employees who are teleworking, the administration recommends that it also be extended to March 31, 2023.
Given the ongoing nature of the pandemic and the fact that some employees continue to telework, the extension of these temporary policies would provide members with the flexibility to communicate COVID-19-related messages to their constituents and to reimburse reasonable Internet costs incurred by their employees.
I also want to report that the administration has extended the availability of the rapid antigen tests until March 31, 2023, with an annual budget cap of $1,800, which is the annualized amount per member for the full fiscal year. The cap for House officers and national caucus research offices would also be adjusted accordingly.
Mr. Speaker, this concludes my presentation. I would be pleased to answer any questions.
View John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
The rapid test submission that was approved this winter contemplated $1.2 million in expenses during the last fiscal year. Can you confirm what the actual final cost was?
Paul St George
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Paul St George
2022-06-02 11:36
I can give you an estimate, as we are closing our books at this time.
We issued about 204 in total, and when I say “issued”, 82 were disbursed from the House and 122 were actually purchased by the members. Therefore, the total that we spent of that was only just under $100,000.
View John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
When you said “204” and “122”, I would have thought it was 204,000, but....
Paul St George
View Paul St George Profile
Paul St George
2022-06-02 11:37
No, I'm sorry. It's 204 units.
Paul St George
View Paul St George Profile
Paul St George
2022-06-02 11:37
That's correct.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thanks very much, Mr. Chair.
Thanks for the report.
I support the recommendations. In the last week, 260 Canadians died from COVID-related causes. I know that there is a tendency to want to turn the page and just pretend that COVID isn't out there, but it is killing Canadians every day still, as we know, and the reality is that there are new variants that may be problematic as well and may lead, unfortunately, to an increase in that death toll.
The idea of wearing masks is something that I think we have all agreed to. The idea that we would continue some of the other COVID financial measures makes sense as well. Being able to provide information in our constituencies is fundamentally important, and providing support for donations to charities that have been working to ensure that in our communities the people who have been impacted by COVID.... It's not just the virus. It's the fact that so many people have suffered economic dislocation as a result as well.
All of those things seem to be smart measures to take, not only with the current situation, where we continue to lose Canadians, but also in anticipation of other measures that we may have to take. I support the recommendations, and I believe we have to continue to be prudent as we work through the coming weeks and months. The idea that this is simply over is not true. Prudent public health measures and making sure that our constituents are aware both of programs that may emerge and of issues related to COVID in our constituency just makes good common sense.
View John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
In doing the quick math on the report, it tells me that 15% of MPs have continued acquiring test kits. I'm going to take our party and the Bloc party out of it. Let's suppose it was the Liberals and the NDP, which isn't actually the case, that would still mean that more than two-thirds of MPs from those two parties, for example, aren't even bothering to have test kits available to their own staff.
Would that number be accurate, in your opinion?
Paul St George
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Paul St George
2022-06-02 11:40
That is correct, but we're finding that not all test kits that they have are necessarily being reimbursed or coming from the House. Some are being received free of charge, so we don't have the total in terms of the numbers that are being utilized.
View John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
Okay.
Do you have any data, even anecdotal data, for example about the recent uptake of the permission to include pandemic fundraising appeals and so on in MP communications?
Paul St George
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Paul St George
2022-06-02 11:40
No, I don't at this time.
View John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
The other thing that you've done is that you've provided us with data on the uptake of the home Internet reimbursement policy, but do you have the total dollar value of those reimbursements that were made in the previous fiscal year, the number?
José Fernandez
View José Fernandez Profile
José Fernandez
2022-06-02 11:40
For the Internet, it was around $140,000.
View John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
It was $140,000, okay. Are there any concerns on your part that if we extend the home Internet reimbursement policy to a full three years since its original approval, it will start to be perceived as somehow a permanent component of the compensation package, with its eventual end causing possible problems?
Paul St George
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Paul St George
2022-06-02 11:41
That's actually a very good question, and we did look at that very closely in the administration. The answer is no, because we do have the ability to adjust compensation packages, and it would be a decision made by the employer.
View John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
Okay. If it's within a unionized environment, how would that happen?
Paul St George
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Paul St George
2022-06-02 11:41
I would have to pass that question on the union perspective to Madame Laframboise.
View John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
I'm wondering if that would involve negotiations, collective bargaining, adjustments or....
Paul St George
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Paul St George
2022-06-02 11:42
Typically in my experience, then it becomes a request that comes from the union and it's a discussion point between the two parties.
View John Brassard Profile
CPC (ON)
Okay.
The last point I want to make is that, before you return to any further renewals of the home Internet reimbursement policy, would you be able to do some research on how widely or not it has become in similar office-based work settings? Would you be able to do that?
Paul St George
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Paul St George
2022-06-02 11:42
We certainly could look to our colleagues in other government organizations in terms of their processes and practices. Absolutely, that's something we could look at and bring back to the board.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
It's not a question, but more a comment. I think Mr. Brassard raised an important issue. In terms of test kits, I would share with you, Mr. Speaker, that for my mother, because she is in a long-term care facility, that long-term care facility provides test kits so my tests take place as a result of the facility providing the free test kits.
I think Mr. St George is absolutely right that a lot of members of Parliament are in a similar situation, where they're receiving test kits from other sources, but this shouldn't mean that we cut off the ability to get those test kits through MOBs for some members of Parliament.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Are there any comments on that?
If I could interject, I was thinking exactly the same thing because I know my staff went out to buy some and I instructed them to go to the nearest pharmacy. They went in, got them for free and brought them back.
I'm not sure if this is even a question that's in line or in your bailiwick, but do we know if all the provinces allowed for citizens to go to pharmacies to pick them up? I'm in Ontario, and that's the way it works here.
Paul St George
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Paul St George
2022-06-02 11:43
We haven't actually done that review yet, but it's something we could certainly look at.
What we're looking at here is essentially just ensuring that we have enough within our warehouse or within our vendors' capability to provide it if necessary.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Okay. I'm not saying to take away the option to buy it, but I'll just maybe point it out to MPs that they don't have to.... I was going to say they don't have to spend federal money but put it on the provinces. That's not exactly the way I wanted to put it, but basically that's what it comes down to.
Are there any other comments? Very good.
Do we approve the recommendations that have been put forward?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Hon. Anthony Rota: Now we'll go in camera to deal with item number seven when we come back.
We're going to take about a two-minute break. Thank you.
[Proceedings continue in camera]
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Are there any more questions about this?
Perfect. We will proceed to the third item on the agenda.
Number three is “Ratification of a walkaround—address to Parliament”.
I just want to make sure that everyone is still in accordance with the decision that was made about the walk-around.
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Hon. Anthony Rota: Very good. Perfect. We have consensus.
Now we'll move on to number four, interim budgets for the special joint committees on the declaration of emergency and on medical assistance in dying.
Mr. McDonald and Mr. Lemoine, you have the floor.
Ian McDonald
View Ian McDonald Profile
Ian McDonald
2022-05-12 11:25
We are here today to present the interim budgets for the two special committees that were established recently: the Special Joint Committee on the Declaration of Emergency and the Special Joint Committee on Medical Assistance in Dying. These two special joint committees must apply to the Board of Internal Economy for their budget allocation. They each have an initial budget of $50,000 in total, $30,000 of which comes from the House budget for standing committees. We are therefore not requesting any additional funding today.
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 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
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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.
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