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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Is there any other business arising from the previous meeting?
Seeing none, we'll proceed to point number three on the agenda, the LTVP working group recommendations. The presenter with us today is Mr. Stanton, who is the chair of the working group on Centre Block.
I'll just hand it over, and I'm sure we'll get a wonderful report.
Bruce, it's all yours.
View Bruce Stanton Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Good afternoon, colleagues.
I'm here today as chair of the second iteration of the long-term vision and plan, or LTVP, working group. The first working group served during the 42nd Parliament.
I'm here to report to the Board of Internal Economy, or BOIE, on our work to date and to seek endorsement of our recommendation regarding phase 2 of the Parliament welcome centre, or PWC, which is part of the Centre Block rehabilitation program. For clarity, phase 1 of the welcome centre is what currently exists at the main visitor entrance to the West Block.
The working group has been mandated to provide updates to the BOIE on the rehabilitation project and to make recommendations as required. In addition, it will guide and inform consultations with members and stakeholders, including joint consultations with the Senate when necessary.
The working group met on June 17 to review the proposed mandate and to begin deliberations on the Centre Block rehabilitation at this stage of the project. The House of Commons administration and Public Services and Procurement Canada, or PSPC, provided an overview of the project. They gave an update on the progress made and the approvals to date. The working group was also informed of the guiding principles for the Centre Block established by the BOIE.
The overview provided us with a look at how the heritage conservation is being planned and is taking place in Centre Block and the importance of this significant heritage architecture. Included in the presentation was the list of architecturally significant rooms and spaces in Centre Block that require special attention and that should not be outwardly modified in a way that undermines their heritage value. The BOIE noted several of these spaces at their June 2019 meeting and asked for a recommended broader list to be reviewed by the working group. I understand that this list was provided to you, and the administration has since received additional spaces that should be included for consideration by our working group.
As this was our initial meeting, we were provided with an overview of the project plan and the roles of the various stakeholders. This very complex project is being delivered following a fast-track methodology consisting of many overlapping activities. We understand that early decisions needed to be made while requirements were still being developed.
The Centre Block rehabilitation, including the Parliament welcome centre, phase two, is one of the most significant capital works projects being undertaken in Canada. The significance ranges from its heritage value to its continued symbolism of Canadian democracy, as well as from the magnitude of the work and technical requirements. The parliamentary partners and PSPC are designing to meet the anticipated future needs that will be required to sustain the work of Canada's Parliament for the next 50 to 100 years.
As you're aware, the parliamentary welcome centre was initially planned early in the long-term vision and plan as a phased project to be delivered in sync with the major rehabilitation of the triad buildings of West Block, Centre Block and East Block. Phase one was completed at the same time as the West Block rehabilitation. It provided the secure entry that is there now for visitors, MPs and staff to West Block. That was phase one.
The design was based on serving the capacity of West Block with the anticipation of further phases being added to handle full capacity for the triad buildings. When completed, the Parliament welcome centre entity as a whole, phases one and two, will provide a secure and efficient entry for parliamentarians, business visitors and the public, and also meet the operational requirements of the House and Senate administrations to support the work of parliamentarians. It will also provide a visitor experience for the many thousands of visitors who are not able to pre-book a tour of the Parliament Buildings. We were surprised, quite honestly, to see what a big percentage that is.
Going forward, we will be looking at detailed requirements for key functions in Centre Block and the parliamentary welcome centre complex to ensure that building functions reflect the operations of Parliament and the members' needs in our workplace.
In terms of activities of the Centre Block rehabilitation and the parliamentary welcome centre project that needed the working group's immediate attention at our meeting, there was one main item that required further study as part of our BOIE approval in June of last year—namely, the excavation contract strategy for the welcome centre. The BOIE had tentatively approved the medium-sized welcome centre option based on a scalable excavation contracting strategy to allow enough time to review the requirements, options and associated costs while allowing the project work to still progress. The working group has reviewed the detailed information and options analysis, and brings forward our recommendation for the BOIE's consideration today.
The working group looked at three options for phase two of the welcome centre. All options considered the following implications: security, visitor experience, parliamentary functional requirements, heritage design considerations and cost. It is clear to us that excavation is required to accommodate the base building requirements, such as mechanical, electrical and plumbing, and to connect the triad buildings of East Block, West Block and Centre Block for utilities, material handling, circulation and security in order to support operations.
What we were intent on reviewing was the remainder of Parliament's requirements for the PWC. The meeting allowed us to look at those options and have our questions answered. It provided us with a fulsome understanding of those requirements and the incremental costs associated with the excavation and construction for the respective size of the welcome centre—the small, the medium and the large options.
Accordingly, the working group recommends going forward with the excavation and construction of the medium option. That's 32,600 square metres for phase two of the welcome centre. This option adequately meets the requirements of all parliamentary partners.
We had good discussions and exchanges in order to arrive at this consensus. I'll point out that one important consideration on our minds was the preservation of the lawn, the central stairs and the Vaux wall in their current state.
This recommended option will have no impact on these items because the PWC will be below grade. The Parliament welcome centre will provide the necessary support functions to ensure that the Centre Block is fully operational and secure for Parliament, and to ensure that Canadians and visitors have access to Parliament.
Over the summer, the working group will further review the overall requirements for the Centre Block to ensure that the BOIE can make key rehabilitation project decisions in a timely and reasonable manner so that the project can move forward with as little risk as possible.
Thank you for your attention. I'm happy to take questions or to elaborate on any of the information provided.
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2020-07-10 13:21
Thank you.
Thank you so much, Mr. Stanton. Thank you for your report. Thank you for the work being done by the working group. I do support the recommendations.
My question isn't with respect to the recommendations before us today. This question is for the House administration and those involved on the staff side of the project. I'm wondering whether we could get a bit of an update on the implications of COVID on construction timelines. I know that there was some concern, when we were initially talking about this project, around the decisions we were making, the speed of those decisions, and their implications for the timeline of the project. I'm wondering if we could have a bit of an update on those items.
View Bruce Stanton Profile
CPC (ON)
I think that, in light of the question, it might be better.... This is more or less a scheduling issue
I don't know, Michel, whether PSPC might be the best to respond on that. What's your observation there?
Rob Wright
View Rob Wright Profile
Rob Wright
2020-07-10 13:23
I'd be happy to take the question, Mr. Chair.
We actually work very closely with parliamentary partners as well as industry to develop what are, I think we can safely say, leading-edge practices for health and safety on construction sites. We worked with the Canadian Construction Association and in fact informed the development of the best practices that have been communicated nationally for construction across the country. While that is a provincial jurisdiction, the Canadian Construction Association has communicated these to ensure that there's consistency from site to site to site.
I'll give you a few of the elements that have been applied on site. There is a questionnaire for all individuals before entering the site. Temperature readings are taken of all people entering the site. Everyone on site wears a face covering. That's been in place for the last couple of months, I would say. There is social distancing. There's been consideration of travel routes and segregation, to a certain extent, of the site. The Centre Block site provides the opportunity, as it's a very large site of 55,000 square metres, for social distancing. From a schedule perspective, the benefit is that we have not really seen many impacts. A few adjustments had to be made on supply chains, but we were able to make those adjustments.
I would say that we've been able to keep the schedule on track. In some sense, because of the reduction in traffic in the downtown core, for example, as we are in the early stages of excavation, we've actually been able to see some benefits from a schedule perspective.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thanks very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, Mr. Stanton, for your presentation today. Having been part of the first iteration of the Centre Block working group, I appreciate all the time and effort that I know members of the working group are putting in.
I have a comment and then a couple of questions.
My comment is that I certainly appreciate that we're not going for what many of us considered to be the Cadillac option in terms of building the visitor welcome centre. The larger option was much more expensive. We're talking about over $110 million in savings, if my memory is correct, and I think that's very appropriate.
Mr. Stanton, perhaps you or one of the dedicated public servants here could explain what that means in terms of cutting back those requests that came forward. There were a lot of requests, as part of that larger option, around committee rooms for the Senate, which quite frankly didn't seem necessary. For the people who are watching today from the press gallery and from the public, it would be good to know, I think, what we're paring away.
Second, I don't see a recommendation around the House of Commons chamber itself. Could you elaborate a bit more on what you think the decision-making point is and will be around the House of Commons chamber?
Thank you.
View Bruce Stanton Profile
CPC (ON)
On the first point, I don't know if we're able to put on one of the slides that we looked at in our committee meeting. It showed how and to what degree each of the options—small, medium and large—was able to meet the demands of both Houses, both chambers, as well as the administration requirements. We were satisfied that the medium option best met the prevailing necessities of both.
To your point, Mr. Julian, it allowed.... A key point for the group, when it was looking at this, was that the medium option would not create any kind of further encroachment onto the lawn of the Commons and effectively all of the new works would be below ground, so the surface-level appearance of Centre Block would be unchanged, save entranceways on either side of the centre stairs where the access for the welcome centre would be.
The medium option gave sufficient space for things like the visitor centre, to have that for the many who are unable to take a tour of Centre Block, as is done in other nations' capitals. There's a place where people can go to hear and see the amazing story about what our Parliament Buildings bring to our country and, at the same time, it meets the centre requirements. We were satisfied that the middle option satisfies the demands.
As to the specific things that were pared back, I would maybe ask Michel if there's another person who might best be able to pinpoint some of those specifics.
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2020-07-10 13:29
Thank you, Mr. Stanton.
Mr. Julian, in terms of paring back, I don't have information for all the partners, but definitely from the House of Commons I can tell you that the requirements were pared down to what we felt was needed to support the work of the House of Commons and the members.
The Library of Parliament also did its part in terms of paring down its requirements. I don't have the exact number, but at least 1,000 square meters, if not more. In terms of the exercise, that would be going to the medium option. The partners have been working since last year—not necessarily in relation to this working group—on making sure that nobody was asking too much. These are the partners I can talk about, in terms of paring down the requirements of what's required to support the work of Parliament.
View Bruce Stanton Profile
CPC (ON)
Thanks, Michel.
On the second point, Mr. Julian, with respect to the House of Commons, we proceeded on the basis of the overview that we were given. We accepted the recommendation of this board, in fact, that there was no anticipation of a larger footprint for the House of Commons, so the additional capacities and necessities of the chamber, the House of Commons section of Centre Block, that we know of will have to be accommodated within the existing footprint.
View Mark Strahl Profile
CPC (BC)
Thank you very much.
With apologies to Claude, who's in a very hot building, and Dominic, whose boat is idling nearby, I do have a number of questions about this. I think this is a very important decision point for us.
First of all, Bruce, you've indicated that you're not running again in the next election, and I would like to express my disappointment. This is my first opportunity to salute your great career. You will be missed whenever that happens—assuming, of course, I'm successful whenever that next election comes. We'll miss you when you do take your well-earned retirement. Perhaps Dominic can host you at his cottage.
I have a couple of questions on the proposed recommendations. It's interesting; these decisions, I find, are always presented with two terrible solutions and one “just right” solution that we seem to be funnelled into. We have that now with the medium option: The porridge is just right.
The medium option is referred to as being 32,600 square metres. Last year when we looked at this, the large option was 27,844 square metres. There is some talk here in the briefing about the net and gross building size, but it appears from the outside that the medium option is now bigger than the previous large option. What am I reading there incorrectly? Can you explain to me whether or not this entire project has grown since the last time we made a decision on it?
That's my first question, Mr. Chair. I do have more. I don't know whether you want me to just rattle off all my questions and have them all handled or do them one at a time.
View Bruce Stanton Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Rota.
Mr. Strahl, thank you for your kind words. I still hope to be around for a little while longer. I mean, one never knows when the next election event may come. Who knows? It could be three years from now. I still have lots of time for fun at Parliament, that's for sure.
I can answer the question on the difference in square metres. To my knowledge and understanding, the numbers you previously looked at were square metres based on usable space for the medium option. In terms of the numbers, the size has not changed. The square metres number that you see in the medium option now is the entirety of the gross square metres of the actual footprint of this phase two welcome centre. That's why the number of square metres has risen.
I'd look to Michel or perhaps Mr. Wright for any further clarification on that, but that's my understanding.
Rob Wright
View Rob Wright Profile
Rob Wright
2020-07-10 13:34
You're exactly right, sir.
I guess the questions we were looking at were a little different. When last we were discussing this, we were focused most on how space would be programmed. We were looking at space that could be programmed for the different users, that being the House, the Senate and the Library of Parliament. Now we're really trying to look at the costing comparisons that include all the spaces—the common space, the corridors, the material handling space and so on—not programmed by one of the individual entities but required for the functioning of the facility. The gross is apples to apples.
Mr. Stanton is exactly right that the actual space has not grown, although I would understand the perception of it.
View Mark Strahl Profile
CPC (BC)
Thank you for clearing that up.
This builds a bit on Mr. Julian's comments, I think. I understand the visitor experience that Bruce talked about, giving constituents the opportunity to learn more about Parliament when they're below ground, before they're actually brought up into the visitor gallery, etc. I still want to know what functions will be contained in this option.
The costing report prepared for the department this spring said that the recommended option had a number of things. It said it would include public food services, three committee rooms and a multi-purpose room for the Senate. Did that translate over into this option, what was prepared in the costing analysis for the department? Certainly, that would be an expansion of the visitor experience. I don't believe there are public food services.
Again, recognizing that this is a shared building between the Senate and the House, it seems to me that the parliamentary functions that are being proposed here are primarily on the Senate side. Am I correct on that?
View Bruce Stanton Profile
CPC (ON)
Thanks, Mr. Strahl.
I think it would be fair to say that the parliamentary welcome centre in this medium option does include additional meeting space for the Senate side. We certainly recognize that in the expansion of services to West Block, the number of committee rooms and resources now available to the House side has significantly increased. The same has certainly not been the case for the Senate side. This was, again, a co-operative exchange to look at what those needs might be, and the medium option does provide these additional spaces for the Senate on the one floor.
I'm not party to how those discussions took place or the specifics of the square footage allocation on that. I'm looking at the deck here to see, in fact, if there is anything more specific there, but I'm not finding it right at the moment. I think it's fair to say, when you balance the committee requirements, that, yes, it's true, a portion of this parliamentary welcome centre would be dedicated to some of those additional Senate resources.
View Mark Strahl Profile
CPC (BC)
Finally, I want to talk a bit about the costing.
The building and construction costs are estimated at $530 million, but a further $203.5 million in various contingencies and escalation has been added, which is about 38% of the cost. Is it normal for nearly 40% to be budgeted for contingencies and escalation? One of the line items, $54 million, is called “escalation to mid-point of construction”. I don't know what that means, and I'd like to understand that.
Again, is it normal for a procurement project to have a 40% escalation clause built into it, and what does that particular “escalation to mid-point of construction” mean?
View Bruce Stanton Profile
CPC (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Strahl.
I'm going to ask if Mr. Wright from PSPC could speak to that. I see the numbers that you're speaking of, and I think it's certainly a very relevant question.
Rob Wright
View Rob Wright Profile
Rob Wright
2020-07-10 13:40
Thank you very much for the question. I can try to unpack that as clearly as possible. It is an important question.
One thing I would say is that the costing report that you reference was conducted by an independent costing firm, which used industry best practices for this costing effort. There are two key things. Yes, these types of contingencies are normal, especially for projects at this stage. I can clarify that a little further. Additionally, this is built upon 15 years of delivery of projects on the Hill, which has informed the different types of contingencies that result in projects coming in on budget.
The design contingency is an element for the initial stages of the project. This cost estimate was developed at a point in time before the completion of schematic design, so early stages and before some of the key decisions have been made by Parliament. There are a number of unknowns that remain. As we move into detailed design, that design contingency will be kind of ended in the next 18-month to two-year period. Then that will become a certainty from a design perspective. So the design contingency will be kind of used up, or not, over the next 18 to 24 months as we move through the design.
Rob Wright
View Rob Wright Profile
Rob Wright
2020-07-10 13:42
The construction contingency is essentially for unknown conditions as we move into construction. For example, we've just run into the first unknown element. As we've done the early excavation work, we have found, on the southeast corner of Centre Block, in front of the Senate area, that the foundation is actually a rubble foundation. That was an unknown. There will be some cost implications and impacts that will come from that.
We will run through a number of those experiences as we move through this in a 100-year-old building of which there were no blueprints, etc. We have a fairly exhaustive assessment program to reduce those unknowns as much as possible, but we will run into those over time.
Escalation is an important factor. We tried to take, I would say, a fairly conservative approach here. Any cost estimate is in current dollars, not in future dollars, so the escalation is essentially an attempt to accommodate inflationary pressures into the cost estimate. If you look back over the past 10-year period, the escalation factor in the Ottawa construction industry has been 3%: 2.95%, to be specific.
As we look forward, I would say that right now escalation is a challenging piece to get right, as we are in the COVID situation, so we will continue to assess this. We feel that 3.5% would be a safe and conservative estimate at this point.
The midpoint element that you mention is where we would not want to apply escalation to early activities. Take excavation, for example. It is not going to experience escalation, because it is a current activity and it will be done in the early points of the construction. To average out the escalation—because it is cumulative, as it kind of builds on itself from year to year to year—from a time point perspective, we apply it to the total cost above but for the first half, from a time perspective, to make sure that we're not inappropriately applying escalation to construction events that would be happening early in the project and should not experience any type of escalation pressures.
I'm happy to expand further. I know it is a bit of a technical area, and we would be happy to provide any additional information as well.
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I also want to thank the committee members for their work.
The questions that I wanted to ask on this topic have already been put forward. That said, I'd like Mr. Speaker or the group members to refresh my memory on the following matter. I know that the group must also look at the general requirements for the Centre Block. I want to know the next steps of the working group and when our committee will be dealing with this.
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2020-07-10 13:46
I will ask Susan Kulba to maybe give a bit of detail.
Susan Kulba
View Susan Kulba Profile
Susan Kulba
2020-07-10 13:46
The next step is a meeting where the team will address the needs of Parliament. The next meeting will take place in August, at least we hope so.
We will get together to review the more detailed requirements. We'll be looking at the chamber, the lobbies and the gallery as a first step to make sure that, within the footprint, we're looking at creative ways to make sure that we're able to serve Parliament and its future growth. Then, we will break it down further into details that really impact the work that you do, and make sure that we've gathered any special requirements that you want to add in or elaborate on, so that we can really make sure the building is suitable for you.
View Candice Bergen Profile
CPC (MB)
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
Thank you, Mr. Stanton, for your presentation, and to all of you for the work that you've done.
I'm going to start by saying that—at least for me, and I think for most members of Parliament on this board—we don't want to see, three years from now, costs escalating yet again, there seeming to be no answers as to why, and the taxpayer looking back on us and saying that we said yes to this without really giving it thorough oversight.
When I see the differences, for example, in the square footage that we were given as the small, medium and large options, which are being changed today, the explanation sounds reasonable to me, but at the same time it's not something I'm an expert on. I'm concerned that the same thing could happen with the costs. When we're talking about a 38% escalation cost, if you tell us that's normal, we believe you.
I guess what I'm asking is this: Can the taxpayer, and those of us who are members of Parliament representing the taxpayer, be assured that there is somebody there and that there is a check there so that these costs won't escalate even further? It's just like the square footage. There's a reasonable answer as to why we were given different square footage amounts a while ago, as compared to today. Can we be assured that these costs will not escalate beyond this 38%?
In the private sector, there's somebody paying the bill; there's a business case being made, and that usually helps provide checks and balances. I absolutely understand that in this setting we don't have that, but I, for one, want to be able to look the taxpayer in the eye and say that we, as members of Parliament on BOIE, did everything we could to ensure that these costs didn't escalate and that there wasn't a blank cheque given.
I would like some assurances around that. I'll leave that as a comment, and maybe somebody wants to speak to it.
I do have a specific question. I think Mr. Wright referred to the excavation changes. Is there an update? I think the previous number was $48 million for that cost. I'm just wondering if that is changing, and whether we'll be given updates on that.
Second, in regard to the decision we're being asked to make, are we actually making a decision, or are we giving the minister our position? I know that recently the state broadcaster reported that BOIE recommended the $733-million option. Obviously, the CBC was in error, because we hadn't made that decision, but I just want to know that the minister hasn't been told that we've made a decision, and whether this is a recommendation or a decision point.
Those are two questions, and then I just have one more quick comment after that.
View Bruce Stanton Profile
CPC (ON)
I think on the specific questions, especially those relating to the costs, I'll leave that perhaps to Mr. Wright or Mr. Patrice.
Ms. Bergen, I couldn't agree more. I think one of the profound responsibilities we have as a working group of MPs is, in fact, to take that responsibility seriously and make sure we are aware of how the project is going. We have a responsibility to report to you and this board as to the progress as it continues. I think that was one of the bases of informing how an MP working group should be there in the first place. We need to be aware and completely informed of the progress of the project and report to you on some of the key decisions that would speak to how...if issues come up that you need to be fully aware of. I think the MPs on the working group take that responsibility seriously, and we'll make sure that we follow through on that.
As to the cost questions, perhaps Mr. Wright would be best.
Rob Wright
View Rob Wright Profile
Rob Wright
2020-07-10 13:52
I will definitely start, and then perhaps I can pass it to Ms. Garrett on the details.
One thing that I think is important.... As Mr. Stanton indicated, we have constructed the first phase of the visitor welcome centre, and it may be useful to compare the estimates that we have here and the actual costs that resulted in that project.
Phase one of the visitor welcome centre, from a gross square metre perspective, so apples to apples, is approximately 5,700 square metres. If you extrapolate that to the size here, that would give you an estimate of $780 million, approximately, and that is non-escalated. If you added an escalation factor into that, that would take you above $800 million. The estimate that we have here is $730 million for that kind of apples-to-apples comparison. I think it can illustrate the comparability between something that is a completed project and the costs that were incurred against the estimate, and the estimate compares favourably to those real results.
On the excavation, in particular, we have awarded a contract, so that has moved from an estimate to a more concrete estimate, if you will. I'll ask Ms. Garrett to provide the details on that.
Jennifer Garrett
View Jennifer Garrett Profile
Jennifer Garrett
2020-07-10 13:54
Thank you very much for the question.
As it pertains to the excavation contract, Mr. Wright is correct. We have actually tendered and awarded the contract associated with what we call, or what you will commonly hear as, the mass excavation for the program. That represents the [Technical difficulty—Editor] in front of Centre Block. It does not represent the entirety of the excavation program. We still have to award the program that digs in and creates the connection between that parliamentary welcome centre and Centre Block.
For example, if you're looking at the cost table, you'll see that we are carrying $66 million associated with that excavation activity, and that is to carry out the fulsome budget that we're carrying to conduct both the excavation of the whole and the connections into Centre Block, in its totality. When we have the second aspect of the contract tendered, then we'll have actual costs for both elements of the program.
View Candice Bergen Profile
CPC (MB)
Great, thank you.
Could someone just answer the question of whether we're giving the minister a recommendation here or actually making a decision? Has the decision been made by the minister, in effect?
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2020-07-10 13:55
Thank you for that question.
I'm just going to say a bit about the gross and the net square metres, because I kind of had the same reaction when I saw the different data. Just for the benefit of the board, I'm going to say that at that time, while we were discussing net, the amount was about the same. It was around the same number in terms of the estimated costs when we were looking at that issue, but it did create for me some kind of angst when I saw the two different sets of numbers.
View Candice Bergen Profile
CPC (MB)
That's because you knew what we as MPs would be thinking. You knew we'd be asking about that too.
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2020-07-10 13:56
Yes.
In terms of the decision, obviously the working group is looking at it and making a recommendation to the board in terms of what they think the requirements of the House would be. The board here is responsible for the facilities, and in terms of the administration of the House of Commons is basically informing the government, through the minister, what we have identified as our requirements and our needs. The decision rests with the minister and the government in terms of whether or not they will go through and undertake that spending.
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2020-07-10 13:56
My understanding is that there is no decision. I personally would be surprised if a decision had been made by the minister before hearing the views of the House of Commons. So nothing has been done—
View Candice Bergen Profile
CPC (MB)
Thanks for clarifying that.
Finally, through you, Mr. Stanton, perhaps you could reiterate this to the working group. When you were giving us your report, you were talking about the specific rooms in Centre Block that had been listed and how there would not be an undermining of their heritage value. I would like to reiterate that, as I recall from when we had this discussion, we really don't want those rooms changed. We'd like to be able to walk in and see that they are not changed at all.
I just want to reiterate that point. We really hope that so many of those rooms remain exactly the same outwardly as they were when we left just over a year ago. Thanks very much for the opportunity to provide that feedback.
View Mark Strahl Profile
CPC (BC)
Mr. Chair, did we actually say yes or no to the recommendations in item three? I just want to make sure we didn't have a long conversation for....
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
No, you're absolutely right. We did not proceed to accept that.
Is everyone in accordance with number three? Was the questioning and everything in order?
I see a lot of heads nodding.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Welcome.
It's Thursday, March 12, 2020, and we'll proceed with meeting number three of the Board of Internal Economy.
The first item on the agenda is the minutes of the previous meeting.
Is everything in order? There are no adjustments; everything's fine. Do we have approval? Good.
The next item we'll look at is the parliamentary precinct long-term vision and plan.
Before we go to that, I want to inform everyone that we'll be going in camera should the person from Health Canada come here a bit earlier. Because it is a pressing matter, I want to make sure everyone is here. We may have to interrupt our meeting at some point to proceed with that.
We'll hear from our presenters: Michel Patrice, deputy clerk, administration; Stéphan Aubé, chief information officer; and Susan Kulba, director general, real property.
Mr. Holland.
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2020-03-12 11:19
Mr. Speaker, there have been very productive discussions among members of the board with respect to this item. I first want to thank my colleagues for those conversations, which have been very fruitful, and provide a recommendation. I thought it would be appropriate for me to start by summarizing as best I can the conversations we've had.
The intention would be to create a subcommittee, a working group, if you will, comprised of members of Parliament from all recognized parties that would be a subcommittee of the Board of Internal Economy, and would report its recommendations to the Board of Internal Economy. We've had some conversations on this to get the composition right. I'm proposing three Liberals, two Conservatives, one Bloc and one NDP for that working group.
From our own perspective, we'll be populating it with members of PROC to harmonize the process and the work PROC has been doing with the work we are doing.
The Senate would then choose its own working group format. It could have a conversation about matters specifically of import to the Senate, the Senate chamber, the Senate meeting rooms and that sort of thing. However, where there is overlap, those two bodies could meet jointly and try to find a way to get on the same page.
The Board of Internal Economy, though, and we would be seeking to do it at this meeting, would be looking to provide specific direction that the overriding principle be the preservation of heritage.
Candice, I know you had some specific thoughts about some of the pieces, some “thou shalt not touch” provisions: Thou shalt not touch the chamber. Thou shalt not touch the Hall of Honour. Thou shalt not touch the entrance for members. Thou shalt not touch la Francophonie. We would place specific direction to restore these elements of heritage and not contemplate any amendment or potential destruction of these elements of heritage.
I don't think this needs to be part of a motion, but it's important to state that the assistant deputy minister for parliamentary infrastructure of the Department of Public Services and Procurement, or his or her designate, would operate as liaison to the working group to make sure there's that connection between the ministerial side and the work of the parliamentary group. Obviously, it would be led by the parliamentary group, and the minutes of the working group meeting would be recorded and made public 30 days following a meeting.
Mr. Speaker, that builds on the conversations we had at the previous meeting, where we really heard from all members around the importance of—
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2020-03-12 11:23
Yes, that is my understanding. I'm looking at Charles to see if this has been circulated to members.
I think the text is available in both official languages.
Members should have that in front of them. I'm suggesting that as a framework for the motion that we can hopefully proceed with today.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I feel that the text reflects our discussion quite well.
However, I would actually write that the government will have three members, the official opposition two members, and the third and fourth parties one member each. This would ensure that the subcommittee's work can continue if we have an election, whether scheduled or not.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
I am suggesting replacing the reference to the Liberal Party by “government” and the reference to the Conservative Party by “official opposition”, and so on.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Okay, I understand. So we will use the terms “government”, “official opposition”, “third party” and “fourth party”.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
The figures will stay the same.
Do we have consensus to proceed in that manner?
Is everybody in accordance—
View Candice Bergen Profile
CPC (MB)
I think the one thing we want to make sure of, and I think we would probably all be in agreement, is that this committee doesn't get too overly bureaucratic where they are calling witnesses and satisfying curiosities. I'd like to make sure that we have some of those parameters. Maybe right now isn't the time to do it. Maybe we want to establish that we will have this subcommittee made up of the composition that you outlined. Or do we want to lay down a few more parameters now?
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2020-03-12 11:26
I'm open. My thinking would be that we would allow that body to make a determination. The parameters are fairly tight. If the committee wanted to hear representation on public use of the front lawn and the implication on the design....
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2020-03-12 11:26
With officials.
Again, if we want to be so prescriptive as to say that body wouldn't hear from anybody outside of officials and parliamentarians, I'm a little loath to place that restriction on them. I'd rather have them come to that conclusion as part of their process. I'd be interested in hearing you expand upon the....
If I could, through you, Mr. Speaker, to the officials, my understanding is that by placing the “thou shall not touch” provisions and the overall directive of preservation of heritage, it takes away some of the time pressure that was previously discussed. One of the biggest concerns was the decision on the size of the chamber, as an example, and that impeding the ability to proceed with construction in the summer.
Is that correct?
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2020-03-12 11:27
That's correct.
Those kinds of instructions, directives or directions are very helpful in a way in going forward, for example, by taking off the footprint of the chamber. If we don't look at that and we keep the same footprint, then we can focus on other elements, yes.
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2020-03-12 11:27
Mr. Speaker, if I could just finish the point, I think we have more time as a result. If this direction is carried out, we have considerably more time than we had previously. The urgency is lifted a little. Therefore, my suggestion would be to leave it to that body to make a determination on how best to comport itself and how best to come to the conclusions for the recommendations they're going to give to this body.
View Mark Strahl Profile
CPC (BC)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
As long as there is something in here, or there is some direction from us.... My worry is that we create a third body as opposed to creating one. Right now we have BOIE and PROC—we're not even talking about the Senate—and now this. As long as we are clear that this body, this group we are creating, is to replace the current work that is being contemplated by this body and by PROC, that we are not making it so that now PROC will hear from officials, we will hear from officials and the working group will hear from officials.... As long as we are making it clear through the motion and clear in public here today that this group is designed to take those functions away from BOIE and PROC and concentrate it here so there are not now three groups discussing this....
I've expressed this privately, but my worry is that when you get into a subcommittee as opposed to a working group, then you become another.... Subcommittees have rules and procedures and when as opposed to a working group it becomes a subcommittee, I'm worried that we might lose some of that streamlining that we're attempting to get to here.
If there's a way in the motion, or a way for us to make it clear that what we're trying to achieve here is efficiency and not duplication, we'd be in agreement with that.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Before we go any further, I just want to ask a question of all you who have come together. This is the first I have seen of it, and it seems you've put some thought into it and actually worked together, which is a good thing. My question for you is this. Do you all feel comfortable that this reflects Mr. Strahl's concern about concentrating everything in one committee or do you feel this is going to be split in different areas?
I'll just leave that one. I know we had some people—
Are you saying to leave it as a working group and that should cover the ground?
View Mark Strahl Profile
CPC (BC)
I'm worried that using certain terminology, although we might understand what it is, would in effect create more problems than it would solve. A working group is what I would like to call it and then we can be more flexible in how it is structured.
That would be my suggestion.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I don't want to complicate things, but do we need an appendix at the end explaining what a working group is? I just want to cover the ground now so that we don't—
View Mark Strahl Profile
CPC (BC)
View Candice Bergen Profile
CPC (MB)
The other question I had is this. How are we going to let the working group know, or the officials, or whoever needs to know, the list of “thou shalt not touch” rooms that we want to make sure are preserved?
What's the thought around that?
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2020-03-12 11:31
I have a reflection, but I'll wait for my turn.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
I have looked over the document that was provided to us. I find that it reflects all the discussions we have had. Above all, it clearly defines the parameters that Ms. Bergen, Mr. Strahl or the rest of the committee wanted, in order to give the team led by Mr. Patrice some direction and guidelines.
I understand the confusion we see in the French version—I don't know the situation in English—from the use of the words: “le BRI créera un sous-comité”. So let's take that out and put “le BRI créera un groupe de travail” instead. With that change, I feel that Mr. Strahl will be more comfortable.
After that, in my opinion, the mandate and the description of the objectives in the French version answer all of our concerns and cover all the guidelines that we would like the House of Commons administration to abide by. So I find the document to be quite complete. If we have forgotten anything, Mr. Holland can add it. Personally, I am very comfortable with it.
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2020-03-12 11:33
Thank you. Let me just go through a couple of little points that were raised.
On the first point raised by Mr. Strahl, Mr. Speaker, I think it is certainly the intention of this document and reflective of the conversations that we had that this would create a body, not three, so that it would give very clear responsibility for the adjudication of recommendations to this body, that the body would then be reporting back to BOIE. The intention really of doing this is to ensure that we don't have multiple different channels for the House administration to be dealing with, which is also partly the reason I don't want to be too prescriptive about how that body conducts itself, but ultimately it would be recommendations that would be coming back here.
If there wasn't clarity here, hopefully that clarity will be reflected in the conversations and will therefore be carried in the spirit of what is created. I'm comfortable with adding additional words, but I think that the unanimity of this body probably is sufficient. I wouldn't be uncomfortable with additional words if that made people more comfortable.
What I think would be sufficient to start with, to answer the question posed by Madam Bergen, is that we have some immediate ones that we've already agreed to as a group in our conversations that should not be touched. On the “thou shall not touch” list we have the chamber itself, the entrance at West Block and the Hall of Honour.
Then I would say that the list will certainly be more expansive than that, but I think we can start there and stay those categorically today.
Then, my recommendation would be to ask the House administration to come back to us with a list of heritage features that we can take a look at and potentially add to that list. I can tell you that when the chamber was closed and they had the opportunity to lock hallways, when all the doors were open and nobody was in the building, there were some rooms that I walked into that I didn't even know existed. They were just magnificent, and it would rip my heart out to see them transformed. I may not—or this body may not—even be fully cognizant of all of the heritage features that decisions have to be made on.
Through you, Mr. Speaker, to Mr. Patrice, would it be sufficient at this point to give you that specific direction on the pieces of heritage that I have identified, to come back with a more expansive list of heritage features that we could review for our next meeting and then make a decision whether or not to add to that list?
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2020-03-12 11:36
That would be very helpful. It would be our pleasure to prepare such a list and submit it for your consideration, with maybe a little background on each.
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2020-03-12 11:36
On that basis, Mr. Speaker, I believe we are simpatico, if I'm reading the room correctly.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Very good.
Are we all in favour of this motion? Do we have unanimous consent?
(Motion agreed to)
Perfect, good.
We'll proceed in putting this together, and we'll include a list on there as well. I trust that the parties will be putting forward the people that they want to see on those committees.
Mr. Patrice.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Very good.
Are there any other questions concerning the business arising from previous meetings?
There aren't any. We'll move on to the third item.
Ratification of a walk-around special committee.
If there aren't any questions, we'll continue.
Everyone's in accordance. They've already signed.
We'll move on to number four, parliamentary precinct
We have two speakers addressing the fourth item, which concerns the long-term vision and plan for the parliamentary precinct. These speakers are Michel Patrice, deputy clerk, and Stéphan Aubé, chief information officer.
Gentlemen, you have the floor.
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2020-02-27 11:22
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Actually, Susan Kulba will start. She and Ms. Garrett will provide an update on the activities that have taken place since our last presentation in June.
Susan Kulba
View Susan Kulba Profile
Susan Kulba
2020-02-27 11:22
Good morning and thank you, Mr. Speaker and members of the board.
Today, as Michel said, we're joined by Jennifer Garrett from PSPC, the director general responsible for the Centre Block program, and Duncan Retson, the ADM at PSPC. We will be providing you with an update on the LTVP for the rehabilitation of the Centre Block since we last met in June before the summer break and election. We have a small presentation.
Mr. Patrice will be speaking to parliamentary engagement and the way forward. When we were last here, we were joined by the working group members tasked by this board to work with us as a means of engaging the Parliament and in the decision-making for the LTVP. At that time, there was a recommendation to proceed with the construction hoarding location and to develop the design for the interpretive panels. A recommendation for a scalable approach on the size of our welcome centre was also approved to allow Public Works to move forward with the project while allowing us time to engage with parliamentarians to develop the final functional requirements. We have been working together with PSPC over this time, doing our homework and preparing information and options for that engagement.
In parallel, there has been a lot of activity going on, and Jennifer will speak to that in a little more detail. As we move forward with the functional programming and schematic design, there will be a fair number of key decisions requiring engagement and approval. We will bring to your attention some of those key elements and approaches to developing conceptual options so that we can continue to engage parliamentarians in revitalizing the Centre Block. Our goal is to ensure that we achieve an optimal balance between restoring one of the most important heritage buildings in Canada and ensuring that it meets the future needs of parliamentarians.
I'll pass it on to Jennifer.
Jennifer Garrett
View Jennifer Garrett Profile
Jennifer Garrett
2020-02-27 11:24
Good morning, everyone.
The Centre Block rehabilitation is a pinnacle project of our current long-term vision and plan, which is also under update.
In terms of the program, it remains on track, and several key milestones have been accomplished since our last engagement with BOIE. Enabling projects are largely now complete, allowing the construction manager the ability to commence demolition and abatement activities in support of both the rehabilitation of the Centre Block and construction of the phase two visitor welcome centre. We've commenced the excavation of underground infrastructure to ready for large-scale excavation activities that will come in the near future.
The comprehensive assessment program to understand the building condition is now complete. Results of this program will be outlined later in this briefing and have been integrated into the ongoing schematic design process. This program has provided valuable information and enabled the team to safely commence the demolition and abatement that I referred to earlier.
In collaboration with the administration of the House of Commons, we have advanced the functional program and launched the schematic design process. We are now at the point of input for parliamentarians in order to make the key decisions that have been referenced and will be discussed later in this presentation, to allow completion of the schematic design process and continuance of the rehabilitation program.
The rehabilitation of the Centre Block endeavours to provide modern accommodations to support parliamentary operations while retaining core heritage elements of the building. The scope has two main elements. The first is to modernize the Centre Block so that it can support parliamentary operations well into the 21st century.
The second is to construct phase two of the visitor welcome centre, which will primarily do the following. It will establish a safe security screen outside the Centre Block building footprint. It will provide additional parliamentary support space. It will connect the triad, the Centre Block, the East Block and the West Block, into one integrated parliamentary complex. It will enhance parliamentary outreach by providing a curated parliamentary visitor experience program that will supplement the current tours that are ongoing on the Hill.
The visual that you see on your screen represents a high-level visual impact of how that visitor welcome centre enables the connection of the triad into one parliamentary complex. It will not necessarily be constructed in that actual footprint.
A very big aspect of reducing risk on a large-scale heritage program like this rehabilitation is to find out as much as possible about the building and to have that information influence the schematic design and downstream construction activities. Based on lessons learned and a best-practices approach, the assessment program for this rehabilitation has been the most comprehensive undertaken to date in the precinct.
The program was launched in 2018 before the relocation of parliamentary operations from the Centre Block to the West Block, but given the invasive nature, the program significantly increased in momentum and was completed once the Centre Block was emptied. This program, as I indicated, is now at an end, and its findings have already been incorporated into the schematic design process.
Just to give you a sense, here is a summary of the key findings that we have taken out of the program, but maybe I'll just bring to the attention of the members that it's a highlight of the few high-level key takeaways.
We have gained a comprehensive understanding of the heritage elements, which will enable the project team to develop a robust restoration strategy. We have determined that the underlying structural steel is in better condition than expected in many areas, which will create efficiencies during the structural reinforcement process. We know where the underground infrastructure is, the associated site conditions, and we are now clear for digging from an archeological perspective. We know, in great detail, the type and location of designated substances, so we can develop a comprehensive abatement strategy.
The biggest challenge, the key challenge for us that has come out of the assessment program—and it's not insignificant—is that we were really hoping that, when we started to dig behind walls and look above ceilings, we would find some room to provide modern building infrastructure like heating and cooling, and unfortunately, we have found very little space to run these services.
Despite this, we will be able to address these challenges. We will just have to use innovative approaches to do so, and we are already working with organizations like the House of Commons administration, their IT PMO organization and our designer to address the challenges and find ways to run modern services through the building.
The building modernization is only one aspect of the program. As previously indicated, we've been working with parliamentary administrations on their respective parliamentary functional programs. In this case, this also involves the Senate of Canada as a key client, and the Library of Parliament. We are at the point now where we're coming to you today to start the engagement process to get your views and incorporate them into the decision-making process to ensure that the building, when it is returned to you, not only functions from a building modernization perspective but also effectively meets the needs of parliamentarians well into the 21st century.
From a design perspective—and we will get into more key decisions later on in the presentation—we are facing challenging decisions such as the size and configuration of the House of Commons chamber, including public lobbies and galleries, and the space and location of parliamentary offices and committee rooms throughout the new complex.
For the visitor welcome centre, we're looking to establish, with your input, the size and operational functionality of that facility and to consider the location configuration and entry points for both public and parliamentary business into that complex.
At this point, I'm going to transfer the presentation back to my colleague, Susan Kulba, to take you through the chamber.
Susan Kulba
View Susan Kulba Profile
Susan Kulba
2020-02-27 11:31
Thank you, Jennifer.
The House of Commons chamber is one of the most significant spaces in the Centre Block. It's where Parliament resides, it's where you work. It holds symbolic and traditional significance to Canada, and it's one of the most recognized spaces within the building. It's one of the key elements that will require some consultation.
The House has been working with PSPC and design consultants over the break to do our homework, notably with respect to the chamber galleries and lobby, so that we could be well prepared to engage and start the conversation with parliamentarians about these spaces. The chamber requires change. We need to consider the long-term use and the investment and focus on what kind of change and how best to achieve it.
Our approach was to start with basic information on the existing chamber, the Fair Representation Act, and feedback we have received to date from parliamentarians, including PROC. There are a number of common trends from members so far.
In doing our homework, we have considered the Fair Representation Act, which came into effect in 2015, and it indicates that the average demographic projections would put the MP count at about 460 in roughly 50 years from now. By the time we return to Centre Block, the projections could put the number of MPs in a range of 350 to 370.
Knowing that the growth will need to be accommodated for future parliaments, there are a number of considerations to help achieve that. We could change the seating and the furniture; we could adjust procedures to be more flexible; and/or we could increase the size of the chamber.
These considerations emphasize the tension between space, functionality, accessibility and heritage. Key decisions regarding the chamber are required early in the project and during schematic design, because this direction will impact the structural design, which comes first.
We will also need to consider many of the elements in terms of life safety. They don't currently meet code, and we need to take all that into account while we're considering other factors.
There will need to be interventions to the heritage fabric of these spaces to accommodate the many requirements. What will be important is how we do that. We need to do it in an appropriate manner. We need to do it respectfully and in a complementary way to the original Pearson design while building a new layer of lasting heritage relevant to your time in Parliament and the history of the building. To do that successfully, we need to have great consultation with parliamentarians.
Given the challenge of addressing all those issues, we have undertaken studies on the chamber with all that basic information, and we have developed options to demonstrate the range of possibilities. Those options are at a conceptual level, but we would like to engage further with in-depth consultations to develop the direction on which way to proceed.
As mentioned earlier, the visitor welcome centre had preliminary approval by the board for a scalable size so that Public Works could continue with the project, but we still need to come back and work on the functional requirements with the House of Commons, the Senate, the Library of Parliament and PPS.
The building is a welcome centre and is an important element for security and interconnection of the buildings on the Hill, which all work together to accommodate the key functions of Parliament.
Over the break, the parliamentary partners continued to work with PSPC on two key elements of the visitor welcome centre: first, to refine the functional requirements and further develop the three options for consideration and in-depth consultation, and the final program requirements to determine the final size; second, to study the entrance design strategy to ensure that the visitor welcome centre phase 2 works in concert with the existing buildings and key entrances, which will remain in Centre Block, and to focus on providing secure and efficient entry for parliamentarians, business visitors and the public while meeting the operational functionality and considering intervention in the heritage landscape.
We will be seeking input from parliamentarians on the review of the public entrance and your requirements for meeting and greeting constituents in the visitor welcome centre. We will be discussing in depth the advantages and disadvantages of each to ensure that the most suitable option is pursued for further development in the schematic design.
Thank you.
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2020-02-27 11:36
We've outlined the decisions that we believe parliamentarians should be involved in and consulted on so that they can share their opinion and ultimately make a decision. A number of decisions will be required in the coming months to continue making progress on the project.
It's not my intent to go into all of those decisions. Obviously, the objective of this meeting is not to get one decision on any of those topics, but just to give you a sense of what needs to be reviewed in designing the program and designing the building. I would say that governance is more the objective, in terms of putting that on the board's agenda to discuss and obtain direction on where the board wants to go.
In a simplified way, the governance for the parliamentary precinct involves many players.
First, the legislative power, in this case the House of Commons, determines the requirements for buildings and offices.
The executive power is the custodian and is responsible for carrying out projects and implementing budgets.
There are obviously other stakeholders, including the Department of Canadian Heritage, the National Capital Commission and the City of Ottawa.
The devil's in the details. That's simplified, but when it's time to really get to answers and discussion, the decision becomes a bit more complex. The parliamentary administration is the lead for engagement with parliamentarians. It is our responsibility to ensure that members are properly engaged to allow for effective decision-making as it relates to defining the requirements of your workplace for the next 100 years.
Historically, the board has been the decision-maker for LTVP and related projects.
In the previous Parliament, for example, the board appointed a working group that was created to help it make decisions. This concerned the excavation required for the future Visitor Welcome Centre.
We remember the discussions. It may not have been a perfect model yet, but the fact that you were kept informed and that you received help with making decisions was a step in the right direction.
I have reflected quite a bit over the past year on what could be an efficient decision-making process that would ensure that members are engaged in the level of details both on the requirements and potential cost of options.
Obviously, you must receive enough information to ensure that you're satisfied and assured that any potential decision will be made with full knowledge of the facts. In my view, our obligation as an administration is to act transparently and to respond to your requests and concerns.
I would add that our job is to make recommendations. Your job is to study them.
I believe that the working group named by the board is a good model, but we also need to reflect on the interplay with PROC, which also has an interest in the Centre Block or the projects. For example, as Susan has mentioned in terms of the chamber, one of the big decisions that will need to be made is whether or not to expand the chamber. This has implications and I believe it merits the necessary study by members to arrive at a conclusion. I believe that PROC would be well placed to do that kind of study and make recommendations to the board.
For example, if the decision is not to expand the chamber, we know because of the growth in the number of MPs that the rules will have to be adapted. Because of the growth in those numbers, assigned seating will no longer be possible. There are all sorts of procedural implications that would need to be examined with respect to the rules.
I believe that another aspect could be the level of effort for other types of decisions, as we did in the past for the visitor welcome centre, for example. I suggest that for a series of the decisions, it will take hours of iterative discussions between members, the administration and Public Works, so that the members, whoever they are, feel they have all of the information necessary to make a decision in the best interest of the House of Commons, and also Canadian taxpayers.
I would suggest that the level of effort, in terms of the members engaged in that exercise, would be a minimum of probably two hours per week.
I'm leaving you with that at a very high level. That's how I see the way that everybody could work in a complementary fashion in a working group, PROC and the board itself. I will leave it at that.
I am ready for questions.
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2020-02-27 11:42
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair/Mr. Speaker.
I am confused about which title to use.
I have a couple of things. First, thank you for the work done to date. This is a project that I think is near and dear to the hearts of all parliamentarians, but really Canadians. It is the symbol of our democracy in this country and it's not only an enormous expenditure of money, but this building represents a critical piece of heritage that I think all Canadians are invested in.
On that basis the consultation that is going to take place is exceptionally important, not only for the stakeholders who are going to be using the building—members of Parliament, staff, House officials, media and the public—but also, I think, because that heritage represents something important to people who never step foot in the building. We shouldn't lose sight of that.
When we're trying to think about how it functions for the purposes of our work, what that heritage means to the nation, I think, is incredibly important and, therefore, I have particular opinions. I won't go into them for long, but my viewpoint is that not a lot should be changed, and we have to try to work within the existing heritage.
I think a body does need to be created. A couple of things concern me on that. One is that we don't want to have two parallel processes with PROC and BOIE where we have two decision-making bodies where there is confusion.
I think the solution to that...and I am not suggesting we do it today, but I think we are probably going to need to do it very soon, is to have have a meeting of the Board of Internal Economy in the week that we're back to make sure that we get this issue done.
When you start working back in those timelines, I'm hearing that we have to have a decision on the size of the chamber before we leave for the summer. If you think about our setting up the committee and that committee having its meetings and hearing from people, then it has to take that decision to BOIE. We don't have a very long timeline, even if you triage those decisions on the basis that they need to be made on a prioritized basis.
I think one of the answers could be to have a committee that's populated with members of PROC and if there are people from BOIE who want to be on it, fine. We'll have to talk about its size and composition, but it would report back to this body, as the decision-making body. There would have to be a body that makes recommendations as opposed to just hearing input, because my fear would be that they would have all of these consultations and then we'd just get data dumped back at BOIE and we'd be left trying to thrash out all of this and we simply don't have the time or enough meetings to be able to do that work.
It would be my hope that the body would make recommendations to BOIE. It could be composed of members of PROC; therefore we'd have one decision-making channel. But given the timelines involved—and maybe we could flesh those out—am I correct in stating that without incurring costs and significant delays, we need to make a decision on the size of the chamber before we leave in June?
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2020-02-27 11:46
Okay, so just draw that backwards. That's not a lot of time.
I haven't had a chance to speak with my colleagues around the table, so I'm not suggesting that we make that determination today. That said, given the calendar and how it looks for March, I don't think we can put this off until the end of March when we meet because, by the time, we then constitute a committee and won't meet until mid-April. That gives it a couple of weeks to have consultations; that's not acceptable.
I have outlined my thoughts on it. I am open to other ideas, but I think we have to come to a determination and create that body when we come back after the constituency week in two weeks' time.
The only other point I'll mention is a question related to the relationship with the Senate, because some people are saying that we need to have this be a joint body with the Senate. I have some concerns with that because I think it's going to slow down the process.
In your conception, if we had two different bodies that were making recommendations, how would that input be consolidated into one decision? Is there a need to have that consultation on a joint basis, or if it were done separately, how do you metabolize the recommendations from both those bodies in such a way that they're not contradictory?
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2020-02-27 11:47
Being a shared building and a shared facility obviously creates another level of complexity with each House setting up its requirements, so it could have an impact on the overall project. As to how those dialogues take place between the two Houses, frankly I don't really have a response.
I'm going to talk about myself here. Our responsibility is basically to come to you with proposals and options, and listen to what your requirements are and what is the most taxpayer-responsible approach to what we're going to propose.
For example, if you look at the plans in the past in terms of the vision for the visitor welcome centre and the House of Commons requirements, one of the latter was that there be committee rooms in the visitor welcome centre. The team reviewing those requirements surveyed the committee rooms that we have across the precinct and the new committee rooms in this building that have been put online, and it is our collective view that we don't need committee rooms in the visitor welcome centre. We're well served with what we have around our facilities.
That is the type of work that we can do and the challenge for us that we need to address in terms of the requirements. Therefore, committee rooms are no longer a requirement for the visitor welcome centre.
I suspect that the other chamber may do exactly the same, but I cannot speak to that.
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2020-02-27 11:49
My thoughts are that this is so big that we can't get very deep into any of the details or we're going to get lost and never out of here. As expeditiously as possible, we need to create the body that is going to be responsible.
We need some time to talk among ourselves about what that body will look like. I have really big concerns about having a joint process with the Senate, but I don't necessarily want to get into that discussion now.
My thought would be to have a special meeting of BOIE the week we come back, two weeks hence. That would give us an opportunity to talk about exactly how that body would be composed, and then come back and make a determination in two weeks.
That would be my recommendation.
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Good morning, everyone.
First, just to refresh my memory, could you describe the consultation process with parliamentarians for this building?
Second, I gather that this space will be turned into a committee room later on. Is that right? If so, there's no real need for these types of rooms in the future Centre Block. Are there still discussions about this issue?
Lastly, you said there would be 460 members of Parliament in 50 years. Did I hear that right?
How many MPs will there be in 50 years from now?
Susan Kulba
View Susan Kulba Profile
Susan Kulba
2020-02-27 11:50
That is the average: 460 MPs. It's based on the census projections by Stats Canada and the Fair Representation Act.
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
Lib. (QC)
If we're talking about a 100-year plan, we have the number of 460 MPs in 50 years from now, but aren't we supposed to be working on the whole period of time?
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2020-02-27 11:51
Obviously, these are projections. We suspect that there's a point in time when Parliament will modify the—
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2020-02-27 11:51
—the representation and the balance, but we have to work with certain figures. For example, if you look at one of the plans for this chamber, it was projected that there would be 320 MPs, and we're now at 338.
These are projections based on population growth, and so on.
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
Lib. (QC)
You will need 230 MPs for a majority. That's just to say, because I won't be here in 50 years.
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2020-02-27 11:51
That's a projection, but as I said, obviously there are many things that can happen between now and then in terms of changes in the number or representation formula, and all of that.
What was your first question?
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
Lib. (QC)
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2020-02-27 11:52
I'll give you my personal perspective on the consultation, because I wasn't here when the plans were made.
Basically, the decisions were made in such great detail that I would have found it appropriate for the parliamentarians to be consulted. However, the House of Commons Administration made those decisions.
The Board of Internal Economy has indeed, on several occasions, seen plans that I would describe as high level. However, when it came to things that mattered, such as office allocations and things of that nature, the parliamentarians weren't consulted. For example, the office allocations were done by the administration, which I find deplorable.
In terms of committee rooms, we do have four committee rooms in this building. One of the House plans includes a model that proposes the possibility of transforming the House by adding a floor and more committee rooms. However, at this point, it would be too early to say that this will happen, because we don't know the needs of the House 10 years from now. That said, we've built in some flexibility so that we can adapt the House to meet our needs when we return to the Centre Block.
I think that I answered your questions.
View Candice Bergen Profile
CPC (MB)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I have a couple of things. First of all, I agree with much of what Mr. Holland said in terms of suggestions.
I'd like you to clarify your suggestion, Mr. Patrice. You mentioned that the group you were referring to needed to spend a minimum of two hours a week on this. Are you suggesting that there be a subgroup, away from this group? Perhaps you could repeat and clarify what you think would be a good solution to consultation.
Then I have another comment.
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2020-02-27 11:54
I talked about a subgroup of this group, but it could be another committee established using a different route. Definitely it would be a group that would delve into the details of the project. I estimate that the level of effort required for that group in terms of meeting time would be a minium of an average of two hours per week, because quite important discussions need to be had. The members, I suspect, as this happened with a past working group, will say that they need or want more information on a cost scenario and things like that. Then we need to prepare it, and then we meet again to pursue the discussion.
View Candice Bergen Profile
CPC (MB)
This is just a suggestion, but would it be helpful, after we maybe have another meeting and have some more discussions, if BOIE set out some guiding principles? For example, I think we've heard continuously that we want the House of Commons and Centre Block to be preserved as close to what they were when we left them, or as close to the same point. If that is the guiding principle, that answers many, many questions.
Is that something that would be helpful? If we set out...and maybe you come back with some of those guiding principles. Within those parameters, the working group, however it is established, would in a sense have fewer decisions to make.
View Candice Bergen Profile
CPC (MB)
Hypothetically, if that would be the guiding principle, then more floors probably wouldn't even be part of the equation.
I'm just throwing it out there as a suggestion. If we maybe establish some overall guiding principles and say, “Don't go out of these parameters”, then that would reduce some of the decision-making at the decision points.
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2020-02-27 11:56
Definitely guiding principles are always helpful in terms of guiding any person in decision-making. We presented draft guiding principles at the last meeting in June. We could distribute those again in a working document. You could then work on them in terms of, for example, the one that you're talking about.
Guiding principles are helpful. That being said, it's when you get into the granularity of things that guiding principles don't cover things. That's why the engagement with members is very important to us.
View Candice Bergen Profile
CPC (MB)
Yes, I agree. Maybe “guiding principles” is the wrong term. I think some specific parameters would.... When I look at some of the decisions that have to be made, they go all the way from keeping the House of Commons structure exactly as is to changing it drastically.
View Candice Bergen Profile
CPC (MB)
If we say we don't want it to be changed drastically, for example, then many of those decision points will be taken off the table—
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I looked carefully at the entire document. I want to thank you for providing all this information. However, I don't see the budget figures. Is it because Public Works and Government Services Canada didn't provide approximate amounts for each option?
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2020-02-27 11:57
The construction manager, meaning Public Works and Government Services Canada, is responsible for the budgets.
I'll ask Ms. Garrett to explain the absence of costs at this stage.
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