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View Judy A. Sgro Profile
Lib. (ON)
Yes, Mr. Chair, I will. Thank you very much.
Today I'm joined by my colleague Kelly Block, as well as Peter Julian, who is also a representative on this working group.
For your background information, the working group met on June 4 and June 11 to review the proposed governance structure and initiate engagement on the Centre Block rehabilitation project. The House of Commons administration provided an overview of the long-term vision project, or LTVP, and background on consultations and approvals to date.
The working group discussed the governance structure and agreed on the mandate. The working group was formed as requested by the BOIE with a view to provide engagement with members on requirements and oversight on the Centre Block project and LTVP. The working group will report to the board to provide updates on the rehabilitation project and make recommendations as required. The working group will help guide and inform consultations and engagement with members and stakeholders.
For the development and implementation of the LTVP, guiding principles that we will work under were developed at various milestones. We reviewed those established principles and we propose an updated set of guiding principles that are appropriate for Parliament with regard to the Centre Block rehabilitation. We would seek BOIE's endorsement of the following principles.
Centre Block’s primary purpose is to accommodate the two Houses of Parliament. It is first and foremost a workplace for parliamentarians, and the design and operational requirements of the building must take those needs into consideration.
The Centre Block rehabilitation—
View Judy A. Sgro Profile
Lib. (ON)
My understanding was that you had received a fair amount of information on this project already.
View Judy A. Sgro Profile
Lib. (ON)
The Centre Block rehabilitation project will aim to enhance the operations of Parliament from a functional and technological standpoint to ensure that the infrastructure continues to meet evolving requirements for the proper functioning of Parliament.
The CB rehabilitation project will work to ensure public participation in the work of Parliament, with continued access to chamber proceedings, question period and committee work, as well as to enhance and expand opportunities for public outreach by creating spaces that complement the historic building.
The CB rehabilitation project will explore options for universal accessibility and interconnectivity between buildings on the parliamentary campus via an underground tunnel system and supporting infrastructure.
The CB rehabilitation project will continue to create a balance of accessibility to Parliament and a secure environment.
The CB rehabilitation project will strive to restore the significant heritage fabric of the building as originally designed and built, and to update all engineering and life-saving systems to comply with contemporary expectations of wellness, safety, sustainability and universal accessibility in support of parliamentary functions.
Decisions regarding the future of Centre Block will be guided by the principles of fiscal responsibility and the conscientious use of resources, while taking into account the value placed on restoring historical heritage spaces.
At our working group's initial meeting, we were provided with an overview of the project plan and the roles of the various stakeholders. This complex project is being delivered following a fast-track methodology consisting of many overlapping activities. In this process, early decisions need to be made while requirements are still being developed. This risk is managed through a process of layered decisions that allow flexibility.
Going forward, we will be looking at detailed requirements for key functions in Centre Block and the visitor welcome centre complex to ensure that building functions reflect the operations of Parliament and the members' needs in our workplace.
In terms of immediate activities for Centre Block and the visitor welcome centre, it has been determined that there are two items that require endorsement at this time: the excavation contracting strategy for the visitor welcome centre and the construction hoarding. The working group has reviewed the options and brings forward our suggestions for the BOIE's consideration.
The visitor welcome centre requirement, or VWCC, was established in the 1999 document “Building the Future”. The concept was established and approved by the BOIE, COIE and cabinet in 2006 and reconfirmed in 2009 and 2011. Requirements for the VWCC phase 2 are still under development and will require the working group's validation and further BOIE approval. To ensure that the CB project maintains momentum, an early decision on the excavation contracting strategy is required.
The working group was presented with three options for the excavation strategy for phase 2 of the proposed visitor welcome centre. All options considered the following implications: security, visitor experience, parliamentary functional requirements and cost.
While it was clear to us that excavation is required to accommodate base building requirements, we were of the view that other expressed requirements should be assessed and decided upon after the election.
Accordingly, the working group recommends going forward with the excavation contracting strategy for phase 2 of the visitor welcome centre that includes the baseline of a 22,000-square-metre NET underground expansion of Centre Block, with options that allow for the contract to be scaled down or up depending on decisions with respect to allow actual requirements beyond machinery and equipment.
The second item is the construction hoarding. This site plan indicates roughly the maximum area for the construction site, which includes the Centre Block; the anticipated approximation of where the VWCC will require excavation; and room for construction trailers, material laydown and heavy equipment mobility. The black line indicates the approximate location proposed for the construction hoarding, leaving approximately half the front lawn for public access and for activities to continue throughout the project implementation.
Installation of the construction hoarding is planned to start in the fall of 2019.
The working group was presented with three hoarding options for consideration.
The working group recommendation is a hoarding design that reflects the architecture of Centre Block, displaying images and interpretive text about the project and Parliament for visitors. This would be maintained over the lifespan of the rehabilitation project.
This option provides a cost-effective fencing for the construction site and a visitor experience while the Centre Block is rehabilitated.
The recommendations before you today from our working group are, first, to proceed with the excavation contracting strategy for phase 2 of the visitor welcome centre that includes the baseline of a 22,000-square-metre NET underground expansion of Centre Block, with options that allow for the contract to be scalable down or up, depending on decisions with respect to actual requirements.
The working group also recommends proceeding with hoarding on the front lawn with large monochromatic photos or illustrative drawings on the front face and with ornamental black fencing for the remainder of the perimeter.
Joining me and Ms. Block at the table here today are some of the appropriate people from the various departments working on this project.
Ms. Block, do you have anything you want to add?
View Judy A. Sgro Profile
Lib. (ON)
I understand the rationale from departmental officials as to why it's important to move forward with the recommendations that we have before you today: in order not to lose time, and so on and so forth. It leaves us with post-election opportunities to reflect on ups and downs and so on.
Certainly I would like to see clarification on the roles and expectations for the three of us, who are representing different parties. I don't want to receive a complicated document and be asked for a decision in 48 hours and then go to you with a recommendation that we really haven't had time to be fully engaged in.
I love the suggestion. As Ms. Bergen said, these are the kinds of ideas that we thought we may be dealing with. We did not expect, with a limited amount of time, to be coming to you with recommendations to this extent.
I think we all understood why we needed to go forward today in a short period of time, but I certainly would appreciate some clarification of the role of the working group in the future and the board's expectations of us.
View Judy A. Sgro Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I want you to know that we appreciate the board agreeing to include our recommendation for additional broadcasting resources and options for committees in the next Parliament as part of your agenda today.
I'm joined by Eric Janse, Stéphan Aubé and Ian McDonald from the House administration.
As many of you have known, there have been growing challenges around access to the limited resources broadcast committee proceedings on video. As a result, many committee chairs and members feel that committees do not always get the attention they would like for the important work they do on behalf of Canadians.
In addition, if additional video streams for committee meetings were added, closed captioning would be included, increasing access to committee proceedings for even more Canadians. As there have not been changes to the existing broadcasting resources since 2001, I think it's probably time.
As a result, the liaison committee recently saw a presentation on a web broadcasting option for committee meetings, and the committee fully supported this initiative as a way of increasing access.... Am I going too fast for you, Ian?
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2019-05-30 11:46
I do think that the situation that was identified was very unusual, in that the job continues whether or not you're a parent. There's an expectation that you will continue to represent the riding. There are not really a lot of analogous situations where somebody has a child and is on maternity leave, but then is still expected to work. There isn't an apples to apples type of comparison that can be made here.
In a general sense, I think that the comments that we shouldn't have anything that would be seen to be greater than what would be available to our constituents are ones that I'm moved by. I don't know what exactly that number is. I'm open to proposals. I think Madam Chagger perhaps has an idea.
I think that we have to be careful about expectations. You can imagine that a minority government may only sit 18 months, and if you say that somebody has 13 months during which they can be absent from the chamber, that could be quite challenging in establishing an expectation. The numbers as they are, I think, are a little generous. I think we have to come up with something perhaps a little different than what's on the table.
View Bardish Chagger Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you for the comments and the work you've done in making your proposal.
I do know that in Ontario, the average working person who is paying into EI would receive their EI benefit at 55% or 60%—whatever it is. I know that we've now extended benefits so that the secondary parent, or however you want to refer to them, can also take up to six months.
I do believe that if we want to adhere to the logic—which I think is well received—that members of Parliament not be better off than our constituents, perhaps offering a time that is proportionate to that benefit would be suitable.
I know Minister Gould has written a letter with a recommendation of four months. I'd even be comfortable with five months, or five and a half months, less than six months, just on the point that Mr. Holland has made as well.
I would like to throw some numbers out, because I think it would be important for us to offer a recommendation in response to what PROC has asked for. I think that would allow us to take a step in the right direction. Currently, there are no benefits when it comes to paternity leave, which is not okay if we're really trying to change the dynamics of the House of Commons and so forth.
I really do like Mr. Strahl's idea of having a box added, regardless. I think that if it's additional time, they should be able to say that it's paternity leave. If somebody is needing to take a day off because of a sick child, they should be able to say that, because you're not ill when you're taking care of your children.
It is really important, and we do need to shed some positive light in that world. So, I will throw out a number that's closer to Minister Gould's recommendation. I would be more comfortable with a period of between four and five and half months, but less than six months.
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2019-05-30 11:52
I completely concur with that timeline. I'd just make the observation that—because I also agree with Mr. Strahl—on the surface of it, you could leave the policy as was and it would seem as though the policy would be equal to what employees have today. In other words, the penalty is not all that large—8% is not that significant.
The real issue is what we're broadcasting as acceptable. When you're charged, it isn't necessarily about the fact that you are having a reduction; it's kind of broadcasting that you're doing something wrong—that you're not attending the House and, therefore, you're being penalized.
Conversely, if we say that you can have a year, then people are going to think that it is—excuse me, it's not a year; we're talking about 13 months.... People are going to come into the job, become pregnant and then say now they can disappear for 13 months—if we put the policy in—and I don't think that's appropriate, given the nature of the work and the demands of the House, particularly if there's a minority government time frame.
I think having that period of four to six months—which is recommended as a minimum by international labour standards—is appropriate. It broadcasts that we do want to encourage members to be able to have children and families while they conduct this work. But it gives some parameters around what those expectations are, so that if somebody decides to take on this employment, then they will know what they're facing and what those expectations would be.
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2019-05-30 11:57
I think you raise an excellent point with respect to the position that a party could be in, and not only in a minority situation. You could have a very thin majority situation where the numbers would be impacted by members' having families. Therefore, as much as we have a policy in place, the policy effectively becomes irrelevant because the party's going to exert enormous pressure on those individuals to come back and be present for votes that might precipitate an election.
I don't know, and maybe it's a question I could ask, because I don't think we can force pairing. You could have a sort of gentleman's agreement or an agreement in principle, but I don't believe there's any way to compel parties to observe that. For example, I think it would be entirely appropriate to have mandatory pairing, but I don't think there's any way of enforcing that. Am I correct in that?
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2019-05-30 11:59
The point that would make, first of all, is there's an expectation at PROC that we're going to give them some sort of direction. I think that's important.
I'm very sensitive, Ms. Bergen, to the points you're raising. I think that the issue of pairing, of being able to assure that you're not creating a precarious situation in the chamber as a result of these policies, has to be considered. In its absence, it would frankly render this policy irrelevant, because it doesn't matter whether or not we say that somebody can be on maternity leave if there is a circumstance where their vote is demanded or there's going to be an election. We know what's going to happen.
I don't think that any policy we recommend....There has to be something, and if we can make it in such a way that we can be assured that it would be enforced, I think we should look at it.
View Bardish Chagger Profile
Lib. (ON)
Just to confirm, Mr. Julian, you're stating that you're comfortable with this recommendation in its entirety.
View Bardish Chagger Profile
Lib. (ON)
I think that's great as well, then.
I just want to say that I do think this work has been done. PROC has studied this matter. They've asked this table, this board, for a recommendation. I think a unanimous recommendation should be offered to members of PROC. Then they would be able to table their report and it could be concurred in with all-party support and we would have movement.
I think we're recognizing that this is definitely a conversation that has many different layers, and those conversations have to start somewhere. This is a step that I think needs to be taken. I think it speaks volumes. Those other conversations can definitely take place. I would totally support Mr. Julian's comments in saying that this should be the recommendation that we offer to PROC.
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