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Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
Daniel Paquette
2021-06-28 11:35
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I am now presenting a request for an exception from a member. In March 2021, the member submitted two external printing claims that exceeded the current policy limit of 5,000 copies.
You can recall that in spring 2020 there were temporary measures put in place to allow members to use external printers, in collaboration with our printing facility's team, for constituency mail in excess of 5,000 copies. These temporary measures did end on June 30, 2020, and since then the regular policies and use of House printing facilities for constituency mail have resumed.
The member did make use of the House services during this period of time, but given the board's policy in effect at the time when these costs were incurred by the member, in March 2021, the member in this case would be personally responsible for the cost of the copies in excess of 5,000 copies.
Given the current situation, the member has requested that the board make an exception and allow him to charge the full amount to his MOB. We are here to seek the board's direction on this matter.
Thank you.
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
Lib. (QC)
Yes, Mr. Chair.
I assume that, when our colleague did that at the time, he knew the rules and regulations of what was allowed and what was not allowed.
My concern with requests for exceptions like that is that they can be used by others to break the rules. People could end up saying that so‑and‑so broke the rules, and all he had to do was go to the Board of Internal Economy and get what he wanted.
To me, the rules are the rules, and people have to follow them. It's unfortunate, but I see no reason for an exception in this case.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
I agree with Mr. Rodriguez.
There also seems to be some confusion. The document before us indicates that the member did not have his salary taken. In his letter, the member says that it was taken. I would like to have that little confusion clarified.
I think everyone knows the rules. The arrangements for in‑house printing and the number of copies allowed are quite clear. For the time being, I'm not really in favour of granting this exception, unless you have other arguments to convince me.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
I guess what I can do is just add some additional information. I'm certainly sympathetic to some of the comments that have already been made in terms of having to be careful about making exceptions and making sure that those exceptions are appropriate.
I will just add, for the information of members in making this decision, that I have obviously talked to Mr. Vis about this situation, and my understanding of what happened here from his perspective is essentially that there was some communication with printing and mailing services and his office understood that the exceptions had been lifted for certain types of mailings, but I think they didn't realize that the exceptions had been lifted for the types of mailings they were doing. There certainly was a misunderstanding, and a bit of miscommunication possibly as well. That is kind of his version of what occurred. I thought it would be important for context for members.
Again, I do understand that we have to be very careful about when we make an exception. If that is helpful to members at all in making this decision, I wanted to make sure that Mr. Vis's understanding of the situation was put forward as well.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Are there any other comments or questions?
My understanding, just from what I've heard, is that option 1 is what we go with, the status quo that Mr. Vis is responsible for the extra costs.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you.
Are there any other comments regarding item number 2?
In that case, we will proceed to item number 3, improvements to the Printing and Mailing Services program.
We'll now proceed to Ms. Kletke.
Rebekah Kletke
View Rebekah Kletke Profile
Rebekah Kletke
2021-06-10 11:29
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I am here today with Ms. Julie Allard, director of client service delivery, to provide an update on enhancements we are implementing in printing and mailing services.
Over the past year, we have continually evolved the printing and mailing service offering in line with members’ needs. On January 28, 2021, we presented to members of the board preliminary areas of enhancement that we would further explore, and today we will share what we have implemented or will be implementing following this analysis.
During our review, we considered the lessons learned from the adjustments made over the past year. We remain focused on the changes we could make in order to meet the evolving communication needs of members based on your feedback. After careful assessment, we determined that reducing production time frames from 12 days to nine days and increasing surge capacity during peak periods were the enhancements that presented the greatest potential impact while maintaining current resource and budget levels.
We will reduce our production time frames by implementing several changes. Since the pandemic and moving forward, householder proofs are being produced digitally. This allows us to save, on average, one full day in our production process and $10,000 per year. By fall 2021, we will finish reallocating resources within PAMS to improve our front-end client service response times, verification, proofing and planning capacity.
Over the summer, we will be creating a series of instructional videos to help members' employees prepare and submit printing requests, beginning with holiday greeting cards in the fall. Examples of topics the videos will cover include members' printing allocations and the differences between householders and constituency mail.
By fall 2021, we will adjust planning mechanisms to move away from a first-come, first-served basis in favour of a more personalized approach. This means that we will take into account the location of the constituency—for example, whether it's remote and rural—and Canada Post delivery time frames to prioritize requests.
Also by fall 2021, we will allow for more flexible submission deadlines during peak periods, while achieving the same production time frames and managing costs.
Finally, following this meeting, we will modify two labour-intensive formats so they are better aligned with our production environment while still meeting client needs. These modifications are shown in the appendix included in your package. As part of our implementation strategy, members currently using these formats will be contacted individually to be informed of our modifications.
By reducing the current average internal production timelines, we will also be helping to ensure the efficient and effective use of in-house equipment and resources, consistent quality at a reasonable cost and equitable service to all members.
The second enhancement involves the establishment of framework agreements, and consultation with Canada Post, with western, central, eastern and northern print shops throughout Canada by fall 2021. This will ensure that consistent, timely and high-quality products are delivered through in-house production or by pre-approved external suppliers during peak periods when internal capacity is exceeded.
External suppliers provide services at market-value cost and they are equipped to provide services and are located near a Canada Post distribution centre capable of receiving materials.
The implementation of these enhancements will have no impact on budgets, by-laws or policies. We will continue to monitor average production time frames, including, but not limited to, the number of days for each production stage, client response times, internal and external printing costs, and client feedback to ensure that these enhancements achieve the expected benefits we have shared with you today.
We are happy to answer any questions you may have.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Thank you.
I'll apologize in advance. I do have a number of questions. This has been a significant source of questions from my caucus, so I will apologize to all of my colleagues in advance. I'll try to keep it as brief as I can.
The first question relates to one of the cases that I brought forward, which was partially responsible for the request for this report today. Thank you for the efforts you made to try to find ways to improve some of the services and efficiencies. That is very much appreciated.
The case was about a colleague who ensured that he met all of the guidelines and jumped through the necessary hoops to make sure that he met all of the deadlines to submit a year-end mailing, which did seem to have to be submitted quite early, but he was able to do so. What happened was that the mailing ended up coming far before the end of the year. It was a Christmas-related thing, if I remember correctly, and it arrived way too early to be reasonably seen for Christmas. Obviously, that was a source of issues.
I'm wondering if these changes—I'm pointing to a couple of things you mentioned, like a more personalized approach to delivery times and greater submission flexibility—would apply in this case. I think that's been one of the challenges. What we're talking about there is finding ways for members to ask that it be delivered as soon as it's ready, or they can ask for it to be delivered on a certain date, etc.
Is that what you're driving at with personalized approaches and greater submission flexibility or is there more to that?
Rebekah Kletke
View Rebekah Kletke Profile
Rebekah Kletke
2021-06-10 11:36
That's exactly what we're driving at, Mr. Richards, and thank you for your question.
The greater flexibility around submission time frames will be facilitated through that more personalized approach that we'll also be implementing concurrently. We're also hoping to improve our communications on those as well and to make them more responsive.
I think those three items together will work and get at that specific case that you've raised.
Thank you.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Perfect. That's great.
I've been there before, too, where, based on the average window, if I submit it here, it's probably going to arrive around there, and then sometimes it will come a little earlier and sometimes a little later.
In a case like that, a member could now say, for example, that they want this to arrive on November 15. You would tell them that it might not be possible given timelines, or that it was going to be early, that it would be November 15 exactly, or that it would be November 15 or later if you couldn't meet it.
Is that the flexibility we're talking about here? Members could say this is when they'd like it to arrive, and then you would have a conversation about whether or not it could be done?
Rebekah Kletke
View Rebekah Kletke Profile
Rebekah Kletke
2021-06-10 11:37
That is exactly the flexibility.
Julie, do you want to add any further details?
Julie Allard
View Julie Allard Profile
Julie Allard
2021-06-10 11:37
Yes, thank you.
Although we don't have any control on the Canada Post side, we'll definitely make that flexibility available.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Perfect. Great. I'm glad to hear it.
I have a couple of other things. I'm going to raise the issue of the elimination of paper proofs. I've heard it from others, but it's been an issue for me personally. I have had times when I've designed something based on the folds and what people will see when they open the first fold, etc. That's a fairly important part of the mailing.
I've had times when the way we've agreed to fold it, even with a paper proof, has not ended up being the way it has been sent, which has caused an issue. I'm concerned, actually, that not having a paper proof could exacerbate that problem. I understand the idea behind it—that it improves efficiency—but I would strongly argue that you should at least leave that option available to people. I know that I still want to see a paper proof to ensure that my fold is correct. I'm not sure how else to really ensure that, so I think you should at least leave the option for members to ask for that. It doesn't have to be an absolute requirement that's sent every time, but if a member wishes to have a paper proof, I think it should still be provided.
Is that something you'd be open to?
Julie Allard
View Julie Allard Profile
Julie Allard
2021-06-10 11:38
Yes.
Thank you, Mr. Richards. Absolutely the option will always be there. The default will be no paper proof, but you can also ask for a paper proof. That option will still be available.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
That will be communicated to members so they're aware of that as well?
Okay. That's great. Thank you.
I have one last thing. In regard to the peak periods, when you get overburdened, you're talking about engaging with regional print shops to have some external....
What would be the process to determine which regional print shops those would be? Is that going to be a competitive bidding process? How will you determine when you need to engage the regional print shops?
Rebekah Kletke
View Rebekah Kletke Profile
Rebekah Kletke
2021-06-10 11:39
To your point, Mr. Richards, it would be a competitive process in partnership with our colleagues in finance who are responsible for our procurement process at the House, but we are also leveraging partnerships with other federal departments, such as Elections Canada or Stats Canada, and comparing lessons learned and who they might be using. It will be done through a competitive process, and it will be when our internal capacity is exceeded to keep the production time frames to the nine days that we are dropping it down to.
We would be using those external providers when our internal production capacity is exceeded.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
So on an ongoing basis you will monitor this, and whenever you see that you're exceeding the nine-day service standard, you will then engage regional print until you can catch up to that standard.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Okay. That's great. Thank you. I really appreciate your report and your answers.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
First of all, I would like to thank you for your presentation, Ms. Kletke.
The Bloc Québécois caucus really has no problem at all with Printing and Mailing Services. Although not everything is in place, we are rather impressed by the fact that, already, production times often better the standards. We are therefore very satisfied with the Printing and Mailing Services. We are very happy with the change in format that you are proposing for constituency mail. We think it is a much more user-friendly model.
Our only minor concerns relate to Canada Post services in the Upper North Shore area. The interface between the printing service, the post office and the delivery of mail to fellow citizens can mean five to seven weeks for mail delivery. We were wondering who we could talk to about this problem. Mail delivery is about the only problem we have, for example, in one area of the Manicouagan riding, where the post offices are further away.
As for the rest, sincerely, I think you are proactive. I like your professional service. Your whole team really cares about producing high quality publications. Unlike my colleague, we like to receive digital proofs that we have to approve. For us, it speeds up the processing and printing, and satisfies us.
I wanted to congratulate you on finding ways to get our publications out as quickly as possible, as always.
I do have one small suggestion for you, though. You said you would make short videos to educate MPs or their staff about the new operation. I would add a video that could demonstrate the difference between a constituency letter and a group letter. MPs have a hard time grasping the difference, the rules around these two publications and their different time frames, among other things.
We know that between a group mailing and a constituency mailing there can be less than 30 days, but this notion has not yet been absorbed. So you could take the opportunity to add that to your videos. For our part, as whips, we would direct our MPs and their staff to this short learning video so that they are familiar with the distinction between these two important parliamentary tools that are framed by different rules.
View Ginette Petitpas Taylor Profile
Lib. (NB)
Thank you so much, Mr. Chair. I will be very brief.
I'm just wondering if we know how many offices have required a deep cleaning as a result of COVID exposure within their offices. In asking that question, I'm also wondering if we have a workplace health and safety protocol in place in the event of workplace COVID exposure.
Michelle Laframboise
View Michelle Laframboise Profile
Michelle Laframboise
2021-02-25 11:40
Thank you, Mr. Paquette.
Yes, we do have that information. I don't have it at hand right now, but I absolutely will follow up and make sure that the members of the board get the information requested.
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2021-02-25 11:40
Up to this time there have been no expenditures submitted for the deep cleaning of an office.
For the protocol, we'll provide that information to the board.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Are there any other comments or questions?
We’ll go on to number 3, the printing and mailing services program enhancement proposals, and we’ll turn it over to Ms. Rebekah Kletke, chief operations officer.
Ms. Kletke.
Rebekah Kletke
View Rebekah Kletke Profile
Rebekah Kletke
2021-01-28 11:30
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Members of the board, as you know, the current operating environment resulting from the pandemic has required the House administration to adapt and find solutions to ensure that members of Parliament and their teams are able to continue to perform their parliamentary functions. One such example has been in the area of printing and mailing services.
On April 17, 2020, the Board approved that, from April 17 to July 30, 2020, members be authorized to provide their constituents with information on COVID-19 using external printing services, with costs to be charged to the central House administration budget.
A report distributed to board members on December 14, 2020, provided an assessment of the way access to external suppliers worked this past spring. This report showed that costs for the initiative were higher compared to in-house equivalents, that the level of service varied across Canada and that the external production time frames were the same or longer than in-house production time frames.
I am here today with a submission seeking direction from the board on initiatives to enhance and improve the printing and mailing services available to members of Parliament. These areas for improvement are aligned with the discussion held at the previous board meeting and the feedback we have received during this challenging period. With these objectives in mind, the House administration recommends that we proceed to examine the following aspects as prioritized by the Board of Internal Economy, with a view to identifying potential changes to our printing and mailing services.
We would look at internal processes and tools to determine the measures needed to decrease the current average internal production timeline of 12 days. We would look at the possibility of setting up framework agreements with printing facilities across Canada in consultation with Canada Post so that internal production time frames can be supplemented and enhanced with external search capacity during peak periods, and we would also look at access to broader external services through existing mechanisms, building on the lessons learned from the spring of 2020.
Our goal is to gain approval in the spring for a comprehensive analysis, with proposals aligned with the priorities set by the Board.
I would be happy to answer any questions you may have and take note of any improvements you suggest.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
I suppose it's probably more of a comment.
I'm hearing that you're going to come back with a proposal, and that's great. I think that's wonderful. I have had a number of caucus members come forward to me with issues that they've had. I guess one thing I want to make clear for when proposals are being developed is that, although there have been some issues that have developed in terms of the length of time it's taking to get things printed, I don't know that it should be the singular focus of the efforts to make improvements.
The focus that I think I've heard more from members who have spoken to me has been more about lack of certainty in terms of the production times. I understand that there are fluctuating levels, so addressing that is important. I like the suggestion you're making about having some ability to have arrangements with outside suppliers where there are higher periods of time.... Obviously just before Christmas would be one of those examples. I think that's a great idea.
However, the other issues that arise, in the same vein, are more the inconsistency. Sometimes there have been issues where people are told to get something out for a certain date. You have to have it in.... I'll choose some dates out of the hat. Let's say they're told that in order to have it out by mid-December, it has to be in by the end of October. The member is intending to have it go out mid-December, but then things are ahead of schedule and it goes out mid-November and it's not an appropriate message to be going out in the middle of November, for example.
It's working with members to ensure that the service is provided as stated. That might mean needing to ensure that the production timeline is respected and hasn't gone over, because maybe if it goes over, now the member is sending something that's no longer appropriate to send. In other cases, it might be putting it out at an inappropriate time, too soon, because production was ahead of schedule.
It's really working with the member to ensure they're given a date for when their piece would go out, when it goes to production, and that date is respected and adhered to, whether that means rushing the process or whether that means, in some cases, storing it for a few weeks because it's been produced ahead of schedule. It's really about meeting those service schedules.
I'll give you one other similar example, and I'm talking about my own example. I've had times where we have requested certain folds on a product—I've gone so far as to ask that I see the folds as part of the proof—and then they still go out with a different fold.
Those are service standards that aren't related to length of printing, but it's an expectation by a client, and the member of Parliament, I would believe, should be seen as the client. If they're asking for a certain fold on a product, or they're asking for a certain date that they want the product to go out, we should seek to do that. It's making that clear.
Those are some of the issues that I've had raised in my caucus. I like some of the suggestions you're making, but to make it clear, it's looking at ways to improve those service standards and have more of a customer service focus model that is being sought.
I appreciate your taking this back and looking at ways that we can make improvements.
Rebekah Kletke
View Rebekah Kletke Profile
Rebekah Kletke
2021-01-28 11:37
Thank you very much, Mr. Richards, for your comments.
Certainly the three items that we brought today require some potential investment.
Further to your comments regarding the planning process, we started following our holiday card and peak period this past December, looking at making some changes to our planning process to get exactly at some of the issues you raised today. We're already working on that. They are internal process changes. The team has some really great ideas in that respect, and to bring that flexibility around planning to the table and more clarity around when products will be going out.
We'll certainly take back your other comments, and we'll work internally to meet what you're asking for.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
There are some laudable suggestions in the document. My own experience, anecdotally, with the external suppliers, the local suppliers, was that what made the difference, and why we were able to get things out more quickly—during a pandemic, of course, it's vital to get information in the hands of my constituents—was the mailing delay that came from Ottawa.
We have very talented staff in Ottawa, they do a terrific job in the printing centre, but often, it's a two-week delay getting it from Ottawa to New Westminster—Burnaby. For the external suppliers, in our case, even though it's correct to point out that they may not be as efficient and may not understand the Canada Post preparation as well as staff in Ottawa, the reality is that, once it's actually dropped at the post office, it's a one- or two-day delay, as opposed to a one- or two-week delay.
That needs to be taken into consideration. We have a vast geography, and the mailing times add complexity to mailings that are particularly tied to specific events. It makes a difference to be able to use local suppliers for certain types of mailings.
I agree with enhancing the printing team in Ottawa. There's absolutely no doubt that would mean that things could be produced more quickly for our constituents, but I also believe local suppliers definitely have a place. In the case of a British Columbia MP, it means that the overall length of time is quicker, even if it takes twice as long to produce the printing, because it takes 10% of the time to actually do the mailing and get it into the riding.
I wanted to give you that feedback, because that needs to be taken into consideration as well when we're looking at the overall proposal that comes to the BOIE.
Rebekah Kletke
View Rebekah Kletke Profile
Rebekah Kletke
2021-01-28 11:40
Thank you, Mr. Julian.
We certainly appreciate your comments and will take that into consideration. We're also looking at adjusting our planning practices, as I mentioned following Mr. Richards' comments, so that instead of first in, first out, we would plan according to the location of the constituency, so that those that might be farther from Ottawa would get done sooner rather than later in our planning process, to hopefully shorten the time frame.
We'll certainly take that into account. Thank you for your comments.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Good morning, Ms. Kletke.
First, I would like to acknowledge the fact that, within your department, you directed two of your managers to consult the whips of all caucuses on what could be improved and therefore to gather information from all recognized parties in the House.
I want to thank you for that because it shows me that you are committed to improving your department and better serving members in the House of Commons. I also want to thank you for the fact that I felt I was heard. I know that the two managers I met with last week accepted and even appreciated some of the recommendations, the improvements, that I wanted to see. I am therefore very grateful to you for that good practice that other departments will hopefully choose to adopt.
I fully agree with your recommendation. I don't know if it is the fact that we are close to Ottawa, but we noticed that the 12-day service standard was often exceeded. The average was about nine days. We are quite satisfied with the timeframes. Of course, we would like to bring them down from 12 to nine or even between five and nine, as you suggest. In the age of social media, we often want to communicate quickly with our constituents about situations or activities, or even about information related to the pandemic. Everything moves so quickly these days. I feel that, while maintaining its quality, its thoroughness and its professionalism, our printing service must do the best it can to reduce its turnaround time throughout the process, from submission to mockups, production and mailing to the public.
I want to thank you because I'm sure we will be pleased with your proposals and those that you will make in the spring, since you have understood how important it is for members to send out quality information [Technical difficulty] and that meets the need for more urgent communications.
I also noticed that you paid special attention to publications of 5,000 copies or less, which are perhaps not being used optimally. Members may benefit from becoming more familiar with this type of publication since it is a much shorter process. If you opened it up to local businesses, we might be able to use this parliamentary tool more often for more urgent publications. It's a tool that may be underused, at least by my caucus.
So I thank you once again, and I agree with the recommendation you have submitted to us today.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Are there any other comments?
Are we okay to go ahead with the recommendation presented in the report?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Hon. Anthony Rota: We're going to suspend temporarily to go in camera. It shouldn't take more than a few minutes. I want everybody to stand by if you don't mind, as we make sure everything goes in camera.
[Proceedings continue in camera]
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you to both of you.
I just want to encourage all members, on a granular level, to maybe take a step up and look at what pertains to the Board of Internal Economy. That might be some good advice to look at. I'll leave it at that.
We'll move on to item number seven, which is support for members' employees' telework arrangements and temporary measures in effect due to COVID-19.
This seems to be the Monsieur Paquette show today. I'll let him continue.
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
Daniel Paquette
2020-12-03 12:17
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I'll let José Fernandez present this topic for me. He's my deputy CFO. He manages the team that reviews all these policies and has worked on it.
At this point here, since we're working remotely, I'll mention to him quickly that there's a lot of material in this next section. We'll abbreviate the presentation so that we can get to your questions as quickly as possible, given the time that we have going forward.
You have the floor, Mr. Fernandez.
José Fernandez
View José Fernandez Profile
José Fernandez
2020-12-03 12:18
Thank you, Daniel.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
This presentation follows up on an analysis requested by the board at its meeting of October 8 in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. There are two parts to this presentation. The first part is the support of members' employees' telework arrangements. The second part is on the temporary measures in effect due to COVID-19.
For the first part, the House administration reviewed its application of current bylaws and policies related to equipment typically required by an employee to perform their duties and the flexibility provided to members in the use of House resources to be more responsive to this exceptional situation. Just to shorten it a bit for the time, I won't go into the specifics here, but it's talking about the mobile computing and the portable computing devices and those used for printing.
As well, from a mental health and well-being perspective, the House administration has reminded members and their employees of resources available on the source website through the different webinar series that were offered there.
Last May, the board also approved COVID-19 temporary measures in constituency offices to support the implementation of the necessary preventative measures in accordance with the guidelines issued by public health authorities. This provided support to reopen constituency offices and for their employees to return to the office.
This brings me to the second part of the presentation.
Now I will address the temporary measures in effect during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the pandemic, members continued to serve their fellow citizens from their constituency offices, which are particularly important in these times of crisis. The Board of Internal Economy had approved several measures, the first being the purchase of consumable items up to a limit of $1,500 per constituency office. That means non-medical masks, hand sanitizers and stickers to be applied to floors. These are items that we're now used to seeing when we enter establishments open to the public.
The second measure was the purchase and installation of plexiglass barriers to enforce physical distancing guidelines. Here the limit was $2,000 per constituency office. Where the situation required, the limit could be raised to a maximum of $3,500 with advance approval. These expenditures were charged to the House administration central budget. We note that the trend was the same for both measures: approximately 90% of members spent less than 75% of the maximum allocated amount.
Lastly, the third measure concerns the cost of professional emergency cleaning and disinfecting services that were to be used in the event a confirmed case of COVID-19 was reported in a member's constituency office. Here again, we have received no requests for reimbursement for these services as of November 23 last.
With respect to advertising to enable members to communicate with their fellow citizens, the Board of Internal Economy had approved a limit increase to 20% of their budget for the 2020-2021 fiscal year. Greater flexibility was also allowed with respect to advertising content. In particular, members were informed that they could distribute information about COVID-19 from certain organizations that might be of interest to their fellow citizens. As of November 23, nearly all members had used less than half that new limit, although there are slightly more than four months left in the fiscal year.
We have also assessed the impact of these measures on members' office budgets.
Finally, I will explain our assessment of the impacts of these temporary measures on members' office budgets for the current fiscal year.
We have compared the budget utilization with two previous fiscal years, given that the last fiscal year was an election year and its expenditure patterns are not typical. As of October 31, which is a little more than half a fiscal year, 99% of members used less than 60% of their office budget. We have seen here overall that the budget utilization is lower than in the last two fiscal years we compared it to. Restrictions on travel and gatherings imposed by governing bodies and public health authorities have contributed to a significant decrease in travel and hospitality expenditures.
In our review, we do not recommend any changes at this time to the temporary measures. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, the House administration will continue to monitor members' overall expenses and the specific impacts of the temporary measures. We would like to come back to you in the winter with our recommendations for measures for the next fiscal year. At that point, we would have almost a full year's worth of data, so we'd be better positioned to provide our recommendations to the board for these or other measures.
That concludes my presentation. I will be available for questions or feedback from the board. Thank you.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
I have just one thing I want to touch on.
After the last presentation, my colleague Mr. Deltell was asking about printing and mailing. I've had certainly a number of complaints, for lack of a better way of putting it, from my caucus in terms of capacity constraints. There are longer periods of time required to get things completed, which is making it so that things aren't really being received by constituents in a timely enough fashion. It's almost, for lack of a better way of putting it, old news by the time they receive it.
I wonder if, in this context of the pandemic, you would be able to bring forward on a priority basis some type of proposal for our consideration to renew the temporary measure that allowed for external printing. I had a lot of very positive feedback about that, and I think many members were finding it very helpful in this context. We should be looking at renewing that.
Is there any way we could have a proposal brought to us on how that could be done?
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2020-12-03 12:25
I have heard the same concerns as you have. I can guarantee you we'll look at quickly making a proposal that will allow us to address those concerns.
View Ginette Petitpas Taylor Profile
Lib. (NB)
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
During the pandemic, we've all had to equip our home offices so we can perform our professional duties.
Mr. Paquette or Mr. Fernandez, can you say how many devices, such as laptops and telephones, were purchased to equip our home offices?
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
Daniel Paquette
2020-12-03 12:26
We've seen an increase in overall office equipment expenditures. Computer equipment purchases are governed by a very restrictive policy, and those expenditures are closely monitored.
The upward trend isn't necessarily due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We often see this trend in office equipment and furniture purchases in the year following an election, as new members need to adapt their offices or change equipment to suit their new duties. We've noticed an upward trend, but there's nothing alarming about it.
We don't have the inventory figures. In any case, when expenses are allocated, we don't always track the number of units purchased, such as the number of chairs. For computer purchases, we're still within the limits prescribed by the Board of Internal Economy's policy.
View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you for your presentations, gentlemen.
Have you done a comparative evaluation of the average cost per member for the production of householders by the House of Commons printing service and by local printers?
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
Daniel Paquette
2020-12-03 12:27
An analysis is under way. I'll let Ms. Kletke tell you about that. I know that the evaluation should be forwarded to the members of the Board of Internal Economy in the coming weeks.
Rebekah Kletke
View Rebekah Kletke Profile
Rebekah Kletke
2020-12-03 12:27
Thank you, Mr. Paquette.
We've just completed that analysis. As Mr. Paquette said, we'll send you the results of the evaluation as soon as possible next week.
With respect to the comparison of services used, the House printing service processed 87 householder requests, whereas outside suppliers handled 269.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I would like to ask a question.
Will the analysis include information on turnaround times for both the private sector printers and government printing services?
Rebekah Kletke
View Rebekah Kletke Profile
Rebekah Kletke
2020-12-03 12:28
Thank you very much for your question.
The analysis focuses on three points. We've included a comparison of costs and turnaround times, as well as other information on service levels across Canada. We observed that there were indeed different levels of service depending on the regions.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
I'd like to know the date when we'll receive the report.
We'll of course have to mail out other householders early next year. Since we're still in the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, knowing whether our offices can do business with local printers could make a difference.
If we don't receive the report within a few months, we'll lose that opportunity to mail householders to our fellow citizens.
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2020-12-03 12:30
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
We intend to send you the results of the analysis in the coming weeks.
As a result of the concerns expressed and Mr. Richards' question, we also intend, as soon as possible, to send the members of the board a written submission concerning the decision that must be taken with respect to access to external printing services.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Mr. Chair, first I would like to congratulate printing service employees because they meet their standards. Every member's office is well informed of the entire process. From the start of that process to the mailing of their householders, standards are met, including those respecting the number of days or weeks.
I have exhausted my householder budget despite the pandemic, yet the printing service hasn't failed to meet its standards even once. It's important to know that. Part of the responsibility for meeting turnaround times falls to the teams that create householder content, both in the ridings and on the hill. These people have a deadline to meet, a period of three weeks from start of process to mailing. That may not be fast enough for some, but the fact remains that established standards are met. I want to emphasize that.
The advantage of using a local printer is, first, that it would support a local business. That's a positive. We would also have control of the process and the number of days involved. That varies locally, but it's true that it also varies across Quebec and, I imagine, across Canada. Back home, in less than five days, I can get 46,000 copies of a householder of the same quality as that of the House printing service, and turnaround times are shorter.
I'm eager to see the analysis. We're always somewhat reluctant when we discuss privatizing printing services. What will happen to employees if the work is farmed out to businesses in our constituencies? Using our printing service guarantees uniform quality. Formats must be used and graphic standards met, and there's the whole issue of householder standards. Because those standards are applied, all members are put on an equal footing. I care about the fact that 338 members can come and go through the same door, and all of them are treated equally.
The supply of services in the private sector is excellent in some regions and less so in others. In this case, are we going to create a two-tiered system? Some members from urban areas may have access to better services in the private than the public sector, and others may have less leeway and have to navigate the House printing service bottleneck.
I'm eager to read your analysis. These are matters that concern me. They require a fair and equitable decision, but they must especially take into consideration taxpayers' ability to pay. Ultimately, I'd like to know whether it will cost taxpayers more money to print our publications in the private sector or whether the price the House printing service charges is reasonable for all taxpayers.
I just wanted to set the tone for the debate we'll soon be having.
View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
It's entirely fair and relevant to recall that the work the printing service does here in the House of Commons always meets all the requirements that Mrs. DeBellefeuille has rightly mentioned. Quality is never sacrificed. It is always there.
If many members wish to deal with local businesses, that will free up time for those who prefer to use the House service. We could thus save time. If you make this proposal, it might be good to know what percentage of members are involved—20% or 50%, for example. Could we estimate the production time that could be saved? Could we shorten it from three weeks to two weeks, one week or eight days? I'm asking a good question. It would be a good if your evaluation could answer it.
View Mark Strahl Profile
CPC (BC)
Mr. Chair, I wasn't sure if this should be in the minutes or the business.
I asked a question at the last meeting when we were deciding on an exception for printing costs. I asked what the difference in the costs of the postage would have been for Mr. Waugh if he had used the House's preferred rate as compared to when he chose to do that mailing himself. I'm just wondering if that information has been found and if it could be shared with the group.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Yes, I remember going through that.
Who will be able to answer that with detail?
Monsieur Patrice.
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2020-07-10 13:10
The information has been sent. I'm just trying to locate the information right now.
I don't know, Rebekah, if you have the information right at your fingertips. We're looking for it.
Rebekah Kletke
View Rebekah Kletke Profile
Rebekah Kletke
2020-07-10 13:10
I'll find it and I'll pull it up.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
If it's okay with everyone, we'll proceed. When it does come up, we'll interrupt and present the information.
Does that work, Mr. Strahl?
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2020-07-10 14:14
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
We have located the information. The mailing cost for the member at that time was $6,590 at the rate he was charged. If he'd been charged the preferred bulk rate, it would have been $177. The difference was $6,400, essentially.
View Mark Strahl Profile
CPC (BC)
Thank you, I guess. That's a tough bill to swallow, but thank you.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Are there any other comments on that?
Everybody's had the chance to swallow? They can talk now? Okay. Very good.
We'll now address item five, the extension of temporary exceptions for advertising and Internet service expenses.
Mr. Paquette, you have the floor.
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
Daniel Paquette
2020-07-10 14:15
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
At their meeting in April, the board approved temporary measures to include additional detailed information in their advertising around local, community, government and not-for-profit organizations that could be of interest to their constituents with regard to COVID-related matters, and to be able to solicit donations for registered Canadian charities, also pertaining to COVID-related programs. This decision also included the possibility for members to reimburse Internet service charges to their employees who are now teleworking. This decision had an expiry date of June 30. Given the continued challenges around COVID, the administration is proposing that the board approve the extension of these temporary measures until the end of the fiscal year.
View Mark Strahl Profile
CPC (BC)
I support this. I would like, perhaps, the staff to come back. One of the provisions here that we are not extending is the ability to do printing in our constituencies, to have a local printer provide services. I would like to see a report on what the uptake was and what we found the cost differences were. I personally did two householders in that time frame, both printed locally, which helped a struggling local business and I had a great interaction with them. I've heard from a number of my colleagues as well who quite liked that arrangement. I would like to get an idea of how it went, perhaps for a future meeting.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Okay, very good.
I'm just getting a message here that that's not a problem. The report will be sent.
Maybe I'll defer to Monsieur Patrice. What time frame would we be looking at for that report to come in?
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2020-07-10 14:18
I think it would be beneficial for the board to do it in two steps, so we'll send a report, in terms of information that could come up in the following weeks, and maybe come to the board itself at its meeting to have the discussion and the exchange.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thanks, Mr. Chair.
I agree with Mr. Strahl.
In terms of the printing in the riding, normally, since we are on the other side of the Rockies, 5,000 kilometres away from Ottawa, printed material that goes out takes weeks to arrive in B.C. With local printing, it landed on the steps of people's homes in New Westminster—Burnaby five days after being printed. That's five days compared to often a month. I'd be very interested in seeing that report as well, because there is no doubt, for those of us who are far away from Ottawa, that it makes a huge difference in terms of our constituents actually getting timely information, and around COVID-19 that was extremely important.
I certainly agree with renewing this, and I would even suggest extending it in terms of printing. My concern is that we're putting these on MOBs. Again, for example, the cost of Internet access isn't the same in ridings across the country. In an urban riding like mine, it will cost a lot less than it might in a rural or northern riding. It seems to me, for fairness, so that all members of Parliament are treated the same way, that it would make a lot more sense to have those costs go onto the central budget than to have them assumed by members of Parliament, meaning that members of Parliament in certain parts of the country will have to pay more out of their MOB, which means they will have fewer resources to actually serve their constituents.
I'd like to put that out for the appreciation of the board. We'll also get a sense of whether the administration would have any opposition to having those Internet costs absorbed centrally.
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
Daniel Paquette
2020-07-10 14:20
Yes. I think part of the discussion and decision to put it into the MOB was that when we established the possibility of charging them for Internet connection for their employees, it was one way of just putting it out there, having that permission and not putting a lot of instructions or parameters around it.
We know there are various Internet packages out there that are often in the form of bundles, with different speeds or data capacity. By putting it into the MOB, we gave the responsibility to the members to ensure that whatever was being charged was appropriate for their needs. If we were to put it into the central budget—and, given the current circumstances, I can't say I would have any objections—we would have to establish the parameters and have those approved by the board to make sure that this is what we are accepting will be charged for the central budget.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Okay. Are there any other questions?
Do we have approval for this? Is everybody fine with this?
I can see that you're fine.
We're expecting this report in a few weeks.
We are on number six, “Annual report on the House of Commons policy on preventing and addressing harassment for 2019-2020”.
Ms. Daigle, you have the floor.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Do we have any questions or comments?
I see none.
Do we have approval of the report?
I see heads nodding. Very good.
We will now move on to item 8, which pertains to a request for exception for outdoor furniture.
Mr. Paquette, you may go ahead.
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
Daniel Paquette
2020-07-10 14:32
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
A member is asking the board to consider his request for reimbursement for outdoor furniture. The space the member is leasing includes exclusive access to an outdoor area. In order to use the space, the member purchased two tables and six chairs, for a total of $2,958.
Given that this was a non-standard purchase, the administration completed its assessment in accordance with the existing board policy. We concluded that this type of furniture is not typically needed in an office, nor is it needed in order to enable a member to carry out their parliamentary function. So that is our conclusion, that it is not office furniture. Furthermore, we conclude that it is not transferrable, since members' constituency offices do not typically include outdoor space that can be furnished and used by the member. As a result of our assessment, the expense was denied.
As per the member's request, we are seeking the board's direction on the review for this matter.
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
It's not so much a question I have, as it is a comment.
My understanding is that the rules make no mention of patio furniture. We would be setting an unacceptable precedent, were we to grant the request. As mentioned, this type of furniture does not count as office equipment. If we agree to reimburse a member for patio furniture, next, we could have someone asking to be reimbursed for a barbecue, and it would never end. I think denying the expense was the right decision.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Did the member contact the House administration before making the purchase? I don't mean through a formal letter, but did they make any sort of inquiry? It's clearly an unusual request.
My constituency office has an outdoor space. Would I be allowed to buy patio furniture? It's clear from looking at the file that there weren't any formal inquiries, but did someone from the member's office or the member, himself, reach out to finance services about it?
Once I know that, I'll comment further.
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
Daniel Paquette
2020-07-10 14:35
According to the notes in my report, the member didn't ask for any information, formally or informally, before buying the furniture.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
All right. Thank you.
This is a member with considerable experience, not just at the federal level. I think reimbursing a member for the purchase of patio furniture would set the wrong precedent. Had the member made some sort of attempt to contact the House administration, or had there been some ambiguity as to whether the expense was eligible, I'd be more inclined to consider the member's request.
The Board of Internal Economy should advise all members, especially new ones, that if they want to make an unusual purchase, they need to submit a formal request beforehand to make sure it's an eligible expense.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Paquette, would you care to comment?
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
Daniel Paquette
2020-07-10 14:37
No, thank you.
View Mark Strahl Profile
CPC (BC)
Thank you.
I certainly agree with the previous two colleagues who agree with the recommendation from the House administration. I think if you go down this road, perhaps members who do not have patio space.... Obviously, under no circumstances would the House administration approve creating a patio space for an existing office. To say that your office has room and you could put a little patio in a courtyard or expand your space to the outdoors—I don't think that is a reasonable expense for taxpayers.
We had an example earlier today of where a new member had an additional cost of $6,400. It was absorbed within this member's office budget, so you could argue that there was no additional cost to taxpayers. It was still within the existing budget. It seems to me this may be where members believe they have more experience, or they believe they know the rules, or they believe they won't be captured by the members' allowances and services manual. We're dealing with a number of people who were here in a previous regime, when there was a lot more discretion given to members on how they spent their office budgets, or we're dealing with new members who either don't lean on staff or don't seek information from their whips early enough in the process.
I would say this simply as a global measure. It seems to me that when the House administration is onboarding people, clearly, with the number of cases we're dealing with where people are printing and mailing householders on their own or buying patio furniture, there almost needs to be a “do not” circled in bright red ink. There's clearly some disconnect between what members believe they can do early on and what they can actually do. Ignorance of the rules should really not be an excuse here. We're here to make those judgment calls, but it seems to me that perhaps we can review this with the goal of avoiding these kinds of discussions in the future. I know that this is rare and is not a huge percentage, but clearly there are some members who believe they can do things that they clearly should not be doing. I'm hoping we can find a way to avoid those situations in the future.
I just make that as a broad comment, perhaps for the team that looks at onboarding. I wonder whether that needs to occur before the member is sworn in, almost as soon as they're announced as preliminary winners from Elections Canada, almost a “spend no money, do nothing, until you've talked to House administration financial management”. I throw it out there as maybe a way we can improve that system.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I listened to what my fellow members had to say. They seem to be focusing on the patio set, not on the item or its purpose. I more or less agree with them. I know this won't change the outcome, but it's still worth explaining.
Yes, he's an experienced member, but it didn't occur to him that the expense would be denied, because he was focused on the opportunity to meet with constituents in a safe outdoor setting with sturdy furniture made in Quebec of recycled materials. The furniture can also be used indoors. You saw the photos in the file. It's not a conventional patio set any member of the public can buy. It's special.
The Board of Internal Economy also needs to consider the fact that members in the regions can practise politics differently than those in heavily populated areas. More and more, members have office spaces with access to areas where they can meet with constituents outdoors. For example, my office is in a heritage building with a beautiful large gallery. I might've decided to buy chairs so I could meet with constituents outside, while still on the property where my constituency office is located. I think the member was under the impression that, if he furnished the space, it would give him a place where he could meet with more constituents or where people could eat, while adhering to physical distancing, especially during the pandemic.
Given the cost and the unusual nature of the expense, I see why he should have sought permission first, which he didn't. Nevertheless, I don't think we should be closed to the idea. I'll come back to what Pablo Rodriguez said about setting precedents and members buying barbecues. Let's not forget how much many members spend to put on barbecues for their constituents. It might save taxpayers money if we organized our own barbecues.
All that to say, it's not an idea we should reject out of hand. I don't think the Board of Internal Economy should take an overly conservative view of the matter. It should focus on the fact that practising politics differently also means providing access to spaces that may not have been available a few years ago.
Be that as it may, I realize I'm probably the only one who thinks we should broaden our view of a member's role and the ways they communicate with their constituents.
I know this request is going to be denied, but I want to make clear that I agreed with my fellow member's rationale. We will accept the Board of Internal Economy's decision.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Any further comments?
Do we have a consensus, or do we have approval for the report that's being presented to us right now?
Mr. Julian, did you have something to add to that? I noticed your hand went up.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
I want to be sure I understand. Is the House administration recommending that we not allow the expense to come out of the member's office budget?
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Yes, that's exactly right. Do we have unanimous agreement on the recommendation?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Hon. Anthony Rota: All right.
I'll just clarify that, if the recommendation isn't unanimous, the existing decision stands, in other words, the request is denied.
We're going to go in camera. I'm going to ask everyone to sign out for a few minutes, and we'll start again in 10 minutes. It's now 2:46. Let's say we will start again in camera at 2:55, if that's okay. That should work out well.
[Proceedings continue in camera]
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I want to welcome everyone.
Welcome to the sixth meeting of the Board of Internal Economy.
I want to thank everyone for coming and for being in our virtual space today. As you know, this is all done through video conference and it is being televised, so we have people out there watching. I'm sure they're all very riveted to the screen. Welcome to everyone who's watching.
We'll start off today with the minutes from our previous meeting. Is everyone okay with the meeting? Are there any comments? Should anything be brought up?
We'll accept the minutes and continue.
Two, is there any business arising from the previous meeting? Okay.
The next step, then, number three, is the ratification of the walk-arounds. The three items were signed by all members in the past couple of weeks.
The first item is communication with constituents during the COVID-19 situation. Is everyone still okay with that? We can ratify it? Good, that one's done.
The second item is House of Commons preventative measures during the COVID-19 situation. Is everybody fine with that? Then we'll continue.
The third item is constituency office expenses related to COVID-19 prevention in the workplace. Is everybody fine with that as well?
Yes, Mr. Strahl.
View Mark Strahl Profile
CPC (BC)
I'm sorry, but just going back a bit—we kind of cruised through this—I don't believe I signed off on the “communicating with constituents” part. We moved quite quickly through this, and I'm trying to follow along on my iPhone. I have a question on this part of the agenda.
I guess printing and mailing services restarted today. The previous policy allowed us to print materials in our ridings until June 30. I just want to make sure we're still being allowed to print materials in our ridings until June 30. I'm a little unclear as to whether or not that's allowed for all products. Is it still strictly for COVID-19-related communications? How strictly is that being interpreted?
I know that a lot of our colleagues will want to move ahead, but I just want to make sure we aren't being too restrictive on printing in the ridings scenario. I think it will help clear the backlog right now if we do allow some flexibility for printing to occur in the ridings. I just want clarification on how that clause is being interpreted.
Rebekah Kletke
View Rebekah Kletke Profile
Rebekah Kletke
2020-06-01 15:09
The purpose of our presentation today is to give an update on the original “communicating with constituents during the COVID-19 situation” initiative, as well as to ask for an extension of the policy changes that were put into effect surrounding that initiative. As well, we'll be talking a little about some adjustments we've made internally to the services we'll be providing to MPs.
Very quickly on your question, Mr. Strahl, on the content for the current initiative that allows MPs to print externally, we are reviewing that content and ensuring there is some COVID-19, but we are not applying a strict percentage on the content to allow it to go ahead or not with external printers.
During the implementation of the communicating with constituents program, we've been able to serve the needs of 150 MPs. Actually, this week, it's up to 200 requests that we've received. Those requests are currently at various stages of production. Those 150 requests alone have generated over 1,300 emails with external suppliers and MPs, and a lot of administrative back and forth. On average, there have been 12 days between the submission of a request and the delivery of the product to external providers for delivery to Canada Post, around the same time frames we see with our own printing and mailing services time frames.
There have been several other challenges related to the program. To your point, Mr. Strahl, we see expanding content needs and other service needs coming in, such as envelopes and stationery. The availability of Canada Post has been a challenge, as well as availability of external suppliers in some regions of the country. The challenges are outlined in detail in the submission you received last week.
Even though we've been able to find solutions to some of the challenges with the program, we have still decided to reopen the printing and mailing services to meet the needs of MPs. We will be reopening with a limited format in order to continue to expedite the production time frames and distribution of materials.
Another key aspect of limiting the formats will allow us, as the House administration, to manage our staffing levels and respect physical distancing protocols on the floor of our production facility. We keep the health and safety of our employees front of mind in this decision. Other services, such as envelope processing and personalized stationery, will also be available to members. The program approved by the board on April 17 will continue to be available to members to communicate COVID-19-related messages with external service providers until the end date originally approved by the board.
The decision we're seeking from you today is to consider extending the policy changes related to the inclusion of logos and COVID-19-related messages from local community, government or not-for-profit organizations that would be of interest to constituents and to encourage donations for registered Canadian charities on matters related to COVID-19 in printing content for the remainder of the fiscal year, whether it's printed internally or externally.
We look forward to expanding the suite of printing services to meet the evolving communication needs of MPs, and I will be happy to take your questions.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Actually, I want to make sure I understand what this is all about. You're proposing to extend until the end of the fiscal year, March 2021, the suspension of regulations and policy that were supposed to end on June 30.
You also suggest that members of Parliament could communicate information related to COVID-19 through advertisements for food banks, or solicit donations that are related to COVID-19. Having said that, will we also be able to communicate content that is not related to COVID-19 in future parliamentary mailings?
Before the House was suspended, several members had already sent business cards or stationery to the printing department. Will the work of the printing department resume where it left off or will requests related to other aspects be set aside altogether?
Rebekah Kletke
View Rebekah Kletke Profile
Rebekah Kletke
2020-06-01 15:15
Briefly, I would say yes to both questions.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
In short, if members have put work on hold, work which was delayed because of the suspension, that work will resume. Do I understand you correctly?
View Mark Strahl Profile
CPC (BC)
I apologize for jumping ahead, Mr. Rota. Clearly, I should have just waited for item number four. I appreciate Rebekah's presentation.
Again, we're extending the policy until March 2021, but we are only extending the external printing exemption until June 30. Is that what we agree to?
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
Daniel Paquette
2020-06-01 16:02
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I am here today to present a request for exception pertaining to a member's expense claim for external printing. The submission provides a summary of the timelines and the facts of the situation.
The expense claim is for external printing in excess of the 5,000 copy limit allowed in the current member's policy. The member incurred these expenses during the period after the internal printing facilities were closed and before the board approved its alternative measures during the COVID pandemic.
The member's policy requires that all printing in excess of 5,000 similar copies must be done through our internal printing facilities to ensure conformity to the policy and, very importantly, access to the preferred mail rates. The current policy also makes the member personally responsible for any amount in excess of the allowed limits.
Given the current situation, the member is asking the Board of Internal Economy to consider a departure from existing practices. The administration proposed two options in the submission. The first option would be to maintain current practices and have the member be personally liable for the excess amount. The second option would be to allow an exceptional waiver and that the excess amount be charged to the budget of the member's office.
We are seeking direction from the Board of Internal Economy on this matter.
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2020-06-01 16:03
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
It's not a question; it's a comment.
We make a lot of requests for people who make mistakes, and it's very uncommon that I would suggest a member bring this forward.
I appreciate that normally these matters wouldn't come forward, but after I spoke with Mr. Blois, I realized it was an honest mistake that was happening around wanting to get out information on COVID-19. We did change the policy a couple of weeks later, and in this case, the member is proposing that he charge his member's—
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2020-06-01 16:06
I was just going to say that the member acknowledges that he made a mistake. I just feel that it was an honest mistake. It was an effort to communicate around COVID-19, and I know there was a lot of anxiousness that a lot of members had. The policy for external printing was changed a few weeks later.
The member is not proposing to charge the House of Commons central budget, but is suggesting that he charge his own MOB. Given that it would go against his own MOB, and given the fact that I think the error was made innocently, and having had conversations with him, I would seek approval from the board to provide support on that basis.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
My question is for Mr. Paquette.
Are many of the members who inadvertently made this mistake paying for the expense without having requested an exception from the Board of Internal Economy?
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
Daniel Paquette
2020-06-01 16:07
I am currently aware of only one case, but it is not at all on the same scale. We are only talking about a few hundred dollars. It is not on the same scale as the situation we are talking about.
View Mark Strahl Profile
CPC (BC)
Quickly, I know what we're going to do here is to charge the member's office budget. It didn't take a lot of work to figure out that a lot of the staff members had come over from Mr. Brison, so I'm a little unsure. I've been involved in politics at the staff and MP levels for a number of years, and you've never been able to do what he did, certainly not without the approval of PAMS.
He was a month ahead of where the policy was, but there was apparently enough COVID stuff in there to allow it. Was the printing expense within the acceptable range? I know that issue was raised in our previous document. The cost for some external suppliers was way too high and PAMS had to go back and either say no or negotiate. Was the range acceptable?
I certainly have never heard of members going out on their own and mailing things under anything other than the negotiated frank rate or the rate for unaddressed ad mail. What was the additional cost because the member went outside of the contract for unaddressed ad mail that the House of Commons has with Canada Post?
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
Daniel Paquette
2020-06-01 16:10
The member did meet the requirement. There was COVID-19 content in the document. The printing itself was within reasonable parameters, and the cost for printing, although a little higher than we'd seen, was not excessive.
The big part of the cost was the post, because, from my understanding, it was the printer who went to Canada Post and got the normal bulk rate, no corporate discounts whatsoever. Canada Post was not aware that this mailing was for a member of Parliament, so it didn't invoke any of the advantages we have for that. That's where the large majority of his excess cost came from. It's the postage, because it was a third party that mailed it for him.
View Mark Strahl Profile
CPC (BC)
That's my question. Are we allowed to use our MOB for bulk mailing? We're trying to retroactively cover him a bit here because of what he did. He made a mistake, but does the mistake ever extend to...? What is the cap on postage? Is that the 5,000? Is that where that comes in? I'm trying to understand this.
We want to give some grace when mistakes are made, even though we might have questions about them, but the mailing part is concerning to me because we have never had a policy allowing us to contract for bulk mail, not that I'm aware of. That is what I'd like to know. What was the difference in cost between what he did and what would have been done had he waited a month and been approved?
Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
Daniel Paquette
2020-06-01 16:12
I don't have the exact difference between what it would have cost had we processed it ourselves and what it cost him doing it on his own.
The 5,000 limit is just on the printed materials. There has to be more than 50% difference in the material if you are going to print more than 5,000. At this point, we really don't have that many specifics in our guidelines on the limitations of using any kind of mail couriers for packages or things of that nature. We don't have that in our parameters. It's really just about the printed copies.
I don't have the specifics of what would have been the cost for us, at this point. We can probably get it for you after the meeting.
View Mark Strahl Profile
CPC (BC)
I would just say, if we take members at their word that it was an honest mistake, and obviously the buck stops with those of us who sign of on these things, so, if it's charged to his MOB.... We don't want to put a member out $13,000 or whatever it would be, but I would simply say I hope that when other members come with the same honest mistake type of defence, that we extend similar grace in those situations and not simply act based on what colour hat we wear around the table.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Number 7.
This item concerns the use of House resources to hold an event in a constituency office.
Mr. Julian, do you have a question?
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Let's put Mr. Julian on the list.
Before continuing the discussion on item number 7, the use of House resources to hold an event in a constituency office, I want to inform the Board of Internal Economy that a letter was received yesterday afternoon from the member concerned.
In a letter to the clerk, the member indicated that the event was parliamentary in nature and that no partisan activities were held at or during the event. However, the member takes full responsibility for the error contained in the initial invitation and has enclosed a cheque reimbursing the cost of the event.
Mr. Julian, did you have any comments?
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
I'm glad to hear that. I thought the email was not good, but the member's response was very quick in notifying the clerk, in withdrawing the email and also in submitting the cheque. Unless other members have comments, I have no further comments.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Are there any other comments? If we have unanimous consent on this one, we'll move on.
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Hon. Anthony Rota: Very good.
We'll pause for about two minutes and 45 seconds to allow everyone to leave while we go in camera.
[Proceedings continue in camera]
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