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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
We'll get this meeting started.
Welcome to our second meeting.
Our first meeting was a bit quick, but everything went well.
The first order of the day is the minutes of the previous meetings. Has everyone had a chance to look through them? Are we okay with them? For business arising from previous meetings, is there anything that should be brought up?
Mr. Strahl.
View Mark Strahl Profile
CPC (BC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I do appreciate how rushed the December meeting was for reasons that the Conservatives certainly remember. I did ask a question that I wanted to get some clarification on, just because when I went back I couldn't make the numbers work. Again, I know we were very rushed.
I did ask a question about the reduction in the allotment in the estimates for the Office of the Deputy Clerk. There's a reduction of nearly $200,000 for the personal office of the Deputy Clerk-Procedure, André Gagnon. At the time, I was told that this was because of a reallocation of the Press Gallery Secretariat to the Office of the Deputy Clerk-Administration. However, looking at that, it happened in the previous year.
I would that either to be clarified now or for it to be flagged so that someone can give me information on what that difference is, because I believe we were talking about different years when the Press Gallery Secretariat was explained as the reason for that. I'll just flag that. I don't expect that the clerk was expecting that question today, so if I can just put it on the record that I would like to get some more information on that, I'd appreciate it.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Charles Robert
View Charles Robert Profile
Charles Robert
2020-02-27 11:21
No, we'll look into it. I want to make sure that we provide you with correct information, so rather than doing something off the cuff, I will come back to you.
View Mark Strahl Profile
CPC (BC)
Thank you.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Very good.
Are there any other questions concerning the business arising from previous meetings?
There aren't any. We'll move on to the third item.
Ratification of a walk-around special committee.
If there aren't any questions, we'll continue.
Everyone's in accordance. They've already signed.
We'll move on to number four, parliamentary precinct
We have two speakers addressing the fourth item, which concerns the long-term vision and plan for the parliamentary precinct. These speakers are Michel Patrice, deputy clerk, and Stéphan Aubé, chief information officer.
Gentlemen, you have the floor.
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2020-02-27 11:22
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Actually, Susan Kulba will start. She and Ms. Garrett will provide an update on the activities that have taken place since our last presentation in June.
Susan Kulba
View Susan Kulba Profile
Susan Kulba
2020-02-27 11:22
Good morning and thank you, Mr. Speaker and members of the board.
Today, as Michel said, we're joined by Jennifer Garrett from PSPC, the director general responsible for the Centre Block program, and Duncan Retson, the ADM at PSPC. We will be providing you with an update on the LTVP for the rehabilitation of the Centre Block since we last met in June before the summer break and election. We have a small presentation.
Mr. Patrice will be speaking to parliamentary engagement and the way forward. When we were last here, we were joined by the working group members tasked by this board to work with us as a means of engaging the Parliament and in the decision-making for the LTVP. At that time, there was a recommendation to proceed with the construction hoarding location and to develop the design for the interpretive panels. A recommendation for a scalable approach on the size of our welcome centre was also approved to allow Public Works to move forward with the project while allowing us time to engage with parliamentarians to develop the final functional requirements. We have been working together with PSPC over this time, doing our homework and preparing information and options for that engagement.
In parallel, there has been a lot of activity going on, and Jennifer will speak to that in a little more detail. As we move forward with the functional programming and schematic design, there will be a fair number of key decisions requiring engagement and approval. We will bring to your attention some of those key elements and approaches to developing conceptual options so that we can continue to engage parliamentarians in revitalizing the Centre Block. Our goal is to ensure that we achieve an optimal balance between restoring one of the most important heritage buildings in Canada and ensuring that it meets the future needs of parliamentarians.
I'll pass it on to Jennifer.
Jennifer Garrett
View Jennifer Garrett Profile
Jennifer Garrett
2020-02-27 11:24
Good morning, everyone.
The Centre Block rehabilitation is a pinnacle project of our current long-term vision and plan, which is also under update.
In terms of the program, it remains on track, and several key milestones have been accomplished since our last engagement with BOIE. Enabling projects are largely now complete, allowing the construction manager the ability to commence demolition and abatement activities in support of both the rehabilitation of the Centre Block and construction of the phase two visitor welcome centre. We've commenced the excavation of underground infrastructure to ready for large-scale excavation activities that will come in the near future.
The comprehensive assessment program to understand the building condition is now complete. Results of this program will be outlined later in this briefing and have been integrated into the ongoing schematic design process. This program has provided valuable information and enabled the team to safely commence the demolition and abatement that I referred to earlier.
In collaboration with the administration of the House of Commons, we have advanced the functional program and launched the schematic design process. We are now at the point of input for parliamentarians in order to make the key decisions that have been referenced and will be discussed later in this presentation, to allow completion of the schematic design process and continuance of the rehabilitation program.
The rehabilitation of the Centre Block endeavours to provide modern accommodations to support parliamentary operations while retaining core heritage elements of the building. The scope has two main elements. The first is to modernize the Centre Block so that it can support parliamentary operations well into the 21st century.
The second is to construct phase two of the visitor welcome centre, which will primarily do the following. It will establish a safe security screen outside the Centre Block building footprint. It will provide additional parliamentary support space. It will connect the triad, the Centre Block, the East Block and the West Block, into one integrated parliamentary complex. It will enhance parliamentary outreach by providing a curated parliamentary visitor experience program that will supplement the current tours that are ongoing on the Hill.
The visual that you see on your screen represents a high-level visual impact of how that visitor welcome centre enables the connection of the triad into one parliamentary complex. It will not necessarily be constructed in that actual footprint.
A very big aspect of reducing risk on a large-scale heritage program like this rehabilitation is to find out as much as possible about the building and to have that information influence the schematic design and downstream construction activities. Based on lessons learned and a best-practices approach, the assessment program for this rehabilitation has been the most comprehensive undertaken to date in the precinct.
The program was launched in 2018 before the relocation of parliamentary operations from the Centre Block to the West Block, but given the invasive nature, the program significantly increased in momentum and was completed once the Centre Block was emptied. This program, as I indicated, is now at an end, and its findings have already been incorporated into the schematic design process.
Just to give you a sense, here is a summary of the key findings that we have taken out of the program, but maybe I'll just bring to the attention of the members that it's a highlight of the few high-level key takeaways.
We have gained a comprehensive understanding of the heritage elements, which will enable the project team to develop a robust restoration strategy. We have determined that the underlying structural steel is in better condition than expected in many areas, which will create efficiencies during the structural reinforcement process. We know where the underground infrastructure is, the associated site conditions, and we are now clear for digging from an archeological perspective. We know, in great detail, the type and location of designated substances, so we can develop a comprehensive abatement strategy.
The biggest challenge, the key challenge for us that has come out of the assessment program—and it's not insignificant—is that we were really hoping that, when we started to dig behind walls and look above ceilings, we would find some room to provide modern building infrastructure like heating and cooling, and unfortunately, we have found very little space to run these services.
Despite this, we will be able to address these challenges. We will just have to use innovative approaches to do so, and we are already working with organizations like the House of Commons administration, their IT PMO organization and our designer to address the challenges and find ways to run modern services through the building.
The building modernization is only one aspect of the program. As previously indicated, we've been working with parliamentary administrations on their respective parliamentary functional programs. In this case, this also involves the Senate of Canada as a key client, and the Library of Parliament. We are at the point now where we're coming to you today to start the engagement process to get your views and incorporate them into the decision-making process to ensure that the building, when it is returned to you, not only functions from a building modernization perspective but also effectively meets the needs of parliamentarians well into the 21st century.
From a design perspective—and we will get into more key decisions later on in the presentation—we are facing challenging decisions such as the size and configuration of the House of Commons chamber, including public lobbies and galleries, and the space and location of parliamentary offices and committee rooms throughout the new complex.
For the visitor welcome centre, we're looking to establish, with your input, the size and operational functionality of that facility and to consider the location configuration and entry points for both public and parliamentary business into that complex.
At this point, I'm going to transfer the presentation back to my colleague, Susan Kulba, to take you through the chamber.
Susan Kulba
View Susan Kulba Profile
Susan Kulba
2020-02-27 11:31
Thank you, Jennifer.
The House of Commons chamber is one of the most significant spaces in the Centre Block. It's where Parliament resides, it's where you work. It holds symbolic and traditional significance to Canada, and it's one of the most recognized spaces within the building. It's one of the key elements that will require some consultation.
The House has been working with PSPC and design consultants over the break to do our homework, notably with respect to the chamber galleries and lobby, so that we could be well prepared to engage and start the conversation with parliamentarians about these spaces. The chamber requires change. We need to consider the long-term use and the investment and focus on what kind of change and how best to achieve it.
Our approach was to start with basic information on the existing chamber, the Fair Representation Act, and feedback we have received to date from parliamentarians, including PROC. There are a number of common trends from members so far.
In doing our homework, we have considered the Fair Representation Act, which came into effect in 2015, and it indicates that the average demographic projections would put the MP count at about 460 in roughly 50 years from now. By the time we return to Centre Block, the projections could put the number of MPs in a range of 350 to 370.
Knowing that the growth will need to be accommodated for future parliaments, there are a number of considerations to help achieve that. We could change the seating and the furniture; we could adjust procedures to be more flexible; and/or we could increase the size of the chamber.
These considerations emphasize the tension between space, functionality, accessibility and heritage. Key decisions regarding the chamber are required early in the project and during schematic design, because this direction will impact the structural design, which comes first.
We will also need to consider many of the elements in terms of life safety. They don't currently meet code, and we need to take all that into account while we're considering other factors.
There will need to be interventions to the heritage fabric of these spaces to accommodate the many requirements. What will be important is how we do that. We need to do it in an appropriate manner. We need to do it respectfully and in a complementary way to the original Pearson design while building a new layer of lasting heritage relevant to your time in Parliament and the history of the building. To do that successfully, we need to have great consultation with parliamentarians.
Given the challenge of addressing all those issues, we have undertaken studies on the chamber with all that basic information, and we have developed options to demonstrate the range of possibilities. Those options are at a conceptual level, but we would like to engage further with in-depth consultations to develop the direction on which way to proceed.
As mentioned earlier, the visitor welcome centre had preliminary approval by the board for a scalable size so that Public Works could continue with the project, but we still need to come back and work on the functional requirements with the House of Commons, the Senate, the Library of Parliament and PPS.
The building is a welcome centre and is an important element for security and interconnection of the buildings on the Hill, which all work together to accommodate the key functions of Parliament.
Over the break, the parliamentary partners continued to work with PSPC on two key elements of the visitor welcome centre: first, to refine the functional requirements and further develop the three options for consideration and in-depth consultation, and the final program requirements to determine the final size; second, to study the entrance design strategy to ensure that the visitor welcome centre phase 2 works in concert with the existing buildings and key entrances, which will remain in Centre Block, and to focus on providing secure and efficient entry for parliamentarians, business visitors and the public while meeting the operational functionality and considering intervention in the heritage landscape.
We will be seeking input from parliamentarians on the review of the public entrance and your requirements for meeting and greeting constituents in the visitor welcome centre. We will be discussing in depth the advantages and disadvantages of each to ensure that the most suitable option is pursued for further development in the schematic design.
Thank you.
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2020-02-27 11:36
We've outlined the decisions that we believe parliamentarians should be involved in and consulted on so that they can share their opinion and ultimately make a decision. A number of decisions will be required in the coming months to continue making progress on the project.
It's not my intent to go into all of those decisions. Obviously, the objective of this meeting is not to get one decision on any of those topics, but just to give you a sense of what needs to be reviewed in designing the program and designing the building. I would say that governance is more the objective, in terms of putting that on the board's agenda to discuss and obtain direction on where the board wants to go.
In a simplified way, the governance for the parliamentary precinct involves many players.
First, the legislative power, in this case the House of Commons, determines the requirements for buildings and offices.
The executive power is the custodian and is responsible for carrying out projects and implementing budgets.
There are obviously other stakeholders, including the Department of Canadian Heritage, the National Capital Commission and the City of Ottawa.
The devil's in the details. That's simplified, but when it's time to really get to answers and discussion, the decision becomes a bit more complex. The parliamentary administration is the lead for engagement with parliamentarians. It is our responsibility to ensure that members are properly engaged to allow for effective decision-making as it relates to defining the requirements of your workplace for the next 100 years.
Historically, the board has been the decision-maker for LTVP and related projects.
In the previous Parliament, for example, the board appointed a working group that was created to help it make decisions. This concerned the excavation required for the future Visitor Welcome Centre.
We remember the discussions. It may not have been a perfect model yet, but the fact that you were kept informed and that you received help with making decisions was a step in the right direction.
I have reflected quite a bit over the past year on what could be an efficient decision-making process that would ensure that members are engaged in the level of details both on the requirements and potential cost of options.
Obviously, you must receive enough information to ensure that you're satisfied and assured that any potential decision will be made with full knowledge of the facts. In my view, our obligation as an administration is to act transparently and to respond to your requests and concerns.
I would add that our job is to make recommendations. Your job is to study them.
I believe that the working group named by the board is a good model, but we also need to reflect on the interplay with PROC, which also has an interest in the Centre Block or the projects. For example, as Susan has mentioned in terms of the chamber, one of the big decisions that will need to be made is whether or not to expand the chamber. This has implications and I believe it merits the necessary study by members to arrive at a conclusion. I believe that PROC would be well placed to do that kind of study and make recommendations to the board.
For example, if the decision is not to expand the chamber, we know because of the growth in the number of MPs that the rules will have to be adapted. Because of the growth in those numbers, assigned seating will no longer be possible. There are all sorts of procedural implications that would need to be examined with respect to the rules.
I believe that another aspect could be the level of effort for other types of decisions, as we did in the past for the visitor welcome centre, for example. I suggest that for a series of the decisions, it will take hours of iterative discussions between members, the administration and Public Works, so that the members, whoever they are, feel they have all of the information necessary to make a decision in the best interest of the House of Commons, and also Canadian taxpayers.
I would suggest that the level of effort, in terms of the members engaged in that exercise, would be a minimum of probably two hours per week.
I'm leaving you with that at a very high level. That's how I see the way that everybody could work in a complementary fashion in a working group, PROC and the board itself. I will leave it at that.
I am ready for questions.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
We have a running list for questions and comments, with Mr. Holland, followed by Mr. Rodriguez.
We'll start with Mr. Holland.
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2020-02-27 11:42
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair/Mr. Speaker.
I am confused about which title to use.
I have a couple of things. First, thank you for the work done to date. This is a project that I think is near and dear to the hearts of all parliamentarians, but really Canadians. It is the symbol of our democracy in this country and it's not only an enormous expenditure of money, but this building represents a critical piece of heritage that I think all Canadians are invested in.
On that basis the consultation that is going to take place is exceptionally important, not only for the stakeholders who are going to be using the building—members of Parliament, staff, House officials, media and the public—but also, I think, because that heritage represents something important to people who never step foot in the building. We shouldn't lose sight of that.
When we're trying to think about how it functions for the purposes of our work, what that heritage means to the nation, I think, is incredibly important and, therefore, I have particular opinions. I won't go into them for long, but my viewpoint is that not a lot should be changed, and we have to try to work within the existing heritage.
I think a body does need to be created. A couple of things concern me on that. One is that we don't want to have two parallel processes with PROC and BOIE where we have two decision-making bodies where there is confusion.
I think the solution to that...and I am not suggesting we do it today, but I think we are probably going to need to do it very soon, is to have have a meeting of the Board of Internal Economy in the week that we're back to make sure that we get this issue done.
When you start working back in those timelines, I'm hearing that we have to have a decision on the size of the chamber before we leave for the summer. If you think about our setting up the committee and that committee having its meetings and hearing from people, then it has to take that decision to BOIE. We don't have a very long timeline, even if you triage those decisions on the basis that they need to be made on a prioritized basis.
I think one of the answers could be to have a committee that's populated with members of PROC and if there are people from BOIE who want to be on it, fine. We'll have to talk about its size and composition, but it would report back to this body, as the decision-making body. There would have to be a body that makes recommendations as opposed to just hearing input, because my fear would be that they would have all of these consultations and then we'd just get data dumped back at BOIE and we'd be left trying to thrash out all of this and we simply don't have the time or enough meetings to be able to do that work.
It would be my hope that the body would make recommendations to BOIE. It could be composed of members of PROC; therefore we'd have one decision-making channel. But given the timelines involved—and maybe we could flesh those out—am I correct in stating that without incurring costs and significant delays, we need to make a decision on the size of the chamber before we leave in June?
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2020-02-27 11:46
Okay, so just draw that backwards. That's not a lot of time.
I haven't had a chance to speak with my colleagues around the table, so I'm not suggesting that we make that determination today. That said, given the calendar and how it looks for March, I don't think we can put this off until the end of March when we meet because, by the time, we then constitute a committee and won't meet until mid-April. That gives it a couple of weeks to have consultations; that's not acceptable.
I have outlined my thoughts on it. I am open to other ideas, but I think we have to come to a determination and create that body when we come back after the constituency week in two weeks' time.
The only other point I'll mention is a question related to the relationship with the Senate, because some people are saying that we need to have this be a joint body with the Senate. I have some concerns with that because I think it's going to slow down the process.
In your conception, if we had two different bodies that were making recommendations, how would that input be consolidated into one decision? Is there a need to have that consultation on a joint basis, or if it were done separately, how do you metabolize the recommendations from both those bodies in such a way that they're not contradictory?
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2020-02-27 11:47
Being a shared building and a shared facility obviously creates another level of complexity with each House setting up its requirements, so it could have an impact on the overall project. As to how those dialogues take place between the two Houses, frankly I don't really have a response.
I'm going to talk about myself here. Our responsibility is basically to come to you with proposals and options, and listen to what your requirements are and what is the most taxpayer-responsible approach to what we're going to propose.
For example, if you look at the plans in the past in terms of the vision for the visitor welcome centre and the House of Commons requirements, one of the latter was that there be committee rooms in the visitor welcome centre. The team reviewing those requirements surveyed the committee rooms that we have across the precinct and the new committee rooms in this building that have been put online, and it is our collective view that we don't need committee rooms in the visitor welcome centre. We're well served with what we have around our facilities.
That is the type of work that we can do and the challenge for us that we need to address in terms of the requirements. Therefore, committee rooms are no longer a requirement for the visitor welcome centre.
I suspect that the other chamber may do exactly the same, but I cannot speak to that.
View Mark Holland Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Mark Holland Profile
2020-02-27 11:49
My thoughts are that this is so big that we can't get very deep into any of the details or we're going to get lost and never out of here. As expeditiously as possible, we need to create the body that is going to be responsible.
We need some time to talk among ourselves about what that body will look like. I have really big concerns about having a joint process with the Senate, but I don't necessarily want to get into that discussion now.
My thought would be to have a special meeting of BOIE the week we come back, two weeks hence. That would give us an opportunity to talk about exactly how that body would be composed, and then come back and make a determination in two weeks.
That would be my recommendation.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Next on the list is Monsieur Rodriguez, followed by Ms. Bergen, Mr. Julian and then Madame DeBellefeuille.
Mr. Rodriguez, you have the floor.
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Good morning, everyone.
First, just to refresh my memory, could you describe the consultation process with parliamentarians for this building?
Second, I gather that this space will be turned into a committee room later on. Is that right? If so, there's no real need for these types of rooms in the future Centre Block. Are there still discussions about this issue?
Lastly, you said there would be 460 members of Parliament in 50 years. Did I hear that right?
How many MPs will there be in 50 years from now?
Susan Kulba
View Susan Kulba Profile
Susan Kulba
2020-02-27 11:50
That is the average: 460 MPs. It's based on the census projections by Stats Canada and the Fair Representation Act.
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
Lib. (QC)
If we're talking about a 100-year plan, we have the number of 460 MPs in 50 years from now, but aren't we supposed to be working on the whole period of time?
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2020-02-27 11:51
Obviously, these are projections. We suspect that there's a point in time when Parliament will modify the—
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2020-02-27 11:51
—the representation and the balance, but we have to work with certain figures. For example, if you look at one of the plans for this chamber, it was projected that there would be 320 MPs, and we're now at 338.
These are projections based on population growth, and so on.
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
Lib. (QC)
You will need 230 MPs for a majority. That's just to say, because I won't be here in 50 years.
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2020-02-27 11:51
That's a projection, but as I said, obviously there are many things that can happen between now and then in terms of changes in the number or representation formula, and all of that.
What was your first question?
View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
Lib. (QC)
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2020-02-27 11:52
I'll give you my personal perspective on the consultation, because I wasn't here when the plans were made.
Basically, the decisions were made in such great detail that I would have found it appropriate for the parliamentarians to be consulted. However, the House of Commons Administration made those decisions.
The Board of Internal Economy has indeed, on several occasions, seen plans that I would describe as high level. However, when it came to things that mattered, such as office allocations and things of that nature, the parliamentarians weren't consulted. For example, the office allocations were done by the administration, which I find deplorable.
In terms of committee rooms, we do have four committee rooms in this building. One of the House plans includes a model that proposes the possibility of transforming the House by adding a floor and more committee rooms. However, at this point, it would be too early to say that this will happen, because we don't know the needs of the House 10 years from now. That said, we've built in some flexibility so that we can adapt the House to meet our needs when we return to the Centre Block.
I think that I answered your questions.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Candice Bergen Profile
CPC (MB)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I have a couple of things. First of all, I agree with much of what Mr. Holland said in terms of suggestions.
I'd like you to clarify your suggestion, Mr. Patrice. You mentioned that the group you were referring to needed to spend a minimum of two hours a week on this. Are you suggesting that there be a subgroup, away from this group? Perhaps you could repeat and clarify what you think would be a good solution to consultation.
Then I have another comment.
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2020-02-27 11:54
I talked about a subgroup of this group, but it could be another committee established using a different route. Definitely it would be a group that would delve into the details of the project. I estimate that the level of effort required for that group in terms of meeting time would be a minium of an average of two hours per week, because quite important discussions need to be had. The members, I suspect, as this happened with a past working group, will say that they need or want more information on a cost scenario and things like that. Then we need to prepare it, and then we meet again to pursue the discussion.
View Candice Bergen Profile
CPC (MB)
This is just a suggestion, but would it be helpful, after we maybe have another meeting and have some more discussions, if BOIE set out some guiding principles? For example, I think we've heard continuously that we want the House of Commons and Centre Block to be preserved as close to what they were when we left them, or as close to the same point. If that is the guiding principle, that answers many, many questions.
Is that something that would be helpful? If we set out...and maybe you come back with some of those guiding principles. Within those parameters, the working group, however it is established, would in a sense have fewer decisions to make.
View Candice Bergen Profile
CPC (MB)
Hypothetically, if that would be the guiding principle, then more floors probably wouldn't even be part of the equation.
I'm just throwing it out there as a suggestion. If we maybe establish some overall guiding principles and say, “Don't go out of these parameters”, then that would reduce some of the decision-making at the decision points.
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2020-02-27 11:56
Definitely guiding principles are always helpful in terms of guiding any person in decision-making. We presented draft guiding principles at the last meeting in June. We could distribute those again in a working document. You could then work on them in terms of, for example, the one that you're talking about.
Guiding principles are helpful. That being said, it's when you get into the granularity of things that guiding principles don't cover things. That's why the engagement with members is very important to us.
View Candice Bergen Profile
CPC (MB)
Yes, I agree. Maybe “guiding principles” is the wrong term. I think some specific parameters would.... When I look at some of the decisions that have to be made, they go all the way from keeping the House of Commons structure exactly as is to changing it drastically.
View Candice Bergen Profile
CPC (MB)
If we say we don't want it to be changed drastically, for example, then many of those decision points will be taken off the table—
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I'll now give the floor to Mr. Julian. Ms. DeBellefeuille will speak next, followed by Mr. Strahl.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I looked carefully at the entire document. I want to thank you for providing all this information. However, I don't see the budget figures. Is it because Public Works and Government Services Canada didn't provide approximate amounts for each option?
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2020-02-27 11:57
The construction manager, meaning Public Works and Government Services Canada, is responsible for the budgets.
I'll ask Ms. Garrett to explain the absence of costs at this stage.
Jennifer Garrett
View Jennifer Garrett Profile
Jennifer Garrett
2020-02-27 11:58
We really do understand that cost is a critical factor in determining and informing the decisions along with other key aspects like, as you indicated earlier, the heritage interventions and things like that. We would never ask parliamentarians to make decisions without understanding those cost details.
In terms of the functional programming, we are here to start the engagement process to see if we have those options right in terms of their functional capabilities to support parliamentary operations. From there we are happy to re-engage and come back to provide you cost ranges on what that might mean. We are at step one of a further discussion about cost to help inform the decision-making process.
The other aspect is the comprehensive assessment program. It's also a key factor in what we learned about the building and what that will involve in terms of modernization. The combination of the functional program and the base-building modernization ultimately inform a building scope, and it's only from there that you can baseline your cost scope and schedule. As you can imagine, there's a very big difference, just to take the chamber, for example, between remaining within the existing chamber versus completely deconstructing a very significant portion of the building and rebuilding it.
We are really not trying to not provide those details, and we're happy to come back with that information. We just need to know and get a better sense, as part of the initial engagement, as to whether the hard work we've done at the staff level with the House of Commons administration is landing in terms of options that make sense operationally for Parliament.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you for that.
There's no doubt that this is important to Canadians; it's the centre of Canadian democracy. At the same time, among those at this table, I represent the riding that's farthest away from Ottawa and most of my constituents will never come to Ottawa. They'll never see the House of Commons and Parliament Hill.
It's about making sure that we do justice to the Centre Block and to the importance of Parliament, but I would certainly disagree with any Cadillac approach where we're putting excessive funds into the building. I think, coming back to the comments that Ms. Bergen and Mr. Holland mentioned—I would agree with both of them—that we need to establish those principles as a starting point so that going into this, we know that we can provide direction. Perhaps, since we don't have the figures in front of us, it's very difficult to even imagine the scope of the project right now, but putting those principles into place can make a real difference.
As Mr. Holland mentioned, moving forward quickly is important because there's also a cost element to not making those decisions. I was part of the building committee that met prior to the election. We basically went with the stripped-down option, but that allowed for some flexibility about decisions post-election. The longer we delay the decisions, the more costs there are for the taxpayers. It's about finding that balance, moving forward immediately with the principles—I agree with Mr. Holland on that—and meeting in a couple of weeks.
I also agree with Mr. Holland on his real reservations about having a joint process with the Senate. We're the elected members. We're the ones who will have to justify decisions back to our voters, perhaps in a few months, perhaps in a few years, so I think, because of that, that there is a principle to our hearing from them but also providing the leadership on that. Moving forward quickly will be important. We'll move forward with principles so we can get this right and in a way that is reasonable to people across the country, including in New Westminster—Burnaby. People will say that we got it right on the House of Commons and Parliament Hill. It's a good building, and we didn't spend excessively to preserve the heritage and the symbolism that is the Parliament building.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Very good.
Ms. DeBellefeuille, you have the floor.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
First, Mr. Patrice, I want to thank you for the quality of the documents that we received in advance. As a result, we can better appreciate today's presentation.
I gather that you're inviting us to take a step forward rather than to simply participate in a committee. This process would continue over time. The process, which has started, would not end with our Parliament, but rather in several Parliaments.
I also understand that all recognized parties in the House of Commons are committed to working in a committee. Regardless of whether the whips or leaders change, the work must continue. In this way, the administration and the experts in the House will shape the new Parliament, with the support and advice of the members who spend a great deal of time there, sometimes even more time than in their own homes.
Perhaps we'll soon resolve one of your issues, and there will be 78 fewer seats in the House of Commons.
We think so, don't we, Mr. Rodriguez?
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
That's it. That may be one of the solutions.
All kidding aside, I agree. I share Mr. Holland's view that we should have a joint committee. I think that it's easier for you and for us to be together and to share our common concerns.
We can't be against a guiding principle. However, as a whip, I would like to have known one thing. Members are very busy in parliamentary committees right now. How do you view meetings every two weeks?
Will each two-hour period require decisions every week? We should have time to consult at least with the members of our parties. I don't see how one member can make a decision. It isn't a personal decision, but a decision shared by a few members of caucus, at least.
What do you think of this schedule whereby we meet every two weeks once the committee has started its work? How much work will be required between the two meetings to come up with recommendations or advice from our caucus members?
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2020-02-27 12:05
I think that it will vary. Obviously, we'll adapt to the consultation needs of the members of this working group.
I'll be honest. I think that some decisions will be simple. For example, I'm thinking of the Hall of Honour. I don't believe that anyone is expecting any changes to the Hall of Honour. On the other hand, other decisions will require a longer discussion or more extensive sharing of information.
I'm suggesting two hours a week to give you an idea of the level of effort required. I may be completely wrong, but it could take six hours of meetings—or three weeks, or a month—before a decision is made. There's no structured goal whereby, every two hours, three decisions must be made. It will depend on the topics discussed and the committee members' need for reflection and consultations.
In addition, it will depend on the amount of information needed. For example, if a cost projection is required to make a decision, I hope or dare hope that the members wouldn't make a decision without knowing the cost. If it takes a month to obtain the costs, it will take another month to make the decisions. In short, it will take as long as is necessary to make a decision. It's certainly not my goal to hold a gun to your head and say that you must make a decision now without considering the costs.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
That's fine.
I imagine that you have an idea of the sequence of events, from the first decision to the last, and ideally the costs involved. You must have a sense of how long it could take to make all the major decisions that guide the start of the work.
Is this specified in the document, or did I miss it?
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2020-02-27 12:07
It isn't really specified. However, in terms of the House, the halls are very important because they constitute your working environment. The visitors centre is important to us. We must move forward as quickly as possible with these areas.
That said, once again, we don't intend to rush you in your decision making. However, for the sake of responsiveness and to avoid delaying the project, at some point, we may work with parallel designs.
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2020-02-27 12:08
Yes, thank you. They would be concepts, parallel scenarios A or B. We would have already done some work on them once the decision is made.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
This will be my last comment, but I want to talk about something that concerns me. The issue is the space reserved for members who are young parents. The Bloc Québécois currently has about a dozen young members with young children. If we want to draw more young people or women towards politics, I think that we must also provide a space that makes it possible to balance the roles of parent and member.
The renovation of the West Block incorporated a family room, which I don't think is being used to its full potential. The idea is good, but perhaps that room doesn't necessarily meet all the needs identified by the members of my party. I'm thinking of the room's location, size and design.
I don't know whether this issue is part of your plans, but I want each party to have a space that I'll call a “family room,” where parliamentarians could meet with their spouses while waiting to make a speech, and cradle a child and work at the same time. I think that we must keep up with the times. We made the effort to create a family room here. However, if we want to look to the future, I think that we must be mindful of this issue. The needs will be even greater in this area.
It may not be too late for you to bear this in mind, Ms. Kulba.
Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2020-02-27 12:10
Thank you. That's also one of our main concerns.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
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