Hon. Anthony Rota - 13:09
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.
Hon. Anthony Rota - 13:10
Hon. Anthony Rota - 13:10
Hon. Anthony Rota - 13:11
Hon. Anthony Rota - 13:25
Thanks very much, Mr. Chair.
Thank you, Mr. Stanton, for your presentation today. Having been part of the first iteration of the Centre Block working group, I appreciate all the time and effort that I know members of the working group are putting in.
I have a comment and then a couple of questions.
My comment is that I certainly appreciate that we're not going for what many of us considered to be the Cadillac option in terms of building the visitor welcome centre. The larger option was much more expensive. We're talking about over $110 million in savings, if my memory is correct, and I think that's very appropriate.
Mr. Stanton, perhaps you or one of the dedicated public servants here could explain what that means in terms of cutting back those requests that came forward. There were a lot of requests, as part of that larger option, around committee rooms for the Senate, which quite frankly didn't seem necessary. For the people who are watching today from the press gallery and from the public, it would be good to know, I think, what we're paring away.
Second, I don't see a recommendation around the House of Commons chamber itself. Could you elaborate a bit more on what you think the decision-making point is and will be around the House of Commons chamber?
Bruce Stanton - 13:26
Hon. Anthony Rota - 13:31
Thank you very much.
With apologies to Claude, who's in a very hot building, and Dominic, whose boat is idling nearby, I do have a number of questions about this. I think this is a very important decision point for us.
First of all, Bruce, you've indicated that you're not running again in the next election, and I would like to express my disappointment. This is my first opportunity to salute your great career. You will be missed whenever that happens—assuming, of course, I'm successful whenever that next election comes. We'll miss you when you do take your well-earned retirement. Perhaps Dominic can host you at his cottage.
I have a couple of questions on the proposed recommendations. It's interesting; these decisions, I find, are always presented with two terrible solutions and one “just right” solution that we seem to be funnelled into. We have that now with the medium option: The porridge is just right.
The medium option is referred to as being 32,600 square metres. Last year when we looked at this, the large option was 27,844 square metres. There is some talk here in the briefing about the net and gross building size, but it appears from the outside that the medium option is now bigger than the previous large option. What am I reading there incorrectly? Can you explain to me whether or not this entire project has grown since the last time we made a decision on it?
That's my first question, Mr. Chair. I do have more. I don't know whether you want me to just rattle off all my questions and have them all handled or do them one at a time.
Hon. Anthony Rota - 13:33
Rob Wright - 13:34
Thank you for clearing that up.
This builds a bit on Mr. Julian's comments, I think. I understand the visitor experience that Bruce talked about, giving constituents the opportunity to learn more about Parliament when they're below ground, before they're actually brought up into the visitor gallery, etc. I still want to know what functions will be contained in this option.
The costing report prepared for the department this spring said that the recommended option had a number of things. It said it would include public food services, three committee rooms and a multi-purpose room for the Senate. Did that translate over into this option, what was prepared in the costing analysis for the department? Certainly, that would be an expansion of the visitor experience. I don't believe there are public food services.
Again, recognizing that this is a shared building between the Senate and the House, it seems to me that the parliamentary functions that are being proposed here are primarily on the Senate side. Am I correct on that?
Bruce Stanton - 13:37
Finally, I want to talk a bit about the costing.
The building and construction costs are estimated at $530 million, but a further $203.5 million in various contingencies and escalation has been added, which is about 38% of the cost. Is it normal for nearly 40% to be budgeted for contingencies and escalation? One of the line items, $54 million, is called “escalation to mid-point of construction”. I don't know what that means, and I'd like to understand that.
Again, is it normal for a procurement project to have a 40% escalation clause built into it, and what does that particular “escalation to mid-point of construction” mean?
Bruce Stanton - 13:40
Daniel Paquette - 13:59
Mr. Chair, did we actually say yes or no to the recommendations in item three? I just want to make sure we didn't have a long conversation for....
Hon. Anthony Rota - 13:59
Hon. Anthony Rota - 14:00
Hon. Anthony Rota - 14:05
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I note that the House administration budget was $186.6 million. The actual spend was $190.8 million, so $4.2 million more than anticipated was spent, I guess because members spent less and the monies were available for the House administration. Perhaps you just did say it and I misunderstood it, but what caused that $4.2 million spending over the anticipated budget?
Daniel Paquette - 14:06
Hon. Anthony Rota - 14:07
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
Thank you, Mr. Paquette.
These financial statements are a bit like the economic update that would have been provided just before the pandemic hit. We're talking about March 31. On March 13, the decision was made to suspend parliamentary activities. I find this interesting. I don't have any issue with the financial statements. This seems very clear, including the significant decreases in committee expenses and parliamentary exchanges.
When I look at the largest and much smaller expenditures, I think that it would be worthwhile to hear how you think things will unfold this year. Since I'm in New Westminster and the other members are also at home, it seems that travel expenses are much smaller. There are no parliamentary exchanges either. The committees are meeting virtually. Does this raise or lower costs? I imagine that this lowers costs. In addition, many House administration employees are teleworking.
In your opinion, which expenditures will increase as a result of the pandemic and which expenditures will decrease significantly because of all the decisions made in the context of the pandemic?
Hon. Anthony Rota - 14:09
Michel Patrice - 14:14
Thank you, I guess. That's a tough bill to swallow, but thank you.
Hon. Anthony Rota - 14:15
Hon. Anthony Rota - 14:16
Mr. Chair, I'm sorry to be this guy the whole time.
Hon. Anthony Rota - 14:16
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.
Hon. Anthony Rota - 14:17
Hon. Anthony Rota - 14:18
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.
Hon. Anthony Rota - 14:20
Hon. Anthony Rota - 14:34
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.
Hon. Anthony Rota - 14:35