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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
We're going to start the agenda, item number one, the minutes from the previous meeting—I just want to check—from February 25, 2021.
Are they okay?
We are in order—I see heads nodding—so we will move on.
Let's proceed with item 2 on the agenda, business arising from the previous meeting. For your information, we are looking at resource utilisation for parliamentary events, audio headsets for virtual Parliament, and technical observations on hybrid proceedings and information concerning committee witnesses.
Mrs. DeBellefeuille, you have the floor.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
First, I would like to thank those who worked on the dashboard requested at the last meeting. I read it carefully. I would like to thank Mr. Janse's team, who probably worked with the IT team to compile the data. The dashboard shows that 90% of the witnesses now participate in technical tests, and this has certainly had a positive impact on the work of the committees. There are far fewer technical difficulties and interpretation issues. So it's satisfying and reassuring to see that, when we make an effort to put a solution in place, it pays off. So I think it was a good decision to ask for technical tests, and we see that it is a success.
I'd like to ask a quick question, for personal interest, regarding the headset purchases. A lot of headsets were purchased initially and given to members and staff. However, how many witnesses were there, and how many of them received headsets?
The dashboard says that headsets cannot always be delivered on time because witnesses are often called at the last minute. Perhaps I missed it when I looked at the tables, but I would like to know how many headsets were purchased and how many reached the witnesses on time.
Is that figure available?
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
We will ask. I don't know who has that information.
Stéphan Aubé
View Stéphan Aubé Profile
Stéphan Aubé
2021-03-25 11:10
I can give the answer, Mr. Speaker.
We sent out 834 headsets and there were a total of 2,120 witnesses.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Can you tell me the percentage?
Stéphan Aubé
View Stéphan Aubé Profile
Stéphan Aubé
2021-03-25 11:10
Let me do the math quickly.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Stéphan Aubé
View Stéphan Aubé Profile
Stéphan Aubé
2021-03-25 11:10
It's 834, which is almost 40%, Mrs. DeBellefeuille.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
So, 40% of the witnesses received headsets.
Stéphan Aubé
View Stéphan Aubé Profile
Stéphan Aubé
2021-03-25 11:10
That's right, Mrs. DeBellefeuille.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
So, 40% of the witnesses received their headsets on time. However, the technical tests have helped us understand that the key is not only the headset, but especially the quality of the microphone. This means that some witnesses who did not receive headsets are encouraged to use their personal microphones to have better sound for the interpreters.
Is that correct?
Stéphan Aubé
View Stéphan Aubé Profile
Stéphan Aubé
2021-03-25 11:11
That is correct, Mrs. DeBellefeuille. The technical tests enable us to check whether the microphones the witnesses will use are good enough for them to participate in our meetings. That's what the technical tests allow us to do. We can identify those issues, and if we do the technical tests early in the day, we can notify the witnesses if their microphones do not meet our standards. For example, Apple AirPods are not suitable. We are not saying the microphone is not good, but Bluetooth technology is less recommended for our meetings because we want to protect our interpreters.
View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Okay.
Thank you very much.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Are there any comments on the second item?
Mr. Richards, do you have a comment on item number two?
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
There are two things. I have a follow-up to some of Madame DeBellefeuille's questions.
In regard to some of the incidents you had with the interpreters with injuries and whatnot, I notice that 65 incidents were reported in the first six months and there have only been 16 in the last six months.
Has that decline continued? Has the number plateaued? What do we attribute that to? Is it just better use of the headsets?
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I believe that's for Monsieur Aubé.
Stéphan Aubé
View Stéphan Aubé Profile
Stéphan Aubé
2021-03-25 11:12
Basically, Mr. Richards, we did some in the fall—in September and then October. We started this process in July. We replaced some of the audio consoles in the interpretation booths to ensure that the interpreters had better protection. The new consoles are meeting higher standards for hearing protection. This is the major factor in why we have seen the number of incidents go down. I would say that the number of incidents is not going up. The number of incidents has really gone down and are staying down, sir.
We're also working on many other factors, as Madame DeBellefeuille talked about. We're ensuring that we have the proper microphones. We're working with the Translation Bureau to do more testing and to validate if we need to increase the norm as it relates to microphones.
We're doing many things, sir, to ensure that the quality is there in the audio chain, from the user participating in Zoom right up to our interpreter's booth and that health and safety is respected for the interpreters.
Eric Janse
View Eric Janse Profile
Eric Janse
2021-03-25 11:14
Could I add one thing? I'm sorry, Mr. Richards. I have one quick point.
You should also bear in mind that over the past various months, the number of meetings and events has increased. While we see a decrease in injuries—which we hope will continue—we have to keep in mind that it was in parallel with an increase in the number of meetings and activities.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
On a percentage basis, it's an even better decrease. That's good news.
The other thing I wanted to touch on is the resources for committee meetings and other items. In that area, you've expressed some concerns about arriving at a point where we may get to a bit of a breaking point, for lack of a better way of putting it, in use of resources. I'm really concerned about that. I wanted to probe a little bit about it.
Since the beginning of the pandemic and probably even more so after prorogation, we've seen a bit of a trend toward longer meetings and ones that are running more than 15 minutes, or even longer, beyond the projected time they would end.
I'm wondering if you've done any analysis of the reasons behind that increase or trend toward longer meetings. We've noticed a lot of Liberal filibusters at committee, for example. Have you tracked that and done an analysis on how much of that is being driven by the Liberal filibusters that are happening at committees to try to delay business?
If those filibusters were to end, what kind of a difference would that make to resource allocations and making this a little bit more manageable?
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
We'll go to you on that, Mr. Janse.
Eric Janse
View Eric Janse Profile
Eric Janse
2021-03-25 11:16
I'm a bit reluctant to comment on the issue of filibusters, but what I can mention, Mr. Richards, is that before the introduction of the voting app, votes in the House took a considerable amount of time and would delay committee meetings. By the time people went from voting to logging on to their committee meeting, it took a bit of time, delayed the start of committees and resulted in committees going longer. In general, just the time it takes to log in is slowing things down and accounts for why a lot meetings are going a bit beyond time. There's the time to log the witnesses in as well.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
I appreciate that.
I can see how it might appear that I'm trying to get partisan here. That's not the case. A lot of filibustering is taking place. My concern is that when that happens.... You're telling us that resources are sort of at a breaking point. I'm trying to figure out how much of that is actually a result of the filibusters and how much of that is just an issue of not being able to keep pace with the committees. If it's not being able to keep pace, it's a different issue than if it were as a result of filibusters, which are avoidable and preventable.
I'm trying to get a sense of this. I'm hearing that maybe you haven't analyzed how much of it is actually due to filibusters and how much of it is due to the sheer volume of meetings. Is that what I'm hearing?
Eric Janse
View Eric Janse Profile
Eric Janse
2021-03-25 11:18
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Is that something that you, maybe, would analyze? I would suggest that it might be a good idea to analyze that because, obviously, it's a different.... We're looking at a different problem if it's literally just that we can't keep up with the number of meetings—because we have to ensure that we can do that—versus if it's an issue of filibusters. That's a little less inside your control. That's why I suggest it.
Eric Janse
View Eric Janse Profile
Eric Janse
2021-03-25 11:18
It's a fair point. We can do a bit of an analysis of that and come back with some information for the next board meeting—or before.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Great. That would be appreciated. Thank you.
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Our next person on the schedule is Mr. Julian, followed by Mr. Holland.
However, before I go to Mr. Julian, Mr. Richards mentioned the microphone being...the quality and the health of our interpreters. I just want to remind all of the people who are on today that it's best if the arm is about halfway between your nose and your upper lip so that we can avoid the popping sound. That will take into consideration the health of our interpreters, whom we care about so much.
Monsieur Julian.
View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
Sorry, Mr. Speaker, could I interject before we move on?
To be clear, they've asked me to put it closer to my mouth.
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