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Daniel Paquette
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Daniel Paquette
2020-11-19 11:26
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Actually, the service was introduced several months after the last election and calls are still coming in, as it is a point of contact for members of Parliament in their constituency offices. The various leases contain somewhat special clauses, which sometimes require payment of shared fees and the annual calculation of changes in costs.
We also have the renovations. It's important to ensure that the fees an owner can charge for needed renovations are fair. So one of the employees on this team has building renovation appraisal skills.
Our calls have decreased since the election, but during the election campaign, we had six people managing this transition. We are down to three, and the calls and support continue.
In addition, since we now have people well versed in understanding leases, we have employees who can help House Administration ensure that the right amounts are being paid. We realized that some of these clauses were more complex and, as a result, we even went back to recover expenses that had been overpaid or to pay expenses that had been forgotten.
We have a few cases like these where service has continued. So, given the type of requests we have here, we feel that this team should be maintained, because there is as much demand for support from House Administration for these agreements as for members of Parliament.
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View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you.
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I now give the floor to Mrs. DeBellefeuille.
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View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
I have something to say about point 4 of your request, that is, the full-time equivalent position for the Members' Orientation Program. I can tell you that this program is very important, as I myself first went through the orientation almost a year ago. However, I feel it would be appropriate to change the name of the program, because the individual who is going to join the team will be doing more than just orientation.
The work actually involves ongoing training and support for the development of skills and knowledge for members and their staff, so that they are better supported in their work.
Do you intend to do justice to your work by changing the name of the program, which is more than just an orientation program?
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Michelle Laframboise
View Michelle Laframboise Profile
Michelle Laframboise
2020-11-19 11:29
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I can answer the question, if I may.
Thank you for the question, Mrs. DeBellefeuille.
The Members' Orientation Program is mandated to provide ongoing training. We could certainly look at the program name and review the description. It's not just about onboarding, as it provides ongoing training, development and so on. So I totally agree with you.
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View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
Since a large number of people are watching us on television, could you describe some of the major ongoing training programs that you provide to members and their staff?
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Michelle Laframboise
View Michelle Laframboise Profile
Michelle Laframboise
2020-11-19 11:29
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I would ask Robyn Daigle, the director of these programs, to talk to you about them. I believe she is in a better position than I to give you more information.
Ms. Daigle, if you would like to take the floor.
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Robyn Daigle
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Robyn Daigle
2020-11-19 11:30
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Good morning.
Thank you, Ms. Laframboise and Mrs. DeBellefeuille.
These programs are more than just post-election orientation programs for members and their staff. They are also transition programs provided in the event of departure or resignation.
As I said before, the programs are not only for members; they are also for their staff. A new program was introduced in September, in fact. As you know, we sometimes experience turnover in constituency offices or on the Hill, and this program helps to better integrate employees into their workplace.
As for ongoing training, we have programs in workplace harassment prevention and workplace health and safety. For example, when we implemented the disclosure process, a lot of training was provided to members and their staff.
Training is really provided on demand, but we also offer it when major programs are introduced or when legislation comes into force.
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Go ahead, Mr. Richards.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-11-19 11:31
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Thank you.
If I'm counting correctly, I think we're being asked for 12 new permanent positions here. My understanding is that in 2019 there was an approval here for 22 additional HR staff with a similar type of proposal.
At that time, Ms. Daigle was asked about this, and she indicated, “If we ever came back to the board to either reduce or increase those resources, it would be with quite a rationale associated with it.” I guess I'm not entirely seeing the rationale.
Obviously, when there's that kind of an increase and a year and a bit later we're looking for an additional increase, and it was indicated at that time there would be quite a rationale that would need to be associated with it, I'm just trying to understand what that rationale is. I'm not sure I'm entirely hearing that here.
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Ms. Laframboise, you have the floor.
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Michelle Laframboise
View Michelle Laframboise Profile
Michelle Laframboise
2020-11-19 11:32
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Thank you.
Yes, last February there were 22 resources approved. Those resources were for overall services in human resources and not specific to occupational health and safety, which is one of the areas we are talking about today.
Some of those resources were non-HR. There were a few finance and some legal assistants as well. Others were deployed within the HR team to a variety of functional areas. The remainder of them do form up the team that Ms. Daigle leads, which is member HR services.
Over the last two years, so since that time.... In occupational health and safety, as you know, the changes to the legislation are quite significant. They are in two parts. The first part of it was the onboarding of the House and the members to the general labour code provisions. These included significant increases in reporting, tracking, monitoring, training, awareness, the creation of health and safety reps and so on. We've had COVID, of course, which has definitely brought forward the importance of health and safety as well. Now we continue to move forward with the second part of the bill, which is the changes for the harassment and violence in the workplace program and having them included into the health and safety framework. That in and of itself is also quite an endeavour. It requires significant modification to policies, processes and training to ensure that we all meet our obligations as employers.
That second part of it is where the focus of these resources will be. We do have staff doing this work now on a temporary basis, but we definitely know that we're going to need those resources longer term to ensure that those obligations continue to be met. Occupational health and safety in and of itself has increased so significantly in complexity. We're not talking about only physical health anymore; we are including mental health issues. The worker safety boards and compensation organizations now are recognizing more of the mental health, anxiety and stress issues as well.
It is quite a large basket of obligations. We want to make sure that we are fully positioned to support the members and the House in their obligations.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-11-19 11:34
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In terms of follow-up, you mentioned COVID and dealing with it as part of the rationale there. I understand it wasn't all of it. Certainly mental health issues were mentioned and other things. Obviously, coming out of COVID, I understand that those issues probably will increase. But you mentioned COVID as part of the rationale. We're talking about permanent positions here.
You mentioned having already brought some on temporarily. I do understand why there would be a need for that during the pandemic, but if COVID is part of what we're responding to here, why would there be a requirement for those positions to become permanent? Why would they not remain temporary positions?
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Michelle Laframboise
View Michelle Laframboise Profile
Michelle Laframboise
2020-11-19 11:35
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When I referred to COVID, it was more just sort of an understanding of the importance and complexity of occupational health and safety and where it's going as a function. You're right that there are some COVID pieces that might seem shorter term, but the anxiety and the mental health components that are resulting from COVID we will definitely be seeing long term.
The other thing is that it really flagged for us the importance of being prepared, trained and set up, and having the infrastructure in place. I'm not saying they are COVID support positions. I'm saying that it absolutely flagged for us where we may have had some gaps, to make sure that we are able to meet any other challenges or health and safety issues that come forward.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-11-19 11:36
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Thank you. I appreciate the clarification.
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Are there any other questions?
Seeing none,
We have two recommendations.
Do you all agree?
Let's continue.
For the next two items on the agenda, no presentations are planned. You were sent two reports in advance.
The first one, under tab five, is the annual report on the activities and expenditures of parliamentary associations for 2019-20.
The co-chairs of the Joint Interparliamentary Council sent a letter noting that the JIC adopted this report late last month and submitted it to the board for your information. It is in a form similar to reports for previous years. If there are any questions about the report itself, the clerk of the JIC is available today, or we can invite the House co-chair, Mr. Stanton, to appear at subsequent meetings.
Are there any questions?
Mr. Julian, go ahead.
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View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
I have no questions. For last year, it's very clear. For this year, I don't think we had any activities. Our activities on Parliament Hill were suspended as of March 13.
I just want to know where there are any expenditures by parliamentary associations for this financial year, and to what an extent our costs were reduced.
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Jeremy LeBlanc
View Jeremy LeBlanc Profile
Jeremy LeBlanc
2020-11-19 11:38
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Thank you, Mr. Julian.
Yes, indeed, there has been a moratorium on association activities and travel since March, which means that expenditures for activities are essentially zero. With the income from membership fees, that is to say the dues that members must pay to belong to those associations, the account balance is even negative, in the sense that more came in than went out.
However, from the envelope for the Joint Interparliamentary Council, or JIC, we have to pay fees to the international associations. To belong to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, the Inter-Parliamentary Union and the Assemblée parlementaire de la Francophonie, or APF, we have to pay annual fees. Those contributions are ongoing. Expenditures of about $400,000 have already been made to cover a part of those fees, which normally amount to about $1.4 million each year.
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Are we good?
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View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Yes. Thanks.
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Let's move on.
Mr. Richards, you are next.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-11-19 11:39
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This summer, the board approved—and it was part of a package related to former Bill C-58 and the financial disclosure—an additional staff position that was associated with helping to process travel expenses for the associations. At that time, my predecessor in this role, Mr. Strahl, had expressed some reservations about that because, obviously, international travel was grounded at the time. Given that this has obviously continued to persist and probably will for some time to come, has the hiring for that position gone ahead, or is it delayed because there actually hasn't been a need for travel?
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Jeremy LeBlanc
View Jeremy LeBlanc Profile
Jeremy LeBlanc
2020-11-19 11:40
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Yes, we did staff that position, because there is a fair amount of preparatory work that is required in order to have us set-up to properly disclose, so all kinds of systems testing, processes to develop, templates of reports to be validated, and training to be given to various staff members. The resource that was hired has been occupied in doing that, even though there haven't been activities ongoing at the time.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-11-19 11:40
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Related to that, is the funding envelope for the interparliamentary associations approved as part of the annual budgeting process? This is something I'm not sure of. That is? Okay.
I believe this would be at our next meeting for 2021, so it will be part of the discussions at that meeting. Is that right? Okay.
There is one last thing I wanted to touch on. Later on our agenda we have an item regarding Ms. Ratansi. I understand she's been the president of the Canadian Branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. Is she still the president of that, or what's the situation there?
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Jeremy LeBlanc
View Jeremy LeBlanc Profile
Jeremy LeBlanc
2020-11-19 11:41
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She is still the president of the Canadian Branch of the CPA, yes.
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I want to remind honourable members that when something is in camera, we don't normally refer to it. We can refer to the person unrelated to the agenda.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-11-19 11:41
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My apologies.
That's all I had.
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Let's move on.
The next report is the committee activities annual report at tab six, which you have before you. There is a letter from the chair of the liaison committee, Ms. Sgro, who wishes to inform the board that the liaison committee recently adopted and presented to the House its latest annual report on committee activities and expenditures for the 2019-20 fiscal year.
Ms. Sgro submitted a copy of the report to the board, and also indicated that she would be available to meet at a future date if the board so desires.
Pursuant to Standing Order 121(4),the Board of Internal Economy shall cause to be tabled in the House an annual comprehensive financial report outlining the individual expenditures of each committee. The established practice since 2014 has been for the Liaison Committee's annual report to be approved by the Board and tabled by the Chair in order to comply with the requirements of the Standing Order. Consequently, if all members are in agreement, I will submit the report as attached to the House as the Board's report, pursuant to the Standing Order.
Are there any questions or comments about the report or the process?
Shall I report it to the House?
Since there are no questions, all is in order.
We will continue the meeting in camera. We will take a few minutes to prepare.
Mr. Richards, the floor is yours.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-11-19 11:43
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With regard to the committee activities, I do have a couple of quick questions.
I didn't realize you were moving on quite as quickly as you were.
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Very good. Please go ahead.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-11-19 11:43
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With regard to the reporting, a decade or two ago, I understand we used to just see reports that were 10 pages long, apparently. Now it's a 139-page report.
Obviously, I'm not one to necessarily criticize more accountability by any means, but I'm just curious. Obviously, there's a lot of work that goes into creating those reports. Do we have any statistics on the readership of those reports?
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Janse, do you have an answer? Are you responding to this?
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Eric Janse
View Eric Janse Profile
Eric Janse
2020-11-19 11:44
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Yes, I'm responding, but I'm not quite sure I have an answer, Mr. Richards, in terms of the readership.
You are absolutely right, though, that the report has evolved considerably over the last few years. It used to be just done once a year. Now there are two other reports done mid-year and, indeed, the content of the report is considerably beefed up compared to the past with a lot more information, statistics, etc., included.
I can try to see with perhaps our IT folks how many hits these reports receive on the parliamentary website. Years ago we stopped producing any paper copies, so it's hard to tell how many are distributed, but we can look into your question.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-11-19 11:45
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That would be appreciated. That would be good to know. I understand that things are mostly on the web now. I'm sure statistics should be easy to come by as a result of that web readership.
I have one other thing, just quickly. I wonder if we have any insight into the current year and how expenses are shaping up there.
Obviously, a lot of things should have brought those expenses down, I would suspect, this year. First of all, during the first wave of the pandemic, the Liberal government essentially barred most of the committees from meeting. Then Parliament was prorogued for a time. Now, while committees are meeting, first of all they were sort of reduced. Now we are near full capacity. They are still practically all meeting by video conference, and I guess we expect that to continue for some time to come.
I am wondering if we have any analysis at this point of what kind of impact that's had on spending.
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Eric Janse
View Eric Janse Profile
Eric Janse
2020-11-19 11:46
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That's an excellent question, Mr. Richards.
Indeed, committees, certainly for the last little bit, have been quite active, with a good number of meetings and lots of witnesses being heard, but further to the motion that was adopted in the House, all witnesses are being heard virtually, so that obviously has an impact on witness expenses.
We're not reimbursing witnesses to fly them to Ottawa, and the bulk of committee expenses are, of course, when the committees themselves travel either within Canada or abroad. Of course, no committee travel has taken place since April 1, so the costs are very minimal.
There is some reimbursement of some witness expenses. For instance, we send out headsets to all witnesses to facilitate their participation and to make things easier for the interpreters, but there are very minimal expenses to date.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-11-19 11:47
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Okay.
Thank you.
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Richards.
Mr. Deltell, the floor is yours.
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View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Thank you very much, Mr. Janse.
I will stay with the same subject.
As you said yourself, there are almost no expenditures. If we count the number of headsets that have been sent, the cost probably comes to less than $100. That's a very modest expenditure.
Could you compare the committee expenditures in a so-called normal year, after an election, to the expenditures this year?
That would give us a figure showing how much has not been spent and an idea of what could be spent elsewhere from the amounts that have been saved.
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Eric Janse
View Eric Janse Profile
Eric Janse
2020-11-19 11:48
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Those are excellent questions, Mr. Deltell.
The envelope for all the committees is $4 million. In a so-called normal year, we spend between $2 million and $2.5 million. Last year was an election year and we also saw the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the report before you shows, only $700,000 were spent.
However, last year, the Board of Internal Economy passed a motion according to which $1.5 million of the anticipated surplus for the financial year would be used to fund an online broadcasting system for parliamentary committees. That was done. This is why the amount of $1.5 million comes from the $4 million, but the committee expenditures as such come to only $700,000 for last year.
As I said to Mr. Richards, we really have not spent a lot of money this year. We can try to have a more specific figure, but, unless things change all of a sudden and the committees resume their activities at a more normal pace, we should actually have quite a considerable surplus in the committee budgets when March 31 comes along.
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
You may continue, Mr. Deltell.
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View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
Mr. Janse, we are talking about 24 committees with a budget of $4 million. However, you are telling us that, year in year out, we spend about $2.5 million. With a quick calculation, I can see that we are talking about almost $60 million in total. You said that we have spent $700,000 and $1.5 million for the broadcasting system.
If I subtract the $700,000 and the $1.5 million from the total, would I be out of line to conclude that we have not spent $57.8 million because of the pandemic?
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Eric Janse
View Eric Janse Profile
Eric Janse
2020-11-19 11:50
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The reduced expenditures last year were actually because of the election, because the pandemic began only in mid-March and the financial year ended on March 31. This year, certainly, committees are not travelling because of the pandemic. So the committees really have no significant expenditures.
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View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
Going by the normal figures, we have not spent $57.8 million.
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Eric Janse
View Eric Janse Profile
Eric Janse
2020-11-19 11:51
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Excuse me, Mr. Deltell. Could you repeat that, please?
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View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
You told us that the committees spend $2.5 million, year in and year out. There are 24 committees, so we are spending about $60 million on committees.
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Excuse me, Mr. Deltell, Mr. Patrice would like to answer that.
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Michel Patrice
View Michel Patrice Profile
Michel Patrice
2020-11-19 11:51
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I just like to make it clear that the total envelope is $4 million. That's the budget for all committees.
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View Gérard Deltell Profile
CPC (QC)
Great. That's what I was thinking. I thought it was a little excessive.
Thank you, Mr. Patrice.
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
You have the floor, Mrs. DeBellefeuille.
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View Claude DeBellefeuille Profile
BQ (QC)
I would like to speak to Mr. Janse. However, before I do, I would like to clarify something.
Mr. Richards said that the committees are virtual. Actually, they are hybrid. This was a very significant request and I feel that it is good to tell the public about it. Members of Parliament can be physically present in rooms arranged for that purpose. However, they can also participate remotely through videoconference platforms. I don't want people to understand that the committees are being held entirely by videoconference. More and more, members of Parliament prefer to be physically present, while still observing health rules. I wanted to clarify that.
What caught my attention in your testimony is that you mentioned that one of the expenditures was to send headsets to all the witnesses. I don't want to cast doubt on that statement, but I can tell you that, we in the Bloc Québécois are experiencing a lot of difficulties. Some witnesses have no headsets and that limits the interpretation. I have no statistics and I will not ask you to provide us with any, but I believe that it is fair to say that 90% of the witnesses give their testimony in English. That means that the witnesses need interpretation. In a lot of cases, and we in the Bloc Québécois have documented it fairly well, we have problems because the witnesses do not have the necessary equipment.
I understand that it is difficult for the witnesses to receive them, because often, they are invited at the last minute. The fact remains that witnesses having no access to the equipment that they need and that would provide them with good interpretation, is still a major problem. In that sense, Mr. Janse, I can tell you that francophone members feel some discrimination. The fact that witnesses do not understand the interpretation in their own language means that important seconds are lost, during which members could be asking questions.
I am talking about members of the Bloc, but there are also other French-speaking members in other parties. All this is to tell you that I thought that the expenditure on headsets was the responsibility of the IT team, headed by Mr. Aubé, not of the committees. That's something I learned today. I therefore want you to make you aware that there is a real problem. I hope that, in the short term, all witnesses will have the equipment they need for adequate interpretation, which will allow francophone members who need the interpretation to participate more fully.
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Eric Janse
View Eric Janse Profile
Eric Janse
2020-11-19 11:54
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Those are good comments, Mrs. DeBellefeuille. Thank you.
Yes, the committees are meeting as hybrids. However, following the motion passed by the House on September 23, all witnesses must testify virtually. We do indeed try as much as possible to send headsets to all the witnesses who need them. As you so rightly pointed out, if a witness is invited at the last moment, it is simply not possible, even with the process we have established to send them by private couriers. That process allows us to send headsets to about 90% of the locations in the country in 24 to 48 hours. Yes, it does happen that we may not be able to send headsets before the meeting.
Your comments are duly noted.
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you.
Are there any further questions or comments?
As there are none, do you agree that I should submit this report to the House?
Voices: Agreed.
Hon. Anthony Rota: Agreed.
We will continue the meeting in camera. So we will take a few minutes to move a little and to make sure that everything is in place.
[Proceedings continue in camera.]
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Welcome to the ninth meeting of the Board of Internal Economy in the 43rd Parliament.
We will begin with the first item, the adoption of the previous meeting's minutes.
Are there any comments? Is this agreed to?
Okay, it has been agreed to.
We'll go on to item two, business arising from the previous meeting. Are there any items? No. That's good.
Now we'll go on to item three, the 2019-20 audited financial statements.
We're going to start with Daniel Paquette, the chief financial officer, who is accompanied by José Fernandez, the deputy chief financial officer; and from KPMG, Charly Thivierge-Lortie, audit senior manager, and Andrew Newman, audit partner.
Mr. Paquette, go ahead.
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Daniel Paquette
View Daniel Paquette Profile
Daniel Paquette
2020-10-22 11:19
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Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
I'm here today to present to you the audited financial statements for the House of Commons for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2020. These audited financial statements are prepared by the House administration and present only one of our financial reports that we bring to the board to help you in your role of oversight of House financial activities. They are a formal record of our House financial activities for the financial positions as they were as of March 31, 2020.
As part of the financial reporting cycle, you'll recall that last June I provided you with a year-end financial report for the fiscal year 2019-20. The purpose of the report was to present the detailed comparators between the spending and the spending authorities for 2019-20 with those of 2018-19.
Today we are looking at the 2019-20 audited financial statements. These audited financial statements are prepared using the accrual basis of accounting rather than the expenditure basis. This means that they reflect the effect of a transaction in an event in the period in which it occurs rather than in the period in which the appropriations are used. Some of the main differences you'll be noting as a result of this is that the net cost of operations include the services we've received without charge—that is, the cost of the buildings we occupy and the employer's share of the employee benefits. You will also note that the inclusion of a statement of financial positions includes inventory, capital assets and amortization, liabilities for employee benefits as well as the liabilities for vacation pay and compensatory leave.
The House of Commons financial statements were prepared in accordance with the Canadian public sector accounting standards. Also, as you'll hear in the next presentation, each year these financial statements are audited by an external independent auditor, currently KPMG.
This year, as for as long as we've had our financial statements audited, we've received an unqualified audit opinion. To me this is a testament to the efforts made by my team to ensure the systems and practices are in place to ensure reliable financial information is available for decision-making in all our financial reporting.
I would like to take a few minutes to talk about the highlights regarding financial statements.
The statement of financial position provides an overview of the House of Commons' asset and liability balances.
The assets, in the amount of $89 million on March 31, mainly consist of funding provided to the House to support its activities; receivables, which mainly consist of money to be collected from departments, agencies and other federal parliamentary institutions to which the House provides support; as well as capital assets, namely assets whose purchase price exceeds $10,000.
On March 31, 2020, the House's liability was $84 million. That mainly includes amounts payable to suppliers and employees' social benefits. The budget item that has changed the most is that of accounts payable and accrued liabilities. That increase is attributable to a longer period during which normal wages were incurred but unpaid, compared with the previous year. There is also the 2018-19 retroactive economic increase for employees, which was approved before March 31, but paid only the following year.
Let's now go to the statement of operations and the net financial position.
Our net operating costs have increased by about $10.5 million. Those costs fluctuate from year to year depending on various factors, such as different initiatives presented in the House of Commons administration's strategic plan 2019-22. As we mentioned in other reports, those initiatives include investments for computer and printing equipment renewal in constituency offices, additional resources for services for members as employers, and costs stemming from an election year.
I will not spend a lot of time explaining the different significant differences in the net operating costs, as they are the same as those we discussed in June, when we presented the financial report on the year-end results.
It should be noted that many of those differences are due to the fact that 2019-20 was an election year. That mainly led to an increase in wages and social benefits of the teams who supported the transition, as well as severance payments for members and their employees. There is also an increase under the budget item related to computer and office equipment owing to the computer equipment renewal done during an election. However, there is a decrease in travel costs, which come under the transportation and communications budget item.
Those financial statements will be published on the website today, following the meeting.
I will now yield the floor to the KPMG representatives, our auditor, so that they can present the result of their audit on those financial statements. I could answer questions after their presentation.
Andrew, I'll hand it over to you.
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Andrew Newman
View Andrew Newman Profile
Andrew Newman
2020-10-22 11:24
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Thank you.
I am Andrew Newman, the independent external auditor of the House of Commons. I am pleased to introduce as well my colleague Charly Thivierge-Lortie, the senior manager responsible for the financial statements of the House of Commons.
Mr. Paquette has just presented the financial statements of the House for the year ended March 31, 2020. My role here today is to confirm my independent audit opinion on these financial statements, as well as to provide the members with a summary of our findings resulting from our audit.
Our audit opinion is attached to the financial statements presented by Mr. Paquette. Our audit was performed under Canadian generally accepted auditing standards, which are the professional standards followed for all financial statement audits in Canada. The financial statements are prepared using public sector accounting standards, which are the standards used by all governments in Canada and are issued by the Public Sector Accounting Board of Canada, on which I have had the privilege to serve for the past 12 years, including six years as vice-chair.
Our audit opinion, which is on the first page of our auditor's report, states:In our opinion, the accompanying financial statements present fairly, in all material respects, the financial position of the [House of Commons] as at March 31, 2020, and its results of operations, its accumulated surplus and its cash flows for the year then ended in accordance with Canadian public sector accounting standards.
Our auditor's report is signed “KPMG LLP” and dated August 11, 2020.
Members, this is a clean, unmodified audit opinion that members of Parliament should expect their financial management team to achieve. We have also provided to the members of the board an audit findings report. In summary, our financial statement audit was fundamentally completed as planned. The pandemic required that our detailed audit procedures be performed in a virtual, secure environment, and that was achieved. I do want to thank the House of Commons administration team for their additional efforts and commitment to the audit process to make a virtual audit not only possible but relatively smooth.
During our audit, we did not identify any audit adjustments in the amounts recorded in the books and records and reported in the House financial statements. What this means is that the financial reports prepared by management prior to the audit did not change as a result of our audit. During our audit, we also did not identify any internal control deficiencies that we determined to be significant deficiencies in internal control over financial reporting. We have provided recommendations for improvements to management with respect to certain payroll processes, primarily around the documentation of the performance of certain procedures. Management agreed with our recommendations and are currently working to implement those improvements. We will review their progress during our 2021 financial statement audit.
Members, in short, this is a positive audit report. I would like to thank House management once again for their diligent participation in the audit process, and thank this board for finding the time in your busy agenda for the financial statements and audit results to be presented. This is an important aspect of governance for all organizations, particularly in the public forum that you work in every day.
I would welcome questions, if the members have any.
Thank you.
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Are there any questions?
Seeing none, we'll move on to the next section—
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View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Julian, please go ahead. I'm sorry, I didn't see you.
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View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
I raised my hand, and then I used the “raise hand” function. We're still dealing with the new virtual environment, which is really my question.
I think it's reassuring that you didn't find any deficiencies in the audit, and no adjustments. What I'm interested in hearing a little bit more about is how you were able to achieve a full audit in a virtual, secure environment. Of course, the information needed to be secure. This is quite a different environment for this kind of audit procedure. I think it would be interesting to have a brief summary, I guess, of some of the measures that needed to be taken to perform an audit in this kind of environment.
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Andrew Newman
View Andrew Newman Profile
Andrew Newman
2020-10-22 11:29
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I presume that is for me.
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View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Yes.
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Andrew Newman
View Andrew Newman Profile
Andrew Newman
2020-10-22 11:29
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The world certainly changed for auditors in all sorts of financial audit statements when the pandemic hit in mid-March, and audits went from on-site services to virtual services, really across the board and across Canada. As a firm, KPMG had put in the protocols around working virtually and having our teams fundamentally work from home.
From an aspect of security of information, we worked very diligently with your team, and certainly Mr. Paquette can speak to the security aspects of information from their side. From our side, KPMG in Ottawa is a secure federal government office. We are audited by PSPC not only on an annual but also an ad hoc basis with regard to that, including our IT systems and our ways to communicate between offices. We use that. We had that security already pre-defined and we use it to transfer information between the House and KPMG to protect it appropriately.
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
We will now go to Mr. Richards.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-10-22 11:30
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Thank you.
I wonder, Mr. Newman, if you could just explain to us this issue that was related to the payroll documentation and maybe just what that concern was. You or maybe the administration would need to give us this, but what is being done to remedy the situation there?
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Andrew Newman
View Andrew Newman Profile
Andrew Newman
2020-10-22 11:30
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Thank you for the question. I welcome this opportunity to assure the members that the issue isn't around people being paid the wrong amount or that employees were being improperly paid or anything. It revolves around the documentation of certain reviews and approvals within the employee file itself.
We identified this as we changed our approach a little bit with regard to the Phoenix pay system and went from what is called a “substantive approach”, where we picked a sample and looked at it, and moved to a controls-based approach, where we looked at the controls around the House to really assess why the House was getting pretty good results around employees' pay.
We looked at the controls and the processes. In that, we identified, again, recommendations for improvements. These aren't significant control deficiencies around consistency and documentation of the performance of procedures within the employee file. It's not that the procedures were not performed. It was just documenting them in the employee file so that when auditors like us come in there is evidence that those procedures were completed.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-10-22 11:32
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Okay.
You mentioned that you made recommendations for improvement. How do those recommendations get brought forward and what is done to follow up on those recommendations to make sure they are being put in place?
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Andrew Newman
View Andrew Newman Profile
Andrew Newman
2020-10-22 11:32
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Absolutely. Those recommendations are brought forward in a formal letter from us to management, and management has agreed with all of our recommendations. I want to emphasize that.
Management gets an opportunity, obviously, to work at and implement those recommendations, and they have committed to do so. Then, when we come back to do our audit for 2020-21, we will look to make sure our recommendations have been appropriately implemented and that those issues have been resolved. If not, it would be accelerated into a significant deficiency and the comptroller of this committee would see it next year.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-10-22 11:32
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Thank you.
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Very good. Are there any further questions?
Okay. That being established, maybe we'll move on.
Thank you, Mr. Paquette, Mr. Fernandez, Monsieur Newman and Madame Thivierge-Lortie.
I understand that it is normal and good governance practice for independent auditors to have a discussion in camera with board members, without management present, regarding the preparation of the year-end audited financial statements.
I would therefore like to propose to the board members that we hold a short in camera session without the House administration officials to allow board members to have this discussion. Do I have the acceptance of members to proceed to in camera? Yes? Okay.
Thank you. What we will do is take a short break to transition into in camera. At this time, I will ask the House administration officials to exit the room, both in person and virtually. Once this discussion is complete, those in person will be summoned back into the room and those virtually will receive an email summoning them to rejoin the room as well.
[Proceedings continue in camera]
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Now that everyone's here and we're all connected, let's get started.
Before starting, I want to welcome our new members.
Mr. Richards, welcome.
Welcome, Mr. Deltell.
We'll go through the previous minutes. Are there any changes to be made? Is everything good and acceptable?
It's ready to go.
We'll go on to item 2, business arising from previous minutes. Is there anything coming up from business?
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View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
Lib. (QC)
Mr. LeBlanc, can you hear me?
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View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
2020-10-08 11:19
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Yes.
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View Pablo Rodriguez Profile
Lib. (QC)
Comb your hair, would you?
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View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
2020-10-08 11:19
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My problem, Mr. Rodriguez, is I don't have 10 bottles of hairspray like you. This being Mr. Deltell's first meeting, we should tell him that, in Quebec, it's the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec that pays for hairspray, since it's considered an innovation.
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
It's too bad he doesn't have his mask on. I'm talking about Mr. LeBlanc, not Mr. Deltell. Let's carry on.
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View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
Lib. (NB)
View Dominic LeBlanc Profile
2020-10-08 11:19
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You walked right into that, Mr. Chair.
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. LeBlanc, we're moving on.
Item 3 is ratification of a walkaround. Everybody had a chance to vote.
Was everyone able to vote all right? There didn't seem to be any problems.
Now we have a report....
To the Conservatives, you have two new members.
Mr. Richards, can I get your attention for a second?
For the Conservatives, you have two new people. Do you have an official spokesman whom you would like to name to replace Mr. Strahl?
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-10-08 11:20
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I think I reluctantly agreed to be the spokesman.
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you.
Mr. Richards will be the official spokesman for the Conservative Party.
Now we're on to number 4. We have a presentation by Mr. Stanton from the working group on the Centre Block.
Go ahead, Mr. Stanton.
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View Bruce Stanton Profile
CPC (ON)
View Bruce Stanton Profile
2020-10-08 11:20
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Good morning, Mr. Chair. Thank you.
Fellow members, good morning.
I'm here today as chair of the working group on the long term vision and plan, or LTVP, to update the board on the work that's been done since our last meeting and to seek endorsement of our recommendation regarding parliamentarians' involvement in the jury for the architectural design competition being organized by Public Services and Procurement Canada, or PSPC, for the redevelopment of Block 2.
Before I discuss the recommendation regarding Block 2, I'd like to provide a brief update on our last meeting, which was held on August 13.
First, PSPC presented its public engagement strategy for the LTVP, encompassing the development and launch of a public survey. The working group is in overall agreement on the proposed strategy to engage Canadians on Parliament and asked PSPC to get back to the group with more detailed information.
Second, the House of Commons administration presented high-level options for the Parliament Welcome Centre entrance and answered questions. Stakeholders will need to review the options in detail, and the working group will continue to be involved in the review before making a recommendation to the board.
Next is the third item we dealt with. We heard from the House with respect to updates and had some schematic designs and proposals for the chamber, lobbies and galleries in Centre Block. PSPC answered some questions around that. There will be further discussions at our next meeting with regard to lobbies and galleries. Once we've had a chance to look at those a little further, we'll be back to the board with some recommendations and something more detailed for you to look at.
As a final point before I get into the issue of Block 2, all members of the working group have now received complete detailed briefings on the schematic designs for the entirety of Centre Block and the welcome centre. We're looking forward to having further discussions on how the parliamentary requirements fit into all that. I would say that after two meetings, we're making some great progress and we're anticipating getting back together later this month. After we see what comes from that, we'll have some further things for you to discuss.
The only real issue on which we need to hear from you today is with respect to a design competition. What's happening here is that the PSPC briefed the working group on their approach to procuring an architectural design consultant team for the Block 2 new buildings, which will accommodate parliamentary space in the future.
Now, you may not know where Block 2 is. We didn't either. That's the space bound by Wellington Street, Sparks Street, Metcalfe Street and O'Connor Street. It's immediately across Wellington Street from Centre Block. Currently in the planning phase for this Block 2, PSPC is proceeding with a competitive process—it's a major undertaking—and launching an architectural design competition for that. It's a competition that will allow them to choose a team that has the right kind of capability and that is appropriate for a project of this scale and significance.
PSPC has also brought in the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, RAIC, to oversee this competition process. I'm sure their role will be greatly valued. The institute and PSPC will together select an independent qualified professional jury for this competition process. The jury will look at all of the proposals submitted and will come down to first-, second- and third-place proposals. As part of that jury composition, the working group was pitched the idea of having parliamentarian participation in that jury process. We looked at three different scenarios as to how that might work. After some discussion, it was agreed that the working group recommend to you that in relation to this whole process, the chair of the working group—I, in this case—be designated as a juror representing the House of Commons in that jury process.
That's really what you have in front of you today. The idea was to make sure we have continuity with parliamentarian voices through the working group and into that process for Block 2. I'm therefore seeking your approval that in relation to this design competition for Block 2, the chair of the working group be designated as the juror representing the House of Commons.
I would be pleased to answer any questions you have and to provide more details on what I've just discussed.
Thank you.
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you.
I believe Mr. Julian has a question for Mr. Stanton. I'm starting a list, so let me know if you have a question.
Mr. Julian, you may go ahead.
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View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Stanton, thank you very much for the report.
Of course, I'm in favour of designating the chair of the working group to sit on the jury.
The coronavirus has had an impact on a lot of projects across the country, so I'm wondering if there are any updated figures that you could give us or if you can let us know when you think the working group would be able to do that.
Thank you.
My question is very simple: Are there any updated budget figures around the overall projects?
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View Bruce Stanton Profile
CPC (ON)
View Bruce Stanton Profile
2020-10-08 11:28
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Thank you, Mr. Julian.
I think we didn't get into budget elements with respect to Block 2. I will look to Michel Patrice. He may have some insights on it that he could share with us. At this point we were only taken up with the proposals around a design competition. As you may well know, this is part of a much more long-term.... So many of these parts of the long-term vision plan are so integrated that these things do come before us as a working group as well.
Michel, I wonder if you have any further insights that we could share with Mr. Julian on that question.
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Michel has indicated that Mr. Gameiro would be—
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View Bruce Stanton Profile
CPC (ON)
View Bruce Stanton Profile
2020-10-08 11:29
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Okay, go ahead, Rocque.
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
—best suited to answer that question. Rocque Gameiro, if you're online, you can take it from here.
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Rob Wright
View Rob Wright Profile
Rob Wright
2020-10-08 11:29
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It's Rob Wright here with PSPC. Maybe I'll jump [Inaudible—Editor] information.
With regard to costing of the Centre Block and Parliament's welcome centre, what we have done so far is to provide some cost estimates for different options around specific large components of the project.
If you remember the decisions around the chamber and different options around the chamber, we provided costing around different options for that, as well as different size options for the welcome centre. On some specific options around elements that the Senate of Canada is considering with regard to potential infills in the east courtyard, for example, we gave different costings around that. Those elements are now coming together, and as we move forward through the areas....
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
I'm sorry, Mr. Wright. Would you go back? I'm not sure if you muted yourself. It doesn't show that you're muted, but we lost your voice.
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Rob Wright
View Rob Wright Profile
Rob Wright
2020-10-08 11:31
Expand
I apologize. Are you able to hear me okay now?
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
We hear you very faintly.
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Rob Wright
View Rob Wright Profile
Rob Wright
2020-10-08 11:31
Expand
I'm not muted. If I really speak up here, is that any better?
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
It's still not loud enough. We can just barely hear your voice. I'm not sure what just happened there.
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Rob Wright
View Rob Wright Profile
Rob Wright
2020-10-08 11:31
Expand
Well, I could hand it over to—
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
You're fine now; it's perfect. You can continue.
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Rob Wright
View Rob Wright Profile
Rob Wright
2020-10-08 11:31
Expand
Okay, great.
We're coming at this in what I would call component parts. As we're moving through the decisions and the options that are being put forward to Parliament, those decisions are kind of big boulders that have a really material impact on the baseline cost for the Centre Block and the welcome centre. As we proceed through those this fall, we'll be able to come back with a baseline budget as well as a schedule. That will set us up in a really good situation.
As for the impacts of the COVID situation on the Centre Block, I think we've been able to absorb those really well. At the beginning of COVID in mid-March, we worked really hard to put in place what I would call best health and safety practices on the site. We worked with the Canadian Construction Association, and those became best practices for construction activity across the country.
I would say that we had to make a few adjustments, but it really has not impacted the schedule, as we've been able to move forward. From a cost perspective, that is probably the most important element on a project of this scale. Time is money, so being able to adhere to the schedule has benefited us very much from a budgetary perspective. We've been able to keep track and hit all of the milestones, and as we continue to work with the working group and the Senate LTVP subcommittee on these major decisions that will be recommended back to the Board of Internal Economy as well as to CIBA, that will position us to have a baseline budget and schedule.
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View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
Pardon me.
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View Anthony Rota Profile
Lib. (ON)
Would you like a follow-up on that, Mr. Julian?
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View Peter Julian Profile
NDP (BC)
When do you think you will be able to bring that to the BOIE?
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