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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-05-13 11:11
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I'll stay on the list for my other items—
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-05-13 11:11
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—but I'll address this point quickly.
I'm supportive of the way the administration has approached this. They've given clerks the option to be there in person if they choose or to be there virtually. I think all people need to be given the choice to do what they feel is safest. It sounds like that's what the administration has done, so I'm supportive of what they have suggested.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-05-13 11:23
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I do understand the clarification we received earlier allowing Mr. Holland the opportunity to speak to the matter, because it arose from previous minutes.
Now we're starting to get into some debate and discussion about potential remedies and things like that. I think we are now starting to get into where there would be potential during this discussion and debate about the motion—I don't know if he's made a motion to this effect or what has just happened—where we would be talking about legal matters. Even by establishing the very precedent that we have jurisdiction here as a board, we could be getting into where there are questions that could arise here about asking for legal opinions, etc. I do believe that then falls under what needs to be in camera.
I'm not certain, but my suspicion is that now, at this point, it probably is best to defer that to the in camera portion of the meeting. I'll seek some guidance on that, but it seems to me that it's probably the best course of action there.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-05-13 11:25
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I'm suggesting that we get some better guidance. At this point, because we need to establish.... It's actually a legal matter to even establish whether we have jurisdiction here. There are many questions that arise then that could, in fact, fall into what the law clerk was telling us would then be the in camera portion, based on the decision made before the meeting that that would be where the discussion should take place.
I'm not suggesting that we move in camera now, but perhaps that this be deferred to the in camera portion where it was originally intended to be discussed, because I think we are now getting into.... Mr. Holland was able to make his comments, because we weren't falling into the discussion about jurisdictional and legal issues. A lot of the discussion that might now flow, I think, would be a better fit into the in camera portion. We will start to get into some pretty grey areas otherwise, right?
That's what I'm suggesting, that we defer it until its scheduled as part of an in camera meeting.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-05-13 11:27
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If I could add to that, because I think I still have the floor, Mr. Speaker, I can certainly imagine that there are some questions of a legal nature that I would have in order to establish where we should be going with this. I would imagine others will probably be in the same boat, because there are many questions about what we can and can't do that I would want to have answers to, and I'm sure I wouldn't be the only one.
That's why I made the suggestion that that's probably what we should be doing.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-05-13 11:41
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I'm, I think, almost completely in agreement with what Mr. Julian just indicated.
I understand that your thought, Mr. Speaker, had been potentially to go in camera to ask legal questions about Mr. Lemire's possible appearance here, and then come back and make a decision. However, I think that's a difficult way to approach it, frankly. Mr. Julian has outlined quite well how there are a number of different potential remedies, different aspects to this that are also tied together, and I think it's difficult to make a decision about potentially just one part of what the discussion would be. I don't see how that would work practically.
I think the administration suggested what they did for a reason, and I do think we have a number of other agenda items that we would deal with far more quickly than we would with this one. They have laid it out in such a way that I think it does work best for this meeting, and it would also allow us to ensure that we don't start to get into areas where.... It might be difficult to make this decision without getting into some of the other discussions about this matter, and there are a lot of legal questions related to this.
If you look at the section of the Parliament of Canada Act that governs what the term “in camera” means, one of the other matters relates to security. When we start to talk about some of the things that we would be looking to follow up with regard to Mr. Lemire, I think those delve into that area as well. So I think we're getting into a couple of different areas where we would have difficulty discussing this without being in camera—even to follow the Parliament of Canada Act.
I really do believe that, as Mr. Julian has indicated, we should follow the agenda that's been set out and recommended by the administration, rather than trying to differ from that and deal with one piece of one item separately. I just don't think it makes any sense, Mr. Speaker.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-05-13 11:54
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I do, Mr. Speaker.
Mr. Holland asked at what point do we make a decision. Well, it's at the point where we've been able to gather all of the information that needs to be gathered, at the point at which we have asked all of the appropriate questions that we need to ask and are able to make an informed decision about what the appropriate course of action will be.
What all of us, other than Mr. Holland, are asking for here is that we have the opportunity to do that.
Putting anyone in a position of having to vote on something without having all of the information, without having all of the questions answered, and without having the legal advice that might be required to do so puts everyone here in a very unfair position. It puts everyone in the position of voting on something they're not prepared to vote on because they don't have all of the information required.
What I think all of us are asking for here is to have the proper opportunity to have those discussions and to get the legal advice we're asking for. Nobody is necessarily seeking to deny the request; it's simply to make sure that we have the appropriate information and answers before us before we make a decision. Otherwise, everyone is put in an incredibly difficult position.
I certainly would agree with what Mr. Julian said earlier: That is the way this board operates. It's the way it should operate, and we should all be taking our partisan hats off. I think if everyone were to really look at that principle, they would understand that it is exactly what everyone here is seeking to do. I think calling for a vote when you are fully aware that people are not prepared to make a decision because they haven't had a chance to get all of the information they need to do that, not having had the in camera portion of the meeting, cannot be seen as anything other than partisan, Mr. Speaker, and that's really unfortunate. It would put us all in the awkward position of going to a vote on which we would much rather be fully informed, and of making an unfortunate decision.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-05-13 11:59
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I'm sorry, Mr. Speaker, but I know that I was—and I believe others were—speaking to that very point.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-05-13 11:59
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I understand and I think what we're saying is that there are pieces that tie all together. I think to make a decision about one element of this just won't work. I appreciate the suggestion and I know you're trying to get there, but I don't think—
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-05-13 12:18
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Thanks, Mr. Speaker.
Again, I find myself in agreement with Mr. Julian here.
On the suggestion being made now—and I have spoken of this a couple of times—the problem is that we're taking one element of a discussion and pulling it out of the discussion, and it just doesn't work that way. There are implications for other parts of the discussion on this. To try to pretend that you can pull out the one element and have a discussion about it and then vote on it, and then come back later to what the administration has suggested we do—which is to have the full discussion in camera, with the ability to ask the legal questions, etc., and then make decisions about the matter more fulsomely—I don't see the logic in that. It doesn't do this important matter justice.
I noted the examples used, I think by Mr. LeBlanc, from previous Parliaments, where there were in fact some votes that occurred. I believe I know the circumstances, and it was simply a matter of one party seeking to avoid being sanctioned, I guess, for what the board was finding as wrongdoings.
When we're talking about something like that, I can understand and appreciate why there might be a need to remove the principle of consensus that we operate, if it's just a matter of someone trying to protect themselves. We're not talking about something like that here. We're talking about three parties all agreeing that we need to follow the suggestions that the administration has made and have a proper discussion about a matter and move forward with the agenda as presented by us.
That is very different from what those examples were. To differ from the idea of consensus here on something like that, where you have three parties all in agreement that we need to do things the way they've been suggested by the administration, and one party is suggesting we disregard the advice we've been given and proceed to break up a matter into little chunks and deal with it separately, is not the same thing, in any way.
It puts everyone here in a very difficult position, because we all want to try to do this in the appropriate way, have all the facts, and to make sure that all of the questions are answered and deal with this fulsomely. We're being put in a position here where the expectation is to do otherwise. I just think that's very unfortunate, and not a good precedent.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-05-13 12:30
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Mr. Speaker, I have a point of order. With all of the extended debate that occurred around that, I actually had my hand up to deal with something related to the business arising from the previous meeting.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-05-13 12:30
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I think I just got lost because of the fact that there was such a long discussion there that flowed from the first person to put their hand up.
If you don't mind, it really is a brief comment and a quick question.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-05-13 12:30
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From the previous meeting, I had made the suggestion that we seek to have you send letters to Quebec and Ontario ministries of health to make sure that we can have vaccinations for essential workers here in Parliament.
I see that what you have done is written to the federal Minister of Health, which so be it, I suppose. However, I wonder if you had a response to that letter and if you can share that with us.
Obviously it's critical that we ensure that these workers who are essential to the functioning of our Parliament and our seat of democracy here have the opportunity to be considered essential workers and get their vaccinations so we can keep them safe.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-05-13 12:47
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Thanks, Mr. Speaker.
I have just a couple of questions. I'll start first with the area of mental health and wellness and then I'll move to professional development.
On the mental health and wellness front, maybe it's in the evaluation you've done here and I missed it, but it's a fairly extensive list of mental wellness initiatives that are available to employees and to members.
Have you identified anything, when you compare it to what would typically be available in either the private sector or elsewhere, that you would see as typical mental health resources that members or members' employees wouldn't be eligible for, either by being reimbursed through their MOB or through their employee health plans, etc.? Have you identified anything that are gaps based on comparable options available to the private sector?
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-05-13 12:50
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I was going to ask that question, because I think that's a problem that is not just specific to us. It seems to me I hear that from people, whether they are constituents or other folks I talk to. Getting access to those services seems to be a general problem across this country. That certainly isn't specific to us. I do appreciate that.
With regard to the mindfulness sessions, I don't know about the other caucuses, but obviously Mr. Holland indicated that his caucus has engaged in them. Are those currently something that can be paid for under parliamentary budgets or by the individual MPs or caucuses to have their employees involved through some kind of House officer's budget or otherwise? Is that something that is currently able to be paid for? How are those being conducted?
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-05-13 12:51
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I know you're not the ones offering it, but Mr. Holland has indicated that at least their caucus has in fact conducted these sessions. Have they been able to use parliamentary budgets to pay for those? Is that something that would be eligible under a parliamentary budget currently?
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-05-13 12:52
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If you can answer it, Mark, that's great.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-05-13 12:52
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So those are parliamentary resources you're able to access now, or not?
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-05-13 12:52
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Okay. I just wanted to know whether or not that was something that could be done currently.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-05-13 12:52
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Thank you. I appreciate that, Mark.
On the professional development side, I would assume that other caucuses do this as well, but I know that within our caucus we do provide pretty extensive professional development for our members and employees—different professional development training sessions, briefing sessions, etc. I'm wondering whether in your survey of opportunities currently available to members and their employees some of those robust offerings, of which you have given us some examples here, were taken into account.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-05-13 12:53
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Maybe it's unique to our caucus. I don't know. I'd assume and hope it's not. Certainly there are a host of professional development opportunities provided within caucuses themselves. You've laid out some examples of professional development opportunities. I'm just wondering if that's been factored in and taken into consideration in that survey you've done.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-05-13 12:54
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I think I was hearing from you that you believe there's a pretty extensive list of things that are available. Possibly, it might be a good thing occasionally to come to this board and seek suggestions for things that could be added to your list.
Setting that aside for a second, there seems to be some suggestion that maybe we add a dedicated portion of the MOB for professional development. I'm not clear on whether the issue of getting professional development opportunities to people is in fact a lack of financial resources available to members. I would assume, given there's an extensive list of opportunities that you provide that, from my understanding, can be charged to the MOB.... Is there a financial barrier to MPs to provide these things or is there some other reason they're not being provided to employees?
The question would be how many MPs are spending right to their cap? Maybe that's why they're squeezing these things out. How many MPs are squeezing within $10,000 of the cap of their MOB? I'm trying to determine if a financial barrier actually exists or not. It may not be a need to provide more dollars to the MOB in order to facilitate these things. There may be another problem.
I understand the problem that we're trying to fix. I certainly support the idea that we would want to try to ensure that professional development opportunities are available to employees and members where needed. I'm trying to determine if we're actually hitting the right problem in the way we're trying to solve it. I don't know if you have that kind of information. If you don't, maybe we can get it.
How many MPs are currently squeezed right up to the cap on their MOBs? How many are within $10,000?
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-05-13 12:57
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I guess it depends on what part of that range they'd be in, if it's closer to the $18,000. We're talking about less than 25%, obviously. It could be 10% or 15%. I'm just trying to get a sense of whether that's the barrier here.
I think I'm hearing that it may be a barrier for some members. We all have to make choices about how we use our resources. I guess that's no different than anywhere else. It doesn't sound to me like it's a huge issue when you have less than a quarter who are.... It would be a barrier in those cases. It could be a matter of prioritizing.
That answers my question. Thank you.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-05-13 13:00
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Thank you.
I hear Mark's point that unless there are dedicated resources for something, it doesn't happen. We do have, within our MOBs now, dedicated portions for certain things. We're not talking about an extensive problem of MPs who cannot seem to do anything within their budget. That's not the issue. It's the idea of dedicating funds toward it.
Perhaps $10,000 is the right dollar amount to start with, or maybe it's $5,000 or $2,000 that Claude is suggesting, whatever it might be. Rather than adding to the budget, we would dedicate a portion within the existing budget. That would sort of deal with the issue of making sure that something is dedicated, without adding to the budget. It doesn't sound like there's a need to do that in order to accomplish this. As Mark said, it's a matter of dedicating funds toward it.
Whether it's a percentage of the budget or a dollar figure, however we want to do it, perhaps we can do it that way, where we make the suggestion that it's $5,000 or 1%. Whatever it is, that amount would be dedicated from the existing budget toward professional development.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-05-13 13:02
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Is that to allow this discussion to finish? Is that what you are saying?
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-05-13 13:02
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Just for this item, yes.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-05-13 13:06
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Thanks.
I'm not opposed to the idea here, as I think I've indicated already. It's something that I know I certainly do within my office, and I think it's a great thing for others to do. I'm also aware that, as employers, we make our own decisions. I sort of hate the idea that we start to get prescriptive about how people spend their office budgets. I like the idea of enabling this. I don't even mind the idea of dedicating funds, but I think that if we start to say, “Okay, we're going to add this much to your budget for this", then what comes next, right? It gets to the point where we're starting to be very prescriptive about how people spend.
All MPs make decisions accordingly. For example, we have a dedicated portion of our budget for advertising now. I choose not to advertise; I don't spend that money. I believe there are better ways to utilize my MOB. Others make different decisions, and that's fine. I just don't like the idea of our starting to get into dedicating a bunch of things to....
I like the idea of professional development. I don't mind the idea of considering setting it aside, because I agree that sometimes if it's not set aside, it doesn't get used for something, but I don't like sort of, “Here's a pool for this, and here's a pool for that”.
My thinking is that I maybe just don't have quite enough information at this point. I understand where Mark's coming from with people in areas where constituency lease costs are high in large ridings where they have to have more than one office and things like that. Often, then, people are spending to the cap. That is why they're doing it. If that's the problem, perhaps we need to look at that and whether those supplements for some of those areas are done appropriately or in the right way.
I would just like to get a bit more information before I make a decision on this. For the 25% that are more than 95%, can we break that down a little better? How many are within $5,000 of their cap? How many are within $10,000 of their cap? Then we'd have some sense of what we're talking about there. I'm not suggesting that I'm opposed to this. I just don't think I have quite enough information to make a decision that I would want to add to MPs' budgets at this point.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-05-13 13:09
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Yes, I just have one quick comment, Mr. Speaker.
I had a very brief conversation with Mark about this, and certainly, as I indicated at this meeting, I think it's a good discussion to have. I'm supportive of the idea of making sure that professional development is provided, but we never did get into any detail.
I'm happy to do that, but I'll still ask for the the information I've just asked for. It would be helpful to me in knowing the appropriate way to approach this. If we could still ask the administration to provide the information about how many MPs are spending right to the cap, how many are within $5,000 of the cap and how many are within $10,000, that would be very helpful to me.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-04-22 11:08
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Thanks.
With the sort of analysis that was done, I noted that it was focused on instances and some of the numbers. I have two questions. First of all, I notice that the largest category was “not significant” as a reason. I'm not sure what would fall into that category. I'm curious what would fall under that category.
Secondly, I think the issue is more about the use of resources in terms of the amount of time that's used, rather than the number of instances. In many cases, when you're talking about an extended bit of debate, what you're talking about is maybe that you accommodated the full round of questioning, so the meeting went over by a few minutes. I don't think that's really what we're talking about that stretches the resources. We're talking about when there are filibusters or things like that, which drag a meeting on for hours beyond its end.
I would be really curious to see these categories broken down, rather than by instances where they have occurred, by the number of hours for which they've occurred. I think that would be far more telling in terms of what is actually a drag on the resources.
Is that something you could go back and do, to provide that information? I think that would be far more useful to both us as the board and to the committee chairs as well.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-04-22 11:11
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Thank you. That would be much appreciated.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-04-22 11:11
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I have a point of order, Mr. Chair.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-04-22 11:11
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Just on item number 3, I know it was removed. I just wondered why. I believe it was one party that asked. I don't know if someone could provide us an update, whoever it was who asked for it to be removed, as to why it was removed.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-03-25 11:11
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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?
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-03-25 11:14
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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?
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-03-25 11:16
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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?
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-03-25 11:18
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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.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-03-25 11:18
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Great. That would be appreciated. Thank you.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-03-25 11:19
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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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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-03-25 11:19
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No, no, I appreciate that.
I had a phone call. They asked me to put it closer, so I moved it based on that. I just wanted to make sure that I hadn't moved it to the wrong place.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-03-25 11:19
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Okay. I'll try to adjust it just a little bit.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-03-25 11:39
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Thanks for the presentation, and I appreciate the attention this has received. I think an important matter was raised. I'll ask a question and make a suggestion at the same time.
I'm wondering if this fully captures the aspect of military personnel and their dependants. I assume that in your consideration this would include military personnel outside of Canada. That's a question. But what about those within Canada who would be stationed on a base outside of the constituency where they are electors? I'm wondering if this captures them. It doesn't seem that it would.
I have a suggestion to make. In points one and two you talked about adding addressed mail, the householder or constituency mailings for constituents living outside Canada. That's how you've termed it. I wonder if we could make it “constituents living outside of the electoral district” or something like that, because although it would capture, I assume, military members and their dependants who are stationed outside of Canada, I'm not certain that it would capture those posted on a base within Canada who are electors elsewhere. I want to make sure they are captured as well. I think it's important to ensure that all of our military personnel are receiving the same opportunity to get communications from their MPs.
Would the suggestion I've made capture all of those people, or do you believe you've already done so?
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-03-25 11:42
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Do you think the suggestion I'm making would capture all of them, or do you have another suggestion?
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-03-25 11:42
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Yes, good point. I'd like to see us capture that. I'll make that suggestion. If other members are willing to consider that, I think it's important to include those people as well.
I have something else, but I think what I'm going to do is lower my hand, Mr. Speaker, and raise it again so that we can deal with this particular aspect. I have a question that relates to printing and mailing, but I think it's better that we have this discussion first. I will raise my hand to bring that up afterwards.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-03-25 11:45
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As long as we've addressed anyone else who wants to comment on this particular suggestion, I would like to move on to another topic. It appears that's the case.
I'll make one last comment on this. I'm hearing the concerns that were raised about ensuring that there is a way to capture those people. I think there would be, because if I understand the proposal correctly, it would be on us to address them based on the information we have available to us from electors.
If it's the feeling among members that we approve this, we can ask them to come back with a suggestion on how to deal with people within Canada. As long as there's a commitment that they can find a way to capture those people in a satisfactory way, we will be seeking to approve it. If we're satisfied with this, I would be comfortable doing it that way, because I think it's important that we find a way to do this. As long as we make a commitment that we're.... As long as they can come back with a way to show us that this can be captured in a reasonable way, we would be seeking to move forward. I'd be comfortable with that approach.
There is another issue I want to raise. I can't remember which meeting it was, but at a previous meeting I had raised the topic of service standards with printing and mailing services. I know that some suggestions were going to be brought back to us on how those could be improved. In the last little while, some additional concerns have been raised to me by members of my caucus about some of the delays and things like that, so obviously we still have work to do there.
I'm wondering what the status of that is and when we can expect to see something come forward to us. Is there any update you can provide to us on the work being done to improve those standards? Can you bring something back to the board with suggestions on that?
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-02-25 11:21
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While we're on the topic of interpretation, it might be a good time to discuss the point that I want to raise as well. As you know, Chair—and I'm sure others are aware—I had raised a question of privilege in the House about this issue. You didn't find a prima facie case for it, but it doesn't mean that it isn't an issue and one that maybe we should discuss. It centres around the resources that are available for committees.
We're finding that committees are being prevented from continuing their meetings or finishing items of business they're needing to finish, particularly when there ends up being a filibuster or something like that. We even had it go so far that one day when there was only the one meeting, there we still not resources available apparently.
I think we do need to have a discussion about this and how we might find ways to ensure that those resources can be made available. Maybe it's a question for some of our folks in administration. Are there ways that we can find to address these things so that they don't occur?
Whether it was considered a breach of privilege or not, it certainly is problematic to the workings of Parliament when a committee is prevented from continuing its work based on a lack of interpretation available or rooms, or things like that. Is there something we could do to be looking at ways to focus the resources or to bring in new resources to help address these challenges?
I'm not sure if there's someone here who is able to address those points, but I think it's something that we do need to have a conversation about.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-02-25 11:33
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I agree. There's been some usage or take-up of these measures. I would certainly agree with extending them.
I guess where I would have an issue is this. We're talking about an extension to March 31, 2022, and we're hearing from the government that by the end of September we will have all Canadians vaccinated who want to be vaccinated. One would assume, then, that at that point we'd be able to make some kind of a shift in terms of Parliament's moving back towards more normal sitting scenarios, or certainly something closer to that. Obviously, some of these measures, then, would no longer be needed as well.
If the government does fail to meet that target, we can always look at extending it beyond September—that is, if the government isn't able to live up to the promise it's made. If it does, then we should be able to see some change in these things in September.
Perhaps what we should do right now is to set the renewal date as September, and we can always look at it again, if needed, in September.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-02-25 11:42
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That seems reasonable, frankly. My concern was that we're talking about putting in place measures related to COVID, but if we expect the entire population to be vaccinated by September, those measures would no longer be needed.
I think what we're talking about here, Claude, is some of the advertising and things like that. That was where your concerns were, that people be able to plan ahead for things like that. I think that's actually a sensible compromise and one that would satisfy me that we're not putting measures in place that will no longer be needed beyond September.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-01-28 11:32
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I suppose it's probably more of a comment.
I'm hearing that you're going to come back with a proposal, and that's great. I think that's wonderful. I have had a number of caucus members come forward to me with issues that they've had. I guess one thing I want to make clear for when proposals are being developed is that, although there have been some issues that have developed in terms of the length of time it's taking to get things printed, I don't know that it should be the singular focus of the efforts to make improvements.
The focus that I think I've heard more from members who have spoken to me has been more about lack of certainty in terms of the production times. I understand that there are fluctuating levels, so addressing that is important. I like the suggestion you're making about having some ability to have arrangements with outside suppliers where there are higher periods of time.... Obviously just before Christmas would be one of those examples. I think that's a great idea.
However, the other issues that arise, in the same vein, are more the inconsistency. Sometimes there have been issues where people are told to get something out for a certain date. You have to have it in.... I'll choose some dates out of the hat. Let's say they're told that in order to have it out by mid-December, it has to be in by the end of October. The member is intending to have it go out mid-December, but then things are ahead of schedule and it goes out mid-November and it's not an appropriate message to be going out in the middle of November, for example.
It's working with members to ensure that the service is provided as stated. That might mean needing to ensure that the production timeline is respected and hasn't gone over, because maybe if it goes over, now the member is sending something that's no longer appropriate to send. In other cases, it might be putting it out at an inappropriate time, too soon, because production was ahead of schedule.
It's really working with the member to ensure they're given a date for when their piece would go out, when it goes to production, and that date is respected and adhered to, whether that means rushing the process or whether that means, in some cases, storing it for a few weeks because it's been produced ahead of schedule. It's really about meeting those service schedules.
I'll give you one other similar example, and I'm talking about my own example. I've had times where we have requested certain folds on a product—I've gone so far as to ask that I see the folds as part of the proof—and then they still go out with a different fold.
Those are service standards that aren't related to length of printing, but it's an expectation by a client, and the member of Parliament, I would believe, should be seen as the client. If they're asking for a certain fold on a product, or they're asking for a certain date that they want the product to go out, we should seek to do that. It's making that clear.
Those are some of the issues that I've had raised in my caucus. I like some of the suggestions you're making, but to make it clear, it's looking at ways to improve those service standards and have more of a customer service focus model that is being sought.
I appreciate your taking this back and looking at ways that we can make improvements.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2021-01-28 11:38
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Thank you. That's appreciated.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-12-03 10:36
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I wanted to touch base on one item where a follow-up was required. We had sent a letter and there was a deadline of December 18 for a response. Would we be looking at scheduling a meeting sometime shortly after that, or early in the new year, to discuss that item, based on any response we receive?
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-12-03 10:37
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I understand, but we gave a deadline of December 18. Are we planning to schedule a meeting shortly after that to discuss our response?
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-12-03 10:38
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I was just trying to get a sense as to what we thought.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-12-03 10:38
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All I'm getting at is that it leaves a long time after the response would be received. I wouldn't want to leave that hanging over anyone for a long period of time. I know we ordinarily wouldn't meet for some time after that. I just wondered if we were giving some consideration to meeting sooner, so that it wouldn't be left hanging.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-12-03 10:48
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On this topic, it's one thing with external witnesses we're asking to appear. I think some of the suggestions that have been made are good ones. We've seen this occur with ministers who are being asked to come to committee to be held accountable before the committee. I really think that in these cases....
This is not something that is surprising or unexpected for ministers. They need to have headsets and they need to ensure that they have a proper connection. I know it isn't exactly directly related to the committees, but in committee of the whole we had a minister who hadn't prepared to have a proper Internet connection.
I really believe that in these kinds of cases, the expectation should be that the minister will make up the time with the committee. If they've wasted 20 minutes of committee time because they didn't have the proper headset or something of that nature, the expectation should be that they make up the time so that the committee has those opportunities. We're seeing that those opportunities are being lost, and ensuring that ministers are accountable is a very important part of our democracy.
I think it's different from the situation with a regular witness. Sometimes a witness has been asked, as you say, on short notice and maybe isn't aware of the requirements with respect to our committees, but ministers certainly are. I really think that, if we're going to put something out, we should include in it as well that ministers will be expected to make up time if they do not come prepared with the proper equipment and connection.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-12-03 11:17
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Just to follow along, one of my three questions was addressed already but I have two additional. I'll just follow up on the light court proposal.
We have the proposals for the west foyer, the west light court. Is there a similar proposal being put before our colleagues in the Senate for the east side and a light court there? I'm just curious on that front.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-12-03 11:19
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Okay.
Just as a follow-up on that, you mentioned that there are, for example, House of Commons offices that back into that area as well. How will the interface between the two work to ensure that things are coordinated in a proper fashion and we are not getting two very different outcomes on each side?
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-12-03 11:20
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There's one other question I have. It wasn't really within the scope of your presentation this morning, but I am really curious about the welcome centre and how that will now look in terms of the entrance.
Right now, of course, we have the one entrance in front of the Peace Tower. Is that preserved in this or will something be done? I've always found that a bit of an odd and very awkward circumstance. What are the plans for that going forward, or can you address that today?
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-12-03 11:22
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When you say “the sides of the stairs”, do you mean the stairs that are there now—or were there—right under the Peace Tower? Are you talking about stairs that are going up from the lawn level?
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-12-03 11:23
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Okay. I think that does address what I was concerned with, which is the way it was previously. We all know that there have been situations where someone is coming directly into the building. We're avoiding that situation now. Someone will have to clear security before they enter the main building itself.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-12-03 11:24
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That's great. Thank you.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-12-03 11:41
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Pardon me, Mr. Chair. I thought I had raised by hand and I hadn't. I did want to ask a couple of questions.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-12-03 11:41
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There are a couple of things I wanted to touch on. One was similar in nature to Mr. Julian's questions, but I'll leave it for the second part.
The other side of this is that some areas have seen decreases as well. One of them was the office of the law clerk and also legal services. I'm just concerned because I know at the health committee, the law clerk indicated to us that there were some resource constraints he faced in vetting some of the documents that he is going to have to do in response to the order made by the House on the 26th of October.
I'm just wondering if we can have any comment on that decrease in resources, and whether the law clerk has the resources he needs now to be able to process those documents that the House and its committees have asked him to vet and to redact.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-12-03 11:43
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You don't feel there are any additional resources that you require to be able to complete that in a timely fashion.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-12-03 11:44
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On the other side of things, I share the concern generally about some pretty large increases. Mr. Julian has addressed them to a large degree, but I want to touch on it specifically. Looking at line items, there are some pretty huge increases in specific line items. Two of the largest were employee relations, which is a 78% increase, I believe, and human resources service centre, which is a 76% increase. One of the others that is among the larger ones is occupational health, safety and environment, which is up 26%. Those all seem to group together in the category of labour and employment issues.
Is that driven by the pandemic or is there something else that it's responding to? Those are pretty alarming increases.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-12-03 11:48
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What you're saying to me is that it's been established in response to Bill C-65.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-12-03 11:48
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Okay.
More broadly, I want to get a sense of what measures are in place internally to slow down expenditure growth. Mr. Julian mentioned that we're seeing an increase of over 5% in what we're seeing here, but I believe if you look back from 2014 until now, there has been a 29% increase in the expenditures in the House's estimates. This is a pretty large increase over a five- or six-year period.
I'm wondering what measures are in place to ensure that this expenditure growth can be slowed down. What should the board being looking at? Is there any advice you can provide us on what we can be looking at as a board in terms of measures that can be put in place to ensure that we have stronger fiscal prudence and stronger controls and to make sure that we're not seeing these continual increases year over year?
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-12-03 11:51
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I wanted to come back to this idea of finding ways to put in place controls for better fiscal prudence, but you sort of led me into my other question, which is about the fairly large increases in terms of the employment figures.
We saw an increase, I believe, from 1,827 to 2,214. That's about a 21% increase. It's a pretty big jump. A couple of the bigger jumps were in procedural services, which we saw go from 261 to 442, and then in the office of the deputy clerk of administration, which we saw more than double in size from 37 to 77. I'm wondering if that's an increase because there are more part-timers with the pandemic or if that's really a legitimate full-time equivalent increase. What's driving this huge 21% increase in the employment figures?
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-12-03 11:53
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What you're saying is that what we're seeing there is a snapshot in time, and the 21% wouldn't be an accurate portrayal of the growth. What would be more accurate in terms of a percentage of growth?
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-12-03 11:54
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That would be appreciated.
Could you ballpark that for me? I wouldn't hold you to it, of course.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-12-03 11:54
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Perhaps you could give us a better picture of what the growth would be in terms of FTE.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-12-03 11:54
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Just going back to what I was on before with regard to measures that can be put in place, I understand about responding to legislative changes and things like that, but obviously 29% is far over and above inflation, for sure, in terms of the expansion of growth.
I'll throw out something that comes to mind for me. What about looking at requiring some sort of offsetting decreases where there are new increases in spending? Is that something the administration would welcome? What kinds of suggestions could you give us that we can look at in terms of ways we can ensure that we're not seeing such continual growth?
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-12-03 11:56
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Thank you. I appreciate your answers.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-12-03 12:05
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Thanks.
Just to be clear first, Mr. Speaker, items six and seven are closely related. Are we doing them together or is item seven going to be presented separately?
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-12-03 12:06
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Okay.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-12-03 12:06
Expand
Okay.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-12-03 12:06
Expand
We'll be talking about the temporary measures regarding COVID separately, then.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-12-03 12:06
Expand
Okay.
I guess the first question is that I don't know if there was maybe as much detail as I had hoped. Regarding the reassigned staff, I'm still a little unclear. I know that this was a question I asked previously. I think this is partly in response to that. I'm still a little unclear on those reassignments.
Can you give us a bit more of a breakdown on those? Are we talking about ongoing reassignments? Were these only temporary assignments? What sorts of reassignments did we see? I'm not asking for every bit of detail, but maybe you can give us some of the greatest in number in terms of the reassignments. What types of reassignments were they? What sorts of areas were people reassigned to and for what length of time?
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-12-03 12:07
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Okay.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-12-03 12:08
Expand
Okay.
That would be the biggest bulk.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-12-03 12:08
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How much of that would be dedicated to other things? Obviously we're still making plans for other things such as a voting app and other ways to adapt. What sort of a percentage of these reassignments would be related to the development of future responses we're still working on?
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-12-03 12:08
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Sure.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-12-03 12:09
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That's understood. Okay.
Where have these people typically been reassigned from? In other words, what sorts of things are being left to the side or not being done to maybe the capacity we would have liked as a result of reassignments?
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-12-03 12:11
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While we're on the topic of virtual Parliament, with regard to committees, we've obviously been told that with logistical issues and maintenance issues with the systems, the approach that we've been using, this hybrid approach for committee meetings, is going to have to stop for about a month during the upcoming winter adjournment. If I remember correctly—I might be off a little bit—but roughly from December 19, for about a month, we would see a shutdown. What we're told is that this would prevent committees and even Parliament, if it needed to be recalled, from being able to sit in any kind of a way, even if there is an emergency situation that develops.
We've seen that in the past this sometimes does happen while the House is in adjournment. Can we get a bit more of an explanation, especially for Canadians who might be following the proceedings today? What exactly is going on there? Why is it happening? What could be done to ensure that there is an ability for emergency situations to be dealt with? Could it be done in some kind of a staggered fashion so that even one committee could be accommodated where there might be an emergency? Obviously, there are reasons that needs to happen and we certainly wouldn't want to shut down our Parliament completely for a month if that was necessary.
Can we get some explanation on what's happening there and also an indication of what could be done to ensure that there is an ability to function in a limited capacity if an emergency situation arises?
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-12-03 12:13
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Could I just add to that? In relation to committees, there are obviously times when an emergency committee meeting is required. Can we have the same assurance and guarantee that it would be possible, if needed?
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-12-03 12:14
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I understand. I want to just make sure to make it clear that we appreciate that there's been a lot of change and adaptation required. You guys have done a really good job of trying to ensure that we're keeping pace with what's required under very difficult circumstances. I do understand that this can sometimes involve stuff that's far beyond my comprehension in terms of technical capabilities.
I appreciate the work that you're doing. I really do appreciate the assurances you've just given us that there would be some way found to ensure that, in those urgent and emergency type situations.... That was my big concern. I'm really glad to hear that there will be ways to accommodate that, if needed.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-12-03 12:23
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I have just one thing I want to touch on.
After the last presentation, my colleague Mr. Deltell was asking about printing and mailing. I've had certainly a number of complaints, for lack of a better way of putting it, from my caucus in terms of capacity constraints. There are longer periods of time required to get things completed, which is making it so that things aren't really being received by constituents in a timely enough fashion. It's almost, for lack of a better way of putting it, old news by the time they receive it.
I wonder if, in this context of the pandemic, you would be able to bring forward on a priority basis some type of proposal for our consideration to renew the temporary measure that allowed for external printing. I had a lot of very positive feedback about that, and I think many members were finding it very helpful in this context. We should be looking at renewing that.
Is there any way we could have a proposal brought to us on how that could be done?
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-12-03 12:25
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Thank you. That's much appreciated.
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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-11-26 12:54
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Thanks.
Just to add to this, there have been a number of issues, certainly for translation or interpretation, with regard to the headsets. However, probably the most serious breaches of it has been when we've had instances with ministers appearing at committees or committees of the whole where there have been delays related to either their not having a proper headset or their not having secured a proper location to have a good Internet connection.
It is absolutely incumbent upon ministers of the Crown to ensure that they are putting themselves in a position where they will have the proper equipment, connections and so on. They know often well in advance when they're appearing at these things to be held accountable in committees.
Where this is happening, I won't indicate the motives behind it and there may not be any, but without a doubt, it should be expected of ministers that they be prepared for their committee and committees of the whole with proper connections and proper headsets. In instances where committees are being delayed or held up as a result of these kinds of issues, I really believe the minister should be expected to make up that time at the committee.
If anyone should be expected to be clear on these things, it should be ministers of the Crown. I point that out as well for the deliberations that are being held in terms of how we can address some of these issues. Ministers should be very clear on the need for a headset and a connection that is not problematic. We've seen far too much of this, and it seems to me as though it's limiting the ability of members of all parties to hold the ministers accountable, so this has to be addressed as well.
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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 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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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 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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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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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 Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-11-19 11:43
Expand
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 Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-11-19 11:43
Expand
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 Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-11-19 11:45
Expand
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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View Blake Richards Profile
CPC (AB)
View Blake Richards Profile
2020-11-19 11:47
Expand
Okay.
Thank you.
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