Thank you, Mr. Chair.
At the last meeting of the Board of Internal Economy, we were asked to provide more information on the five additional positions we would like to create in order to continue providing full support to all committees.
At the request of the Board of Internal Economy, we revised the briefing note you have in front of you. Our key message this morning is that this request has nothing at all to do with the pandemic. The pandemic actually delayed the request. We would have still asked for these resources, but probably sooner.
The reasons why the House Administration needs these additional resources can be summed up in three points.
First, we have seen over the past decade a significant increase in committee activity. Committees have been sitting longer and hearing from more witnesses. In addition, the number of witnesses appearing by video conference is on the rise, and that started even before the pandemic.
Beyond the statistics and trends, it is important to mention that the work these resources do is not just the work that is seen in committee. As just one example, more witnesses means more time contacting and planning for these witnesses to appear. In addition, our teams often contact more witnesses than actually appear, as not everyone is available based on the committee schedule. Often multiple interactions are required to coordinate an appearance. This all amounts to more work for the team acting on behalf of the committee to make those meetings happen. This is but one example of all the work that is being done behind the scenes by the teams supporting committees.
Also, as video conferencing technology has improved and become more accessible across the precinct, members have used these tools to reduce travel costs for witnesses, to allow witnesses who might not otherwise have time or be able to travel to Ottawa to appear, and to allow easier access to international witnesses. However, as the number of witnesses who appear via video conference grows, this also takes more resources and time to coordinate, to test the connectivity of each witness and to make sure it is as positive an experience as possible for all concerned. This is in addition to the time during which those resources are available during the meeting when they are ready to support and resolve issues.
Second, we have seen the modernization of many tools and services used to support committees over the last 10 years. These are tools such as online and more accessible electronic libraries of all committee documents for members and their staff, a social media presence for committees, and more documents publicly available via the committees' websites, such as the large number of briefs received by committees as part of their various studies. That is along with the fact that there's increased access to and improvements of the video conferencing system, which is now available in all committee rooms. This is contrary to the situation that existed in the past, when there was only a limited number of rooms in which it was possible to video conference.
Members asked for these services in support of their committee work. In response to members' wish, tools were put in place as time went on to improve services and make it easier for members to do their committee work. Those new services, however, have resulted in a heavier workload for the teams who support those activities.
As a third and final point, the House team has always worked hard to support additional committee activities within the existing resources that the board has provided. As could be seen over the course of the last decade, committee activities have grown but no requests for additional resources have been made to support these activities.
When new committees, such as a special committee, are added, we have to reassign staff and sometimes have clerks double up on committees. This situation has become difficult to sustain, and the teams find it increasingly difficult to meet the client service expectations of members. This is why we are requesting these additional resources at this time.
Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. We'd be pleased to answer any questions the board may have.