Evidence of meeting #26 for Procedure and House Affairs in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was million.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Scheer Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

I can assure you that the allowance is not $290 million.

12:35 p.m.

Clerk of the House of Commons, House of Commons

Audrey O'Brien

We'll get back—

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Thank you.

12:35 p.m.

Clerk of the House of Commons, House of Commons

Audrey O'Brien

—to you with the colourful little detail there.

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Joe Preston

As the Clerk knows, we're in the process of crossing things like that out of the Standing Orders, so we could help you cross some of those things out too, if you would like.

Mr. Lukiwski is next, and then Mr. Albrecht; I think you're sharing with him.

March 8th, 2012 / 12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

I didn't realize I was, but I'm pleased to do so.

Actually, I had two quick questions. One was a follow-up on my first intervention on finding efficiencies, if possible, within the House administration. You had mentioned you've not completed that exercise. I was just curious as to how you were going forward with that exercise—whether you felt that you are going to be able to come up with a 5% or 10% reduction in expenses on the administration size, and, consequent to that, whether we would be able to then be informed of that. I think that would be an interesting examination.

The other thing I would like to point out more than anything else—and we've talked about it twice already—is on the security side. This committee has been seized with the security issue for years, quite frankly. I think there's been unanimity around this table for years, regardless of which members sit at this table, that there should only be one security force, but for many reasons—and I won't get into them now—we've never been able to get to the point where we have agreement. There are probably some territorial imperatives going on here.

Regardless of that, would you as Speaker be in a position to make a recommendation on that issue, if in fact you are as concerned as we are that we have a large expense item as a result of having two separate security forces when one would do?

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Scheer Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

I can tell you that finding efficiencies has been before the board for some time, and it is a comprehensive process. I don't want to prejudge the work of the board or what members of the board may ultimately decide in terms of a percentage or a number, but I can say that it is ongoing. Apart from that, both the Speaker's office and the Clerk's side knew it was coming, and we have been looking for ways that we can do more with less, or in some cases do the same amount with less, depending on the circumstance.

I have had a number of discussions on the security issue and on harmonizing it. Again, ultimately both the Senate committee on internal economy and the House Board of Internal Economy will have to make decisions, figuring out where the authority stems from, and the oversight and the proper management of it. I continue to have those types of meetings and briefings on it. All I can say is to stay tuned. I know it's been discussed a long time, but no decisions have been made at this point.

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

I have one quick follow-up question, then, specifically on that subject. Have you had dialogue and are you continuing to have discussions with the Speaker of the Senate on that issue of security?

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Scheer Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

It is a bit different over there. It's not so much with the Speaker himself, but with their body, the committee on internal economy, and the chair of that committee. I have had some discussions on that issue.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Joe Preston

Mr. Albrecht is next.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I'll follow up briefly on the point Mr. Zimmer was starting on in terms of the savings that might be realized if we were to utilize the technical abilities in teleconferencing as opposed to bringing witnesses in every time.

I recognize there is often great value in the physical presence of a witness, but when you have witnesses here for literally a 10-minute speech and three or four answers to committee members—a total investment of maybe 20 minutes of their time—there are also opportunities not only for savings to taxpayers but also for saving the person's time in coming here. I'm wondering if we could follow through with that study in terms of what the actual potential savings are.

That brings me back to the question I raised earlier in terms of our having 10 rooms that can do it but only enough staff for two or three of them. If we're going to utilize teleconferencing more fully in the future, we may need to look at an option to have backup staff trained and ready and available, so that we're not faced with a situation of needing six rooms for teleconferencing on a given day—I'm just using wild numbers—but not having the personnel to actually make use of the great facilities we've invested in and taxpayers have paid for. It makes no sense to have it sitting there being requested if we don't have the personnel to actually make it work.

It's just a comment. You can make a response if you want to now, but it's more for the future. I think it's a concern we would have going forward.

12:40 p.m.

Clerk of the House of Commons, House of Commons

Audrey O'Brien

Through you, Mr. Chairman, to Mr. Albrecht, one of the things Mr. Speaker has been talking about in terms of the ongoing discussions and the ongoing analysis we're doing of our services is precisely this kind of thing.

For example, as you've pointed out, there is not the capacity right now to handle teleconferencing in every committee room. What we would look at is the idea of having people who are now conceivably attached to other things become available and be trained in handling that sort of thing in order to effect those savings. It's certainly the kind of efficiency we're looking at. We would be prepared to support it in order to gain precisely the kinds of advantages you've described.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Joe Preston

Go ahead, Ms. Charlton.

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

I have one last question for clarification purposes.

I note here again in the ministry summary that the Senate ethics officer falls under our set of estimates. Why is that? Why would that person be under the House of Commons estimates?

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Joe Preston

It is under Parliament.