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Evidence of meeting #39 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 video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Marc Mayrand  Chief Electoral Officer, Elections Canada
Belaineh Deguefé  Deputy Chief Electoral Officer, Policy, Planning and Public Affairs, Elections Canada
Mark G. Watters  Chief Financial Officer, House of Commons
Audrey O'Brien  Clerk of the House of Commons

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Page 2 of your presentation.

12:40 p.m.

Clerk of the House of Commons

Audrey O'Brien

So you are referring to the increase of $4 million.

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Yes. Basically, to what do you attribute that increase? Will it be recurring every year?

12:40 p.m.

Clerk of the House of Commons

Audrey O'Brien

No, it will not be recurring every year. Furthermore, there will be reductions resulting from the strategic review that we undertook and that members were told about. That isn't reflected in the main estimates, but it will appear in the supplementary estimates and the main estimates for the next three fiscal years.

I will ask my colleague Mr. Watters to give you more details on that.

12:40 p.m.

Chief Financial Officer, House of Commons

Mark G. Watters

Thank you kindly, Mr. Chair.

As the clerk said, under the supplementary estimates, we will be reducing House budgets in the years ahead, in accordance with the program endorsed by the BIE, the Board of Internal Economy. The program takes into account the estimates over the next three years. Basically, the increases you see here will be more or less cancelled out in the future, by reductions of roughly $30 million a year, and that is as of the third year of program implementation.

So it is accurate to say that there would have been standing year-over-year increases in the neighbourhood of $4 million, but those increases will decrease under the strategic review program conducted at the House.

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

And you anticipate $30 million a year for the next three years? Is that right?

12:40 p.m.

Chief Financial Officer, House of Commons

Mark G. Watters

As of the end of the third year, the reductions will be in the range of $30 million, and that's for each year.

We are giving ourselves three years to put the program in place, and the reductions will gradually amount to $30 million as of the third year.

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Do I still have some time?

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

Sure. We took a little time with the paperwork.

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

You talk about sound resource management, which sounds like a good idea. But at the same time, will the resources set out in the main estimates allow House Administration to run as effectively as possible?

12:40 p.m.

Clerk of the House of Commons

Audrey O'Brien

I believe so, Mr. Chair.

When it comes to approaching the reductions strategically, we plan to look at methods and practices that may be outdated. For instance, we are interested in using technology in a more strategic way, one that would enable us to provide members with the same level of service or better, without requiring the involvement of further human resources for a transaction.

I would say that the financial portal recently announced by the Speaker in a press release builds on that idea. It's an opportunity to establish similar ways of doing business. I am very hopeful that it will enable us to maintain our strategic approach and reach our objectives, while delivering the reductions promised further to the strategic review.

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Sadia Groguhé NDP Saint-Lambert, QC

Thank you.

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

Merci.

Monsieur Garneau, for five minutes.

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Garneau Liberal Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Chair, I don't have any questions for the Speaker or the Clerk.

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Joe Preston

Mr. Williamson, here is your time back. Four minutes, please.

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

John Williamson Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Thank you.

I'm curious. You expect savings of $5 million, yet you've requested $1.3 million, if I'm reading that correctly, in additional funding. Why the up before you go down?

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

There have been increased costs, and not every member is on the travel point system up to this point. As I mentioned in my speech, previously there had been surpluses used in other accounts to cover shortfalls. We've gone away from that system, partly because those surpluses in those other accounts aren't there any more. It will go up to reflect the increased costs for the last little bit, and then start to go down as the flight passes are implemented.

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

John Williamson Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Is that something you're planning to make mandatory?

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Yes.

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

John Williamson Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

What about spouses? They're not currently available for spouses, as I understand it.

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Right. I'm not sure how the board addressed that, but I think Mark knows a little more about it.

12:45 p.m.

Chief Financial Officer, House of Commons

Mark G. Watters

The thinking was that the spouses would not be allowed to use the flight passes because the flight passes have to be bought in booklets of ten. Members are responsible if those ten segments are not used. In a way, to protect members from unnecessary expense, it was decided by the BOIE at the time that flight passes would only be applicable to members for regular travel to regular points back and forth between Ottawa and the constituency, because there was a high likelihood that the full ten segments would be able to be used. Spousal travel is sometimes less predictable, and therefore it's probably best if a flight pass would not be purchased for the time being.

We're still definitely open to studying that question further. We're only dipping our toes in the water of flight passes with this initiative. Should utilization prove that the full flight passes could be used, there would be no reason we wouldn't want to extend it to spouses, but for the time being it is restricted to members.

May 29th, 2012 / 12:45 p.m.

Conservative

John Williamson Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

I would urge you to allow members to opt in if they choose. As you said, they—and not the House of Commons and ultimately not taxpayers—are responsible for them if they are not used. It's one more avenue that could be used to save taxpayers additional money, because there are a lot of young members in the House whose families travel with them frequently.

I have another question. It's geared towards the Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, if there were a case in which moneys were spent inappropriately and that question were referred to the BOIE and the BOIE agreed with that—if mail, for example, were improperly used—what would be the sanction after that? Would it go back to the House of Commons? How would the BOIE resolve that? Or would it come to this committee?

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

With my short experience on the board—I've been on it for only about a year—I would say that the board looks at each situation and takes appropriate action that it deems necessary in each case.

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

John Williamson Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

And for a new member, what might that be? Educate me.