Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman and committee members. Thank you for welcoming us here today.
I am pleased to be here to present the 2019-20 interim estimates and to address the funding required to maintain and enhance the House Administration's support to members of Parliament and the institution.
I am joined today by members of the House Administration's executive management team, who you know well: Charles Robert, clerk of the House of Commons; Michel Patrice, deputy clerk, Administration; and Daniel Paquette, chief financial officer.
I will also be presenting the interim estimates for the Parliamentary Protective Service. Therefore, I am also accompanied by Marie-Claude Côté, acting director of PPS, and Robert Graham, the service's Administration and Personnel Officer.
The interim estimates for 2019-20 include an overview of spending requirements for the first three months of the fiscal year, with a comparison to the 2018-19 estimates, as well as the proposed schedules for the first appropriation bill.
The interim estimates of the House of Commons, as tabled in the House, total approximately $87.5 million and represent three-twelfths of the total voted authorities that will be included in the upcoming 2019-20 main estimates. Once the main estimates are tabled in the House, I anticipate that we will meet again in the spring, at which time I will provide an overview of the year-over-year changes.
Today, I'll give you a brief overview of the House of Commons' main priorities.
Ensuring that members and House officers have the services and resources to meet their needs is essential in supporting them in the fulfillment of their parliamentary functions.
By the way, Mr. Chairman, I will of course try to speak at a rate where it's possible for the interpreters to interpret, because we all appreciate the wonderful work they do, and I don't wish to make it more difficult.
The House Administration's top priority is to support members in their work as parliamentarians by focusing on service-delivery excellence and ongoing modernization. As an example, this past year, we have seen the opening of four multidisciplinary Source plus service centres, which are ready to provide members and their staff with in-person support.
A team of House of Commons employees is available to provide assistance related to finance, human resources, information technology and various operational services offered by the House Administration. If members ever have any comments about this, I would be very interested in hearing them.
Another service-delivery initiative has been the implementation of a standardized approach for computer and printing equipment in constituency offices across the country. This initiative was launched as a pilot project this year. Its purpose is threefold: to ensure parity between Hill and constituency computing services; to enhance IT support and security; and to simplify purchasing and life-cycling of equipment in the constituency offices.
In addition, all constituency offices will now be provided with a complete set of standard computer devices and applications following the next general election.
The House administration aims to provide innovative, effective, accountable and non-partisan support to members. To do so, it must attract and retain an engaged, qualified and productive workforce that acts responsibly and with integrity.
Cost-of-living increases are essential to recruitment efforts for members, House officers and the House administration as employers, and funding for these increases is accounted for in the estimates.
Members will know that employee support programs are also a priority. These programs, which are offered to employees of members, House officers, research offices and the administration, include an employee and family assistance program and other resources and events, such as those taking place this February for Wellness Month.
The renewal of our physical spaces and the services provided within them is another priority for the House administration.
The opening of West Block and the visitor welcome centre is the most significant change to date to the parliamentary precinct. We believe that West Block is a model to other parliaments tackling similar challenges with respect to aging facilities. In fact, I know many of you are aware that, at Westminster, they're planning to move out and have a major renovation to the Palace of Westminster, which of course is an immense undertaking. That will be a few years away still.
The House of Commons works closely with its parliamentary partners and with Public Services and Procurement Canada in support of the long-term vision and plan.
For the coming years, the focus will be on decommissioning and restoring Centre Block. We will also continue to review and update the House of Commons' requirements and guiding principles for future renovations to the parliamentary precinct. The administration of the House of Commons will continue to look at ways to best engage members in the Centre Block project moving forward and to ensure they continue to be part of discussions on the design and operational requirements for that building.
An ongoing priority is the operation, support, maintenance and life-cycle management of equipment and connectivity elements in all buildings. This work is essential to providing a mobile work environment for members and the administration, which is something that we all, of course, now expect.
I now turn to the interim estimates for the Parliamentary Protective Service. The Parliamentary Protective Service is requesting access to $28 million in these interim estimates.
The funding requirements align with the four key strategic priorities of the service: protective operational excellence; engaged and healthy employees; balanced security and access; and sound stewardship.
The majority of the PPS annual budget is attributed to its first priority, protective operational excellence, which includes personnel salaries and overtime costs.
In keeping with the service's aim to allocate existing resources as judiciously as possible, several posts were added to the overall security posture in response to the opening of the interim accommodations. I would suggest that, if members have any questions with respect to the security posture, the committee may wish to go in camera for that exchange.
The service recently reclassified the positions of all protection officers, which led to an increase in their salaries retroactive to April 1, 2018.
PPS has also successfully reached a bargaining agreement with the Senate Protective Service Employees Association and an extension of the previous agreement with the Public Service Alliance of Canada. For this reason, funding has been earmarked to make payments for retroactive economic increases as a result of these negotiations.
As PPS evolves, the service is gradually reducing the presence of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in certain areas on Parliament Hill and within the parliamentary precinct and, in turn, increasing the resources and presence of PPS officers.
The remainder of the PPS budget ensures that the administration, which supports the operations of the service, is adequately equipped and resourced. This means ensuring that security assets and technology are properly managed and that employees are continuously supported in their health and well-being. As PPS approaches its fourth anniversary this June, its administration is becoming more agile and responsive to the needs of Parliament and of its own workforce.
Mr. Chair, this concludes my overview of the 2019-20 interim estimates for the House of Commons and Parliamentary Protective Service.
My officials and I would be pleased to answer any questions from members.