Thank you, Mr. Chair.
I am also joined today by Mike O'Beirne, Superintendent and Acting Director of the Parliamentary Protective Service; as well as Robert Graham, Administration and Personnel Officer at the same service.
I'll begin this morning's presentation by highlighting key elements of the 2017-18 main estimates for the House of Commons, which total $476 million and represent a 2.7% increase over the previous year.
The presentation of the main estimates for PPS will follow.
To help guide the first part of my presentation and facilitate our exchange, I have provided a handout that outlines each of the 14 line items included in the House of Commons' 2017-2018 Main Estimates.
I will address each of these in the order in which they appear, leaving, I hope, ample time for discussion.
As you will note, there are nine items included under the broad category of “Members, House Officers, and Committees, Associations and Exchanges”. Further down, there are four items under “House Administration”. Last, but not least, we have a final item related to “Employee Benefit Plans”.
To begin, we have sought a 1.8% increase to the members' office budgets and House officers' budgets. Together, these represent a permanent increase of $2.8 million, with the greatest proportion being allotted to the members' office budgets.
As you know, these budgets give members of Parliament and House officers the resources they need to carry out their parliamentary functions on behalf of Canadians. The adjustments were calculated based on the consumer price index as measured in September 2016. They were scheduled to take effect on April 1.
In addition, a 20% increase to the MOB supplements, which totals $1.5 million, has also been sought. The supplement assists members who represent constituencies that are densely populated, geographically large, or remote in responding to the needs of the people they represent.
The electoral list, which we use to calculate the amount of the elector supplement, was revised and published by Elections Canada in February 2016. That occurred after the submission deadline for the main estimates in 2016-2017. Consequently, the revised list of electors required that an adjustment be applied to the supplement, resulting in a decrease of $308,000 in 2017-2018 and in subsequent years.
Specifically, supplements recognize the challenges inherent in serving larger, more populated, or more remote constituencies, which members, I think, will understand. They help level the playing field to ensure that Canadians are well-served by their members of Parliament. The increase in supplements was made during the 2016-17 year and took effect on April 1, 2016.
Also on that date, members' sessional allowances and additional salaries increased by 1.8%. This amount reflects adjustments made every year on April 1 based on the average increase in Canadian wages resulting from major settlements in the private sector. The adjustment represents a permanent increase of $1.1 million for 2016-2017.
The next line item represents a funding adjustment to the travel status expenses account for 2013-14 and 2015-16 in the amount of $743,000. Specifically, this increase equals the total amounts approved over a four-year period by the Board of Internal Economy but not yet reflected in the main estimates. The increase will ensure that in the future, funding in the mains and the approved allocations will correspond.
Let me now draw your attention to the next four line items related to parliamentary associations and conferences.
I will first provide you with a bit of context.
As you may know, funding for these items is shared between the House of Commons and the Senate. As such, the amounts to which I will refer in a moment represent the 70% portion of the total budget that the House of Commons funds. The remaining 30% is paid by the Senate.
We have experienced a growing demand for Canadian parliamentarians to further engage internationally. It's something I hear about often from foreign delegations, ambassadors, and high commissioners who come to see me. While this pressure has been building for some time, it has recently become more prevalent.
Funding for this important work remained relatively stable for several years. However, a significant increase in 2013, coupled with increases in association membership fees and other costs—including travel—hampered association activities.
Add to this the unprecedented number of new parliamentarians, many of whom wish to play a role in the 12 parliamentary associations that support Canada's international efforts. For all of these reasons, the board recently accepted a recommendation from the Joint Interparliamentary Council to increase its share of permanent funding to Canada's parliamentary associations by $700,000.
Likewise, Canada will play host to the Interparliamentary Union's Global Conference of Young Parliamentarians in November. To support the conference, which brings the best and the brightest young parliamentarians together to address pressing challenges to democracies around the word, temporary funding of $324,000 has been sought.
The Canadian Parliament will also host two significant conferences in the second half of 2018.
The 64th annual session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly will take place in my hometown of Halifax in November of 2018. MPs from across the Atlantic alliance will gather to discuss important matters related to security. To support early preparations for this important event, $72,000 in temporary funding has been sought in fiscal year 2017-18.
Also next year, in July, the 56th Regional Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Conference will come to Ottawa. They'll probably have almost as good a time as they would if they were in Halifax. The conference will gather parliamentarians from across the Commonwealth to promote co-operation and good governance. To help host this event, $19,000 in temporary funding for 2017-18 has also been sought.
I think I speak for many around the table today in saying that we look forward to the results of the work of our parliamentary associations over the next 12 months, and in the future.
Let me now turn to the group of items listed under the general category of “House of Commons Administration”.
As you know, the administration plays a crucial role in supporting the work of each and every member of Parliament, as well as that of the institution, including helping to ensure our collective security in partnership with the Parliamentary Protective Service or the CSO.
The corporate security office—or for short, the CSO—is responsible for security in the House of Commons chamber, providing project management for security infrastructure, conducting investigations, coordinating visitor and event access, providing security accreditation, promoting security awareness, and administering parking services.
The CSO also develops and implements House-wide security policies, standards and processes aimed at preventing, detecting and responding to security risks and threats.
Since the 2015 launch of the integrated security model, in partnership with PPS, our understanding of the roles and responsibilities shared by the CSO and PPS have evolved.
As a result, and to better ensure our security, a permanent increase of $3.6 million to the CSO budget was sought, in addition to a temporary increase of $69,000 in 2017-18. This temporary funding will help to pay for additional staff and office space. It's worth noting that the security enhancement measures identified in 2016-17 and presented the last time that I appeared before you are either under way or being completed, so we are on track with those.
The House of Commons and its partner, Public Services and Procurement Canada, or PSPC, are also on track with the renovations and rehabilitation projects underway throughout the parliamentary precinct. To that end, we have sought an increase of $2.4 million in temporary funding to maintain and, in the longer term, replace crucial information technology assets; transfer the building components and connectivity program from PSPC to the House of Commons; and better meet those building requirements that are specific to our institution.
Remuneration under the page program, whereby top students from across Canada have the opportunity to support the work of the House and witness the legislative process first-hand, accounts for a permanent aggregate increase of $60,000, beginning this year. That increase is calculated on the basis of the average increase in tuition and residence fees at Carleton University and the University of Ottawa and is reviewed every year.
While we're on the topic of the page program, I'd like to take a moment to say how very satisfying it was to learn that the House administration had been recognized as an exceptional workplace for young Canadian talent in this year's Top 100 Employers national competition, as well as being named the top employer in the region.... Excuse me, “a top employer”. Darn it, just “a” top employer, but that's still good.