Evidence of meeting #78 for Procedure and House Affairs in the 42nd 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

Superintendent Jane MacLatchy  Director, Parliamentary Protective Service
Robert Graham  Administration and Personnel Officer, Parliamentary Protective Service
André Gagnon  Deputy Clerk, Procedure
Daniel G. Paquette  Chief Financial Officer, House of Commons
Michel Patrice  Deputy Clerk, Administration
Stéphan Aubé  Chief Information Officer, House of Commons
Andre Barnes  Committee Researcher

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

I call the meeting to order.

I apologize for being late. My bill was before Parliament, and I thought it was about to be passed, but they keep on talking.

I welcome the witnesses to our 78th meeting. I'm sorry for keeping you waiting.

Our business is supplementary estimates, vote 1b under the House of Commons and vote 1b under the Parliamentary Protective Service.

We're pleased to have the Hon. Geoff Regan, Speaker of the House. Joining the Speaker from the House of Commons are Charles Robert, Clerk of the House; Michel Patrice, deputy clerk, administration; and Daniel Paquette, chief financial officer.

From the Parliamentary Protective Service, we are joined by chief superintendent Jane MacLatchy, director, and Robert Graham, administration and personnel officer.

With that, I will now turn the floor over to you, Mr. Speaker, for an opening statement on both sets of estimates. Thank you.

11:05 a.m.

Halifax West Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan LiberalSpeaker of the House of Commons

Good afternoon, Mr. Chairman.

I'm sure I'll pay for that.

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

If the Speaker had been faster, I would have got my bill through.

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Oh, oh!

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee. It's a pleasure to be back before you in my role as Speaker of the House of Commons to present to you our supplementary estimates (B) for the fiscal year 2017-18.

As you know, this appearance is an opportunity for the House of Commons to present the approved additional funding for previously planned initiatives, each of which is designed to maintain and enhance the administration's support to members of Parliament and to the institution itself.

You may have gotten a sneak peek of what I am about to present to you when the Board of Internal Economy reviewed and approved the estimates last month, at its first public meeting.

I'm here today to add some details and answer your questions. I'll also present, as you mentioned, Mr. Chairman, the supplementary estimates (B) for the Parliamentary Protective Service, or PPS. As you may have noticed, I'm joined by our House administration's executive management team and the leadership of the PPS.

I will begin this morning's presentation by highlighting the key elements of the 2017-18 supplementary estimates (B) for the House of Commons. These total $35 million in additional funding and bring the House of Commons' estimates to $511 million for the fiscal year.

For a more detailed breakdown of numbers, I would draw your attention to the handout that we've provided to the committee to help facilitate our discussions.

As you can see, there are 10 line items included in our 2017-2018 supplementary estimates (B). I will address each of these in the order in which they appear. This will be followed by a presentation of the supplementary estimates for PPS.

As you will note, most of the line items—eight of them, to be precise—fall under the broad category of voted appropriations. The remaining two items represent statutory appropriations.

To begin, our first line item confirms that temporary funding in the amount of $15.4 million has been sought for what is technically known as the operating budget carry-forward.

The board's carry-forward policy allows members, House officers, and the House administration to carry forward unspent funds from one fiscal year to the next, up to a maximum of 5% of their operating budgets in their main estimates. This practice follows that of the Government of Canada and gives members, House officers, and the administration more flexibility in planning and carrying out their work. The House of Commons carry-forward has been approved by the Board of Internal Economy, and further to a Treasury Board directive, is reflected in our supplementary estimates.

The next line item relates to security enhancements to the West Block that are needed as part of the long-term vision and plan. As you may know, Public Services and Procurement Canada, the lead partner in this ambitious, multi-year plan, recently confirmed that the restoration of West Block is scheduled for completion next year. Once ready, that heritage building will serve as our new temporary home.

I can't go into further detail about the $5.3 million that is required to enhance overall security at West Block without going in camera, as I'm sure colleagues will understand. However, I do want to take this opportunity to confirm that we are doing the required due diligence on security matters and that a detailed plan has been approved by the board.

In addition, we have sought $4.4 million in 2017-18 to fund economic increases for House administration employees. This increase reflects the results of the negotiations with four of our bargaining units. The total sought includes both temporary funding for retroactive payments and funding for permanent, ongoing labour costs.

The next item represents a $2.7 million investment in the overarching digital strategy to modernize the delivery of parliamentary information to better support the work of members of Parliament, their staff, and the administration, as well as to maintain the solutions and systems that underpin the strategy. The planning, development, and launch of our digital strategy this past spring marked a significant step forward—one of many to come—in making the House a leader in the sharing of parliamentary information.

I should mention that the strategy also includes efforts to evolve our intranet for members to transform it into a one-stop source for important information that members expect from the House of Commons.

You may recall that this past May, when I last appeared before this committee to present our main estimates, I spoke to you about the work of our parliamentary committees and associations.

I mentioned to you then that there was a growing demand for Canadian parliamentarians to meet with citizens from across the country as well as internationally to help better shape our country's policies and actions, both at home and around the world.

Accordingly, an additional $1.7 million for fiscal year 2017-18 was included in the supplementary estimates (B) to support the activities of our committees and to support the 15th Plenary Assembly of ParlAmericas. This conference, which is to be hosted by Canada, is scheduled for September 2018 in beautiful Victoria, British Columbia.

The next line item in the handout—funding in the amount of $1.4 million—was sought in 2017-18 to usher in two changes to the way we do business.

The first will see the budget structures for the House officers and national caucuses modernized to allow for a more effective management of their operations. That change came into effect on April 1, 2017.

The second extends the proactive disclosure of expenditures from members to all House officers and national caucus research offices. I'm happy to confirm that our first House officers expenditures report will be published in June 2018. The latter represents the latest step taken by the board to increase the public's understanding of its role and of the expenditures of the House of Commons. The opening of the board's meetings to the public, which I mentioned earlier in this presentation, is another notable example.

I would direct your attention now to the next line item, which deals with the House administration's continued efforts to modernize our food services to members and others, and deliver these in the most efficient way possible.

We have sought $1 million in funding to provide a more client-focused experience and to prepare for the move of our parliamentary dining room to the West Block, including related upgrades to our food production facility.

The changes that will be introduced include a new breakfast service at the parliamentary dining room, a new catering kitchen team for final preparations and plating, revised menus to appeal to changing palates and accommodate off-site preparation, year-round service in two cafeterias in the parliamentary precinct, and a core complement of employees, including new hires, to respond to the increasing demand for service.

The last item you will find in the voted appropriations section of the handout relates to $835,000 sought for pay and benefits services in 2017-18. Given the challenges, this funding will ensure a more reasonable workload for employees who provide this service, as well as help better meet the needs of members and other clients.

Ten new positions are being funded on the pay and benefits team within the human resources services. The increase in our staffing complement will, among other things, provide for the establishment of a call centre to respond to pay and benefits questions, as well as a dedicated pension services expert to act as a go-to resource for members for pension-related matters.

There are two final items to address related to the House of Commons supplementary estimates (B). These fall under the category of statutory appropriations in the handout.

To begin, $1.6 million in funding was sought for the employee benefit plans in 2017-18, in accordance with a Treasury Board directive. In addition, a further $793,000 was required for the annual adjustment to members' sessional allowances and additional salaries as per the Parliament of Canada Act. This represents a 1.4% increase effective April 1, 2017.

As you know, the adjustment is based on the average percentage increase in base-rate wages for each calendar year resulting from major settlements negotiated in the private sector in Canada.

This concludes my presentation of the supplementary estimates (B) for the House of Commons.

Now I would like to turn, Mr. Chairman, to the Parliamentary Protective Service, which continues to build and strengthen its capacity to provide security services throughout the precinct.

Let me begin by providing an overview of the PPS's supplementary estimates (B) requests for 2017-18, which total $14.7 million. This includes a voted budget component of $14.2 million and a $489,000 statutory budget requirement for the employee benefit plan.

Following a determination that the PPS is responsible for the ownership, upgrade, use, and operation of physical security assets used to protect Parliament Hill, the project aiming to upgrade the video surveillance system and replace the vehicle screening facility crash barriers was transferred to PPS.

PPS is requesting temporary funding in the amount of $5.3 million for the 2017-18 fiscal year in order to proceed with the first stage of the video surveillance project, in line with the long-term vision and plan construction schedule.

This funding request includes $200,000 in this fiscal year to begin the work to replace the vehicle crash barrier system currently in place. The funding will help reduce the risk of vehicular attacks, a tactic that—as we all sadly know—has been recently used around the world with increasing frequency.

The PPS is also requesting temporary funding of $1.3 million for incremental costs related to this year's Canada Day events.

Permanent funding of $1.1 million is being requested to enable the PPS to permanently staff positions in information services, training, physical infrastructure and emergency planning, asset management, and major events planning.

Temporary funding of $909,000 is also needed to advance operational support projects, which include additional information management support and the inventory management system to help PPS move away from manual records, and to cover the cost of equipment and uniforms for new recruits.

In addition to the operational support funding requests, PPS is seeking a permanent increase of $1.1 million to fund service level agreements established with the House administration for financial operations, the financial system, information services and human resources support.

PPS is requesting $1 million in temporary funding to proceed with retrofits and renovations to facilities at 180 Wellington Street and the Centre Block to make more efficient use of the space available. These projects have been planned and costed with the support of the House of Commons Real Property Group.

In line with the economic increases implemented at the House of Commons and to honour agreements signed prior to its creation, the PPS is requesting funding for salary increases for its unrepresented employees and members of the security services employee association. The cost for the 2017-18 fiscal year will be $693,000, which would cover retroactive and current year increases.

Finally, the PPS is requesting access through the supplementary estimates (B) to the 5% carry-forward in the fiscal year 2016-17 in the amount of $2.8 million.

This concludes my presentation, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for your kind attention. My team and I are happy to answer any questions you may have.

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Go ahead, Mr. Graham.

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Thank you. Welcome to your first PROC committee, I believe. It's a pleasure to have you here.

In the spring, we had some concerns about staffing shortages. I was wondering if you could give us an update on where we are with front-line officers in terms of new hires.

11:20 a.m.

Chief Superintendent Jane MacLatchy Director, Parliamentary Protective Service

I'll apologize in advance. I'm getting over a cold, so there's a good chance I'll be coughing throughout this.

In terms of our new hires, we were successful in hiring a significant number of new constables as well as detection scanners over the last six months. I would defer to my administration and personnel officer for the specifics.

11:20 a.m.

Robert Graham Administration and Personnel Officer, Parliamentary Protective Service

There's been a net increase of 35 detection specialists since October 2016, and a net increase of 36 constables for the SSEA divisions one and two that oversee the security of the House of Commons facilities.

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Do we need a lot more, or are you where you believe you need to be?

11:20 a.m.

C/Supt Jane MacLatchy

Sir, we're in the process right now of kicking off what I'm calling a resource optimization review. We're having a look at the posture in its current state and making sure that we're right-sized. Once we finish that exercise, we will be in a better position to know how many more we need in terms of the LTVP, amongst other things, and the pressures we see in the future.

At the moment, my gut reaction is yes, we need some more. I want to put some rigour into how many before we come to this table.

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

I appreciate that.

One thing I've noticed around the Hill is that we have RCMP officers parked in different places around the Hill, and then PPS at the doors and in the buildings. Is the plan to remain that way, or are PPS officers, as we get more of them—the non-RCMP ones—going to be stationed at other points around the Hill over time?

11:25 a.m.

C/Supt Jane MacLatchy

There is a concept right now that we're looking at. I spoke in terms of a resource optimization review, sir. Part of that will include what I want to call right-sizing and making sure we've got the right people doing the right jobs. We are contemplating it at this point, and we are moving forward on a potential reduction of the RCMP footprint on Parliament Hill and in the precinct and, obviously, an associated increase in PPS resources. Again, that work is still in its infancy. We're looking at that and the complexities of what that kind of project would entail.

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

I appreciate that.

I have one more question for PPS before I go to the House administration side. This is for both the Speaker and Ms. MacLatchy.

On October 26, 2017,The Globe and Mail reported on disciplinary action against members. There is some lack of clarity on where the orders came from. If you want to offer any clarity for the public record, now it could be a good opportunity to do so.

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

The MOU between both Speakers and the PPS provides that the Speakers provide general policy direction for the PPS but that the day-to-day operation is in the hands of the director. I just want to say that I have great confidence in the director, and that isn't just because she's from Hubbards, Nova Scotia.

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

I did know that connection.

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

It doesn't hurt.

I think you want to add to this.

11:25 a.m.

C/Supt Jane MacLatchy

Yes, I would appreciate—thank you—the opportunity to add to that.

I will be speaking later on in this session in more depth on the labour relations issues. As per the governance model and the structure of PPS, I've ensured that both Speakers' offices are aware of the situation and of my intentions at all points of the process. The ultimate decision to render discipline to PPS employees rests with me, and I made that decision. That was my decision.

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Thank you. I appreciate hearing that.

For the House administration, I want to hear a little bit more about the transition from parl.gc.ca to ourcommons.gc.ca. I thought it was very interesting this spring when the web site was completely changed. I want to know how that went, and if you have any comments on that.

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

I'll ask Stéphan Aubé, who is our chief information officer, to come forward to answer that question, because he is our expert on this topic. He'll be appearing, of course, with the deputy clerk of procedure, André Gagnon.

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

We're going to have to add some more chairs, then. Thank you.

November 9th, 2017 / 11:25 a.m.

André Gagnon Deputy Clerk, Procedure

Thank you for the question, Mr. Graham.

The renewal came about, and certainly for us an important aspect was to make sure that we updated significant portions of the website. The Senate and the Library were also renewing their portions, so we took that opportunity to make it as modern as possible. As well, as indicated by the Speaker, in terms of the website and the House's presence on the Internet, we wanted to make the House of Commons become a leader in the sharing of parliamentary information .

That ambition permitted us to work a lot on social media. You've probably seen some movement on that front. We have also renewed the content and the approach regarding the website, with live coverage of all of the activities of the House and of some committees as well.

For instance, right now you can listen on ParlVu to all of the interventions from this committee live, and later on during the day and in the evening you can, if you want, listen to this meeting again.

Third, it was quite important for us as well, in the context of having this change in the web presence of the different institutions, to work on the third category, which is the intranet and the services provided to members of Parliament. I wouldn't say that this is short term, but more medium term. It's important for us.

As a new member in 2015, you probably noticed when we brought in the Source application that this was very useful for new members of Parliament. We want to bring that a step forward in making it more useful not only for new members of Parliament but also for members who are re-elected.

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

David Graham Liberal Laurentides—Labelle, QC

I just want to say that I very much like the new site, so congratulations on that. Thank you.

My time is up.

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Larry Bagnell

Thank you, Mr. Graham.

Mr. Richards is next.

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Banff—Airdrie, AB

Thanks, Mr. Chair.

Thanks, Mr. Speaker, for being here.

You had noted in your opening remarks the item of $835,000 being sought for pay and benefits services. One of the things you mentioned was the 10 new positions being funded. I wonder if you could tell us if that spending is related to some of the complications due to the Phoenix pay fiasco.

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

I'll ask Dan Paquette, our chief financial officer, to respond.