Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Colleagues, nice to see you this morning. Members of the committee and distinguished guests, thank you for welcoming us back.
As Speaker of the House of Commons, I am pleased to present the main estimates for fiscal year 2018-19 for the House of Commons and the Parliamentary Protective Service.
Since you have already introduced the people joining me, Mr. Chair, I will begin my presentation right away.
I'll begin by presenting the key elements of the 2018-19 main estimates for the House of Commons.
These estimates total $507 million. This represents a net decrease of $4 million compared to the total estimates for 2017-18, which include both the main estimates and the supplementary estimates. These have been reviewed, and approved by the Board of Internal Economy in a public meeting.
The main estimates will be presented along six major themes, corresponding to the handout that you received. The financial impact associated with these themes represents the year-over-year changes from the 2017-18 main estimates.
The six themes are: continued investment and support for the long-term vision and plan; major investments; conferences, associations and assemblies; committee activities, cost-of-living increases; and employee benefit plans.
I'll start with the funding of $10.6 million that is required for the continued investments and support of the long-term vision and plan, or LTVP. We're nearing considerable milestones as you know: the move into a renovated West Block and the restoration of Centre Block. A restored West Block will be the first major construction project of this scale to be completed on Parliament Hill under the LTVP.
I'd like to stress that the House is working hand-in-hand with Public Services and Procurement Canada toward the goal of moving into the new West Block. In June, before the House rises, the Board of Internal Economy will be informed of the progress of this endeavour. At that time, a decision will be made on whether the move will take place this summer.
Our common objective is to ensure that the new facility is functioning as intended, and of course, avoid disruptions to House proceedings. That's fundamentally important.
As reviewed and approved by the board, the funding for our continued investment and support for the LTVP in these main estimates is required to sustain evolving campus-wide operations, and to support IT systems and facility assets.
The rehabilitation of the parliamentary precinct currently underway will have a significant impact on the human and financial resources of the House. Members must continue to receive the services they need during this period of incredible growth and change. While existing resources will be deployed to where they are needed most, additional resources are required to sustain critical operations for members, their staff, and the administration that supports them.
Additionally, the transfer to West Block and the opening of the visitor welcome centre will result in a direct increase in House of Commons operating expenses. These are expenses to record, safeguard, maintain, and life-cycle the related assets that will be transferred to the House of Commons from Public Services and Procurement Canada. By 2019, the House will have taken ownership of over $200 million in new assets.
It is essential that all buildings in the parliamentary precinct be equipped with information technology and related infrastructures for access to information services, both for continued modernization and for the effective functioning of Parliament.
I'll now move to the funding of $11.7 million approved by the board in support of major House of Commons investments.
We are at a critical juncture, one where the House of Commons must invest in the information technology solutions and systems that will enable it to meet the rapidly changing needs of members, their employees, and the House administration. This also means expanding access to parliamentary information through social media and a modernized online presence.
In light of the renewal of many parliamentary spaces, investments are also needed to deliver support services to members.
To this end, the modernization and optimization of food services focuses on the client experience while supporting the transition of production to the off-site food production facility for the relocation to West Block.
Pay and benefits is another key service offered to members and the administration. Funding is required for this group to ensure that adequate staffing levels are in place to satisfy current demands and mitigate system challenges.
Funding is also needed to ensure appropriate security enhancements for the West Block. While security reasons prevent me from going into the details, the House of Commons and its security partners continue to collaborate on an enhanced emergency management and security approach to ensure a safe and secure Parliament.
Another investment accounted for in the main estimates is for the disclosure of expenses incurred by House officers and national caucuses research offices. In keeping with the board's commitment to transparency and accountability, the first annual House officers expenditures report will be published on ourcommons.ca this June. Quarterly reporting, aligned with the schedule set for the members' expenditures report, will follow.
Let us now turn to parliamentary diplomacy.
Funding of $1.1 million is required for this important work that seeks to foster mutual understanding and trust, enhances cooperation, and builds goodwill among legislators.
As part of these commitments, Canada will host three important events in 2018-19.
The 56th Regional Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Conference will take place in Ottawa this July, as many members will know. This conference enables parliamentarians and their staff to identify benchmarks of good governance and implement the enduring values of the Commonwealth.
The 15th annual Plenary Assembly of ParlAmericas will be held in Victoria, British Columbia in September 2018.
Finally, the 64th Annual Session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, which provides a unique specialized forum for members from across the Atlantic alliance to discuss and influence decisions on alliance security, will take place in Halifax, Nova Scotia, so lucky them, right? The member for Halifax agrees. The member for St. Catharines is not so sure.
I will now proceed to the funding of $1.7 million required in support of committee activities. Each year parliamentary committees undertake a number of studies on issues that matter to Canadians. These committees study and amend legislation, examine government spending, conduct inquiries, and receive input from subject matter experts and citizens.
Committees use their funding primarily for witness expenses, video conferences, travel, working meals, and preparing reports for the House of Commons on the issues they study. The Liaison Committee rigorously manages the global envelope allocated by the Board of Internal Economy for committee activities.
I'll now proceed to the funding of $4.6 million that is required for cost-of-living increases. This covers requirements for the House administration as well as the budgets for members and House officers. For the House administration, this funding provides for the economic increases of approximately 1,600 House administration employees. The salary increases will help ensure staff retention, and provide competitive salaries to attract new hires.
I will now move on to funding required for members' and house officers' budgets, supplements, and salaries.
The board has determined that office budgets for members, house officers, and research offices will be adjusted annually according to the consumer price index.
Funding is also allocated in support of increases to members' office budget supplements. These, of course, recognize the challenges inherent in serving larger, more populated, or remote constituencies. The board also approved an increase to the travel status expenses account, which members may use to charge their accommodations and meal expenses when they are in travel status.
Additionally, in accordance with the Parliament of Canada Act, members' sessional allowances and additional salaries are adjusted every year on April 1 based on the index of the average percentage increase in base-rate wages for the calendar year in Canada resulting from major settlements negotiated in the private sector.
The final item included in the House of Commons' main estimates is a funding requirement of $1.2 million for employee benefit plans.
In accordance with Treasury Board directives, this non-discretionary statutory expense covers costs to the employer for the Public Service Superannuation Plan, the Canada Pension Plan and the Quebec Pension Plan, death benefits, and the employment insurance account.
I would now like to present the 2018-19 main estimates for the Parliamentary Protective Service, PPS.
This June marks the third year of operations for PPS since the unification of the former House of Commons and Senate protective services under the operational command of Chief Superintendent Jane MacLatchy. This entity was created by an act of Parliament to unify and better coordinate the physical security of Parliament under one mandate.
As Speaker of the House of Commons, I am jointly responsible for the PPS with the Speaker of the Senate. They report to us on matters regularly. Let me begin by providing members with a brief synopsis of the evolution of this organization over the past three years, particularly as it relates to the main estimates.
In its first nine months, the PPS operated with a pro-rated budget of $40 million. During this transition period, the House of Commons provided the newly created organization with corporate support through a charge-back model. This interim measure enabled PPS to focus on unifying security operations and completing interoperability. It also allowed it to plan requirements over two years to become self-sufficient in its corporate services.
In 2016-17, following its first submission of Main Estimates, PPS operated with $62.1 million in funding, which significantly improved unification efforts through the standardization of uniforms and equipment and the upgrading of facilities.
This past year, the organization was appropriated $68.3 million, which helped implement numerous security initiatives on Parliament Hill, including the hiring of additional security personnel for the 180 Wellington Building and the establishment of an integrated mobile response team.
Today, the organization is beginning to stabilize and make important headway towards building an effective corporate administration that supports security operations. This fiscal year, PPS aims to deliver its mandate with a budget of $83.5 million. The increase in funding earmarks $7 million in permanent requirements, $7.6 million in temporary security initiatives, and $600,000 in statutory funds.
While PPS is an autonomous organization and a separate parliamentary employer, it has several service-level agreements with the House of Commons for assistance in finance, payroll, and IT. These arrangements will continue in the short term while the organization progressively builds capacity to lessen its dependence on the House for administrative support.
For this reason, the permanent funding request includes: $4.5 million allocated for positions within finance, human resources, and facilities departments; $1.9 million reserved to stabilize key functions within information services, assets, and major events, and physical infrastructure and emergency planning; and $600,000 budgeted for the training of protection personnel.
Funding for temporary security initiatives include $5.7 million to perform necessary maintenance and upgrades to security infrastructure, such as replacing and upgrading external cameras and crash barriers at the vehicle screening facility—because some of these upgrades are security-sensitive my officials and I would be pleased to address any questions or concerns in camera, if the committee wishes—$1.1 million over three years to bring our protective personnel to the same minimum-level security clearance as all federal security agencies, another key measure to improve communications and allow for a seamless exchange of information with external partners; and $775,000 for temporary corporate initiatives and support, such as the hiring of consultants, the development of an internal website, and the acquisition of a document management system.
The funding sought in these estimates provides for the steady growth of this organization and ensures that its workforce remains supported and adequately equipped to deliver on its security mandate.
Mr. Chair, this concludes my overview of the 2018-19 Main Estimates for the House of Commons and the Parliamentary Protective Service. My officials and I would be pleased to answer questions.