Thank you, Madam Chair. It's a pleasure to speak with the committee today.
My name is Sabreena Delhon, and I'm the executive director of the Samara Centre for Democracy, which is a non-partisan registered charity dedicated to making Canada's democratic culture more accessible, responsive and inclusive.
We have also been studying the lived experience of elected officials for 15 years. Our recommendation is that the House of Commons maintain hybrid proceedings for both the House and its committees. This recommendation is informed by our MP exit interview project, which entails conducting rigorous, in-depth interviews with former members of Parliament. Our view is also informed by recent research on hybrid workspaces within the future of work discourse.
We advise maintaining hybridity for three reasons. It offers Parliament an opportunity to be more inclusive and representative, as my colleagues have indicated; to function as a flexible and contemporary workplace that can attract and retain top talent; and to increase efficiency by saving money and travel time.
Our conclusion is shaped by the under-representation of various groups in the House, including women and those in the LGBTQ+, indigenous and visible minority communities. Our interviews with former MPs over the years have underscored how the grinding schedule of weekly travel to and from Ottawa, particularly from regions situated far from Ontario, can create a barrier for women with families, particularly for women who lack abundant resources to put toward child care.
This aligns with findings of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, which currently ranks Canada 61st in gender representation among national Parliaments. They recommend that gender-sensitive Parliaments allow teleworking as a strategy to increase equity. While there was initial concern that gender representation would be compromised with limited in-person convening, innovations in the function of hybrid Parliament have made it possible for virtual work to increase democratic representation across genders.
Our research also indicates that MPs from under-represented groups often feel alienated in Ottawa. We believe that if representatives have more opportunity to work from and within their communities, it will reduce that sense of alienation that they may experience in the House. There's also the longer-term effect of encouraging MPs from under-represented groups not only to enter into politics, but also to stay.
The retention of MPs from under-represented groups is worth noting. If the House wants to attract and retain high-quality individuals with varied training and innovative problem-solving abilities, it will need to be responsive to larger changes happening in Canada's new world of work.
Hybrid work options are an indicator of a modern employer, and workplaces across sectors are institutionalizing the option. Research shows that people who have worked in a hybrid environment over the past two years strongly wish to retain the option going forward. This is particularly true for those with disabilities, women of colour and LGBTQ+ individuals. Institutionalizing hybrid proceedings for the House and its committees is a key way to demonstrate that Parliament is a responsive and contemporary work environment that is committed to attracting, retaining and supporting top talent.
The Samara Centre has long held the position that the House should foster a workplace culture that facilitates collegiality and informal relationship building. We believe that this can be accomplished through a combination of virtual and in-person interactions. Our survey of MPs in 2020 found strong support for a hybrid model of Parliament. This is readily within reach to set as a standard practice, now that our use of virtual technologies has evolved and become commonplace, adaptable, effective and user-friendly.
Beyond equity, hybrid proceedings offer incredible efficiencies. The transit time recovered each week for MPs who live in ridings located far from Ottawa is significant. Our research has consistently revealed the mental and physical toll that constant travel can take on MPs. Making hybrid proceedings permanent opens up considerably more time for constituency work, while protecting the health and well-being of MPs—