Evidence of meeting #73 for Procedure and House Affairs in the 44th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was million.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Eric Janse  Acting Clerk of the House of Commons, House of Commons
Patrick McDonell  Sergeant-at-Arms and Corporate Security Officer, House of Commons
Larry Brookson  Acting Director, Parliamentary Protective Service
Michel Patrice  Deputy Clerk, Administration, House of Commons
Stéphan Aubé  Chief Information Officer, Digital Services and Real Property, House of Commons
Allen Sutherland  Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet, Machinery of Government, Privy Council Office

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Anthony Rota Liberal Nipissing—Timiskaming, ON

From what I understand, the process is being looked at, but again, it hasn't been put into place. I would hope that we have a permanent position in place as soon as possible, hopefully, and we'll see where that goes as well.

11:20 a.m.

Acting Clerk of the House of Commons, House of Commons

Eric Janse

Maybe I can just add that I've had a couple of meetings with the PCO on the process to select a next law clerk, so it should be rolling out soon.

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

I'm sorry. Could you just repeat that last 10 seconds?

11:20 a.m.

Acting Clerk of the House of Commons, House of Commons

Eric Janse

I said it should be rolling out soon—the process to select a permanent law clerk.

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

John Nater Conservative Perth—Wellington, ON

Thank you for that.

A final question that I want to follow up on is the recently approved three-year strategic plan for House administration. When it was brought before the Board of Internal Economy, impartiality had been dropped from the expressed values of the House administration. I understand that's been added back in, given the challenges we faced with the former clerk and regrettable allegations. I'll leave that to be responded to in the second round.

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bardish Chagger

Mr. Turnbull is next.

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Ryan Turnbull Liberal Whitby, ON

Thanks, Madam Chair.

Thanks to all the witnesses for being here today. I want to start by saying how much we appreciate your leadership and your ongoing commitment to serve our country. You're doing such a fine job in everything you do, and I really appreciate your time today and all of your efforts.

I have three different areas that I'd like to ask questions about and that have been topics we've discussed at this committee. I'll just name them. One is the security of our parliamentary precinct. Another is resources for hybrid proceedings, and another is cybersecurity. Those are the three topics that I hope to cover in my limited time.

This committee did I think a really important study on the parliamentary precinct and with regard to security for members of Parliament. We identified this through lots of witness testimony and a great report that recommended that Wellington Street remain closed. Witnesses came before this committee and were almost unanimous. There were a few people, but a very limited number, who didn't agree with this. The vast majority of witnesses said that Wellington Street runs right through the heart of the precinct and it creates some real vulnerabilities for PPS to be able to secure the precinct and provide optimum security.

I want to ask a question about this. Is PPS inhibited in fulfilling its role in ensuring our security by Wellington Street having been reopened?

11:20 a.m.

Larry Brookson Acting Director, Parliamentary Protective Service

Through you, Madam Chair, to Mr. Turnbull, it's not impeded. The service is extremely agile and functions in a way to ensure the safety and security of delivering our mandate based on the parameters we currently have in front of us.

I can tell you that, outside of the ownership aspect for Wellington Street, for the service there has been quite a bit of advancement on some of the other pieces specific to increasing the value of the partnership between the service and the POJ. That work is advancing. I also understand that on the governance piece of Wellington there is a meeting this Thursday, so I anticipate getting additional information as to where that might be with respect to the ownership piece.

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Ryan Turnbull Liberal Whitby, ON

Mr. Brookson, just as a follow-up to that, and thank you for that response, would it have made PPS's life and job easier if Wellington Street had remained closed?

11:20 a.m.

Acting Director, Parliamentary Protective Service

Larry Brookson

Through you, Madam Chair, the position of the service in supporting both administrations has not shifted on how it recognizes the risk and the vulnerability of the current openness of Wellington Street.

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Ryan Turnbull Liberal Whitby, ON

I know that, in this committee before, you said the response time of the Ottawa Police Service is a lot slower than what PPS's would be. Is that still the case?

May 16th, 2023 / 11:20 a.m.

Acting Director, Parliamentary Protective Service

Larry Brookson

Through you, Madam Chair, it's just important to understand the two respective roles and responsibilities of both of those pieces.

The service will always have an immediate response within the precinct. I can tell you that there have been leaps and bounds of advancement, particularly with the new chief, Mr. Eric Stubbs, on the willingness and the work that's been done to strike out what the POJ's role is going to be in producing the service now. This speaks back to, even out of the Justice Rouleau report, when we talked about a layered approach. That layered approach exists. It doesn't exist if the service is not recognized as playing an integral role of that layered security.

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Ryan Turnbull Liberal Whitby, ON

Thank you for that. I obviously am still hoping that Wellington Street will eventually close, that we will have a land transfer and that the Parliamentary Protective Service will have jurisdiction over Wellington Street, thereby increasing its ability to optimize security for members of Parliament. That's where I stand on it. I think I've been very clear on that. I will leave it at that.

In terms of resources, the resources for holding hybrid proceedings have obviously increased during the pandemic, and I think we've increased our capacity to be able to offer those hybrid proceedings, which is good. I think members of Parliament all want to have that flexibility, and this committee did some important work at multiple stages to ensure that we send a strong signal that we want to keep those hybrid proceedings. We still have meetings, caucus meetings, etc., other events on the Hill, and things where we can't always secure the adequate resources.

Are there additional resources within the main estimates that are going to allow for more proceedings to have hybrid capabilities?

11:25 a.m.

Acting Clerk of the House of Commons, House of Commons

Eric Janse

Through you, Madam Chair, it's a very good question.

Currently, the major capacity issues are with the translation bureau, which does not fall under the jurisdiction of the House. To assist, one thing the House has been doing in close collaboration with the translation bureau is developing remote simultaneous interpretation. That's in the testing phase right now. We're hoping that it could, in turn, lead to an increase in capacity for interpretation services to allow more parliamentary events to go forward.

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Ryan Turnbull Liberal Whitby, ON

If I could ask just a follow-up to that, how much extra capacity would that unlock if that is in fact successful?

11:25 a.m.

Acting Clerk of the House of Commons, House of Commons

Eric Janse

That's a very difficult question to answer because there are so many variables that come into play. From the current 57, we're hoping to bring it up by eight.

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bardish Chagger

Thank you.

Madam Gaudreau.

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

It's good to see you again. This is my first full year on the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs. I was not here before 2019, but my sense is that since 2019, there have been a lot of significant issues, and they're taking on enormous proportions. This required a thorough review of the situation to help us deal with it. I'm thinking in particular of everything that has to do with the safety and security of parliamentarians, the people who work on the Hill and their families, as well as the increase in cyberthreats.

You talked about staff development in your opening remarks, and I'd like to hear a little bit more about that. We know that there was already a challenge a year ago with respect to the workforce.

How can staff development improve safety and security?

11:25 a.m.

Michel Patrice Deputy Clerk, Administration, House of Commons

If I understand correctly, you're talking about cyber-security in connection with the training of our staff, Ms. Gaudreau.

Madam Chair, through you, I will ask Mr. Aubé to answer the question regarding the development activities of our staff.

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

I wanted to hear what you had to say, so I asked you a question indirectly.

11:25 a.m.

Stéphan Aubé Chief Information Officer, Digital Services and Real Property, House of Commons

Thank you very much.

In the context of cyber-security, we are constantly under pressure to maintain the information technology environment and not interfere with the operations of Parliament.

As a result, we continue to invest in our people to ensure that they are trained well and trained in technologies to ensure that our defence lines are in place and effective. We're also investing in our partnerships. We work with a number of agencies and departments. We also work internationally. We have relationships with other parliaments to share information quickly and anticipate threats.

That is an overview of the approach we are taking to ensure that we continue to be protected. We are always on the lookout for what is going on. However, we are under a lot of pressure to keep our environment safe.

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Does Canada have everything it needs to adapt very quickly to this kind of cyberthreat?

11:30 a.m.

Chief Information Officer, Digital Services and Real Property, House of Commons

Stéphan Aubé

We've always had the support of the Board of Internal Economy to meet our needs.

We're continually adapting. If we identify other needs or if things change, I know that we can make the necessary requests to adapt quickly. We have the right people and the right partners to be agile. Things happen all the time, and we have never had a problem accessing the resources and people needed to protect Parliament.

I don't think this is a problem right now, but if a need arises in the next few years, we'll come back to make the necessary requests.

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Marie-Hélène Gaudreau Bloc Laurentides—Labelle, QC

I invite you to do that, because if we can fill a legislative gap to speed up the process, it's very important that we do so. That's what we've been looking at for some time. People in our ridings are concerned about these threats.

My next question is about the working group that was set up in the wake of the crisis we had with the trucker convoy. We've talked about it here in committee.

What about the working group in terms of communications and preventative management of an activity or a potential threat? I'd like to have a follow-up on that, with regard to safety and security.

11:30 a.m.

Deputy Clerk, Administration, House of Commons

Michel Patrice

I'll start by saying that we do indeed work with our various partners at events such as the one we experienced in February 2022.

On the front line, we have the Office of the Sergeant-at-Arms and Corporate Security and the Parliamentary Protective Service, which provide a preventive service. The Office of the Sergeant-at-Arms has a team dedicated to monitoring vehicles or social media posts to assess potential threats or events that are in the process of being organized.

There is co-operation with the Parliamentary Protective Service, the Office of the Sergeant-at-Arms and other partners, such as the police forces in the target area.

I don't know if Mr. Brookson or Mr. McDonell would like to add anything.