THE STANDING COMMITTEE ON INTERNAL ECONOMY, BUDGETS AND ADMINISTRATION
OTTAWA, Thursday, December 12, 2019
The Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration met this day at 9 a.m., pursuant to rule 12-7(1), to consider financial and administrative matters; and, in camera, pursuant to rule 12-7(1), to consider financial and administrative matters.
Senator Sabi Marwah (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Good morning and welcome to this meeting of the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration. My name is Sabi Marwah, and I have the privilege of acting as chair of this committee. I will ask senators to introduce themselves.
Senator Munson: Jim Munson, Ontario, and I am the deputy chair of this committee.
Senator Forest: Éric Forest from the Gulf region of Quebec.
Senator Dawson: Dennis Dawson from Quebec.
Senator Gold: Marc Gold from Quebec.
Senator Saint-Germain: Raymonde Saint‑Germain from Quebec.
Senator Moncion: Lucie Moncion from Ontario.
Senator Dalphond: Pierre Dalphond from Quebec.
Senator Verner: Josée Verner from Quebec.
Senator Plett: Don Plett, Manitoba.
Senator Loffreda: Tony Loffreda, Quebec. I’m here just as an observer this morning to learn.
Senator Boehm: Peter Boehm, Ontario.
Senator MacDonald: Michael MacDonald, Nova Scotia.
Senator Seidman: Judith Seidman, Montreal, Quebec.
Senator Tannas: Scott Tannas, Alberta.
Senator Marshall: Elizabeth Marshall, Newfoundland and Labrador.
Senator Tkachuk: David Tkachuk, Saskatchewan.
The Chair: Thank you and welcome, everybody. I must admit, I didn’t realize that we have such an exciting agenda. I’ve never seen so many senators or staff at a meeting ever.
The first item is the public minutes from November 7, 2019. Colleagues, you will recall that on November 7, a decision was made by this committee to no longer cover transportation costs associated with sponsored travel. A question was raised and they would like that issue to be revisited. It has been revisited as item no. 5. It’s not a change to the minutes — the minutes are correct — but I want to let you know that it’s being resurfaced in item no. 5. Any there any questions or changes? If not, can I have a motion to adopt the minutes? Moved by Senator Dalphond to adopt the minutes. Agreed?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: Agreed. Carried.
Item no. 2, honourable senators, is the allocation of caucus/group and the house officer budgets. At the last CIBA meeting, the committee decided to let the leaders consult and make a proposal on the allocation for caucuses and parliamentary groups. It is my understanding that no agreement has yet been reached. To support this decision, you may wish to refer to the financial tables that are in your package.
Colleagues, in the current circumstances, I believe it is appropriate to follow the rules approved by the Senate to allocate to the Canadian Senators Group the funding established by the Senate Administrative Rules. I understand that the prorated amount represents $191,667, until March 31, 2020.
The Chief Financial Officer has indicated that the caucus group — the unused funding — can be reallocated to ensure the Senate remains within budget. The remaining budgets, since we have not heard anything from the leaders, will remain at the level agreed to by the leaders at the beginning of the 2019-20 fiscal year, with the exception of the independent Liberals, which is no longer eligible for funding as a group. Are there any questions or comments on that?
Senator Plett: I’m a little perplexed. The CSG asked for $120,000, and the suggestion was made that there was not agreement by the leaders, so, in that case, let’s give them $70,000 more instead of less. I don’t think any disagreement that existed wasn’t because they were asking for not enough money; let’s give them more. The request was for $120,000, and there was agreement by the leaders to give them $120,000. The disagreement was giving the Liberals money, not the CSG. The leaders agreed to give the CSG $120,000, so I’m not sure where this report is coming from.
The Chair: To be honest, Senator Plett, we weren’t aware an agreement had been reached at $119,000. I’m quite happy with $119,000; the 191 is the date from November 9, when the CSG was set up. But I’m happy to leave it at 119. We did not receive a request for anything else.
Senator Plett: That was the agreement by the leaders — that they would get $120,000.
The Chair: But nothing had been intimated to us. So are we in agreement with $120,000? We shall agree on that. With that, we move to item no. 3. All in agreement?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: Carried.
Item no. 3 is a report from the Subcommittee on the Senate Estimates. I invite to the table Pierre Lanctôt, Chief Financial Officer, Finance and Procurement Directorate; and Nathalie Charpentier, Comptroller and Deputy Chief Financial Officer. It is my understanding that Senator Moncion, chair of Estimates, will make a presentation, to be followed by questions from us.
Senator Moncion: Honourable senators, as chair of the Subcommittee on the Senate Estimates, I have the pleasure of tabling, for approval, the Senate Main Estimates for 2020‑21.
Your subcommittee has the mandate to review the proposed estimates, keeping in mind the necessity for the Senate and its administration to demonstrate responsible management of the public funds that are allocated to the institution.
Your subcommittee, composed of Senator Dawson, Senator Marshall and me, met on November 20, 2019, to review the funding requirements for the Senate estimates for 2020‑21. The documents presented to the subcommittee described the funding requirements for senators, committees, and International and Interparliamentary Affairs.
Each administration directorate also provided a summary detailing the use of their financial resources. Any funding increases from the previous year required detailed documentation and a presentation before the subcommittee to justify the new spending. Your subcommittee heard from 10 individuals representing the directorates requesting additional funding, including members of the management teams from the Senate and the group of international associations. They presented their operational and funding requirements and their justification for changes. Your subcommittee thanks these individuals for their presentations.
Throughout its study, the subcommittee took into account the changes taking place in the Senate and the various ongoing modernization processes. The Main Estimates were prepared based on the assumption that the Senate’s level of activity for the planning year would be similar to the level observed in 2018-19 and early 2019-20.
The proposed budget is also based on the following principles: maintaining high-quality services to senators, ensuring good stewardship of public funds, investing to upgrade information technology infrastructure and addressing operational gaps due to an increased level of activities.
In its deliberations, your subcommittee identified key elements it believes worth noting to ensure continuity in the development and study of future funding requirements. Your subcommittee proposes a budget strategy to fund the Senate’s ongoing expenses from the proposed 2020‑21 budget and to use an active budget reallocation approach for non‑recurring funding requirements.
If the amounts are insufficient, a request for additional funds will be considered during the Supplementary Estimates processes.
Your subcommittee recognizes that in order to be able to provide the services necessary for the Senate and senators to conduct their parliamentary and constitutional responsibilities, and taking into account the growth and complexity of operations, resource requests for the Senate Administration must be addressed in a timely manner to limit operational and consequential risks arising from undue delays.
Your subcommittee underlines the importance of information technologies and of infrastructure that supports technologies required for the Senate’s daily operations, but also for data security and integrity. As a result, your subcommittee notes a willingness to conduct a security audit of the systems put in place by the Senate and a review of the management of information technology.
Your subcommittee recommends that the total 2019-20 budget allocated for recognized parliamentary caucuses and groups be renewed for the fiscal year under review. Your subcommittee leaves it to the various leaders to agree on the distribution of the budget, and if they deem the total to be insufficient, their request for additional funds should be submitted to CIBA.
Your subcommittee encourages the competent authorities to evaluate working hours in order to ensure work‑life balance, and to review the salaries of certain Senate employee categories with a view to retaining and recruiting top talent.
In the review of the Main Estimates, your subcommittee has examined the resources available for senators to conduct their parliamentary and constitutional responsibilities. The predicted total budget for the Senate for the year 2020-21 is $115.6 million, an increase of $1.4 million compared to the current fiscal year. This is an increase of 1.2 per cent, which is less than the inflation rate of 2.1 per cent.
The budget for senators, committees and IIA are up $1.3 million and the administration budget is up $225,000, while the budget for employee benefits is down $140,000.
The information that I will provide here in French is on page 11, and I believe that the information is also on page 11 in English. You can use a document to see the amounts that will be discussed here.
The budgets for senators, committees and parliamentary associations are up $1.3 million, which represents an increase of 2.1 per cent. This sum comprises an increase of $602,000 in the parliamentary associations budget, including $544,000 in temporary funding for conferences, and $58,000 representing the Senate’s portion for adding two positions required to support growth in activities and proactive disclosure.
Please note that this additional funding will be allocated only once the House of Commons approves its share of these expenses. The senators’ office budgets are increasing by $513,000, including $15,000 for the additional office allowance for the Speaker of the Senate. This increase is entirely related to the inflation rate of 2.1 per cent. There’s also an increase of $202,000 for senators’ basic and additional allowances and pensions, travel and living expenses and telecommunications expenses, and a decrease of $27,000 in the grants and contributions budget.
Funding for the Senate Administration represents an overall increase of $225,000 or 0.5 per cent. The amount includes new expenditures of $1.5 million, less the reduction in temporary funding from reduction in funding from previous years that ends this year, totalling $1.3 million.
The new funding requirements include the following key items:
The document refers to a permanent increase of $538,000 to maintain editing and text coordination services at the existing level. The $273,540 represents three full‑time positions. There are also two full‑time positions, compensation advisor and employee relations advisor, which represent $162,280. So if you add $273,540 and $162,280, you have the amounts included in the $538,000. One part remains to be determined.
There was also $451,000 approved by CIBA for the addition of three positions for legal services. We are talking about $299,717, and this amount was approved by CIBA on September 5, 2019. Another one for software licences, in the amount of $122,965, was approved on April 4, 2019 by CIBA; and there are the executive performance bonuses, $28,000, which were approved by CIBA in April 2019.
We’re talking about an increase of $261,000, which comprises $73,000 for meal and taxi allowances for employees, $98,033 for position reclassifications and $89,000 in additional personnel budget for standby provisions.
There is a permanent increase of $240,000 for cafeteria services —
— which represents $160,000.
And maintenance services in the Senate of Canada Building, $80,458. These two amounts are equal to $240,000.
Your subcommittee also reviewed administration request for one-time initiatives totalling $1.7 million to its plan to fund out of the current budget envelope. This is important. It’s not new money. These initiatives, which are not included in the Senate’s additional budget requests, are the following: $1.4 million for investment in information technology infrastructure — we’re talking here about $680,000 and $750,000; $134,000 to modernize the LEGISinfo system; $129,000 in temporary funding to support the structural transition of the Human Resources Directorate in the amount of $80,601 and to hire, on a temporary basis, a seasonal electronic printing specialist at $48,284, which gives you the total of $129,000.
Note that of the $1.4 million total net increase proposed for the budget 2020-21, $995,000 was approved by CIBA this year, which includes the $544,000 for the interparliamentary associations, and the conferences are one for OSCE and the Commonwealth. There are $300,000 for legal services and $151,000 for corporate services.
In summary, the 10.25 additional total net full‑time equivalent positions, consisting of 1.75 temporary and 8.5 permanent positions, include three full‑time equivalent positions already approved by CIBA.
It should also be noted that, of the proposed total net increase of $1.4 million for 2020‑21, $35,000 is related to statutory appropriations, and $1.3 million is related to the Senate’s voted appropriations.
Therefore, your subcommittee recommends that the Senate’s 2020‑21 budget be $115,600,000, which is an increase of 1.2 per cent from the previous year; that the 2020‑21 budget adjustments listed in the appendix be approved; that the proposed budget strategy be accepted; and that the budget requests from the International and Interparliamentary Affairs Directorate be approved.
It should be noted that the competent authority of the House of Commons must also approve the request so that a final recommendation can be made.
I tabled my report today. Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you, Senator Moncion.
Senator Seidman: Thank you very much for your presentation. I would like to clarify the information technology portion of the budget to get a little more detail, if I might.
It’s true, we all know the importance of good IT infrastructure, and compatible and secure systems, but we all know how easily lost dollars can be swallowed into a digital hole with, in the end, very little to show for it. You talk about conducting a security audit of the systems and a review of the management, and then there is another reference on page 9 that says $1.4-plus million investment for information technology infrastructure.
I’m wondering if you could provide more details on what exactly information technology infrastructure means, the plan to achieve security audit and a review of the management of the IT system.
Senator Moncion: I will ask Pierre to answer.
Pierre Lanctôt, Chief Financial Officer, Finance and Procurement Directorate, Senate of Canada: Thank you. The investment in infrastructure is basically two major projects. One is the network that we’re going to be doing for our infrastructure in different buildings. The second one is to replace the storage equipment, which is near the end of its life cycle. That is basically replacing equipment. Obviously, when we replace it, the technology is better these days and it should also improve the quality of the service.
In terms of the review, we will be looking at what reviews we can do and we will be reporting back to the subcommittee on the proposed plan to address the review and the audit.
Senator Seidman: Okay. So you’re going to make a proposal about that review, which we will then see?
Mr. Lanctôt: That’s correct.
Senator Seidman: That’s good. Thank you.
The Chair: Senator Seidman, if you would like any more details, David Vatcher, who is head of ISD, is here.
Senator Seidman: If there is a little more to share . . .
The Chair: Do you have any other details?
David Vatcher, Director, Information Services Directorate, Senate of Canada: I’d be glad to answer any questions. Our network at the Senate is part of a larger network that spans the parliamentary precinct. Our part of the network serves nine buildings and 37 floors where Senate employees work. Over the next two years, we have close to 100 switches to change.
The switches are changed because they are at the end of their service life. When they reach that end of service, we need to change them because we regularly get information from the maker to upgrade firmware for different switches and different families to make them safer as new security holes can be found for any of the information. After a certain point in time, the maker — in this case Cisco — will stop giving new updates for the switches. At that point, we plan to replace the switches so that we can have reliable and secure infrastructure on which our data travels.
Senator Seidman: Okay. Thank you.
Senator Marshall: I was on the subcommittee with Senator Moncion. First of all, the security audit has come up previously at Internal Economy. My understanding is there is a general consensus that we need to do that. There’s a significant amount of money going into IT and David has provided information. But I’m an accountant. My knowledge of IT is very limited. We’re spending a lot of money and I don’t know whether we’re heading in the right direction or not.
There are two things we need to do. First, going back to what Pierre said, I don’t know who we should get, but I think we should have somebody else come in and take a look at our operational plan.
The other part is that we need to have that security audit done. We always get these strange emails coming in and we need that assurance. It would be very embarrassing to the Senate if we had a big security problem. That’s my perspective on it. It was discussed in detail at the subcommittee. Thank you very much.
Senator Seidman: Thank you for that. That’s perfect.
The Chair: I think that has been noted, Senator Marshall. I shall follow up on that myself.
Senator Batters: This is a $115.5 million budget, going up almost $1.4 million from last year’s budget. It says near the start of your eleventh report that this was prepared based on “the assumption that the Senate’s level of activity for the planning year would be similar.”
What about the fact that 2019 was an election year and the Senate didn’t sit for about five and a half months during the June to early December time frame? What’s your comment on that?
Mr. Lanctôt: Essentially, in the report we’re saying it’s based on the first few months of the year. We’re talking about the first quarter, and it was a busy first quarter. We had a lot of people working very hard. For example, there was a lot of overtime and expenses that occurred, so we assume the same level of activity is going to happen. We didn’t factor in the slowdown — if I can use that expression — or the non-sitting for the last few months, as it should not repeat in 2020-21. We’re basically assuming a level of activity for 2020-21 that is standard to the way the Senate has functioned in the last 18 months, starting in the first quarter of 2019-20.
Senator Batters: Okay. On the second page of your report in the section talking about pay and working hours, I’m assuming this is talking about Senate Administration where it says, “Your subcommittee encourages the competent authorities to evaluate working hours in order to ensure work/life balance, as well as to review the salaries of current Senate categories.”
First of all, am I correct to assume that is Senate Administration, not senators’ staff?
Senator Moncion: That’s right.
Senator Batters: What does it mean to evaluate the working hours in order to ensure work/life balance? Also, when reviewing the salaries of Senate Aministration categories, will it take into account the bonuses they receive as well?
Senator Moncion: I will answer part of the question, and Pierre will answer the other. For work/life balance, we’ve received a few reports where you have staff who have done 2,000 hours of overtime. That was one or two employees together. We find that at some point, when staff provide or work so many hours, it is not good for their health, it’s not good for their family and it’s definitely not a balance where you have a professional life and a working life. There’s no balance.
We’ve asked the staff to provide that information so we can present the amount of hours —
— on a balanced basis, and this tells us that there are —
— there is extra staff needed because of the hours that are put into the work. We’ve had a few situations where work and life balance was highly imbalanced. There are a few FTEs that were added because of this situation, just to rebalance. We’ve asked staff to be cognizant of this because it’s fine to do some overtime, but too much is definitely not good. As an employer, the Senate needs to have that compassion portion when we look at budgets and workloads. That was your first question.
Senator Batters: Just so I’m clear, it’s not a widespread study that you’re going to do, then? It’s only with respect to those two or three employees you’re talking about?
Senator Moncion: It depends on the directorates. We’ve asked people to monitor these things, because at some point it can be anywhere.
Senator Batters: That’s what I’m wondering, though. Is it a widespread study you’re going to do on this or is it just —
Senator Moncion: It’s not necessarily a study. We’ve asked for staff to monitor it. It’s not necessarily a study, but monitoring on a yearly basis to see how this is going because there is an imbalance here.
Senator Batters: Okay. And the question about the bonuses.
Senator Moncion: Bonuses?
Senator Batters: Are they taken into account as well in reviewing the compensation?
Mr. Lanctôt: It should be, because we should be looking at total compensation when we do the review.
Senator Batters: Great. On page 3, one of the points you talked about was a new temporary employee that would be hired as a seasonal electronic printing specialist. What does that mean?
Senator Moncion: Sometime during the year when there is increased demand — I think I’m going to ask Pierre to answer because he will give me the right answer.
Mr. Lanctôt: Essentially, the position is for people who are producing electronic documents. That’s why right now it says that we are going to be levelling the level of activity and reallocate between FTEs. That’s why there’s an additional requirement.
Senator Batters: Like emails? Is that what that means? Seasonal electronic printing specialist. Does that mean somebody who prints emails? I just don’t know what that means.
Mr. Lanctôt: To be honest, I’m not exactly sure what this position is.
Caroline Morency, Director General, Property and Services Directorate, Senate of Canada: That person will work on e-printing and strictly when the Senate is sitting. Basically, during the summer period and intersession, depending on demand, this person may not be working. It goes with the workload, as Senator Moncion mentioned.
Senator Batters: Then a little bit later on that list, it talks about 10.25 new full-time equivalent positions included in the budget for this year. I see in the chart provided that of those, four are listed as maintenance personnel at interim LTVP accommodations. Why are there four maintenance people being added?
Senator Moncion: Because of the amount of square footage that has been added with the extra buildings, and that was a specific question we asked. Every staff works on a certain amount of square footage. For every specific amount of square footage, you need one staff for that. That’s how it came into play.
Senator Batters: Were they previously on contract or employees but there was not a sufficient amount allocated previously? How was that determined?
Ms. Morency: We did hire casual employees during that period of time. Basically, for your information, the additional square metres that we’ve acquired by occupying the new buildings — Chambers, 1 Wellington and the SCB — is a little over 7,000 metres squared of additional space.
Senator Batters: Last year when we had these estimates come to us, it came out in the course of those discussions that there were three interior designers that were hired for the Senate. I’m wondering, do those people still work for the Senate? At the time, I believe it was one permanent employee and two that were referred to as temporary. Are all three of them still there, are any of them listed as temporary? What is the status on that?
Ms. Morency: I can also take this question. We do have those three positions. There is one where we’re currently in the process of conducting staffing. But there are three employees that were hired through term previously, so those positions are currently being occupied by staff.
Senator Batters: Okay. Thank you.
The Chair: Senator Marshall, you had a comment on this.
Senator Marshall: Yes. As a member of the subcommittee, I wanted to refer to the comment of reviewing the salaries of certain Senate employee categories. This year, the information provided to the subcommittee gave salary ranges for the positions. I must say, I thought the salary ranges for some of the positions were low. I know we don’t want to overpay our staff, but we really need to pay them a fair amount. So I think there are categories that we need to take a look at their classification.
Senator Carignan: Regarding this matter, several of my questions have already been asked. First, I want to know the following. In which specific categories are we experiencing issues? Do we know the turnover rates for these employee categories?
Senator Moncion: First, these categories include executive positions. Currently, 68 positions must be evaluated. This is time used by the employees. Over 300 positions were evaluated over a 10‑year period. From what I can remember, and Ms. McCullagh can correct me, some executive positions must be evaluated, and the positions are found at all levels.
In terms of turnover rates, we have some information. The Audit Subcommittee receives this information. We didn’t request this information as part of the budget. This question could be referred to the Audit Subcommittee, on which you served. I believe that the information is available.
In terms of the budget, we didn’t address this issue.
Senator Carignan: What’s the turnover rate?
Senator Moncion: The Audit Subcommittee could provide this information. I don’t know whether Ms. McCullagh can provide it.
Senator Carignan: We’re not at the Audit Subcommittee. We’re in a public session.
Senator Moncion: We don’t have this information, Senator Carignan.
Senator Carignan: Ms. McCullagh seems to have it.
Diane McCullagh, Chief Human Resources Officer, Senate of Canada: I don’t have the information on hand. I know that the executive turnover rate was very high a few years ago.
Senator Carignan: In different job categories? Are there exit interviews?
Ms. McCullagh: We could obtain them because we have reports on them.
Senator Carignan: Yes please. Were exit interviews conducted?
Ms. McCullagh: Yes.
Senator Carignan: Do we have a summary of the reasons for the employees’ departure?
Senator Moncion: Again, these questions are for the Audit Subcommittee and the Subcommittee on Human Resources. We didn’t address this issue as part of the budget. You can be given this information. Last time, Ms. Bastos presented this information to the Audit Subcommittee.
Senator Carignan: I want this information shared because it concerns all senators.
Senator Moncion: Your questions are relevant. However, in terms of the budget we’re discussing this morning, your questions are less relevant. This information is presented to the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration after the Audit Subcommittee meetings.
Senator Carignan: I want to remind you that, in your report, you stated that the salaries of certain Senate employee categories will be reviewed with a view to retaining and recruiting top talent. So we can’t refer to your comment as a basis for saying that my questions aren’t relevant.
Senator Moncion: I didn’t say that your questions were ... I mean, it’s okay, we won’t argue.
Senator Tkachuk: I have a couple of questions. Senator Moncion, did you share the same concern regarding executive salaries being a little low —
Senator Moncion: Not necessarily —
Senator Tkachuk: — which Senator Marshall commented on?
Senator Moncion: I will say that I concur with what —
Senator Tkachuk: I could ask her the question.
Senator Moncion: I concur with what Senator Marshall has mentioned. Now, to go back to Senator Carignan’s concern, there has been a high level of turnover in the executive staff. That’s where we’ve had questions as to why these people were leaving. Were they leaving because of salary ranges or were they leaving because of other reasons? One of the areas that was identified was the compensation and also the work-life balance that we talked about earlier. So that’s the way we looked at how many of these positions need to be re-evaluated, and they are part of the 68 that still need to be re-evaluated. When they do the evaluation, they work with a group and also classification experts.
Senator Tkachuk: I’m not sure exactly how the bonus system works. Even though I was chair of Internal Economy for a while, I could never figure it out. But it seems that everyone gets it.
Senator Moncion: No.
Senator Tkachuk: No? How many of the executives get bonuses? Or how many don’t?
Vanessa Bastos, People, Culture and Inclusion Lead, Human Resources Directorate, Senate of Canada: Senator, I would be happy to clarify. All of the individuals at the middle management or at the executive level are entitled to a bonus system. Anyone beneath that would level would typically not be entitled. The portion of employees is about 41 individuals. I don’t have the exact number, but that is the last count that I have. Those would be the individuals that would be receiving performance pay compensation.
Senator Tkachuk: So 41 are receiving it, but how many were eligible?
Ms. Bastos: Those are the ones who are typically eligible —
Senator Tkachuk: So 41 out of 41 received the bonus?
Ms. Bastos: Subject to meeting certain performance standards.
Senator Tkachuk: So the bonus system is for everyone?
Ms. Bastos: No, it only applies to middle managers and executives.
Senator Tkachuk: Just so I’m clear, 41 are eligible and 41 received it.
Ms. Bastos: Again, I would have to go back and look at the last cycle of performance.
Senator Tkachuk: Help me, Senator Moncion; I’m confused.
Senator Moncion: It depends if they meet performance criteria. Some may get them if they meet the performance criteria and some may not. We’re talking about $28,000, and that was approved by CIBA in April 2019.
Senator Tkachuk: I have questions on the overtime. You mentioned 2,000 hours total?
Senator Moncion: I was talking about interparliamentary associations.
That was one of them. The other one was in the document that we received. I’d have to look back to see, but there were a few positions like that. That was the concern. Yes, the 2,000 hours were with the interparliamentary association, IIA.
Senator Tkachuk: Those are people who go on the trips.
Senator Moncion: Yes.
Senator Tkachuk: I’ve been through this. At 5 p.m., they’re having dinner with the senators; they’re into overtime. I’m just saying, I think that’s where it all comes from.
I know in the House of Commons they don’t do it that way, but in the Senate they do. The eight-hour day is on a trip, so if they go to Japan or Europe or sitting around at a restaurant in Rome, they charge overtime if they’re working later than, say, 6 p.m. because they have to make the arrangements for dinner and all the rest of this stuff, or go to an event, for example. But they’ve been up since 7 a.m. and then they charge off overtime. Isn’t that what happens? Isn’t that where most of the overtime comes from?
Senator Moncion: I wouldn’t be able to say.
Colette Labrecque-Riel, Clerk Assistant and Director General, International and Interparliamentary Affairs, Senate of Canada: If I my answer that question, Senator Tkachuk, I’m responsible for International and Interparliamentary Affairs.
I do know what you’re referring to, Senator Tkachuk. The statistics that provided to the subcommittee had nothing to do with association travel. These three individuals that I gave as an example to the subcommittee, in order to address a particularly difficult situation operationally, was within the protocol team. The example given was that the three most senior people in that protocol team did work some 1,900 hours of overtime during one fiscal year.
Senator Tkachuk: Is that normal?
Ms. Labrecque-Riel: No.
Senator Tkachuk: So it was just an aberration?
Ms. Labrecque-Riel: Well, it was an increasing trend.
Senator Tkachuk: What would cause it?
Ms. Labrecque-Riel: We had delivered a record-setting five international conferences within 12 months, and we had a significant increase in the number of activities on the Hill, and moving between the two buildings has made the delivering of protocol events much more complex.
It was a combination of operational factors, which led to the proposal that I made to slightly restructure those operations in order to alleviate those operational pressures on these individuals. The overtime had nothing to do with the associations in this particular example.
Senator Tkachuk: Do you think it’s going to continue that way or wouldn’t you just hire an extra person? With overtime, are you paying time and a half or how does that work? Does the person have a choice and say, “Gee, I can’t. I don’t want to do overtime today. I have to be home?” Do you have a whip and say, “You have to do it?”
Ms. Labrecque-Riel: Well, I —
Senator Tkachuk: I’m trying to make light of something that’s serious —
Ms. Labrecque-Riel: There is always a context.
Senator Tkachuk: I understand that. I just want to know.
Ms. Labrecque-Riel: There is always a context, of course, but these individuals are quite dedicated. Given the specialty of their task, this specific example, they don’t leave until the job is done. If an activity is occurring on the Hill and it goes until 10 p.m., they are here until 10 p.m. delivering what I often refer to as those red carpet events, as well as large international conferences. These are not insignificant conferences. They are two years into the planning in order to deliver those conferences. It is a significant amount of work.
I was talking about the three most senior individuals. Just hiring more people to be on the floor isn’t helpful. It is at the managerial level.
Senator Tkachuk: Okay. Do you have a solution?
Ms. Labrecque-Riel: Yes. I proposed a solution — and the subcommittee is supporting my solution — to restructure and add one manager to alleviate that overtime.
Senator Tkachuk: So adding people will help solve the problem.
Ms. Labrecque-Riel: I mentioned to the subcommittee that I’m fairly confident I will actually be able to recoup the salary of that additional individual by lowering the overtime costs.
Senator Tkachuk: Do you expect four major events per year?
Ms. Labrecque-Riel: On average, my team supports one large international conference per year, and that has been the average for 10 or 12 years. However, during the last Parliament that activity did increase significantly.
It is yes large international conferences, in addition to smaller activities where associations host activities here. It could be associations. It could also be the speakers.
Senator Tkachuk: You’re going to hire one more person, but it could drop down to one international and then a few minor ones, so you’ll go back to a normal case. Will you still need that fourth person?
Ms. Labrecque-Riel: Yes, I did make the case. I did study this problem for quite some time. I’m still convinced that the addition of that one manager, which I’ve been piloting since April, has the desired effect of redistributing the workload on the floor and significantly lowering overtime. I’m on track to have one year for those three individuals to work only a quarter of the overtime that they worked last year.
Senator Tkachuk: Do you still have overtime charges on the road?
Ms. Labrecque-Riel: Yes, senator, because those are the terms and conditions of employment for those staff. They are unionized, and we are respecting terms and conditions of employment.
Senator Tkachuk: How many hours would that be?
Ms. Labrecque-Riel: I don’t have those hours for the association secretaries with me.
Senator Tkachuk: Would you be able to get it for us?
Ms. Labrecque-Riel: Yes, I could.
Senator Tkachuk: Thank you.
Senator Plett: Senator Tkachuk’s last question was the same as mine.
The Chair: Honourable senators, it was moved by Senator Moncion that the report be adopted and that it be presented in the Senate. Is it agreed to adopt the motion?
Some Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Some Hon. Senators: On division.
The Chair: Agreed, on division.
Item no. 4 is a report from the Subcommittee on the Long Term Vision and Plan. It is my understanding that Senator Munson will present the report, and it will be followed by questions from senators. Caroline Morency, Director General, Property and Services Directorate, Real Property Planning & Projects, will be assisting Senator Munson in answering questions.
Senator Munson: I have the honour to present the fifth report of the Subcommittee on the Long Term Vision and Plan. I am here to present some important updates relating to ongoing projects for the redevelopment and rehabilitation of Parliament Hill.
You may recall that back in June, CIBA adopted a governance framework for LTVP projects, and this report contains three main recommendations on items that were committed to review and brings them back before this committee for decision.
First are the East Block museum rooms. As many of you already know, the East Block contains five museum rooms that were created by Public Services and Procurement Canada in the 1980s to highlight famous parliamentarians from the 19th century: Sir John A. Macdonald’s office, Lord Dufferin’s office, Sir George-Étienne Cartier’s office and the Privy Council chamber plus its antechamber.
The museum rooms were transferred to the Senate’s care in 2011 and have been managed by the Property and Services Directorate’s heritage and curatorial services since that time. With the closure of Centre Block and the rehabilitation of East Block, there is an opportunity to think about what we want to do with these spaces. Some of the alternative suggestions include turning them back into senators’ offices, moving these museum rooms to different locations in the new precinct or finding other uses.
The subcommittee felt strongly that although these rooms are recreations, they remain a popular item on public tours and are an important part of the history and heritage of the Parliament buildings themselves. Therefore, we recommend that the Property Services Directorate be instructed to conduct a study over the fall and provide recommendations to the LTVP subcommittee in winter 2019-20 on measures to enhance the visitors’ experience, preservation and history of the five museum rooms for when the East Block reopens after its rehabilitation.
The second is about committee rooms. In the end state of these committee rooms, this past May, you will recall that we brought to you a recommendation, which CIBA approved ,for the Senate to have 10 broadcast capable committee rooms for the long term. We agreed at that time that all committee rooms should be located north of Wellington, in close proximity to the Senate Chamber, in Centre Block, East Block and the parliamentary Visitor Welcome Centre, which was formerly known as the Visitor Welcome Centre complex.
We also agree that flexibility should be maintained to potentially have committee rooms within a third senator-occupied building. We also presented to you at that time a proposal to add another Senate building south of Wellington on the corner of Metcalfe, which we referred to as block two, to house senators’ offices during the closure of East Block for rehabilitation.
To put that into context, that’s where the Terry Fox Statue is. It was important to me and other senators that once it’s done, with the new building in place, the Terry Fox Statue still has a prominent place on Parliament Hill.
At our meeting on September 4, we were advised that, based on the broadcast and accessibility requirements and the structural and heritage constraints of Centre Block, the maximum number of committee rooms that can possibly be accommodated in the existing building would be three, while another three would be possible to be made available in the PWC.
Based on this working assumption, and in order to maintain our request for 10 committee rooms north of Wellington, the first option we were presented proposed to have four committee rooms in East Block. We were presented with an alternative option to expand the footprint of our committee rooms to include two south of Wellington, while retaining two committee rooms in East Block. This would permit the Senate to have committee rooms in every building where there will be senators’ offices, that is, Centre Block, East Block, the block 2 I talked about, and in the parliamentary Welcome Centre.
In the end, the subcommittee felt that, due to the underground courtyard infill requirements in order to have more than one committee room in East Block and the eventual closure of East Block for rehabilitation, it will likely be more economical to expand by building committee rooms in a new building south of Wellington. Some of you will be fortunate enough to be here to inhabit those buildings. Having committee rooms located in block 2 would also be comparatively closer than the Victoria Building and Centre Block.
Accordingly, we now recommend that the Property and Services Directorate be instructed to explore options to locate Senate committee rooms south of Wellington Street in the end state, including options to increase the number of committee rooms in block 2. The subcommittee also reiterates that all Senate committee rooms in the end state must be broadcast capable.
Those are two items, and now the third, which is more relevant today. I never thought my political life would come to this, but it’s about an additional washroom.
The Senate of Canada Building currently has a total of 22 washroom stalls and urinals on the ground and the first floor of the building, 10 of which are situated in proximity to the Senate Chamber. The total number of washroom stalls and urinals is in accordance with the Ontario Building Code. As most of you are aware, one of these washrooms is located near the back entrance in this building. Some senators have expressed concerns about the fact that there is only a single washroom behind the chamber.
PSD presented the subcommittee with two proposals developed by Public Services and Procurement Canada. Option 1 would add one additional bathroom next to the existing washroom, at the expense of one of the offices in the senators’ workstation area. Option 2 would add one additional bathroom that would be accessed through the creation of a new entrance through a vestibule from the main corridor, at the expense of two of the offices in the senators’ workstation area.
The subcommittees were told that option 2 would come with an overall estimated cost of $287,000, while the cost of option 1 would be about $30,000 to $35,000 lower than the cost of option 2. That’s still a quarter of a million dollars to go to the bathroom.
It should be noted the estimated cost of both options includes the installation of a new entry to the senators’ workstation area that would mitigate circulation and access challenges to this area, while ensuring the security requirements to restrict its zones remain in place. The subcommittee felt that the costs to add a new washroom are simply too high and cannot be justified for only one additional bathroom that would be for senators’ use only.
Accordingly, the subcommittee recommends that the construction of a second bathroom behind the Senate Chamber not be pursued at this time. The committee also received additional updates at our last meeting, which are detailed in our report for your information. I am open for questions, sort of.
The Chair: Any questions?
Senator Marshall: In recommendation 1, where you’re talking about the five museum rooms in East Block, will we be having visitors taking tours of East Block?
Senator Munson: Yes, absolutely. The tours will continue. This will all happen 10 to 15 years from now.
Senator Marshall: So somebody will be looking at the operational requirements?
Senator Munson: Yes. We have been at this each and every day at our committee, and I want to thank Senator Tannas for his leadership on this LTVP file. We have had Public Works in on many occasions with our committee, with Senators Joyal, Forest, Bovey and Plett. We’ve been on these issues. We’re paying close attention in terms of name changes for the Welcome Centre and basically protecting our turf. We think it is extremely important that there is no encroachment on where we were, where we want to go back to, and how we want to operate in that environment, because we think it is extremely important on Parliament Hill.
Senator Marshall: Thank you.
Senator Munson: If there are no further questions and no questions for the plumber, Senator Plett, then I’m looking for your full support on these three recommendations.
The Chair: It is moved by Senator Munson that the report be adopted. Is it agreed, honourable senators?
Some Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: Carried.
The next item, Item no 5, is from the Sixteenth Report of the Subcommittee on Agenda and Procedure. There was a decision made by CIBA on November 7, and I read from the minutes:
That when a senator participates in an externally funded trip in support of his/her parliamentary function, transportation to any departure point in Canada and from the arrival point is not eligible under the Travel Points System.
Senator Batters requested this be brought back to this committee to be considered for a second time. Pierre Lanctôt is at the table to answer any questions. Senator Batters unfortunately had to leave, but if there are any other questions in terms of revisiting this issue, please go ahead.
Senator Plett: Since Senator Batters had to leave and I’m taking her place, I think that, since she raised it, we should get an explanation again. Simply from what you’re saying, chair, I’m not sure that I would agree with what was decided. I would like a little more information, if I could.
Senator Tkachuk: Can we table it to another meeting, since Senator Batters is not here?
The Chair: This is the fourth time it has been tabled, Senator Tkachuk. We can’t keep going on and on. How many times are we going to revisit the issue? It was revisited once, then reversed and reversed again, then by CIBA, and now we’re reversing it again. Then it’s brought to steering.
Senator Plett: You mean this has been reversed a few times?
The Chair: No, it’s been reversed once.
Senator Plett: So obviously there wasn’t agreement, so why can’t we —
The Chair: There was agreement.
Senator Plett: Chair, it’s on the agenda. We have Pierre at the table. I’ve asked for an explanation. I mean, it’s on the agenda. Why wouldn’t we have an explanation?
The Chair: Okay. Pierre, maybe you can elaborate on this point.
Mr. Lanctôt: When we did the review of SOMP in the spring, when we were trying to clarify some of the SOMP provisions, that was one of the elements that was brought to the committee because SOMP did not have clarity in terms of whether or not travel within Canada to join a sponsored trip was covered in SOMP. So we came to the committee and asked to clarify that and include that in SOMP.
Based on the discussion of the committees, the decision was not to include that. I think that’s the decision that was made last time. For us, it’s a matter of clarifying whether we say in SOMP that these trips are permitted using the points system or they are not. It’s to help us administer the provision of SOMP.
Senator Plett: I think I was on the floor to ask a question.
The Chair: Yes, you are.
Senator Tkachuk: I was going to ask him to explain —
Senator Plett: What is a sponsored trip?
Senator Tkachuk: Yes, that’s what I wanted to know.
Mr. Lanctôt: What we’re referring to here is, for example, if a senator is invited by a foreign country to visit and the senator has to travel, for example, from Toronto or Ottawa to join the delegation in Vancouver, that portion of the trip — Ottawa to Vancouver to join the trip — is the portion we’re talking about.
Senator Plett: Who’s paying for the rest of the trip?
Mr. Lanctôt: The rest of the trip is —
Senator Plett: Is it a parliamentary association or is this one of these trips that Taiwan asks people to go on and they pay for the trip?
Mr. Lanctôt: It is exactly that.
Senator Plett: Thank you.
Senator Tkachuk: Well, I don’t have anything — I just wanted to know, for the benefit of the public, that he would explain the difference between a parliamentary trip and a sponsored trip, because I think it’s important. The whole reason for the points system is so that it wouldn’t matter where you lived, that everybody gets to go and is treated equally. That’s why we have a points system. Because I live in Saskatchewan and somebody lives in Montreal, we don’t judge our trips by distance; we judge it by points.
So we either support the whole idea of sponsored trips — I don’t know whether we should or not — and I’ve been on one in 2003, and I don’t even remember whether it was paid for or not at that time because I think we left from Toronto. So that’s a decision to make.
The Chair: I think the decision was —
Senator MacDonald: I want to speak to this. This is the first time I have really heard about this. I haven’t been to one of these committees for a while. Getting back to the points system, one of the reasons we have the points system is that people are treated equally. There are sponsored trips, and most of them leaving from Montreal or Toronto, let’s say. You don’t have the same access if you are from Nova Scotia or Newfoundland or Saskatchewan or B.C. With a flight out of Montreal or Toronto, you jump on the train, go there and grab the flight. But if you grab the train from Nova Scotia, it’s 36 hours. It’s not the same access.
So if we’re making a value judgment about sponsored trips, I would like to think that most sponsored trips a senator would agree to participate in would be responsibly structured and established trips. If that is the case — and I trust that it would be — I think all senators should have the same treatment when it comes to access to those trips. That’s what the points system is there for.
Senator Munson: I think it is in context to point out that with the sponsored travel itself, senators have to declare it publicly within 30 days of their travel so that there is a public and transparent record of senators taking sponsored travel. That’s important for the public to know.
Senator Gold: In principle, I am not opposed to sponsored trips, but I see that as very much a different category of activity than interparliamentary associations or Senate business generally. I take your point, Senator MacDonald, but I support the decision as it stands. I think if someone chooses to go on a sponsored trip as opposed to Senate business, as we understand it more generally, we should not use the points system. So I think the decision was well-founded and principled.
Senator Forest: I worked in the municipal sector, where sponsored trips weren’t really allowed. The host of the sponsored trip has a specific reason for inviting us. In this respect, the trip isn’t a parliamentary activity related to an association or to our work per se. I believe that the decision to not reimburse the costs for point A at the start is a good decision and I fully support it.
Senator Plett: I want to echo Senator Gold’s comments. I appreciate what Senator MacDonald is saying and certainly do not disagree with any part of it. We should all be treated equally. I’m from Winnipeg, so I would fall in that same category.
However, I think if somebody is sponsoring a trip and they want me to go on it, they can pay for me to fly from Winnipeg to Taiwan — and I use the country of Taiwan and maybe I shouldn’t have. The difference in a ticket to fly from Winnipeg with a stopover in Toronto is very insignificant when you buy that ticket.
So I support the decision. I wanted more clarification. I got the clarification, and I’m happy if we never revisit this again.
Senator Tkachuk: I’m good with that too.
The Chair: It looks like we have agreement in the room that the motion that was previously approved by CIBA stands, to make it very clear that it is not eligible. Thank you.
Item no. 6 is Bill C-58 disclosure, which was approved earlier this year by us. I invite Pierre Lanctôt to the witness table. At this stage, I want to make it very clear to senators that this is being tabled to all of you for information only. There is no decision really required. It will be brought back to CIBA once we have a full understanding of how the house is going to handle this, how departments are going to handle this, to make sure that some departments are reporting it and others aren’t. So we need some clarity on how that is going to work. But we really wanted to bring this to your attention because it will require a lot more disclosure on behalf of your travel including, particularly, committee travel.
This is an early warning or early indication providing information about some of the repercussions of what Bill C-58 is going to do and the impact it will have on reporting. With that, I will open it to questions. No decision required. This is going to be effective June, but we will have to start three or four months before that to start building up the processes to do this. We just thought the sooner we let all senators know that this is coming, the better.
With that, I’ll open it up to any questions for Pierre or Catherine. If there are no questions, I think I’ll just keep that. We will be back to you when a decision is made as to the extent of what degree we follow this and what extent we need to change our processes.
Colleagues, the next item is a verbal update on the work of the Subcommittee on Human Resources.
Senator Saint-Germain: Thank you for the opportunity to provide an update on the work of the Subcommittee on Human Resources, which is currently preparing the Senate’s new anti‑harassment policy.
Since our report was tabled and approved by CIBA, the subcommittee members and the administration team have been working very hard. They’ve held 13 meetings since last May to develop the new draft policy, while adhering to the recommendations presented in CIBA’s report. I particularly want to thank Senator Moncion and Senator Tkachuk, along with Senator Tannas, who played a very active role in the subcommittee’s work while he was a member. I also want to thank Philippe Hallée and his team, with whom we had some “lively” discussions on certain legal aspects. I think that this was successful.
I want to inform you that, this morning, the subcommittee members approved the latest version of the policy, subject to certain conforming amendments that the subcommittee members have given me permission to make on their behalf. In addition, the principle of two motions currently under development was approved. One will be an order of reference to the Committee on Ethics and Conflict of Interest for Senators, because we’ll recommend amendments to the Code of Ethics. The other will be an order of reference to the Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament, because we’ll, in the same spirit of consistency, recommend amendments to the Rules of the Senate.
On behalf of the subcommittee members, I’m pleased to inform you that, at the next CIBA meeting, we’ll be able to review this policy, which will be sent to you shortly. Since we won’t be meeting in January, you’ll have plenty of time to study this new policy on your own. Thank you.
Senator Marshall: Thank you very much, Senator Saint-Germain. So we’ll get that policy in the new year?
Senator Saint-Germain: Yes.
Senator Marshall: Okay. I look forward to that. As the chair of the subcommittee, I know you’ve been doing some interviews with regard to the work of the committee.
Senator Saint-Germain: Yes.
Senator Marshall: Last month you did an interview where you spoke about Senator Meredith. I wanted to mention it because it was of interest to me. I’m just quoting from part of it. You were talking about the women that were in his office, and you were referencing that they were becoming sick and complaining. Then you said:
And what did the administration do? And the whips at the time? They send other beautiful young girls.
I just want to clarify for you and for everybody in the room that I was the Government Whip in the Senate from 2011 to 2015, so of course, I wonder if I was caught up in this comment. I’d like to indicate very clearly that I had absolutely no involvement whatsoever in staffing any senator’s office, including Senator Meredith. I don’t know who you were referring to in the interview, but if you were referring to me, you’re absolutely incorrect. I would respectfully ask that when you do interviews outside, especially regarding this issue, ensure that you have the evidence to support what you’re saying and be specific as to whom you’re referring to, because at that time, there were only two whips. There was Senator Munson and me. You said, “and the whips at the time.” When I heard the interview, I was very concerned. I did want to clarify that for all of my colleagues, and publicly, and to request your assistance to ensure that it’s not repeated.
Senator Saint-Germain: I take your point and I understand it very well. The reference perhaps is that the word “whips” wasn’t the accurate one, but I should have said the “authorities” at the time should have acted more quickly. My evidence comes from information that we got when we consulted with regard to the new policy by the representatives of the senators’ staff employees.
At the same time, I had the opportunity to meet with some former employees of Senator Meredith, at their request, in my office. And I have to say, without breaching the confidentiality, that one of the witnesses said, especially regarding you, as a whip at that time, you are very human and that you did what you had to do.
I hope you are pleased with what I’m saying there and I regret I used the word “whip.” English words don’t come as easily as French words for me. I should have said the “authorities” at the time, so I apologize for that.
Senator Marshall: Thank you very much, Senator Saint-Germain.
The Chair: Thank you for the update, and I know it’s been tough getting to the new policy. Thank you for all the work that you and your committee have done, Senator Saint-Germain. It’s been a journey and I’m glad we’re coming to the end of the journey, so thank you again. We look forward to getting the report.
And thank you to Senator Tkachuk as well.
Next is item no. 8, honourable senators. Is there any other public business?
Before we go in camera, I would like to make one other comment. This is going to be Senator Tkachuk’s last CIBA meeting, unless we meet sometime in January, but that’s another issue. So far, by the time we come back he’s not going to be here and I really wanted to thank him for his service to this committee, and to the various subcommittees that he’s on. Thank you.
Senator Tkachuk: You’re more than welcome.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
The Chair: Honourable senators, if there is no other business, we will go in camera. I would remind people that when we go in camera, there is only one staff member per senator, please, otherwise we never know who is here and who is not here; and no one from the administration besides the executive team.