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THE STANDING COMMITTEE ON INTERNAL ECONOMY, BUDGETS AND ADMINISTRATION

EVIDENCE


OTTAWA, Thursday, February 27, 2020

The Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration met this day at 8:30 a.m. pursuant to rule 12-7(1), consideration of financial and administrative matters; and, in camera, Pursuant to rule 12-7(1), consideration of financial and administrative matters.

Senator Sabi Marwah (Chair) in the chair.

[English]

The Chair: Good morning. 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 serving as chair of the committee.

May I ask each of the senators to introduce themselves.

Senator Dean: Tony Dean, Ontario.

Senator Boehm: Peter Boehm, Ontario.

[Translation]

Senator Forest: Éric Forest, Gulf Division, Quebec.

Senator Moncion: Lucie Moncion, Ontario.

Senator Saint-Germain: Raymonde Saint-Germain, Quebec.

Senator Dalphond: Pierre Dalphond, Quebec.

Senator Verner: Josée Verner, Quebec.

[English]

Senator LaBoucane-Benson: Patti LaBoucane-Benson, Treaty 6 territory, Alberta.

Senator Smith: Larry Smith, Quebec.

[Translation]

Senator Seidman: Judith Seidman, Montreal, Quebec.

Senator Poirier: Rose-May Poirier, New Brunswick.

[English]

Senator Marshall: Elizabeth Marshall, Newfoundland and Labrador.

Senator Plett: Don Plett, Manitoba.

Senator Batters: Denise Batters, Saskatchewan, and I am the deputy chair of this committee.

The Chair: Before I begin, I want to extend my thanks to all the staff, especially the executive committee, the translators and committee attendants, for making the effort to be here. Some left home at four o’clock this morning. We owe them a vote of thanks and their support for being here.

Honourable senators, a copy of the public minutes from February 6, 2020, is in your package. Are there any changes or questions?

Can I have a motion to adopt the minutes?

It is moved by Senator Saint-Germain to adopt the comments.

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Carried.

The next item is the 18th report from the Audit Subcommittee that deals with the annual financial statements of the Senate of Canada.

At the table we have Pierre Lanctôt, Chief Financial Officer; Nathalie Charpentier, Comptroller and Deputy Chief Financial Officer; and from KPMG, Charly Thivierge-Lortie, Audit Manager, and Andrew Newman, Partner, Audit Leader.

It is my understanding that Senator Moncion will speak first, followed by a presentation from Pierre and from KPMG.

[Translation]

Senator Moncion: Dear senators, following a detailed and thorough review of the financial statements, your Audit Subcommittee is pleased to recommend the approval of the audited financial statements for the year ended March 31, 2019.

[English]

Your subcommittee also reviewed three related documents: the financial statements, the narrative which provides the highlights for the statements, and the audit report from the external auditor.

[Translation]

The financial statements for the year ended March 31, 2019, received a clean audit opinion, as it has been the case since the Senate began publishing its financial statements in 2008-09.

[English]

I wish to point out that the management responsibility statement vis-à-vis the financial statements clearly expresses that the integrity and objectivity of the information rest with the Senate administration management and that the statements have been prepared in accordance with the Canadian public sector accounting standards.

[Translation]

The actual statements outline the financial position of the Senate as at March 31, 2019; its financial operations for the fiscal year 2018-19; a summary of changes in the Statement of Accumulated Surplus; and how the cash received from the Consolidated Revenue Fund was used by the Senate. The document also includes notes to describe and provide further details on financial statements.

[English]

The second document, which is referred to as the financial highlights, provides an explanation of the financial statements and the note disclosures. An analysis of significant variances with budget and prior year’s expenses is also provided. It should be noted that while the audited financial statements are made public the financial highlights is an internal document restricted from external distribution.

[Translation]

The auditors conducted the audit in accordance with their audit plan. They did not identify any control deficiencies.

[English]

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the external auditors Andrew and Charly for the excellent work they did, as well as for the last financial statement and the ones prior.

[Translation]

Pierre Lanctôt, Nathalie Charpentier, and Andrew Newman, KPMG partner in charge of the Senate audit, as well as Charly Thivierge-Lortie, the Audit Senior Manager from KPMG, will deliver their report. Pierre Lanctôt will provide a brief overview on key elements of the financial statements, and Andrew Newman will provide the audit report.

I would also like to thank Pierre and Nathalie. Thank you for the excellent work you do and for your availability in putting together all the documentation you are providing to us.

The floor is yours.

Pierre Lanctôt, Chief Financial Officer, Finance and Procurement Directorate, Senate of Canada: Thank you, Madam Senator. I will now take a few minutes to discuss the highlights of the Senate results for the fiscal year 2018-19 and the financial position as of March 31, 2019. I will begin with the new notes to the financial statements and discuss the new information contained in the financial statements.

Note 5 now provides details on the tangible assets that will be transferred to the Senate over the next few years as part of the Long Term Vision and Plan projects.

Note 9(c) presents a prior period adjustment for services received without charge as a result of revised calculations by Public Services and Procurement Canada of the value of accommodation services the Senate received free of charge from PSPC.

Finally, note 12 presents the budgetary reallocation of parliamentary appropriations used for the acquisition of machinery and equipment for the purpose of presenting budgetary information in the financial statements.

[English]

Let us review the expenses of the Senate. Total expenses, excluding the one-time adjustment for senators’ pensions in 2017-18, increased by 7.9% or $7 million. There are three main reasons that explain this variation.

There was a higher number of senators during the year compared to the previous year, an increase in personal costs, and a decrease in professional services costs.

First, let us discuss the increase in senators’ costs resulting in an expense increase of $1 million. We had on average three additional senators during the year — 99 compared to 96 — representing an increase in salaries, basic allowances, as well as transportation and communication. Those amounts total $1 million.

Personal costs increased by about $7.3 million. There was an increase in staff representing $4.7 million due to the higher number of employees and salary increases that happened during the year.

Payments of economic increases for unrepresented employees of the Senate, senators, house officer employees and some unionized employees increased by $1.6 million. The increase in the cost of the benefits plan for employees represented an increase of $1 million basically as a result of an increase in salaries and additional employees.

Professional services, hospitality and meals decreased by $300,000. Mainly due to the ending of a contract to assist with the Human Resources Directorate transformation, about $800,000 was offset by various small increases.

[Translation]

Let us proceed with the statement of financial position. This statement provides an overview of the Senate’s financial position as at March 31, 2019, primarily assets and liabilities.

The Senate’s liabilities are all financial liabilities, most of which will be paid using future appropriations from Parliament.

In the financial statements at year end, we have an amount of $3.8 million due from the Consolidated Revenue Fund. This amount is primarily the result of the time difference between when transactions are recorded against parliamentary appropriations and when payments are made. There is a decrease of $1.6 million from 2017-18 that is due to the fact that accounts receivable and advances increased by $1.6 million, and therefore this additional amount will be deposited to the Consolidated Revenue Fund when received, resulting in a decrease in the amount due from the Consolidated Revenue Fund.

There was a $4.1 million change in accounts receivable and advances. This amount consists of amounts receivable from federal government departments and agencies. It also includes $40,000 from other parties.

The increase of approximately $1.6 million over 2017-18 is mainly related to the recovery of Public Services and Procurement Canada salaries for the Long Term Vision and Plan, which covers salaries for six months in 2018-19 compared to three months in 2017-18, accounting for an increase of about $1.5 million. It is basically the difference between the time we received the amounts this year, for the 2018-19 year, and the amount receivable from the previous year. It is a calender issue having to do with receiving the funds.

Let us talk about tangible capital assets in note 5. As at March 31, 2019, the Senate had $6.6 million of capital assets at a net book value, that is, acquisition cost less amortization.

Among other assets, this amount represents informatics software with a total value of $2.7 million, $1.6 million in furniture and furnishings, $1.2 million in informatics hardware and $700,000 in machinery and equipment. There are also $200,000 for leasehold improvements and another $200,000 approximately for other expenses. Accounts payable and accrued liabilities, which are in note 4(b), were $8.2 million, with an amount of $4.3 million related to employee compensation; that is mainly salaries of $3.6 million in total, which covers the number of days for pay in arrears and when those salaries were paid. Performance pay was also included in that amount, as was retroactive pay owed to employees. We owed $3.1 million to external parties and $800,000 to government departments and agencies for services rendered. The increase in accounts payable of $100,000 compared to the previous year is mainly due to when the salaries were paid.

[English]

This concludes my presentation. If you have questions, I will be pleased to answer them.

The next step will be Mr. Andrew Newman presenting the audit report.

The Chair: Are there any questions for Pierre, or should we wait until the auditor finishes as well and we can ask questions of both of them? What is the preference?

Senator Marshall: We wait until the auditor is finished.

Andrew Newman, Partner, Audit Leader, KPMG: I am very pleased to present our auditor’s report on the Senate’s financial statements for the year ended March 31, 2019.

Those statements report the 2019 total Senate-controlled expenses of $95 million compared to a budget of $108 million. With all costs of services provided without charge by other government departments to the Senate for accommodation, health care and things like that, total expenses to operate the Senate for the year were $120 million.

Our opinion on these financial statements is included in our independent auditor’s report appended to the financial statements. That opinion states that the accompanied financial statements present fairly in all material respects the financial position of the Senate of Canada as at March 31, 2019, its results of operations, its accumulated surplus and its cash flows for the year that ended in accordance with Canadian public sector accounting standards. That opinion will be dated today, February 27, 2020.

Relating to our audit work, we met with your Audit Subcommittee, ably chaired by Senator Moncion, to present our official audit plan prior to the audit and to present our official audit findings report subsequently to our audit work. Throughout the audit we had full participation of your management team. We did not identify any significant weaknesses in internal controls of the Senate, nor any significant adjustments to the books and records of the Senate.

Relating to the Phoenix pay system for 2019, the Senate did not have any employees selected in the Office of the Auditor General’s government-wide sample of payroll expenses this year. For the Senate financial statement audit we looked at the processes and controls of the Senate around payroll, including the identification and correcting of individual pay errors in your employees’ pay. Those controls and processes remain strong and continue to serve the Senate’s employees very well.

This is my final report as the Senate’s independent auditor. We can’t get better timing than that. It has been my privilege to serve the Senate for the past 10 years.

I want to thank the Senate finance management team past and present, current and former members of the Audit Subcommittee, and this committee for their commitment to improve transparency and accountability in the Senate’s financial reporting.

Senators, that concludes my report.

The Chair: Thank you, Andrew. Let’s begin with questions.

Senator Batters: First of all, thank you to our auditors for 10 years of solid service to the Senate of Canada and to Canadian taxpayers.

My question is for the Senate Administration people at the table. I am on the Audit Subcommittee. One of the questions I had when we were reviewing these financial statements and the financial highlights report prepared with it was regarding a contract that was referenced in the copy we had. It was on page 11 under the section 3.2 variance to the prior year.

There was a variance, and one of those indications was about a $200,000 contract with ADGA Group Consultants Inc. about a security contract. Minimal information was provided in that so I asked about who approved the contract.

Since that time we have received a revised financial highlight page which does not have a reference anymore to the ADGA contract. It simply talks about on that page 11 under the 3.2 section the remaining variances due to increase in several low-value contracts.

The answer I got on who approved the contract was, “We were not able to find the information related to the approval of the contract in 2017-18. This information was not recorded in a consistent manner and a new system was being implemented. Also, some decisions were made by CIBA and others on the LTVP subcommittee.”

I think I was on steering of CIBA at the time and I do not recall steering reviewing it. I asked that question at the time of those who approved it because I did not recall CIBA as a full committee reviewing it. I was kind of alarmed to hear the answer that they were not able to find the information about who approved it.

I am wondering if you have been able to discern anything more since then. I don’t understand how that happens.

Mr. Lanctôt: We are still looking at this matter, senator. Essentially that was one of the contracts done as part of the LTVP project. We are looking at the minutes of that committee to see if we can find specific details associated with that.

The challenge is that the employees who were involved a couple of years ago are no longer with the Senate, so we have a bit of a problem finding somebody who was involved and would have the history of that. Rest assured that we are looking. We are going through the documentation to identify and find the resolutions as to the approval.

We know who approved the requisition in administration, but I cannot confirm it at this point.

Senator Batters: Who approved the requisition in administration?

Mr. Lanctôt: I will send it to you. I didn’t bring this specific information with me, but I know we have a requisition with a signature, but we haven’t located which committee and the minutes of the committee yet.

Senator Batters: If it was CIBA, though, it would be pretty visible within CIBA minutes, correct?

Mr. Lanctôt: Yes, with CIBA we would have found it. With all the contracts we went through for other reasons, we are in the process of wrapping up a review and audit of the expenses. We had to go through years to find some information on some transactions. Everything with respect to CIBA is easier to find. With subcommittees sometimes it is not as easy to find.

The Chair: When you do get the answer, Pierre, I think it would be best if you bring it back to this committee and advise all members as to the answer.

Mr. Lanctôt: Absolutely.

Senator Marshall: I have two questions. The first one is on the Phoenix system because we have decided to keep the Phoenix system. We thought we would replace it and then decided we would keep it.

I know, Mr. Newman, that some additional audit work was done to verify the accuracy of payroll transactions, but I would like the auditors and maybe even Pierre to comment. The decision now is that we will put in complementary procedures to make sure that the Phoenix system is actually generating accurate payroll data.

Could you just tell us or reassure us that these additional procedures that are complementary to the Phoenix system are adequate to ensure the accuracy of our payroll?

Mr. Newman: I will speak first to our work because we actually changed our audit approach related to Senate procedures relating to pay.

In the past those who are on this committee and the Audit Subcommittee will remember we chose a sample of employees and did a test to answer the question: Were those Senate employees ultimately paid correctly even if there were errors within the Phoenix system that were subsequently corrected in a subsequent pay period?

Over the last two or three years those tests have had excellent results for the Senate. As I have reported to this committee in the past, that is simply because of effort on behalf of your payroll and finance management team and, quite frankly, diligence to make sure your employees are paid properly.

With that success we decided to change the audit approach and look at the process that the Senate put in place to monitor Senate employees’ pay and correct errors in a rapid manner that occur in the Phoenix pay system. There were some errors within the Phoenix pay system that impacted Senate employees but they were corrected in a timely manner.

Looking at those processes and testing the controls of monitoring, review, identification and that sort of thing, we find those processes are very strong. They continue to serve your employees well and quite frankly are necessary until the Phoenix pay system at some point gets its legs.

Senator Marshall: My second question is on capital assets. When we look at the financial statements the amortization of the capital assets now exceeds the acquisitions.

I would like to hear from Pierre first, and if Mr. Newman has any comments on it, I would appreciate that too.

Are we replacing our assets on a timely basis? When I read the financial statements I get the impression that our assets are really dated before we start replacing them.

Could I have comments on that?

Mr. Lanctôt: It is a fact that our assets are heavily depreciated. We are in the last third of the useful life of assets. That is why we have started a longer term plan for asset replenishment. We will have a discussion later on one portion of replacement for technology.

Our assets function properly. It is not unusual to see assets lasting a little longer than their depreciation period. We certainly need life-cycle asset management to make sure we are always ahead of the curve, and we are doing this exercise.

Senator Marshall: Mr. Newman, would you have any comments on that?

Mr. Newman: The financial statements are doing the job to shine light on a potential issue. The amortization of tangible capital assets that the Senate owns and is responsible for is roughly $2.2 million a year. That is the expense of using the capital assets as they diminish in their usefulness over their useful lives.

The acquisition of tangible capital assets is at least a two-year story. It was less than that with $1.7 million in 2018 and $1.3 million in 2019. While you cannot replace capital assets over the midterm of two or three years, you can’t do it forever. It is something I would encourage your management team to look at.

I would advise that senators also went through a significant move at the time. While this lovely building is provided to you by PSPC, I would say other asset purchases were delayed because of our figuring out what accommodations are.

Senator Marshall: I am on the Estimates Subcommittee, so it is probably something we should keep in mind when we review the estimates.

Senator Dean: My question is for you, Mr. Newman. Thank you for the long period of service to us.

I am struck by the mention of no significant control risks, and that might be from the lexicography of auditing.

As you have done your work this year, and indeed over the last two or three years, is there anything that doesn’t meet the significance test, that is just below the surface and has struck you as something we should keep an eye on, if I can put it that way?

Mr. Newman: I referenced significant control deficiencies which are different from significant control risks. Clearly, as with every organization the Senate has significant control risks. That is why you have processes to mitigate those risks. When I say we did not find any significant control deficiencies, that means we believe the processes and procedures the Senate has implemented fundamentally over the last 10 years are strong enough to substantively and sufficiently mitigate those risks.

Through our audit we always have smaller opportunities for improvement within the processes of the Senate. I am certain we had those throughout the audit. I cannot remember any off the top of my head for this particular audit; but we share those with Pierre and his team, and with Pascale and her team if it is in HR or IT with those respective functions.

The Chair: If there are no other questions, honourable senators, it is moved by Senator Moncion that the report be adopted and that the financial statements be tabled in the Senate. Is it agreed to adopt the motion?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Carried.

It is also a good practice for senators to meet in camera with the auditors alone following an annual audit. Therefore I would ask everyone at this time to leave the room. Except for the recording secretary, which is going to be Gerry, could we have all other members leave the room. It won’t be very long, I hope.

(The committee continued in camera.)

(The committee resumed in public.)

The Chair: We can begin the public portion again.

Item 3 is the 19th report from the Audit Subcommittee which deals with the quarterly financial reports for the quarter ended June 30 and the quarter ended September 30.

Senator Moncion will give a presentation. Pierre and Nathalie will be available to answer the questions.

[Translation]

Senator Moncion: Dear senators, as Chair of your audit subcommittee, I have the pleasure to table for information the Senate Financial Highlights Report for the first and second quarters of 2019-20, covering the period from April 1 to September 30, 2019.

The committee was diligent in reviewing the report, and several questions were asked to the finance team that were answered to our satisfaction. The report is prepared on a quarterly basis. It is prepared by the Finance and Procurement Directorate. It is not available to the public and it is not audited. The objective of this report is to provide continuous information about the usage of the Senate budget authorities, actual expenditures and forecasted spending for the current year.

[English]

As a summary, the Senate budgetary authorities for the year 2019-20 are $114.2 million. The actual expenditures as of September 30, 2019, represent $45.8 million. Overall, based on the best available information at the time that the report was prepared, the Senate is forecasting to spend $103.5 million for 2019-20, or 91% of its budget, with an overall Senate surplus of $10.7 million.

[Translation]

A surplus of $7.1 million over senators’ budgets is expected. The forecast assumes that the number of senators will be 102 for the remainder of the year and the travel expenses will be less than last year due to an election year.

[English]

The committees on international and inter-parliamentary affairs are forecasting a $1.1 million surplus. The surplus is attributable to committees due to minimal committee-related travel expected from now until the end of the fiscal year because it is an election year.

[Translation]

The Audit and Oversight Subcommittee has a budget of $500,000 and is forecasting to spend $100,000 for a contract awarded to the firm Raymond Chabot Grant Thornton for the audit on Senators and Senate Administration expenses, which will result in a surplus of $400,000. It is anticipated that the surplus will not be used since the committee has not yet been created.

[English]

The Senate Administration is forecasting a net surplus of $2.1 million mainly due to the salaries being at the lower salary scale than planned, consistent with previous years’ experience and vacancies following departures and anticipated time required for the staffing.

[Translation]

I will now provide the committee with an overview of significant changes to budgetary expenditures. Year-to-date actual expenditures as at September 30, 2019, have increased compared to the prior year, by 6%. The most significant changes occurred in two expenditure categories. Pages 7, 8 and 9 of the report provide information for the other significant changes.

[English]

In the first category, personnel costs increased by $2.6 million due to the following: Senators’ remuneration and pensions show a net increase of approximately $900,000, mainly due to an increase in the average number of sitting senators.

The increase in the average number of senators also had a direct impact on senators’ staff salaries, which have increased by $600,000. The number of employees in the Senate administration has increased compared to the same period last fiscal year, which represents an increase of $700,000.

Lastly, the total cost of employee benefits rose by $400,000.

[Translation]

In the second category, Rentals and Licences, costs increased by approximately $200,000 compared to the same period last fiscal year. This can be explained by an increase of approximately $46,000 for rentals of interpretation/audiovisual equipment and meeting rooms for Senate committees, and an expenditure of $140,000 to purchase additional Microsoft licenses and cover the increase in fees.

[English]

Consistent with past practice, the Senate’s financial highlights report lists under section 4 the key risks and uncertainties that could have a financial impact should they materialize. Appendix A of the report contains risks and uncertainties identified during the planning phase and deemed relevant for 2019-20.

[Translation]

This concludes my presentation of the financial highlights of the first two quarters ended September 30, 2019. I will now invite Pierre Lanctôt and Nathalie Charpentier to answer your questions.

[English]

The Chair: Pierre and Nathalie, anything further to add?

There being none, are there any questions?

Senator Batters: On page 3 of the document, it lists under the financial highlights part two different graphs. One is the total budget for senators, committees and IIA, which is the interparliamentary associations or what have you. Then the second one is total budget for administration.

At Audit Subcommittee, I asked that it be changed because I didn’t think it was a good breakdown. I thought it would be more accurate to have three different graphs: one for senators, one for committees and IIA together, and the third one for administration. I thought that would be a more accurate reflection, a more accurate split.

I just wanted to make a note that the answer came back that for fiscal year 2020-21 the same reporting format would be kept for the current fiscal year so that it could be compared properly. Then the report would be modified with respect to that suggestion for the upcoming fiscal year. Is that correct?

For the year we are in right now, these reports are not to be modified. But for the year that we will be in quite soon, those reports will be modified to have three separate comparators rather than just two.

Mr. Lanctôt: Yes, for this year we have already produced the one for the third quarter because we are already in February. When we had the review for the first two quarters we were already in February. We took your advice and decided that we would make the changes starting with the next fiscal year.

The Chair: If there are no other further questions, thanks to both of you. This item was for information only.

Before we go in camera on item 4, other matters, we have just been advised that the house leaders have agreed to the budget allocation for fiscal year 2020-21. A note is being circulated.

We need to get leave to present it in English only. The French will follow very shortly. It has just been provided. May I have your agreement on that, senators?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Let’s circulate the English only right away.

I understand this is quite urgent because this is the precursor to getting all the committees established to do all the work that has to go on over the next couple of weeks. Hence it has been table dropped, so my apologies. It is important that we approve this so that we can begin the normal processes of the Senate.

Are there any questions for Senator Plett or any of the leaders? Seeing none, I shall read the motion. The motion reads:

That, notwithstanding the provisions of the Finance Rule in the Schedule of the Senate Administrative Rules, the additional financial allowance for the fiscal year commencing on April 1, 2020, for the following be as follows:

a) Leader, Deputy Leader and Whip of the Government in the Senate: total amount of $1,510,000;

b) Leader, Deputy Leader and Whip of the Opposition in the Senate and research fund for the Opposition: total amount of $1,279,792;

c) Research fund for the Independent Senators Group: total amount of $1,435,000; and

d) Research fund for the Canadian Senators Group: total amount of $ 460,000.

For greater certainty, the allocated amounts are in effect until the end of the 43rd Parliament and the amounts provided for group and caucus are conditional on the caucus of the relevant party or parliamentary group meeting the minimum size requirement to be a recognized party or a recognized parliamentary group under the Rules of the Senate; and

That the committee undertake a review of the formulae for determining all House Officer Budgets, with a view to establishing a fair and consistent approach to budget determination.

It is moved by Senator Plett and seconded by Senator Saint-Germain. Are there any questions?

Senator Moncion: Could you assure us that the total amount is equal to what has been approved in the financial estimates?

The Chair: I understand it is less.

Senator Moncion: Less?

The Chair: I think we went with the higher number, did we not, for 2021?

Ms. Legault: I would want to ask the CFO. We just received it. I don’t know if you have had a chance.

Mr. Lanctôt: I am verifying it right now.

The Chair: I think we have kept the numbers flat.

Senator Moncion: Do we want just to make sure?

The Chair: We will make sure and get back to you.

Senator Plett: If I could add to that, these numbers are all 10% lower than what they were last year.

The Chair: That is my point. It is less than what it was.

Senator Batters: Except the Canadian Senators Group is static.

The Chair: Are there any other questions?

Senator Dean: I see under the first paragraph that these figures are in place for 2021. Then I see under point 2 below that the agreement is valid for the duration of the Forty-third Parliament. So, which is true?

Senator Plett: They are both true. I think we can only do it one year at a time, but there is an agreement that if the next session or the next fiscal year would only be half a year it would end then. It goes year by year until the Forty-third Parliament has been completed.

The Chair: All agreed, senators?

Senator Dalphond: I have a question. This is irrespective of the numbers of senators that could be in place two years from now.

The Chair: As long as they meet the minimum standards, the minimum required.

Senator Dalphond: As long as you meet the number 9. In a sense, the independents are not seeing their budget increase, but the numbers of members are increasing. For some other groups, like the official opposition, the number of senators is diminishing but they still keep the same budget.

The Chair: That is correct. I assume our leaders thought of that when they signed this agreement.

Senator Dalphond: Overall the budget will be 10% lower than before. Now that the independents are in charge of the Senate, I guess the budget is going down.

The Chair: Let’s not go there.

Senator Plett: If you notice, Senator Dalphond, it was moved by a member of the official opposition.

The Chair: All agreed? Carried.

Let’s move on. Now we are going in camera and will reconvene in a few minutes.

(The committee continued in camera.)