The Subcommittee on Long Term Vision and Plan met by video conference this day at 12 p.m. [ET] to study and report on the program of work for the Long-Term Vision and Plan for the Parliamentary Precinct.
Senator Donald Neil Plett (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: My name is Don Plett. I’m a senator from Manitoba, and I am the chair of this subcommittee.
As a reminder to those watching today’s meeting, it is also available online at sencanada.ca.
Today, we are conducting the first virtual sitting of the CIBA subcommittee on Long Term Vision and Plan via video conference.
Thank you in advance, senators, for your patience as we adapt to this new way of holding our meetings. I would like to remind senators and witnesses that the use of online platforms does not guarantee speech privacy or that eavesdropping won’t be conducted. As such, while conducting committee meetings all participants should be aware of such limitations and restrict the possible disclosure of sensitive, private and privileged Senate information. Participants should know to do so in a private area and to be mindful of their surroundings so they do not inadvertently share any personal information or information that could be used to identify their location.
Before we begin, I would like to share several helpful suggestions we feel will assist you in having an efficient and productive meeting.
Participants are asked to have their microphones muted at all times unless recognized by name by the chair and will be responsible for turning their microphones on and off during the meeting. Before speaking, please wait until you are recognized by name. Once you have been recognized, please pause for a few seconds to let the audio signal catch up to you. While speaking, speak slowly and clearly and do not use the speakerphone.
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I would like to introduce the members of the committee who are participating in this meeting. As I said, I am Senator Don Plett from Manitoba; Senator Percy Downe, who is the deputy chair, from Prince Edward Island; Senator Renée Dupuis from Quebec; and Senator Marilou McPhedran, a colleague from Manitoba. Other senators who are joining us for this meeting are Senator Jim Munson from Ontario; Senator Josée Forest-Niesing from Ontario; and Senator Rob Black, also from Ontario. We are well represented in Ontario.
I wish to welcome all of you and viewers across the country who may be watching on television or online. Honourable senators and members of the viewing public, the mandate of this committee is to examine and report on the program of work for long-term vision and the plan for the Parliamentary Precinct, including the rehabilitation of Centre Block, East Block and all other Senate-occupied buildings and to ensure we respect the heritage and the best interests of the Senate without compromising the integrity of security.
Now, with all that said, I will now turn things over to today’s agenda. To start things off, we will hear from representatives from the Senate Administration, who will provide us with a mandate and overview of some of the key issues and the important matters before this subcommittee.
I would like to introduce first, from Property and Services Directorate, Caroline Morency, the Director General; and Josée Labelle, Acting Director, LTVP & Accommodation. Caroline, I will turn this over to you for now.
Caroline Morency, Director General, Property and Services Directorate, Senate of Canada: Good afternoon, honourable senators. Allow me to take a few moments to thank you for your interest in the Long Term Vision and Plan program, an initiative of immense scope that started in 2001 with the creation of the vision and a set of guiding principles for the future of the Parliamentary Precinct.
This master plan is intended to shape the physical changes in the Parliamentary Precinct in order to meet the operational needs of Parliament, and to restore and modernize the parliamentary buildings while maintaining their heritage character.
The most recent update to the LTVP took place in 2006, and we must now update it again in order to include evolving conditions and requirements, take advantage of new possibilities and reflect current government priorities. The updating exercise began in 2017 and should be complete in 2021. The master plan will look forward 15 years and also 50 years, and will include a vision and guiding principles for the following aspects: facilities, environmental sustainability, traffic, mobility, urban planning, material handling, security, visitor experience and connectivity. It will also include planning and design principles and a three-dimensional demonstration plan that will establish the boundaries, the buildings, and the projects to come, as well as the locations with potential for future development.
We will come back before this subcommittee in due course to present the proposed master plan. In addition, I would like to point out that we have sent you a copy of a brochure prepared in collaboration with the Communications Directorate that describes each of the projects underway, together with the timelines for their completion. I invite you to familiarize yourselves with it; we will be happy to answer any questions that you might have today, or in a subsequent meeting.
Without further ado, I will hand over to my colleague, Ms. Labelle, who will give you an overview of the work program for the Long Term Vision and Plan. Thank you for your attention.
Josée Labelle, Acting Director, LTVP & Accommodation, Senate of Canada: Thank you, Caroline, and thank you, chair.
Honourable senators, the purpose of today’s presentation is to provide an overview of the Senate’s LTVP program of work, including the core projects, our key partners, project timelines and the anticipated scope of work that will be required for your direction or approval this coming year. The Senate’s LTVP program of work includes the Centre Block and the new Visitor Welcome Centre, particularly the east side of the Welcome Centre, which provides additional space for the Senate such as committee rooms. We would also like to provide an overview of the East Block rehabilitation and the Block 2 redevelopment.
I will address each of these in a moment, but first I want to emphasize that one of the primary goals to ensure that at the end of this process the Senate has an integrated Senate precinct, meaning we cannot manage this from an individual building perspective, but we must ensure that the full scope of the Senate’s requirements are satisfied across its occupied spaces in a way that facilitates the ongoing work of the Senate in a logical and efficient way. This means achieving an integrated Senate precinct. The intent is for the senators to be located in three interconnected core buildings in the end state.
The Centre Block project is now well under way and we have already received some direction from the LTVP subcommittee on key design elements of this building. Last year, the LTVP subcommittee endorsed the general design of senator office units and committee rooms in the Centre Block which will also be applied to the East Block and a third building. With regard to senator office units, the subcommittee endorsed the following: an increase of the office standard from 80 square metres to 90 square metres to allow for future growth of the size of senators’ staff as well as to provide flexibility in sharing buildings intended as swing space.
They also endorsed maintaining the existing configuration of an office unit, which includes three separate but adjacent rooms and continued use of office pods for staff who cannot be accommodated in the main office unit. They also endorsed standardization of office units, including, for example, the removal of private office washrooms. In addition, they endorsed the Centre Block as the preferred location for Senate leadership, followed by the East Block, and a third building to be decided in consultation with PSPC.
In terms of committee rooms, the subcommittee endorsed the following: an ongoing requirement for 10 committee rooms in the end state. The primary location for committee rooms are to be the Centre Block, the East Block and the Visitor Welcome Centre. However, the subcommittee was open to having committee rooms in a third building occupied by senators. All committee rooms have broadcasting in accordance with the recommendations of the Special Senate Committee on Senate Modernization, a decision from 2016. They were briefed on a mix of small, medium and large committee rooms.
In addition, the subcommittee endorsed the inclusion of a multi-purpose room in the Visitor Welcome Centre complex to accommodate large group functions, Senate business and special events, something the Senate does not have today. The design development phase for Centre Block is expected to be complete in 2022 and the final completion is scheduled for 2029.
As you are aware, the East Block is already undergoing an exterior restoration. This is considered phase one of the rehabilitation program and includes urgent repairs to four critical areas of the exterior of the building. Much like the Centre Block project, Phase 2 of the East Block work will be a full rehabilitation of the building that includes building upgrades to the mechanical, electrical and seismic systems, as well as improvements to accessibility, sustainability and life safety. Phase 2 work is expected to begin in 2027, when the building will be vacated. The property and services directorate staff are currently working with PSPC and its contractors to complete the pre-design functional program. This is an important component of the planning process which must consider critical links between the East Block and all other senator-occupied buildings in the end state. We anticipate that we will be seeking your direction on a few critical design elements for the East Block this coming year.
The Block 2 redevelopment project encompasses the lands and buildings bound by Wellington, Sparks, Metcalfe and O’Connor Streets. The scope includes the rehabilitation and integration of Crown-owned buildings. Included in Block 2 are 100 Wellington Street and the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, both dedicated to the National Space for Indigenous People. It also includes the construction of two new buildings to provide parliamentary accommodations for the Senate and House of Commons. The Senate has provided a draft set of functional requirements for this project and staff are working with PSPC and our parliamentary partners to complete the functional program.
I want to note that last year we received direction from the subcommittee regarding the Senate’s occupancy of Block 2. The subcommittee agreed to occupy Block 2 for the interim during the closure of East Block but did not make longer-term commitments as the subcommittee was lacking information on how the Senate buildings could be integrated and interconnected in the long term. We are still awaiting information from PSPC in terms of the feasibility of this requirement. The functional program for Block 2 is expected to be complete by 2021, with construction starting the following year so that occupancy can occur to align with the decanting of East Block.
We know that the Senate will occupy a third building. The location is not known at this time and future developments may affect some of the dates I mentioned previously.
As mentioned by the chair earlier, the mandate of the subcommittee was amended last year to supervise all the steps, processes and decisions related to the LTVP and to examine the best way to rehabilitate the Senate’s core buildings without compromising security. In addition to the direction that you provide us regarding the LTVP program of work, senators, we also view your role as that of an ambassador to the LTVP projects. Given that we may not have the opportunity to speak to all senators about their ideas and expectations with regard to the LTVP, we will rely on the subcommittee members to consult with their caucus groups and report back.
The Property and Services Directorate represents the Senate as the knowledgeable client on the LTVP program of work. This means that we are responsible for identifying the Senate’s accommodation requirements, ensuring these are well understood by PSPC and its contractors and monitoring that these requirements are implemented as planned.
There are many stakeholders involved, each with different roles. The parliamentary partners are responsible for defining requirements, reviewing proposed designs and approving final design plans. There are a few organizations that may be consulted on specific design matters. These include the National Capital Commission, the Federal Heritage Buildings Review Office and Heritage Canada. These organizations provide advice approval as required.
Finally, PSPC and its contractors are responsible for leading the LTVP program of work and delivering on the approved design plans. Our team works closely with PSPC and its contractors and we strive to maintain a positive and collaborative relationship in the best interests of the Senate.
Also proposed is an integrated governance structure in place for the LTVP projects. PSPC is the overall project authority for the Parliamentary Precinct and takes direction from cabinet. The Senate and House of Commons are responsible for articulating requirements and monitoring that these are implemented by PSPC. A joint working group between parliamentarians is proposed to address issues of common interest. Should the Senate wish to form such a group, the Senate representatives will have to be identified.
Within the Senate, CIBA has overall accountability for the LTVP program of work and the Speaker for security elements. Within the Senate Administration, the director general of Property and Services Directorate is responsible for the day-to-day delivery of the LTVP projects. The Property and Services Directorate obtains input from all Senate Administration stakeholders, particularly the Corporate Security Directorate.
Information about the Senate’s LTVP program of work is available through a number of communication tools, including IntraSen, SenCAplus articles, and SenConstruction monthly newsletters, which to date have been mainly focused on construction activities on the Hill that may impact East Block occupants.
Finally, there are a number of key design elements and decisions that are required over the next month. We will be seeking direction from the LTVP subcommittee on these elements. These include, but are not limited to, the size of the Visitor Welcome Centre footprint, infill opportunities in Centre Block; design competition juror for Block 2; location and size of committee rooms; entries, exits and circulation; the Senate experience in the Visitor Welcome Centre; fire prevention strategies; stop work order procedures; museum rooms, as well as engagement strategy.
Thank you for listening, and welcome to all new members of the LTVP subcommittee. We are now ready to answer any questions you may have.
The Chair: Thank you, Josée.
Senator Forest-Niesing: I have a number of questions. I will try to limit my time so that I do not monopolize the discussion. Thank you very much for that presentation.
Since the initiative began, we have been told that consultations will be held along the way. As regards the use of the space by senators, I imagine that the intent is to find out the senators’ points of view, as they will be the main users of these new spaces.
Ms. Labelle, you indicated that you will be counting on the members of this subcommittee to set up a consultation process with our group. Would there not actually be a way to consult all senators more directly, through a survey, for example, or by some other mechanism, so that we can be sure that everyone can provide their point of view on the eventual layout and use of the spaces?
The Chair: I would like to jump in here, please, senator, if I could.
Josée Labelle’s job responsibility is to consult and report to this subcommittee. This subcommittee’s responsibility is to report to CIBA. And, of course, we are all members of groups and we will be consulting with our different groups. Of course, you have in your group Senator Dupuis and Senator McPhedran on here. I’m sure they will be consulting with your group. That would not be the responsibility for staff to consult individually. Their responsibility would be to report and to consult with this committee, and further we all have those responsibilities.
Are there any other questions, Senator Forest-Niesing, before I go to Senator Dupuis?
Senator Forest-Niesing: Yes, I would have an additional question.
As part of the information that was presented to us, there was an indication of an intention to aim toward increasing the existing size of senators’ offices, and a second aspect of that with respect to standardizing the offices. With regard to both of those aspects, I have a comment and a question.
The comment is with respect to the size. I consider that we might want to look at possibilities of using the space that we have in a more efficient manner so as to reduce the existing size of our offices. In my own office, I personally find that there’s an awful lot of space that is not often used to greet guests. I’m wondering whether there has been any consideration given to the possibility of having, per floor, a common waiting room for guests and a common meeting room for meetings that are in excess of two to three people that we might otherwise be able to have as guests in our respective offices. That’s the first point.
With respect to the standardization of the offices, I’m wondering, given that not every senator works in the same way, and particularly in light of the fact that we’re hopefully heading toward using less paper and making better use of digital technology, whether it is contemplated that senators will be given a variety of options. For example, when I entered my office with the standard furnishings that were there, I found there was an inordinate number of filing cabinets that I have not required and I was able to return in exchange for furnishings that I found were better suited to my particular use.
Will there be options that would be available to senators that are better adapted to their way of functioning, and hopefully in a way that takes into account the impact on the environment as well?
The Chair: I’m not sure, Josée, whether you feel comfortable answering that, but I, again, think that would fall under the same category as the first question, Senator Forest-Niesing. That is something that is up to this committee to recommend to the administration, or that the people in charge would like to have a presentation on, unless Josée has something specific she wants to add.
Ms. Labelle: Thank you, chair. I could add that, in terms of standardization, the intent is to, of course, have a furniture standard to begin with. However, the Senate Administration will work with the senator to determine the individual needs of each office.
In terms of the slight increase of space, there are several options available for meeting purposes. For example, as part of the increase, we were able to modify our standard to a six-person meeting table to allow some flexibility to have the meeting within the office, as well as a support space for senators by adding one meeting room per Senator office-occupied floor. The slight increase was also to accommodate one additional staff member within the actual senator’s office unit. Hopefully that answers the question.
The Chair: Thank you very much.
Senator Dupuis: I have a number of very specific questions. The first is about the offices that will be in the Centre Block. You made reference to offices occupied by the Senate administration and those used by the people who hold the principal legislative functions in the Centre Block. At some stage, could you provide us with a list of the functions, titles and positions included in that category you call “legislative functions”. It would be helpful for the work of the subcommittee.
My second question is very technical. It deals with the fact that senators’ offices will have to be located elsewhere than in the Centre Block and the East Block and that there will therefore be a third building situated to the north or south of Wellington Street. What are you specifically referring to when you say the “to the north of Wellington Street”?
You say that two of the 10 committee rooms will be large. Can you give us an idea — not necessarily today — of what you call “large” in terms of dimensions? Could it be, for example, that one meeting room could hold a group of 50 senators, each accompanied by a staff member? You also talked about temporary locations and committee rooms B30 and B45 in the current Senate building —
The Chair: Senator Dupuis, I apologize for interrupting. When we started with the meetings and someone was speaking in French with interpretation in English, the volume of the speaker’s voice was reduced and the interpretation was perfect. Now I’m experiencing Senator Dupuis and the translator speaking at the same time and I’m having problems understanding the question. Is there a way to reduce the volume of the speaker while you’re translating to make it easier for us, or is that not possible?
Shaila Anwar, Clerk of the Committee: Senator, it could be one of the settings on your device. It typically happens with an iPad. If you go to the “More” in the corner and “Language Interpretation,” there should be a button that says, “Mute original audio.” Select that.
Senator Munson: The same thing is happening on mine as well. It’s not an iPad.
Ms. Anwar: On the Surface Pro, it would be the same thing.
The Chair: Thank you. Let’s try that. Sorry, Senator Dupuis. Continue, please.
Senator Dupuis: When you say that two of the 10 committee rooms will be large, does that mean that they could hold 45, 50 or 55 senators?
As for the glare problem in committee rooms B30 and B45 of the Senate building, have you been able to determine how many senators have complained about it? Is it a common problem?
Finally, you talked about a strategy developed in consultation with the Communications Directorate. Is there a document available that you could send to the committee, if it has not already been done?
Thank you for giving us this information on the previous work of the subcommittee. You will understand that I asked those questions because I am a new member of this subcommittee.
The Chair: Josée, I will turn it over to you. I really cannot comment because I could not understand any of Senator Dupuis’s question. Muting the original audio did nothing to help. Josée, if you caught all of it, I’ll simply let you answer what you believe you can answer.
Ms. Labelle: Thank you, senator, for your questions. I’ll try to address each one very briefly. On the first question with respect to offices in the Centre Block and leadership, as it currently stands in the planning process, we can accommodate all leadership groups.
As for key legislative functions that will be housed in that building, they would be located on the first floor. That would be the Clerk of the Senate; the CCSO; COPO, which is the Chamber Operations and Procedural Office; as well as the Law Clerk. Hopefully I named all of them; yes.
Regarding north of Wellington, when we make that reference, we speak for the Senate-occupied spaces only, which refers to the Centre Block, the Visitor Welcome Centre as well as East Block. Typically, in speaking of senator-occupied spaces south of Wellington, we would be referring to Blocks 1, 2 and 3.
In terms of the two large committee rooms, we currently don’t have a large committee room in our inventory as it stands. In future planning, the large committee room would be approximately 300 square metres. Yes, we could accommodate a larger number of senators for caucus meetings, as an example. The size of these committee rooms would resemble the large committee rooms that are located at 180 Wellington.
With respect to the engagement, we do have an engagement strategy that will be proposed. We hope to address this with the subcommittee during the late summer/beginning of fall. Thank you. Hopefully I’ve captured all of your answers, senator.
The Chair: Thank you, Josée.
Senator Munson: Just a clarification, Josée: Does that mean in the Centre Block all four leadership groups will have accommodation?
Ms. Labelle: Thank you, senator, for your question. As it currently stands, we have sufficient space for all the leadership functions currently, yes.
Senator Munson: All four?
Ms. Labelle: Yes.
Senator Munson: That’s all I need to know. Thank you very much. I appreciate it.
Senator Downe: I have a couple of questions, actually. [Technical difficulties] I’m new to this committee.
First, with respect to the Visitor Welcome Centre, does the Senate have the same space as the House of Commons?
Second, I noticed in the briefing note that there were some things under the authority of the Speaker of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Commons. I’m wondering if we could get a note as to what those are.
The Chair: Josée, could you get that for us?
Ms. Labelle: Thank you for your question, senator. In terms of the exact numbers, we can gather those and report back to the subcommittee to provide the specific number of square metres with respect to the House of Commons and the Senate of Canada within the Visitor Welcome Centre. Is it possible to repeat the second question?
Senator Downe: Yes. I noticed in the briefing note there were certain authorities under the Speaker of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Commons. I’m wondering what those are and how they differ from this committee.
Ms. Labelle: Typically anything with respect to architectural planning and design would go through the LTVP subcommittee and ultimately CIBA. But any decision that has a security implication would then involve the Speaker’s office. Hopefully that answers your question, senator.
Senator Downe: I have actually one last question, then. I noticed that there will be a design competition for whatever new buildings are eventually built.
According to the briefing note, the way I read it, there will be at least one senator and/or representative from the Senate on this committee. I’m wondering why the House of Commons and the Senate aren’t in charge of the committee and are putting other people on it. Why are we having one or two voices on a committee set up by Public Works?
The Chair: I think, Senator Downe, that is a very legitimate question that we need to discuss as senators and that administration would not necessarily be in a position to comment on. But I agree with you, and I think that is something that we might want to discuss at our next in camera meeting. Would that be okay?
Senator Downe: Of course. Add it to the agenda for the next meeting. Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you.
Senator McPhedran: Thank you very much, Senator Plett. And thank you for the information today.
My question is geared to the fluid nature of groupings within the Senate and the fact that, just within the last few months, we’ve seen a reconfiguration that has, by implication, required dedicated space for a group within the Senate. I imagine that fluidity will probably continue over the years.
Could you please address what the flexibility is in the planning to accommodate reconfiguration and changing of groupings, new groups and other groups phasing out? How is the space going to be able to accommodate that over time?
Ms. Labelle: Thank you, senator, for your question. As it currently stands, the aim is to have all leadership offices in Centre Block, with leadership from each group. In that sense, we’re trying to foresee the fluctuation or the fluidity, as you mention, and ensure that we have sufficient space within the Centre Block footprint to be able to accommodate all future requirements.
As part of a briefing note that we presented on senators’ office spaces last year specifically, we also requested support space to senators’ offices, which we refer to as flexible office space. These are additional individual office spaces, typically one per senators’ office unit in the building. For example, if we have 20 senators in the building, we would aim to have 20 additional spaces for that flexibility within the actual building footprint, should there be additional leadership staff in the future.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Josée. We also have Chantale Lamarche from Communications. Did you have any comments, Chantale, or is Chantale on the call?
Chantale Lamarche, Communications Advisor, Senate Communications, Senate of Canada: No comment, senator.
The Chair: No comment? Thank you very much. The next item is the Block 2 redevelopment architectural design competition. We have with us both Rob Wright, Assistant Deputy Minister, Science and Parliamentary Infrastructure Branch; and Rocque Gameiro, Director General, Program, Portfolio and Relationship Management, Science and Parliamentary Infrastructure Branch. Rob, I will turn it over to you.
Ms. Anwar: Senator, before going to Public Works, I think Senator McPhedran has a question [Technical difficulties].
The Chair: Did you have a follow-up question?
Senator McPhedran: Yes. I’ve been wildly waving at you in every possible way.
The Chair: Sorry, I did not see that. Go ahead, Senator McPhedran.
Senator McPhedran: Thank you very much. This is a question both for the speakers that are just finishing and probably also for the speakers that are about to present to us. I know this is a very strongly shared concern with Senator Munson and other members of this committee, but I would ask if we could be advised during the planning of the first available time when testing can be done as to accessibility for anything that’s under construction. And when I use the term “testing,” I’m referring to people with disabilities actually being the people who do the testing from a range of different perspectives and abilities. If that could be woven into presentations, great. If not, this is a standing question that I would like to have addressed, please.
The Chair: Senator Moncion will now be the last questioner [Technical difficulties].
Senator Munson: I’m sorry, if I could interject here, if people can hear me. Senator McPhedran, in our last meeting — you will hear it from Rob Wright of Public Works and others, on the whole disability issue, that we have been working with them and they are paying very serious attention to making sure the standards are there. We have to work hard at issues of hearing impairment and others when we come to the new Centre Block, but they are aware of our concerns on disabilities. Mr. Wright and his assistant may address that in the next part of our conversation.
The Chair: Senator McPhedran, I apologize. I took what you said as a comment not as a question that we were going to address, so accept my apology there. I did not take it as a question. I took it as a comment that you wanted this dealt with, and Senator Munson is correct.
Senator McPhedran: Yes, thank you. I thank both Senator Munson and Senator Plett. It was a comment and it was a question, but it actually was a request because it’s one thing to be briefed on accessibility standards and being part of the planning; it’s another thing altogether to have people living with a range of disabilities actually reviewing the plans and physically testing as soon as that’s possible. That was really the refinement that I was trying to bring to the discussion.
The Chair: Thank you. Senator Moncion?
Again, Senator McPhedran, you’re shaking your head. I agree with you and Senator Munson agrees with you. This will be a discussion that we will have. I don’t think we are going to resolve this with Josée today. I think we all understood your question and clearly this will be discussed and considered.
Senator McPhedran: That’s not why I’m shaking my head, Senator Plett. I keep looking at the participants list and I don’t see Senator Moncion listed. So I’m not sure —
The Chair: I have something on chat here that Senator Moncion had her hand up. Was that a misspelling, Shaila? Should that be Senator Munson? Sorry. Now she has corrected it. It’s Senator Munson. The first one was Senator Moncion, which I took as Senator Munson. Sorry. Senator Munson, did you have a different comment? The joys of this technology in trying to do everything here by text.
Senator Munson: No, I’m fine, thank you very much.
The Chair: Thank you very much. Let us then go on to the next presenters. Colleagues, just so you know, we have just under an hour left, so we do need to regulate our time accordingly. I do not want to cut people off. Please keep your questions and comments succinct so that we can get through the rest of the agenda in the hour that we have left.
Rob Wright, Assistant Deputy Minister, Science and Parliamentary Infrastructure Branch, Public Services and Procurement Canada: Good afternoon, Mr. Chair and members of the committee. As the chair indicated, I’m the Assistant Deputy Minister within Public Services and Procurement Canada responsible for the Parliamentary Precinct and for working with Parliament on our collective efforts to restore and modernize Canada’s Parliamentary Precinct through the Long Term Vision and Plan. Accompanying me today are Jennifer Garrett, Director General, Centre Block Rehabilitation Program, Science and Parliamentary Infrastructure Branch; and Rocque Gameiro, Director General, Program, Portfolio and Relationship Management, Science and Parliamentary Infrastructure Branch.
The Long Term Vision and Plan is a joint undertaking between PSPC and Parliament through which we have achieved much success together. In the past several years, we have restored and modernized many heritage buildings that now serve as modern core parliamentary facilities, including the Sir John A. Macdonald and Wellington Buildings, the West Block and, of course, the Senate of Canada Building.
Importantly, the completion of these projects enabled the historic transition of Parliament out of the Centre Block and the launch of its restoration and modernization. While past projects have focused largely on a single parliamentary institution, such as the Library of Parliament, the West Block and the Senate of Canada Building, importantly the Centre Block and phase 2 of the Visitor Welcome Centre are very much a shared space for the Senate and the House of Commons as well as the Library of Parliament and the Parliamentary Protective Service.
Moving forward successfully on these projects, and the transition towards an integrated parliamentary campus that was referenced earlier, rests on a high degree of collaboration and parliamentary consensus on a project vision and on many key decisions. We are really happy to be here today and look forward to engaging with you over the coming weeks and months on key elements of the Long Term Vision and Plan and several important decision points, some of which were underlined earlier.
Feedback from parliamentarians on these key decision points will enable design efforts to continue maturing and construction activity to progress as planned. Such decisions will also help to establish that important baseline scope, cost and schedule for the historic rehabilitation of the Centre Block as well as other key projects.
Today, we will start focusing on some important elements of our approach to construction activities in the Centre Block, and the Visitor Welcome Centre phase 2. The objective here is to ensure you are well informed and comfortable with the procedures that have been developed in close collaboration with your officials. Today we will provide a follow-up presentation on the fire prevention strategy being implemented during the construction activities that is focused on ensuring that this risk is mitigated with a comprehensive approach.
Also, recognizing that the continuity of parliamentary operations is the first priority, we will present the procedures that have been developed to ensure that excavation of the Visitor Welcome Centre phase 2, including blast activities, can be conducted efficiently without disrupting parliamentary operations.
Ms. Garrett will take you through these two presentations.
Before discussing these two important elements, we will first provide an overview of the architectural design competition for the redevelopment of Block 2. The redevelopment of Block 2 is a keystone element in the next phase of the Long Term Vision and Plan and is an essential enabler of being able to restore key buildings such as the East Block and in consolidating parliamentary operations in the future.
Thank you. And with that, we would be ready for Rocque Gameiro to walk you through the redevelopment of Block 2 and the design competition.
Rocque Gameiro, Director General, Program, Portfolio and Relationship Management, Science and Parliamentary Infrastructure Branch, Public Services and Procurement Canada: I believe you all have a presentation with you and I’d like to report immediately to slide 3. On slide 3, you —
Ms. Anwar: We can’t —
Mr. Gameiro: I can’t hear you.
The Chair: I think Shaila is telling you we do not have that presentation.
Mr. Gameiro: My apologies. There are three city blocks that are facing Parliament Hill — Blocks 1, 2 and 3 — that you’re aware of. These blocks were expropriated in 1973 for the future needs of Parliament.
Those three city blocks have 26 buildings in them. Many of them are heritage designated, approaching 100 years of age and are highly deteriorated. Beyond their age and condition, many are underutilized because they are small and narrow as individual buildings.
Looking forward without a holistic development, it would be almost impossible for those stand-alone buildings to meet modern accessibility standards. However, developed holistically on a block-by-block basis, these strategic assets provide tremendous opportunities for re-managing their use.
There’s a strategy that will be in the presentation. The restoration and modernization of those buildings will achieve many objectives at the same time. First, the redevelopment of the strategic area will provide a significant benefit to Canada’s Parliament and our capital. Second, it will enable us to empty and restore the key buildings, such as the East Block and Victoria and Confederation Buildings. Finally, it will support consolidation of Parliament into a modern campus.
The reason that we chose Block 2 for the launch of this campus strategy is that it had the most pressing needs with many of the buildings that were empty. It provided the most redevelopment potential to serve Parliament with two empty lots. Finally, it is a prime location. It is directly across from the Peace Tower and in the heart of the precinct.
Construction of two new infills on each side of the former United States Embassy and the redevelopment of adjacent buildings will create large flexible spaces, while the overall heritage character of the block can be preserved. Modern storefronts can also be created to support a vital Sparks Street.
The Victoria Building is a key element of the overall initiative. Its sequencing is dependent —
The Chair: May I interrupt for one second?
Shaila, you sent me a note that the interpreters are having a problem. Has that been corrected?
Ms. Anwar: Unfortunately, we cannot hear Mr. Gameiro well enough.
The Chair: The interpreters cannot hear what you are saying. I do apologize. It appears that I’m the only one that doesn’t have the bundle for the presentation.
Mr. Wright: Mr. Chair, if we’re unable to hear Mr. Gameiro, I can gladly take over the presentation.
The Chair: I think that’s what we will have to do, Rob. For future reference, we have all been instructed to start using the type of headphones that you and I are using for future meetings. If we can all make sure that if we do presentations that we follow what we have been instructed to do.
Mr. Wright: As Mr. Gameiro was indicating, Block 2 is the first step in achieving this campus strategy and is critical to being able to restore such key heritage buildings as the East Block as well as the Victoria Building and the Confederation Building for the House of Commons.
It’s a three-step strategy in which we will restore and modernize the facilities in those three city blocks facing Parliament Hill. We will use those as swing space so that we can empty such key buildings as the East Block. Once that restoration is done, we will be able to consolidate parliamentary accommodations into an integrated campus. That is the nature of the strategy that is at play.
Block 2 was chosen because it has the most capacity to be able to achieve the most as a first step. There are those two empty city lots that are intended to be redeveloped for office facilities for the Senate and the House of Commons, and we are able to accomplish the most with that.
The approach that we’re planning to proceed with is through an architectural design competition. There is past precedent within Canada’s Parliamentary Precinct: the original triad of the Centre Block, East Block and West Block were accomplished, built and designed through competition, as well as the original Sir John A. Macdonald Building.
There are many other precedents across Canada. The European Parliament just launched, on May 26, a design competition for their Parliament. There are many similarities — we were a little out in front of them — between the approach that they are taking and the approach that we are taking. In fact, they are working with the same competition manager. The advisory business that is providing advice to us is also providing advice to them. They are also proposing participation of parliamentarians as part of the jury.
What will this architectural design competition do? It will not select a final design. It will select the firm that we will work with. We have had a significant amount of interest already. There was an advance procurement notice to indicate to industry that we are going to be proceeding with this process. There were 52 firms globally who indicated interest, and a lot of Canadian interest from 38 firms within Canada, so there was a really strong response from within Canada.
The process is the launch of a request for qualifications, which is planned to be released this summer. The first step would be to reduce to a list of 12 from everyone who puts forward their qualifications. Then those 12 firms would come forward with conceptual designs and approaches. The jury would then reduce that to a list of six that would further develop the proposals and the designs. Then that would be reduced down to an eventual winner.
We tried to align this with the parliamentary calendar so that if parliamentarians want to engage, it will work for you. The participation is very much at milestones. The participation is at particular points in the process as far as assessing the initial round that comes in from industry, reducing down to 12, and then, when they come back, to reduce down to 6, and then the eventual winner. Approximately every six months there would be a point of engagement in this design competition until we have the winner.
There are three elements to the jury. There are the design professionals — essentially the architects. Then we have general jurors, so representatives from academics, civil society and Indigenous groups. From an accessibility standpoint, we have representatives from that and then parliamentary juries. So there are three legs to that jury stool, if you will.
There are different proposals for parliamentary considerations. We are open to engagement on that, as was discussed earlier.
One proposal would be to have this committee or CIBA nominate an individual equivalent on the house side and have our minister propose one as well and at the senior officials’ level. We see a lot of benefits of having parliamentarians engaged with this. You’re the users of the facilities and having you engaged right from the beginning is important.
There will be a number of technical experts who are supporting the jury. Accessibility specialists are part of that as well.
As Senator McPhedran indicated, we have an accessibility advisory panel and we’ll be more than happy to come back and discuss that. Actually testing and getting feedback all along the process is a key part of the process that we have planned out on individual facilities but also on the whole precinct. As we go through the Long Term Vision and Plan update that was indicated earlier, accessibility is a key part of that. So we’re trying to shift from a building-by-building approach and go to a whole campus. Having an accessible campus for everyone — for Canadians, international visitors, business visitors and, of course, for parliamentarians — is critical.
I think that is the nub of the presentation, Mr. Chair. The key thing is to make sure there is good engagement and a good understanding of where we are going on this hand in hand with Parliament, and obviously to seek your views on potential participation by parliamentarians in this jury.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Rob, for that presentation.
First of all, is Jennifer doing a presentation as well or should we have questions first and then she will do one?
Mr. Wright: At your will. Jennifer’s presentations will be quite short but technical in nature. It may work best for senators to take questions now, but it’s at your discretion.
The Chair: We will do that.
Senator Forest-Niesing: On the same theme of consultation, participation and engagement, you’ve raised this as well, Mr. Wright, in your presentation to us. I’m wondering what you’re contemplating and how you will trigger that engagement. By what process do you intend to obtain views?
Mr. Wright: Thank for the question. I will answer that in two ways. On this particular design competition, having engagement of parliamentarians is critical. There will also be the public process of engagement with the National Capital Commission, which has a public component to it.
We have used other forums, such as the National Capital Commission’s Urbanism Lab to have broad public engagement. That enables people to come in person as well as being webcast. There is the ability to have questions both in person and to take those across the country. We did one of those about three months ago on the Long Term Vision and Plan and the future. It was very well attended, and there were a lot of questions.
We are open to ideas from Parliament as well about the best way to engage. We are working on a public engagement strategy with the parliamentary administration as well, which was to include a national survey, but that is working through the integrated governance, and we’re working with Parliament.
For the engagement component, that’s one area done jointly with Parliament, and Parliament has always wanted to take more of a lead role with the administration very much in the driver’s seat as far as engagement with parliamentarians. We are eager to have consultation but we are also careful to do that in tight coordination with Parliament.
Senator Forest-Niesing: I want to make sure that no one is left out of the opportunity to contribute, and I would like some assurance that we will be clearly cued as to the appropriate times. I suppose the alternative is to continue to provide input as it becomes available, but that might not be the most efficient way to communicate any important points with respect to that.
The Chair: Senator Forest-Niesing, let me reply to that. The way for you to stay informed is as you are doing today. All senators are welcome at all committee meetings and, as time permits, to ask questions and make comments. That is one way to stay informed.
The other way to stay informed is to make sure that the members of your caucus who are on this committee keep you informed. This is why we have the Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration Committee and this Long Term Vision and Plan Committee. We will continue to operate through those venues, and you will be informed of every meeting that we have, as you are informed of every Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration Committee meeting.
Senator Forest-Niesing: Thank you, Mr. Chair. I do appreciate that view, but I am interested in hearing from the witness, since he’s talking about a process to engage us, what the cue will be and whether the timing of that will be proposed to us.
The Chair: Their process of engagement will be to deal through this committee, and it will continue to be done that way. As I said, you are more than welcome to attend these meetings and make sure that you have available all the information you need and, indeed, provide the input that you need.
Do you have a different question, Senator Forest-Niesing?
Senator Forest-Niesing: Your answer to me, which is not coming from the witness, suggests that it will all happen through the committee. What I would like is to verify whether that is the only way in which we can engage, or will there be outreach beyond this committee to parliamentarians?
The Chair: That would be the decision of this committee. This committee will certainly discuss that.
Senator Dupuis: My question is for Mr. Wright. Thank you for your presentation today.
You mentioned jurors, meaning the people who will make up the jury for this architectural design competition. So there will be architects, of course, the experts, that is, and also members of the general public. As I understand it, parliamentarians are the clients for this entire project because they will be the first involved in the set-up and use of these spaces. Is that all clearly identified in your mind or in the documents that you are giving us?
Mr. Wright: Thank you for that question. Of course, it is clear that the buildings will be used by parliamentarians. The first objective of the Parliamentary Precinct is to support the work of Parliament. It is also one place in the country that is very important for all Canadians. It is a blend of sorts, because the Parliamentary Precinct is used by parliamentarians, but it is also part of a city centre that has a very special place in the hearts of Canadians.
Senator Dupuis: In your answer, I see an important point that must be included in the documentation of this project. That point is that parliamentarians are the clients of this architectural project, but they are also there as representatives of the people. In a way, the space must therefore be a house for all Canadians, and that has to be clearly highlighted. Thank you.
Mr. Wright: Absolutely.
The Chair: Are there any other questions for Mr. Wright? I see no other senators wanting to ask a question right now.
We will now hear from Ms. Garrett and then turn it back to Mr. Wright for further comments.
Jennifer Garrett, Director General, Centre Block Rehabilitation Program, Science and Parliamentary Infrastructure Branch, Public Services and Procurement Canada: Good afternoon, Mr. Chair, members of the committee and Senate colleagues. My name is Jennifer Garrett. I am pleased to be here with you this afternoon to discuss two documents. The first I will go through with you, if that’s okay, is the destructive work protocol that we have established in collaboration with the administrations of the parliamentary partners to support the excavation and other noise- and vibration-producing work on the Centre Block rehabilitation program as it progresses. I’m not going to walk you through the document in detail. I’m going to cover the main highlights. I would be happy to answer any questions or concerns and take your comments at the end, if that works for everybody.
To get started, to give you some context, the phase 2 Visitor Welcome Centre, which will be constructed underground in front of the Centre Block building, is similar to Visitor Welcome Centre phase 1 from the perspective that it will require excavation, given that it is an underground facility. Given the terrain and the geo-technical work we’ve done through the assessment program, that work has determined that, similar to Visitor Welcome Centre phase 1, again, we will require quite a bit of rock removal.
Removing rock during the excavation process involves two key activities. One is something called hoe ramming. For those of you who aren’t familiar with that term, it is essentially using excavation machinery to tick away or break the rock up physically.
The second, used in more difficult situations and also utilized for Visitor Welcome Centre phase 1, was the requirement to do blasting to blast some of the rock away and then remove it out of the way.
That is what we’re going to be doing. That process, as you’re aware, if you’ve looked at the Hill camera lately or you’ve been up and around the site, you’ll know we have been actively removing overburden to get ready for that rock removal to start to occur. That planned activity will start, hopefully, in July, once we’ve got engagement from parliamentarians and the National Capital Commission’s approval to proceed.
Leveraging the collaborative efforts that we had with the administration and parliamentarians during other construction activities in the past on the Hill, and from lessons learned from the Visitor Welcome Centre, we’ve developed the protocol that you have in your package. I hope that you have it in your package.
Essentially, that protocol is meant to have three key objectives. First, it will focus on defining the noise and vibration levels that are acceptable. Obviously we’re trying to come to a balance that allows construction to proceed without unduly disrupting parliamentary activities.
Second, we will look at measures to mitigate, to the extent possible, that noise and vibration.
Finally, we have comprehensive monitoring to make sure we are in alignment with the vibration and noise levels that we’ve articulated and that, along with that, we are also protecting the buildings and parliamentary operations in close proximity to the construction.
As some of you may be aware, we do have an integrated project team which includes members of the Senate Administration. As part of that integrated project team, we have been working hand in hand under this protocol, and day to day beyond this protocol, to plan and coordinate construction activities along with parliamentary operations. Those Senate Administration members are articulated in the document. Ms. Labelle, who is with us here today, is one of those individuals identified in that protocol. She will be your primary point of contact.
So you will be dealing with Senate Administration staff with regard to ongoing communications and if you have concerns about the construction activities ongoing. We, in turn, will work with both our constructor and the Senate Administration to work through any challenges that arise.
I’d like to highlight that, given some of the key events that happen on the Hill — they are articulated in the package and include things like Canada Day, Sound and Light Show and visits of dignitaries, all of which are planned and known well in advance — we will continue to work with the Senate Administration. We will stop construction activities for those planned events.
Having said that, to maintain day-to-day program momentum as much as possible, it is very important that we keep the construction and excavation activities going. Of course, any unforeseen stop work advisements coming from any sort of parliamentary partner, whether it be the House of Commons or the Senate, would have direct contractual implications for us. We have to stand down the workforce and, obviously, we would pay costs to the contractors, regardless of whether or not the work is proceeding. To that end, we endeavour to maintain as much business continuity as possible and to plan those stop work periods well in advance so they are well known.
I think I’ve covered the key highlights. I would close by saying, in terms of attenuation, the document does describe some specific attenuation measures. When we do blast, we will be using blast blankets, as we have done for blasting procedures in the past, to try to attenuate the noise. Part of the preparations for the blasting process will be to dig an attenuation canal all around the outside to try to block the vibration from passing through and to limit that vibration to the extent we can.
Obviously, those of you who have been working and involved on the Hill, when we were blasting for Visitor Welcome Centre phase 1, you will know that you can hear it. You can sometimes feel those vibrations. There will be signals that will happen on site — currently a whistle — before a blast occurs.
That is the protocol. We will do our best to monitor the vibrations. Obviously, if we exceed our thresholds, we have extensive monitoring. For everybody’s awareness, we have put monitors and sensors into the East Block to monitor both noise and vibration, as well as in other key areas around the precinct. As soon as we get a sensor that indicates we’re beyond those thresholds, it will send an alarm and we will stop work to investigate to make sure we are maintaining alignment with the protocol.
I’m happy to answer any questions that the committee might have about either the documents that are in your package or what I’ve presented today, Mr. Chair. Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you, Jennifer.
Are there any questions for Jennifer on that presentation?
Senator Forest-Niesing: Did the extent of the rock excavation project have to be modified because of what you discovered after the work began?
Very often, the amount of real rock cannot be determined; were your projections accurate? Did you find the amount of rock you estimated or is there more that you will eventually have to blast or dig out?
Ms. Garrett: Thank you for the question. Actually, we did do a comprehensive assessment program to inform the project. Part of that investigation involved geo-technical assessments. That, combined with a very good understanding and experience that we’ve gained from, for example, construction of Visitor Welcome Centre phase 1, we anticipated — obviously the Hill is built upon a very small soil layer. There is quite a substantial amount of rock. So it’s not something that we weren’t anticipating.
There is nothing that is either minimizing or causing a constraint to the design process or the design of the building, nor unexpected, to be quite honest.
The Chair: Are there any other questions? Thank you for that answer. Jennifer, do you have a second presentation?
Ms. Garrett: Yes, Mr. Chair, I absolutely do. I hope that senators also have that presentation in their packages. I’ll give everybody a few moments to get to that part of their package.
If you’re okay, Mr. Chair, I’m happy to also take the same approach that I did in the last presentation, which would be to not necessarily take everybody through slide by slide, for the sake of time, but cover the key highlights. In this case, I will refer to the particular slide that I’m on so members of the committee can follow me.
The Chair: Absolutely. That’s fine.
Ms. Garrett: Thank you very much. On that note, I’ll get started again.
Thank you for allowing us to be here to talk about the Centre Block rehabilitation program. We always welcome the opportunity to engage with senators on this subject.
Moving right away, just digging in, I’m looking at slide 4 of the presentation. In terms of that broad context, for those senators who are new to the committee, unfortunately, the Notre Dame basilica in Paris suffered a great fire while it was under construction in the summer of 2019. As a result of that fire, it legitimately led to the Senate — in particular, the Long Term Vision and Plan committee — wanting more information and, may I say, perhaps even being a little bit concerned that our most precious heritage asset, the Centre Block, had an appropriate fire prevention strategy to protect it during construction activities.
Last September — specifically, September 2019 — we did come, along with our construction manager, or CM, which is a joint venture of PCL and EllisDon, whom we worked with to develop this strategy and who is responsible, now that the site has transferred to them, for its ongoing, day-to-day execution, of which PSPC continues to monitor compliance. We developed what I think I can say with confidence is probably the most robust fire prevention strategy for a construction site in the country to date.
What we’re here to do today, in accordance with the commitment we made to you when we were here in September — and we’re happy to continue to come on a routine basis, if that is the pleasure of the committee — is provide you an update on where we are with the execution of that strategy.
I’ll be moving to slide 6 in a moment, but before I do, slide 5 [Technical difficulties] articulate the approach of this strategy, which is focused on three objectives: prevention, detection and management in the event that we actually have a fire. If you’d like more details, we’d be happy to share the actual strategy in the presentation, if you don’t have that from our September engagement.
Moving to slides 6 and 7, they cover the measures that were outlined in the strategy when we came last September. This gives you a status of all the different measures in terms of their implementation. I’m pleased to say that we have implemented all of the measures, which are now in place and functioning, with the exception of two. Both are referenced on slide 7. First is the installation of surveillance cameras, and those will be completed by the end of June. We’re almost halfway there now.
The other one, which was something that doesn’t necessarily form a formal part of the strategy, is that we are currently still investigating the use of thermal imaging to determine heat in Type 3 abatement enclosures as a means of fire detection methodology. We’re still in the process of investigating that, but all other measures, I am happy to report, are in place and functioning well.
I won’t take you through the whole list, but I think it is important to highlight a few of those initiatives so everybody can get a sense of the level of seriousness that both the CM and PSPC are bringing to this.
The first one is standard in all construction projects but really ramped up in the case of the Centre Block. We have an hourly manual fire watch of 116 checkpoints within the building. We have sensors at those checkpoints. So the individual Commissionaires or fire watch personnel who are monitoring have to physically go to those spaces to make sure there is an actual check done in each physical space.
We have installed, because of the importance of — the whole building is important, but the House of Commons and Senate chambers in particular have some of our highest heritage fabric in the building. The use of a fire alarm like you might see in your house or a commercial building or an institutional building are not usually the standard course of practice to be utilized during construction projects because they get clogged up with dust and things like that, so we have to use alternative methods.
There are a couple of things we do. We use what we call linear heat detection cables, which are run throughout and comprehensively through the building. As soon as there is a level of heat that would indicate a fire, that sets an alarm. Over and above that, we have installed, in both the Senate and the House of Commons chambers, laser smoke detection monitors so that any indication of smoke in those areas would immediately be detected.
I think something that’s also worth noting is we have transitioned to heat fluorescent or compact fluorescent bulbs, so we don’t have heat-producing lighting on site right now, which can sometimes be a source of fires.
The final thing I would highlight from those two slides is typically construction sites use gas as an interim heating method. One of the things we have to do is take the building offline from municipal services while it goes under construction because one of the things we have to do is upgrade all of the infrastructure that’s in the building. Typically what can be used on a site is gas, which can be flammable. In this case, we’re using hydronic heating systems in the building to further mitigate the risk.
I will conclude by saying that, again, I think while you can never completely reduce all the risks associated with fire, I think we have, as I indicated earlier, a very robust fire prevention strategy. We are monitoring it. The dashboard in the annex — someone is raising their hand. There is a senator raising their hand.
Senator R. Black: When you’re done.
The Chair: Push the raised hand button, senator. That works better. Then I can see you.
Ms. Garrett: My apologies. I just didn’t want to keep going if there was somebody who couldn’t hear me or there was a problem that we could rectify. I’ll relaunch my conclusion.
In terms of the prevention strategy, I hope that we are demonstrating to you how important we take fire prevention and this very important heritage asset to heart in terms of protecting it during the course of the rehabilitation.
We do have the strategy implemented. We have a dedicated fire prevention officer on the team who is routinely monitoring the execution of that strategy and reporting on it. There is a report of key performance indicators in the annex. I’m happy to take people through them if they feel that would be appropriate.
From there, I will close my presentation and open up to any questions or comments that members of the committee might have. Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you, Jennifer. I see your blue hand now, Senator Black. That’s the way to do it.
I know that many of you have a screen that all the participants are on, but when I chair the meeting, I like to be able to focus on the person presenting, so I don’t have that. The only way I know that somebody wants to ask a question is if they go to the little icon that Senator Black now went to.
Thank you, Jennifer, for that presentation.
Senator R. Black: Thanks for the presentations. Regarding your 116 specific stops on the fire watch and fire folks that make those stops, is that 24-7?
Ms. Garrett: Yes, sir, it is, absolutely. Thank you for the question. It’s 24-7.
The Chair: When this is all done, of course, I’m probably not going to be on this side of the grass anymore but, as one of the leaders, I now get texts and emails regularly that there are fire alarms. Most of the time, within 30 minutes or 45 minutes, I get another email and another text telling me that all is clear. Is that going to be improved as we go along?
Ms. Garrett: Thank you, Mr. Chair, for the question. Although I would happily take it, I don’t think Centre Block can take full accountability for every alarm that goes off in the precinct.
The Chair: You are right; they cannot.
Ms. Garrett: However, that is a performance indicator that we are monitoring. It is on slide 10 of your deck. We have had six false alarms during the reporting period, which took us to the end of March, related to the Centre Block program. In total transparency, I will report that since March we have had three additional. In terms of Centre Block, I can confidently say yes, the number of fire alarms will be reduced.
As you can imagine, in the time period from September until now, we’re talking about the process of taking those building systems off-line and introducing new fire alarm systems. It is a little more complex because we are still connected, as the construction site, to the adjacent Library of Parliament.
As we test and go through the transition process of those temporary fire alarms that need to be in place and are absolutely essential during construction, it has triggered some false alarms. They’re mostly triggered by the electricians working on the execution of those systems. Our CM is working on specific communications and training to make sure it’s clear what’s live and not live in terms of the fire pulls. It has happened on a couple of occasions where an electrician has pulled a fire alarm they thought was dead when, in fact, it was live. As we transition — and we’re almost complete — from a Centre Block perspective we should see false alarms reduced dramatically.
I hope that answers the question.
The Chair: Thank you, Jennifer, for that answer and for your presentation.
Senator Forest-Niesing: First, I want to congratulate you on what is a truly robust fire management system during the construction project. It is very impressive.
If I look at the last slide of your presentation, I’m noticing, despite having up to 15 checkpoints per floor, there doesn’t appear — I’m assuming that the little red dots that are indicated on the floor plan give us an idea of where those checkpoints are. I’m noticing a gap in the middle section and I don’t see any for the Library of Parliament. Can you indicate why that is and provide some comment?
Ms. Garrett: There are a couple of ways to answer the question, so I’ll go through it systematically and in layers. I referenced this earlier in terms of the actual physical construction site. Even though the Library of Parliament is attached to the Centre Block, it is not actually part of the construction site that is presently under the authority of the construction manager joint venture.
Having said that, we have been working with Library of Parliament officials, and we do regular walk-throughs of that building and we have closed off the facility from the Centre Block so that it is protected. There is no way to enter the Library of Parliament from our construction site. The Library of Parliament itself remains active as part of the integrated campus fire alarm system and network, which is why you don’t see the red circles on the Library of Parliament.
With regard to what you’re seeing as the entryway in the centre of the building, which is the Hall of Honour, there is a low risk for fire and it is a major conduit for security personnel or anybody conducting fire watch activities to physically go through. You pretty much have to walk through it to get most places in the building. On top of that, it is largely stone in its construction, so it has a very low potential to ignite. Having said that, if it would make the committee more comfortable, we are happy to add it as a dedicated stop on the watch. I’ll leave that to your direction and guidance.
The Chair: Thank you, Jennifer.
Unfortunately, we are running out of time, and we do have a few other items that we have to go over. Senator Forest-Niesing, I saw you were going to ask another question.
Senator Forest-Niesing: Thank you, chair. I was just going to indicate to the witness that her answers in that respect are satisfactory and I wouldn’t require anything further.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Jennifer.
Mr. Wright, is there anything else you want to add? We do need to go back to Caroline Morency for two minutes because we forgot one item.
Mr. Wright: No. Thank you very much, chair. I think this has been very useful for us and we look forward to next week’s planned engagement on key additional items.
The Chair: Thank you very much to you and your team, Rob, for coming. We also look forward to next week.
Caroline Morency, you wanted to give us a two-minute presentation on hoarding.
Ms. Morency: Thank you, Mr. Chair. Actually, Josée will take you through the presentation very shortly. It’s only about two or three minutes. If you wouldn’t mind, I will turn it over to her.
The Chair: Thank you.
Ms. Labelle: Thank you, chair. I’ll make this very brief. The purpose of this presentation is to inform you of recent developments in the interpretive hoarding project. Given that this project was launched in the previous parliamentary session, I’ll start by providing some background information.
As you may have been aware over past months, the Centre Block rehabilitation is under way. As such, a construction perimeter has been erected around the site to ensure the safety of all. This construction fencing is called hoarding. Tourists walk by a construction perimeter every day as they make their way to the Visitor Welcome Centre near West Block.
PSPC, along with parliamentary partners, saw an opportunity to strategically cover the face of the construction fencing with text and visuals, and this aims to embellish the site, to enhance the visitor’s experience when they arrive at Parliament Hill and to provide some way-finding signage, for example, showing how to get to the Senate of Canada Building.
The concept of interpretive panels was presented to the LTVP subcommittee and approved by the Speaker’s office in June 2019. Since then, PSPC has worked closely with the partners, including the Senate’s Property and Services Directorate and Senate Communications to develop the text and images that will be presented on the hoarding.
Among some of the themes on the hoarding are the rehabilitation of Centre Block, the Canadian parliamentary system and the history of Parliament Hill.
PSPC has led a rigorous development process with the Senate, the House of Commons, the Library of Parliament and other stakeholders. I am here today to inform you that these panels have been developed and approved by the Speaker of the Senate. While the construction hoarding has been up for some time now, PSPC will keep partners informed of the timelines for the production and installation of the interpretive layer. With that I can take any questions. Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you, Josée. That is sufficient unless someone has a question they really need to ask. If not, colleagues, we are at 1 o’clock, and we are going to adjourn in a minute.
For your information, senators, next week, we are still waiting for confirmation that the in camera meetings are possible, and hopefully they will be. And if members are in Ottawa, we could meet in person. We will be sitting next week, so it might be possible to have a few of you in person. In any event, we will get back to you on that.
There’s one issue that we need to discuss. We intentionally did not want to talk about it today, and it deals with a private entrance for senators. That needs to be done in camera, and if we are in camera that is a discussion we will have next week because we will be asked to make a recommendation to CIBA at some point on that issue. There is some urgency to finalize that issue for the sake of Mr. Wright and his group and others to be able to move forward.
With that colleagues, thank you very much. I apologize again for some of the technical issues. As we move along, we seem to have fewer and fewer glitches but we are not without some problems.
To all our witnesses, thank you very much for your presentations today. I certainly look forward to the day when we can do all of this in person again. It is so much easier; we have fewer technical issues and fewer interruptions. Thank you, colleagues and witnesses, and I wish you a wonderful weekend. I look forward to either seeing you in person or on another Zoom call next week.