Proceedings of the Standing Committee on
Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration

Issue 2 - Evidence - June 5, 2014


OTTAWA, Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration met this day at 9 a.m. for the consideration of administrative and other matters.

Senator Noël A. Kinsella (Chair) in the chair.

[English]

The Chair: Honourable senators, we have a busy agenda for our meeting this morning and, as usual, we would like to dispose of the minutes of the last meeting.

Senator Tkachuk: So moved.

The Chair: Seconded by the Honourable Senator Seth. Agreed? Minutes so adopted and recorded.

The first item on our agenda is dealing with the twenty-fourth annual meeting of the Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Forum, or APPF, which is scheduled to take place in Vancouver, B.C., in January 2016. To help us, honourable senators, in our discussion on this, we have the chair of the group, our colleague Senator Oh, and we have Senator Buth who is knowledgeable in that field. We wish to thank very kindly our colleague from the House of Commons, the Honourable Mike Wallace, for coming, and of course our clerk Eric Janse will help us.

Some notes have been prepared, with some technical details, for members of this committee. We might want to delve into the detail of how the budget was developed and what it is proposing to cover.

As honourable senators know, in these kinds of interparliamentary events, there is a shared meeting of the costs, when such meetings for funding are approved, between the House of Commons and the Senate. My understanding is that the House of Commons' Board of Internal Economy has dealt with this matter, as has the Joint Interparliamentary Council, or JIC, and we have a recommendation. Colleagues, we have two of our members who serve on that JIC, Senator Tkachuk and Senator LeBreton. With that introduction, I will turn it to our guest. Would you like to guide how the presentations should go?

Eric Janse, Clerk Assistant and Director General: It's going to be the parliamentarians speaking and I'll be prepared to answer any questions.

Mike Wallace, Member of Parliament for Burlington: Mr. Chair and honourable senators, I am honoured to be here today and present and no, I don't want a Senate seat. I know Senator Tkachuk said that when I first came in.

I would like to take a few moments, and Senator Oh and I have split up the duties. I will give a little background and some information and then Senator Oh will talk about the importance of having parliamentary diplomacy happening in Vancouver.

Just so you know, we have been asked to host the twenty-fourth APPF conference. It was started in Japan by Prime Minister Nakasone, who is still a member of the Japanese Parliament. His son is also a member and I am the co-chair from the house of the Canada-Japan parliamentary association. I have had the opportunity personally to attend four APPF conferences, last year in Puerto Vallarta — I know that is really upsetting — and Vladivostok, Russia, an APPF anniversary in Tokyo and New Zealand.

The APPF has 27 member countries, with parliamentarians talking to parliamentarians from both levels. Almost all countries have two houses and there are representations from both houses.

For the discussion, everyone sits at the table and every country is treated equally. All have the same number of seats at the table and the discussion often ranges from trade, particularly with TPP that's happening in the Asia-Pacific area now, to energy and food security, all the important issues we have dealt with here as a country and that are important to deal with them as trading partners.

This would not be the first time we've hosted. We'd like to say it's our turn. It started in 1993, and in 1997 the organization was more formalized in the way the process works and the structure of the APPF conferences. That was held in Vancouver in 1997, and they are still referred every year to the Vancouver Declaration, which sets out the process by which those meetings are run.

We were asked about when it was coming up on our turn. Not every one of the 27 countries, frankly, can host. Some of them in the Asia Pacific corridor are not big enough. We have put together a budget, looked at other conferences that we have held in Canada and the approximate cost. We are looking at 400 delegates coming here. What's interesting about this conference is the host country has to provide the technical support in terms of the interpretation booths and so on, but the interpreters have to come with the countries they are with. In fact, there are as many as 15 different languages spoken at this conference and we have to provide the technical support for that, but not those who are doing the actual interpretation.

I would say what is important to us and what has been a real value to Canada is that I believe, and I think many of you around the table, that parliamentary diplomacy is very important for the moving forward of different ideas and concepts that we have. We cannot just leave it to our leadership, in all countries, to talk about the different issues and it's important to have both houses, the Senate and in our case the House of Commons, from all countries with members of their Parliaments to come and have a feel and understanding. We get some very senior people at these APPF conferences. For example, the Speaker of the lower house — I don't think he was a Speaker at the time based on who is in government — from Australia was in attendance and was one of the delegates, so there are very senior individuals who come to APPF.

It's always held in January, and it's not always in warm climates as I was in Vladivostok a number of years ago.

We've always had very good support from the Senate, to be frank with you, and I will highlight Senator Day. If you have any questions about the conference, he's been very active and does a job for Canada at these conferences where at the end of the day, we work on consensus. There are a number of resolutions on a variety of issues that come back to the plenary, but there is a committee that looks after those resolutions, goes through them and does the wordsmithing, and it goes on for a couple of days. We have been very fortunate that Senator Day has volunteered to do that job for us over the years and has done an excellent job.

I'm prepared to answer any questions on the budget, which has been prepared by the officials, who are basing those numbers on what we have done in terms of hosting other international conferences based on 400 delegates.

I'm going to turn the floor over to Senator Oh to talk about why it's important to have it in Vancouver.

Senator Oh: Good morning, honourable senators. As the co-chair of the Canada-China Legislative Association, I think it is a great occasion for our Parliament to host the Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Forum in 2016. We can showcase the best of Canada to our fellow parliamentarians. At our Joint Interparliamentary Council meeting on May 14, we will be centred on four candidate cities to host this forum including Vancouver, Victoria, Ottawa and Whitehorse.

We came to the conclusion of choosing Vancouver as the city based on factors such as logistical arrangements, flight duration for parliamentarians across the Pacific Rim. We also want to demonstrate Canada as a Pacific Rim country, a fact that many countries forget because of the geographical distance across the Pacific Ocean. Vancouver is our gateway to Asia. It is part of our Asia-Pacific corridor. Many of our goods, from natural resources to wheat and grains, are shipped to the growing market in Asia via the ports in the Lower Mainland in British Columbia.

Some of my colleagues here are also members of the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade. We are studying the Asia-Pacific Rim from time to time, and we have heard from many witnesses who would urge Canada to be more involved in that region. I think the forum will accomplish this goal. Yesterday in the Senate we also talked about how important interparliamentary diplomacy is among countries.

In closing, I would like to thank you for your consideration. We will be happy to take any questions you may have.

Thank you.

Senator Cordy: Thank you for your presentations. It's very exciting for Canada to be hosting. As you said, there are always some countries that are too small to host, so your turn might come up a little more often than the numbers of countries involved in the organization. I think it's exciting, and I think your budget is a fair budget for what you plan to be doing and for the amount of money that you will be bringing into the city of Vancouver.

I see security costs, and clearly they are not for 2014-15 but for 2016. When NATO was hosted in Ottawa in 2000 or 2001, we used security from here. When we hosted in Quebec City, we used security from the house. I see $5,000 is budgeted. Is that for a private security company, or do you bring security from Parliament Hill?

Mr. Janse: At international conferences like this, there is always an overarching security concern. We work closely with our security partners — the RCMP and the like — to do risk assessments in terms of what level of security has to be offered during the conference.

You're right: In the past, we used to send a good number of Senate and House of Commons security people to these conferences. At the last few conferences we've done, we've sent fewer and have gone with the on-site security people at the conference centres. Most conference centres now offer a one-stop shop in that when you rent their space, they provide catering, security and the like.

It is largely a contingency. If ever there were information that security has to be increased, then we would enter into negotiations with the RCMP and the local police force in terms of cost sharing and cost recovery.

Senator Cordy: I am wondering about the human resources implications. You have spoken about potential overtime costs being likely. Is that built into this budget?

Mr. Janse: It is. What's unique about this conference, unlike any other parliamentary conference we've worked on over the last 10 to 15 years, is that, in this case, you do not work with an international secretariat. For instance, for the IPU we did two years ago, we worked closely with the IPU secretariat in Geneva. When we did the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association Conference, we worked with the headquarters in London and had a whole team of people who assist you as you prepare to host the conference.

The APPF is a little different. If this were to be accepted, in January 2015, Canada would become the lead chair of the APPF for the full 12 months up to and including conferences we would host in January 2016 in Vancouver. During the course of that year, you assume the role of secretariat for the APPF, so you are responsible for developing not only the logistics, but also, on the substantive side, determining the themes and discussion topics.

For that reason, we have included funding for extra staff. It's also in Vancouver, so we have to fly people there. Because the conference is not a "9-to-5 event," there is always some overtime incurred by staff, and it's to pay that, also.

Senator Cordy: That is a huge undertaking, because that is different from other organizations where the central secretariat would do the planning and inviting.

Mr. Wallace: The other side of that, though, is that with the organizations that have a permanent secretariat, the member countries pay a membership fee to be able to support that piece. That does not happen with APPF.

Senator Cordy: So there is good news.

Mr. Wallace: We've saved money over the last 20-some years by not spending it on that.

Senator Marshall: Mr. Wallace, you were speaking about the 15 languages. Where is the interpretation budget? Is that in the "facilities and operations" or is it in "logistics"?

Mr. Wallace: We did budget for the booths.

Senator Marshall: Do the notes not say that people bring their own interpreters? Is that not what I read?

Mr. Janse: It's under "logistics." We estimated about $150,000 to rent, set up and run the equipment during the conference.

As Mr. Wallace indicated, that doesn't include costs for the interpreters. The delegations bring their own interpreters, but we have to take care of all the equipment necessary to have up to 15 languages going simultaneously.

Senator Marshall: It's in "logistics." The other question I have is that "protocol, ceremonial and hospitality" is over 25 per cent of the budget. Is that usual? That seems like a large amount for hospitality and protocol.

Mr. Wallace: I'll answer that question. My experience at the host countries — the four that I have been to thus far — is that there is the conference that happens all day long. The opportunity, then, for the host country is to be able to highlight some of the activities or the opportunities the country has.

When I was in Vladivostok, Russia, they brought a lot of high-level Russian entertainment to the site. We were on the university campus. Actually, the university wasn't open yet, so we were the first people there. There wasn't a lot to see in Vladivostok, to be frank with you.

In Mexico, they used that opportunity to highlight that the country was open for business, and they did a lot of outreach to parliamentarians to get them to see what Mexico has to offer.

It is a little bit high, but we all stay together basically for those four days, and are thinking that this is a real opportunity for us to show off the Asia-Pacific Gateway and what the opportunity is for Canada.

We have some preliminary discussions, not just about entertainment, but the ability to have delegates to see what port opportunities we have and what other economic opportunities might be in the area. That's why we're hoping some of that money will be used for that purpose.

Senator Marshall: I have two questions. I don't think Mr. Wallace or Senator Oh will be able to answer them. They're about where it's budgeted in our budget, so I would like to have someone from the Senate speak to that. Also, there is a phrase here that says: "Any remaining funds from 2014-15 will be carried over to the next financial year." I was puzzled by that, so I wanted someone to explain that.

Mr. Janse: Looking for the Senate finance folks, my understanding is that they'll more than likely be in sups, but Nicole would be the one to speak to that.

In terms of the second part, because the conference happens and the bulk of the expenses are in one fiscal year but some expenses have to be incurred the fiscal year prior, the budget has been divided up between the two fiscal years. There is a practice — one we hardly ever use — that if there are unused funds from the money allocated for the first fiscal year, they can be transferred over to the second fiscal year. We've put that in there, but I can't recall if we have ever done it for any recent conference.

Senator Marshall: I wasn't aware we were able to do that. I thought that if the funds were not used, they would automatically lapse, but you're saying that's not correct. Thank you.

Senator Seth: Thank you for your presentation. I was looking for this in our budget, and I understand it is $1.3 million for this Asia Pacific Parliamentary Forum. Twenty-eight countries will be representing, and then you have a high-level hosting, 400 delegates. Senator Cordy has already mentioned this, but seeing 400 high-level delegates, what security is there? Why are we spending only $5,000? Why is such a small amount of money being spent in security?

Mr. Janse: Again, we work closely with our security partners, the RCMP, CSIS and the like. They are the ones who do risk assessments in terms of who is coming. They determine what level of security has to be accorded to these guests.

For the most part, Canada being Canada, the risk level is actually quite low, so we don't have to bring in any kind of tremendous enhanced security to conferences like this. At the same time, the conference centre is a secure site, and we have dedicated transport between the hotel or any other site to the conference centre. Again, in all honesty, there isn't a huge requirement for a tremendous amount of funding for security.

We have House of Commons and Senate security folks who work with the conference secretariat as liaison people. They work with the RCMP and the local municipal police force. Again, based on past conferences, we're quite confident with this number.

Senator Seth: Thank you. My second question is: Have we decided what would be the specific focus for this forum? Have you decided the theme or the accomplishments?

Mr. Wallace: Not yet. The host country has a fair amount of say on the agenda. There will be some of the basic ones that we would normally do. We actually ask all 27 countries to submit suggestions in terms of resolutions in areas they want discussed, which happens in the summer and fall prior to the conference. The host country then has an opportunity to highlight some of the issues that they would like to be talking about, as we actually control the agenda.

There is an executive group of the APPF member countries, and the host country gets an automatic membership on that executive group the year before they're the host, and that executive group then looks at the agenda based on the submissions made, including by the host country, and then determines the agenda. I think it's a real opportunity for us. Since we are the host, we can make sure we highlight the things that are important to Canada in the Pacific Rim.

Senator Downe: I want to follow up on Senator Marshall's comments about the protocol and hospitality. The budget seems incredibly high. For a four-day conference, it's over $60,000 a day. I heard your comments about a theme and sending a message. We hear that all the time. Does JIC ever try to measure if we actually have any impact? We have all been at these sessions when we attend a conference. They are always enjoyable and always entertaining. I'm just not sure about any long-term impact or benefit for Canada that couldn't be completed maybe in one night at a much reduced cost. Do we do any follow-up at all? Do delegates come in with a certain view of Canada and do they leave with a different view because we've spent hundreds of thousands of dollars?

Mr. Janse: I will answer the first part of the question. In terms of the hospitality and protocol costs, maybe the heading is misleading. It is not entertainment. We are responsible as hosts for the care and feeding of the guests. The breakfasts are covered by the hotels that the delegates pay for themselves, but the lunches and dinners are the responsibility of the host Parliament. If you take 400 guests times four days' worth of lunches and dinners, you get close to the total number that's in the budget. Add a little more for perhaps a cultural activity show during one or two of the meals, and it gets you to that number very quickly. It is a mathematical formula based on the number of delegates and the number of meals you have to offer. I will turn the second part over to Mr. Wallace.

Mr. Wallace: As you know, there will be a report done, and it will be presented in the House of Commons. I'm assuming it's also presented in the Senate. My experience with parliamentary diplomacy has been that you never know when you meet the individuals who they will be or what position they will hold in the future. It has come to happen for me, particularly for the Canada-Japan Association, that I've met people at APPF over the years who ended up being in cabinet in the Japanese government. For having those connections and those understandings of what Canada is, I think the parliamentary diplomacy piece is very helpful for us to have better connections with those who you'd be dealing with. Personally, as co-chair of the Canada-Japan organization, it has been very helpful in our work as an association with Japan.

Senator Downe: I totally agree, and that is my experience as well, but my question pertained to the cost. You talked about the meals being close to the budget. I don't know if you have the figures in front of you, but if it's four days, and we're talking about eight meals per delegate, 3,200 meals over the four days. What's your meal budget cost of that $260,000?

Mr. Janse: If you want to break it down, we've allocated $44,000 for the welcome dinner, which is 400 guests at $111 per head, which is the formula we use and is not just the food but includes the people who serve and the like. There are four lunches at $45 per head at 400. There is an executive committee dinner, a dinner hosted by the Speakers and a farewell reception, and then your coffee and refreshments during meetings. All totalled, it comes close to the 275 total, and we've added an additional about $23,000 for some kind of entertainment and what we call site enhancement, where you might have to set up a stage and a certain sound system for entertainment. We've tried to keep it as low as we possibly could.

Senator Tkachuk: Just to let you know about the process with the JIC, we reviewed this budget a number of times with Canada-Japan and Canada-China. We also looked very seriously, as Mr. Wallace said, at other venues. I think everyone's heart was in Whitehorse but, at the end of it, it was logistically impossible to hold it there, most particularly for the equipment needed for interpretation. There just wasn't a place big enough in Whitehorse to do it. We thought that would be a great place. Then we decided Vancouver would be a great option. It's our gateway to the Pacific. I think in the end of it, JIC was very cognizant about the costs, but also cognizant of the fact that it was our turn. If you're going to belong to these organizations, when it comes your turn, you can't say, "Oh, it's too bad it's our turn, but we're not going to participate." You either participate or you don't participate. In the end, after much budget consultation and location consultation, we decided to recommend it to both the House of Commons and to the Senate.

Senator Lang: Just to follow up on Senator Tkachuk and the proposal, I appreciate the fact, being a senator from Yukon, that it was almost unanimous around the table that Whitehorse would be a very good prospect to host such a gathering. As it turned out, we weren't able to. The point that has to be added here in respect to cost, and I respect Senator Downe's going through the budget, is that the reality is that this is what you do at these conferences from the point of view of hosting. This is what you provide. I'm sure that I can speak for both Canada-Japan and Canada-China that we would be doing the best to keep those costs down to a minimum. At the same time, we are hosting basically the Asia-Pacific area of the world, and we want to host it in a manner that they go back looking at Canada as a true partner and a true contributor.

The other point that must be accentuated here is that we discussed at length the economic benefits to Canada for these people travelling to Canada and staying in Canada. We've tried to do it in such a manner where, when they come to visit — not just those who are participating, but hopefully they bring their spouses, officials and others — they stay longer than the four days. The actual contribution to Canada will be a payback of probably millions of dollars being spent in the general economy one way or the other. We can't give you a number and our witness can't give a number, but I know it will be a substantial amount of money that's brought into the country.

I put that out as another reason for Canada to look forward to hosting.

The Chair: I want to thank honourable senators for their participation. We have one final colleague, Senator Poulin.

[Translation]

Senator Charette-Poulin: I would like to add something to the comments of senators Tkachuk and Lang. The three of us sit on the Canada-Japan and Canada-China executive committees. This was the subject of a long discussion at the JIC. We have already cut the planned budget considerably. We took into account the advantages there would be to holding the meeting in Vancouver, for logistical reasons, among others, but also the disadvantages, such as the fact that holding this meeting in Vancouver would increase costs substantially, as opposed to holding it in Toronto, Montreal or Ottawa. But we felt that Vancouver's geographic location was extremely important because of the role that city and British Columbia play in all issues related to international trade with the Asia-Pacific region.

[English]

The Chair: Thank you, senator. Colleagues, the challenge that the steering committee will have is the challenge that Senator Marshall has pointed out, namely, if there is agreement in principle in this committee for us to find the $72,000. The House of Commons Internal Economy Committee has made the decision to go forward with it. That would be our objective over the next week, namely to find $72,000 within this year's budget. If we go, there's next year's budget, so in next year's budget the larger amount will have to be sought. Choices will have to be made when we're dealing with budgets. It is a budget. It's not the expenditure, as such, it's a planning instrument. I would like to recommend that we entertain a motion to adopt the funding in principle and challenge the steering committee to find that.

Senator Tkachuk: I so move.

The Chair: It was moved by Senator Tkachuk, seconded by Senator LeBreton, that we'll do the Senate part, agreeing in principle. Agreed?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Thank you, Senator Wallace.

Senator Oh: Thank you.

The Chair: The next item on the agenda is the report of the Subcommittee on Committee Budgets.

Senator L. Smith: Honourable senators, I have the honour to present the seventh report of the Subcommittee on Committee Budgets, which includes recommended allocations for four committee budgets.

[Translation]

Your subcommittee carefully reviewed the budget allocation requests with the chairs of committees, and in certain cases, with the deputy chairs, so as to ensure that each committee had properly defined the objectives of all proposed trips.

[English]

In addition, we wanted to be sure that each committee will have laid a firm foundation of knowledge prior to any travel in order to get the maximum benefit from the activity. In the case of the Human Rights Committee, your subcommittee requested that the committee resubmit their budget application which included activities related to two different orders of reference. We have asked that they submit two separate budget applications which we will consider at a later date.

With respect to the other budget application, the recommended allocations are as follows: $162,488 for Fisheries and Oceans, to conduct a fact-finding visit to Scotland and Norway as part of their study on aquaculture. The subcommittee was interested to hear that this budget includes funds for eight senators to travel, based on the idea that international travel should require previous participation in domestic travel activities. This is a model that other committees may wish to consider.

Your subcommittee is also recommending releasing $63,300 to the National Security and Defence Committee, Subcommittee on Veterans, for five activities related to their study of mental health issues in the Canadian Armed Forces, including operational stress injuries such as post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD. As you will see from the figures in the report, these are all quite modest trips in terms of budget, and we believe that they will make significant contribution to the quality of the committee's final report.

Your subcommittee is also recommending funding for three of the four travel activities which were included in the budget application from the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications for their study of CBC/ Radio-Canada. These include public hearings and fact-finding in Halifax, Quebec, Sherbrooke, Toronto and Montreal, for a total of $262,811. The subcommittee will revisit sometime later in the year the committee's request for funds to travel to London to get more information regarding the BBC.

Finally, the subcommittee recommends the release of $5,000 to the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs to order certain books and publications, for courier charges and to provide hospitality, coffee, light refreshments, et cetera, to visiting delegations that may request to meet with them; $2,000 of these $5,000 have already been granted to the committee in emergency funds to order Criminal Codes. Therefore, total release recommended in this report amounts to $491,599.

The $1,402,137 has to date been released to committees of the total available of $1,882,100. It should also be noted that three travel activities have already been completed in this fiscal year and the clawback is expected to exceed $200,000. Therefore, there are sufficient funds available to cover the releases recommended in this report. If the recommendations are adopted, the total release will be $1,893,736.

I request the adoption of the seventh report, but if there are any questions we would be pleased to answer them.

Senator Marshall: What was the original budget? Was it around $3 million for the year?

Heather Lank, Principal Clerk, Committees Directorate, Senate of Canada: The available funding for distribution to committees was $1,882,100. In addition to that, of course, is the $500,000 that's set aside for witness expenses, working meals in Ottawa, et cetera, but the available funding was $1.88 million for distribution.

Senator Marshall: For the whole year?

Ms. Lank: Yes.

Senator Marshall: How much have we distributed, all of it now?

Senator L. Smith: To date, $1,402,000 has been released.

Senator Marshall: Thank you.

Senator Lang: I think maybe Senator Smith answered this in his opening address and I may have missed it, but my understanding is we have $1.8 million budgeted for the year; we've had $1.4 million allocated. This is an additional $400,000 over and above?

Senator L. Smith: Yes, sir.

Senator Lang: Now we're up to $1.8 million; is that correct?

Senator L. Smith: Now we've allocated $1.4 and we will be pretty well at the top of the line. The important factor is our clawback to date is $200,000, and we expect to have more clawbacks because, as you know, when the budgets come in they're usually budgeted on anywhere from 9 to 12 senators. I think the committees have taken an aggressive stance. In some cases, as was explained, one of our committees is not allowing any more people to travel than travelled on the last mission, and that was significantly fewer than 12 people.

The committee heads are cognizant of the importance of managing. I commend Senators LeBreton and Cordy on our committee. We are pretty tight together in terms of our objectives. We want to see maximum value for the dollars spent. We want to make sure that people submit what the results are going to be of their trips.

Senator Lang: To follow that up, I take it other committees that may have not put forward further proposals for travel there may be the possibility of allocation of some other dollars because of the clawback; is that correct?

Senator L. Smith: It depends on the clawback. We're cognizant of the fact that there could be other applications for funds. As we manage ourselves through the year and look at new projects in terms of what we've just seen, we're taking into consideration the total pot of money and how to manage it.

The Chair: Let me thank our colleagues who serve on this committee, Senator Smith, Senator LeBreton and Senator Cordy. As chair, I believe you're doing first class work and we're getting things well on track. Congratulations. We have a motion moved by Senator Smith, seconded by Senator Cordy; is it agreed?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Carried.

Next, we'll invite our colleagues Senator Dawson and Senator Housakos to sit at the front of the room and guide us through Item No. 3, an update from our advisory working group on communications.

Senator Housakos: The Subcommittee on Communications in the last few weeks has met on a number of occasions and set out a path forward. The reference we have provided to the committee is one we were expecting. After our deliberations, we came to the conclusion that the first item we have to tackle is a general review — an analysis of the communications department as it exists — before we are able to get to the final and most important step, which is carving out the road forward in terms of objectives and changes. We've come to the conclusion as well that the committee, even though we've done a fair amount of analysis of what we need and where we are, would need outside professional communications help to do this audit going forward.

It's inevitable that any organization or business of this magnitude, which the Senate is, from time to time needs to analyze and audit its resources, go through the benchmarks, job descriptions, personnel, budgets and objectives from A to Z. We came to the conclusion that we need the outside help of somebody who can come in and do this professional work for us in conjunction with the committee. Of course, the committee will highlight for that person our objectives going forward. We hope that we can do this expeditiously. To do this, we need the guidance of the Internal Committee and that of the purchasing department in identifying the process going forward to choose a supplier who can provide these services.

Senator Dawson: As mentioned by Senator Housakos, we will go through the process; so we ask permission to go through the process of procurement to get some outside proposals on an analysis of the communications. Those of you who know me, know I've gone through this in the past. There has been great progress in the last few years, but the communications team is the first one to ask for guidance. They want support from Internal Economy and from the newly created Subcommittee on Communications to help them go forward.

We've seen web improvements with a website for committees and Twitter. We also know we went through a crisis about a year ago and that obviously our communications capability was not up to par with the demands of our stakeholders: senators involved or not involved, the stakeholders, and the media. We all know that many things could have been done better, but we're not dwelling on the past.

As the Speaker has mentioned, we're not talking about the past or the present. We're talking about where we want to be with a communications strategy in the future. We all know, so let's not be humble about it, that we'll go through another crisis in the future. We have to have the communications capabilities to do it but we need advice to do it better. Communications services know that we're asking for guidance and they're here to help.

The subcommittee is asking for permission to meet with the procurement services to ask for proposals from communications firms. We're not asking for money but we're asking for permission. We'll go back to the steering committee in the future with an analysis of these proposals. Obviously, choices will have to be made. After we've done the analysis of the proposals, we'll ask for money. We don't know how much money so that's why we're going to professional advice on procurement.

The Chair: Perhaps we can have a conversation.

[Translation]

Senator Charette-Poulin: I would like to have a better understanding of the results you are seeking, because you used the word "audit."

Senator Dawson: No, we did not use the word "audit".

Senator Charette-Poulin: To me, an "audit" is a term that is more closely related to the financial area. I would like to have a better understanding of your objective, of what you want to have achieved a year from now.

Senator Housakos: I used the word "audit," but basically, it is an analysis of the communications resources that are currently in place. In business, we do not talk about a financial audit, but rather about a communications audit.

Senator Charette-Poulin: If I understand correctly, you want to analyze current human resources and compare them to the desired results?

Senator Dawson: Well, perhaps you know the answer, but I do not. I think I am among those who have been involved in this the longest. For instance, what is the process to approve a press release? How can we minimize the number of people involved in reacting to an activity? How do we best use the services offered by the clerk, the Speaker of the Senate and the Senate committee services?

You must not forget that this is being done at the request of internal economy, but also at the request of the leadership on both sides.

[English]

The leadership on both sides agrees that something has to be done and they support this. It cannot be done just by the Internal Economy Committee or by senators individually. Both sides of the Senate have to be involved in this process; and we have to know where we are. We don't have clear answers on many of those questions. We can ask by ourselves, but professionals are paid to do that.

Senator Housakos: If I can be specific in terms of where we want to go with this, the first phase is to bring in the auditors to analyze our existing resources. The second phase of their work, and the most important phase, is to sit down and do an audit of what we need. We're going to highlight for them the list of things we're looking for them to do: Get in touch with every senator and find out what their needs are; sit down with the Speaker's office to find out what those needs are; sit down with the government leadership and the opposition leadership, all our stakeholders, the media, and the general public to review our website capabilities, our ability to look at internal communication, our external communication, and the overall branding of the Senate. That in a nutshell is what we are asking for.

Senator Tkachuk: As you know, this has been looked at before. There are basically two objectives: One is for the Senate and the other is for the communications people involved in committees who promote our committee work. Those are the two that I see as two of the main communication objectives. Have you looked at how many people are involved in each of those processes, and which always were a bit of a bugbear of mine and still are to this date? Have you looked at the possibility of committees buying their own communication needs?

In other words, prior to 2005, we used to contract our own communications people. The chair and the deputy chair used to agree on a communications person, when it was needed, although most of the time staffers could do it — there are talented staffers all across. Most of us had staffers who could do communications just as well as the Senate. Have you looked at those other options? To me, that is the way we should be going on a philosophical basis. That is just me, not others.

Senator Dawson: That's why the analysis will be done by meeting as many senators as possible and the chairs of committees. Your conclusion as a committee chair might be different from somebody else's.

Senator Tkachuk: I'm sure it is.

Senator Dawson: Pooling our resources was the objective we were looking for at that time. Now, we have those resources pooled. We have one communications person for three committees, and we always get down to the timeline when we get to June. Everybody wants to get their reports out. Everybody wants to pass their bills. Everybody wants to get some media coverage, and there's no clear-cut process by which those decisions are taken. We might arrive at the conclusion, Senator Tkachuk, that the old system works better, but that's why we want to have an analysis.

Senator Tkachuk: I'm kind of with you on the study. Well, I actually am not. I think that we can do this on our own, but my point is that these are all political things. There are two things. There is the Senate itself as an upper house vehicle, and there are communication needs that the Senate has. The rest is all basically politics. You can't have in-house politicians working within the bureaucracy. When we have communication needs, they're usually political needs. When I use "political," I use it as a small "P" term because there are two parties involved here, but, nonetheless, they are political needs. So I really think you should spend a lot of time working on that basis and separating the politics from the institution.

Senator Housakos: So far the committee has had a number of meetings and a number of discussions, and the point of view you have put forward has been put forward. But you would be surprised at how many points of view have been put on the table. We've come to the conclusion, right now, that the first step is to look at our strategy, our organigram and our capability to communicate. What we're going to communicate is a whole other strategy and the next level. The consultant will help us in that stage as well. At the end of the day, each and every one of us has an opinion of which is the best direction to go in. At the end of the day, obviously, politics is what this institution is all about. This is a democratic institution that discusses, on a daily basis, issues of concern to the Canadian public. So public discourse is what we do here. What we feel as a committee and what I've drawn so far from the discussions we've had is that we are ill-equipped to face those challenges from a technological perspective and a strategy. Also, the message that clearly has gotten back from the current department to us is that they feel that they don't have clear direction from us in terms of what we think should be the objectives.

We think an outside supplier will be able to give us a perspective on the technologies available, the methodologies available, that we might not necessarily have. We know our business as legislators, as parliamentarians, as politicians, but I don't think very many of us around this table have vast experience in the communication skillsets that have been developed through the last decade and are changing on an hourly basis. I think that, if we can go out there and find the adequate supplier who will do the proper analysis for us and, going forward, can also give us some insight into how they think we should equip ourselves, we're the ones who will decide how we communicate and what we communicate, but they're going to hopefully give us the platforms to do it in a more efficient fashion.

Senator Tkachuk: How much will it cost?

Senator Housakos: That's why we sort of had this approach originally of setting a timeline and setting a spec and setting the details of the study and having suppliers come back. We have decided, now, to do it in a reverse fashion, to identify potential suppliers who have the capacity to do this and come back to us respecting the parameters we just highlighted for you, but to give them, as well, some flexibility in the mandate to be able to be creative enough to give us some insight on things that we are not aware might exist.

Our view is to bring in five or six or seven or eight, depending on the number of people who are going to want to participate in the preliminary process, because the preliminary process that we're asking firms to participate in they're going to be doing at their own expense. So at the initial meetings we're having with our committees, we'll be giving them the parameters of the mandate. The time and energy and resources they will dispense in order to come back with proposals will be at their own expense. Once we get those proposals in, we will vet them as a committee. We will bring all of those proposals to Internal Economy, and we'll have Internal Economy also verify the proposals and our suggestions. We'll highlight which ones we think are the best down to the worst, and I assume there will be a wide range of suggestions in terms of our needs. There will probably be a wide range of cost possibilities.

I think, between our committee vetting the process and vetting the proposals and vetting the various prices that come back to us and you doing the same thing, we can come to a possible best supplier at the best cost to do the job.

Senator Fraser: I strongly support this proposal. In fact, I suggested something very similar a little less than a year ago. This is moving at the speed of light in Senate terms. I'm delighted to see it happening, but I would like to stress that my particular area of concern — I know nothing about technology and all of that — is media relations. I know that great efforts have been made and improvements have been made, but I think we are still not even at a starting point of where we need to be. So I would like your assurance that the mandate of the supplier will include a significant emphasis on contacts with the media to find out what they like and don't like and can use and can't use about what we do and a really very rigorous analysis of the way we do it, the methods, the bureaucratic structures, the training that our people get. I think we do a reasonably good job on other elements of communication, much better than we used to. Media relations, I think, will remain a serious, serious potential difficulty for us and sometimes actual difficulty for us because, as you say, senator, there will be other crises, not to mention the day-to-day stuff.

Senator Housakos: For sure, that's an enormous component of it. We're placing huge emphasis on all aspects of it, so the media is a big one. How the communication department serves committees is a big one. How we get the work of those committees out to the general public and how we get the general public to interact with those committees is a big one. The way the communications directorate serves both leaderships is a big one. The way they serve the Speaker is a big one. The way they serve all individual senators in the Senate as a whole is a big one. All stakeholders as well. I think, to answer your question, absolutely, the media side is an enormous component of this, and all of the other aspects are equally important as well. What I'm saying is that one is not more important than the other. I think they're all interrelated, actually.

Senator Fraser: I would argue that our biggest problem area, right now, is media relations, but I will leave that to your subcommittee.

Senator Housakos: It's noted. I think you will be pleased with the results.

Senator Marshall: Thank you, Senator Housakos and Senator Dawson, for being here. You gave a lot of detail as to what you would like to do. It sounds like you want to go with a request for proposals, so I'd like to know: Is there one done up? Is there a formal request for proposals prepared already?

Senator Dawson: We've gone through the process in the past. We know what needs to be done, but we will be going through the procurement process of the Senate to prepare a call for proposals. We will reach out to people who have done a communications analysis in the past. They will give us a cost figure. We will come back to you and say that, according to the discussions we've had with them and the resources they're ready to put on the table, here are the options of cost and the options of companies who are ready to do it and how they want to do it, but we're going to let them, as professionals, tell us what they think can be a cost and what they think can be a timetable.

Senator Marshall: So it's an RFP. You're contemplating that, if you get approval here this morning to proceed, you will go ahead with the RFP and that you'll come back after you do your ratings of the RFP?

Senator Dawson: Yes.

Senator Marshall: And look for the money.

Senator Dawson: And ask for the money.

Senator Marshall: And ask for the money. Okay. Regarding the money, I think that there is some amount set aside in the budget for a project of this nature, but I don't know if it's going to be enough or not.

The other point I'd like to make is that my recollection is that the Senate has a standard policy on RFPs, so my expectation is that you would follow the Senate policy on acquisition of services.

Senator Dawson: It is our intention.

Senator LeBreton: Thank you, Senators Housakos and Dawson. My question is when you're going forward and you're seeking outside advice, all of this will be done properly and transparently and under the whole Senate procurement process. That's my first question.

I agree with Senator Fraser in terms of media relations. I think the Senate communications is like a bit of an octopus. There are arms out all over the place. We've tried various methods in the past. As we know, and Senator Cordy and I have discussed this, initially we had a small communications department for general Senate business, and then the committees on a needs basis hired communications consultants. That got out of hand thanks to a particular senator who will remain unnamed. That resulted in cutting off the individual committees having the right and the powers to hire outside communications experts.

I have lived with both experiences. When we did that major health care study, Senator Kirby was the chair and I was the deputy chair, and we were extremely well served by bringing in outside media experts. They were both people who had been in the National Press Gallery. As a result, I think it still stands as one of the better communications exercises of the Senate in how that health care study was communicated. I'm sure your outside experts will take a serious look at that, because depending on the nature of their work, not all committees need to hire outside experts.

I dare say that probably that model is better than we have now. We have this huge communications department. Look at the overall expenses of the Senate. The Auditor General is in at the moment going through it, and the motion was to look at all Senate expenses, so I hope they're looking on the administration side at whether we're getting good value for our money, and I hope that will factor into the work that your subcommittee is doing.

I support your initiatives. I would be very interested in who you will ultimately be deciding these experts are. We might have very conflicting views on who these experts might be. My question in that regard is: Will you be coming back to the committee with a proposal as to who exactly you are going to bring in to do this study and, of course, most importantly, the cost? I do support it, because right now I think the experiences of the last few years have proven that the communications of the Senate is bordering on disastrous.

Senator Dawson: On the timing issues, we will come back, obviously, but we would like, if possible, that we come back to the subcommittee of Internal Economy for that approval, because if we have to wait until the month of October, by the time we get people to come in and start doing the analysis, if we have another crisis, we will still be debating who should be handling it. We would hope that the proposal that would be submitted this morning would give the permission to the steering committee to approve, under obvious budgetary considerations. Senator, you say we have money that could be used for that. We wouldn't want the steering committee to go over their heads in spending money, but we would want to have a process that would make approval possible during the summer.

Senator LeBreton: I agree with that.

The Chair: On that point, colleagues, if necessary, there is no reason we couldn't have a conference call meeting of the full committee, depending on how the parliamentary calendar works out. We've got so much work to do that we might have to have a couple of meetings through that medium, if there is agreement.

Senator Lang: I'm not going to belabour this. I think we all recognize it's an area of concern for all of us. My concern, and it's been expressed indirectly by a number of senators, is the question of time that we're taking to review an issue and a situation that we have within the Senate that has been ongoing and looking ahead at what our time frame is. My understanding from Senator Marshall is that there has been some money set aside in the main budget in respect to studies of this kind, and perhaps that authority can be given to the steering committee to make a decision.

My concern, quite frankly, is that the study isn't so broad that we're spending half a million dollars on trying to reinvent the wheel. I'm sure you share the same concern. I would make a recommendation that, in the next two or three weeks that we're here, that perhaps an informal meeting of chairs of committees should be called to get a sense of how the chairs feel so that we don't have to wait until next fall to hear what chairs and deputy chairs have to say. I think everyone brings something to the table. At that point, that's done.

I actually wanted to say to Senator Tkachuk that I personally agree in part with what he said in respect to the committees and what we can and can't do, and we cannot forget that the system has changed under the able leadership of Senator Smith and the subcommittee that looks at the question of all submissions for the work of the committees. Those are scrutinized, and those that need help will be given help. Those that don't won't be given it. Subsequently, I think that safeguard is there that wasn't there before. I would recommend that you try to make an informal meeting with the chairmen.

Senator Dawson: We are not transferring our responsibility to the outside. We continue as a committee to work with the stakeholders and with the leadership of Internal Economy on things that can be done. We don't have to wait on certain issues. I certainly think that this could be done in the next 10 days, and we should give an invitation to the chairs and deputy chairs of committees to meet with the five members of our committee as soon as possible.

Senator Housakos: Senator Lang, I understand there is a need in a wide range of areas right now but, in order for this work to stick at the end of the day, it has to be done right. Unfortunately, in an organization of the magnitude of this organization, with so many elements involved in it, it's going to take a little bit of time. We've been trying hard to be as expeditious as possible in getting this done. Other efforts in the past have been done, and I have read the report of my colleagues Senator Dawson and Di Nino, and I have looked at past efforts that have been done. I think one of the problems has been that there hasn't been enough buy-in from everybody. One of the things that is taking the most time right now is to get a lot of buy-in.

Before we get into what we have to do, I still insist that we have to figure out what platforms we have at our disposal right now and what platforms we need. We live in a digital era that is changing ever so fast. With all due respect, I think very few of us have really gotten a grip on what all those communications platforms are. We have to take the time to bring ourselves up to speed with that before we sit down with committee members. Many people who are sitting around the communications subcommittee already serve on committees and have strong views, and I can assure you that the vast majority of the views around this table have already been exchanged and shared. We've come to the conclusion that it's not what we want to do that is the biggest problem in our communications strategy; it's how do we do it. That's why we think the steps we're taking are the steps forward that will get us to what we want to get done.

[Translation]

Senator Charette-Poulin: Will there be an educational component? Up until now we have talked about crisis management, relations with the press, the needs of committees, but we should not forget what little knowledge Canadians have of parliamentary needs and operations.

Will there be an educational component regarding the review and the services to be rendered, and how they are rendered, in your study?

Senator Housakos: In my opinion, that aspect is absolutely necessary and very important, undoubtedly.

The Chair: Thank you for your excellent presentation. I see that there is a consensus among the members of this committee to have your working group pursue its mandate. We look forward to the next stages. Thank you very much.

[English]

Senators, I know we're getting beyond our time, but there is one final item and I wonder if we could have a few moments to consider it. It is item No. 4, "Modernization of the Joint Parliamentary Network." We need an executive summary of one minute to explain it.

Give us the short version and in terms that are straightforward.

[Translation]

Hélène Bouchard, Director, Information Services, and Senate of Canada: Honourable senators, the purpose of my presentation is to inform your committee on the funding requirements and timelines surrounding the modernization of the Joint Parliamentary Network.

In February 1996, the Chair of the Standing Senate Committee of Internal Economy and the Chair of the Board of Internal Economy of the House of Commons signed a memorandum of understanding for the purpose of creating a joint informatics network for Parliament Hill, and this agreement remains in force.

The existing network and related components are currently over 12 years old. Much of the equipment has exceeded its expected life cycle and is clearly outdated, unable to support many of the new business enabling technologies and services which can now be supported on data networks.

[English]

In 2011, we obtained approval from the steering committee to participate with the House of Commons in the procurement process for a new data network for the parliamentary precinct. In February 2013, following a successful process, a vendor was selected and standing offer agreements have been put in place. It is important to note that the authorization was to participate in the procurement process only and funding to acquire the equipment would require this committee authorization.

The modernization of the joint parliamentary network is a critical enabler to the long-term vision and planning strategy. As all of the new buildings will need to be equipped with the new network components, the upcoming buildings project includes the Bank of Montreal buildings, Wellington and the West Block.

Over the course of the next two to three years, the legacy network components will be upgraded to the new standard in a systematic approach that will be ultimately determined by a wide range of project dependencies such as Wi-Fi and the integrated security system.

Once fully implemented, the new infrastructure will provide feature-rich capabilities that will support new business enabling technology. Some of these include wireless networking, which will significantly improve the use of mobile technology in the work place; Voice over IP telephony, to enhance anytime, anywhere any device communication; and new video conferencing technology capable of delivering much better access between senators and Canadians.

The Senate is responsible for costs related to the acquisition of replacement networking equipment in existing Senate buildings. PWC will be responsible for the project management, the engineering, the fit up and installation of equipment in the telecommunication room.

[Translation]

At this time, it is estimated that the overall capital equipment cost to the Senate of Canada will be approximately $925,000 over a three-year period, which will include three years of support and maintenance. The Senate will be responsible for the ongoing support costs of all Senate equipment beyond the initial maintenance period.

[English]

The cost provided in the briefing note is based on the highest cost the Senate and the House of Commons would pay for the equipment so when equipment is purchased in large volumes, bulk discounting comes into effect. Based on this, the Senate should try to align any purchase for its equipment with the House of Commons purchases to leverage these discounts.

It is important to know that, although the Senate has some latitude in establishing an implementation schedule to meet its fiscal capabilities, there must be adequate momentum on the Senate side of implementation to meet the final cut-over date scheduled to occur in fiscal year 2016-17. To be clear, once the joint parliamentary data network is finally cut over to the new network core, all Senate network infrastructure components must be upgraded and operational.

It is recommended that this committee authorize in principle the Senate Administration to establish a procurement contract valued at over $100,000 for the modernization of the joint parliamentary network, which will occur over the next three years and subsequent years for maintenance of the equipment.

Senator Marshall: Thank you very much for that overview. Has the vendor been selected?

Ms. Bouchard: Yes.

Senator Marshall: So these numbers that you provide are firm numbers?

Ms. Bouchard: They are firm numbers and, as I said, this is the highest cost. The manufacturer is Cisco. We have resellers when we purchase the equipment. So we ask for quotes and take the best price.

Senator Marshall: Is the $353,000 in your budget for this year?

Ms. Bouchard: This is where we need to find the money, yes.

Senator Marshall: So we need to find the $353,000.

Ms. Bouchard: We will try to find some within the ISD budget, but over the years ISD has become a support and maintenance organization with all the cuts and it has become harder, when we have a major initiative, to find it within the existing budget.

Senator Marshall: I could support that once the funding is identified, but I would like to know where the money is coming from.

The Chair: In this committee, at this time, we could go in the direction of agreeing in principle, subject to the steering committee working with administration to see whether we can find the money and then report back.

Senator Lang: I wanted to follow up on that because we had a discussion last committee and, if I'm not mistaken, the chair indicated that there were a number of initiatives that were going to be proposed in respect of the overall Senate which will obviously be a cost to the Senate. For the purposes of this committee, I think we should be putting together all those initiatives in one proposal so we fully understand what the implications are to the overall budget. If we piecemeal it by $100,000 at every meeting, before you know it — we won't realize it — maybe we will put ourselves in a deficit position unknowingly.

Following on Senator Marshall's point, we should have an overall look at where we are, what we can do and, if we're going to take money from somewhere else, where are we taking it from, and what are the ramifications at that point.

The Chair: That's a good point. We've been discussing that as well in the steering committee. If we don't do some of these projects, then we do not have communication. We thought, in the time that's available to us between now and the end of this session, that this was a priority in our mind. Again, to protect the jurisdiction of the full committee, here is one where, if there is agreement in principle, we will look and come back and say we think that this can be financed this way. But I agree and I know Senator L. Smith has been raising this well. We want to have what you said, namely a list of some of the initiatives being proposed so that they can be presented. Everyone might have a different sense of prioritization, but at least everyone has the right to know and be consulted, and we will do that.

Senator Cordy: I agree that we have no choice but to do and find the money somewhere, but 12 years seems to be a long time to be waiting to improve our information network. Is this because of cutbacks that have been taking place? Why 12 years without replacing it with all the changes that have taken place in 12 years?

Ms. Bouchard: We're talking about the core infrastructure and 12 years ago, yes, we did a major overhaul. In 2005, we also made some upgrades, but that was just upgrades and not replacing the whole technology. This is why it's different. In the 12 years we have had some technology upgrades, but this is a complete change to support new business.

[Translation]

Senator Charette-Poulin: I have a technical question. Are we transferring from Rogers to Cisco?

Ms. Bouchard: No. We were with Nortel and we are now with Cisco.

The Chair: I wonder if we could have a common agreement in principle in that regard?

[English]

Senator Tkachuk: I move the motion that you requested, chair. I think that's the only way to go.

The Chair: Thank you. So moved by Senator Tkachuk, seconded by Senator Smith; is it agreed?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Chair: Honourable senators, thank you very much for being so tolerant and staying way beyond our timeline. The meeting now stands adjourned.

(The committee adjourned.)