THE STANDING COMMITTEE ON INTERNAL ECONOMY, BUDGETS AND ADMINISTRATION
OTTAWA, Thursday, February 21, 2019
The Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration met this day at 8:30 a.m., pursuant to rule 12-7(1), for the consideration of financial and administrative matters.
Senator Sabi Marwah (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Good morning and welcome to the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration. My name is Sabi Marwah, and I have the privilege of serving as chair of this committee. For the benefit of those on the webcast or on their phones, I would ask each of the senators to introduce themselves.
Senator Wetston: Howard Wetston, Ontario.
Senator Dean: Tony Dean, Ontario.
Senator Dawson: Dennis Dawson, Quebec.
Senator Forest: Éric Forest, Gulf region, Quebec.
Senator Verner: Josée Verner, Quebec.
Senator Moncion: Lucie Moncion, Ontario.
Senator Tannas: Scott Tannas, Alberta.
Senator Housakos: Leo Housakos, Quebec.
Senator Marshall: Elizabeth Marshall, Newfoundland and Labrador.
Senator Saint-Germain: Raymonde Saint-Germain, Quebec.
Senator Tkachuk: David Tkachuk, Saskatchewan.
Senator Batters: Denise Batters, Saskatchewan.
The Chair: Thank you.
Honourable senators, Item No. 1, a copy of the public minutes from December 13, 2018, is in your package.
Senator Tkachuk: Could I raise an issue? I noticed that the report from the Subcommittee on Human Resources of which I and Senator Tannas were on is going to be discussed. My understanding is that report is then presented to the Senate for approval.
The Chair: Yes, that’s correct.
Senator Tkachuk: I think if we’re writing a report, that might be an in camera — I think it should be an in-camera item if we’re discussing a report before the other senators see it. So I was just wondering whether that item would be moved to the in-camera portion, because normally a report is done in camera before it goes to the Senate.
Senator Batters: Also on that point, normally human resources issues are dealt with in camera; it’s specifically provided for in the rules. I support that particular report being discussed in camera until it’s finalized, and then it can be in public.
Senator Housakos: As Senator Batters just mentioned, it’s clear in the rules that Internal Economy is obligated to go in camera on HR issues.
Senator Saint-Germain: I have a question for clarification. Does this also apply when we speak about HR policies or practices?
Senator Housakos: It doesn’t specify in the rules, specifically; it says HR issues.
Senator Tkachuk: Once it’s dealt with here, it goes to the Senate, and there’s a full debate. That’s totally public. Everything is discussed there.
The Chair: I will read out the rules. Rule 12-16(1) states:
Except as provided in subsection (2) and elsewhere in these Rules, a committee may meet in camera only for the purpose of discussing:
(a) wages, salaries and other employee benefits;
(b) contracts and contract negotiations;
(c) labour relations and personnel matters; and
(d) a draft agenda or draft report.
The question is whether this qualifies as a draft report. I’ll open it up for debate.
Senator Moncion: It was done in camera with the Subcommittee on Human Resources, and now the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration is discussing it. I find it odd that a report that was prepared in camera and has remained confidential for the duration of the process would remain confidential once tabled here. We have reached the discussion and public transparency stage.
The Chair: Any other comments?
Senator Saint-Germain: I notice that the rules say “may” and not “must,” so we have the margin.
The Chair: The rule says “may.”
Senator Saint-Germain: So we can make the decision.
Senator Batters: To Senator Moncion’s point, that was a small subcommittee. While it’s still very much a discussion — and particularly I point to that part talking about labour relations, I think this would definitely fall within that. We can have a full discussion and then have the report, which may have differences from what the draft report is right now. It’s certainly a lengthy report, and we want to make sure that we have a good, full discussion on sensitive labour relations and human resources topics. Then we absolutely can have it completely accountable and transparent.
Senator Dean: Just to be clear, I’ve heard two versions of the rules: One, that it’s mandatory —
The Chair: No, it says “may.”
Senator Dean: So it is “may”?
The Chair: Yes.
Senator Dean: So we are now discussing whether we shall?
The Chair: Correct.
Senator Dean: I very clearly come down on the side of doing this in an open discussion. If we reach a point where we are discussing confidential labour relations matters, we can revisit it.
Senator Verner: I understand that it is “may”, not “must.” In the interest of transparency and public opinion, and in light of the broader conversation on sexual harassment, victims and so on, wouldn’t it be best to discuss the matter transparently so Canadians know what we have to say about it?
Senator Munson: Sorry I was late. I was in the building 30 minutes ago. Just to add a little levity to this serious conversation, it took a long time: The doors are heavy, the cards don’t work, but other than that, it’s a beautiful building, isn’t it?
I’m of the view the HR report should be discussed in public. Thank you.
Senator Forest: Since this is about policy, not a specific case involving an individual or an employee, it would be best to discuss the issue transparently and in public. If this were about an employee, I would certainly agree that the discussion should be confidential.
Senator Wetston: Hearing the discussion, I’m not going to attempt to provide an interpretation of what “labour relations” is, but I don’t think we’re talking about that in this report at this time. Whatever interpretation one wants to give to it, I’m going to give it a different interpretation, and I say we err on the side of transparency wherever we can. I see no reason why this report should not be made public at this time.
I agree with Senator Dean: If we reach a point where we are — he’s an expert in labour relations — then I think we can do something about that. So my view is that we err on the side of making it public and discussing it publicly.
Senator Dawson: Same position here.
Senator Batters: This is my last point on this. There may not be any specific individual references in the report, but I think we’ve just ensured that if we have that entire, very sensitive discussion with cameras on and in public, no one here will use any possible examples that actually could lead us to some valuable insights in a public way, because we don’t want to do that.
Senator Tkachuk: Just so it’s clear, this matter that I brought up has nothing to do with transparency. It has to do with the fact that, normally, a report of a committee is kept private. We all do that. I know in Banking, we do it. In Transport, we do it. When we draft reports, we do it in private, because we care about the colleagues that aren’t here; that’s why we’re doing it. It seems odd that The Globe and Mail and the public get to see the report before other senators. Senators have a right to see it before anybody else.
Then it’s discussed in public, fully transparent, in the Senate. All items are transparent, but in working up to that item, I think it’s only fair to other senators, before we table the report, that they know what’s in the report. They don’t know the report. This hasn’t been circulated to the Senate; it’s just circulated to us.
I just find that if we’re going to be dealing with other senators, I think we should give them the benefit of the doubt, and they should see the report at the same time everybody else is seeing it and not after the fact. That’s why we do that. If you want to move from that, I’m not on the side of not being transparent; I’m always on the side of being transparent. I just want to make it clear that’s not the reason I’m bringing this up.
Senator Moncion: Then every report tabled in committee and called a “report” would have to be tabled in camera so our colleagues don’t see them beforehand. That would mean audit reports and financial reports and so on would have to be seen in camera before being tabled, which makes that argument more or less valid.
The Chair: Clearly, there is not unanimous agreement on this. We could call a vote on this and see what members decide. Should we proceed to a vote? Senator Tkachuk, would you like to have a vote?
Senator Tkachuk: I don’t know what the consensus in the room is.
The Chair: I think you heard the views.
Senator Housakos: I think there’s a consensus not to go in camera. Just let it be noted in the record for other committee chairs that drafting of reports don’t necessarily have to be done in camera in the future and —
The Chair: It’s a “may” issue. I think leave as “may” and leave it up to the committee.
Senator Housakos: All legislation — just let that be noted in the minutes.
Senator Tkachuk: — matter referred to your committee, Senator Housakos.
Senator Housakos: Like I said, in the future, it might serve other committees well to know that all drafting of reports will be done —
The Chair: I think that’s a fair point. We should make sure the other committees are aware that’s the case.
Finally, we can get to Item No. 1.
Honourable senators, a copy of the public minutes from December 13 is in your package. Are there any questions or changes? Can I have a motion to adopt the minutes?
It is moved by Senator Saint-Germain to adopt the minutes. Agreed?
Item No. 2, the appeal from the Human Rights Committee, the request has been withdrawn so we move on to Item No. 3.
The next report is the report we were just talking about. It is the report from the Subcommittee on Human Resources.
Senator Saint-Germain: Honourable senators, I have the honour to present the second report of the Subcommittee on Human Resources entitled Modernizing the Senate’s Anti-Harassment Policy: Together let’s protect our healthy worklife.
I, again, report acknowledgement and appreciation that can be found in the message from the chair and the deputy chair, Senator Scott Tannas, at the very beginning of the report.
When the subcommittee was tasked with reviewing the current policy, its members knew they were undertaking a major project because significant social changes have happened since it was adopted in June 2009. The social acceptability threshold for certain behaviours and comments once considered acceptable is now higher.
More specifically, this report contains 28 recommendations. The first one provides that, instead of reviewing the current harassment policy, the Senate administration be instructed to prepare a new anti-harassment policy by April 30, 2019.
The report is comprehensive and detailed. I won’t read out all 28 recommendations because all committee members have received a copy. However, I would like to highlight some of the recommendations that I consider particularly important.
The report recommends that the new policy expand the scope of the current definition of sexual harassment to cover behaviours that extend beyond organizational time and space boundaries, that is, beyond the workplace. I would emphasize that the report covers all forms of harassment, including psychological harassment; it is not just about sexual harassment.
It is recommended that the new anti-harassment policy strengthen the requirement for statistical data collection and accountability in relation to occurrences of workplace harassment and violence.
It is recommended that the new Senate anti-harassment policy ensures the impartially of the intake process through the appointment of an impartial third party to whom complaints can be brought on a confidential basis.
And I want to stress the importance, with this process, of fairness for all, the managers, the employees and every person who is involved, including the third parties, so the participants of the process and its independence are closely linked.
Ensure victim agency by providing multiple reporting options for those experiencing harassment and violence and encourage bystander intervention and provide guidance on how to proceed when mistreatment is observed, among other aspects.
The appointed impartial third party would be responsible to investigate, assess, adjudicate and report on all complaints, thereby ensuring that an investigation is always conducted before a recommendation is made or a decision is rendered against a respondent.
We recommend a fully independent complaints resolution process subject to strict deadlines in order to minimize inconvenience for the parties. By “the parties,” I mean everyone involved and those against whom harassment allegations are levelled.
The new policy should also provide for recourse and, when necessary, sanctions for different respondents. Honourable senators, the subcommittee members hope that the committee will adopt this report, which would task the Senate administration with drafting a new policy by April 30. Once the report is complete, the subcommittee will review the draft of the anti-harassment policy and submit it to you for approval as soon as possible.
Thank you for your attention. Committee members are, of course, available to answer your questions, and we are completely open to discussing any aspect that concerns you. Thank you.
The Chair: Any questions for Senator Saint-Germain?
Senator Dean: Thank you for this. I’m glad to see the April 30 timeline for the completion of a draft. I think we can expect that there will be some work beyond that so we will continue under, I guess, the existing policy in the interim.
Has any thought been given to, in this interim period, creating a temporary route to raise concerns that is different from the current one, so that we have some sort of slightly improved transitional or interim route available for those who might be concerned about workplace harassment?
Senator Saint-Germain: Yes, absolutely. Thank you for your question. We have asked the Human Resources Directorate to come up with an interim process that allows for complaints brought forward before the policy is formally adopted to be handled by an impartial third party that would investigate and act in accordance with the principles of natural justice and equality for all parties involved. So, yes, there will be a transitional process, and the Human Resources Directorate has already determined how that process will be implemented.
Senator Verner: Congratulations on your work, senator. I have some questions about the independent investigation process. That is a key element of your report. How will the independent expert be selected? I don’t really understand how that works. I believe I heard about a firm being hired to deal with a crisis in the Senate or read about it in the newspapers. I think it was deQuintet. I don’t know where that report is. How do you recommend we proceed?
Senator Saint-Germain: Thank you for the compliment, but I want you to know this was a team effort, so all members of the subcommittee are to be congratulated. I also want to emphasize that we got excellent testimony from people representing senators’ employees and administration employees as well as independent experts who testified voluntarily.
As to selecting the independent expert, there are now firms recognized in that area of practice. Many of them are associated with lawyers’ offices. There will be a transparent process and a public request for proposals. The important thing is that the selected firm will be able to operate under a contract for a reasonable period of time, such as two or three years. The final terms and conditions have not been established, but, as recommended in the report, there will be an independent firm of experts.
The Chair: Any other questions?
Senator Batters: A couple of things. First of all, the recommendation that the policy would be posted in all offices, what does that mean? Does that mean every single room in a senator’s office? Every single cubicle? Is a lengthy policy supposed to be posted on the wall? What is the thinking about that?
Senator Saint-Germain: So common sense would imply that this policy, which is printed and will also be available online, is available in each and every office, like the Rules of the Senate are and like the bills that we are studying are.
So each senator’s office and each, I would say, employee and manager of this institution would have access to it. So it’s as simple as that.
Senator Batters: Access, correct, but the recommendation says “posted,” so I just want to make sure that when the policy is developed it’s very clear what “posted” means.
Senator Saint-Germain: Thank you. So we will make sure it is understandable for everyone. As it will be available electronically, I believe the word “posted” is relevant. We’ll have a look at it.
Senator Batters: A more significant issue I have, being one of the three senators on the steering committee and as deputy chair of this committee, I notice there are a couple of the recommendations that would have sanctions for harassment issues being imposed by the steering committee of Internal Economy, three senators, and that would be if there was a harassment complaint upheld against a member of a senator’s staff, and that would also be if there was a Senate administration sector chief who was found to have —
Senator Saint-Germain: Yes.
Senator Batters: So why the thinking about that? First of all, what if a senator’s staff person — does that take away the responsibility and the authority that a particular senator would have over their own office, which I think is problematic? And also dealing with a sector chief, we may have our own talents on steering, but I’m not sure human resource harassment expert is one of them. So to have three senators of different parties and groups being responsible for such a significant issue as that, I think, could be very problematic.
Senator Saint-Germain: That is certainly a relevant and important question. It would come back to the CIBA steering committee at the end of the independent investigation, which is when, on the advice of the independent investigator, decisions would be made about whether and what kind of sanctions should be imposed. For senators’ employees, we felt that would probably be the best way to ensure fair treatment for all.
We have confidence in the good judgment of CIBA’s steering committee, which must act impartially. You are responsible for Senate governance and for overseeing its administration. We decided that, if an independent professional investigation finds that a senator’s employee committed harassment, the steering committee is in the best position to ensure equal treatment regardless of the senator’s office in question.
Does that mean senators are no longer responsible for managing their offices? No, but their responsibility is mainly to prevent harassment. When they detect or are made aware of harassment, they must be very aware that their job is to manage those situations and prevent them. The main goal of this policy is not to determine whether harassment occurred and impose sanctions; it is to prevent harassment. We have confidence in the steering committee, whose role in the case of senators’ employees is to ensure that, when sanctions are required, they are just and fair. That is the purpose of the recommendation.
Senator Batters: Except on that, the independent investigator will do the investigation report, but then at the point we’re determining sanctions, we have three senators. At the time one of us has legal training, the other two do not. I was never a judge, but I would be almost acting in the position of a judge. I would be looking at the report and having to decide on one of my colleague’s employees, what a sanction would be for that person or, for, potentially, a high-ranking Senate administration person, we would have to be deciding what an appropriate sanction was, which could be termination, which could be all kinds of things leading up to that.
For senators, it would continue to be under the purview, in determining the sanctions, of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Committee and they have significant experience with that. We recently saw a couple of years ago with Senator Don Meredith that they dealt with that particular issue in great deal and we actually happened to have a few people with judicial training on that particular committee right now.
I’m just not sure why this would be thought to be a good solution.
Senator Tannas: I can add to that. First of all, just to be clear, and I think we’re almost there, that there is a human resources and, specifically, harassment-related issues expert who would be providing a finding. So steering committee would be presented with a finding. The only thing left for them to decide is what to do about it. I would expect that, if it were appropriate, steering committee might, in a circumstance — I certainly would if I was on steering committee — consult with the senator who was involved.
Similarly, if it was an administration person, I might consult with the manager who was involved. The decision on what the punishment would be should rest, when it comes to senators’ staff, with senators. It can’t rest with the only senator in the middle of it, in our view. We have to remember that when we get a professional, independent, third party finding of harassment, this is not an unserious matter. This is a potential liability. The person who’s been harassed has the freedom to go to court, to go to the Human Rights Commission and to sue everybody and their brother. So we want to make sure, and we thought it was important that there be consistency at the point of a finding around what the punishment should be.
This does not require judges. It requires sound managers and we select our steering committee based on sound managers. I have every faith in this steering committee and every steering committee that I have seen that they are, in fact, sound managers. That would be some additional thoughts on this.
Senator Batters: So harassment can be an extremely serious matter, as we saw with Senator Meredith, where it rose to the level of potentially a criminal matter. It can also be not that serious. It can be a matter of significant lesser seriousness so we need to remember that, and not every case rises to the absolute maximum. Everything needs to be dealt with appropriately, of course.
Another question that I have on that is: Would the sanction finding by the steering committee be unanimous or would it be a two-to-one vote? I think that could also be very problematic, especially when you’re worried about consistency. When politics starts to enter into it, it could be problematic. We’re dealing with senators here. We’re not dealing with people who do that for a living.
Senator Moncion: With respect to posting policies, including the harassment policy, as an employer in Ontario, the law requires us to have a bulletin board, and the policy has to be posted there and updated whenever it is changed. That is all that means. Since we have two, three or four employees per office, all we need to do is pin the policy to a bulletin board on the wall. It is the same as workplace health and safety policies. Those policies are supposed to be permanently posted on a bulletin board as well as available online.
Senator Housakos: I want to complement the HR subcommittee on the work they’ve done on the proposal. I think it’s another giant step forward for the Senate. I think it’s time we get into the modern world and I think a lot of what’s proposed in that report has been done in the private sector for a very long time. We also have to be cognizant of the fact that the Parliament of Canada and the Senate are not like any other private sector organization. It’s the Parliament. It has certain privileges and authorities under the Constitution.
What I see with this report, and I don’t know how to find the way to determine what the best solution is, but we have to be very careful not to eradicate the final authority of the Senate chamber.
The way I’ve always understood the ultimate privilege of the Senate of Canada is that it’s the ultimate authority. It decides everything. Internal Economy doesn’t have the authority to be judging and prosecuting. We have been given a mandate by the chamber.
Steering, certainly — and we have always worked very hard to try to remain as transparent and accountable, but it seems to me the process in place right now — all the independent work will be done, a finding will be determined, a punishment will be determined as per the code in the committee, and then it’s sent for final authority to steering.
I find that a dangerous, slippery slope. That’s never happened before in this place. I don’t recall any particular authority on any area where the final authority was given to steering without an element of appeal for the senator, for the employee or for a manager in the Senate to be able to appeal to this committee of Internal Economy or to the Senate as a whole, for that matter.
I just find that all the authority — and if we’re trying to be more transparent than the Senate has been in the past, what we’re really doing is cutting out that transparency. At the end of the day, steering operates in a vacuum in steering meetings that are not public. They are taking a decision that will touch directly and have an impact — a serious impact. I don’t think, when I was on steering at CIBA, that I recall any issue more impactful on human beings than decisions in accusations of harassment, be it impacting the senator, employees or management employees of the institution.
So I don’t have the solution, but I see there is a problem at the end of the line once the findings are done and it gets to CIBA.
Senator Saint-Germain: It’s important to read the whole report in detail, because I’m hearing a lot of confusion in people’s comments. Any sanctions called for at the conclusion of an impartial investigation for a senator would be recommended to the Senate by members of the Ethics and Conflict of Interest for Senators Committee for a particular incident, individual or body. There will be no changes to the Senate’s privilege.
The issue we are discussing has to do with senators’ employees and administration managers. We think that the fairest way to do this is to ensure that all employees on whom sanctions are to be imposed should be subject to the same rules following an independent investigation. Sanctions could include things like participating in mandatory training or apologizing.
With respect to recourse, let us remember that every individual’s right to recourse, recommendation 25, is still in place, and the Senate will not have the power to deprive an employee or a senator of that. Our thinking was that many senators do not have the necessary expertise and will want advice or to be told what punishment or to be informed or consulted about sanctions that they themselves are not imposing. That is an important aspect, and it is CIBA’s role to ensure good governance, particularly with respect to human resources. CIBA’s steering committee is the main body responsible for that. That was our thinking, and we believe it is the best way to ensure equality and fair treatment for everyone involved.
The Chair: There have been some excellent points raised by a lot of senators here. There are some nuances, and I think it would behoove us to clarify that in the final policy that really comes out. There are clearly some issues that need clarification. I suggest, Senator Saint-Germain, that when the final report comes in that these factors be taken into account when we do the final policy so it’s very clear as to what the processes are, what the sanctions are and what rules are so that it’s very clear in that final report.
Senator Saint-Germain: I will certainly take that into account. The committee members and I will take a serious look at the comments and add clarification and make changes if necessary.
Senator Verner: I have a quick question. We have talked a lot about the process for punishing the guilty. I just want to make sure that we do everything we can to protect victims and relocate them and really help them. In the past, that kind of thing has not happened, and some employees seem to have been left out in the cold in serious cases. I just want to make sure that is taken into account.
Senator Saint-Germain: Absolutely. Under the policy, steps will be taken for the duration of the investigation to ensure that nothing is done to penalize either those accused of harassment or the alleged victims. That is an important aspect that many expert witnesses and employees spoke to, and we have taken that into consideration because it is crucial.
Senator Tkachuk: Just a point: Now that it’s public, you can consult your caucus and anybody on the street on this matter before we discuss it at whenever the next meeting is that we will be talking about this. It’s now in the public realm.
The Chair: It is moved by Senator Saint-Germain that the report be adopted and the report be tabled in the Senate. Are all agreed?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Housakos: I just heard earlier that there would be consideration of some of the opinions.
The Chair: Consideration in the final report when the final policy is adopted. I’m not changing this report. That was my view.
Senator Housakos: I still want to highlight that this report, as it’s being tabled right now, does still fundamentally infringe upon the chamber’s right for final appeal, as it does this committee’s. It needs to be —
Senator Tkachuk: We need at least another week to talk about some of the problems that were raised here. I don’t think we adopt the report today.
Senator Batters: I’m certainly not ready to approve this report. I can see that it could be filed. As you said, the concerns continue to be worked on, but I don’t think that it should be formally approved. If it was formally approved, none of the concerns would necessarily be worked into it; it would just be all of those things that exist right now — the recommendations would be put through as-is.
Senator Moncion: It can be approved on division, can’t it?
The Chair: It can.
Senator Tkachuk: We have consensus, basically, on almost the whole report. There are some issues that have come up. I may have misunderstood you, but you thought there were some good — I did too, and I was on that committee.
But there were some issues raised here that I had not thought of, so it might be good for us to either meet again and have some discussion about some of this. It’s public now, so we could even consult our caucuses. That might be a really good idea.
Senator Plett: I want to echo what Senator Tkachuk said right at the very end. I haven’t taken part in the discussions about the pros and the cons of the report, but I do find it strange that we make a draft report public. That’s number one. Second, chair, you instructed the committee to clearly take the comments made and put those comments which they felt they wanted to give credence to into the final report. Those that they didn’t feel they wanted to, they didn’t have to. In essence, we have adopted a final report.
I do not see the urgency here in us dealing with the concerns that are raised before we adopt a report. Senator Moncion is quite correct: Anything can be done on division, but it has still been adopted, then, whether it’s on division or not, or whether we vote in favour and the majority wants it or three or four senators vote no. That doesn’t change any of the issues.
In light of the comments that have been made, in light of the some of the concerns that have been raised and in light of your comments, chair, take some of the valuable comments that have been made and put those into the final report.
The Chair: Just to clarify, Senator Plett, when I made that comment, it was in reference to the final policy that comes back as due at the end of April. It was not intended to rewrite this report. That’s just for clarification.
Senator Plett: Fair enough. I would suggest, since this is a public report now, that we take —
The Chair: Excuse me, it’s not a public report. Just this discussion is public.
Senator Plett: The discussion is public, fair enough, but we take that discussion to our caucuses and come back next week with our final comments.
Senator Marshall: If the report is going to change, I would like to see the revised report before we move forward. So I would like to see it come back to Internal, so perhaps next week that could be done.
Senator Forest: If I understand correctly, Senator Batters’ main concern is that the experts’ case reports would be submitted to the steering committee, and the recommendation would be submitted to this committee. My understanding is that this can be adopted on division or not or adopted unanimously. Those are legitimate questions, but this report is a precursor to a policy. The policy that emerges from this report will be important. I don’t see a problem at this stage. I picked up on two concerns. Only one member of the steering committee has legal training. That seems like a clear argument, but the three people before me are intelligent people who care about the group’s interests and want to be good managers, and that is what we are asking of them. It’s clear that this is a fact and that maybe there’s only one person with legal training, but all three have experience, and they’re all good managers who will make decisions that are in everyone’s best interest.
The other thing to consider is that referring these cases to the steering committee ensures equal treatment. Senators whose employees are involved could end up making decisions that are not consistent with the analysis. I think the equity aspect is very important. At this stage, the report is a working document that will be used to develop the policy. We’ll do more analysis for the policy. We have all read the document, which is very well written, in fact. We need to pay particular attention to that aspect. We need to take the comments into account in developing the policy, and we will study the policy, which will help guide the Senate going forward.
Senator Housakos: I want to reinforce the importance of our parliamentary privilege, and I’m not so sure this report would pass the test of a somebody raising the question of privilege in the chamber. The ultimate authority on all these administrative issues lies with the Senate Chamber, and the way this report has been drafted currently, that is not the case.
I don’t have any problem with the essence of this report or the objective of this report. I think we’re all in, and all in favour, but I think there is a question of privilege here. There is a question of parliamentary authority here that has to be taken under consideration. Colleagues, it’s a serious question. It’s the most important question.
So another thing that I find disturbing, I don’t recall, in my time on Internal Economy, questions as important as this that they would come up for a vote and be passed on division. This is a question that is of ultimate importance and there has to be buy-in from everybody. So at the end of the day, consensus has to be the rule here. We need to give legitimacy and make sure this is approved but we also need to make sure there is buy-in from everybody.
This isn’t politics. This isn’t a piece of legislation you’re for or against. I think this needs to be considered and taken under consideration. Get an opinion from the clerk and get an opinion from the Speaker before we get this thing and it spills on to the floor, unnecessarily, of the Senate. That’s all I’m saying.
Senator Saint-Germain: I’m really sorry, but I believe that the parliamentary privilege recognizes the credibility of the steering committee of CIBA first. Second, there is an urgency in the Senate to have a harassment prevention policy which is aligned with the current criteria.
We need an independent mechanism now to ensure that any alleged harassment goes through an independent investigation. I am pleased to be able to say this in public in a place where employment contracts last a year and the circumstances are conducive to harassment, even just psychological harassment, which we must not underestimate. Because of the testimony we have received from people internally as well as experts, I really must insist that we review the policy as soon as possible. The deadline we’ve set is April 30.
I don’t understand the counter-proposal. After an independent investigation, the CIBA steering committee, perhaps in consultation with the senator or senators whose employees are involved — What alternative would you suggest? Deciding based on what a particular senator wants, on a senator’s openness? Different sanctions for different people? That is neither fair nor just. As for the majority-minority division in the steering committee, what about the Supreme Court, which can have a majority or a minority? What about the Court of Appeal, where two judges may agree and a third may have a dissenting opinion? Are you challenging Canada’s existing justice system? What alternative do you propose that would be as just, equitable and realistic as what the subcommittee proposes?
Senator Munson: I agree with everybody. Look, this is very serious business. We talked about all these legal experts, but there are the human rights of people. Some of us understand that, too, besides the legal debate that is going on here.
I listened closely and I fully believe that what is one week in the life of politics? What is one week in the life of those who are around this table behind us? What is one week in the life of the rest of the persons who work in the Senate? Not very much. It’s seven days.
Some ideas did come up this morning. There are two or three there. Consensus is extremely important so I do not see anything wrong with seven days to go back at it and come back here and have a consensus so we can move forward in a unanimous way. Thank you.
The Chair: Senator Tannas, you’re on the steering committee; your thoughts?
Senator Tannas: I guess seven days is a waste of time if we don’t know what we’re trying to solve. So I think that what I’m hearing is, around recommendation 22, which is specifically about senator’s staff and about the ability to make sure that the senator, who is the boss of that staff person, has some role in the decisions around punishment. We certainly considered that, and the issue was that we wanted to make sure that there was consistency at that level, where there has been a finding of harassment.
Now, all we’re left with is what to do about it. We did not want one senator deciding one thing, while another senator down the hall decides something completely different or decides to do nothing, right? We can’t have that. That’s why we’re here debating a new policy.
So what I heard was that there was a discomfort with the steering committee being the final decider on this. But I also recall — I just heard something off line — that every single decision of steering is always appealable to this committee and always appealable to the Senate. I don’t think recommendation 22 stands out and says that, in this particular case, all of that is off, right? This is the final decision, you can’t appeal to CIBA and you can’t appeal to the Senate if you’re the senator.
I believe, as Senator Housakos does, that there is a question of privilege when it comes to senators’ staff. They ought to have a hand in it; not the final decision, but they ought to have a hand in it. So I think that if we can satisfy ourselves in a week or in this minute that nothing in recommendation 22 forecloses a senator whose staff is involved from appealing to CIBA if he or she doesn’t like the decision and, ultimately, to the Senate, then we should vote now. If we think that there is some nuance that we need to study over the next week to get to that point, then let’s do that.
Senator Batters: First of all, why don’t we just go forward with receiving this report? That way, legitimate questions that need to be further explained because, as Senator Tannas just said, while recommendation 22 and, frankly, recommendation 23 both talk about the sanctions being imposed by steering, it doesn’t provide for any right of appeal. I think it’s important that be put in there, because this is a pretty major situation we have here, and I want to make sure that when we’re dealing with situations of harassment, we have the best possible situation to make sure it is dealt with appropriately and in furtherance of everything we want to accomplish on such a serious topic.
To Senator Forest’s point, I asked whether it would need to be unanimous decision of steering, and I didn’t get an answer. Whether it could be a 2-1 vote or whether it needs to be interpreted that way is an important issue to determine.
Again, I voice my view that I don’t think steering committee — it’s never steering, I don’t think. I can’t think of an example where steering is the final arbiter of something. There is always the ability for other matters to appeal to this committee or to the Senate. It’s important to maintain that.
We should just vote to receive the report — I’m totally fine with that — and then have these particular types of issues being worked on, rather than vote to have it approved on division. We had a situation where we had a budget approved on division, with only an hour of discussion in December. I don’t want this serious issue to be dealt with in the same way. We had a great committee that worked on consensus and developed this important report. There are some things that need a little bit of fine-tuning. I’m confident they can do that within a week.
Senator Tkachuk: I was going to reiterate the fact that’s what we should do. We should accept the report. We looked at this thing for about six months, and it took almost two months to write the thing. This is a difficult subject.
I expected that we would have a real fulsome debate with other senators who would want to be involved in the process — that this would not be a rubber-stamped report. Other senators have contributions to make. Certainly, today, I heard contributions — a couple of them I had not thought of; I don’t think any of us had thought of them on the committee. It’s important to have that discussion.
Procedurally, this is public now, so we could accept a report, because we accept it, but we don’t have to adopt it. If we adopt it, then there are no changes. It’s gone to the Senate. That’s the way it is. Then why are we having the discussion?
So, we receive the report, and then we, in the next little while — we have until April, I think — but we could discuss it next week. If we come to a conclusion and consensus, then we deal with it.
I remember the first one was in 2009. That took a lot of debate, and it took a lot of debate in caucuses, too. Those items were brought to caucus and discussed so that all senators felt comfortable. Then, when it was done, it was fully accepted.
Senator Moncion: If I’m not mistaken, committee reports can always be amended in the Senate, but to avoid that in this situation, I have no problem with giving senators a week to comment on the report. However, if we take longer than a week, we might be perceived as trying to draw things out to avoid approving the report, which is crucial to the Senate’s needs given how old the current policy is and everything it doesn’t cover.
If we vote to extend this for seven days so we can comment on it, that is fine by me, but if we take any longer than that, I think that will be very poorly received by a lot of people.
Senator Saint-Germain: I would like to conclude by thanking all senators for their comments. I will commit to working with committee members to make any necessary changes by this time next week. I can assure members that the important thing here is the policy itself because the goal is to draft the new policy by April 30. The policy will also clarify roles and responsibilities more concretely.
When the time comes for CIBA to study the proposed policy, we will also have the opportunity to have a say in how it is to be implemented.
The Chair: I think we are reaching consensus. There are a few other speakers, but I think we have consensus that we should make whatever changes, if possible, come to some agreements on enhancements and be back to this committee next week. Is that agreed?
Senator Housakos: I want to reiterate something: We’re not arguing about the content of what we’re trying to achieve here; I think we’re all in agreement. We’re trying to make an important system better.
But it’s also to recall, colleagues, that every single issue of sexual harassment we have had to deal with in the past has all started at steering of Internal Economy. Colleagues, those of you who are on Internal Economy, believe you me, when these issues start coming to you, you want clarity and transparency, and you don’t want to be put in a position where you’re the final deciding authority on these issues. I saw personally. I saw it when my predecessors were there before, when we dealt with the Senator Meredith case. What did they do? On reflex, they came to this committee and the committee said bring in outside investigators. They brought in outside investigators.
When the sanctions were determined, it wasn’t steering that determined those. Let’s not forget: It’s legitimate that steering operates in a secret environment because they have to, because of the administrative nature. But this committee, Internal Economy, has always compelled steering that every decision comes here for review.
A decision as important as this, that in a very civil and criminal way will affect the lives of people, we as a judiciary body are saying we will leave it to steering and not bring it to this committee or have a final appeal to the Committee of the Whole? That’s the only element that I would like to see rectified.
Senator Wetston: I have one quick comment. We have heard many important issues, chair — everything from constitutional issues of privilege to the inability to exercise judgment that may be necessary in steering. I certainly have some sympathy for both of those positions.
The only thing I would add is that, in the event we do take more time on this, as you suggest, we assure ourselves that we complete this and finalize this report in the time frame in which we are attempting to do that. We should not lose sight of the importance of doing that. I would really ask, chair, that this committee commit itself to the finalization of this report in a time frame that we have been discussing, recognizing the importance of addressing some of these issues.
No one is suggesting otherwise, but my experience in the Senate to date has suggested that it’s quite easy to prolong these kinds of discussions.
Senator Saint-Germain: The policy we’re working on will definitely be an improvement. The goal is to ensure that any complaints against senators will be dealt with much more diligently by an independent committee, not by CIBA.
Once again, on behalf of the committee, I will commit to coming back here next week with clarifications that take these comments into account. We’ll study the proposed policy, one that is truly essential to the Senate’s credibility, by April 30.
The Chair: We have consensus on next week, so let’s decide on that. We look forward to receiving whatever changes you will make, if any. We’ll debate it further, hopefully get consensus and take it forward to the Senate at that time. Are all agreed?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: Moving to Item No. 4. Senators, this next item is a report from the Audit Subcommittee dealing with the proposal to form an advisory working group on senators’ pensions. Senator Moncion, this is your presentation.
Senator Moncion: The title says what the committee is.
Your Subcommittee recommends that an Advisory Working Group be established with the mandate to review and make recommendations to the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration on the Senators’ Pension Plan, and that a report be provided for consideration no later than May 31, 2019. This recommendation comes after the approval of the members of the subcommittee following the oral presentation of a motion on this subject.
I realize that May 31 may be too soon given the scope of the study. However, actually undertaking the study is more important than the date, and the deadline can be adjusted.
The Chair: Honourable senators, it is moved by Senator Moncion that the report be adopted. Is it agreed?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: Carried.
Again, we will be reviewing a proposed order of reference for the working group at a future meeting, including a detailed mandate and membership. Senator Moncion, I assume you will take charge of getting those done?
Senator Moncion: Yes, sir.
The Chair: Item No. 5 is another report from the Audit Subcommittee, dealing with the second quarter financial report.
I invite Pierre Lanctôt, Chief Financial Officer, to the witness table to assist in answering questions. Again, Senator Moncion is chair of that subcommittee — dealing with the Senate quarterly financial report for the quarter ending September 30, 2018.
Senator Moncion, over to you.
Senator Moncion: Senators, as chair of your Audit Subcommittee, I have the pleasure to table for your information the Senate financial highlights report for the second quarter of 2018-19 for the period ending September 30, 2018.
This report issued on a quarterly basis is prepared by the Finance and Procurement Directorate and is not available to the public. It provides information on the use of Senate budget authorities, actual expenditures and forecasted spending for the current year.
In summary, the Senate’s budgeted authorities for 2018-19 were $109.1 million. Actual expenses for the second quarter were $23.3 million. Overall, according to the best information available at the time the report was prepared, the Senate is expected to spend $98.8 million in 2018-19, which is about 91 per cent of its budget. We expect an overall surplus of $10.3 million.
The category specific to senators is expecting a surplus of $8.6 million. The forecast assumes that the number of senators is to be 103 — as of yesterday, there were 105 of us — for the remainder of the year, and that travel and telecommunications expenditures will be similar to last year’s. It also factors in a 2.5 per cent increase in office expenses per senator due to economic increases and retroactive pay.
The committees and International and Interparliamentary Affairs of the Senate and the House of Commons is forecasting a $1.4 million surplus. The surplus is explained by the committee’s spending trends not to exceed 50 per cent of use of budget, and that IIA conferences and operations’ expenses came at a lower cost than planned. There is a net surplus of $300,000 forecasted, mainly due to the delay in staffing and salaries being at a lower level than budgeted. As of September 30, 2018, eight new FTEs were still vacant.
I will now provide the committee with an overview of significant changes to the budgetary expenditures.
Actual expenditures as of September 30, 2018, were 11 per cent higher than in the previous fiscal year. The most significant changes were in four categories, as detailed on pages 7 and 8 of the report.
In the first category, “Personnel,” expenditures increased by $3.1 million because of salary scales increases for unrepresented employees of the Senate administration, senators’ and house officers’ employees and unionized employees. The number of employees increased by seven for senators’ staff and 40 for Senate administration compared to last fiscal year at the same period.
Employee benefits total cost increase due to the new 32.5 FTEs is approved.
The new process put in place in the current year to record all IIA salary contributions monthly compared to last fiscal year, when the contributions were recorded mainly at fiscal year-end.
In the second category, “Transportation and Telecommunications,” expenses increased by $600,000 compared to the same period of last fiscal year because there were three extra sitting days, and senators and Senate committees travelled more. It can also be explained by the new process in place for reporting expenses on a monthly basis compared to year-end only.
For the third category, “Professional and Special Services,” costs increased by $500,000. This increase is mainly due to the increase in legal services and by the timing in recording IIA contributions.
For the fourth category, “Acquisition of Equipment,” expenses decreased by $107,000 mainly because of the purchase of office furniture and furnishings made in the previous year that did not reoccur this year.
That concludes my presentation of the financial highlights for the second quarter, which ended on September 30, 2018.
I would like to thank Pascale, Pierre and Nathalie for their excellent work in providing us with information and answering our questions. If there are any questions, Pierre and Nathalie will be able to answer them. Thank you.
The Chair: Are there any questions for Senator Moncion, Pierre or Nathalie? I see no questions. Thank you very much. We shall move on to the next item.
Honourable senators, the next item is a followup to questions asked during a meeting on December 6 with respect to the Main Estimates. I think some responses were sent in mail-out packages that were sent to you previously. Pierre has an additional presentation to give, and after that, we will open it up for questions.
Pierre, over to you.
Pierre Lanctôt, Chief Financial Officer, Finance and Procurement Directorate, Senate of Canada: Honourable senators, I am pleased to be here today to provide comments and answers on the outstanding questions and requests made at the December 6 meeting with regard to the 2019-20 Main Estimates.
Two documents are included in our material. The briefing note presents answers to specific questions and requests, and the second contains a historical analysis of the Senate budgets and actual expenses.
I will start with the first document, which is the briefing note.
Section 1 of the briefing note provides a breakdown of the 2019-20 budget for leadership, caucuses and groups, with comparative amounts for the current year.
The second point on budgets and expenses will be discussed in a minute when reviewing the second document.
Point 3 shows how the budget and full-time equivalents, FTEs, for security activities changed with the creation of the Parliamentary Protective Services organization, or PPS. In 2015-16, the Senate budgeted $7.2 million and 97 FTEs for security all together. When PPS was created, $5.9 million and 83 FTE were transferred to the new organization, and the Senate retained $1.3 million in budget and 14 FTEs as shown in the document for corporate security activities. That budget increased to $1.9 million and 20 FTEs in 2019-20 to provide the level of resources for its activities and additional security requirements.
Points 4 and 5 are providing a list of new positions approved for the administration in the 2018-19 and 2019-20 Main Estimates. These tables were actually presented initially in each of the packages of the Main Estimates in the fall.
Are there any questions at this point, or should I continue with the next document?
The Chair: Why don’t you complete the whole presentation, then we’ll ask questions on the overall documents.
Mr. Lanctôt: Thank you. The second document is this presentation.
I would like to refer you to page 3 of the document.
The Senate has a comprehensive process for financial planning and tracking expenses. Annual budgets are prepared in accordance with Treasury Board requirements. Budget proposals are reviewed by senior Senate staff and the Budget Subcommittee. Budgets are then discussed in that committee, then tabled and voted on in the Senate. Actual expenditures are reviewed monthly, quarterly and annually. Details are in the document.
The Audit Subcommittee reviews quarterly expenditure reports and reports on them to this committee, as we just did for the second quarter of this year. Every quarter, senators’ expenses and contracts are published on the Senate website. Lastly, the Senate’s annual financial statements are audited, reviewed and published.
I will now turn to the budgets for 2014-15 through 2019-20, which are on pages 4 and 5 of the document. Both pages contain essentially the same information, presented on page 4 as a table and on page 5 as a graph. Note that data for PPS is presented separately because it is not included in the calculation of certain statistics. That is to ensure a fair, apples-to-apples comparison. Here are some of the highlights of the budget.
The budget has increased from $85.6 million in 2014-15 to $114.2 million in 2019-20. The number of senators budgeted has increased from 97 to 103 over the same period. On a per senator basis, expenses have increased at an average rate of 4.7 per cent per year. The chart on page 5 shows the correlation between the number of senators and the level of budgeted expenses.
I will now move to pages 6 and 7. Those pages contain a summary of key explanations for the variances in the budget. Explanations in the table and chart are presented from the largest to the smallest amount. Over the period analyzed, budgeted expenses for senators and their offices, which include compensation, office expenses, travel and living expenses, increased by $7.7 million, representing 27 per cent of the total increase.
Estimated inflation and cost of living adjustments represented $5.7 million, or 20 per cent of the total increase.
Transformation projects sponsored by senators added $4.3 million to the budget, 15 per cent of the total increase. These projects include the communications’ new model and outreach program, human resources transformation, broadcasting and the creation of the Chief Corporate Services officer function.
An incremental amount of 3.4 was budgeted for corporate systems and IT enhancements.
For the period, budgets for caucuses and groups were augmented by $2.9 million, while the increase in the number of senators represented $2.4 million. Finally, security enhancements, oversight and controls, some of which addressed the recommendations made by the Auditor General in past years and new initiatives and volumes growth totalled $2.2 million.
On pages 8 and 9, now we have similar information as we reviewed earlier, but for the actual expenses.
There you have it for the actual expenses for 2014-15 through to the forecasted expenditures for 2018-19. It stops at 2018-19 because that is the year for which we have forecasts and part of the year consists of factual expenses. While budgets are interesting, actual expenses are factual and tell us that: Expenditures increased from $77 million to $98.8 million between 2014-15 and 2018-19. The average annual number of senators went from 92 to 99 during the same period, for an increase of 7 per cent; the average annual growth rate of expenses was 4.5 per cent based on the average cost per senator; and, finally, as was the case for the budgets, the graph on page 9 shows the correlation between the number of senators and the actual expenses of the Senate. Pages 10 and 11 present variations in actual expenses by using the same formats as in previous budgets.
Key elements that explain the growth in actual expenses are: An increase of 7.8 or 36 per cent of total expense increase for senator expenses, offices and caucuses and groups; and inflation and cost of living adjustments represented $4.4 million or 20 per cent of the total increase. I would like to point out that most of the cost of living adjustments were made in 2017-18 and 2018-19 included retroactivity payments for the previous three, four years.
Increase of $2.5 million was due to transformation projects, again the same projects as we discussed in the budget. Expenses for corporate systems and IT enhancements added $3.4 million to expenses. Increase in number of senators amounted to $2.4 million in additional expenses.
Finally, security enhancements, oversight and controls and new initiatives and volume growth totalled $3.8 million in additional expenses.
This concludes my report.
I will be happy to take any questions.
Senator Batters: Thanks very much. I have a few points on this particular one. On the briefing note that you prepared, my question was about the budget for the caucuses and groups, which was not available when this budget was approved. So when I look at this now, I see that it’s only the Conservative opposition that has a small increase. Everyone else is going up, probably fairly substantially.
It says the budget allocation to the various groups has yet to be confirmed by CIBA. What does that mean? Because the budget was passed. What does it mean it needs to be confirmed? Wasn’t it already passed? Why do we need to do anything further?
The Chair: If I can respond, the overall budget was passed but this item specifically was not. So we have to pass a motion to approve caucus budgets. We approved 5.6 but not the allocation, senator, so we have to approve the allocation and take that forward. That’s the only thing that hasn’t been approved.
Senator Batters: Is that the normal case? We approve the full budget without approving the amount?
Pascale Legault, Chief Corporate Services Officer and Clerk of the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration, Senate of Canada: Is that the normal case in what sense?
Senator Batters: I don’t think so. I don’t recall that it is the normal case that we approve an entire budget without having information.
The Chair: I think if we have a question on the caucus and officers budgets, I don’t think it’s fair to have Pierre answer those. If we have questions on caucus budgets, we should get the leaders of all the caucuses in front of us. The we can question them all we want as to why the numbers went up and didn’t go down and so on. I don’t think it’s fair to ask that of Pierre because he had no say, nor did any of us have a say on those numbers. If we have questions, we should call the leaders and question them.
Senator Batters: As you notice, I wasn’t directing my question to Pierre on that. I appreciated receiving the numbers because I didn’t have them when we looked at this before, but I was asking Pascale if it was the normal case that we would approve the whole budget without having that, and then approve those numbers later.
Ms. Legault: As the chair stated, the committee brought forward a recommendation for the $5.6 million and the allocation has not been discussed. I understand that there have been discussions with leaders, and I think there is a letter coming to this committee. That is the process this year; I don’t know the process for every year —
Senator Batters: I’m asking for other years.
Ms. Legault: We could look into that.
Senator Batters: That would be good, thank you.
The Chair: Would you like me to call the leaders of the caucuses if we have any questions on this?
Senator Batters: I was asking if we could find out what the previous procedure was. I don’t think we need to call the leaders.
The Chair: Would you like questions on it? Because if you want questions on it I shall insist they come here. If not, I insist we move forward. We cannot keep going back and forth.
Senator Moncion: I don’t think it’s a normal procedure because before ISG existed, there was only the Liberals and the Conservatives, no leaders of the government or ISG, so the amounts were divided between the two groups. So I think there was an understanding, I think it was in the rules, that in the past couple of years it has been in limbo because the rules are not clear and there are four groups now. It is not normal. That’s the answer to your question.
Senator Tannas: I want to remind members and maybe newer members, those of us on the subcommittee felt that we could argue all day, we could argue for months about who should get what. So we said it was a matter of leadership and the leaders needed to agree, given an envelope of money what ought to happen. That was our statement here to everybody: we would leave it to them. If we don’t like it, as Senator Marwah says, we’ll call them in here and we can get into the weeds with them.
As it stands right now, those numbers were all agreed to by all the leaders.
Senator Moncion: The question of Senator Batters was if it was a normal, and it was not a normal, but it might become a normal.
Senator Batters: We’ve had this situation for the last three years now so we have had situations.
The Chair: Anyway, if we have questions on the leaders’ budgets, please let me know and I will ask the leaders to come here and we can question them all we want. But I don’t think it’s appropriate for us to comment on it because none of us were part of those discussions and it’s really inappropriate for us to answer them.
Senator Moncion: There was another comment made by Senator Batters about the fact that some budgets are going up and some going down. We also need to be cognizant of the size of the groups. There are groups that are growing and others that are shrinking in size. We also have to think, at some point — and we understand leadership and we understand opposition and all that, but we still have to remember that the sizes are changing. I’m not sure that right now it is being necessarily fully recognized in the numbers.
Senator Batters: It looks like they want more money.
Senator Moncion: I’m sorry, I didn’t hear your comment.
Senator Batters: I have another question.
The Chair: Keep going.
Senator Batters: On page 6, Pierre, of the presentation, the sections of the explanations for what you term as senator-sponsored transformations and the additional millions of dollars for those particular items, does that mean extra money that’s been added to the existing budgets for each of those particular departments, such as communications, human resources, broadcasting and those sorts of things? Is that additional amounts that are being added to those? That’s not the full amount for each of those departments; is that correct?
Mr. Lanctôt: That’s the incremental money spent on those.
Senator Batters: The additional money?
Mr. Lanctôt: That’s correct.
Senator Batters: All right. And then I just point out that on that same page under “Caucuses’ Group Expenses” you point out that part of this increase was the caucus group expenses has gone from $2.7 million to $5.6 million, correct?
Mr. Lanctôt: That’s correct.
Senator Batters: Thank you.
The Chair: Any other questions for Pierre?
Senator Forest: It is a very good report. There is something that puzzles me. In January, there was an article in La Presse that I found rather surprising. It said that as managers, our spending was out of control with an increase of 30 per cent, as though we suddenly increased our spending by 30 per cent. What was the percentage of increase since 2014-15?
Mr. Lanctôt: Thank you for the question.
Senator Forest: When I look at 2019-20 compared to 2018-19, I see a 5 per cent increase. How is the overall budget for 2014-15 and 2015-16 itemized? Is it possible to get an answer?
Mr. Lanctôt: Yes, as mentioned on pages 8 and 9, as for actual expenses — we can talk about the budget as well — the average annual rate of increase was 6.4 per cent of total expenses.
Senator Forest: That is the average rate, but I want to know the itemized yearly rate. In what years did the rate fluctuate? The rates must have fluctuated at some point because there are years when there were 82 senators and other years when there were 92. I would like to know the yearly percentage increase between 2014-15 and 2015-16.
Mr. Lanctôt: We do not have that information. In fact, the information was calculated, but I cannot give you percentages. I would have to find those. However, with respect to the problem we are facing, we examined the numbers —
The Chair: I think Pascale has the information. Pascale, why don’t you tell Senator Forest what the information is?
Ms. Legault: The factual information is the increase from 2015-16 to 2016-17 was 9 per cent, and from 2016-2017 to 2017-18, it was 15 per cent, and from 2017-18 to 2018-19 it was 5 per cent, and the same thing for the last overall budget. If we compare 2018-19 to 2019-20, overall it is 5 per cent. This is all excluding —
Senator Forest: If I understand correctly, in 2016-17 the increase was 9 per cent and in 2017-18 the increase was 15 per cent, for a 24 per cent increase in two years and the claim is that we are heading toward a 30 per cent increase. There is an issue of intellectual integrity here.
The Chair: I think the numbers are clearly explained on page 4 of Pierre’s deck. In the numbers at the bottom it shows 85.6 to 82.9 to 90.1 to 103.5 to 109. If you add the percentage increases, as Pascale says, it’s 8.7, 15.3, 5.0 and 4.7, so the numbers are there on page 3 for everybody to see.
Senator Tkachuk: I was just going to get to the point where it was, I think, 2014-15 you have the 85.623 versus the 114 today. But I think in the previous year of 2013-14, we had almost the same situation. We had pretty close to a full contingent of senators at the time and I think it was still around $85 million, less PPS.
Mr. Lanctôt: I didn’t bring the numbers pre-2014. One thing that is important to note is when looking at the year-over-year growth, there are expenses that are not necessarily occurring in the year they are either decided or that the expenses relate to.
For example, this in 2018-19, 2019-20, we have significant salary adjustments that are made in those two years related to previous years. So if we have no salary adjustments for three years, there’s no growth in the expenses. In one year, we give three or four years retroactivity, and suddenly all our expenses are increasing at once.
It’s similar with transformation projects. One year we make a decision to do a transformation. It takes a certain amount of time before the budget and actual expenses are translated into the numbers. It’s an interesting indication when looking at growth year over year, but because the pattern and the expenses are not necessarily hitting the year that they relate to, I would just caution to extrapolate that in that year we are increasing the expenses by 6 per cent, when it’s actually for previous years.
Senator Tkachuk: But salary increases are a normal occurrence. It’s not something unusual. If you go from — all I was trying to get at is that we had almost a full contingent in 2013-14 and we now have no security costs for personnel and we’re at $114,189,000. My understanding was there were 40 extra personnel hired over the past year or two years. Just help me out with that; is that correct?
Mr. Lanctôt: Yes. First of all, it’s not true that we don’t have security personnel. We don’t have the physical security, like the PPS people, but we still have an internal corporate security group.
Senator Tkachuk: I understand that. I’m talking about the foot soldiers that are now run under a separate authority, but what I was getting at was the 40 more personnel. Maybe you could tell me what directorate they’re from.
The Chair: I think if you go to the details sheet that was presented that was in the mail out, you could see that at the top of page 2 it shows PPS going from 14 to 19, 19 to 20. The numbers are there including the dollars and the number of staff. When it was divided in 2015-16 between CSD and PPS, it was at 14. That went to 19 in 2016-17, 19 in 2017-18 and in 2020, so the numbers are there.
Senator Tkachuk: But we had an extra 40; is that right?
Mr. Lanctôt: If you look at annex 1, appendix A and B of the briefing notes, it shows all the positions by directorate, the new positions that were created last year and this year. So in 2018-19 we added a total of 31 FTEs and in 2019-20 it’s 26.2. In 2018-19, 14.8 positions were related, paid and financed by the LTVP and this year, there is one additional position related to LTVP.
Senator Tkachuk: So the majority were what departments? I know we have this paper here, but the public can’t read the paper so that’s why I’m asking you the questions, so you would answer so we get something on the record.
Mr. Lanctôt: There were 31.5 positions in 2018-19 and 26.2 positions in 2019-20.
Senator Tkachuk: What departments?
Mr. Lanctôt: Basically, there is —
Senator Tkachuk: Let me ask you then, was there any increase in Finance?
Mr. Lanctôt: Finance? Last year, we had two, three, 4.3 positions last year.
Senator Tkachuk: How many in Communications?
Mr. Lanctôt: In Communications, we had three.
Senator Tkachuk: How many in Human Resources?
Mr. Lanctôt: Human Resources, we had one.
Senator Tkachuk: Two?
Mr. Lanctôt: Two, yes, one permanent and one temporary.
Senator Tkachuk: Okay. Thank you.
The Chair: It’s all in the sheet.
Senator Tkachuk: I understand that.
The Chair: I understand that, Senator Tkachuk.
Senator Tkachuk: And I know that but —
The Chair: Fair enough.
Senator Tkachuk: I am asking the questions so he can answer them so the people can hear what is in here. Right?
Senator Saint-Germain: I am very pleased that we had this presentation today because it confirms that we have control over our spending and that we have good regular, even monthly review mechanisms with an Audit Subcommittee that reviews the numbers that are submitted to us. In the explanations, I will focus on the importance of the recurring decisions that have a year over year impact, over which we have control.
Take communications for example. Three years ago, a decision was made — and I am not disputing that decision — to overhaul our policy and our Communications team. At the time, we went from 10 regular positions to four contract positions to 36 positions today. That has significant consequences annually.
I also want to focus on Senate employee salary scales, which are not set by the Senate, but are modelled after government salary scales. When a pay increase is made retroactively — as Mr. Lanctôt explained so well — this obviously has an impact on the current fiscal year.
In fact, I have a question. There is something I don’t understand about the increases. I refer you to page 6—
— changes in the Senate budget between 2014-15 to 2019-20.
At the second line, we see that the biggest annual increase was 8.7 per cent that year. The increase went from $82,886 to $90,115 and the following year, in 2017-18, it was 15.3 per cent. I understand that this is one of the issues with senator office budgets.
Can you tell me who made that decision? What was the percentage increase? Who was serving on CIBA?
Mr. Lanctôt: The senator office budget increase occurred in 2017-18.
Senator Saint-Germain: When was the decision made?
Mr. Lanctôt: The decision was made in summer 2016 when the budgets were prepared for the next fiscal year. I was not in the Senate at the time, but from what I understand, a comparative study was done of a certain number of key Senate positions and key positions in ministerial offices. The Senate budget for those positions was compared to that of the House of Commons or of ministerial offices and the budgets were adjusted.
Senator Saint-Germain: Okay, that’s why — I also understand that the budget is indexed to inflation.
Mr. Lanctôt: Absolutely.
Senator Saint-Germain: When we talk about budget increases it is always important to remember the impact of our previous decisions to rebuild our human resources, communications, broadcasting, which is very positive, the Chief Corporate Services Officer position — Maintaining a triple structure costs money and there are issues with systems and information technologies. I think it is truly important to consider that when we look at and comment on the percentage increase of the budget.
I have no other comments.
Senator Forest: The only thing I would say is that I think that the budgetary process was carried out diligently by professionals. As managers, we in turn were diligent in approving the budget.
I was truly offended at the suggestion that we were out of control and that we increased our budget by 30 per cent in five years. Yes, we increased our budget by 30 per cent in five years, but what you are telling me with your numbers is that our budget increased by 24 per cent in 2016-17 and 2017-18, which leaves 6 per cent for the other three years. I think that in terms of management, I must commend you on the 2 per cent annual increase for the other years. I was deeply shocked at the suggestion that we were careless managers who were on the brink of a financial disaster. That is not how I managed public funds for 26 years. I was frustrated to read that.
I just wanted to clarify that for the public and put it on the record.
Senator Moncion: I have a question. Senator office budgets increased from $185,400 to $222,480, or an increase of $37,000. That increase was approved in Budget 2016. How is it possible that there was such a significant increase in the senator office budgets? We are talking about the period preceding the arrival of independent senators.
I want to understand what happened to get us to such an increase.
Mr. Lanctôt: As I mentioned previously, in summer 2016, a study was done to compare senators’ offices with key positions at ministers’ offices. An assessment of staff salary was also done.
As far as increasing budgets is concerned, that was to make them comparable to key positions because most of the increases are linked to salaries.
Senator Moncion: Is that because we were losing employees because salaries weren’t high enough? Did we have a human resources problem? You may not be able to say, but was it related to something like that?
Mr. Lanctôt: From what I understand there was a bit of a challenge and a decision was made to look into it. You raise an important question because I look at some of the human resources statistics and the employee turnover rates at the Senate and at senators’ offices, which has increased by 76 per cent since 2014-15.
Senator Moncion: You mean three out of four of our employees have left since 2014-15?
Mr. Lanctôt: No, that is the increase. We were at 7.5 per cent turnover and now we are at just over 14 per cent. I am speculating a bit, but this may be partially why adjustments were made. The employee turnover rate seems to be trending upward.
Senator Moncion: Since you are open to speculation, I have one last question. Could this explain why there is so much turnover now? Do we still have the same sort of problem? In other words, are employees dissatisfied with the pay they get for the work they do at the Senate, resulting in constant turnover?
The Chair: I think that question is probably better addressed to HR. If that’s something we want to follow, let’s get HR and then get their views on what compensation policies we should have. For the CFO’s perspective, that is really not a fair question to answer.
Senator Housakos: I’m probably best-suited around the table to address some of the questions and concerns, particularly some of the concerns that Senator Moncion brought up.
Just to remind some of the senators, because very few were around back then, when we took the decision to have the bump of salaries — I think $37,000 — budgets for senators for their staff —
The reason for that — you have to go back to the context at the time. Independent senators started to be named as of 2015, Senator Moncion. In 2016, there were a number of them that were named. As of day one, the first thing the government did was name non-affiliated senators.
Second, we should recall that just before that, the current government, when they were in opposition, they decided to toss out of their national caucus the independent Liberals, who were members of the Liberal caucus at the time. We were found with a big chunk of Liberals at the time who were orphans. As a result, at Internal Economy, there was discussion, unanimously taken, that, given the new spirit of independence of that particular group — and they did not have the support of their caucus infrastructure that we would normally have on a national basis — plus there was a comparative study done by estimates at the time that MPs’ offices were significantly larger —
Senator Tkachuk: After the election.
Senator Housakos: — after the election — than ours, we decided to create a balance. We still didn’t balance it, for obvious reasons, but we took under consideration the new facts of the Liberal independent caucus.
We also took into consideration the independent senators who were to come in, as they gradually did come in. We were under the assumption they were going to be independent senators. As a result, we did not calculate the fact the independent senators would be independent senators in the caucus as well. So that particular cost wasn’t factored.
I also want to highlight that if you go back to our budgetary year of 2014 — and I wasn’t chair at the time; I think it was Senator Nolin and Senator Kinsella — I believe in 2014, we had a full roster in the Senate — 105 senators — and the operating budget that particular fiscal year was $85 million.
Again, the argument that the spike of 38 per cent since 2015 is due to the fact that we have a full roster is not accurate. Again, I wanted to explain the context of why there was a bump of budgets at that time approved.
The Chair: We are going to run out of time. Senator Moncion, one last question.
Senator Moncion: Thank you for the explanations you just provided. It goes back to Senator Forest’s comment, as there are explanations for all of these increases. Putting it on the fact that it’s due to the new senators and having that in a newspaper is offensive, because we know there are findings and circumstances that made these expenses needed at the time they were needed.
What we’re doing today is great, because we get the information, and we get the history that goes with these costs that were going up.
I’m just a little bit dérangée by some of the stuff that is written in newspapers that is untrue and that gives information that is inaccurate to taxpayers. It doesn’t matter. It’s disinformation, which is —
Senator Housakos: I think you’re absolutely right, but I don’t think anyone has ever made the claim that independent senators are to blame for this. I think the claim the model —
The Chair: We have to end, because we have one minute left. Obviously, we have to defer the remaining items to next week’s agenda. But I would like to bring the Main Estimates — thank you very much. It was a very thorough presentation in terms of mail-out, as well as your presentation. Pierre and Nathalie, thank you for all the hard work you’ve done in putting this in place.
If it’s okay with senators, I will move to table the Main Estimates in the Senate, and I will bring back a motion specifically to approve the caucus budgets. Are we all in agreement with that? Because we do need to table the estimates and get approval. We’re all in agreement we’ll do that.
The remaining items we will have to defer to the next meeting, which is both the in camera — there is nothing urgent, Pascale tells me, that has to be approved today, so we will defer the rest to the next meeting.
(The committee adjourned.)