THE STANDING COMMITTEE ON INTERNAL ECONOMY, BUDGETS AND ADMINISTRATION
OTTAWA, Thursday, May 30, 2019
The Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration met this day at 8:30 a.m., in public and in camera, 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. Welcome to the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration.
My name is Senator Sabi Marwah, and I have the privilege of serving as chair of this committee. I would ask each of the senators to introduce themselves starting on my left.
Senator Munson: Jim Munson, Ontario.
Senator Dawson: Dennis Dawson from Quebec.
Senator Mitchell: Grant Mitchell, Alberta, Treaty 6 Territory.
Senator Forest: Good morning. Éric Forest from the Gulf region of Quebec.
Senator Saint-Germain: Raymonde Saint-Germain from Quebec.
Senator Verner: Josée Verner from Quebec.
Senator Moncion: Lucie Moncion from Ontario.
Senator Dean: Tony Dean, Ontario.
Senator Wetston: Howard Wetston, Ontario.
Senator Frum: Linda Frum, Ontario.
Senator Plett: Don Plett, Landmark, Manitoba.
Senator Tannas: Scott Tannas, Alberta.
Senator Tkachuk: David Tkachuk, Saskatchewan.
Senator Marshall: Elizabeth Marshall, Newfoundland and Labrador.
Senator Batters: Denise Batters, Saskatchewan. I’m the deputy chair.
The Chair: Thank you, senators. A copy of the public minutes from May 16 is in your package. Are there any questions or changes?
Can I have a motion to adopt the minutes? Senator Saint-Germain, thank you. It is moved by the Honourable Senator Saint-Germain to adopt the minutes. Agreed? Carried.
The next item is on access and circulation within the Senate of Canada Building. At the table you have Richard Denis, Interim Clerk of the Senate and Clerk of the Parliaments and Chief Legislative Services Officer; Julie Lacroix, Director, Corporate Security Directorate; and Pierre Lanctôt, Chief Financial Officer, Finance and Procurement Directorate.
Richard Denis, Interim Clerk of the Senate and Clerk of the Parliaments and Chief Legislative Services Officer: Good morning, everyone. I’m Richard Denis, the Interim Clerk of the Senate, and I am accompanied this morning by Julie Lacroix, Director of the Senate Corporate Security Directorate, and Pierre Lanctôt, Chief Financial Officer.
As you know, along with my colleagues Pascale Legault, Chief Corporate Services Officer, and Philippe Hallée, Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel, we form the Senate Administration’s executive committee.
We are here to discuss the recent implementation of ushers on a temporary basis in the new Senate of Canada Building following the move of the Senate from the Centre Block in February 2019.
Following recent articles in the media regarding the implementation of this measure, we met with the chair of CIBA on Tuesday and it was decided that the use of ushers would be suspended until the matter could be considered by the steering committee and CIBA.
To give some background, after the rehearsals conducted by the administration in preparation for the move to the new building and feedback received from senators who had moved into the building, it became clear that the specific layout of the building created challenges for visitors, witnesses, and anyone with mobility restrictions as they tried to move around the building.
To facilitate the transition to the new building and to ensure the needs of senators, staff, witnesses and visitors are met during sitting weeks, the Corporate Security Directorate has decided to hire ushers for a short period.
At the time, it was expected that the ushers would only be needed until the end of March. The initial contract was for $24,000, which was within the authority of the Director of CSD to approve a sole-source contract as time constraints did not allow for a competitive process.
The arrival of the ushers was well received. When it became apparent that there would be a need to extend the contract until the end of April, a further $11,000 was added to the contract, which was still within the $35,000 limit for a sole-source contract.
It was only at the end of April, after an assessment of needs and when it was known that certain automatic door openers would not be installed until after the summer adjournment, that it was determined by CSD that it would be prudent to keep the ushers until the summer adjournment.
It was at this time that the approval of the executive committee was sought by CSD to extend the amount of the contract by a further $35,000 to allow time for a competitive process to be undertaken for the provision of usher services. The statement of work needed for the competitive process was prepared later that same day and the process was undertaken.
All along, the executive committee has relied on the approval processes contained in the Senate Procurement Policy so that, for purchases below $35,000, the cost centre manager can approve a sole source acquisition if justified under section 2.13 of the policy. For purchases above $35,000 but less than $100,000, the cost centre manager can ask the executive committee to approve a sole source acquisition if justified under section 2.17 of the procurement policy. That’s the exception.
However, going forward, it is our intention that the executive committee should seek greater clarification and guidance from both the steering committee and CIBA on what items below the threshold should be brought to their attention.
Senators, you were provided with a briefing note giving you the background on the implementation of the ushers in the Senate of Canada Building. We will be glad to answer your questions in a moment, but I will first ask Ms. Lacroix to say a few words about the role of the ushers. Thank you for your attention.
Julie Lacroix, Director, Corporate Security Directorate, Senate of Canada: Honourable senators, as the Senate security lead, the Corporate Security Directorate advises on matters of security, represents the institution amongst the parliamentary security partners and implements programs and services to support its core responsibilities. These responsibilities contribute to an overarching, precinct-wide security strategy which is dependent upon all the parliamentary security partners.
The core areas of my responsibility are risk management, access control, and technical architecture and operations. Recently, in the media, senators expressed their concerns that they were not informed of the contract to hire ushers. I can confirm that some members of this committee were briefed and this matter was brought to their attention.
I was called to appear before the LTVP subcommittee on February 21. However, given that the discussions at this meeting were in camera I will only speak generally to the update I provided to the subcommittee members that day.
I provided an update on the security infrastructure and technology in place in this new building and on the solution to use ushers to assist with the facilitation of the movement of people and as a mitigation measure for the accessibility challenges we face in building.
I can also confirm that on another occasion, March 21, I was called to the table to discuss how I planned on addressing the design challenges which were impeding on senators’ ability to conduct parliamentary business in the senator’s work area. The location of this space is behind a restricted zone accessible to senators only.
I informed the LTVP subcommittee that I was committed to working with the partners in order to have a new door installed just beyond the work area. However, in the meantime, I would post an usher in this location who would work hand-in-hand with the Senate pages to facilitate access for Senate staff to their senators.
Although it is not a security element, knowing full well the impact that the lack of automatic door operators would have on accessibility and one’s ability to navigate in the building should they have a mobility restriction, I negotiated an arrangement with Public Services and Procurement Canada to have them acknowledge the delays and the impact this has on senators, Senate staff and the public. As a result of my efforts, they have agreed to cover the majority of the costs associated with the procurement of the ushers.
In the end, the use of ushers will be of limited cost to the Senate. I pride myself on maintaining a client-focused philosophy and my only objective was to ensure that this transition to the new building would not only be seamless to those I serve, you, as senators, but for the public as well.
The ushers are part of CSD’s apparatus and their role is to ensure senators maintain unfettered access privileges and to facilitate the movement of people, senators, Senate staff, visitors, committee witnesses and gallery attendees as they circulate in the building and transition through various zones.
The ushers were scheduled to work on parliamentary sitting days to support parliamentary functions.
I would like to remind you that the decision to hire ushers was made following a full consultation with my colleagues and the members of the Parliamentary Protective Service (PPS) in a spirit of cooperation with the partners I work with and in accordance with the Parliament Hill integrated security framework.
In recognizing the complementary mandate of the CSB — my colleagues — and the fact that the ushers would not be responsible for physical security, my colleagues at the PPS supported me and supported the use of ushers before they took their positions. Their duty was to facilitate movement of people in the building.
Since this was not a security matter, the Speaker’s approval was not considered necessary and no request was made to him in this regard. However, as this was a Senate matter, the Office of the Speaker was notified as a courtesy. Since some ushers were to be stationed in areas under the Speaker’s authority, further consultations were held with the members of the Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Security, as well as with the Office of the Speaker.
I will be happy to answer any questions you may have.
Senator Batters: Thank you very much. I appreciate all of you being here today. I want to make a couple of comments. The briefing note that was received last night at nine o’clock, there were just a couple of corrections I wanted to highlight.
First of all, in the timeline section, May 21, 2019, where it says that:
Members of the steering committee were first made aware of the contract and approved the responses to media questions as they arose.
That is not correct with respect to me. I raised serious and significant questions that were not dealt with on this issue or answered in any way, so I did not approve any of the media responses on this particular issue, and that is unusual because typically I do.
I also wanted to raise that on page 5 of the briefing note it talks about what those who drafted the briefing note believed to be potentially a bit of a question about section 2.17 of the Senate Procurement Policy and 2.18 of the Senate Procurement Policy. Section 2.17 is the exceptions section, and that one is permissive; 2.18 is mandatory, stating that: CIBA must review and approve sole-source contracts above the $35,000 threshold.
I would point that out and say that because it’s mandatory and not permissive, that would take priority. Also something that the briefing note doesn’t address but in case there is any further question about which one would take priority or whether there is a potential question as to that, then it’s necessary to look at the roles and responsibilities section, the very next section of the Senate Procurement Policy, which is section 3.1 of the Senate Procurement Policy. It states:
With respect to the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration, it says that committee is responsible for:
(c) reviewing requests for goods and services exceeding $100,000 in value or other requests brought to the attention of the Committee; and
This is the important one.
(d) reviewing and issuing a decision for requests for exemptions to the competitive sourcing process.
The briefing note does not that have in there at all, and always when you’re looking at a policy or a law or rules, that sort of thing, it’s necessary always to consult the roles and responsibilities. And that very clearly defines that’s a mandatory step there. Thank you for that.
Then to go to my questions. First of all, Ms. Lacroix, on that, who is your Senate boss?
Ms. Lacroix: Mr. Richard Denis.
Senator Batters: Anyone other than that or just Richard?
Ms. Lacroix: I report to Richard Denis.
Senator Batters: Okay.
Mr. Denis, who is your Senate boss?
Mr. Denis: I’m appointed by the Governor-in-Council, so I report to the Speaker and also to the chair of this committee.
Senator Batters: Thank you.
Ms. Lacroix, eight days ago, on May 22, I, as CIBA deputy chair, sent you an email asking you some serious and significant questions about this issue, but I didn’t receive any response from you. Why didn’t I receive any response?
Ms. Lacroix: Thank you for your question, senator. When you sent the email to us, many of those questions were in the media responses we were providing at the time for Alison Korn to provide to the committee members.
Senator Batters: I sent that email on late last Wednesday afternoon on May 22.
The first very brief media response wasn’t sent until that Thursday and then they trickled out, but there were definitely some serious questions that to this date still have not been answered. Anything else to add on that? You believe that the responses that were being provided were satisfactory to my questions?
Ms. Lacroix: Correct.
Senator Batters: Thanks. Ms. Lacroix, who made the decision to approve this contract, just you alone?
Ms. Lacroix: I made the decision to approve the contract up to $35,000, that’s correct. So the original contract of $24,000 as well as the amendment of $11,000.
Senator Batters: What were the dates for those contracts?
Ms. Lacroix: February 18, as indicated in the timeline.
Senator Batters: February 18 was the first one?
Ms. Lacroix: Was the first contract and the second contract was March 28.
Senator Batters: And the final one I think you said was $35,000. What date was that one?
Ms. Lacroix: The $35,000 was April 30, where I sought the approval of the executive committee for the increase in funds.
Senator Batters: I think you stated this but I wanted to clarify. So the Speaker did not approve this contract then; is that correct?
Ms. Lacroix: No, I did not seek the Speaker’s approval for this contract.
Senator Batters: Did he or his office have any involvement in that decision?
Ms. Lacroix: As I indicated in my opening statement, I consulted with the Speaker’s office as well as the members of the Speaker’s advisory committee, given some of the areas where ushers were posted are under the authority of the Speaker.
Senator Batters: According to the briefing note, Monday, February 4 was the day you decide these ushers were needed in the Senate building; is that correct?
Ms. Lacroix: Correct. As a result of the feedback received during the dry runs and rehearsals that were conducted as well as once we took post and possession in this building after the move, I realized service gaps. There were challenges from accessibility and circulation, and immediately I knew I needed to come up with a solution to address the gaps and to ensure that we had mitigation measures in place in a short timeframe ahead of the Senate’s return in mid-February.
Senator Batters: Ms. Lacroix, section 2.13.2 of the Senate Procurement Policy contains an important section that says this:
Procurement must not be divided into separate contracts solely to avoid a competitive process or the appropriate contract approval authorities.
You’re aware of that particular section?
Ms. Lacroix: I’m aware, yes.
Senator Batters: Are you the contracting authority on this particular contract; and, if not, who is?
Ms. Lacroix: I am the end user and I believe Finance is the contract authority, but I will let my colleague in Finance speak to the specifics of that.
Pierre Lanctôt, Chief Financial Officer, Finance and Procurement Directorate, Senate of Canada: That’s correct. From a contracting authority perspective, at the Senate it’s the contracting procurement group that has this authority.
Senator Batters: Thank you. Section 2.18.4 of the Senate Procurement Policy states this:
In all cases, a formal record of the decision authorizing a sole-source contract must be provided to the contracting authority and included in the contract file.
So I guess then this question would be — I’m not sure if it’s to Ms. Lacroix or Mr. Lanctôt — I’m wondering if that was done and could we get a copy of that?
Ms. Lacroix: That’s correct. When we sought approval from the executive committee, a formal written response was submitted to Finance and Pierre’s team to initiate the increase.
Senator Batters: So our committee received this particular briefing note last night at nine o’clock. In eight full days of dealing frequently with this issue and with steering that I am a member of and with draft media responses, this last night was the very first time that I had ever seen or heard any mention of the automatic door openers issue or possible Public Works department reimbursement that you described earlier today. If there was such an easy answer to be provided to us and to the public and to the media, why didn’t we or the media hear about that days ago?
Ms. Lacroix: As I indicated, senator, I provided those briefings to the LTVP subcommittee on two occasions, February 21 and March 21.
Senator Batters: Why wasn’t that provided in the media draft responses or to members of steering as explanation as to why this was happening?
Ms. Lacroix: We did provide a response that the role of the ushers was to facilitate the circulation and movement of people, as well as to address accessibility challenges throughout the building.
The Chair: Can we come to a second round because there are seven people on the list?
Senator Batters: Yes, sure.
The Chair: If you could come back to a second round.
Senator Batters: Second round, that would be great.
Senator Tkachuk: Who provided the information for Ms. Korn to provide her response to the media?
Ms. Lacroix: It would be myself and Pierre with respect to the financial procurement policy questions.
Senator Tkachuk: Who has been giving Ms. Korn the approval for the answers she is providing?
Ms. Lacroix: I would assume that’s the senators.
The Chair: Senator Munson and myself as members of steering.
Senator Tkachuk: Wouldn’t there have been be a third member of steering?
The Chair: Yes, there was, but Senator Batters recused herself and said she didn’t want to be part of the response.
Senator Tkachuk: So then there wasn’t a steering response?
The Chair: But a response — the rules of the steering say two out of three is a majority, and that’s what we went with.
Senator Tkachuk: I have a couple more questions. I find that very strange.
What are ushers?
Ms. Lacroix: They facilitate the navigation throughout the building or a space. They facilitate access control. They support that function for us.
Senator Tkachuk: What are ushers? Are there people in the Yellow Pages or computer somewhere saying, “We have usher services for hire”?
Ms. Lacroix: No, senator.
Senator Tkachuk: Who are these people? What’s the company? What do they do for a living?
Ms. Lacroix: They’re a security provider company.
Senator Tkachuk: They’re a security provider?
Ms. Lacroix: Correct.
Senator Tkachuk: So this was a security issue. These were not ushers. Well, okay, help me out here. Do security companies provide ushers? Can a movie company hire them or whatever? What are these people? I’m asking.
Ms. Lacroix: In my consultations with members of the Speaker’s Advisory Committee, it was recommended that I hire companies with a security background. While they were not performing a security role, they needed to understand security to help them do their job, and by them understanding security they would understand the integrative framework we have here on Parliament Hill and the multiple partners. And they would understand to not delve into the physical security role, strictly stay to performing the facilitation of moment of people throughout the building, as well as support access control and help mitigate the accessibility challenges. I think, by them having a security background, that helped, and that was a true statement to that. There are no ushering companies.
Senator Tkachuk: What references did you get? What companies did you consider? You must have considered more than one.
Ms. Lacroix: We did consider a few companies.
Senator Tkachuk: Who would they be?
Ms. Lacroix: I’m not sure, because of the competitive process, can I answer that?
Senator Tkachuk: There is no competitive process obviously.
Ms. Lacroix: We reached out to key security provider companies and one concierge service that did not provide that service at all.
Senator Tkachuk: Could you tell what companies you went to? What companies did you look at to provide the service?
Ms. Lacroix: That is sensitive information; I wouldn’t be able to discuss that.
Senator Tkachuk: Ma’am, this is not sensitive information. This is information that is provided. These people obviously market to you so you would know who they are. Who are the people you considered?
The Chair: Senator Tkachuk, if we do —
Senator Tkachuk: Just have her answer the questions, chair.
The Chair: Why don’t we go in camera and she will gladly answer the question on that particular issue, on the five companies and the names of the companies. I think it’s best and appropriate to handle it. It’s not that we don’t want to give you the information but why don’t we do that in camera?
Senator Tkachuk: Chair, this was not a competitive process from what I understand.
The Chair: But she went to the five companies.
Senator Tkachuk: If all you do is look at five companies, who are the companies that you looked at? Why is that so sensitive? Why would that be sensitive?
Ms. Lacroix: I have to consult with the Law Clerk and my colleagues in Finance.
The Chair: Is it standard practice to provide the public with information on who the competitors are?
Mr. Lanctôt: In this specific case, because we actually contacted the company, even if it was not an open RFP, we did contact the company and asked if they could provide the service. Because there was discussion with those potential suppliers, I think we should not necessarily, because they provided answers about their services. Typically we don’t discuss the suppliers in the open forum.
Senator Tkachuk: I didn’t ask to give any private information. I asked who the companies were that they considered.
The Chair: Why don’t we take that in camera and we will gladly give the name of the companies. There’s obviously sensitivity and we don’t want to start a process whereby we start letting everyone know who the RFP or potential discussions are with because then we open the door to saying that every time we are asked. It’s best discussed in camera. We will gladly have the information in camera.
Senator Tkachuk: I have to say I disagree with you. I find the fact that as the Internal Economy Committee we can’t ask what companies we looked at to provide a security service.
The Chair: To be fair, other companies might take issue that they were considered and other companies knowing who their competition is. I think these things are best discussed in camera. Companies might take issue with their names being divulged when they have been told that their names will not be divulged.
Senator Tkachuk: Have they been told their names haven’t been divulged? Have they been told?
The Chair: I think that’s —
Senator Tkachuk: Well, I’m asking. You said it. Have they been told that their names would not be divulged?
Mr. Lanctôt: When we conduct a confidential process usually there is an assumption that it’s not going to be in the public arena. Even when there is a competitive process, we don’t publicly release the names of the firms who bid on contracts, whether it’s a limited procurement or a public tender. It’s not a common practice to publicly disclose the name of the bidders, and, by extension, who was not selected or who was not responding. That’s a typical procurement practice.
Senator Tannas: Thank you for the explanation, the briefing note. I want to acknowledge on behalf of the Long Term Vision Planning committee members that we were briefed on the problems and the bottlenecks that came as a result of the new security apparatus. And it certainly was my understanding that it was going to take some time to fix the problems and that these people were here to help make sure — as we now know, now our solution is to prop open one of the doors here so people can come and go. And we’ll live with that until the summer when there is enough time to get everything rewired, reprogrammed and fixed.
I’m interested in simply making sure that we followed the rules, and so I’ve got a couple of questions.
As of May 27, we were essentially at $95,000 of expenditures.
Ms. Lacroix: Not of expenditures.
Senator Tannas: The 95,000 was —
Ms. Lacroix: The total value.
Senator Tannas: Sorry, that’s what I mean. We were at $95,000 as of May 27, right?
Ms. Lacroix: Ninety-five thousand total contract value. However —
Senator Tannas: And had that been spent?
Ms. Lacroix: No.
Senator Tannas: Okay. So when would we have run out of the $25,000 that got us to $95,000?
Ms. Lacroix: End of June.
Senator Tannas: So that would have got us all the way to the end of the session under the $100,000?
Ms. Lacroix: Correct.
Senator Tannas: Perfect. You expect that you will be able to have a non-human solution, something that does not require some guy to stand there all day opening and closing the door, by the time we come back after the election; is that fair to say? For instance, where you have ushers are places where it makes no sense to have what’s there, right? You can’t have people in the gallery who can’t get out. That makes no sense. So that kind of stuff will all get fixed so that by the time we come back we won’t need ushers, right, and we actually probably won’t need them when we’re not here; is that fair to say?
Ms. Lacroix: I will answer your questions as I got them. With respect to having everything fixed by the time you return, I would defer to my colleagues in Property and Services for the timelines. At PSPC, however, the automatic door operators are proposed to be fixed in two phases. We’ve identified priority zones along the primary circulation path and their plan for PSPC is to have those installed and implemented in the summer. And then the second phase, which has less of an impact, where we may not necessarily have ushers placed, it would be done in the fall.
However, that being said, there are some areas, like the galleries, galleries and restricted item cloak room, we would still require an usher for that service when you come back.
Senator Tannas: Fair enough. So you mentioned — and I think this makes total sense — that PSPC, Public Works, pick up the tab for the cost of this, or at least a significant portion, which is what I heard. When did you open up discussions with them on that and when did you receive an okay that they would pay?
Ms. Lacroix: I opened up discussions with them at the end of March when we realized that they were not able to install the door operators by the end of March. And they agreed, with acknowledgement of the delay, that they should cover the cost of the ushers.
Senator Tannas: When did they agree to that?
Ms. Lacroix: They agreed in April. We had some negotiations with them in April.
Senator Tannas: Thank you.
Senator Marshall: Thank you very much for your presentation. I looked at this matter from a very narrow perspective. I looked at it to determine if we had complied with our procurement policy, and I’m trying to figure out what sections apply to this purchase of services.
It looked to me, and confirm this or not, like this was a sole source purchase? That’s what it was? But it exceeded $35,000. There are seven exceptions under the policy to justify sole source. So we must have gone under the urgent requirement?
Ms. Lacroix: Yes.
Senator Marshall: It was the urgent requirement. So when you read through the procurement policy, it’s just like a decision tree. So if this situation exists, you do this, and if this situation exists, you do that.
It says if it is sole sourced, you need pre-authorization from the Clerk and the committee. The Clerk’s authorization was approved, wasn’t it?
Ms. Lacroix: Yes.
Senator Marshall: What about the committee? Under 2.18.3 — I don’t know if you have the policy. It says:
Requests from the Senate Administration for sole sourcing above the applicable thresholds . . .
Because it did go above the $35,000. I mean, initially it didn’t but it eventually went above the $35,000. It says:
. . . must be pre-authorized by Clerk of the Senate and the committee.
Mr. Denis: I will answer that, Senator Marshall. Thank you very much for the question.
First of all, to give you a bit of context, when this request came to the executive committee, essentially we were looking at the exception because of urgency and the need to come up with a decision because we felt we needed to continue the service as soon as possible.
In looking at it, at that point there were no flags raised or in a sense that there were no issues that were raised to the executive committee in terms of how the policy was to be applied. It’s only after now that we look at it that we see that there were practices used by the Senate Administration in how things were approved.
My understanding that the application of 2.17 gives — it’s an option, as you mentioned. So the exception to go over $35,000 can be authorized by the policy itself — that’s the emergency situation — or by the Clerk.
By the way, the policy is fairly old. It’s from 2011 and it dates back from before the existence of the executive committee. So when you see the Clerk, you should read the executive committee so you have the policy, the exception, or the executive committee or the committee. It is either/or. There are options there.
Senator Marshall: Even though the policy is several years old, it still is in effect.
Mr. Denis: Absolutely.
Senator Marshall: That section says:
Requests from the Senate Administration for sole sourcing above the applicable thresholds . . .
— which is the $35,000 —
. . . must be pre-authorized by the Clerk and the committee.
Mr. Denis: I’ll ask Pierre to explain how it is applied in practice.
Senator Marshall: Applying in practice — I don’t want to get into did we or did we not need the ushers. I want to stay away from all that. I just want it look at it in black and white now.
We have a procurement policy, and we have a contract that’s been added to. We have thresholds, so once something goes above that $35,000 threshold, there are rules that are very well defined in our procurement policy. Our procurement policy is a pretty good policy, and it’s actually very much like procurement policies in government departments.
Even though it’s six or seven years old, it still is a good policy, but it says it must be pre-authorized by the Clerk of the Senate and the committee. When I read that, I see it should have been approved by the committee, but we didn’t approve it.
I’ll leave it there. We can agree to disagree.
The next question I have is under section 2.27.1 it says that services greater than $10,000 must be disclosed quarterly and publicly.
Was that disclosed on our website? All our services have to be disclosed publicly. Was that reported on our website and reported publicly?
Mr. Lanctôt: We report on a quarterly basis. The last quarter of the year, Q4 2018-19 will be published today. Transactions after in April, May, June will be published in August. That contract will be included in the disclosure. The contract prior to —
Senator Marshall: In the next quarter.
Mr. Lanctôt: Yes. It is published, yes.
Senator Marshall: I’m just following through. I’m almost finished, Mr. Chair. Under section 2.27.2, for emergency contracting, the Director of Finance must report to the Clerk so I’m assuming that was done.
Mr. Lanctôt: Sorry, I was reading the note.
Senator Marshall: Section 2.27.2 says for emergency contracting, the Director of Finance must report this contract to the Clerk. So he’s aware of it? You did that?
Mr. Lanctôt: Yes.
Senator Marshall: Then under 3.1, it says CIBA must review and issue a decision for requests for exception to competitive sourcing. So we didn’t do that, did we? This is an exception to competitive sourcing. It’s sole sourced. There is a definition there for competitive — I’m going to look for it now. It says when goods or services are to be procured under this policy by competition, the contracting authority shall invite bids from suppliers by posting the business opportunity on the government electronic tendering service, the electronic bulletin board. We didn’t do that.
Mr. Lanctôt: Section 2.27.1, if there is a justified need that allows the Clerk or the Senate committee to approve the sole source.
One is the rule, and the other one is the role and responsibility. There is a role and responsibility for the committee, CIBA, to approve transactions when they are above $100,000, or for which there is no specific reasons for sole source.
Senator Marshall: Or if it’s above the $35,000 sole source amount.
Mr. Lanctôt: Above $35,000, according to 2.17.1 — If there is a reason, it says under paragraph 2.17.1 that the provision for the competitive process may be waived as authorized by the Clerk or the committee.
So if there is an exception —
Senator Marshall: I know, but the provision is policy governing competitive sourcing process by the Clerk. Surely the Clerk is not going to exempt CIBA from approving a contract that has now risen to almost $100,000?
Mr. Lanctôt: No, but 2.17 — essentially below $35,000, the director has the authority to sole source.
Senator Marshall: Yes, below $35,000. But we’re above $35,000 now.
Mr. Lanctôt: Above $100,000, everything comes to CIBA —
The Chair: Senator Marshall, why don’t we ask for legal interpretation on what policy applies and when?
Senator Tkachuk: Did it ever occur to anybody that the steering committee should be consulted on this? Did you guys have any discussions about this? Did it occur to you that, “Hey, we’re kind of moving along here and it’s costing us; we should maybe tell somebody.”
Mr. Denis: Absolutely, senator. Especially when you look at 2.11, it says “obtain approval for anything over $100,000.” So as we were getting closer to $100,000, we talked about the $95,000 a few minutes ago we had a discussion at the executive committee that we’re going to bring this to steering.
Senator Tkachuk: But what about after $35,000 — did it occur to anyone to go and ask somebody?
Mr. Lanctôt: Below $35,000?
Senator Tkachuk: Above $35,000.
Mr. Lanctôt: Above $35,000, we had a discussion with the executive committee.
Senator Tkachuk: Of the steering committee, not the steering committee of internal?
Mr. Lanctôt: We had a discussion at executive to increase the value, and we were monitoring the progress on the procurement.
The Chair: Why don’t we ask legal to give an opinion? What is your view, Philippe? We should have a view, because there is confusion. Every section applies to what?
Senator Marshall: Can I make my final point? My final point is that under section 3.1 it says:
That the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration is responsible for . . .
(d) reviewing and issuing a decision for requests for exceptions to the competitive sourcing process.
This was an exception and it’s above $35,000.
In my opinion, the policy is clear that we did not follow the policy. That’s the only point I want to make.
Philippe Hallée, Law Clerk and Parliamentary Counsel and Chief, Parliamentary Precinct Services, Senate of Canada: I would point out that in the following clause 3.2 about the roles and responsibilities, there is the Clerk of the Senate, as Richard mentioned earlier, because of the different governance structure. Now, the Clerk of the Senate is to be read as the executive committee.
So if you read 3.2, it says the Clerk of the Senate — so the executive committee — is responsible for:
(a) ensuring the implementation of the policies in place in the Senate; and
Then (b) points to the element you were bringing up.
. . . in the case of the Senate Administration . . .
— which is what we’re talking about here —
. . . reviewing requests for exceptions to the competitive process up to $100,000 or submitting such requests to the committee or steering committee for review and decision . . . .
So there seems to be a role for the executive committee below $100,000 as recognized in 3.2. It is a clause that is about responsibilities —
Senator Marshall: But there is definitely a role for CIBA. It’s not just in one area where we inadvertently included a responsibility for CIBA. It is riddled throughout the procurement policy.
Mr. Hallée: There is, indeed, some ambiguity in the policy in different places. I had to actually see that there are some provisions that seem to be conflicting with one another and I agree that 3.2 is also a provision that is about the roles. So it’s not where the substantive things should be found, I agree with you, but there is some confusion between different provisions. I agree with that.
Senator Marshall: The whole basis of a procurement policy is based on fairness and an open competitive process. If we are going to make a decision that we are going to acquire services without going through a competitive process, we should have very strict rules in place which govern that.
My interpretation of our policy — in fact, it’s there in black and white — is that CIBA has a role. When you start saying, we’re not going to open competition and we have a contract for almost $95,000, it should be based on fairness. Procurement is not just where you give somebody this and somebody that. You have to be open and transparent and things have to be advertised.
There’s a system that ensures fairness. In this case, we didn’t comply with our system. I don’t want to get into whether we needed the ushers and the locks. I’m not interested in any of that. I’m only interested in narrowly focusing on whether we are following our procurement policy. Are we being fair to suppliers and are we being open and transparent?
Senator Wetston: Hearing what the Law Clerk has just suggested, I wanted to ask some questions about how Ms. Lacroix and others were interpreting these provisions. We’re getting into a very challenging exercise here of some ambiguous interpretation of these provisions and how they might be interpreted. I think we might all agree that there is some ambiguity. There is no ambiguity in what Senator Marshall says about the importance of having a fair and open process.
Since I think there’s considerable ambiguity in the interpretation, let me begin with the first comment about “must” and “may.” How can you ever have “must” in those provisions, and how can you ever have anything but a “may” in the provision that allows you to create an exception to a provision that says “must”? If you interpret it any other way, the provisions make absolutely no sense, in my opinion.
That is not the point I’m trying to raise. I’m simply asking this question: At any time in administering these provisions, did you believe or have any doubt that you discharged your duties appropriately with respect to the sole sourcing contract that was delivered in this case, and why did you not have any doubt?
Ms. Lacroix: Because we reached out to key suppliers and they were not interested or they did not meet the criteria. We’ve recently done a competitive process that received no bids from the same suppliers.
Senator Wetston: But what further steps did you take to ensure yourself of that? You were dealing with a somewhat ambiguous set of provisions, understandably.
Ms. Lacroix: When we made the request to the executive committee to increase to an additional $35,000, and in order to be transparent, fair and open, we immediately launched a competitive process. We knew we needed to address the gaps. Removing the ushers was not a solution at the time, but we decided to do a process in parallel while mitigating the gaps and measures.
Senator Wetston: So what was done was done, but do you all agree we need to look at these provisions and ensure there is no ambiguity doing forward?
Ms. Lacroix: Absolutely.
Senator Wetston: How do you intend to do that?
The Chair: Senator Wetston, that’s something for the Law Clerk and management. We will have them come back with suggestions for how we can tighten the process. Perhaps we should eliminate the provision to have the steering committee make an exception above $35,000, but that will come back to this committee for final adjudication.
Senator Wetston: Thank you.
Senator Saint-Germain: Some of the comments I wanted to make have just been made by Senator Wetston, so I will be brief. I would like to congratulate you on your politeness, on the precision with which you are answering us and, I would also say, on your courage in front of some people here who act as if we were in court, who are inquisitive and almost accusatory. Through you, I also want to congratulate all the Senate staff. I know that for many people, it is difficult to come to the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration because people are afraid. Some people sometimes lose sleep over it and we know that this situation is not conducive to staff retention. So, well done, thank you and congratulations!
That being said, I have a question. I understand that you have acted with a great deal of goodwill and interpreted a procurement policy and Senate regulations to the best of your ability. You have also been, as Senator Tannas said, keen to respond appropriately to the Subcommittee on Long Term Vision Planning. You wanted things to be done very efficiently, and the transfer and handling of safety and traffic issues to be as smooth as possible. Am I wrong to think — and I am not being accusatory, on the contrary — that in retrospect one of the problems may have been linked, in the face of an exceptional situation like this, to the fact that the issue was not brought to the attention of the CIBA steering committee quickly enough? I believe that once again, despite what some people are saying, we must continue to move forward. We had to make progress in revising our policies and administrative rules. We still have some progress to make to modernize our practices. First, there is the issue of obtaining information in a timely manner and, second, the need to update these policies and regulations. Where do you stand in all this?
Mr. Denis: Thank you very much for your comments.
As I said in my speech, I believe that in the future we intend to work further upstream and be completely transparent to the committee, the subcommittee and the steering committee so that everything is clearly put in place and approved. In this case in particular, we must mention the speed of things and the administration’s willingness to serve senators and help everyone be ready. During the rehearsals, we quickly realized that there were access problems for witnesses arriving from outside, because they didn’t know where to go and the doors were locked. There was a new reality related to the location, the Senate building was smaller, so we had to adapt very quickly. Yes, we have learned a lot and, in the future, we intend to be faster in the procurement process.
It’s important to note that all policies — these ones date from 2011 — are currently under review. There is a policy review exercise to update policies. This is a very difficult task for a very busy team. This initiative is ongoing, things never go fast enough, I understand, but know that our intention is to modernize and adapt and, above all, to put in place policies that are clear to you and to us. Our duty is to serve you. You make the rules, as an independent institution, and if they aren’t clear, it’s up to us to tell you so that you can tell us how to implement them. We will then do follow-up; we would like nothing more than to have something completely correct.
Senator Saint-Germain: My last comment is for us, the members of CIBA. In updating these policies, it would be important to always keep in mind, while respecting the rules of fairness and open competition, the importance of having clear rules in emergency situations where immediate action is required and where it is impossible to adopt a competitive process. So it is important to regulate this aspect well.
Again, congratulations and thank you very much!
Senator Plett: I’m indeed happy that Senator Saint-Germain went ahead of me and admonished us all to act in a professional manner, and I want to always do that.
Quite frankly, colleagues, just because somebody is put on the hot seat that others aren’t professional for putting people on the hot seat. However, that’s not my intention here today. I don’t want to do that.
Mine are going to be some comments and a few questions and I’m possibly willing to go into the weeds a little more than what Senator Marshall was. She was very focused on — her comments and questions were great, but I guess I’m a little more somebody who wants to get into the weeds here.
I’m going to, as one of my comments, use my previous life before I came to the Senate and did contracting. I did some for the federal government, and they had rules and regulations as to thresholds and single source contracting up to $25,000 and then $50,000 they had to get three bidders, and $100,000 five bidders and beyond that it became public tenders.
I had a pretty good relationship with some departments in the federal government that all of a sudden made a $100,000 contract four $25,000 contracts so that they only needed to ask me to bid and I would bid and I’d get four $25,000 contracts.
I’m getting the feeling here that that is a little bit what we did here, but I might be wrong. So you have the right to hand out a single-source contract with no competitive bidding or without going to jump through all the hoops that you needed to for a $100,000 contract. You start off with $24,000 and increase it by $11,000 and increase it by a little more and we don’t need to go and ask for permission.
I have a problem with that. I’m not accusing. I’m asking and suggesting that we don’t start doing that. I’m perplexed by how we thought this would only cost us $24,000 and all of a sudden it’s going to cost us $70,000 or $100,000. And here we find ourselves in the situation here today.
I guess, chair, that’s more in line with a comment that let’s be very careful here. We have rules. As Senator Wetston said, some of these rules say must, and Senator Marshall said the same thing. Let’s be careful that we don’t find ourselves in these situations.
I commend the people at the end of the table for their professionalism and not only in their actions but in being here today.
Chair, I do disagree with a comment that you made and I’m going to ask the question that Senator Tkachuk asked. This is public process, and I do not believe that we should wait to be in camera to find out which companies were asked to present a bid to the government. That’s access to information that we should have.
You can rule me out of order here, chair, and you can again say we won’t do it and I won’t challenge that, but I am again on the record going to ask what companies were asked to tender here because I believe that’s public information.
The Chair: The Law Clerk just advised me that, if we do disclose the names of the companies, we are exposing the Senate unnecessarily to criticisms by other companies for not being considered. So these issues are best left. If senators would like — it’s not that we don’t want to provide you —
Senator Plett: Chair, just a minute — I have the floor here, colleagues.
Chair, if you are doing it because you are saying we will be exposed to criticism is one thing. If you are doing it because we say we don’t have the right to, that’s another thing.
The Chair: I’m not saying you don’t have the right.
Senator Plett: If you are saying we don’t want to be exposed to criticism, I don’t accept that. Unless there are specific rules, guidelines and laws and regulations that prevent us from disclosing those names, I am asking that those names be disclosed here in public.
The Chair: Well, what is your advice?
Senator Mitchell: Point of clarification. There is a distinction here that needs to be made. These aren’t companies that came to us and declared themselves publicly to be interested. This is us going to them. There may be all kinds of reasons why they don’t want their privacy revealed. For example, maybe when we went to them they weren’t in the business of meeting this kind of business request, but now they are. They don’t want it publicly known that somehow they are in the business of doing something that they are now ready to do. I think it is an important distinction.
We went to them. We implicitly — therefore they have a privacy protection. They didn’t come to us and declare themselves publicly so I don’t see why it is such a big deal to do this in camera and not confront that potential risk. Out of courtesy to these companies. Why would we be making this an issue? How hard is it to do it?
Senator Plett: You answered your own question, Senator Mitchell, when you said why is it such a big deal. See, I’m asking for the names, Chair.
The Chair: We will get the names of the companies in camera.
Senator Mitchell: Breaching their privacy — why would you do that?
Senator Plett: Okay, chair, I will go to my next question. I publicly made my case here and I disagree, but nevertheless I’m going to continue if that is okay with Senator Mitchell.
Senator Mitchell: Yes, absolutely.
Senator Plett: Thank you. Ms. Lacroix — and I’m also part of the Long Term Vision subcommittee. I don’t think I was at that particular meeting, but that, however, does not give me any right to disagree with what happened there because I could have easily been there.
I have a bit of a problem here if we are again splitting hairs by calling a duck something other than a duck, and these people that we have hired, whatever we want to call them, were performing some form of security work. They were allowing us through access points that for some reason needed security, and we are hiring somebody off the street to come here and open a door where I either need a pass or I need somebody to know me.
We’ve gone overboard in this building with having to, first of all, go through four secure doors and then I need my pass to ride the elevators. I think we’ve gone way overboard with that, but that’s a separate issue.
If we believe that these are secure doors, then we need security people there, not ushers. I was an usher in church. Those they called ushers. I told people where to sit. If that’s what these people are doing, telling us where to sit, then we should hire the guides we have here in summer. We don’t need to go to security companies.
So if we’re going to security companies, let’s accept the fact that we’re hiring security people. To me, that really isn’t something where you have broken any rules because you’re calling somebody something, but as I said in a speech the other day, if walks and talks like a duck, it’s probably a duck.
Isn’t it true, Ms. Lacroix, that these people are positioned at control access points? They are located at doors that have a key entry pad and require a pass to be swiped in order to open the door? If this is a controlled access point, who made the decision to hire a private security firm to carry out that duty rather than PPS, I don’t know if that’s for Ms. Lacroix or Mr. Denis. It is not an accusation, it’s a question. If we have to have people for secure access points, it should be security companies.
Ms. Lacroix: Thank you for your question, senator. Given that we’re in a public forum, and in an effort not to risk exposing vulnerabilities or our security operations, I will respond generally. The ushers do not play a physical security role. The physical security role is the sole mandate of the Parliamentary Protective Service.
The ushers are there to facilitate the movement of people, and to mitigate the accessibility challenges we face in the building.
Senator Plett: Under whose direction?
Ms. Lacroix: Under my direction. I’m responsible for access control and the movement of people. PPS is responsible for physical security. We play a complementary role, the PPS and me.
Senator Plett: First of all, I didn’t notice a whole lot of difference before we had them, while we had them or since we’ve had them. I haven’t noticed a whole lot of difference.
This is an usher who will open a door for me. I think it’s great that people are opening doors for us, but if I have to open half the doors myself I can open the other half myself. If it is secure, shouldn’t it be security people?
Ms. Lacroix: They’re not there to open the doors. While you may not have noticed an impact this week, senator, since we removed the ushers there has been a significant impact. Committee witnesses cannot get from the main entrance to their destination because they need to go through various zones. Those attending the galleries are in the same predicament.
Anyone with a mobility restriction is in the same predicament for navigating in and around the building. They can’t go from a committee to a public restroom. There is also an impact on maintaining decorum in the galleries because there is no one in the cloak room taking restricted items.
There is also an impact if you’re a senator or Senate staff navigating from the Senate of Canada Building to the Chateau Laurier or 1 Wellington. If you have accessibility challenges, without the ushers, you would face a challenge in trying to circulate and navigate.
Senator Plett: This will be my last question on that. I support that. If people have mobility issues, we absolutely need to assist them. Then that means we have to have somebody opening a door at every door in the building and we never had that.
Ms. Lacroix: It’s not every door. There are approximately 12 locations where we face accessibility challenges and that’s where the ushers are either floating through or at that point.
If I could touch on one more point, you mentioned if we had internal resources to do this. From between February 5 and 18, when committees started before the Senate sat, my internal staff was manning a lot of these functions and I had to pull them off other duties to do so. Not only is it more costly to do that, with a third-party company we have the flexibility of bringing them in when we need them at a much lower cost and I don’t have the resources in my directorate to do this.
Senator Plett: Did you then, either one — obviously there would be no record of this so I will take your word for it — reduce the size of the contract in order to get below a threshold?
Ms. Lacroix: When I realized the service gap, the immediate need was to get through the February-March sittings. That was the immediate need. Because we had a commitment from Public Service and Procurement Canada to have the automatic door operators in place. We knew the need for ushers would significantly reduce, and that was to address the immediate need. There was no ill intention. We assessed how much we predicted it would cost to get us through that period.
Senator Forest: Thank you for being here and seeking to enlighten us, because I was present at the meeting of the Subcommittee on Long Term Vision Planning, where Ms. Lacroix told us that she would do her best to make integration as easy as possible for senators, staff and visitors.
When we consider the word “security” in relation to the word “usher,” to quote my illustrious colleague Senator Plett, who said that a duck is a duck, I would like to clarify this: a duck has a plumage, and security guards have security jackets; ushers do not have security jackets, because they wear suits. Ducks have webbed feet, they are unarmed, and ushers are unarmed. So they weren’t security guards. They had a function, they were not hidden; we were there, they welcomed us and opened the doors for us.
At this time, on the amounts committed, have I understood that the total budget of $95,000 takes us to the end of June?
Ms. Lacroix: Yes, that’s it.
Senator Forest: As of today, May 30, 2019, how much money has been committed?
Ms. Lacroix: We have spent $66,000.
Senator Forest: What is the distribution of the amounts between what would be covered by Public Services and Supply Canada in relation to the Senate budget?
Ms. Lacroix: The amount committed is $90,000.
Senator Forest: In the end, in total?
Ms. Lacroix: Yes.
Senator Forest: Currently, of the $66,000, how much is ours? They would pay in full.
Ms. Lacroix: At the end of the contract, I would be responsible for approximately $14,000, depending on the length of meetings, committees, events, and so on.
Senator Forest: The department is responsible for up to $90,000.
Ms. Lacroix: And me, the rest.
Senator Forest: So far, we haven’t absorbed anything. There is no financial impact.
To avoid falling into the imputation of motive regarding the responsibility we have towards staff who are committed to serving us, in compliance with the rules, I believe we have the responsibility to review the rules and adjust them to the new reality of an executive committee or a management. In my opinion, clarifying the rules would resolve this type of situation, which stems from a desire to provide the best possible service to clients, who are senators, their staff and visitors. I think the recommendation we should make beyond an imputation of motive is to revise our rules. We can legitimately come to the interpretation that they had no right, but I can legitimately come to the interpretation that they had the right to make these decisions. These rules need to be clarified. This is an important element to ensure that it is transparent, but also reassuring for staff members. If I were in their shoes, I wouldn’t find it very interesting to go through this trial, after really wanting to provide a service and offer a better quality of service to all customers.
Senator Frum: Senator Forest, you asked some of the questions that I wanted to ask, so this is helpful.
The thing that I don’t understand, given that the responsibility for the contract is now with Public Works, why did you choose to suspend the service on Tuesday? You said it was so that you could bring it to the review of this committee, but it turns out this committee does not have the financial oversight anymore.
Ms. Lacroix: The responsibility of the contract is still under the authority of the Senate because we are the procurement vehicle. They will reimburse us the $90,000. However, we did remove the ushers under the direction of the chair and the executive committee until a decision was rendered by steering or CIBA.
Senator Frum: What would that decision be?
Ms. Lacroix: To continue with the ushers or not.
Senator Frum: But we’re saying it is Public Works’ decision.
Ms. Lacroix: It is our decision. However, recognizing a portion of the need of the ushers is due to the delay in the installation of automatic door operators and the design and layout challenges we face, I negotiated an arrangement with PSPC for them to recognize that they play a part in that to cover the costs.
Senator Frum: I find that extremely reasonable and it makes sense. Why was it so difficult to provide that answer to the media a week and a half ago?
Ms. Lacroix: We did provide answers to the media throughout the week. We’ve been preparing, in collaboration, my colleagues and I, answers for the media almost daily, all day.
Senator Frum: Correct me if I’m wrong, but this information that this contract is going to be paid by Public Works because of a failure to deliver the building in a proper fashion, that’s new information that just came out this morning as far as I’m aware. You provided the media with that information?
Ms. Lacroix: I did not provide that information to the media.
Senator Frum: Why not? That is the answer you’re giving to us to explain the situation.
Ms. Lacroix: I don’t provide the information to the media, I provide the background to the Senate spokesperson for the media and they provide the answer to the media.
Senator Frum: So the Senate spokesperson had that information?
Ms. Lacroix: I would have to go back and look at my responses.
Senator Frum: That’s the part of this I don’t really understand. As you explain it, it’s perfectly reasonable, but the Senate’s reputation, in the meantime, has actually been damaged and you had a perfectly reasonable explanation for why this was happening. I understand you’re not the spokesperson so I’m not blaming you, but I’m trying to understand why there was this communication gap.
Ms. Lacroix: We answered the questions as they came in, senator. As the questions came in, we provided the answer for that question.
Mr. Denis: Senator, this would have been supplementary information. And I don’t want to speak for the person in charge of responding to the media, but typically you’re asked a question and you try to answer that question specifically. I think that’s what happened here. But you’re right, this extra information is really helpful to know now and in hindsight maybe it could have been provided but it was not and I guess we’re here today to draw lessons out of this and see how moving forward we can all do better.
Senator Frum: Thank you.
Senator Munson: I have a comment.
Let me thank you on behalf of all the senators for what you do. Let me thank you for your professionalism and your public service to the Senate. Let me thank you for the principles you have that you had to work with. People have used the term “ambiguity” in our rules, but you did this in good faith. You did this because you thought it was the right thing to do. You did this because you worked with a team.
I guess the issue for some is why isn’t CIBA involved in this? Well, the Long Term Vision Planning Subcommittee knew what you were doing and you were trying to find the best way out, plus saving money, and not having the protective services inside all the time, 12 months of the year, working inside in the perimeter of this building.
At the end of the day, we are a board. And yes, it’s important for the board to keep its eyes and ears on what’s taking place, but whether it’s a public institution or a private sector institution, managers have to be allowed to manage. Senior managers have to be allowed to be making decisions and that’s what you did. At the end of the day, I think this is all about the common good. It is about security. It is about accessibility.
Yesterday, with no ushers, two young Special Olympics athletes had a difficult time getting into this building, getting into the Senate Chamber. That’s not acceptable. So we’ve spent one hour and 15 minutes thus far in a very public forum, in an open and transparent forum, of getting things done.
I echo the sentiments of Senator Forest and others around the table and some of the issues that Senator Marshall brought up, but it’s not that complicated. This is not a major front-page story. This is a story of how perhaps we can do things a bit better.
And so when we look at ourselves and say, okay, we have different political stripes, we have different ideas and policy and so on, but when it comes down to this board of internal economy, we can learn a lesson from this. That’s what life is; it’s all about lessons learned. And we can come up with “must,” “must,” “must,” and no “may,” “may,” “may,” in terms of whatever subsections we’ve been talking about, which are very important, and be able, as a board, to give you, Ms. Lacroix, renewed direction.
I want to commend you for what you do because you and your team have done an excellent job. You’ve been trying to work closely with the uniformed people here and to move on and have this collaborative process. Whatever you want to call them, we still need people to have movement of humanity, whether they’re witnesses or whoever they are, in out of this great building.
I leave it at that and I’m sure at the end of the day we can sit back and the bright minds around this table will be able to come up with clear rules.
You did the best with what you had in front of you and I want to thank you for that.
Ms. Lacroix: Thank you, senator.
Senator Dean: Chair, I’m going to echo Senator Munson’s remarks. It seems that almost at every meeting our professional administration colleagues are coming here and providing us with good advice, sometimes not in the easiest of circumstances. And I want to thank you for the work you do in serving us every day.
First, I particularly want to thank you for getting ahead of an issue in terms of a problem identified, as we moved into this building, identifying the need for some sort of usher service, negotiating an appropriate contract in conformance with the Senate rules, and for fixing a problem that we didn’t actually know we had before we knew we had it, and easing our entry into this building and exit from it, as well as around it. The very best public administration support identifies problems and fixes them quietly, and you have done this and I want to applaud you for that.
Second, there was a little bit of noise in the Senate Chamber yesterday about this — I think that’s probably a fair way to characterize it — that prefaced this meeting. It was noise that would not have been necessary if we had waited for a full report on this, and I’d like to think we’d all take a lesson from that before we start throwing around who is responsible for what and pointing fingers, and we wait to get an absolutely full accounting of the issue that we’re concerned about. I think it would serve us well.
The Senate Administration appears to have done its job in accordance with the rules. We’ve heard today that there is some ambiguity — I think I use that term fairly — about the rules. They may be difficult to interpret. They were rules that I think were put in place in 2011, under the auspices of the former government. They are rules that likely would be assisted by some updating and I think we’ve heard that we might take a fresh look at that.
The only other thing I would say is this: As good as we are — and we have some terrific and skilled people around this table, who are deeply experienced both in the art of politics and in the art of public administration — it reminds me again about the Auditor General’s recommendation for an external oversight and audit committee. I’m going to touch on this briefly because it’s something I’ve been interested in and I have argued for that others think is way past its due date because we updated the rules. I think today we have a good example of where the rules were not updated, where there was ambiguity, and I leave that thought with the committee. That’s something that I think has been resisted because some of us think we’ve solved all of our problems. I think it reminds us that sometimes an external look at our systems and processes, particularly in big areas like procurement, would be helpful.
And that’s it. Thank you again for terrific presentations and for supporting us today.
Senator Dawson: I want to join in thanking you, and I certainly appreciate everything that was done. I’m sure that every single senator here saw those people in the building. Every single one of them used them in February when we arrived and it was confusing. We did not know where we were going. We had to change the number on doors. We had help and that help was provided not by people in uniform but by people who had been hired to do that, so I’m not offended. Hindsight is 20/20.
I’m sure everyone would have looked at this differently if we had known this is where we would be at the end of May. Obviously, the $35,000 would have been seen differently if we had that 20/20 vision. We don’t have that. Now we have to look forward.
I think what we have to do is be sure that we have an item in the future in which we address this type of situation because we innovate here all the time. We have new problems and find new solutions, but again, hindsight is 20/20, so let’s not look at this as if they could have known what was going to happen when we moved into this new building. I think it was well done. I think we should appreciate it. I think we should move on.
Senator Batters: Just a couple of points of clarification because under the Senate procurement rules, there are times when it refers to “the committee,” and I just wanted to make it clear because there are a couple of different references to executive committee like Mr. Denis has talked about today. Executive committee is not steering committee. Steering committee are the three senators — myself, the chair, Senator Marwah and Senator Munson, the other deputy chair — who sit on the steering committee of CIBA. The executive committee is Richard Denis, Pascale Legault and now that he’s joined the Senate, Mr. Hallée. However, prior to Mr. Hallée joining the Senate about a month ago, the executive committee was just Richard Denis and Pascale Legault. That’s who was in place at the time of the contract.
Any reference in the Senate procurement rules where it says “committee,” that means CIBA. It’s actually defined in the Senate procurement rules. You’re all nodding your heads. Thank you. I just wanted to make that clear. It might be a little confusing to those paying attention.
Just one quick thing. When I was asking you earlier on one part of this, I was asking you if we could potentially get a copy of the formal record of the decision authorizing the sole-source contract. Is it possible for us to get a copy of that?
Ms. Lacroix: I would have to ask the members of the executive committee.
Senator Batters: They are nodding that it’s possible. Great. Thank you.
Ms. Lacroix, I’m wondering if either you or Mr. Denis informed the chair of CIBA about this contract.
Ms. Lacroix: No.
Senator Batters: Mr. Denis?
Mr. Denis: The chair of CIBA? I don’t remember if we specifically did. I don’t think we did.
The Chair: I was first brought to the thing the same time as the media responses went to steering. That was the first time I was apprised of any of this. I was apprised at the same time the three of us were apprised of this issue.
Senator Batters: Okay. Thank you.
Mr. Denis: Senator Batters, all the process about the approval by the executive committee was done at our level.
Senator Batters: Okay. Thank you. Ms. Lacroix, the briefing note indicated that the Speaker was informed about the ushers’ contract — and you talked about that in your opening remarks as well — quite some time ago “out of courtesy.”
I’m just wondering, didn’t you think that the Internal Economy Committee maybe deserved that same type of courtesy, to be informed about the ushers’ contract?
Ms. Lacroix: I informed the LTVP subcommittee. That was my forum to inform senators of updating on the LTVP and the challenges we faced with the move and the solutions we put in place. That was how I briefed senators.
Senator Batters: Ms. Lacroix, earlier this week, the day The Globe and Mail story was in the paper, Stephanie Carvin, who is a noted security and defence expert, tweeted this about the article that came out:
Well that would explain why I was stopped by “ushers” four times on my way to the viewing gallery.
Referring to the Senate. So stopping a visitor, not easing their movement in the Senate building, are you a little surprised to hear that particular reaction from that person?
Ms. Lacroix: I would have to know more about the context of the discussion. It could be that perhaps they were guiding Ms. Carvin to the galleries. Perhaps she was going to a non-public zone because, as you know, as you move through the building, you move through various zones. Perhaps it was perceived as stopping, but they were guiding and navigating to ensure that she was going to where she needed to go.
The Chair: Senator, we have six minutes left and we have five speakers, so please be brief.
Senator Batters: I’ll be extremely quick. Just to clarify, because earlier, I said at the very beginning of my remarks that I had declined to participate in the media responses on this because I had not had my questions answered in very serious ways, so that’s why I wanted to clarify that because when there was a comment later, there were some “oohs” and “ahhs,” so I had to clarify that from the beginning. That is why I declined to participate. That, as I said, is very unusual.
One last question. Mr. Denis, you indicated that you met with the chair of CIBA on Tuesday and decided to pull the ushers out. Why at that point did you not notify either CIBA or steering by email or any other sort of communication?
Mr. Denis: That’s right. In fact, it was not just myself and the Chair of CIBA; it was the executive committee that met with Senator Marwah. The decision was made by him to pull the ushers, at least give the instruction that they would be suspended until steering and this committee be apprised with all the information. Mostly we wanted to have a direction, what the committee wanted to do about the ushers. That’s why we’re here today, to have this discussion.
The Chair: Perhaps I can provide clarification on that order.
Since we were first advised when the media responses came to steering, I asked one question of administration: Are the rules being followed? And I was advised that yes, the rules were being followed, and I said that’s fine. I wasn’t going to second-guess management. And that carried on from Wednesday when we got the media report.
On Tuesday when we met, I was apprised of a new section of the code, which is 2.18.3, that says it required approval of the committee. When I was apprised of this new section, I was no longer comfortable that we should proceed. I told them that I was no longer on side and that we should cancel the contract. That’s the chronology of events.
Senator Tkachuk: That sort of clarifies things. It was clear you understood after the fact that there was a breach of the rules.
The Chair: No. I said there was ambiguity and I was no longer comfortable that it was clear cut.
Senator Tkachuk: Exactly. Just a couple of questions.
How many security people do we have working for us, for the Senate?
Ms. Lacroix: I have 29 FTEs in my directorate.
Senator Tkachuk: What are FTEs? Help me out.
Ms. Lacroix: I have 29 employees in my directorate.
Senator Tkachuk: Those are security people?
Ms. Lacroix: Corporate security.
Senator Tkachuk: For the Senate?
Ms. Lacroix: Correct.
Senator Tkachuk: How many did we used to have?
Ms. Lacroix: When it was the Senate Protective Service?
Senator Tkachuk: Yes.
Ms. Lacroix: That’s before my time. I believe 117, but I would have to —
Senator Tkachuk: How many do we have now?
Ms. Lacroix: In the Parliamentary Protective Service or Corporate Security, senator?
Senator Tkachuk: How many security people do we have protecting the buildings that we are in? Victoria Building, here, East Block.
Ms. Lacroix: We have an Integrated Security Framework formed of partners, so you have the Corporate Security Directorate that represents the needs of the Senate, and we have the Parliamentary Protective Service who are responsible for physical security. And I would have to deflect that question — I would have to come back with the answer on how many employees the Parliamentary Protective Service has.
Senator Tkachuk: I don’t want to know how many employees we have. I want to know how many security people we have that guard and secure the Senate buildings that we occupy. That’s all I want to know. Real, working security guards.
Ms. Lacroix: Constables? I would have to get that information from the Parliamentary Protective Service.
Senator Tkachuk: We should know that. We don’t know that?
Ms. Lacroix: The Parliamentary Protective Service does not report to me, senator.
Senator Tkachuk: Oh.
The Chair: We have one minute left.
Senator Tkachuk: This is important. I find that rather interesting.
I wanted to say that Senator Marshall went through and read the rules to us. We’re senators. We can understand English and French, although I don’t understand French but I know English. It was extremely clear what the rules are. To me, when she read them out, there was no “well, maybe, oh, gee whiz.” It seems that we always have the issue when someone breaks the rules and we say, “Oh, we didn’t understand the rules” or “We should update the rules.” This is important.
We had the Leader of the Government in the Senate yesterday, Senator Harder, who had no clue what was going on. We had you, who had no clue until you found out from The Globe and Mail what was going on. The steering committee had no clue. Internal had no clue what was going on.
Did it ever enter anyone’s mind that perhaps other people should know about what was going on and the expenditures that were being released over time that clearly, at least if they didn’t break the rules, there should have been someone who said, “Gee whiz, maybe we should inform steering”?
This is a serious problem, chair. This should not have happened.
The Chair: Senator Tkachuk, I think I would disagree with some of the statements you have made.
Senator Tkachuk: I’m sure.
The Chair: There is ambiguity in the rules. One section says one thing and the other contradicts it. They used a section that permitted them to do what they did and there is another section that says no, you can’t do that. So that’s where, I think, we should really clarify the rules so there is no ambiguity at all. The two sections say two different things. Section 2.17 says one thing and 2.18 says another thing.
Senator Tkachuk: That’s what we did for the polling too.
The Chair: I’m afraid we have a hard stop at ten o’clock. So we will carry on with audio only.
Senator Tannas: I want to say a few things. First of all, I won’t spend more than a few seconds reiterating what others have said.
We believe in you guys. You are our management, and we are the board.
I would say that some of the most surprisingly powerful moments in my career have been when I admitted I made a mistake.
We have got lessons learned. Richard, you mentioned that, and we all see there has been a lesson learned here.
The rules were in conflict. You presented a document to us that pointed to the rules that you chose to read and did not point out the rules that were in conflict. That’s the truth and that’s okay, except that we got caught out on this. It’s in the media, and now we are in a partnership together where we need to take accountability for it. We will take accountability. You take accountability. That’s what it’s like to work at the show, right? This has a lot of spectators.
We’ll get it better. We’ll fix the rules. The one thing is that all of this hinges on the trust that we have for you and you have for us. We’re not going to hang you out to dry for fun. You are not, if there is ever a situation where it could be this way or that way, we’re not going to get hung out to dry in the media. That’s the partnership that we have. That’s the partnership and the trust that we have to have with one another.
This has been a good lesson on a very small item. I don’t want to minimize $90,000. It’s more money than lots of people make in two or three or four years.
The Chair: We should move on. We have a hard stop at ten o’clock, otherwise we can’t go in camera.
Senator Tannas: I thought we were past ten o’clock.
The Chair: But we have a hard stop at 10:10. Now you’re on audio only.
Senator Plett: I will be quick. Mine are also only comments. You know, we heard here from others going on and on about how great a job people are doing, and I want to echo that.
When Senator Munson says thank you, I also want to say thank you. When Senator Munson says management is allowed to do certain things and we shouldn’t be encroaching on that, I also agree with that. But there are other levels. There are levels in every private company. Management can do this to this level.
As Senator Tannas said, some rules were definitely bent, if not broken.
When Senator Dean says there were some noises made, that’s the thing that gets people riled up. There were noises made and questions asked because there were rules broken. For somebody to suggest that we somehow are wrong by questioning things publicly, we are all making a lot of money, yes — $90,000 is a lot of money. I don’t think we should have to apologize for asking those questions.
For some senator to accuse us of doing something wrong because we want to ask questions, I find it horribly troubling and I want to tell the three people at the end of this table that I have the fullest confidence in you, and I thank you for your service.
I simply ask that you, along with the rest of us, try to straighten out the rules so we’re not in this predicament again. I commend you as everyone else. Just because we’re asking doesn’t mean we think less of you than people on the other side who just want to pass this over.
Senator Moncion: The rules haven’t been broken, contrary to what you say, Senator Plett. I let you talk. Now it’s my turn. I’ve been listening to people talk all morning. I wanted to mention that, regardless of the rules, they will be tested at some point and will never be 100 per cent clarified, and each time a policy or practice is implemented, it will be tested at some point and will likely have to be changed. That is what is important here, and that is what we seem to have seen. We heard about ambiguities last week too.
For the Subcommittee on Long Term Vision Planning, I congratulate you on your work. You were aware of the challenges of the new building and the fact that employees need some flexibility to work because we senators are not involved in the day-to-day operations. So this latitude is important to operate within a framework that will be challenged from time to time, as was the case this morning. Thank you.
Senator Dean: We have heard again today, chair, a lot of questions about where the buck stops in the Senate. It is time for us to consider returning to a governance model which I understand was previously in place and was changed where we have a single point of accountability in the Senate Administration, that being in the role of the Clerk of the Senate acting in the role of CEO.
The model that we have clearly isn’t working, and I would ask that staff prepare a note on this for us for the next meeting. I’d like to revisit it.
Finally, Senator Plett, yesterday accusations were made in the Senate about the probity and professionalism of independent senators, and that’s what I was responding to today. I was responding to accusations and comments made about the institutional integrity of independent senators. I’m not going to allow those to pass. I’ll challenge it every time that I hear them.
Senator Plett: So will we.
The Chair: So noted. I will take your comment on the single thing under advisement and leave it at that.
If I can summarize two takeaways, one is that I will have the law clerk, management or someone take a look at the rules one more time to reduce the ambiguity. We may choose to leave it the way it is, but let’s look at it.
The second is to have a meeting in steering to see what our tolerance is for things we want to see, because we can’t start to see everything all over again. We have delegated below $100,000 to management, let’s decide what the most sensitive issues are and what we should be seeing. We’ll take those two action items.
With that, we will go in camera, please.
(The committee continued in camera.)