THE STANDING COMMITTEE ON INTERNAL ECONOMY, BUDGETS AND ADMINISTRATION
OTTAWA, Thursday, June 6, 2019
The Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration met this day at 8 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 Sabi Marwah, and I have the privilege of serving as chair of this committee.
I ask each senator to introduce themselves.
Senator Dawson: Good morning. Dennis Dawson from Quebec.
Senator Forest: Good morning. Éric Forest from Quebec.
Senator Dean: Tony Dean, Ontario.
Senator Moncion: Lucie Moncion from Ontario.
Senator Verner: Josée Verner from Quebec.
Senator Tannas: Scott Tannas, Alberta.
Senator Wetston: Howard Wetston, Ontario.
Senator Mitchell: Grant Mitchell, Alberta, Treaty 6 territory.
Senator Frum: Linda Frum, Ontario.
Senator Plett: Don Plett, Landmark, Manitoba.
Senator Saint-Germain: Raymonde Saint-Germain from Quebec.
Senator Marshall: Elizabeth Marshall, Newfoundland and Labrador.
Senator Tkachuk: David Tkachuk, Saskatchewan.
Senator Batters: Denise Batters, Saskatchewan, deputy chair.
The Chair: Thank you.
Honourable senators, a copy of the public minutes from May 30, 2019, is in your package. Are there any questions or changes? Can I have a motion to adopt the minutes? Thank you, Senator Saint-Germain.
It is moved by Senator Saint-Germain to adopt the minutes. All agreed?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: Agreed. Carried.
The next item is the chair’s ruling of the point of order raised at the meeting of May 16, 2019.
The substance of Senator Dean’s point of order was that some of Senator Batters’ statements contained unparliamentary language. Senator Dean stated that, in his view, her words “would have known” suggested that another senator acted even though that senator knew that said senator’s actions were in contravention of the Senate rules. Senator Dean went on to explain that Senator Batters’ comments imputed an improper motive to that senator.
In response to Senator Dean’s point of order, Senator Batters subsequently clarified her earlier remarks by saying the senator “should have known, and she would have known.” In her view, that is not unparliamentary.
Honourable senators, in formulating my response to Senator Dean’s point of order, I would note that we have been reminded recently by the Speaker in the chamber that the words we use do matter. A proper analysis requires that statements be reviewed in their totality; that we consider not just the use of specific words but their overall effect and the potential harm those words may cause.
It is not my intention in this ruling to limit the right of senators to participate in debate. Senators often have strong views on issues and can express those views vigorously. As explained in a Speaker’s ruling on October 2, 2012:
Freedom of speech is a fundamental right necessary for the performance of our duties as parliamentarians.
There is no doubt that the issue before the committee generated much debate and that senators have strong views. This is not the first time we have debated contentious issues in this committee, and the debate has mostly been respectful.
The right to freedom of speech, however, is not absolute, and our rules impose certain limits. Rule 6-13(1), in particular, is clear:
All personal, sharp or taxing speeches are unparliamentary and are out of order.
There is no definitive list of words or expressions that are “personal, sharp or taxing.” Indeed, as explained in a Speaker’s ruling of December 16, 2011:
The circumstances and tone of the debate in question play important roles in this determination.
Parliamentary precedents are clear that ascribing improper motives to other members’ actions crosses the line and enters the sphere of what can be considered unparliamentary language. On Thursday, May 9, 2019, the Speaker made the following statement:
I would caution that you cannot assert improper motives when you’re naming a senator or a group.
In addition, Beauchesne’s states the following in section 481:
...it has been sanctioned by usage that a Member, while speaking, must not:
(e) impute bad motives or motives different from those acknowledged by a Member.
In choosing their words, I ask all senators to consider the overall effect and the potential harm that those words may cause to a senator’s character and integrity. We should be guided by what the Speaker stated on October 2, 2012:
By and large, this limitation on the freedom of speech is observed in the Senate without incident. The Senate is a largely self-regulating chamber and each of us assumes responsibility for maintaining order and decorum in this place. In close to 30 years, only eight rulings have addressed inappropriate language. This is because the respectful exchange of ideas and information is a basic characteristic of the Senate.
In the past, I have asked senators to show care in how they frame their remarks. This caution includes whether senators are speaking extemporaneously or from prepared remarks. It is possible to express a position firmly and with conviction, indeed to attack a contrary view, while avoiding giving offence. We should always strive to show respect for each other, for the right to hold and express our divergent opinions is the basis of free speech.
Based on parliamentary precedents, such language could be characterized as unparliamentary, as its overall effect may cast aspersions on another senator’s character and integrity. I strongly urge all senators to avoid imputing motives upon other senators. The Senate is at its best when we all engage in respectful debate. Thank you.
Senator Batters: I will review and reflect on your ruling, and I will respond at next week’s meeting. Thank you.
The Chair: Thank you.
The next item is an update on the implementation of the diversity report recommendations. I invite Diane McCullagh, Chief Human Resources Officer; Geneviève Garneau, Senior Advisor; and Pierre Lanctôt, Chief Financial Officer, to the witness table.
I would note that this presentation is for information only.
Senator Plett: Chair, a point of order, please. I was reading something. I want to raise something here, and we don’t need to discuss it today, but I want this on the agenda to discuss.
I’m reading a tweet here. When we’re talking about what Senator Batters has said, and she’s going to reflect and talk about it. I’m reading a tweet here by Senator Sinclair:
Shameful....but social Conservatives have a long history of antagonism towards Indigenous people, and an equally long history of homophobia, transphobia and misogyny. That has a found its way into the Conservative Party of Canada.
Now, that is so far over the top. What Senator Batters has said pales in comparison to this.
So I’m asking you, chair, where do we raise this? How do I raise this? When he talks about shameful, this is shameful.
Senator Tkachuk: He did it yesterday with me, and so did Senator Galvez. So what Senator Galvez said paled to what Senator Batters said. No one was stopped from that. If it’s only going to be about Conservatives, then that would be fine, but it has to apply to everybody. I want to see the same defence of that.
The Chair: Senators Plett and Tkachuk, I cannot comment on what happens outside of CIBA. Those comments were not made at CIBA. There’s nothing I can do about something not to do with CIBA. If there are concerns, I suggest you raise them with the Speaker.
Senator Plett: I will raise it, but I’m happy that I have it on the record here today.
The Chair: The chamber is the best place to raise it, and I think we should do it in that place rather than here.
Senator Saint-Germain: I agree with Senator Tkachuk. If offensive remarks have been posted on Twitter accounts or through other means of communication, the review must apply to everyone. Therefore, a comprehensive review of senators’ Twitter accounts should be conducted. Thank you.
Senator Dean: I think Senator Plett makes a really good point. I’ve heard a number of senators raise a concern with me about offensive remarks on social media. I’m concerned about that, and I think we should probably go one step further and develop a policy on social media or look to Senate policies that might provide guidance on offensive social media statements made either by senators or staff in the Senate.
Thank you for raising it. This is something that should be pursued, and I intend to pursue it.
The Chair: Let’s go to item 3. I would note that this presentation is for information only.
Diane McCullagh, Chief Human Resources Officer, Human Resources Directorate, Senate of Canada: Good morning, honourable senators. We are happy to be here today to provide you with an update on the Senate Administration’s progress to address the recommendations by the Subcommittee on Diversity contained in its thirtieth report, Diversity in the Senate: From Aspiration to Action, tabled eight months ago.
These recommendations aim to enhance the representation of the four designated employment equity groups, which are women, visible minorities, persons with disabilities and Indigenous peoples, and also more generally to enhance the overall diversity of the Senate workforce.
The briefing note you have in front of you outlines the steps taken to address each recommendation, as well as the initiatives that are planned for the coming year.
Since the report was tabled last September, the Human Resources Directorate has focused on two key initiatives: the implementation of a self-identification campaign to update its workforce statistics, and a review of its employment systems by the consulting firm Samson HR Consulting Group to identify potential strengths, weaknesses and barriers to its talent management policies, procedures and practices.
The self-identification campaign resulted in 266 respondents from across the Senate. Combined with data we have gathered at time of hire and in previous self-ID campaigns, we now have statistics for a total of 596 employees. This data will assist us in establishing benchmarks against which we can measure our progress going forward.
In terms of the employment systems review, we are currently looking at the final report that was recently submitted to us. Some of the initial conclusions from this exercise indicate that the Senate’s policies and procedures are comparable to those found in the market and comply with the Canadian Human Rights Commission requirements, as well as Treasury Board Secretariat guidelines.
The initial conclusions also indicate that we have some challenges in the areas of culture, communications and talent management. Examples of this include information siloed and uneven across directorates, a need to modernize HR systems and clarify hiring practices.
In addition to those two initiatives, we also want to highlight other tangible actions we have taken on diversity. We have introduced anonymous pretesting in most of our recruitment processes. We have participated in four career events where the target audience was one of the designated groups. We have had preliminary discussions with Further Education Alberta to explore the possibility of creating internship opportunities for Indigenous youth in the winter of 2020.
We are expanding our national advertising by using employment websites that have a Canada-wide reach and by optimizing our use of social media.
We are proud of these various accomplishments, big and small.
In terms of specific next steps, our plans are to conduct an in-depth review of the results of the self-ID campaign, as well as the employment systems review initiatives, and report back to our senior officials and employees.
Throughout the remainder of 2019-20, we will organize further consultations with Senate staff in order to develop a vision and strategy for diversity and inclusion, and review and update our policies. We will also explore how senators’ offices can be best integrated into the Senate’s diversity and inclusion dialogue and framework.
We will prepare and implement employment equity training for managers and staff for the first quarter of 2020-21.
A clear vision and strategy, as well as new and inclusive policy instruments, will allow the Senate Administration to carefully choose and align its diversity and inclusion efforts towards clear goals and performance measures. They will also inform the design of our training program.
Thank you for your time and attention. I’m certainly prepared to address any questions you may have.
The Chair: Are there any questions for Diane?
Senator Tkachuk: The question of hiring practices and diversity has been around quite a long time. I remember Senator Stewart Olsen headed up a diversity committee quite a number of years ago. The problem is not only of ethnicity and race but also of geographical regions.
Do you have any statistics on the number of people in the Senate Administration who come from the Prairies and Western Canada?
Ms. McCullagh: I do not at this time. We only have statistics, at this point, for the summer students that were hired this summer. From an administration full-time complement, I do not have that data. We are in the midst of introducing a new human resources information system that may allow us to get that data, but currently we don’t have that capacity.
Senator Tkachuk: We used to keep that data.
Ms. McCullagh: I can look again, but my understanding was that we don’t.
Senator Tkachuk: As I remember — this was a number of years ago — there was one from the Prairies. We found that to be not only rather strange but indefensible.
Language is not an issue. We’ve been teaching French in Saskatchewan since 1967, so it’s not exactly that there weren’t qualified candidates available.
Ms. McCullagh: I can’t speak to the staffing process or approach back in the day. We have better access across the country now with the LinkedIn processes we have, and Facebook and Twitter. Those types of approaches are nationwide. Indeed, GCconnex also has nationwide reach as well, so perhaps we have a better representation now. I, unfortunately, don’t have that data, but we do know we are reaching out nationally more than we have in the past.
Senator Tkachuk: Thank you for your work, Ms. McCullagh.
Senator Marshall: Thank you for the update. I was looking at the area on self-identification, because that had been done, I think, when Senator Stewart Olsen had chaired the subcommittee. Are we getting better? Is there more activity or better response from the staff?
Ms. McCullagh: Self-identification is voluntary, so employees do not have to self-identify and not everyone does. That was represented in the last campaign we did, where 266 people responded out of a possible 730. Now we have data.
This is something we include in all of the induction paperwork. When we hire and new employees are coming into the Senate, that documentation is included in the hiring package. They have an opportunity upon hire to respond to that, even though there may be ad hoc campaigns occurring.
Senator Marshall: So we’re getting a better response.
Ms. McCullagh: I’m not suggesting we’re getting a better response. Some people are still fearful of identifying.
Senator Marshall: Are they? That’s the point.
What do you do with the data when you get it? If somebody fills out the form and says they have a disability, and they’re female, and say they’re from some other country, how do you use that data? Does that person show up in different categories? I’m trying to get a handle on what you do with it.
Ms. McCullagh: We do have four different categories. They are representative of women, Indigenous peoples, peoples with disabilities and minorities. We track that data.
Senator Marshall: Could somebody end up in four categories?
Ms. McCullagh: Sure.
Senator Marshall: Thank you.
Senator Wetston: You may have just answered the question. I was wondering about the extent of diversity, how you’re defining it, the categories you’re looking at. There are, obviously, human rights acts and employment equity acts. There are all kinds of recognition of diversity in the various statutes, both federal and provincial.
You’ve just listed four when you answered Senator Marshall, but are there any priority areas? I know we’ve reflected a bit on Indigenous issues here, for example. Can you help us with that?
Ms. McCullagh: What I can share with you are the statistics we have today with respect to those four groups.
When we combine results from the administration and senators’ offices and look for statistics as to how many women would be representative of our workforce, today we have over 60 per cent of women represent our workforce at the Senate. Indigenous peoples, we have 3 per cent. People with disabilities, 2.6 per cent. Visible minorities, 12.45 per cent.
That goes up against statistics from Statistics Canada. They give us statistics by category as well.
We are only over on one of those categories. Statistics Canada, the workforce availability for women last year was 52.5. Our statistic shows that women represent 60 per cent, so we’re clearly above that statistic.
When we look at the Indigenous peoples, it’s 3.4 per cent that is representative of the workforce availability, whereas our statistic is 3. We’re off by 0.4.
The workforce availability for people with disabilities is 4.4 per cent, where ours is 2.6 per cent.
Visible minorities it is 13 per cent as per the Stats Canada data, and we are at 12.45.
Where we are lagging in three of the four, we’re not lagging far behind in two of them. Where we see the information and where we have work to do is people with disabilities. There is clearly work to do in all four, but that’s the statistical information we have to date.
Senator Wetston: One follow-up question. I think that’s important information to have and I know you’re continuing to gather it. How are you dealing with the skills matrix versus your priorities around diversity, and how are you going about ensuring that we achieve high levels of diversity and at the same time maintain high levels of skill?
Ms. McCullagh: That can be as simple as our talent acquisition group or our HR partners, when they meet with their clients, whether they be senators or Senate Administration personnel, and they are in the process of hiring — they want to hire for a particular position — our talent acquisition people or HR partners would question or gently challenge some of their knowledge, skills and requirements that are being asked.
If there’s a requirement for 10 years of experience in a particular field, is it really 10 years’ experience? Could that experience be found in a different way?
Bilingualism, do you need advanced bilingualism for a particular job versus maybe an intermediate level, because bilingualism may or may not be a barrier. Years of experience or years of education may or may not be a barrier. We push on those fronts to ensure that everyone has access to the positions in question.
The Chair: Thank you, Diane. I think Senator Tkachuk does make an excellent point. We should look at diversity far beyond just the four categories you mentioned. Regional diversity is important. I think we should work hard to get the statistics and see how we can expand or make it easier for people in regions outside of Ottawa region or Ontario to apply. Encourage them to find different mechanisms to reach a different audience, whether it is at universities or whatever mechanism we have, we have to expand that.
Senator Tkachuk, at least we have one. Gerry is from Manitoba. One.
Let’s move on.
Senator Tkachuk: One from six years ago.
The Chair: Item 4A has been deferred to another meeting, so we move to item 4B. Senator Tannas, I believe you will make some comments and we can open it up for questions.
Senator Tannas: Colleagues, you have a letter in your package regarding the matter of the ushers that was raised at the last CIBA meeting a week ago.
A few hours after that meeting the Long Term Vision and Plan Subcommittee met, and at the request of staff we added the usher situation to our agenda. We had a discussion, asked some questions of Senate Administration and then determined that we would make an unsolicited recommendation to CIBA that the contract be continued through until the end of June.
We also asked our Director of Corporate Security that over the summer, in addition to seeing that the doors are fixed, that we also have a review of all of the places that we are stopped and where there is the additional security, to make sure we’re secure but we’re not impeding people’s access and progress through the building. I’m happy to answer any questions.
Senator Batters: I’m wondering where the Public Works department reimbursement confirmation is. I asked for this to be part of this agenda item today when we dealt with this at CIBA steering two days ago, and I was told we would have this.
Pierre Lanctôt, Chief Financial Officer, Finance and Procurement Directorate, Senate of Canada: Yes, senator. We could ask Julie Lacroix to give us an update if she wants, but we have received all the documentation.
Senator Batters: Could I get a copy of it, please?
Mr. Lanctôt: Yes, we can.
Senator Batters: Maybe we could have Julie Lacroix, Director of Corporate Security, come to the table because I have a few questions about this. Thank you, I appreciate that.
Ms. Lacroix, I was asking for you to come and answer some questions because, as you told us last week, you were defined in the contract as the end user, as you put it. Also, as Senator Tannas has just told us that — or I understand — I’m not sure if he indicated that it was you that brought this contract approval or request to the Long Term Vision and Plan Subcommittee last Thursday, a few hours after we had the Internal Economy item on our agenda last week.
A couple of things on this. At last week’s meeting, Ms. Lacroix, a couple of senators asked you for the names of the other security firms you contacted in February as a possible security firm you would contract for this. When our committee went in camera, you told us the names of the other five security firms you contacted. I certainly won’t reveal those names because that was stated in camera, but after that meeting a few of us, including some Ottawa-based people in that room, noted that the only security firm out of the six that we had never heard of was the security firm that got the contractor, Arlington Group Risk Management.
I’m wondering if you could tell us, Ms. Lacroix, to your knowledge does Arlington Group Risk Management have any connection or tie to any senator, any senator’s staff or anybody in the Senate Administration?
Julie Lacroix, Director, Corporate Security Directorate, Senate of Canada: Thank you for your question. No, not to my knowledge.
Senator Batters: For Mr. Denis, I would ask you the same thing. To your knowledge, Mr. Denis, does Arlington Group Risk Management have any connection or tie to any senator, senator’s staff member or anyone in the Senate Administration?
Richard Denis, Interim Clerk of the Senate and Clerk of the Parliaments and Chief Legislative Services Officer, Senate of Canada: Same answer. I have no knowledge.
Senator Batters: Also for Ms. Legault, as you were also part of that executive committee, as Chief Corporate Services Officer, to your knowledge, does Arlington Group Risk Management have any connection or tie to any senator or senator’s staff member or anyone in the Senate Administration?
Pascale Legault, Chief Corporate Services Officer and Clerk of the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration, Senate of Canada: I am not aware of any connection, senator.
Senator Batters: At last week’s meeting, the CIBA chair told us that he had cancelled the contract with Arlington Group Risk Management and that was two days before the full CIBA meeting last week and one day after The Globe and Mail story. A couple of points on that.
Since the contract lasting until late June was cancelled, I assume that the Senate is likely still responsible for paying for that full contract amount even though those Arlington Group Risk Management personnel have not been at the Senate building for nine days; is that right?
Ms. Lacroix: I would need the assistance of Philippe with this. However, it’s my understanding that they’re in the contract, it was not based on a set amount. It was based on need. Therefore, the terms of the contract, as I understand them, state that if the Senate decides there is not a need, although we need to give them 10 days’ notice, we could be responsible for 10 days of charges, but they have not done that. I would ask Philippe and Pierre to assist with interpreting the contract clauses.
Senator Batters: What would the 10 days’ notice amount be, approximately? That would be helpful to know.
Ms. Lacroix: It would be the 10 days’ notice. It’s $35 an hour, based on the hours. So I guess we would do an average of hours.
Mr. Lanctôt: If I may, we are talking with the company at this point. I don’t think we should publicly discuss our negotiations with the company.
Senator Batters: I wasn’t asking for that. I was asking what the contract provides. Because it was cancelled, what is the cost to the Senate for that?
Mr. Lanctôt: As Julie Lacroix mentioned, the contract is on an as-needed basis. There’s no minimum guaranteed amount.
The Chair: If we have questions on the contract we should do that in camera because I think we’re risking our negotiations with the company. Why don’t we do that in camera in terms of what the detailed discussions of the contract are and where we stand on the negotiations. I think that is best handled in camera.
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Batters: Was the contract cancelled or not?
Senator Saint-Germain: Agreed; in camera.
Senator Batters: But I’m asking if it was cancelled because we were told last week that it was cancelled.
Ms. Lacroix: The contract has not been officially cancelled. We removed the ushers from the posts.
Senator Batters: The letter in the materials today from Long Term Vision and Plan Subcommittee states that it recommends that CIBA “instruct the Senate Administration to continue the contractual arrangement with Arlington until the summer adjournment.”
Would there be any — or is this something I need to ask you in camera — amount that needs to be paid as an extra additional amount because of the suspension?
The Chair: I think we need to go in camera, please. I think that’s best discussed in camera.
Senator Batters: Can I ask, Julie, is that an item —
Ms. Lacroix: I would prefer to discuss this in camera, please.
Senator Batters: All right. So the Public Works reimbursement for that contract, when will we get that? Later today or soon?
Ms. Lacroix: On the reimbursements, we already have a commitment from PSPC to reimburse us for past and future charges, up to $90,000.
Senator Batters: But the confirmation of that?
Ms. Lacroix: Yes. We can send you the confirmation email if you like.
Senator Batters: Yes. I would like to get that. Thank you.
I do note, too, that the Long Term Vision and Plan Subcommittee letter of June 3 states this:
We did not inquire about the procurement process used to hire the security ushers since financial procedures are not part of the mandate of this subcommittee.
Certainly financial procedures are a core part of the mandate of Internal Economy Committee and that is why this committee, full CIBA, must be involved with and, according to the rules, make these decision about that. But, yes, if you want to have an in camera portion on this particular item . . .
The Chair: We’ll go over that in camera.
Senator Batters: Thank you.
Senator Moncion: I would like to make a suggestion.
Senator Tannas, you’ve worked in financial institutions, I’ve worked in financial institutions, and we had card access to all the doors and every area where we worked, whether it was customers or office space. We have key access cards, and I think — correct me if I am wrong — there’s a program that you give access to every person and you give them access to different doors and different areas.
Maybe the easiest way is to find a way to have cards that are available at the front desk, when people come in, at security, and identify the doors where they need an access and program these cards so that they have access to only certain doors, which means that they cannot go everywhere but they can go to specific areas.
So if you have, for example, people who are coming in the gallery, they have a card that gives them access to the gallery, in and out, and they have access to the washrooms but they don’t have access to all the areas. It’s probably an easier and cheaper way of looking at this, but then it might be too simple. I was in financial institutions and the security was important, as important as here for different reasons. So it’s just a simple solution for a somewhat complicated problem, but it might be too easy.
Senator Tannas: That’s the kind of thing we’ve asked Julie and her people to look at this summer. It makes no sense to have people opening doors. We’ve got to get through these next few weeks. There are more people in the galleries. It’s an interesting time to be watching the Senate. We need to make sure that we can help people get in and get out. It seems to be getting out is the problem. So that, I have every confidence, will be fixed over the summer.
Senator Moncion: The other comment I might make is that if you decide to change these key accesses, have some with the card but with numbers so that if we don’t have our cards, we forget it, we can punch in a four or five-digit number, and you get access. So you can come in and get out easier when you don’t have your card. That’s another suggestion.
Ms. Lacroix: Thank you for the suggestions. These are certainly things that we are exploring in our longer term solutions to address the circulation challenges we’re facing.
Senator Plett: I support what Senator Moncion said, in checking out different ways, I would be a little hesitant in using the number system. Clearly, I could give somebody else my number and that person would have access. It would be a little more difficult with a card with my picture on it.
But nevertheless, that’s not why I wanted the floor, chair. I want to say that I’m part of the Long Term Vision and Plan Subcommittee and I think Ms. Lacroix made a good presentation to Long Term Vision. We have a situation, and one of the largest parts of the issue is that we have a lot of people coming in here — Senator Moncion raised this last week — that have physical disabilities, and we have a temporary problem. I think we are going to fix that with push buttons where doors will be able to be opened or whatever we’re going to do.
To try and do all of this in a couple of weeks would be literally impossible. This is not a million dollar contract, colleagues. This $35,000 is a lot of money, and $70,000 is a lot of money, but we need a measure that allows everybody, whether they are physically handicapped or not, access to the building. This was the best way to do it in the short term.
I simply want everybody around the table to know that I wholly endorse Long Term Vision’s recommendation and to move forward with this as expeditiously as possible. And then throughout the summer come up with a solution — and, quite frankly, we are going to be gone for a lot longer than just for the summer, so I think there is a reasonable amount of time for people to come up with a permanent solution so that we don’t have people standing and opening doors making $35 an hour. I think that’s ridiculous.
We needed a short-term solution, and this is the only viable short-term solution. So I wholly endorse it.
Senator Tkachuk: I wanted to make the point that this question of giving greater access for visitors and for senators around the building was never the issue. The issue was always about how the contract was delivered and how the contract was accessed. That’s really what the last meeting was about. So here we are talking about security, but we’re not talking about making sure that $35,000 means $35,000 and that $100,000 means $100,000, and that we have proper procedures to ensure that the chairman of the Internal Economy Committee is not left out in the dark about the issue of a contract over and above that amount, and that senior staff is well aware that this is the number and that there’s a process and it should be followed.
That’s the question we have to address, not the question of the need of security or not the need of security. I wanted to make that clear. I do agree with Senator Tannas that we have to find a short-term solution so we can find a long-term solution. I just want to make that point because I think we’re veering off in the wrong direction here.
Senator Forest: I would like to mention that I am also a member of the committee. As Senator Plett pointed out, one of our motivations was accessibility, because there is no button to open the doors for people with reduced mobility. That was one of the key factors that motivated us to continue.
Second, as Senator Tkachuk indicated, the rules also need to be clarified. All staff did their best to facilitate access into and inside the building. Let’s clarify the rules and avoid a witch hunt.
The Chair: Would you like to wait to go in camera before we adopt the report, or would you like to vote on the report now and we can still get the questions?
Senator Plett: Vote on the report.
The Chair: What’s the will of the committee?
Senator Munson: I think we have to move along.
The Chair: Is that the will of the committee?
Senator Tkachuk: If the questions require us to be in camera, then we should vote on the report in camera, I think. Once we vote on the report, what’s the point of asking questions?
The Chair: We shall wait until in camera and then finish this in camera then. Let’s move on. We’ll come back to this item in camera.
Next is item 5, the first report and extension of the mandate of the Advisory Working Group on the Review of Senators’ Pension Plans.
Senator Moncion, you have some questions.
Senator Moncion: Honourable senators, it is my honour to present the first report of the Advisory Working Group on the Review of Senators’ Pension Plans. Please note that as of today the members of the group are Senators Dean, Marshall, Mitchell, Tannas and Dawson, which is not on the report but, as confirmed this morning, he will be a member of our committee, which is much appreciated, and myself.
Your working group met for the first time on May 15. During that meeting, your working group discussed the election of the chair, the priorities and scope of its study, the development of a work plan and the projected date for tabling the final report.
In terms of the priorities and scope of its study, your working group plans to study, as a first step, the status and features of the current pension plan, the sharing of contributions between senators and members of the House of Commons, returns, actuarial calculations and sensitivity analysis. Second, your working group will explore the options available to the Senate to improve the pension plan, which may include amendments to the legislation.
Let me now tell you about the work plan and timeline that your working group has set for its full mandate. The next meeting is scheduled for September 2019. At that meeting, your working group will elect the chair and hear from witnesses to help it understand the specifics of the current pension plan. The next meeting will be held in March 2020. The goal will be to identify issues related to the pension plan and assess the need to amend it.
Finally, the purpose of the last meeting scheduled for May 2020 will be to consider all available options for changes and to develop a list of recommendations for the final report to CIBA.
Your working group intends to report its findings to CIBA no later than June 30, 2020. As such, after this statement, I will proceed by way of motion to extend the deadline of the final report.
I am available to answer questions if you have any.
Senator Batters: This subcommittee was set up on — sorry. There are a couple of members I think that aren’t members of CIBA. Right. Thank you.
So this working group was set up on March 21 and when it was set up at CIBA the request for the report tabling date was just three months later, on June 30, and it says in here that for the first time you met, on May 15, so almost two months after the working group was formed, and now you’re requesting an extension for one year to complete a report. Why such a lengthy period of time, when the initial thought was that it could be done in three months?
Senator Moncion: First, there is no chair for this committee. So it had to be taken upon by someone to get the working group going, so I worked on that. Getting everyone available with their busy schedules to even be able to participate in the first meeting was a challenge. We have a confirmation of the Liberal member this morning, so it has been a challenge. And when we looked at the scope of the work that needs to be done — because we looked at the actuarial report that was provided — we saw as a committee that it was going to be a very lengthy study because of the amount of information and the amount of work that needs to be done to understand where we’re coming from and where we’re going.
Senator Batters: How was that initial date picked of June 30? Do you know?
Senator Moncion: Just to give us enough time. Because of the session, we’re not going to be back here until —
Senator Batters: I mean, sorry, June 30, 2019, date.
Senator Moncion: We thought at the time that we were going to be able to work quickly but just looking at the scope of the work, it’s not something that we can do in an expeditious way. There’s no hurry or urgency here, so we figured that we were going to take the time to really study the situation and see if there needs to be change and what changes need to be brought, if and when.
Senator Batters: I know Senator Mitchell has long been involved on this particular issue at different times. Maybe, Senator Mitchell, do you have anything to add on that? I thought that there had already been quite a bit of work done on different points on this issue? Am I wrong on that? I just remember this issue coming up many times at CIBA over the last few years.
Senator Mitchell: Chair, I want to say that I’m very pleased that there are people in this Senate, in this committee, who would volunteer to do this work. I find that it’s almost confrontational, not quite, but the nature of the question. I will take it in a positive way, but I do find it to be — I just find the tone. In any event, sorry.
Senator Batters: Senator Mitchell, I was asking you because you’ve had a lot of experience on that.
Senator Mitchell: I will answer the question. We’ve done quite a bit of work, but in the past “we,” it wasn’t structured in this way, it wasn’t structured through a committee and it was precipitated by changes brought on by the previous government. We had a good debate but we weren’t able to bring people together in a structured way, in an analytical way, to look at different options. This is what this group is doing.
We’re not actually starting from scratch exactly, but I think we do have to recreate the base of information from that, create the possible options, and there are several but they’re not an infinite you number, probably about two or three. But it has to be done right. It’s going to take a great deal of consultation ultimately I think with senators because it has different ramifications for different senators in different financial and other situations with different views of how pensions should be structured and what their stake is in those pensions.
So I don’t think it’s unreasonable to extend it at all. I’m glad that we’ve got the people, quite apart from me, who have volunteered to work on this.
Senator Marshall: I’d like to say that I attended the first meeting and I think that the time frames are realistic. When we get into analyzing financial statements and we start talking to actuaries, some of that information tends to be complex. If we’re going to do it, we might as well do it right. Because in the past, when the changes were made, we really didn’t go back and do a thorough analysis. So when we get into the work, and if it comes to light that we can work faster than the time frame given, then we can always come in and bring the report in early. But I think that the time frames set out in the document are realistic.
Senator Moncion: Just to add to this, and it’s just a thought that came to mind, but when we did the financial statements the last time around there was a $15 million adjustment on the statements.
That’s what led to the working group being formed. There was no explanation for this expense in the financial statements. We thought that if we had to cover those expenses, but did not have the supporting information, we wanted to at least be able to justify them, as these expenses are recorded in our financial statements. We were still striving for financial integrity while examining the process. That was the trigger for the discussion on the creation of the working group and then the timeline.
I understand that the June 2020 deadline is still a long way. However, there is no hurry, and we want to do the job properly.
The Chair: If there are no further questions, thank you, Senator Moncion, for your presentation.
It’s moved by the Honourable Senator Moncion that, notwithstanding the motion of the committee adopted on Thursday, March 21, 2019, the date for the final report of the Advisory Working Group on the review of Senators’ Pension Plans can be extended from June 30, 2019, to June 30, 2020.
Is it agreed to adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Chair: All agreed. Carried.
Honourable senators, is there any other business for the public portion of this meeting? Seeing none, we’ll go in camera.
(The committee continued in camera.)
(The committee resumed in public.)
The Chair: We are back in public.
On the issue of an update from the decision of the Subcommittee on Long Term Vision and Planning, it is moved by Senator Tannas:
That CIBA instruct the Senate Administration to continue the contractual arrangement with Arlington Group Risk Management to provide ushering services to the Senate until the summer adjournment; and
That the subcommittee continue to monitor PSPC’s progress over the summer adjournment in order to ensure they are able to meet projected timelines for the installation of the necessary upgrades to doors and hallways, as required.
Is it agreed, senators?
Some Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Batters: On division.
The Chair: Carried, on division.
Senator Munson: Did you want to continue or resume? You said to continue.
Senator Plett: It’s never been broken.
The Chair: Now we’ll return in camera.
(The committee continued in camera.)