Honourable senators, my question is to Senator Marwah in his capacity as Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration.
Senator Marwah, could you tell us approximately how much money has been saved on travel and accommodations for senators who would otherwise have travelled to Ottawa since the implementation of hybrid sittings?
You are absolutely correct, senator. There have been savings as a result of the pandemic and its resulting impact on items such as senators’ travel, accommodation, committees, office budgets and administration. To the end of January of this year, the savings are approximately $5.5 million. I should also mention that there have been incremental costs associated with the pandemic as well that are roughly $500,000.
I have a follow-up question for Senator Marwah. As a fellow committee chair, I’m very interested in augmenting the capacity of our administration to conduct committee meetings. Is there any possibility that the surplus money saved because of our hybrid sittings could be reallocated to facilitate more committee meetings?
That is a fair question, senator. The answer to that is a bit more complicated. I should point out that there are two elements of the Senate’s budget. The first element is what is called the statutory portion. This consists of senators’ salaries, travel, accommodations and so on. These savings, unfortunately, cannot be reallocated.
The second part of the budget is voted, which consists of items such as office budgets and administration expenses. These savings, in fact, can be reallocated.
To the end of January, the savings are roughly divided evenly between the statutory and the voted, so yes, some savings can be reallocated. However, I should also point out that aside from the equipment, buying and reusing the reallocation, there is an impact on staffing because staffing does need to be ramped up to accommodate additional sittings. That could take some lead time if we decide to proceed with additional sittings.