Wednesday 9 December 1992

Semiannual review: Clerk of the House

Claude L. DesRosiers, Clerk of the House

Legislative building restoration

Barbara Speakman, executive director, Office of the Executive Director Assembly Services


*Chair / Président: Duignan, Noel (Halton North/-Nord ND)

*Vice-Chair / Vice-Président: Farnan, Mike (Cambridge ND)

Cooper, Mike (Kitchener-Wilmot ND)

*Johnson, Paul R. (Prince Edward-Lennox-South Hastings/Prince Edward-Lennox-Hastings-Sud ND)

Marland, Margaret (Mississauga South/-Sud PC)

*Mathyssen, Irene (Middlesex ND)

McClelland, Carman (Brampton North/-Nord L)

Mills, Gordon (Durham East/-Est ND)

*Morin, Gilles E. (Carleton East/-Est L)

Owens, Stephen (Scarborough Centre ND)

*Sullivan, Barbara (Halton Centre L)

*Villeneuve, Noble (S-D-G & East Grenville/S-D-G & Grenville-Est PC)

*In attendance / présents

Substitutions present / Membres remplaçants présents:

Cunningham, Dianne (London North/-Nord PC) for Mrs Marland

Hope, Randy R. (Chatham-Kent ND) for Mr Owens

MacKinnon, Ellen (Lambton ND) for Mr Cooper

Wessenger, Paul (Simcoe Centre ND) for Mr Mills

Clerk / Greffière: Mellor, Lynn

Staff / Personnel: Yeager, Lewis, research officer, Legislative Research Service

The committee met at 1539 in room 151.

The Chair (Mr Noel Duignan): Seeing a quorum present, I call the meeting of the standing committee on the Legislative Assembly to order.

Today we have three items before the committee. The first item deals with the administration of the House and the provision of services to the members. This is the semiannual review of the services per the standing orders. The second item of business deals with the Legislative Building renovations and restoration program. The third item deals with security and will be held in camera.


The Chair: Dealing with the first item of business, changes in the administration of the House and the provision of services to members, I have the great pleasure of welcoming to the committee the Clerk of the House, Claude DesRosiers. Welcome.

Mr Claude L. DesRosiers (Clerk of the House): It's always a pleasure to appear before this committee and have a discussion and a dialogue about what's been happening around the building as far as administration is concerned for the last six months and hopefully bring you up to date and answer some of your questions.

I've had distributed, for your information, our latest Status of Items for Discussion in the Management Advisory Committee. This is our agenda. I don't know if you're familiar with it, but it's our agenda that we meet on regularly. I refer to it as a running agenda; I don't know if that's the correct term, but that's the term I utilize.

The way it works, basically, is that members of the committee put those items on and they are discussed at every meeting. Every meeting, as chair, I go down all these items and ask the person whose name appears beside the item to make a report on where that item stands. That is the latest one.

The way this works, really, is that you combine this piece of paper with the minutes of every meeting, because every time an item disappears from this list, it's minuted. Therefore, you get a combination of where the administration is at on all of these items at a given time as a follow-up to every meeting.

I've also passed along a copy of our mission statement, which has been adopted since the last time we met. That mission statement, as you will note, is member-oriented. It goes along with the philosophy we have as an administrative body here; that is, that we are here to serve the members.

I meet, on a regular basis, all the new employees who come in. The human resources branch has devised an orientation day for all of the new employees. I usually kick off that orientation day, and I try to leave them a message of the philosophy that guides us in our work here, basically that all of us have the same job. We could all have the same sentence in our job description, that the staff of the Office of the Assembly are all here to do one thing: to help you do your job.

That's the only reason we're here. That's the only reason there's a Clerk, that's the only reason there are committee clerks, that's the only reason there are employees working in the cafeteria, the only reason there's a Hansard, the only reason there's a controller's branch or a finance branch or a human resources branch or a library research branch. We are all here to help you do your job, and that's the orientation we've given to our mission statement.

We have, as you probably know, a joint health and safety committee that is now operating according to law. It has been involved in three various inspections since last we met. They've done an inspection of Hansard, an inspection of the finance branch and an inspection of the food services area. Their report has been dealt with by the management advisory committee, and the recommendations of the joint health and safety committee have been adopted.

Another field that actually came to fruition in the last six months but has been worked upon for the last two years by the administration here is the production of a Manual of Administration. When I came on board six years ago, I was faced by three huge bricks that people referred to as the Manual of Administration. Actually, these were documents that had been copied directly from the Manual of Administration that was alive and well in the Ontario public service. It was not a useful document for us here because we are not part of the public service and we have a much more direct orientation, a much more direct goal in what we do every day. Therefore, one of the first acts management advisory committee did was to create a committee to sit down and to draft a Manual of Administration. It has come about now. We've all got copies of that draft and we're about to adopt it and publish it.

Hansard operational review has taken place.

We have what some people might refer to as an internal audit person on board. That person reports to the controller. He is not an internal auditor, though. Part of his duties are to, at the direction of management advisory committee, look at certain areas of the administration and to make reports to management advisory committee on certain changes that might take effect for the betterment of that administration. He has very clear direction from management advisory committee in that he is to work with the managers in that field to try to arrive, together with the manager he is asked to review, at various solutions.

The area that has been reviewed since last we talked is Hansard, and to everybody's satisfaction quite a few changes have been brought about in Hansard for a better operation and better production of your document. You will have noticed that a major change in the Hansard field is that it now arrives on our desks the day after. When I arrived here, Hansard was a document that was produced sometimes three days later. Management advisory committee felt that had the unfortunate consequence that Hansard had therefore a lot less use. It was a document that, when you get it on your desk three days later, doesn't have the same use or the same interest that it has now with it appearing on your desk the following morning.

Another development in administration, which is a minor one, though, is the use of telephone voice mail for certain areas of the administration, although certain areas of the administration where it can be shown to be useful. In certain areas that serve the members directly it is not recommended to use voice mail. Again, it's the philosophy of management advisory committee that service to members should be direct and as swift as possible.

That's about all I have as a statement, Mr Chair, and I'd certainly be happy to answer questions on any items. Mrs Speakman is around here and she can answer questions or make a short presentation, if that's your wish. She can address the renovations and the restoration project now or at your desire.

The Chair: Is it the wish of the committee that we go into the presentation from Mrs Speakman on the renovations and then maybe ask questions of both the Clerk and Mrs Speakman on their presentations? Agreed.


The Chair: I'd like to welcome, from the Office of the Assembly, Barbara Speakman, who is the executive director of assembly services. Welcome.

Mrs Barbara Speakman: Good afternoon. I'm pleased, as ever, to come to the committee and answer all of your questions. A number of people in the room have actually been involved either recently or a little further back with the development of the program of renovation and restoration. At the moment, the work that's being undertaken is strictly repair work for the roof, the windows and the stonework in the centre pavilion area.

We started the fencing for that program in February of this year and the scaffolding will be down in January, so less than a year is the total schedule, and we will be down by then. We're very pleased with the progress. About three weeks in all have been lost in the total program, given the weather, the rain over the summer, and the House was sitting a little longer than we had anticipated, which held up some of the attic work and so on. But the construction people have done a tremendous job in sticking to schedule and working in other areas of the project when it was raining and so on.

We also hit one or two problems with health and safety issues which had to be dealt with, and one of them was lead in the mortar. As they were chipping out and taking out the old mortar, every raw material we were disposing of was tested; in that particular case there was lead in the mortar, so we had to stop work and take precautions and make sure that the hazardous waste was disposed of correctly and that the workers working on that particular part of the project were adequately protected and trained in the business of taking that mortar out.

Those things were all handled extremely well. As you see, as the scaffolding starts to come down, I think there's a tremendous difference in the appearance of the building and also in the energy-saving potential, as we've now insulated the roof in the centre attic. We have changed some of the ways in which the guttering or the eavestroughing was put up to prevent ice buildup, which was one of the main problems with the roof before. So all of those improvements have taken place.


The windows have been repaired and/or replaced, depending on the extent of deterioration. One or two of you may have gone up the scaffold. I know Mr Morin went up, and a few others have seen it. The rose window, for example, was extremely badly damaged and has been repaired and restored. Some of the stonework carvings were extremely badly damaged and water had got in behind them. We had to take extra measures to conserve those.

But all in all, we're very pleased with the progress and we're on target with the schedule and with the budget. I guess the rest is open to questions, whatever you would like to ask.

Mrs Barbara Sullivan (Halton Centre): I have a number of questions that I thought might be useful for the entire committee to look at. If we go back, first of all, to the Clerk's discussion of the role of the management advisory committee and some of the decisions which have been made recently to assist members and others in working in this place, could you describe for us how issues are initiated to be placed on the agenda of the management advisory committee, and what the relationship of those issues is to agenda items on the Board of Internal Economy, and how you deal with issues that have been considered by the board at one time that then come back to the management advisory committee at a later time after a decision has been made?

Mr DesRosiers: This addresses, I think, the role, then I'll go into a short description of how the management advisory committee operates.

First of all, items get on to the agenda in two different ways. The first way is that items filter up through staff meetings. Each of the four directorates involved in the administration of the Office of the Assembly, which are the library, the office of the Clerk, the controller's office and the executive director of building services office, each have regular meetings as well with their key managers and so on, and items percolate through those meetings. They are either decided at those meetings or, if they need more direction, those items will go to the agenda of the management advisory committee. That is one way in which items appear on the agenda.

The other way items appear on the agenda would be on direction of the board. Oftentimes at a board meeting the board will ask staff to prepare reports and look into different matters, and then that goes on to the agenda of the management advisory committee until we are satisfied that we have dealt with what the board has asked. Then we are ready to send it back to the board to put on the board's agenda for the board to deal with.

Our items on here, once we decide that, take two directions. They either go back for action down from whence they came or they go up, because they need a policy direction from the board, to the board. Then we, as the management advisory committee, would put certain items on the agenda of the board in order to get a direction on a major policy decision from the board.

Mrs Sullivan: If we take one of the tiny items on your current list, number 6, political activity for legislative staff, could you tell us where that initiated from, where the idea came from? Was it in relationship to a pending bill before the House? What stage of discussion are you at? Might that be an appropriate thing to come to a committee such as this one?

Mr DesRosiers: That item appeared on our agenda from discussions that had taken place in the controller's area, who has responsibility for human resources. The preoccupation of the human resources people, who keep very close tabs on what's been going on in the Human Resources Secretariat in the Ontario public service brought this to -- their concern is that we look at it and respond to it as an issue. It has nothing to do, really, with what's happening in the House; this is our own look.

Because we have a policy on this; it's a very strict one. The policy is that members who work for the Office of the Assembly do not have politics. That is our policy, and everybody who works for us has to submit to that test. We're just looking at our policy again to find out whether we might have problems with that policy in the future.

Mrs Sullivan: I think it's the appropriate policy, but somebody else can ask some questions.

Mr DesRosiers: But you'll see, if you read down the line there, "will review assembly policy." That's what we're doing. We've asked for and received legal opinion. That legal opinion has not reached our table yet, but it's in the controller's office.

Mr Gilles E. Morin (Carleton East): I have two questions to Mrs Speakman. First, I had the pleasure of going right to the bottom of the roof, but I didn't achieve your feat of going to the peak of the roof. I lift my hat, and I think you were quite brave.

Mr DesRosiers: I didn't attempt that either.

Mr Morin: No? Which leads me to the following question: Were there any major accidents during the repair, during the restoration?

Mrs Speakman: No.

Mr Morin: None whatsoever?

Mrs Speakman: No. The only thing we had were cut fingers, and that's about it. The nurse on site attended to those. No, touch wood and everything else. We've had no major accidents.

Mr Morin: That's great. On the plans for a centennial of the building, could you give us a brief idea of what we are to expect to participate in next year?

Mrs Speakman: There is a committee which meets fairly regularly, chaired by Christine Lockett from interparliamentary and public relations, that has representation from the three caucuses on it. What we tried to do was develop a program that would have little or no cost implications for the assembly, that we could fund from within existing budgets as much as possible.

The kinds of things that have been undertaken: There is a special commemorative book on the building, and I believe a pre-publication offer went out to everybody just last week. That's a magazine type of book: lots of photographs and some text giving a little bit of a history of the people in the building and what the building has stood for over the last 100 years.

A public speaking contest has been developed along with the Royal Canadian Legion. They already have a public speaking contest, so what they're doing is tying the 100th anniversary theme to their topic for this year and then having the final presentations here in the building. So it's something that was ongoing anyway, but we've managed to build in some celebration of the building to that.

There is also an essay contest with the school children that has been done in conjunction with the Ministry of Education and the school boards. There has been quite a lot of consultation on that, and school children will be writing essays. I'm not quite sure what levels; I haven't got full details here, but the caucus people, I'm sure, can inform you of the age groups.

In terms of the building construction, that is considered to be in its own way a celebration of the centennial of the building, the fact that it is being refurbished.

The only other kinds of things: We have exhibits in our exhibit rooms of the original drawings of Waite, the architect, and some of the artefacts that are in the archives relating to the building 100 years ago. Then all of our tours, our school groups visiting and our educational programs will be geared to the centennial.

In terms of an event itself on or around April 4, that's still under discussion with the caucuses. We have our normal plays at Queen's Park every summer, and those will have a centennial theme. However, I believe there is some question going out to all the caucuses as to whether the members would like to have some sort of ball to celebrate the occasion, and contribute, obviously, to the cost of that ball. Those are the kinds of things that are being undertaken.


Mr Mike Farnan (Cambridge): A couple of questions, Barbara. We realize it is something of a courtesy for us to look at the budget, that really it's the Board of Internal Economy that is the major player here. Whereabouts in the process are you in that regard?

Mrs Speakman: The budget for the building renovation?

Mr Farnan: Yes.

Mrs Speakman: Some years ago the board approved in principle $5 million a year towards the renovation and restoration of the building. For the first two and a half years, very little was spent, as we were in a planning mode and were developing the master plan with the special committee on the parliamentary precinct. Since that time, this is the first year that a large amount of money was required, because we were in construction for the first time. The board has approved this year's funding and is now looking at the three- to five-year horizon to determine just how fast it wants to complete the west wing and the east wing doing exactly the same thing, the repair of the roof, windows and stonework.

Mr Farnan: When that decision was made, we were probably not in quite the financial squeeze we are in now. If this same project were coming to the Board of Internal Economy for the first time, I wonder if it would be able to put forward these kinds of dollars. Is there anything within the work that can be delayed beyond the five-year period that could spread the cost? As far as the taxpayers are concerned, these are big dollars; I mean, for all of us. Are there items in here that you would recommend extending?

Mrs Speakman: We have approval at this point from the board to do only essential repairs to the building, only items that relate to occupational health and safety and only other items related to that which are economical to do in conjunction with the repair work. For example, while we have scaffolding up, there is no sense in not putting in platforms in the attic for future mechanical equipment. There is no point in taking all the scaffolding down and then going in later to do that again.

So the board has agreed that, using those parameters -- essential repair, occupational health and safety issues and essential work related to the work that's already undertaken -- we should provide it with a program for that. At this point, that is all the board is looking at. All other programs related to the renovation and restoration of the building in terms of the interior, in terms of actually putting in place mechanical systems or ventilation systems and so on, would be considered deferrals for some future date when there was money. So we're only talking about essential repairs at this point.

Mr Farnan: Is there anything you can share with the committee with regard to budgetary accountability processes that help to ensure that the work is completed on time and within the money targets? So often the public gets the impression that it's going to cost X million dollars, and lo and behold, a year later or two years later it's twice that amount. What are the triggers you have that can keep that under control?

Mrs Speakman: The first thing, of course, is that we have an estimate, which was fairly well researched during the planning process over the last two or three years. We then tender everything, and we have fixed prices for blocks of work as far as is possible. For example, the architect for the roof is on a three-year, fixed-price contract and is not on a percentage fee. So all of those mechanisms are built into the tendering process and into the initial pricing process to make sure we're getting good value for money.

In terms of monitoring what's actually been done, we have a very stringent change control process. We have several levels to that process. We have a full-time program or project manager on staff who reports to me. He is in daily contact with the construction management people on site to make sure the work is progressing as planned. We have a very detailed schedule, and I have a copy in my office that tells me this particular week what they should be doing. I actually spot-check myself from time to time to make sure they are where they're supposed to be and what they're supposed to be doing.

I meet personally every two weeks with the construction management firm -- often the owners of those firms come to the meeting -- and with the chief architect of the firm of architects. I meet every two weeks and we review the status of the schedule, the status of the budget and the expenditures, the change control items and any issues that either I wish to raise with them or they wish to raise with me.

The next stage used to be when there was a special committee on the parliamentary precinct. We used to meet regularly and we would have -- it was before construction started, but we still had a number of planning and tendering items that we were going through, and that would be another level of review.

The board, of course, I report to regularly, either with an information report or with a report that may require a decision on change control.

Those are the mechanisms in place at this point and we've been successful in keeping all the costs under control and within the estimates provided even three years ago.

Mr Farnan: Okay. I think that's what the taxpayer would want to know, that all of these things are very laudable. The end result is that you will be on time and you will be within budget.

Mrs Speakman: That's right. Our major issue for any public service area is cash flow, in that we operate here on fiscal years, and projects don't neatly fall into fiscal years. Those are some of the things the board is dealing with. They look at the overall costs of each phase and each part of the project, and those are within budget.

The Chair: Mr Farnan, that is all. Colleagues have indicated they wish to ask questions.

Mr Farnan: That's fine.

The Chair: I can come back to you later. Ms Mathyssen?

Mrs Irene Mathyssen (Middlesex): Mrs Speakman, you mentioned the celebratory ball that was planned, and I've heard rumblings of concern from the public, the reaction to this kind of event. I'm wondering if you could provide some details about your plans and how you'll proceed. Have you given thought to how you'll deal with those concerns from the public regarding cost, the typical reaction to something like this?

Mrs Speakman: To be quite frank, we discussed this, obviously, with the Speaker, and the feeling was that the first thing we should do is ask if the members would like something like that to happen. Secondly, would the members be prepared to pay so much per ticket, as you would for any other function.

I think that's the basis on which we will hold the ball, because the Office of the Assembly has no funding for a ball and does not intend to ask the board for any funding for a ball. So this is really up to the members and the staff. If you would like something like that and you're prepared to pay your way, we will be happy to organize it for you.

Ms Mathyssen: Okay, and it would be made clear publicly that no taxpayer money has gone into it.

Mrs Speakman: No money involved, nothing.

Mrs Ellen MacKinnon (Lambton): Ms Speakman, you've mentioned, and I'm sure I've heard you right, that the windows are repaired, or are all windows going to be repaired?

Mrs Speakman: Every window is assessed as to whether it can be repaired or whether it needs replacement. As we repair the roof and the stonework in a particular area of the building, we also do the windows at the same time while the scaffolding is up. So the centre block windows -- the majority were repaired. I think one or two were replaced.


Mrs MacKinnon: The reason I'm asking is, and I'm not trying to be frivolous here, in the office where I am -- and I love my office; please don't move me out -- there are three great big double windows. The draught that comes through one window is so strong it will blow the curtain and the velvet drape right out away from the window altogether. When you said all windows, I just thought, "I don't see any scaffolding," but are those windows on the docket, because if they're not --

Mrs Speakman: Every window in the building is scheduled for repair or replacement.

Mrs MacKinnon: That's good to hear. I was wondering if maybe you had some criteria whereby you were picking and choosing.

Mrs Speakman: No, every window will be looked at. It's a fairly disruptive process.

Mrs MacKinnon: Yes, we know from the east lobby.

Mrs Speakman: Exactly. You may want to consider if you want to stay in the office at the point when that happens, because it is disruptive, but every window will be done.

Mrs MacKinnon: We'll cross those bridges about being there when you're repairing when we come to them.

Mr Randy R. Hope (Chatham-Kent): Barbara, one of the concerns, as I see the scaffolding start to come down and you start to clear out the front a bit, when you move over to project B -- wherever that may be; I've never been on the committee so I don't know -- I noticed the lumber you were using in developing that ivory tunnel there. Are you going to be moving that over to be utilized properly instead of spending more money on new lumber in developing it?

Mrs Speakman: Yes. That arch is actually made up of component parts, similar to the parts that are used in building a residence. There's a lot of truss work, separate trusses. Those can all be dismantled and reused, and that's why we used that form of construction, so it wouldn't be wasted. The hoarding that goes around the plywood will all be reused. It's all good enough quality that it will be reused right around the building. There are only one or two other spots where a small arch is required and we will reuse the truss work from the big arch for that.

Mr Hope: So I guess we can expect that whole process to be done by springtime?

Mrs Speakman: Yes.

Mr Hope: Then moved over to wherever project B will be.

Mrs Speakman: That's correct.

Mrs Sullivan: I'd like to move away from the questions of renovation and restoration and move to the item which is included in the current management advisory committee agenda with respect to the MGS service agreements.

I think that over a period of time we've seen service agreements with respect to space for members' use, with respect to the expansion of the precinct, with respect to things like plaques -- some of them more frivolous than others. As you know, certainly I had a personal incident with the OPP coming to my constituency office, not part of the official precinct. We've had in my experience as a member issues associated with use of the parking garage and security there, all of it kind of more in the MGS service agreement, but they relate largely to the whole issue of precinct.

I wonder if the Clerk could discuss, from his previous experience in Ottawa, what the standards of the precinct are there or in other jurisdictions. Do they, by example, cover constituency offices, and how does that whole issue move into the discussion, other than coming, say, to the board as a question for discussion which it may or may not do because it's not a particular financial issue?

This is a matter that I think is one of importance to every member. As you know, I felt that my privileges were breached as a member when the OPP came to the constituency office when they would not have been able to take the same steps in this place. I think the issue of precinct is an important one. We saw another member last week whose constituency office was burned down. The question of security in those offices also is an issue that should be on the table. I'd just be interested in hearing you discuss that entire issue.

Mr DesRosiers: The whole question of precinct is a difficult one in the sense that there is no precise definition from parliament to parliament. But generally speaking you will find that precinct is that area where members work and where the privileges that members have are protected. Members generally, and this is not, strictly speaking, reserved to members here, but throughout the world, have -- how shall I say this politely? -- a difficulty in analysing this concept of privilege.

Parliamentary privilege is a very limited thing. It is attached to your right of free speech basically in two areas. Members of Parliament in the British parliamentary system have privileges that have been devolved throughout the ages and that turn around two things: First, as I said, the right of free speech in the chamber and in committees of the House, and also the right of access to that chamber and to committees. If I'm asked as a Clerk to define what parliamentary privilege is, that's what it's limited to. If anybody stops you from coming to this place to do your work, from going to the chamber, from attending a committee, your privileges are attacked.

Over the years, with the development of technology and so on, members have argued to various Speakers here and in other jurisdictions that the fact that an office was entered or the fact that an office was electronically eavesdropped on -- this happened a few times in Ottawa. The case was put before the Speaker in a very forceful way. The Speaker, after considering these things, while deploring the fact and while doing everything he could do to make sure the circumstances around that eavesdropping were known, refused to call this privilege. Privilege remains that very, very restrictive thing.

To get back to your initial question of precinct, therefore, precinct goes around that. If you want to know what the definition of the precinct is in Ottawa, you're very familiar with Parliament Hill, and precinct of Parliament Hill is that area where the House is situated and also where committees meet. Basically it takes in that whole area inside the fence; that's the precinct. The precinct here is the building here and the first two floors of the Whitney building; that's the precinct.

Your privileges are those privileges which I described, that privilege of unfettered free speech, which is a very big privilege, that in the House you can say what you want. You're completely free to say so and no one, but no one, can attack that. But that is what privilege is; the rest is not. I realize your problem. Also, it becomes very difficult.

Just one final point here, which has to do with the police. I think the Speaker has ruled on this in the House. The police can come into this building, can come into the precinct only on permission of the Speaker. But that, to a certain extent, is limited as well, because the Speaker will not refuse access to the police. The only thing that's gained there is that the police cannot come in and out of this place as they wish.

If the police come to the Speaker and say, "Mr Speaker, we have reason to believe..." etc, the Speaker will not say, "I'm sorry, you can't come in." That's it. Police forces throughout the province and throughout Canada really -- because the RCMP has responded in writing to the Speaker's decision in the House, and the Speaker was just applying guidelines that the same police forces are well aware of in Ottawa. They all responded positively to this, and police forces will do this. But the Speaker will normally say yes, and would have to have a very serious reason to say to the police, "No, you cannot go in."


Mrs Sullivan: I think that as we pursue this discussion, there are of course the two areas. One is the question of privilege. The other is the question of services.

The question of services includes a lot of issues that are extremely important to the members in doing their duties: the security of their files, the security of their person and of their staff, the appropriate equipment being available for them to do their job. Frankly, I think that we are well served in that area.

My understanding is that in Britain now, as their quarters are now changing, their view of the precinct itself is changing, and that the privileges associated with the precinct there are now being moved to other places across the road from Westminster, to where their new offices are. We have not considered that. They don't have constituency offices in the same manner that we do.

It was only recently, by example, that the precinct even included our offices in the Whitney Block. When I was first elected, that was not part of the precinct. I think that while we take much of our direction and tradition from the British experience, when we have something that is quite distinct and different from that tradition in the constituency office setup -- about which we could have a debate with respect to that usefulness and whether in fact we are doing the work of a member of Parliament -- we should really have a relook at this whole area.

The police would have presented themselves had the particular policeman involved not lived in Guelph and had it not been more convenient for him to attend at my constituency office on his way home than it was for him to request a meeting with me at the Legislature, in which instance he would have had to report to the Speaker, the Speaker would have known why the police were there, and it would have been made clear how they got there in the first place.

In my mind, I'll tell you, I still believe that my privileges were breached, that there was a definite attempt at intimidation with respect to that issue, and that's why they were called in in the first place. But I think there are big issues to be looked at here. I use the link from the service agreements because that's where the whole issue of precinct first came to my attention, but I think that we aren't looking at this question in nearly enough depth.

The Chair: Could I have a point of clarification from the Clerk? Is it not in Ottawa a fact that the precincts of Parliament extend beyond the fence, that it goes to the Confederation Building and it crosses the road into some other buildings on the other side as well, so it's not actually confined to the Centre, East or West Block?

Mr DesRosiers: In my description, that is the precinct. Precinct and privilege are two different things. You can define the precinct of Parliament, but that doesn't mean that your privileges are more protected because the precincts are enlarged. Privileges are basically attached to your right of access and free speech in two places: the chamber and in these committees. That's privilege. That's privilege at Westminster; that's privilege here. This is what I'm saying. Speakers have refused, at Westminster, in Ottawa and here, to extend that notion of privilege.

Over the last 20 years that I've been involved, I've heard many, many cases being put to Speakers, saying: "Listen, I realize that privilege is very, very limited, but I put to you, Speaker, that I've been intimidated, that people have tried to stop me from doing my job." The Speakers have resisted that, rightly or wrongly, but that's the fact. Privilege has remained that very limited thing.

The Chair: Thank you. We have a number of speakers.

Mr Paul Wessenger (Simcoe Centre): I just have a question pertaining to the building again with respect to what is authorized under the question of repairs. I'm wondering if any improvements or repairs to the heating or air-conditioning system are involved in that authorization.

Mrs Speakman: As I indicated before, the board at this stage has approved that any attic work or ventilation or platforms for mechanical systems required for future heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems should be built in at the time we're working there. The design work for future HVAC has been done only to the conceptual level at this point, and part of the consideration the board is looking at right now is, how much further in design work do we go at this time? So the long-term plans include it, but there is no authorization at this point for that.

Mr Wessenger: Right. Fine.

Mrs Dianne Cunningham (London North): I just wanted to ask how you were doing financially. You told us you were happy that we were on time and that the goals we had set out in the different areas were being met, and I wondered if you were still within budget or if you've got any plans if you're not.

Mrs Speakman: For each of the major projects -- the roof repair, the window repair and replacement and the stone work -- we are within those individual budgets we had projected some time ago. The only problem we've had has been cash flow within fiscal year. Those matters are brought to the board as they occur and the board deals with those as individual items. But we're within overall budget for the project, yes.

Mrs Cunningham: When did you say it would be finished? I'm now talking about the outside, the restoration.

Mrs Speakman: The whole of the outside? The whole building?

Mrs Cunningham: Yes, the whole thing.

Mrs Speakman: The board is considering at the moment whether it will be two more years or four more years.

Mrs Cunningham: If it's two more years, we should expect some scaffolding for two more years.

Mrs Speakman: That's right. The original intent was the centre block the first year, the west wing the second year and the east wing the third year. That is the program the board is now looking at and determining whether it's going to do that or whether it will be half of the west wing and then the second half and then half of the east wing and then the second half.

Mrs Cunningham: Okay, it's that simple.

The Chair: Final speaker.

Mr Farnan: We have talked about keeping within budget. The other area I'd like to focus on -- and I suppose people who are in business want to be assured that the access to contracts is fair, and of course the government obviously has this as a major priority -- is, could you elaborate on the tendering process that would assure business people that there is a fairness involved?

Mrs Speakman: The major contracts, original ones for the architects and so on, were all two-step processes. The first step was a national advertisement for letters of interest from firms that had certain qualifications, background and experience in the type of building we're dealing with here, which is a heritage building. The response to those requests for letters of interest were generally between 60 and 100 firms. There was an evaluation process by a full committee of all of those letters of interest and short lists were developed from that. Interviews were conducted much later on, but we would select, for example, 12 or 15 or 20, depending on how many there were that were very well qualified, to submit bids, and then those bids were further evaluated in great detail based on specifications that we had put out and a final selection made.

The process from then on is for the actual repair of the roof, the copper work and all those kinds of things, then a tender goes out for that and bids come in and then we evaluate those bids. The same process takes place for all those. For the subtrades, the construction management firm does the same, and does that on our behalf, and then we review the final prices and the final bids before an award is made.

Mr Farnan: Can I ask you --

The Chair: A brief supplementary, Mr Farnan.


Mr Farnan: There are a couple of questions I would like to ask, Mr Chair.

The Chair: We do have another item to deal with, Mr Farnan.

Mr Farnan: Basically, were there any challenges from businesses to the tendering process?

Mrs Speakman: No. In fact, we offer debriefings to all people who send us either bids or letters of interest. In some cases, firms took us up on that and we debriefed them. Everyone was happy.

Mr Farnan: Well, considering the competition, you are to be commended in that respect.

There are two very brief items, Mr Chair. The scaffolding which exists around the building is a potential danger; always, wherever there is scaffolding, there is a potential danger to the public. What precautions are being taken to ensure the public is safe in this environment?

Mrs Speakman: We have additional security at night to make sure no one enters the site. All the scaffolding is completely fenced off. We have protection over all walkways -- for example, the archway over the entrance -- to protect people from falling objects, debris or whatever may fall. It's restricting access. Obviously, the normal construction safety precautions are taken with anyone entering the site: hardhats, construction shoes and so on.

Mr Farnan: What would the liability be for this assembly for any occurrences or damages?

Mrs Speakman: It's all tied in with the contracts, the construction firms themselves and the insurance and liability they have for a construction site.

Mr Farnan: They're covered.

Mrs Speakman: That's all covered as part of --

Mr Farnan: I shouldn't say they're covered; we're covered.

Mrs Speakman: It's part of the contract.

Mr Farnan: The final question -- and I hope you'll take this in the way it's meant. You're saying you're meeting all these time lines and you're coming in within budget, and yet the work is being done several years later. There was an inflationary cost. Did you actually pad the budget initially so that now you're coming in within budget three years later, or is this just good planning?

Mrs Speakman: It's a little bit of both. In terms of padding, we had a --

Mr Farnan: Do you want to take that back?

Mrs Speakman: No. We had a ballpark figure based on a concept and we had no details. Once we got down to the detail level, they were very stringent estimates that were provided. But the major contributing factor, apart from all the project management techniques we have put in place, is the fact that the bids in many cases are much lower than we had anticipated due to the recession, and a lot of the top craftsmen are available and the top firms are available and they want the work, so we're getting very good bids.

Mr Farnan: I would finally like to say --

The Chair: Very briefly, please.

Mr Farnan: I will sum up with this point, Mr Chair. I would finally like to say that it's very important to the public that we come in on our budgetary targets. If you can do this, as you appear to be doing, then I think you're doing everyone a very big favour. The public likes to know what it's buying at what price and that the price doesn't change in the process of the purchase. It looks good at this stage and I hope you're able to achieve successfully what you've presented to the committee today.

The Chair: Mr Hope, I overlooked you. You should be the final speaker. Mr Hope, you have a question?

Mr Hope: I was interested in the conversation about privileges and about precinct. I'm wondering, those arguments over the years that you've been involved in the process, if the process is not asking for members' political -- what would you call it? -- immunity, that a lot of members are looking for -- of being untouchable throughout the whole public eye. If that's what I'm hearing members are looking for, then I really raise a lot of questions in segregating ourselves from the general population, and that's why I have to put this forward. I understand what you're saying about the precinct being committee rooms and the House itself, but going beyond that stage and -- you've got to watch how much you segregate yourself from the general public. I just wanted to hear those comments over the 20 years of your experience.

Mr DesRosiers: I think you're quite right. I come back to the difference between precinct -- which is that area in which services are offered to members; it's that area where members do a lot of their work -- but privilege is a different thing. Privilege -- and you can read it in Erskine May; it's a couple of paragraphs and well worth your read -- is that which permits you and does lift you beyond the normal realm of everybody out in the street. This is something that Mr Public does not have that you have, and this is the right of free speech in the House and in committees. This is why you sometimes hear the reference which is offered jokingly, I'm sure, by members in the House, who say, "Well, go and repeat that outside the House."

You'll all remember André Ouellet being brought before the courts for words that he mentioned just outside the House of Commons in Ottawa; in the building, well within the precinct, but outside the House. That is your privilege, a very important privilege.

There was a case here before I came, and I don't want to criticize people and so on; it was a case that you probably all have heard of. I don't think any members were here then, but maybe they were. I don't know, I don't think so. There was a case here, a member of this House who brought a question of privilege before the Speaker. His question of privilege was that he had received a letter from his bank manager who didn't like the activities he had partaken of in picketing with employees of the bank. The bank manager had written the member calling back his loan, if I remember correctly, and saying, "Listen, pay up." The member got up in the House and raised a question of privilege and said, "My privileges as a member have been attacked here by this bank manager."

The House voted to send that to a committee, but it was not a question of privilege. This member's privileges have nothing to do with his business with the bank manager. That's between him and the bank manager, and maybe the bank manager was right in writing the letter; that's beyond it. What he was saying was, "My rights of free speech to picket in front of this bank are being limited somehow by the bank manager." But he has no right of free speech in front of a bank. He has the right of free speech in the chamber, the right of free speech here. I just use that example to illustrate the point.

The Chair: Noble, you indicated you wanted to ask a question.

Mr Noble Villeneuve (S-D-G & East Grenville): Yes. I was a member back then. I guess I'm telling you my age now.

Mr Hope: Are you that old?

Mr Villeneuve: Yes. Back to Barbara, your statement regarding the possibility of repairing only half of the west wing and half of the east wing. What do you mean by that? It was a couple of questions ago.

Mrs Speakman: All I meant was that the board is looking at two scenarios right now, one for completing the project in a total of three years and one in a total of five years, and the difference obviously is that if we're going for a five-year scenario we cannot do the whole of the west wing next year. We could do only half of the west wing.

Mr Villeneuve: Once you're set up, the economies would be conducive, in my opinion, to try to complete what you're doing, movement of members, movement of staff etc. When you've possibly got an area vacated, would it not be wise to finish it?

Mrs Speakman: Well, we've just provided what the board asked us for. They asked us just to look at some different scenarios for cash flow, and we've done that. Obviously, there are pros and cons for each scenario. We've provided the board with your views on that also and it will take those into consideration.

Yes, you do lose time, you lose money to a certain extent because you're setting up twice, you're preparing sites twice. You don't have the flexibility of moving workers on a larger site; if it's raining or, you know, there's a problem over here with this part of the site, you can move the people over to another part. Well, you're more limited if you're doing half a wing. But the board has all that information, and I guess it'll consider it and decide which way it wishes to go.

Mr Villeneuve: So it's totally in the hands of the board, as opposed to any of us. It's the Board of Internal Economy, I presume.


Mr DesRosiers: That is a decision for the board. I'll use this example to illustrate how we work here. Sometimes some people have a different opinion of how we operate because they're used to dealing with public servants in the Ontario public service, and this is no denigration of what they do. We operate in a totally different outlook. We have a building here and part of our duty is to recommend to the board certain things that have to be done in order to keep the building up and we do that. If the board says yes, then we execute the work.

You see, we all have work to do. Our job is not increased. We're not building empires; we're not trying to build new directions or anything by trying to promote new projects to the board. The board, on the other hand, has a responsibility for the money aspect and has, in its wisdom, to decide whether it's better to do.

But I think you're quite right in your analysis that basically you can spread it out over five years and spend less money each year, but I think it's pretty difficult to argue that the total bill will be less. The total bill will be more. So this is a decision that the people will have to take.

But then, on the other hand, the members of the board have a very important and a very difficult duty. I have to account to the board for my actions and I account to you people and to all the members. But the board has to account to the people in Ontario, and that's why I don't run for politics -- I mean, I'd much rather account to you people than account to the people of Ontario. Therefore these are very difficult decisions for them in these hard times.

You see, when I have people in my office sometimes and when we don't have scaffolding there, I open the drapes and we talk about the building and so on and I point to the Bank of Montreal Tower downtown. I say, "Do you see that building?" and they say yes. I say: "The difference between this building and that building is that in 500 years the Bank of Montreal Tower, I can guarantee you, will not be there; we hope this one will be. That's the difference."

Mr Villeneuve: One final question: How many square feet of unusable space will now be usable after the renovation? I gather there's a considerable amount of area there. That's a plus. Any idea, Barb? I'm going back to my days when I was on the precinct committee and I recall that was --

Mrs Speakman: I haven't got it right on the top, the number of square feet. The only new, usable area is in the west wing, fifth floor, and I have no mandate at this point to renovate that. What we're doing right now is the repairs and putting in the platforms for mechanical equipment and so on, but I have no budget to actually finish the fifth floor at this point.

Mr Villeneuve: That's a change, I gather, from when I was on the committee back in 1989.

Mrs Speakman: We had hoped to do it at that point but, as I said earlier, the board has approved only essential repairs and so on, so that's a future project.

The Chair: Ms Cunningham, very briefly, the final speaker.

Mrs Cunningham: We had hoped to get all that done. I guess the only thing I can say with regard to what we're doing right now is that we finally have a group that has the guts to do it, because we won't have that building 500 years from now if we don't do this work. They've waited far too long. I think it's intolerable that the members are out of this building. I think they should all have their offices in this building. That was the intent and we can't do it without moving forward.

I think it's intolerable that we have a wonderful light service and we can't bring the people who own this building into it to use the washrooms on the weekends and any other time, and we're all sitting here moaning about things and this is the public's building and they can't even get into it without very careful planning. We have to turn school groups away, and that's why I'm going to stay involved as long as I can. By the time we all leave, I hope we can stand up for what's right in this province.

We talk about the Americans having an allegiance to their state building and they go down there on trips all the time. We can't accommodate the young people who want to come here now. Everybody knows you haven't even got washrooms for your mother if she visits. So don't ever be proud of what we're doing here. We've slowed it down, and to slow it down any more I just think is intolerable.

Mr Farnan: I think on that point, Mr Chair, you would have to admire a government that, in a recession, undertook the renovations that had been put off for years, boom years. So I feel very proud of the government moving ahead with this initiative --

Mrs Cunningham: With a lot of help from the opposition parties.

Mr Farnan: -- at this particular time.

The Chair: Order, please. On the fact that the renovations --

Mr Hope: Mr Chairman, did you notice I didn't even speak up?

The Chair: Order, please. Under the previous government in fact, the whole process was started with the precinct committee. I was a member of the precinct committee along with Ms Cunningham, and we went over this. We went over the budget in great detail. We had a great number of meetings and we made the recommendations.

Yes, this building is in need of repair. In fact, to answer Mr Noble Villeneuve's question, there's about 13% to 17% of this building not used that could be used for office space right now. Hopefully, in the very near future, the fifth floor can in fact be put back into service again. I understand it went out somewhere in the 1950s or 1960s, in that period of time.

Mrs Speakman: The point to remember also is that until we have sealed the building and stopped it from leaking and all of the other things, it's not going to be cost-effective to start renovating those spaces. Also, there's only a finite amount of work that we can manage and control in any one given year. Quite frankly, we wouldn't want to start any more work than we have on right now. But the plan was to proceed, after the initial repairs, with many of those other things that would restore the space. The Chair: In fact, the precinct planned the restoration of this place over a period of 10 years.

Again, on behalf of the committee, I thank the Clerk of the House, Claude DesRosiers, and the executive director, assembly services, for coming along here this afternoon. We wish you the best for the season.

On behalf of the committee, I thank the Clerk for the services he's offered in the House to the members, and indeed Barbara Speakman for continued good service to the members in this building.

Mr DesRosiers: If I might have one word, I just want to impress upon this committee that it's neither Ms Speakman nor myself who do all this, but we have very, very dedicated Office of the Assembly staff here who work like the dickens for all the members, and we are all here for you.

The Chair: Before we go into closed session to deal with the issue of security with the Speaker, I will require a motion from the committee. At this point we do not know if this committee has indeed been allocated any time over the winter session to meet to deal with some issues. In case the committee has been allocated some time, I wish the committee to authorize the clerk to meet with the subcommittee either over a conference call or whatever as soon as that information becomes available.

Mrs MacKinnon: I so move.

The Chair: All in favour? Carried.

This committee stands in recess.

The committee continued in closed session at 1648.