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1992 December Report of the Auditor General of Canada

1992 December Report

1. Introduction

Main Messages

  • This report deals with matters which concern both Chambers. It does not deal with matters which can be dealt with by each Chamber acting alone.
  • Part One is an audit of the Parliamentary Associations Secretariat and the Parliamentary Exchanges and Protocol Directorate.
  • Part Two deals with other potential and existing joint services.
  • Our starting premise was that the advantages of joint arrangements had to be proven. We established three stringent criteria for recommending amalgamation of separate services.
  • Our overall conclusion is that the savings which can be achieved from amalgamation are less than expected. There would also be organizational costs.
  • The costs of full amalgamation can be avoided and many of the savings and improvements can be achieved by establishing more closely linked administrative services. These gains, while not enormous, are worth striving for.
  • In some areas, there is evidence of co-operation in changes already underway.
  • There remain, however, significant constraints to fully amalgamated administrations, reflecting existing constitutional positions, and tradition.


The Parliament of Canada, like many legislatures derived from the British tradition, is bicameral. In practical terms, Canada has a legislature with two separate and independent Chambers. Under the Canadian constitution, no bill can become law without the agreement of both Houses. The only significant difference between the powers of the Senate and the House of Commons is that only the House of Commons can initiate bills which involve the spending of money. In recent years, the Senate has rarely failed to pass and, only occasionally, amended a bill passed by the House of Commons. However, the delaying tactics employed by the Senate from 1988 to 1990 were controversial and led the government to invoke Section 26 of the Constitution Act (1867). This permitted the government, in 1990, to appoint 8 "regional" Senators in addition to the normal maximum of 104, and enabled it to pass the legislation authorizing the Goods and Services Tax. This action was a visible manifestation of the tensions between these two legislative bodies. These tensions may conceivably affect the ability of the two Chambers to work together on administrative matters.

Managing two legislative bodies in such close proximity means that inevitably questions will be raised about whether, administratively, there is unnecessary overlap, and adequate co-operation. As we discuss, the differences between the "cultures" of the two Houses, reflect different methods of selection, length of term, and perceived political power, as well as important differences in the organization and accountability arrangements of the two Houses. This means that joint arrangements between the Houses, which are problematic in any bicameral legislature, are especially so in Canada.

Why we have written this report. In March 1991, the Office of the Auditor General published an audit of the administration of the Senate. In November 1991, audits of the administration of the House of Commons, and Library of Parliament were completed. In each of these reports, certain Parliament-wide issues, more properly dealt with by both Houses, than by either alone, were deferred to this report. The most notable of these issues was that of parliamentary security ( see Chapter 5 ). We also deferred examination of the question of potential joint services between the House and Senate ( see Chapter 7 ).

In undertaking this work we asked four basic questions:

  1. Are existing joint services managed with due regard for economy and efficiency?
  2. Do the accountability arrangements for services delivered jointly adequately reflect the needs and contributions of those who deliver the services, those who receive the services, and those who pay for them? In particular, is public reporting on joint services sufficiently informative to achieve accountability?
  3. With respect to the Parliament Buildings, are there adequate accountability arrangements to ensure that maintenance and capital improvements issues can be addressed in a timely fashion?
  4. With respect to services currently separate, have potentially significant efficiency and effectiveness gains through more closely linked or fully amalgamated services been identified? If they are known, why have the improvements not been made?

Overall Approach and Conclusions

This report uses a variety of methodologies. Part One is a traditional audit. Part Two has many characteristics of an audit, in that the facts were fully substantiated. However, it also has characteristics of a study because, to determine the potential advantages of joint services, we had to assess potential alternative organizational arrangements.

Part One is an audit of the Parliamentary Associations Secretariat, and the Parliamentary Exchanges and Protocol Directorate. These organizations report to the two Speakers. The directorates allocate a travel budget of about $1.5 million, for Canadian parliamentarians, and accompanying staff and spouses, to travel to meetings and exchanges in other countries. These travel expenses are in addition to the travel costs for parliamentarians currently reported in Public Accounts.

Part Two considers several matters of concern to both the House and the Senate:

  • Security
  • Upkeep of a Heritage Asset: Parliament Buildings
  • Potential Joint Services - for example:
    • messengers and mail,
    • parliamentary publications, and
    • training, collective bargaining, occupational health and safety.
  • Existing Joint Services - for example:
    • Language Testing and Training,
    • Health Services,
    • Joint Document Distribution, and
    • OASIS computer and television network.
We distinguished in Part Two between "more closely linked service" and "joint service". By "more closely linked service" we mean anything done with more collaboration, co-operation, or co-ordination between the two Chambers. A "joint service", on the other hand, is a service run by a single entity for both Chambers. It might be situated in one of the two Houses of Parliament, in an external body, such as a government department, or in a body which is jointly accountable to the two Houses. We discuss several examples of existing joint services in Chapter 8.

Our criteria for recommending a joint service were stringent. We indicated to the House and the Senate that we would not recommend a joint service unless it met three basic criteria:

  • the legitimate interests and constitutional autonomy of each House were protected;
  • accountability to both Houses was feasible; and
  • there were clear potential gains in economy, effectiveness or efficiency.
The reasons for the first two criteria were to respect the traditional differences between the two Houses, and to acknowledge their constitutional separation. We discuss some of the reasons for the differences between the House and Senate on page 6.

With respect to the third criterion, we only considered gains to be had from establishing a joint service. The starting premise was that we had to prove that joint arrangements would be sufficiently more efficient or effective to justify the organizational costs involved.

The conceptual challenge was to separate productivity or efficiency improvements which each House could achieve acting alone, from the potential savings of establishing a joint service. For example each House can obtain significant productivity savings in cleaning. While these savings might be implemented in a combined service, each House can also obtain most of these savings on its own.

A similar conceptual challenge occurs if service levels were reduced in a joint service. It is conceivable that those responsible for a joint service might impose new, lower levels of service, in order to save money. This might even look like an economy realized from a joint service. However, this is not a savings which comes truly from a joint service, since either House can decide to save money on its own by accepting a lower standard of service.

The potential improvements from more closely linked services are, for example:

  • economies of scale in purchasing and use of equipment;
  • savings which come from greater flexibility to cope with uneven work loads;
  • advantages of pooling knowledge or expertise; and
  • improved effectiveness.
Our overall conclusion: Most of the potential gains from amalgamated joint services, can be achieved, without incurring the costs of a full merger, through closer organizational linkages. Thus the general thrust of this report is to seek the maximum gains at the least cost, both organizationally, and in human terms.

However, the potential gains from implementing the recommendations of this report are often less than the gains available from implementing the recommendations contained in our earlier audits. Therefore, the House and Senate should consider these suggestions in conjunction with the recommendations made in the 1991 audits.

Matters excluded from consideration: In this report, as in the previous parliamentary audits, we did not wish to examine matters which are an integral part of the legislative process. For example, we did not explore whether one set of legislative or committee clerks could serve both Houses. For similar reasons, we did not examine the feasibility of combining the law clerk functions.

We did not audit the management of any specific parliamentarian's office. This is something we might have undertaken, and which might be useful to do, but we agreed with the House and Senate request that our 1991 audits should report on the systems and practices for managing, controlling and accounting for parliamentarians' offices. In order to comment on the systems and practices, we were given complete access to trip details and individual transactions.

We have not formally followed-up on matters covered in the 1991 audits of the House and Senate. Most matters of relevance to the Library of Parliament, an existing joint service, were dealt with in our 1991 audit of the Library.

We did not include restaurant and food services although some consider them a joint service. The restaurant and cafeteria services are provided by the House of Commons to all of Parliament. Until 1983 they were overseen by a joint committee of the House and Senate. This committee has not met in ten years and there was little objection from the Senate when the House unilaterally began to manage the restaurant itself.

Apart from occasional complaints about the hours and the price of food, the Senate continues to accept the House's managerial responsibility for food services. It has also accepted financial responsibility for the loss incurred by the House of Commons in operating a canteen for the Senate. We, therefore, considered the restaurant within the scope of our audit of the House of Commons. To the extent that restaurant and cafeteria issues affect both Houses, they are appropriate for joint consideration.

Present Situation

The House and Senate already share many administrative facilities and services. Although the House of Commons and Senate are constitutionally distinct, they jointly occupy two of the buildings on Parliament Hill. Being in the same building creates situations where the institutions should communicate and co-operate. As well, the Speakers of the two Houses are jointly responsible for the Library of Parliament, and for the Directorates responsible for Parliamentary Associations and Parliamentary Exchanges.

The House of Commons provides several services to the Senate and Library of Parliament. These include restaurant facilities, tailoring services, language testing, health services, the OASIS video and data network, Press Gallery services, tour guides of the Senate chamber, administrative and legislative services for many joint committees, and distribution of documents. The House charges the Senate and Library of Parliament for some of these services.

The Senate supports the Joint Standing Committee on the Scrutiny of Regulations, provides tour guides for the jointly occupied East Block, and permits use of its bus, barber, etc. by all parliamentary employees.

For the most part, each House provides separate services. These services include: security, messengers, cleaning, parliamentary publications, human resources and financial management, picture framing, gyms, barber shops, mini-buses, and perhaps most symbolic of all, the side-by-side Post Offices, one for the Senate and one for the House of Commons. Table 1 provides a comparison of expenditures and person years for some of these services.

Examples Of Separate Services

House of Commons



Person Years

1991-92 Expenditures $

Person Years

1991-92 Expenditures $

Building Maintenance and Cleaning Services





Furniture Repairs and Auxiliary Services





Postal, Messenger and Internal Mail Services





Printing Services















Source: Comptroller's Office, House of Commons and Finance Directorate, Senate

Table I

Some services are provided by government departments and agencies to all the occupants of Parliament Hill. They must deal, often separately, with the House of Commons, Senate, and, in some instances, also with the Library of Parliament. They include:

  • RCMP (security);
  • Public Works (building repair and improvements);
  • National Capital Commission (grounds maintenance and heritage design);
  • Secretary of State (translation and simultaneous interpretation); and
  • Supply and Services (printing, cheque supply).

Changes Already Underway

Since beginning our work, we have become aware that many changes are already underway. In some areas, there is evidence of increasing co-operation on administrative matters between the House and Senate . However, there is still significant room for improvement. For many reasons, there remain significant constraints to more co-operative arrangements. We discuss several of these in the next section.

Context and Constraints

Each House, reflecting its constitutional position, maintains that it is autonomous in administrative matters. Among employees, there is a tradition of loyalty to one's House.

The House of Commons and Senate are organized differently and have different accountability mechanisms. This can inhibit co-operation. In practical terms, these differences reflect the following:

  • The budget and number of personnel of the House of Commons is about 5 times that of the Senate; and about 15 times that of the Library of Parliament.
  • All administrative authority in the House of Commons is concentrated in the Board of Internal Economy. The Chairman of the Board is the elected Speaker of the House. This Board has meetings which are closed, even to Members of Parliament who are not on the Committee. This makes it easier to make quick binding decisions.
  • On the other hand, in the Senate, administrative authority is more open and more collegial. Decisions are taken by the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration (Committee on Internal Economy), but most of its decisions must be ratified by the full Senate. The meetings of the Committee are open to the public. A practical consequence is that discussions of administrative matters are now more openly reported in the Senate than in the House of Commons.
  • Administrative authority in the Senate is dispersed. Neither the Speaker of the Senate, nor the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Internal Economy has as much administrative authority as the Speaker of the House of Commons. The Senate Speaker is appointed by the Government; the House of Commons Speaker is elected by Members. The Speaker of the Senate does not enjoy legislated administrative authority, and currently does not sit on the Committee on Internal Economy.
The House of Commons and Senate are more independent in administrative matters than are government departments. The House of Commons and the Senate each is responsible for most of the rules affecting its separate activities. They generally cannot be directed to act by the courts or the Crown. Many laws affecting departments do not apply, so that the usual accountability and control mechanisms do not apply. For this reason, we recommended in our audits of the House and Senate that a greater measure of accountability could be achieved by more public disclosure of administrative activity, and parliamentarians' expenses.

Joint administrative services may have a problem of accountability in a bicameral legislature. How can a truly joint service account to both Houses? The Senate, on administrative matters, usually insists that, as a separate and equal House, it should receive equal representation on joint committees to deal with administration. The House, however, tends to prefer a weighting which reflects the relative size of the two Chambers. The House of Commons approach is to avoid committees by providing the entire service, either at a cost, or free. The problem is that a truly joint service must account to both Houses, a cumbersome requirement. With the current degree of uncertainty about the future relative status of the two Chambers, it will be difficult to find a formula for joint accountability which would be satisfactory and reflect, appropriately, the political relationships between the Houses.

Among Senators, there is a concern that House needs will receive priority over Senate needs. In our 1990 survey of Senators, between 61 to 90 percent of those replying answered they would oppose as joint services cleaning, messengers, purchasing, security, and travel reimbursement, even if they were shown to be more efficient or effective. In the House of Commons, between 80 to 94 percent of those responding had no objection to jointly provided services. However, in our interviews, we discovered that to many Members of the House of Commons, "jointly provided" meant that the House would provide services to the Senate. They usually did not imagine the situation reversed, with the Senate providing services to the House of Commons.

The history of disbanded joint House/Senate committees on administrative matters demonstrates that the Members of the House of Commons and Senators do not often work well together on administrative matters. We examined how the Senate and House had dealt with joint administrative matters in the past. We noted that the joint committee recommended by the Special Committee on the Reform of the House of Commons, (the McGrath report) to deal with common administrative matters had never met, because the Senate did not appoint members to the Committee. We were told that some Senators objected to a joint committee which would have only 30 percent of its members from the Senate. As an equal Chamber they felt the Senate representation should be equal. As we noted in our audit of the Library of Parliament, the joint committee on the Library of Parliament, as envisaged by the Parliament of Canada Act, was discontinued in 1986. The joint committee on printing has not met in decades. The joint committee on the restaurant has not met since 1983.

In any successful instance of joint accountability, personal and institutional relationships are critical, since there is no single point of final authority. This is sometimes easier said than done. No matter what the formal accountability framework, relationships and attitudes are decisive. In achieving change, the attitudes of parliamentarians and staff can make a real difference.

2. Previous Reports on Joint Matters

There have been previous reports which addressed joint administrative issues. However, these reports did not extensively investigate the costs and benefits of joint services, or examine alternatives, such as linking services more closely. These reports include:

  • A supplementary detailed report on our 1980 audit of the House of Commons recommended the consideration of a joint security service. (see page 26)
  • The Special Committee on the Reform of the House of Commons, chaired by James McGrath, in its June 1985 report, commented: "There appears to be little co-ordination and consultation among the three administrations that make up the parliamentary establishment (the Senate, the House of Commons, and the Library of Parliament)." The report observed there might be overlaps in office automation, research, administration, and other areas and recommended that a survey be undertaken with a view to "eliminating duplication and ensuring that members receive efficient and effective services." It recommended that the Board of Internal Economy of the House undertake the survey.
The McGrath Committee also expressed concerns about the state of repair of the Parliament Buildings, particularly the Centre Block, and reiterated its earlier proposal that a parliamentary Intendant, responsible for all the building, maintenance, operations, and capital projects in the parliamentary precincts reporting to both Houses, be established.

The McGrath report, in some respects, was an update of the 1976 report (The Abbott Commission), of the Advisory Commission on Parliamentary Accommodation. We address some of the same issues, many of which were long-standing in 1976 and 1985, in Chapter 6.

  • In 1990, the House Special Committee on the Review of the Parliament of Canada Act (Danis Committee), commented that there was a "significant degree of overlap" between the two Houses. It said there may be efficiencies that could be achieved, "if there were a more co-ordinated approach to administrative services than has taken place in the past." None of the previous recommendations for co-ordination or amalgamation was acted upon.
  • Our 1991 audit of Senate administration raised matters of joint interest such as security, training, and fire safety. While we indicated we would look more closely at possible joint services after the completion of the House audit, we urged the Senate to assess the costs and benefits of a joint security service. We also observed that for training and development, most notably for security personnel, opportunities for co-operation with the House of Commons which might reduce costs or increase access of Senate employees to wider course offerings, were only sporadically pursued and should be more thoroughly investigated.
  • The 1991 audit of the House of Commons also raised security as a major issue and urged the House to investigate the implications of a joint security force. We indicated that, as well, common accommodation issues, including planning and managing the improvement and maintenance of the Parliament Buildings, would be dealt with in this joint report.
  • The audit of the Library of Parliament also raised matters of joint interest. As an institution which is, by legislation, jointly accountable to both Speakers, assisted by a joint committee, accountability was a key issue. One of the principal conclusions was that, although client satisfaction with Library services was impressively high, accountability, both to the Houses, and to the public, was inadequate. We noted, for instance, that the joint committee provided for by the Parliament of Canada Act was discontinued in 1986.
The Library is the smallest of the parliamentary institutions. The House of Commons provides most support services, other than personnel and finance. Thus House decisions on matters such as accommodation, automation, and security, have an affect on the Library. The Library of Parliament audit report proposed that this report deal with Parliament-wide issues of particular relevance to the Library, such as automation, personnel, internal audit, indexing and space allocation. Some of these issues did not meet our overall criteria for significance, and are not dealt with in this report. Nevertheless, we expect that the recommendations we make concerning accommodation planning and executive level co-ordination of joint administrative issues, offer a mechanism by which most of these issues can be addressed.

3. International Comparisons

Every bicameral legislature faces the issue of how the two Chambers relate to each other.

We looked at the administration of other bicameral legislatures, primarily the United Kingdom, the United States, and Australia, for examples of jointly provided services. While we saw no firm evidence that joint organizations produce greater economy or effectiveness, their widespread existence does suggest that they are perceived to have advantages. On the other hand, some members and staff of these legislatures are dissatisfied with these joint arrangements. They would prefer that each Chamber deliver its own services, or, when purchasing a service, to acquire it with freedom to choose another vendor.

  • In the United Kingdom, the only significant joint services were, until recently, provided by government departments. Security is provided by the Metropolitan Police. They receive reimbursement, and the costs appear in the Votes of the House of Lords and House of Commons. Building maintenance was provided by the Department of the Environment. The government, not Parliament, decided what capital expenditures would be made on the Parliament Buildings. In 1990, a report by Sir Robin Ibbs recommended that the House of Commons take financial responsibility for its own premises by appointing a Director of Works to manage building and furnishing services, and to take control over the parliamentary portion of the departmental works budget. He suggested that the House of Lords share in these arrangements. In 1992, legislation was passed to transfer ownership of the Parliament Buildings to the House of Commons and the House of Lords and to enable the Houses to make contracts and hold property. The Office of Parliamentary Works was established to take responsibility for the property, its maintenance, and new construction. The Director of Works' plans are subject to the approval of the appropriate authorities in both Houses.
  • In the United States, there are several forms of joint services. In one organizational form, used for both administrative and research services, the head is appointed by the President, but accountability is to both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Examples include:
  • Library of Congress;
  • Government Printing Office; and
  • Architect of the Capitol.
Another model for a joint administrative service is the Capitol Police. Although technically, both the House of Representatives and the Senate has its own separately hired force, for operational matters, all security staff report to a jointly appointed Chief. The Chief reports to a Board with representation from both Houses. The obvious advantage is that, both in everyday matters and in times of crisis, there is only one person in charge.

Because of the differences in size and perceived power between the House of Commons and the Senate, the U.S. organizational model of equal sharing of responsibility for joint services could be difficult to achieve in Canada.

  • While jointly delivered administrative services work reasonably well in Australia, their structure is an historical accident which has communication and co-ordination challenges. The organizational design of joint parliamentary services in Australia would not necessarily be successful in Canada.
The Australian Parliament has five departments:
  • House of Representatives;
  • Senate;
  • Parliamentary Library;
  • Parliamentary Reporting Service; and
  • Joint House Department.
Administratively, the head of the Australian Department of the House of Representatives reports to the Speaker of the House and the head of the Department of the Senate reports to the President of the Senate. The services provided are, for the most part, directly related to the legislative functions of Parliament. The other three departments are joint administrative departments whose heads report to both the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate. The Parliamentary Library has functions similar to those of the Canadian Library of Parliament. The Parliamentary Reporting Service provides Hansard and informatics services to both Houses. The Joint House Department provides building maintenance services to the entire establishment.

These three joint parliamentary departments reflect a tradition established in the much smaller administration for the Victoria legislature at the turn of the century. A few years ago, some Australian parliamentarians argued that three joint departments were too many, and that the co-ordination and communications mechanisms required were too cumbersome. They proposed to amalgamate the three joint departments into one. However, the attempt failed because of Senate opposition and concern that one large administrative department might have too much power. So, an ongoing fact of Australian parliamentary administration is the continuing administrative challenge of co-ordinating the plans and activities of three joint and two legislative departments. This requires a variety of formal and informal consultative mechanisms. As well, the absence of one of the two Presiding Officers can inhibit decision making, since both are needed for major decisions.

An interesting Australian innovation is the position of the security controller. This position is held by a security professional who is paid by one House, while administrative support staff are paid by the other. The operational staff are jointly recruited, but appointed to one House or the other. The controller has the same rank as the majority of senior executives in both Houses and reports to both Presiding Officers. The important point is that, in practical terms, the security controller has responsibility for security matters in a crisis, as well as responsibility for setting training standards and standard operating procedures. As we discuss in our chapter on security, a single line of command in a crisis is essential.

The lesson we draw from these comparisons is that a newly established joint parliamentary service would require that the Senate and House of Commons each establish a bureaucratic interface to deal with the new organization. This might be costly, especially in terms of senior executive time. As well, the breakup of old organizations into new ones involves significant costs, not all of which are easily quantifiable.

Consequently, we consistently ask in this report, is it less costly overall to co-ordinate and co-operate, and work within the existing organizational structure on Parliament Hill than to establish a new joint service? In most cases, our judgment has been that, at this moment, while changes are needed, new organizations are not justified.

Part One

4. Audit of Parliamentary Associations and Parliamentary Exchanges and Protocol

Main Messages and Recommendations

  • The two directorates are, formally, the only joint services other than the Library of Parliament and as such, were not audited in our audits of the Senate, the House of Commons, or the Library of Parliament. Their primary function is to support international exchanges with foreign parliamentarians.
  • The House of Commons Board of Internal Economy and the Senate Committee on Internal Economy are designated, by statute, as responsible for the administration of the House of Commons and Senate. On the other hand, by tradition, the directorates report to both Speakers. Since the Senate Speaker is not currently a member of the Committee on Internal Economy and does not report to it, or to the Senate, there is a gap in the accountability loop.
  • From 1 April 1990 to 31 December 1991, approximately 40 percent of all parliamentarians travelled outside Canada as part of delegations supported by these directorates. Many delegations included staff and spouses. We examined a sample of travel files and found that most travel is well documented and found no evidence that expenses claimed were not for the purposes intended.
  • The reporting of parliamentarians' expenses is inadequate. The trip reports tabled in the House of Commons and the Senate do not usually contain any information on costs or on travellers other than parliamentarians. We recommend fuller disclosure.
  • All international travel on behalf of Associations and Exchanges is paid out of grants to the Associations Secretariat and out of contributions to the Exchanges Directorate. Consequently, the expenses are not reported in the Public Accounts as travel but simply as transfer payments. As a result, the reported costs of travel incurred by parliamentarians, their spouses and their staff is understated.
  • The use of grants and contributions to fund an organization's own travel is at variance with government practice. A reader of the Public Accounts might reasonably expect that the grants and contributions would go to an arm's length organization, and not to fund travel expenses of those receiving a salary or indemnity from the same organization giving the grants and contributions. In our view, this practice should be discontinued. However, an appropriate use of the grants is to pay the dues to an association's international parent body, such as the Canadian NATO Parliamentary Association's contribution to the North Atlantic Assembly.
  • The budgeting process for the directorates reflects disagreements, and perhaps misunderstandings, between the Senate and the House of Commons. Better communication and greater clarity of arrangements is obviously needed.
  • To improve the situation, we recommend the House of Commons and Senate negotiate a written agreement which specifies:
    • the method of supervising the directorates so that they are accountable to both Houses;
    • the process for developing and approving budgets;
    • the relative contributions of the Houses, both financial and non-financial;
    • the form and content of the reports tabled in each House by returning delegations;
    • the method of appointing staff, particularly directors; and
    • the reporting relationships for directors.


Other than the Library of Parliament, the Parliamentary Associations Secretariat and the Parliamentary Exchanges and Protocol Directorate are the only administrative units formally providing services and reporting to both Houses. As such, these directorates were not audited in our audits of the Senate, House of Commons, and Library of Parliament. For administrative purposes, the directorates are part of the House of Commons.

What do these directorates do? The Parliamentary Associations Secretariat describes itself as responsible for planning, budgeting and directing the operational and administrative support services for all recognized parliamentary associations and friendship groups, the co-ordination of all inter-parliamentary conferences and publication of the Parliamentary Review . The Parliamentary Exchanges and Protocol Directorate oversees all other inter-parliamentary exchanges.

Parliamentary Associations are groups of parliamentarians who pay a nominal fee to meet and share information with parliamentarians of other countries. There are eight officially recognized Associations. These Associations, such as Canada-Europe or Canada-Japan, choose delegates to participate in and host meetings, seminars, and international conferences with counterpart countries. Each Association, operating under established by-laws, elects a number of parliamentarians from its membership to form an Executive Committee. Audited financial statements are prepared annually, but are not made public. Staff support and the majority of the funding, in the form of a grant, are provided by the Senate and the House of Commons. Friendship groups have a similar orientation, such as improving relations with Italy or Israel, and receive administrative assistance from the Associations Secretariat but do not receive grants to cover meetings and travel expenses.

The Exchanges and Protocol Directorate oversees all other inter-parliamentary exchanges. These exchanges involve Canadian parliamentarians travelling to foreign countries and foreign parliamentarians travelling to Canada. The Directorate also manages the Parliamentary Co-operation Programme, in which staff of foreign and provincial legislatures come to Ottawa for several weeks to study some aspect of the administration of the Canadian Parliament. It provides advice and assistance on matters of protocol to the Speakers, parliamentarians, Canadian parliamentary officials and Parliamentary Associations. In addition to overseeing inter-parliamentary exchanges, the Directorate provides administrative support for visits by parliamentarians from other countries not funded as part of the official exchanges program. This includes visits such as those by members of foreign parliamentary committees reviewing a particular issue.

How much do they cost? The budgets in the 1991-92 Estimates for these two directorates are shared by the House of Commons and the Senate on a 70:30 basis:

Parliamentary Associations:


$ 932,500


Commonwealth Parliamentary Association

$ 342,230

Inter-parliamentary Union


Canadian NATO Parliamentary Association


Assemblée internationale des parlementaires de langue français (AIPLF)






Canada-United States




Parliamentary Spouses




Total Grants


Total Parliamentary Associations


Exchanges and Protocol:


$ 970,300


Incoming Delegations

$ 295,000

Outgoing Delegations


Official Gifts


Parliamentary Cooperation


Seminar on the Role of Government


AIPLF Presidency


Less: House of Commons reduction


Less: Senate reduction


Total Contributions


Total Exchanges and Protocol


There are four key features of the directorates that distinguish them from other organizations on Parliament Hill:

  1. Operating budgets are shared approximately 70:30 between the House of Commons and Senate.
  2. The grants and contributions budgets are also shared 70:30. Since grants and contributions are shown separately as a lump sum, these funds are not included in the operational expenses of the House of Commons and Senate.
  3. Although a joint service, all employees - whether House of Commons or Senate employees - report to Directors who are House of Commons employees.
  4. The directorates are accountable to the two Speakers. The Speakers directly authorize many expenditures. This is different from the Library of Parliament, where the Speakers have responsibility, but do not directly authorize expenditures.
The audit covers only Associations' and Exchanges' foreign travel. This is travel of parliamentarians and others representing the Parliament of Canada, participating in parliamentary exchanges, international conferences, and representing Canadian branches of Parliamentary Associations at international association meetings. This travel is paid from the grants and contributions administered by the Parliamentary Associations Secretariat and the Parliamentary Exchanges and Protocol Directorate. The grants and contributions are reported only in total as transfer payments and do not appear as travel expenses in the Public Accounts. During the period from 1 April 1990 to 31 December 1991, 125 Members of the House of Commons and 41 Senators made a total of 293 trips outside Canada in this category. This represents about 40 percent of all parliamentarians. The directorates also provide support for a certain amount of travel within Canada, which was not included in our audit.

The audit does not cover other travel by parliamentarians. Associations and Exchanges travel constitutes about 8 percent of Parliament's travel expenses. Other parliamentary travel expenses include the 64-point system which entitles Senators, Members of the House of Commons and their families and staff to travel within Canada. The cost of this travel is reported in Public Accounts in two tables, one for the House of Commons and one for the Senate, which report the cost of this travel for each parliamentarian. As well, parliamentarians who serve on committees may also travel as part of their committee work. The cost of committee travel is not reported for each individual member, but is included in committee budgets and is aggregated in the Public Accounts with all transportation and communications expenses, in the table of expenditures by standard object for each of the Senate and the House of Commons.

In our audit of the Senate, we recommended that the Senate publish more information on committee expenditures and that the Senate publish periodically, for each Senator, information on all Senate-funded travel. In the audit of the House of Commons, we recommended that information, at a reasonable level of detail, on all Member expenditures be made publicly available.

As well, some parliamentarians travel on non-parliamentary funds. Ministers, and occasionally other parliamentarians, travel for government purposes and the cost is paid by the particular government department and is reported with all other travel costs for the department. Some parliamentarians also take foreign trips sponsored by interest groups. The House of Commons requires that such sponsored travel be reported in a registry kept by the Clerk of the House of Commons. The Senate does not have a similar requirement.

Audit Objectives

In undertaking this audit, we had the following objectives:

  1. To determine whether the Speakers have the legal authority to act as they do on behalf of the directorates and to determine if authority is appropriately delegated.
  2. To determine whether there is an appropriate accountability framework for the directorates and for individual travellers, and whether the use of grants and contributions is legal and appropriate.
  3. To determine if the foreign travel supported by the Parliamentary Associations Secretariat and the Parliamentary Exchanges and Protocol Directorate is managed with due regard for economy and efficiency, and to determine whether money is spent for the purposes intended.
We found that these objectives have been met, with some exceptions, which we discuss below.


Because the Speakers are essentially in the position of approving their own travel in their role as heads of these directorates, it is important to ensure that their authority to act was legal and clear. It is also important to ensure when Parliament gives authority, accountability back to Parliament occurs.

We expected to find legally delegated authority, from Parliament, for the two directorates and that this authority would be reflected in existing accountability arrangements. The Parliament of Canada Act states that the House of Commons Board of Internal Economy "shall" and the Senate Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration "may" act on all financial and administrative matters. The Act further qualifies the authority of the Committee by stating that it is subject to the rules, direction and control of the Senate.

In 1988, the Board approved a policy for the newly created Parliamentary Exchanges and Protocol Directorate which acknowledges both Speakers' authority. This clearly establishes the authority for the Speaker of the House of Commons. However, the Board cannot delegate authority to the Speaker of the Senate and we could find no similar approval of the Directorate's policy by the Senate. Since the Committee on Internal Economy is aware of the Speaker's role, we assume that the Committee has, although not formally, agreed to the arrangement.

We concluded, therefore, that the Senate Speaker's authority in respect of the directorates is implicitly delegated, and is certainly legal.


Our overall conclusion is that accountability needs to be improved. Specifically:

  • The accountability framework to Parliament for the activities of the directorates has gaps.
  • The annual budgeting exercise could provide greater accountability to Parliament.
  • The reports by returning delegations and Public Accounts could also provide greater accountability to Parliament and to the public.

Accountability Framework

Both directorates report to the Speaker of the Senate directly and, through the Director General Parliamentary Operations and the Clerk, to the Speaker of the House of Commons. Although the Speaker of the House of Commons chairs the Board, the Speaker of the Senate is not currently a member of the Committee and does not report to it, or to the Senate, leaving a gap in the accountability loop.

For Associations, the Speakers are advised by the Sub-Committee on Budgets and Finance of the Inter-Parliamentary Advisory Council prior to submission of budgets by the Speakers to the House of Commons Board and the Senate Committee for approval. The Sub-Committee is co-chaired by two parliamentarians, one representing the House of Commons and the other the Senate. The co-chairs report to the Speakers. In 1988, the House of Commons approved a block funding policy which gave the sub-committee authority to approve budgets of the associations within the total budgetary ceiling approved by the Board and allowed the sub-committee to hold a reserve to be used for "...unforseen activities or contingencies...". This reserve is maintained in a separate bank account. In practice, the sub-committee has continued to request the Speakers' approval.

The budget for the contribution to the Exchanges and Protocol Directorate is prepared in consultation with the Speakers and is presented to the House of Commons Board and Senate Committee for approval. The financial arrangements for individual trips under the Exchanges Directorate are approved by one of the Speakers.

Budgeting Process

Sharing expenses should involve co-ordination and co-operation. The budgeting process is complicated by the fact that, although budgets are drawn up in a manner which is consistent with the process employed in the House of Commons, the budgets must eventually be agreed to by the Senate, if the 70:30 funding arrangement is to be maintained. For the past four years the Senate Committee on Internal Economy has refused to approve small amounts of the budgets presented to it for approval. Starting in 1989-90, the Senate Committee reduced its 30 percent share of the directorates' budget by $10,000 to pay for Senatorial travel in response to invitations from foreign parliaments. In 1990-91, the Senate decreased its contribution by an additional $10,000. In 1991-92 and 1992-93 the Senate reduced its share by a further $100,000. As shown on page 16, in 1991-92, $15,100 of the reduction was applied to the contributions budget. The Senate and House of Commons have also disagreed about the number of person-years and whether a portion of the salaries of Senate staff seconded to the directorates should be shared 30:70 with the House of Commons. Recently, members of the Senate Committee on Internal Economy expressed displeasure with their lack of information and requested staff to obtain minutes of the Sub-Committee of the Inter-Parliamentary Advisory Council, and other material relevant in support of the Associations and Exchanges budget requests. These disagreements indicate a less than harmonious relationship between the Senate and the House of Commons with respect to the directorates.

We concluded that the current problems stem from poor communication and insufficiently timely Senate input in the decision-making process. The Speaker of the Senate is consulted directly for the contributions budget and indirectly, through a delegate, the Senate's co-chair of the Sub-Committee of the Inter-Parliamentary Advisory Council, for the grants budget. However, since neither the Speaker nor his delegate currently serves on the Senate Committee on Internal Economy, the Senate Committee has not had formal input at the early stages of the budget process. It has, instead, intervened only at the end, when deciding whether to approve the Senate's financial contribution to the operation of the directorates.

What is needed is better communication between the Senate and House of Commons, and between the Speaker of the Senate and the Senate Committee on Internal Economy. The Committee should ensure that there are linkages in place so that the Senate can have timely input to the budget process and to administrative decisions. Presumably, this task would be delegated to the Clerk of the Senate.

Earlier co-ordination could also be achieved by the use of the Senior Management Working Group (see page 59), or an appropriately constituted sub-committee which might include the Clerk Assistant of the Senate and the Director General, Parliamentary Operations from the House of Commons.

Recommendation: To improve communication and the accountability framework for the directorates, the House of Commons and the Senate should develop a memorandum of understanding to guide the operation of the two directorates. It should include the following:

  • the method of supervising the directorates so that they are accountable to both Houses;
  • the process for developing and approving budgets;
  • the relative contributions of the Houses, both financial and non-financial;
  • the form and content of the reports tabled in each House by returning delegations;
  • the method of appointing staff, particularly directors; and
  • the reporting relationships for directors.

Reports by Returning Delegations

For individual parliamentarians, reports by returning delegations are a timely and effective way to account for travel on behalf of Associations and Exchanges. The Standing Orders of the House of Commons require that a report be tabled in the House 20 sitting days after the return of the delegation to Canada. By convention, reports are also tabled in the Senate.

We found that the reports by returning delegations did not provide full accountability for individual travellers. We expected to find that activities and expenditures would be reported in sufficient detail to provide accountability to both Houses and to the public. Accountability to Parliament is difficult, since Parliament is, essentially, authorizing its own travel. When parliamentarians are approving their own activities, transparency is the most effective form of accountability.

To assess the adequacy of the information included in the reports by returning delegations, we reviewed:

  • all trips made to destinations outside Canada from 1 April 1990 to 31 December 1991 under the Exchanges program; and
  • a sample of trips made in the same period by four Associations.
Our review was limited to the information available in directorate files. We reviewed the reports by returning delegations, the scheduled program of activities and supporting documentation for expenses claimed and charged to the directorate or association budget. Except to the extent documented in the report, we did not attempt to determine the extent to which delegates deviated from the scheduled program of activities either to attend additional functions or to pursue other interests.

The cost and length of the trips varied significantly. The differences in cost depended on the size of the delegation, the destination, the length of the trip and the extent to which costs are paid by the host country. The trips, ranging in length from 3 to 21 days, were, on average, 9.5 days long. The reports by returning delegations generally include the names of the parliamentarians in the delegation, the dates of the conference or meetings and a description of the substance of the trip.

In many cases, the fact that the delegation was accompanied by staff and/or spouses was not mentioned. In some cases, spouses are expected to attend. Of the 20 trips we reviewed under the Exchanges program, 10 included spouses and 16 included staff in the delegation. For our sample of associations travel, 80 percent of delegates were accompanied by their spouse and all delegations included at least one staff member. The fact that spouses were included in the delegation was mentioned only twice and that staff were included was acknowledged in six reports.

The cost of an overseas delegation ranged from $1,700 to $104,000. In our sample the average cost of a trip per traveller was $4,300. The least expensive overseas trip was $970 and the most costly was $13,200 per traveller. However, none of the reports by returning delegations included any cost information. Particularly in cases where the financial arrangements are approved by the traveller, such information is likely the only possible way of ensuring accountability.

Some media reports leave the impression that these trips are taxpayer paid holidays. We examined the delegates' travel itineraries and the official schedule of activities for all overseas delegations from 1 April 1990 to 31 December 1991 and we calculated that if the delegates attended the scheduled functions, they worked and travelled an average of 55 hours per week. On average, about half of that time was spent travelling.

The format and content of the reports by returning delegations in our sample varied. Most reports included descriptions of the substance of the meetings held either with host country officials or at the conference. Some mentioned the dates of the entire trip including the dates of travel. Others referred only to the dates of the conference or the activities at the final destination and made no mention of travel days or activities at destinations on the way. None included the official schedule of activities. Consequently, the reports sometimes did not include any information on significant portions of the trip. Allowing for travel time, the number of days omitted from the reports ranged from none to 10. We were unable to confirm that any exchange or association activity was performed on the days not accounted for.

Recommendation: The reports by returning delegations currently tabled in the House of Commons and Senate, while useful, should be significantly improved. The House of Commons and Senate should require that all reports be tabled, within a specified number of sitting days, and include sufficient information on the activities and travel dates, and total costs for each individual on the trip. The members of the delegation and all those accompanying it should be identified.

Public Accounts

Tabling of the annual Estimates and Public Accounts provides some degree of accountability to the public for the full range of Senate and House of Commons administrative activities. Accounting for the directorates differs, however, from other administrative activities of the House of Commons and the Senate because of the use of transfer payments, mainly for travel expenses, in the form of a grant to associations and contributions to the Exchanges program. As a result, only the operating expenses of the two directorates are reported as direct expenses of the Senate and House of Commons administrations. As indicated on page 16, operating expenses represent only about 40 percent of the total budgets of the directorates.

Although the House of Commons and the Senate are not bound by the relevant parts of the Financial Administration Act (FAA) or the Treasury Board Guide on Financial Administration, these guidelines provide the only available, commonly understood definitions of grants and contributions. The guidelines indicate that grants and contributions are types of transfer payments made to organizations which are separate from the donor and that the donor is to receive no goods or services in return. In the case of these grants and contributions, services, specifically travel and accommodation, are received by parliamentarians in their role as representatives of the Parliament of Canada.

The Associations make use of the non-lapsing nature of grants from time to time. The Treasury Board Guidelines state that since "...a grant is unconditional, there is no unexpended balance to return unless the grant is of a type that requires continuing eligibility... and the recipient ceases to be eligible." Association activity differs, therefore, from all other parliamentary operations, including legislative committees, in that funds are sometimes carried from one year to the next. We agree that it would be inconvenient for some Associations if they could not carry over funds, but we do not think it is sufficient justification for continuing with this anomalous arrangement.

Although Parliament is certainly legally competent to appropriate funds in this format, the use of transfer payments to finance travel activities of its own Members may be confusing since there is no published explanation which sets out how Parliament's understanding of grants and contributions differs from the definition and rules established by Treasury Board for government departments. There would be clearer reporting if Parliament conformed to general government practice.

An appropriate use of grants, consistent with the commonly accepted definition, is the international membership dues paid by some associations to their international parent body. For example, the Canadian NATO Parliamentary Association pays annual dues to the North Atlantic Assembly. The total budget for dues in 1991-92 was $712,500.

Another confusing consequence of using transfer payments is that this parliamentary travel does not appear as transportation and communication expenses of the Senate or the House of Commons, or as travel by parliamentarians in the Public Accounts. In 1990-91, 42 parliamentarians travelled to destinations outside Canada for a total of 353 days under the Exchanges program for a cost of $372,000. For the associations, in 1990-91, 85 parliamentarians travelled out of Canada for a total of 1,154 days at a cost of $795,000. As a result, the Public Accounts does not provide a complete picture of parliamentary travel costs.

A further issue is that the amounts reported in the Public Accounts as grants to Parliamentary Associations do not include the total travel costs of association activities. Several of the associations encourage their members to use their 64 travel points for association travel within Canada. These costs are paid from the House of Commons and Senate statutory votes for Officers and Members and are not charged against the grants.

Recommendation: To increase the usefulness of the information publicly reported about these directorates, the Senate and the House of Commons should:

  • limit the use of transfer payments to recipients who are more clearly at arm's length from Parliament, such as the international parent body of some Associations;
  • budget and pay for the Parliamentary Associations Secretariat and the Parliamentary Exchanges and Protocol Directorate travel directly, while maintaining whatever ratio of House of Commons and Senate delegates the Chambers agree on; and
  • report this travel in the Public Accounts as a transportation and communications expenditure as well as separately for each parliamentarian.

Financial Management and Control

Travel Arrangements and Preparation

We expected to find:

  • a financial management and control system in place to provide assurance that resources for foreign travel are used for the purposes intended and with due regard for economy and efficiency; and
  • that management regularly monitors service contracts, including assessing alternative means of delivery, to ensure that needs continue to be met in a cost-effective manner.
We found that, once the financial arrangements are approved in principle by one of the Speakers or the Association Executive, generally the expenses are well documented and we found no evidence that funds were not used for the purposes intended. The directorates use the services of the House of Commons travel agency that tries to obtain the best possible rates, given the degree of flexibility required. If delegates make their own travel arrangements, they are reimbursed only up to the rate obtained by the House of Commons travel agency. Delegates generally only receive a per diem for each day of the trip, although a few claim other minor expenses such as the cost of medical insurance. Staff usually receive an additional allowance for delegation hospitality and other unexpected expenses for which they are held to account. All other trip related expenses are paid directly by the directorates from the contributions or association budget.

Trips require preparation and briefings for the delegates. The Parliamentary Associations Secretariat contracts with a private organization, the Parliamentary Centre for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, to provide these services to four of the associations for specific international meetings. The Centre assists by briefing and advising delegates and assisting Secretariat staff in drafting the reports to be tabled in the House of Commons and the Senate. The Centre has been on contract with the Secretariat since 1968, and we were told by Secretariat staff that they are satisfied with their services. We found, however, no evidence that the Secretariat had prepared a recent analysis of the alternative means of obtaining these services. Some of these alternatives include: hiring additional research staff; greater use of the Library of Parliament staff and the Department of External Affairs staff; and, hiring other contractors. We were advised that such an analysis had not been done since 1981.

Recommendation: The Secretariat should periodically review its policy and arrangements for briefing and advisory services. The review should include the following:

  • consideration of cost effectiveness of alternative methods of obtaining the services; and
  • whether, if contracting out is continued, tenders from alternative suppliers should also be invited.

Part Two

5. Security

Main Messages and Recommendations

  • In the 1991 audits of the House and Senate, we observed that inadequate communication and co-ordination between the House and Senate on security matters could create serious problems. We deferred to this report a definitive conclusion about whether to recommend creating a joint force.
  • Since 1991, the House, and especially the Senate, have made many improvements, so that we now believe the creation of a single force may not be necessary, at least in the short term.
  • At the same time, the existence of a number of organizations with security-related responsibilities for Parliament creates a need for co-ordinated security arrangements. There must be:
    • harmonized access control of people, freight and mail/courier to the Parliament Buildings; and
    • co-ordinated responses to security incidents both on the grounds and in the buildings.
  • While a single force could meet these requirements, we have concluded, in light of our examination and the changes already underway in the House and Senate, that the necessary co-ordination can also be achieved by revising and improving existing arrangements. This has the advantage of retaining existing accountability arrangements as provided for in the Parliament of Canada Act, rather than facing the inherent difficulty of a single force being accountable to both Chambers.
  • The necessary changes include:
    • a clear single command structure for emergency response;
    • compatible and interrelated emergency procedures;
    • increased knowledge about each other's security operations;
    • joint simulation exercises and training;
    • uniform hiring standards and more staff exchanges;
    • co-ordinated or collocated operation centres;
    • improved emergency communication capability;
    • co-ordinated mail, courier and freight screening;
    • co-ordinated access control of people;
    • co-ordinated handling of VIP visits;
    • improved access to security intelligence and threat assessments;
    • consolidation of specialized functions; and
    • establishment of a joint security committee.
  • These changes are needed whether or not a joint force is created. To ensure that these changes are made, an outside body should review the situation in three to five years when the Senate and the House of Commons have had sufficient time to implement our specific recommendations. If the situation is still not satisfactory, fundamental changes will have to be made. Even if co-ordination is satisfactory, the House and Senate may wish to consider a joint force because it would bring some cost savings, and help ensure the permanency of improvements.

Context and Background

Security on Parliament Hill is important to ensure the uninterrupted functioning of the Parliament of Canada.

Our observations build on our recently completed audits of the House of Commons (November 1991) and Senate administration (March 1991).

These two audits made similar observations about security arrangements. In the Senate audit report, we noted: "...current arrangements with other security agencies do not ensure a co-ordinated and appropriate response to emergency situations..." In the House of Commons audit report, we noted: "Security inside the parliamentary buildings...has not been standardized and co-ordinated to ensure that daily, routine operations also function properly in emergency situations. This puts in question the merit of having two separate security forces."

Based on these observations, we recommended that the House and Senate study the implications of a joint security service.

This was not the first time recommendations to consider joint security arrangements have been made. In a supplementary report to our 1980 audit of the House of Commons, we recommended that: "Security controls of the House and Senate should be closely co-ordinated and consideration given to integrating the two protective forces." Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) surveys of security arrangements, in 1984 and 1989, have also made specific suggestions, including joint training, and co-ordinated contingency plans.

Changes are underway. The Senate and House are initiating changes in response to both our audits and studies they have undertaken. Since our Senate audit, the Senate has appointed a new Chief of Security, reorganized the Protective Service and instituted regular staff training. Most notably, the Senate has approved contingency plans to co-ordinate its activities with the House and RCMP, and is conducting training exercises to refine and practise its response procedures. Since the House of Commons audit, the House has implemented a new management and organizational structure, and started co-ordinated modification of its security and emergency procedures. As well, there are positive indications that ongoing communications between the RCMP and the two security forces are improving.

The Security Environment

The situation is complex. Roles and responsibilities for security on Parliament Hill are divided between four security/police services:

  • House of Commons Security Service;
  • Senate Protective Service;
  • RCMP; and
  • Ottawa Police.
This creates a need for co-ordinated arrangements.

Who are the security forces on Parliament Hill? What authority do they have?

The RCMP patrol the grounds on Parliament Hill. The RCMP protects the grounds against criminal activities, particularly those that are politically motivated. That includes threats to national security, threats against the functioning of Parliament or parliamentarians, or crimes committed with political intent; for example, the 1989 hostage-taking aboard a bus on the front lawn of Parliament Hill. When a crime occurs, the RCMP is usually the police force that responds. The RCMP also maintains crowd and traffic control on the Hill.

The RCMP is also responsible for the security of the Prime Minister and any visiting dignitaries up to the entrance of the Parliament Buildings, where it hands over responsibility for the PM's or a VIP's security to the House or Senate security staff. For high-risk visits, the RCMP or other security staff may continue to accompany the VIP.

The authority for RCMP activity on Parliament Hill emanates from Order in Council PC-178/2502 (1946), the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act, the Criminal Code of Canada, the Security Offences Act, the Government Property Traffic Regulations and the Public Works Nuisances Regulations.

Immediate accountability is to the Detachment Commander on Parliament Hill. This Detachment is part of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police's "A" Division which encompasses the National Capital Region. The Commanding Officer of "A" Division is responsible to the Commissioner of the RCMP, who, in turn, reports to the Solicitor General of Canada.

The Ottawa Police act in instances of criminal activity without political intent, such as theft. The Ottawa Police do not patrol the grounds of Parliament Hill, limiting their operations to routine patrols along Wellington Street or responding to specific calls for assistance. They may also provide officers to assist during demonstrations on Parliament Hill when requested to do so by the RCMP.

The House of Commons' Standing Orders give authority to the Speaker to maintain order within the Chamber. The Standing Orders delegate responsibility for the safekeeping of House furniture and fittings and preserving order in the Buildings to the Sergeant-at-Arms.

The Speaker of the Senate, under the Rules of the Senate, is responsible for preserving order in the Senate Chamber. The Speaker of the Senate can order, if deemed necessary, the removal of strangers from the Senate Chamber. The Parliament of Canada Act gives the Committee on Internal Economy authority to act on all financial and administrative matters. This includes security.

House and Senate precincts are distinct and their security services operate within separate and defined jurisdictions. Security service employees do not usually provide security services outside of the Buildings, nor in each other's precinct.

The role and authority of a security officer of the House or Senate is limited. A security employee's duties are different from those of a police officer. In contrast to the RCMP and Ottawa Police, most employees are unarmed. Their authority to act is the same as that of any other citizen under the Criminal Code of Canada and the Ontario Trespass to Property Act. They have the power to arrest and detain persons in certain situations, for the purpose of handing them over to a police officer.

What Kinds of Co-ordinated Arrangements are Needed?

Given the separate jurisdictions and differing kinds of expertise, effective security depends on adequate co-ordination between the House and Senate, and the RCMP.

Parliamentary security depends on the House and Senate:

  • harmonizing access control of people, freight and mail/courier. Each House relies upon the access controls of the other. A House of Commons pass is sufficient to gain entry to Senate buildings, and vice versa. If one House has easier access, the other cannot effectively maintain its higher standard.
  • co-ordinating responses to security threats in the East Block and Centre Block. Because there are no physical barriers to contain fire, bomb explosions, or the free movement of people within these Buildings, the House and Senate must respond to these threats in a co-ordinated fashion.
Parliamentary security also requires co-ordination among the RCMP, the House and the Senate. The RCMP is a critical player in protecting the House of Commons and Senate. If there is to be more than one force, there must be adequate co-ordination between the House and RCMP, the Senate and RCMP, and among all three. This requires:

  • co-ordinated responses to security incidents on the grounds of Parliament Hill where the RCMP has jurisdiction . An incident on the grounds may require the evacuation of the Buildings or that the two security services block access to the Buildings.
  • co-ordinated responses to serious security incidents in the buildings. Neither security service has, by design, trained police officers. Neither is organized, equipped, trained, or paid to respond fully to bombs or armed violence within the buildings. Both rely upon RCMP assistance. In our view, reliance on RCMP expertise, equipment, and resources is an effective use of taxpayer funds. This underscores the critical role of effective communication with the RCMP.
The role of the Ottawa Police on Parliament Hill is limited. Therefore, we have concentrated our examination on the arrangements among the other three parties. However, this does not mean that arrangements with the Ottawa Police or with other local police forces are not important.

Possible Organizational Models

There are at least three organizational alternatives which would provide better co-ordination than presently exists.

Option 1. Consolidate security of both the buildings and the grounds under one security agency.

This could either be a new agency, or the RCMP. In either case, the consolidated force would have to be accountable, in some fashion, to both Houses. We conclude that while this option is theoretically feasible, it is not necessary at this time for achieving the improvements needed:

  • Co-ordination with the RCMP would remain a key requirement if a new agency were created. Such an agency would depend on specific RCMP response teams such as the bomb disposal team and the emergency response team, and on back-up RCMP officers, since it would be impractical to duplicate these RCMP resources. Operating procedures would still have to be co-ordinated, and a unified command and control structure developed.
  • If the RCMP took full responsibility for the buildings, there might be more effective security, although it might provide a higher level of protection than some parliamentarians want. There might also be additional financial costs, reflecting the greater training, and higher salaries of RCMP officers, as compared with members of the security forces in the House and Senate.
  • If the RCMP were in charge, a fundamental constitutional issue could arise in that parliamentarians might view the independence and privileges of the two Houses as being at risk.

Option 2. Consolidate security of only the buildings under one security agency.

This option would leave the grounds and emergency backup to the RCMP. In our 1991 audits we recommended that the Senate and House assess this option. To respect the constitutional autonomy of each House, the most acceptable way to do this would be to create a new agency reporting jointly to the House and Senate.

Alternatively, one House could provide services to both. A number of examples, such as the Restaurant exist. However, we did not pursue this model for security because of the real and symbolic importance of security to the constitutional separation of the House and Senate. Allowing one side to provide such a vital service to the other might signify the authority of one Chamber over the other; a concept that few would find acceptable.

We concluded that Option 2, consolidating security only in the buildings under one security force is feasible but is not essential for realizing the necessary improvements. The primary reason is that many of the improvements required for creating a consolidated force are similar to those necessary if the forces remain separate. Nevertheless, the benefits of amalgamation are worth noting. They are:

  • Integrating the day-to-day activities of the House and Senate security services would give security staff experience in working with the other Chamber's staff in routine situations. Experience in other legislatures suggests that security staff respond better in emergency situations when they operate under the same arrangements that are used in routine situations.
  • The annual savings from merging the two existing security services would be in the range of $400,000 to $600,000. The total annual security budget is $14 million.
  • Other operational advantages are noted in Appendix A.
Although there are benefits from amalgamation, there are other considerations:

  • A joint service might lack sufficient accountability. It would be under less direct control than in the current arrangement, where each service is directly and solely responsible to its House. Such joint services have their own problems of decision making and accountability, as we have seen in our audits of the Library of Parliament and the Parliamentary Associations and Exchanges directorates.
  • A merger of the two services would entail significant direct and indirect costs and disruption during the reorganization.
  • As we discuss in Option 1, creating a joint service within the buildings does not automatically lead to better co-ordination with the RCMP, nor does it necessarily solve other problems noted in our earlier audits.

Option 3. Improve the status quo.

Most of the security effectiveness gains of a joint force can potentially be achieved by this option. This is discussed in further detail in Appendix A. This option maintains the existing organizational arrangements among the House Security Service, Senate Protective Service and the RCMP. Our analysis indicates that co-operation on a number of specific actions can provide an effective security regime. Particularly important is a clear single command structure over the three forces in the event of emergency.

Several factors have led us to endorse this option:

  • Security and senior administration officials in the House and Senate are convinced that the necessary improvements can be made.
  • Some improvements have already been made. Since the completion of the two audits, each service has taken important steps to improve co-ordination and co-operation with the other security organizations. For example, the Senate has approved contingency plans that clearly outline the role of the RCMP in an emergency.
  • None of the actions we recommend in the following section will preclude establishing a joint force later. Indeed, the specific actions we recommend would be required if a joint force were created.

Needed Improvements to Existing Arrangements

1. A clear single command structure for emergency response.

We found considerable uncertainty and some disagreement among key officials about roles and authorities; yet these are the people who would be called on to act in an emergency. There is a danger that, in an emergency, jurisdictional issues might seriously hamper and delay the security response .

The Senate has taken steps to clarify the RCMP's roles and authorities when the RCMP is called to act within the buildings. Clear policy and emergency contingency plans were approved by the Senate in April 1992. In an emergency, operational control of the Senate Protective Service for the purpose of dealing with the problem is transferred to the senior on-site RCMP officer.

In contrast, with respect to House of Commons security, we found uncertainty and disagreement among House and RCMP officials, on some of these same policy issues. During the course of our work, the House clarified its security policy to resolve most of these issues. The next steps are to ensure the policy is clearly understood by House security staff and the RCMP, and to clarify emergency procedures. While there are some differences between the House and Senate policies, they are substantially the same.

Recommendation: The House, Senate and RCMP should work together to harmonize and communicate their security policies for command and control, and develop emergency procedures to reflect these policies.

2. Emergency procedures that are compatible and interrelated.

The House, Senate and RCMP emergency procedures should be compatible and interrelated:

  • If procedures are different, there is the possibility of confusion in an emergency.
  • Procedures should be interrelated - aspects involving joint action should be pre-arranged and mutually understood.
We found some procedures to be compatible and interrelated, but identified others with potentially serious deficiencies:

  • Evacuation procedures of the House and Senate are compatible, and well co-ordinated; both participate in the same floor-by-floor evacuation procedure, with volunteer wardens from both sides reporting to a central co-ordinator when evacuation is complete. Bomb search techniques are also similar.
  • RCMP, House and Senate operating procedures do not deal explicitly with incidents near or crossing jurisdictional boundaries. We found uncertainty about some key policy questions, for example, if an incident moves from one jurisdiction to the other, would one service hand over responsibility to the other, or continue to be involved?
  • No explicit agreements are in place for one service, or the RCMP, to assist the other service. For example, the Senate may face situations where it has insufficient staff to quickly clear the galleries. Agreements between the three organizations to provide appropriate assistance, and clarify command in these situations are needed.
  • The RCMP has elaborate emergency contingency plans. These are general plans for dealing with incidents anywhere within the National Capital Region. The RCMP has not developed specific plans for Parliament Hill. The RCMP, Senate and House need detailed contingency plans understood at all levels of the organization, to ensure an effective response to emergencies .
Recommendation: The House, Senate and RCMP should together:

  • clarify and co-ordinate procedures for dealing with incidents near, or crossing jurisdictional boundaries;
  • develop agreements to provide for the sharing of security personnel, when needed; and
  • refine and co-ordinate their respective emergency contingency plans.

3. Increased knowledge about each other's security operations.

A prerequisite for emergency procedures that are compatible and interrelated is a basic knowledge of the characteristics of each other's operation. We found a considerable, and potentially serious, lack of knowledge by security staff and officials about each other's operations:

  • Some RCMP officials, with specific responsibilities for Parliament Hill security, were unaware of key elements of the House and Senate security service. For example, several RCMP officials were unaware that some plain-clothes House security staff are armed, meaning they could be mistaken for armed assailants.
  • In some cases, RCMP officials and constables have limited knowledge of the interior layout of the buildings .
  • The House and Senate security have limited knowledge about how the RCMP would respond in an emergency. The only formal briefing we identified was a short presentation given by the RCMP to new Senate security recruits on the general role of the RCMP on Parliament Hill.
Recently, meetings have commenced between the two Houses and the RCMP to improve information exchange.

Recommendation: The House, Senate and RCMP should ensure security staff have extensive knowledge of each other's security operations, through detailed briefings and tours.

4. Joint simulation exercises and training.

Joint simulations, involving all three forces, are crucial to verifying that procedures work properly, and to ensure that staff of all three forces know and properly apply these procedures.

There have been no joint exercises . Beginning in late 1991, the Senate conducted its first exercises to test its own security staff in Senate-specific incidents. It intends to expand these exercises to include the RCMP and the House.

We concluded that an intensive series of joint exercises is needed, based on the most likely security incident scenarios. Exercises should also include non-security emergencies such as earthquakes or water main flooding, and involve other organizations with a role in such emergencies.

Joint training is an essential element for improving parliamentary security for two reasons:

  • it would ensure that all security personnel have the knowledge and capability to act in a co-ordinated fashion when joint action is required; and
  • it would maximize the investment each has made in developing courses, by providing these to the other two organizations.
We found that there has been little joint co-ordination, assistance in course development or joint participation in training.

There have been some first steps taken during the course of our study. For the first time, the House and Senate invited the other to participate in some courses.

We identified several key requirements for co-ordinated training:

  • staff must be extensively trained in the procedures for joint emergency operations; and
  • staff must have a general familiarity with the operating procedures of the other two organizations (for example, pass system, VIP visits, communication systems).
Recruit training provides a particular opportunity to co-ordinate training. We favour devising a joint recruit training program that would have Senate and House recruits learn a core of common topics.

From our review of existing training programs in the three organizations, we noted a number of specific courses which would be of benefit to the other two organizations.

Recommendation: The House, Senate and RCMP should together:

  • establish an ongoing series of exercises simulating different emergency incidents in the Parliament Buildings and grounds;
  • conduct a training needs assessment of House, Senate and RCMP Hill Detachment staff. Recruit training and courses of common interest, should be developed and conducted jointly.
  • develop comprehensive training on joint operating procedures for House and Senate security staff, and the RCMP; and
  • extend relevant training courses to participants of the other two organizations.

5. Uniform hiring standards and more staff exchanges

Uniform hiring standards for House and Senate staff are important so that each can be assured of the other's capabilities. We found a notable difference in standards between the two services: the House has a basic requirement that recruits have two years of security experience or a two-year course in law and security from a recognized institution. While the Senate has considered this desirable, the basic requirement for Senate recruits is secondary school graduation.

The lack of common hiring standards could also impede joint training. Joint recruit training cannot assume any background knowledge about security.

Staff exchanges are a means to improve familiarity and knowledge of the other's operation. Staff exchanges have not occurred. Exchanges of various types are needed. Recruits should spend a period of time working on the other side, in order to gain a basic familiarity with key aspects of the other's security operation. Interested veteran staff should be exchanged for longer periods, both to familiarize themselves, and to impart their own ideas and experience. The House and Senate should each designate several positions that would be filled on a continuing basis by such veteran staff. When the opportunity arises, specialized staff such as operation centre, training and planning staff should be regularly exchanged for the same purposes.

Recommendation: The House and Senate should develop:

  • uniform hiring standards for security; and
  • an ongoing program of staff exchanges for all security staff.

6. Co-ordinated or collocated operation centres.

Both the House and Senate have operation centres. Each is essentially a communications centre, with a base radio, closed-circuit television monitors, and alarm monitors. In an emergency, a centre serves to co-ordinate activities of its security personnel.

The two centres should be collocated - meaning there should be two centres that adjoin each other - in a building that is unlikely to be the location of a security incident (in practical terms, a building that does not house parliamentarians). In addition, a backup operations centre would be established, in the event of equipment failure, or the need to evacuate the primary collocated operation centres. Ideally, the RCMP Hill Detachment would be collocated in the same location.

This arrangement would offer a number of advantages:

  • In a joint emergency situation, both sides could be co-ordinated from one physical location, by their respective officials.
  • In an emergency specific to either the House or Senate, the other operation centre could easily keep abreast of developments.
  • The day-to-day presence of the Hill Detachment would increase the degree of personal contact among the three organizations.
In fact, the House and Senate missed an opportunity to collocate their operation centres in the last year. Both have relocated their centre, and made significant investments in new equipment, a portion of which will be lost if the centres are again relocated.

Given that this opportunity was missed, there are two viable options. One is to collocate the two, as discussed above, by relocating the two centres.

The second option, likely of less cost, is to maintain the two operation centres in their present locations, but equip each as a back-up to the other.

Recommendation: The House, Senate and RCMP should ensure the co-ordination of their operation centres, and for the longer term examine the feasibility of collocation.

7. Improved emergency communication.

In an emergency, or in other joint operations such as VIP visits, radio communication between security services is needed. House and Senate radios do not now share the same frequencies, although they can be modified to do so. During the course of our study, agreement was reached to adopt a common third channel for emergency use, and to modify radios accordingly.

Public address systems are critical tools in instructing building occupants in an emergency. There are notable deficiencies in the public address systems. First, not all buildings have such systems, and, in those that have them, they are not used. Second, they are not designed to be used in conjunction with evacuation alarms; announcements on the systems cannot be heard over the alarms. Third, in the Centre Block, there are separate House and Senate systems. Different or overlapping announcements could lead to confusion.

During our study, the chairman of the Senate Committee on Internal Economy wrote the Speaker of the House of Commons proposing a joint study of their public address and fire prevention needs.

Recommendation: The House and Senate, in consultation with the RCMP, should ensure that future upgrades of communication equipment are, where appropriate, integrated.

8. Co-ordinated mail, courier and freight screening.

The principal threats that mail, courier and freight screening are intended to prevent are explosive devices. The House provides mail screening procedures for both Chambers. Courier screening procedures are similar. Freight screening is an area we recommended be reviewed in our House audit.

Recommendation: Any changes to existing mail, courier and freight screening should be co-ordinated by the House and Senate.

9. Co-ordinated access control of people.

Similar controls governing access of people are required. Personal access is central to almost all possible security threats. Once inside, individuals have relatively free access to most areas of the Senate and House. Passes are not usually visible.

Access control for people involves two aspects - control over people who need continuing access to the building, and control over visitors, contractors or tourists requiring temporary access. House and Senate pass systems should provide similar control. For example, both should scrutinize pass applicants to a similar extent. Both need to take similar precautions for visitors and tourists. For example, it is of little use if only one side uses a metal detector for screening visitors and tourists.

The House and Senate pass systems and procedures are separate. The Senate has made a number of improvements to its pass system since the time of the Senate audit in 1991. At present, the House and Senate pass systems provide similar levels of control.

However, the House has plans to significantly upgrade its pass procedures and equipment over the next two years, in particular by providing computer work stations and pass-issuing equipment at building access points. Unless the Senate makes similar changes, the effectiveness of the House's action will be greatly diminished. Moreover, the planned House equipment upgrades would permit the consolidation of the Senate and House pass system into one, offering several advantages, while allowing each House to control issuance of its passes:

  • all passes would be uniform in size and colour coding;
  • pertinent background data on any pass holder could be electronically retrieved at any security post; and
  • all temporary passes would be replaced with a pass that fades after a set period of time.
Recommendation: Changes to pass systems and equipment should be co-ordinated by the House and Senate. The advantages of a single pass system should be pursued and a co-ordinated plan established.

10. Co-ordinated handling of VIP visits.

One of the observations in our Senate audit was that the separate security procedures of the Senate and House can result in different levels of security during a VIP visit.

We found a satisfactory level of co-ordination in these situations . Events are planned jointly by the House and Senate, in conjunction with other security organizations. Detailed operational orders are documented for each event and distributed to all involved. House, Senate and RCMP officials expressed satisfaction about the level of co-ordination that has been achieved.

11. Improved access to security intelligence information and threat assessments.

The House audit report noted that the House was provided with sufficient information on specific events or possible incidents. However, more general security information was not available to the House, because its security service is not part of the intelligence community in which such information is shared. As a result, House security did not have a complete picture of the environment in which it operates.

The House and Senate do receive some general information, but what they receive is piecemeal and not based on an assessment of their information needs. Some information is received as a result of personal contacts, and so is vulnerable to personnel changes. Another useful source of general information, daily situation reports provided to the House and Senate by the RCMP, were discontinued by the RCMP early in 1992 because of resource constraints.

One of the impediments to more systematic dissemination of security intelligence to the House and Senate is that no one intelligence group possesses all the relevant information. Intelligence gathering and analysis is, by its very nature, fragmented. We identified a number of groups within the RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) that already produce analyses of relevance to the House and Senate that are not communicated to them. For example, a group within CSIS produces regular analyses of security issues such as changing trends in international terrorism. The group produces in the neighbourhood of 100 such reports annually, some of which would be of relevance to the House and Senate. Some of these groups have the capability to conduct threat assessments on Parliament. Arrangements for such threat assessments for travelling committees have recently been established and more general assessments of the threats against Parliament should also be made.

Several other legal and technical impediments exist. First, the CSIS Act does not appear to provide for the direct dissemination of relevant CSIS analyses to the House or Senate. Second, much of the information obtained by the RCMP and CSIS from other sources, is provided with the restriction that it not be disseminated to a third party; in this instance the House and Senate.

With a significantly enhanced stream of intelligence information, the House and Senate would benefit from jointly designating a staff member to assess the incoming information.

Recommendation: The House, Senate, RCMP and appropriate agencies should together:

  • identify relevant security intelligence, and establish mechanisms to have it provided to the House and Senate on a regular basis; and
  • agree on a program to regularly conduct threat assessments on Parliament.

12. Consolidation of some specialized functions.

In the course of our review of joint security arrangements, we noted several special functions that could be more cost-effectively delivered if consolidated.

For example, the House of Commons employs a security awareness co-ordinator, who has developed a security awareness program for House of Commons employees. The security awareness program would also be valuable for Senate and Library of Parliament employees. As well, this program could be reoriented to ensure that Hill employees are aware of both security services and are alert to security risks.

Recommendation: On an ongoing basis, the House and Senate should review the potential for consolidating specialized security functions.

13. Establishment of a joint security committee.

Critical to the success of joint security arrangements is a formal structure for co-ordinating action and making joint decisions.

Recommendation: The House and Senate should establish a joint security committee.

Membership should consist of senior officials - the Sergeant-at-Arms, the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, Parliamentary Librarian, RCMP "A" Division Commanding Officer, and observers from the Ottawa Police and, as necessary, other municipal police forces. It should be co-chaired by the Clerks of the Senate and House and report, as needed, and as requested, to the Board and Committee on Internal Economy. Its primary role would be to:

  • ensure good communication and co-ordination between security staffs;
  • vet policy and budget issues affecting the security of both Houses; and
  • monitor the implementation of the security recommendations of this report.
The co-chairs of the joint security committee - the Clerks of the House and Senate - would have responsibility for liaison with the Board and the Committee respectively. This role would require that the Clerks bring the Board's and the Committee's perspective to the security committee, and to convey the security committee's views back. The importance of this liaison function stems from the need for the Board and the Committee to act in a similar fashion on matters of security policy that have joint implications.

Under these proposed arrangements, day-to-day matters would be delegated to a security directors' subcommittee. It would consist of director-level representatives of the Senate, House and RCMP. The committee would:

  • identify issues of common interest;
  • decide and initiate joint action within its delegated responsibility;
  • monitor the progress of previously initiated joint action; and
  • develop and recommend proposals on joint action beyond its delegated responsibility, for consideration by the joint security committee.
The basis for such a committee can be found in a recently initiated series of monthly meetings between officials of the House and Senate security services. With the joint security committee in place, the directors of security would have clear authority for the day-to-day implementation of security policies.

Overall Conclusion and Recommendation

These changes are needed whether or not a joint force is created. If the situation is still not satisfactory, more fundamental changes will have to be made. Even if co-ordination is satisfactory, the House and Senate may wish to consider a joint force because it would bring some cost savings, and help ensure the permanency of improvements.

Recommendation: To ensure that these changes are made, within three to five years an outside body should review the effectiveness and efficiency of the resulting arrangements.

6. Upkeep of a Heritage Asset: The Parliament Buildings

Main Messages and Recommendations

  • The Parliament Buildings are unique heritage assets of national significance. Relationships among those responsible for major capital repairs, maintenance, and long-term planning for the parliamentary precinct reflect the presence of many stakeholders with different needs and perspectives. The primary relationship is between the Minister of Public Works and the Senate and House of Commons. The two Chambers and the Library of Parliament are essentially tenants in buildings for which the Minister of Public Works is the custodian.
  • No one organization has clear responsibility for the parliamentary precinct. Historically, Public Works is the lead agency, responsible for the capital expenditures and ongoing operation and maintenance of the buildings and related services; the National Capital Commission is responsible for grounds maintenance and the urban planning aspects of the precinct; and the House of Commons, the Senate, and the Library of Parliament have focussed on their individual space needs. Thus, financial responsibility for the upkeep and renovations of the Buildings is, in practice, shared.
  • Reports to Parliament and the public on the total capital and operating costs of maintaining and improving the Parliament Buildings and grounds, are fragmented and incomplete. Decision making and accountability would be facilitated if all Public Works' major maintenance and capital improvements in the parliamentary precinct were separately identified in the government's budgeting process. We recommend that Public Works and the National Capital Commission report publicly all their parliamentary precinct expenditures and that the House of Commons and Senate, in their Estimates, separately identify these costs as goods and services provided without charge when tabling estimates and reports of their own building costs. This would:
    • assist interested parties and the public in obtaining comprehensive information about expenditures on the buildings and grounds in the parliamentary precinct; and
    • improve the quality of financial reporting on the costs of Parliament by consolidating and identifying Public Works' costs relating to the Parliament Buildings.
  • Although it gave preliminary approval in 1988, the government has not yet given final approval to a long-term construction plan for the parliamentary precinct. The complex interrelationships, the sometimes divergent priorities of the House, Senate, Library, Public Works and Treasury Board, and the lack of a timetable for arriving at such a plan have all contributed to a situation where the decisions on funding can take years.
  • Such a plan is important, because until it is approved, the government will not implement its 1988 decision to spend up to $200 million over 10 years for urgently needed repairs and development of the Parliament Buildings. The $200 million represents only a portion of the basic structural and electrical work which has been identified.
  • Most of the necessary major repairs and renovations identified in the 1970s and 80s have not yet been undertaken. One example is the 1910 Wing of the East Block. Still awaiting renovation, most of this wing has been unoccupied by parliamentarians and their staff for the last five years. Almost all major projects which are undertaken are either emergency repairs or are necessary to improve health and safety in the buildings.
  • The delays and the limited number of projects undertaken in the absence of an approved plan also reflect government policies on fiscal restraint. A further explanation, we were told, is the reluctance of the government to be seen as unduly favouring Hill projects over others required elsewhere.
  • Partly in response to these difficulties, the House and Senate have funded more of their own renovations in recent years.
  • Public Works has also taken action and has established a special unit dedicated solely to serving Parliament. The initial reaction of the House and Senate to this organizational innovation appears to be favourable.
  • Given the unique character of the Buildings, they require special attention in the funding process. To help provide an outside, and thus, independent focus for this attention, as well as to provide Parliament and the public with consolidated information about the Buildings, we recommend the appointment of a small independent voluntary non-partisan advisory group, a Parliament Buildings Council, loosely modelled on the Official Residences Council, to report periodically and advise Parliament and the government on:
    • the quality of the Buildings' maintenance and state of repair, particularly in light of their heritage characteristics and national importance;
    • the appropriateness of long-term plans to deal with the repairs, major capital improvements, and future parliamentary accommodation; and
    • the appropriateness of current organizational, funding, and accountability arrangements.
  • In 1986, Public Works announced a policy of transferring, where appropriate, responsibility for maintaining "special purpose" buildings to the occupants. In our view, the Parliament Buildings can be considered as having a "special purpose". Similarly, we believe that a variant of the British model, where Parliament owns and maintains its own premises, holds promise for the future. The Parliament Building Council should track the British experience and, if it appears successful and feasible, consider recommending its adoption.


The Parliament buildings symbolize Canada's nationhood and the democratic institutions which have governed Canada for over 125 years. In the best sense of the word, these buildings are "special" to Canadians. However it is widely acknowledged that the Buildings are in need of repair. Many expert recommendations have been made about these repairs. Our recommendations concentrate on ways to assist Parliament and the government to make decisions about the Buildings' maintenance and improvement.

Parliament now overflows the original Buildings on Parliament Hill and occupies several buildings, "off the Hill". As the Abbot Commission did, we define the "parliamentary precinct" to include all the space occupied by, or expected to be occupied by the Senate, the House of Commons and the Library of Parliament. At the present time, it includes eight Crown-owned buildings, leased space in five buildings and five specific management areas - Parliament Hill grounds, outside lighting, parking areas, public washrooms and the Centennial Flame.

Responsibility for maintaining and improving the buildings on Parliament Hill is not, directly, Parliament's. The title to the parliamentary precinct buildings and land commonly known as Parliament Hill is held by Her Majesty in right of Canada. This arrangement was set out in the Constitution Act, 1867.

The Minister of Public Works is the official custodian of the Buildings and is charged with responsibility for their care and upkeep. As the custodian, most of the responsibility for the structural integrity and appearance of the buildings is, formally, Public Works'. The House, Senate and Library of Parliament, although they pay no rent, are, each essentially, tenants of the Department of Public Works.

Why are the Parliament Buildings a joint matter? The House, Senate, and the Library of Parliament are joint occupants of the Centre Block. The House and Senate both have space in the East Block. On many matters affecting the buildings, the two Chambers must agree on a course of action.

Which parts of the buildings belong to each House? The sometimes intricate boundary lines between the occupants of the Parliament Buildings have evolved over the years, with minor reallocations occurring from time to time. Traditionally, the two Speakers have been responsible for making the agreements.

Cost of Maintaining Parliament's Buildings

While a precise figure is not published, the House of Commons, the Senate and Public Works spent about $17.5 million for salaries, operating expenses and capital improvements to the buildings on Parliament Hill in 1991-92.

Parliament Buildings:

Capital and Operating Expenditures

1991-92 Estimates ($ million)

Cap ital and Ren ovat ions

Ope rati ng and Sala ry

Esti mat ed PYs

T o t a l

Public Works




$13. 9

House of Commons














$17. 5

Sources: Public Works, Parliamentary Precinct Directorate House of Commons and Senate 1992-93 Estimates documents

Table II

Roles and Responsibilities are Complex

Traditionally, Public Works has been responsible for the capital expenditures and ongoing operation and maintenance of the Buildings' common areas and basic structure; the House of Commons and the Senate have focussed on their individual space needs, including routine maintenance and renovation.

Public Works costs on Parliament Hill, other than major capital projects, are not separately identified by Public Works in its Estimates but are aggregated with all its other work in the National Capital Region. In our audit of the Senate, we recommended that the Senate identify and report Public Works costs on behalf of the Senate in its Estimates. We did not examine the issue of other departmental costs in the House of Commons audit, but we note that the House of Commons does identify many of these costs in its annual "blue book" of Estimates.

When the House of Commons, Senate, or Library of Parliament desires a specific renovation, they make a "tenant request". Last year, they submitted approximately 500 such requests. These projects ranged from installing an electrical outlet, to moving a wall, to major renovations.

Depending on the size of the project, Public Works's Realty Services Branch or Architectural and Engineering Services staff prepare plans and call for tenders. They also manage the construction projects on behalf of the Senate or House of Commons. The Houses pay a prescribed fee, normally at least 15 percent of the contract, for these services, in addition to reimbursing Public Works for the cost of the work itself. To the extent that the House and Senate implement recommendations made in our 1991 audits and make public more information on their administration, it should be possible to identify better these costs.

In addition, Public Works pays for leased office and warehouse space, as well as additional parking spaces in the downtown Ottawa core for the three tenants of Parliament Hill. These costs also do not appear in the Estimates for the parliamentary entities, nor are they separately identified by Public Works.

The National Capital Commission (NCC) has responsibility for grounds maintenance and the urban planning aspects of the precinct. Public Works also has some responsibility for the land outside the buildings. It is responsible for maintaining the statues on Parliament Hill and has a major project to stabilize the slopes down to the Ottawa River.

Recent Developments at Public Works Canada: Historically, Parliament Hill was part of a Realty Services district within the National Capital Region. The Houses dealt directly with Architectural and Engineering Services, Accommodation Branch or the Realty Services Branch. There was no single point of contact. Moreover, at the branch level, Parliament was just one of many responsibilities of the Regional Director, Accommodation. In 1989, this Branch reorganized its National Capital Region and created a Portfolio Manager position, dedicated to the parliamentary tenants. Although this provided more of a focus, there were still difficulties in communication between Public Works and the tenants in terms of day-to-day operations.

In September 1991, Public Works established the Parliamentary Precinct Directorate. Its purpose was to simplify and co-ordinate the interactions of the House, Senate, and Library of Parliament with Public Works. It is too early to assess the effect of this change, but staff of the Senate and House of Commons indicate that this development is welcome.

Other departments and agencies add to the complexity of the situation. The Bureau of Real Property Management at Treasury Board has a significant role, as the advisor to Treasury Board on its decisions related to long-term planning and funding for the precinct. Parks Canada, through the Federal Heritage Building Review Office, is involved in some aspects of the decisions to improve the Buildings and land on Parliament Hill. In addition, the RCMP, the City of Ottawa, the Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton and other groups may be involved on specific issues.

Relationship with Public Works

As clients of Public Works, the "tenants" each deal separately with accommodation matters.

In the House of Commons, accommodation matters are the ultimate responsibility of the Board of Internal Economy. The Director of Accommodation Management and Planning is accountable for the planning and administration of "tenant service" related construction within the precinct of the House, space utilization and curatorial services. This often involves liaison with Public Works. In most major renovations, direct project supervision is undertaken by, or tendered and managed by, Public Works.

The Accommodation Management and Planning Directorate has expanded its operations in recent years. It has added several staff with accommodation management and planning expertise. This has reduced the need for some of the services previously supplied by Public Works.

In recent years, both the House and Senate have funded more renovations and have relied less on Public Works. In the House, a capital budget for renovations was established formally in 1986. A recent example is the 1991 project, paid for by the House of Commons, to convert the Reading Room in the Centre Block to a committee room. As this practice develops, it may have the effect of blurring the distinction between the roles of Public Works and the Houses of Parliament.

At the Senate, responsibility for accommodation matters, as with all administrative matters, rests ultimately with the full Senate. The Committee on Internal Economy is usually delegated to examine and recommend actions on accommodation matters.

The Director of Services is accountable for the planning and administration of construction within the Senate and advising Public Works of its service requirements and accommodation needs. Staff carry out routine maintenance and oversee the capital plan for accommodation approved by the Committee on Internal Economy.

A technical services officer is responsible for the Senate's day-to-day liaison with Public Works. As well, the Committee on Internal Economy engages a consultant to undertake ongoing accommodation planning, and needs definition, and to liaise with Public Works on significant projects such as the plans for the 1910 Wing of the East Block.

Previous Reports on the Parliament Buildings

There has been a long-standing concern over the condition of the Buildings. Over the last 16 years, several reports have recommended clarification and rationalization of roles and responsibilities for the Parliament Buildings and urged specific programs of major capital improvements. Few of the recommendations have been implemented.

  • The Abbott Commission (1976) examined a wide range of accommodation issues, including the need for renovation of the Centre Block.
  • In 1985, the Special Committee on Reform of the House of Commons (the McGrath Committee) examined several aspects of the accommodations for the House of Commons.
The Committee reported that for many years the House had been faced with a shortage of adequate and suitable office accommodation for Members and staff.

The reasons given for the accommodation problems were:

  • The House has no capital budget; and
  • Parliament has no central agency to act for it, to be responsible to it, or to plan for it in the area of its physical needs.
The report stated: "To date Parliament has had to rely on the goodwill of the Minister of Public Works" and "Parliament has failed to provide both the funds and the authority to maintain and improve its own precincts".

The Committee proposed that the precincts of Parliament be placed under the authority of a new officer - the Intendant, who would be responsible to both Houses. This recommendation was not implemented.

  • The Nielsen Task Force on Program Review (1986) recommended the transfer of responsibilities for the Official Residences and the Parliament Buildings to the National Capital Commission. The Official Residences were transferred but not the Parliament Buildings.
  • In 1984, Public Works commissioned a firm of consulting architects to report on the condition of the Centre Block. Their report, completed in 1985, identified serious problems. These problems related to fire and health safety, electrical systems, and mechanical systems, as well as basic structural elements such as repointing and repairing exterior masonry.
Although some $9 million in emergency repairs have been undertaken since 1986, many of these building problems are still outstanding. Public Works intends to address them in the course of implementing the 10-year construction plan for the Parliament Buildings. However, as of 15 September 1992, Treasury Board had still not approved a plan and presented it to the Cabinet for approval.

Key Questions

We had several major questions concerning the Parliament Buildings:

  • Are the roles and responsibilities for improving and maintaining the parliamentary precinct clearly defined? Should they be changed?
  • Do the current arrangements and practices promote the management and preservation of these important national heritage assets with due regard for long-term economy and efficiency? Are operating repairs, maintenance, and capital improvements carried out in a timely manner and the costs reported to Parliament?
  • Does an approved long-term plan exist?
Our conclusions are based on interviews, document review and examination of the publicly available information on parliamentary accommodation. We developed case studies of several projects:

  • proposed renovations to the 1910 Wing of the East Block;
  • asbestos removal and renovations in the Wellington Building; and
  • development of a 10-year plan for the parliamentary precinct.
We refer to these case studies in the observations which follow. As well, we examined two smaller projects undertaken by Public Works for the House of Commons - the refurbishment of the Committee Room (the "War Room") in the 1910 Wing of the East Block; and the relocation of the Legislative Services Directorate. We did not evaluate whether costs were reasonable. These two projects were completed on time, on budget, and to the satisfaction of the House of Commons.


Roles and Responsibilities

With respect to roles and responsibilities, we concluded that while some general principles seem to be accepted, much remains undefined and unclear. No one organization has overall responsibility for the parliamentary precinct. Even the distinction between the roles of Parliament and Public Works, which are generally accepted, are blurring, as Parliament undertakes more capital projects.

Public Works clearly has the lead role. This role, as landlord and custodian of the Parliament Buildings is specified in the law. However, there is another relevant constitutional principle - that the two Houses are each responsible for their internal affairs. The challenge, therefore, is to balance the Minister's legislative authority with parliamentary privilege.

As discussed earlier (see page 11) the British Parliament was in a similar position until this year. The Parliament Buildings were the responsibility of a Minister. Now, as a result of legislation transferring the buildings to Parliament, responsibility for new capital projects, building conservation, and maintenance rests with the Office of Parliamentary Works. The plans of the Director of Works are subject to the approval of the appropriate authorities in both Houses. This arrangement greatly re-enforces the British Parliament's control of its own premises. To the extent that the Canadian Parliament's heritage buildings are "special purpose", such a model would also be consistent with Public Works policy of assigning responsibility for administration of special purpose buildings to the occupants.

Recommendation: Parliament should track the British model for owning and maintaining the premises of Parliament, and, if it appears successful and feasible, should consider adopting a similar model for capital improvements and planning for our Parliament Buildings.


Better reporting to Parliament and the public is needed. At present, reports are deficient in the following respects:

  • Costs are not fully reported. Public Works does not, for instance, publish separately all its operational and capital expenditures on Parliament Hill. According to Public Works this information is readily available.
  • Expenditures, in relation to needed work, are not published. There is no long-term plan or measure of progress against a plan. While this is not common practice for capital projects, we believe the Parliament Buildings would benefit from such a report.
Recommendation: In order to facilitate decision making and accountability, Public Works should separately account in the Estimates for its full costs of unreimbursed maintenance and capital improvements in the parliamentary precinct. The National Capital Commission should report its expenditures for the grounds. The House of Commons, the Senate, and the Library of Parliament should report their own expenses, identifying those which are reimbursements to Public Works. The total for the Parliament Buildings should be included in the annual report of the Parliament Buildings Council which we recommend below.

Conducting the work

Some renovations have been delayed for exceptionally long periods of time. As well, unanticipated events and situations, the special requirements of Parliament, and the complexity of the decision-making process can increase costs of major projects significantly.

A case study of the asbestos removal project of the Wellington Building of the House of Commons is illustrative. The project to renovate the fifth and sixth floors began in 1983 and was completed in 1989. Planning for the second phase, asbestos removal from the first four floors began in 1988. In July 1990, costs for the second phase were estimated at $2.7 million with a completion of August 1991. As of January 1992, total costs for both phases, including $2 million assumed by the House of Commons, were estimated at $11.5 million with a completion date of 1994. This was much larger and later than the original estimates.

The reasons for the delays and cost increases included:

  • The House of Commons changed its plans for the use of the "swing" space (emergency space occupied while renovations are undertaken). According to Public Works, this increased the level of expenditure and lengthened the duration of the project. As well, it was necessary to resolve disagreements about who paid for what.
  • Public Works determined that the building's heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system required overhauling, in order to address a large number of occupant complaints.
  • Public Works discovered asbestos in the basement mechanical areas.
  • Although it had not been a legal requirement and was not included in the original design, Public Works and the House of Commons agreed that after the renovation, washrooms should meet Canada Building Code provisions and Treasury Board barrier free design guidelines; and
  • Inflation adjustments had not been included in the original project estimates.
Some of these unanticipated problems appear avoidable, for instance those relating to meeting building codes and guidelines, and the impact of inflation. As well, better planning and a clearer definition of roles would have avoided some of the unanticipated problems.

A second case study is the 1910 Wing of the East Block renovations, which were first approved in the 1970s. It is generally agreed that the wing was, and is still, in great need of repair. Preliminary approval was again received in 1987 for a $10.9 million project to house Senators' offices. In 1989 the Senate urged Public Works to advance the scheduling of the project. A few months later, asbestos was discovered in the wall and ceiling plaster. With costs rapidly escalating, the project was deferred pending approval of a plan for the parliamentary precinct. As of September 1991, the cost estimates had increased by about 150 percent, to $27.8 million with an estimated completion date of 1995-96. Yet, as of 15 September 1992, the scope of the project had not been fully defined, no revised funding authority had been sought, and the parliamentary precinct plan had not been approved by Treasury Board.

We have been told that, politically, it is difficult to be seen to be spending large sums of money on parliamentary accommodation. However, we are concerned that needed repairs remain unattended.

Planning the work

Progress on making and implementing plans for renovations and capital improvements for the parliamentary precinct has been slow. A 1985 architect's report identified many problems in the Centre Block. The report was revised in 1986 and early in 1987 Public Works commenced design work. Also in 1987, the Bureau of Real Property Management of Treasury Board undertook a review of the entire National Capital Region. It identified $3 billion worth of urgently required capital projects in the entire National Capital Region. Of these, they identified $200 million in the parliamentary precinct. Cabinet approved the Real Property Investment Strategy for the National Capital Region in September 1988.

The government's decision to invest in repairs to the Parliament Buildings was contingent on first approving an overall parliamentary precinct plan. This plan would provide the framework for future Treasury Board approvals of individual Parliament Hill projects. Public Works was ordered to develop this plan in consultation with the Government Leaders of the Senate and the House of Commons. Public Works began to consult with the Board and Committee of Internal Economy on the plan in 1989.

There were separate consultations with the House and the Senate, so that if a significant change was made in response to the concerns of one House, the other was consulted again. According to Public Works, this iterative process is customary when dealing with especially sensitive matters. In June 1991 the plan was presented to the Board and Committee of Internal Economy. The House Board of Internal Economy approved the plan in principle. The Senate Committee on Internal Economy requested changes to the list of projects - to give higher priority to projects that were of concern to the Senate - prior to giving its approval. In December 1991, Public Works presented the plan and list of projects to the Senate Committee on Internal Economy and the Committee approved them. Since these - and other- changes were deemed significant, Public Works returned again to the House Board of Internal Economy to advise them of the changes prior to proceeding to Treasury Board to request approval of the funding schedule. As of 15 September 1992, Treasury Board had not yet approved the plan. After it is approved, the Cabinet must also approve it.

So far, preparation of a plan has spanned about five years and is not yet complete. Reaching consensus on matters affecting House and Senate accommodation requires mediation of competing interests and priorities. Indeed, there is still no agreed upon deadline or process for obtaining the approval of all parties. In the meantime, only some of the most urgent health and safety related work such as asbestos abatement, has been undertaken.

These are serious problems, but there is no single cause. As well, fiscal constraints have an impact. Public Works, in carrying out its responsibilities on Parliament Hill, must adhere to government policies affecting capital expenditures. As a result, planned expenditures for the parliamentary precinct are set by reference to the level of funds allocated to Public Works, and not at the level of identified needs. In 1991-92, for instance, Public Works funded less than one-third of $3.3 million of repairs identified as necessary in building maintenance plans prepared by Public Works property managers. According to Public Works officials, this level of funding means that until the plan is approved, generally only emergency repairs are undertaken.

The government's decision in principle to fund urgently needed repairs to the Parliament Buildings has not been implemented. Why? The process for obtaining agreement and funding seems to be a major cause.

Since Parliament is, in theory, able to make decisions about its own affairs, we asked: Should Parliament change how it manages the Parliament Buildings?

We identified three options:

Option 1. Maintain the status quo, ensuring that the existing relationships are specified precisely, so that Public Works, as custodian, retains responsibility for major capital improvements and maintenance, and Parliament, as the "tenant", funds ongoing upkeep and minor capital improvements, using, where appropriate, Public Works' expertise.

We concluded that this may only perpetuate the current situation.

Option 2. Follow the British example, and have Parliament assume direct budgetary and management responsibility for the Parliament Buildings.

We concluded that while this may be desirable in the long term, there are preliminary steps which must be taken first and which, if successful, may be sufficient. These steps are in a third option.

Option 3. Maintain the status quo, but improve Parliament's knowledge of the Buildings, their needs and costs. One way to ensure the independence of the information is through an outside advisory body, reporting to Parliament. The purpose of such a body would be to advise Parliament on the short- and long-term needs of the precinct for renovation, conservation, and accommodation, in light of the expenditure plans, expressed needs, and work program of Public Works Canada, the House and the Senate.

Recommendation: We recommend the establishment of a small, voluntary, non-partisan advisory body, a Parliament Buildings Council (Option #3). The primary aim of this Council should be to assist Parliament and Public Works to improve the quality of the information available as well to provide outside advice on priorities of the work required on Parliament Hill. Its functions, mandate, and operations would be similar to the Official Residences Council which advises the government on the buildings which house the Prime Minister, Governor General, Leader of the Opposition, and Speaker of the House of Commons.

The Parliament Buildings Council's primary objectives should be to provide advice on how to:

  • streamline the decision-making process;
  • preserve an important heritage asset; and
  • maintain a due regard for long-term costs.
One consequence of its work should be to reduce the need for expensive emergency repairs. Ideally, as the Council's recommendations are implemented, the costs of the Parliament Buildings will begin to decline, just as have the costs of the Official Residences.

The Council should consider:

  • the quality of the Buildings' maintenance and state of repair;
  • the appropriateness of current organizational, funding, and accountability arrangements (for instance, it might advise whether Parliament should, as in Britain, assume more direct responsibility for the Buildings); and
  • the adequacy of current and contemplated plans for repairs, and major capital improvements, and future accommodation.
In particular, the Council should:

  • consider the work programs and estimates of annual expenditures of Public Works and of the House and Senate;
  • advise each Chamber as to the appropriateness and adequacy of the plans and programs, using as criteria, standards for preservation of heritage buildings and accommodation standards in other legislatures in Canada and abroad;
  • review maintenance and capital expenditures and report on their quality and cost; and
  • file its report with the Clerks of the House and Senate.
Council's Mode of Operations, Organization, and Membership

The Council will, as required, interact with the following groups:

  • the Senior Management Working Group (see page 59) and any relevant subcommittees;
  • the Board and Committee of Internal Economy.
It should have complete access to the files and expertise of Public Works, the NCC, and others with relevant information about the Parliament Buildings.

It would probably meet two or three times a year. Its membership should be non-partisan and senior with some members having knowledge of heritage buildings.

It should have the option of inviting observers such as the Deputy Minister of Public Works; and representatives of the House, Senate, and Library of Parliament. Staff support should be provided by the Senate and House of Commons with assistance, as required, from staff of Public Works who have relevant expertise and responsibilities. The Council's budget requests should be channelled through the Senior Management Working Group who will make appropriate recommendations to the Board and Committee of Internal Economy.

7. Potential Efficiency and Economy Gains

Main Messages and Recommendations

  • Parliamentary publications, mail, messenger and post office were examined, as being those areas most likely to benefit from amalgamation. As well, purchasing, printing, transportation services, cleaning, furniture repair, collective bargaining and several other services were examined in less detail.
  • We could not find compelling arguments to recommend, at this time, amalgamation of entire services. The savings from amalgamation, over and above potential efficiencies which each House is now pursuing, are not large in relation to the organizational costs and disruption that could result from amalgamation. More collaboration would yield many of the benefits of amalgamation, but with few of the associated costs.
  • Joint services may be warranted in the future. The potential for joint services needs to be assessed on an ongoing basis, in particular, if constitutional reform results in changes. For example, amalgamation may prove attractive if efficiency initiatives underway do not achieve expected savings.
  • We recommend that the Board and Committee of Internal Economy establish a Senior Management Working Group to deal, on an ongoing basis, with these and other administrative matters of joint interest. Its general purpose would be to:
    • vet proposals and, where appropriate, refer them to the Board and the Committee;
    • commission studies into potential and existing joint endeavours;
    • ensure ongoing communication between managers on both sides; and
    • monitor implementation of this report.
The initial agenda of the Working Group should include considering how to improve co-ordination and co-operation of parliamentary administration in areas such as:

  • Senate use of House of Commons printing facilities;
  • purchasing arrangements, including truck leasing, and maintenance;
  • interbuilding internal mail services;
  • Post Office services;
  • Senate and House buses;
  • possibilities for a joint parliamentary publication electronic printing facility;
  • collective bargaining positions; and
  • training initiatives.
Our approach. We analyzed services that are currently separate (in addition to accommodation services and security) to identify those which would offer potential savings, if they were amalgamated. The exercise was difficult, because we did not wish to confuse savings which could be achieved by either House acting alone, from improvements which could be achieved only because of the advantages of the House and Senate acting in concert.

We assessed the potential gain of combining each currently separate service. Based on this analysis, we selected messengers, internal mail and the post offices, and parliamentary publications for further analysis. We examined potential savings in the following areas:

  • fewer management positions;
  • fewer clerical and administrative positions;
  • fewer operational positions;
  • lower training costs;
  • more economical purchasing arrangements;
  • reduced duplication;
  • increased use of equipment; and
  • possible economies of scale with new equipment.
We also assessed the potential savings of a joint security service. These results are discussed in Chapter 5.

Because the preliminary analysis indicated that cleaning and maintenance; furniture repair and auxiliary services; printing, and transportation offered fewer benefits as joint services, they were examined less thoroughly. We did conduct interviews with management about these services to determine if their delivery could be improved by having closer ties with the other House. We also examined training, development, collective bargaining and occupational health and safety because increased collaboration appeared to be valuable.


The potential cost savings of joint services are fewer than we expected.

Initiatives to improve efficiency are underway throughout the services, partly in response to the recommendations of our Senate and House of Commons audits.

We could not find compelling arguments to recommend, at this time, amalgamation of entire services. The savings from amalgamation, over and above potential efficiencies which each House is now pursuing, are not large in relation to the organizational costs and disruption that could result from amalgamation.

Joint services may be warranted in the future. The potential for joint services needs to be assessed, on an ongoing basis, for several reasons. First, amalgamation may prove beneficial if efficiency initiatives underway do not achieve expected savings, as in the case of the reporting/transcribing portion of parliamentary publications. Second, amalgamation may provide savings if levels of service are changed, as in the case of House and Senate buses. Third, a joint service may be an attractive option when new services are introduced, where there are none of the costs or disruptions of changing existing services. Fourth, if the Senate is reformed, the nature and scale of its services may change dramatically, and joint services may be beneficial.

More collaboration would yield benefits. Although consolidating entire services of the House and Senate is not warranted at this time, we found a number of small-scale opportunities to reduce costs and/or improve efficiency and effectiveness. These would achieve many of the benefits of amalgamation, but with few of the organizational costs.

We noted opportunities such as:

  • consolidating, or each House specializing in, certain parts of services;
  • joint purchasing ventures;
  • assisting one another by shifting staff between House and Senate services, on an as-needed basis; and
  • collaborating in training and development, occupational health and safety, environment and collective bargaining.
While each individual opportunity provides only modest benefits, the cost and effort necessary is also small, and the cumulative effect would be significant.

Overall, too much is left to chance. The existence of these unrealized opportunities raises the question as to why they have not been realized. The specific reasons vary in each case. However, we found some common explanations:

  • In many cases, managers know too little about the corresponding service of the other organization. While some House, Senate and Library of Parliament counterparts communicate regularly, others do so rarely.
  • When managers approach the other organization, it usually is at the level of that person's counterpart. Much is dependent upon this relationship. Some potentially good ideas are not pursued further depending on that person's reaction.
  • Conversely, in cases where we found that opportunities had been successfully pursued (like document distribution and language testing) the values and attitudes of those involved played an important part.

Analysis of Services with Merger Potential

Mail, Messenger, and Post Office. The postal, messenger, and internal mail services are provided separately by each Chamber, with the exception of document distribution which is provided by the House of Commons to both Chambers.

Both Chambers are instituting changes in response to our 1991 audits. The House of Commons has revamped and improved its internal mail system so that, according to early anecdotal evidence, urgent messages are requested less frequently. Additional opportunities are being sought to use the "idle" time of messengers when they are not responding to calls.

The Senate has also made several changes. One is more frequent mail runs to reduce requests for messengers.

There are potential savings of over $100,000 from more collaboration. The House and Senate have separate systems of runners who transfer mail between buildings. We concluded that replacing these 10 runners with a system of 2 vehicles and 4 drivers would be feasible. In addition to the savings the House of Commons could realize on its own, an additional $60,000 annually would be saved if the operation were a joint service handling House and Senate mail.

Similarly, if downtown deliveries and messages were co-ordinated and centralized, this could result in savings of about $30,000. Of course, establishing the system of co-ordination would, itself, have a cost.

The Centre Block Post Offices have long been a symbol of overlap. Two apparently identical Post Offices sit side by side. Obviously, one might think, only one is necessary. Our analysis indicates that if all current services are maintained, including the philatelic service, then a combined service might reduce costs by about $30,000. As well, some small savings in space are also likely if the two Post Offices are amalgamated. Savings could also be achieved if, instead, each side specialized in certain services and provided them to both Houses.

In addition to these savings, although it is hard to calculate the benefits, there are situations where the staff from one House could be reallocated, on a temporary "as needed and as available basis", to provide assistance to the other.

There are fewer advantages than we originally expected to see from entirely amalgamating postal, messenger or internal mail of the two Houses.

In the Centre Block, the House has 8 and the Senate has 15 messengers. Amalgamating the two messenger pools might reduce the total number of messengers required, because it would require fewer messengers waiting for calls. It proved to be impractical to estimate this saving precisely. Whatever the savings are, they also can be largely achieved by providing idle messengers to the other House, when needed, as noted above.

There is little overlap between House and Senate internal mail routes within the buildings because they operate in different parts of the buildings. The mail between the Houses is minimal, so there is little double-handling of mail. So, the savings from amalgamation in this area are also small.

We estimate that savings from entirely amalgamating these services, over and above the savings from more collaboration (as discussed above) and from efficiency improvements each House is now pursuing, are about $50,000 to $100,000 annually. This is about one to two percent of the total budget for these services.

Parliamentary Publications . Each Chamber produces publications, related to its proceedings. The best known are the daily Debates and the Committee Proceedings . The House produces over 85,000 and the Senate approximately 20,000, pages of publications per year. To identify possible savings from joint activities, we analyzed the three main components of producing any parliamentary publication:

  • reporting/transcribing to input the content of the publication;
  • composing the publication into "camera-ready copy"; and
  • printing the publication.
Reporting/Transcribing. The two Houses use different technologies to input the content of Debates and Committee Proceedings . The House of Commons transcribes from audio tapes. The Senate uses computer-assisted transcription (CAT), where reporters in the Chamber type the words as they are spoken. We compared the House and Senate operations for the period from April to December 1991 to see if one was less costly than the other. We found little significant difference in costs based on the number of hours of committee and Chamber sittings that were handled.

An important limitation in this comparison is that it is based on the existing operations; it does not take into account any efficiency improvements possible from the larger scale of a shared service.

A shared service would likely cost less than the present House and Senate services. We agree with House of Commons management that their service could be expanded to handle the Senate Chamber and Committees at less cost than the present Senate operation. These savings would result from filling the extra positions with part-time staff; the House now uses a mix of full and part-time staff. This would reduce the cost per sitting hour, for several reasons:

  • part-time staff would only be called in when required, eliminating much of the idle time experienced by full-time staff; and
  • part-time staff receive fewer benefits than full-time staff.
Current Senate initiatives may, however, generate savings similar to those from amalgamation. At the time of our comparison, the CAT system had been only recently introduced in the Senate, and reporters were still learning and adapting to the system. As well, Senate management intends to replace, through attrition, many of its full-time staff with part-time staff. Senate management expects that, with these initiatives, costs will drop significantly. The savings may be as great as that which an amalgamated service would offer. Once the Senate has completed implementation of computer-assisted transcription, the Senior Management Working Group (see page 59) should examine whether a shared service would generate additional savings.

The Senate could benefit from more assistance from the House. The instances when informal co-operation has occurred are relatively rare. Such co-operation did take place during round-the-clock Senate debates on the GST in the fall of 1990, when the House helped produce the Senate Hansard.

The Senate service, because it is smaller, is less able to handle exceptional circumstances. For example, it is difficult to handle very long sittings in the Chamber, many simultaneous committee meetings, or situations when the proportion of French is much higher than usual. The Senate could benefit from assistance by the House service in such instances.

Composing the publication. The House of Commons has an established operation: the Senate does not. Potential savings come from the fact that the Senate would not have to purchase capital equipment.

In fact, the Senate is changing its current method of composing publications, which was performed by the Canada Communication Group, a special operating agency of the Department of Supply and Services. It examined four options:

  • continue to use the Canada Communication Group;
  • use the House of Commons service;
  • use a private-sector service; or
  • establish an in-house service.
A consultant concluded that the House of Commons proposal was the most attractive because of cost ($16 per page) and service reliability, but that an in-house facility would be even more attractive, estimating that it would cost about $8 per page, or $135,000 less per year than the House of Commons proposal. With these savings, the capital expenditure to establish an in-house facility, which was not expected to exceed $423,000, would be recouped in about three years. During the course of our study, the Senate decided to proceed with an in-house facility.

The process of arriving at the decision reflected a failure on the part of the House and Senate to examine fully the possibilities of sharing. Moreover, our analysis indicates that the projected savings of an in-house facility are not certain. The Senate estimated that four operators would be necessary to perform these functions. Based on House of Commons' productivity levels, about 8 operators would be needed. Senate officials are confident that it is possible to achieve much higher productivity levels than the House of Commons.

Whether or not the productivity gains are realized, we found that the House proposal was not fully considered because the House and Senate did not communicate well. There was little discussion between the two sides. When there were discussions, there was apparently poor communication on several key issues: whether House and Senate publication deadlines would conflict; the notice period required to terminate the agreement; and the extent to which the $16 per page price would increase in future years.

We concluded that the possibility of coming to joint arrangements would be enhanced by establishing an institutional forum for examining such proposals. The appropriate forum would have been the Senior Management Working Group which we recommend on page 59.

Additional savings from sharing are still possible. The House and Senate could share a pool of part-time operators to respond to peak workloads. A second opportunity would be for the two to share ongoing training and technical support.

Printing the product. The third step of the parliamentary publications process is one in which, at least as currently designed, there are few opportunities for increased collaboration. Both the House and Senate have their publications printed by the Canada Communication Group.

However, in the future, on-demand electronic technology could provide a substitute for the large capacity offset printing equipment presently used. The House of Commons is examining the possibility of using this technology to print parliamentary publications. At some point, we would expect the House of Commons and the Senate to examine the cost effectiveness of a joint venture using the same equipment.

New technological initiatives could be discussed in the proposed joint Senior Management Working Group (see page 59).

Distribution of parliamentary publications, and other published material, to the House and Senate is handled by the Postal and Distribution Services of the House of Commons. As we discuss on page 63, this is an example of an existing joint service that works to the satisfaction of both the House and the Senate.

Analysis of Other Services

As noted earlier, we examined, in less detail, some other services; those which initially appeared to offer fewer amalgamation benefits.

Purchasing . In 1991, the House of Commons purchasing section processed 5093 purchase orders and requisitions valued at $31.5 million. The Senate purchasing section processed approximately 1900 purchase orders and requisitions valued at about $5 million. Not surprisingly, we found that in many cases, the Houses purchase similar, but not identical items. We asked if there are potential unrealized savings because of the separate purchasing functions in the House and Senate. Would the House and Senate benefit from combining orders, or requesting bids based on combined volumes?

Based on a small sample of identical regularly stocked stationery items, we found that the Senate could achieve an average saving of 16 percent if it obtained the same prices as the House of Commons. For one of the items, the Senate price was lower, suggesting that the House can also benefit from collaborative purchasing. It is important to recognize that this result cannot be extrapolated. For example, both Houses pay the same prices for non-stocked stationery items.

The potential dollar savings represented by this comparison is very small. However, the point is, that with a relatively small degree of collaboration, purchasing savings are available to the Senate and House. We recommend that such savings be pursued. House and Senate purchasing managers agreed that the savings can be achieved when current arrangements expire without diminishing the financial control each House exercises over its administrative affairs and have established a committee to explore joint purchasing opportunities.

Transportation. Another well known instance of apparent duplication is the separate bus services run by the House and Senate for parliamentarians and employees. There is potential for merging routes, but this could be perceived by the Senate and House as a reduction in current level of service since the bus might make intermediate stops at the other's buildings.

Cleaning. Both Houses have large cleaning staffs. We made recommendations in our 1991 audits about productivity improvements which each House can achieve on its own. Merger would not provide many further benefits; amalgamation would not itself reduce the number of cleaners required. Some savings may be possible by collaborative purchase of cleaning supplies.

Printing. The House of Commons printing service is much larger than the Senate's. For certain types of printing jobs, the House may provide a cost-effective alternative to in-house Senate production.

Furniture and Auxiliary Services. Amalgamation of the House and Senate furniture, framing, and upholstery services would not significantly reduce operational costs:

  • work is usually backlogged, so staff are rarely idle; and
  • the custom nature of the work makes it difficult to achieve economies of scale by using production-line techniques.
There may be some savings available on purchase of material and equipment.

Barbers . Amalgamating or collocating the barbershops could yield savings; the total number of barbers could be reduced. At present, barbers spend a low proportion of their time serving parliamentarians.

Human Resource Management

Training and Development. The 1991 audits of the House of Commons and Senate noted training-related deficiencies and suggested co-operation between the Chambers might be a solution. We noted that opportunities for co-operation were only sporadically pursued and that more use of secondments, transfers, and rotations, would improve career development. Some initiatives are underway which address our concerns. As well, more can be done:

  • More sharing of information on training needs would assist the Houses and the Library of Parliament to identify areas where training needs can be met without unnecessary duplication of effort. These are likely to include needs such as computer training, and communication skills which are not influenced by whether the employee works for the House, Senate or Library of Parliament.
  • More joint initiatives in staff career development through rotation and transfer between the organizations could provide more developmental opportunities for employees. Indeed, recently there has been a significant increase in the number of secondments and developmental assignments between the organizations. We have addressed this in more specific detail in the section on security.
Collective bargaining. This is an important area which needs a planned approach. There has been some communication between the Hill entities. The focus of our concerns relates to the adequacy of preparation for collective bargaining. To date, there have been no formal strategic planning meetings with the other parties to plan for collective agreements, identify bargaining strategies and approaches, identify clauses of concern, impact analysis on other organizations of proposed clause changes and the identification of areas of flexibility.

As collective bargaining determines the terms and conditions of work and salary structures, this is an important area which needs a planned approach. Changes in one collective agreement, which in themselves may not be contentious, could have a significant impact if applied universally.

While each organization has identified clauses that the other has negotiated that have caused it concern; to date the separate negotiations have not had significant negative implications. However, there is the potential for problems, and increased communication, collaboration and co-operation could help alleviate them.

Occupational Health and Safety. The Library of Parliament, House of Commons and Senate share the parliamentary precinct and face common occupational health and safety issues and risks. Some areas where increased collaborative efforts could provide beneficial results include:

  • joint analysis and review of occupational health and safety problem areas;
  • training in accident investigation and avoidance; and
  • planning for occupational health and safety crisis management.
Crisis management comes into play when the different institutions face a common problem such as a toxic spill, the presence of a potential threat such as asbestos, a threat to the common water supply. This might include setting up any necessary co-ordination and communication with the various security forces. Joint training could include joint accident avoidance campaigns.

Overall, greater co-ordination would be beneficial. Efforts should be made to determine whether there are any significant economy, efficiency and effectiveness gains through such activities as development of common policy frameworks, and more co-ordinated activity in, for instance, classifying, compensating and staffing positions.

General Recommendation

A formal mechanism is needed to ensure that the available benefits from further co-operation are realized. A Senior Management Working Group should be established to deal, in an ongoing way, with administrative matters of joint interest. Membership could include the Clerks of the House and Senate as co-chairs, the Parliamentary Librarian, together with other senior executives from the Senate, House of Commons, and Library of Parliament. Its general purpose would be to:

  • vet proposals, and, where appropriate, refer them for final approval to the Board and Committee of Internal Economy;
  • commission internal audits, and studies by relevant managers or by outside consultants, with respect to potential joint endeavours; and
  • ensure ongoing communication between respective managers on both sides.
It should also act as an executive body for reviewing existing joint services. Issues which cannot be resolved at lower levels should be brought to this Committee and, if necessary, to the Board and Committee of Internal Economy.

The Committee's agenda should include considering:

  • shared arrangements for truck leasing, and maintenance;
  • co-ordination of Senate and House buses for staff and Members;
  • Senate use of House of Commons printing facilities;
  • co-operative purchasing arrangements;
  • combined interbuilding internal mail services;
  • rationalized postal services;
  • co-ordination of collective bargaining positions;
  • co-ordination and co-operation on training initiatives;
  • arrangements for sharing staff and equipment for parliamentary publications;
  • budgets of the Parliamentary Associations and Exchanges directorates; and
  • common building and accommodation issues.
This Group should be proactive. The committee should consider proposals for future opportunities.

Parliament-wide costs and benefits should be a determining factor in the Working Group's recommendations to the Board and Committee of Internal Economy. In considering whether such services should be jointly delivered, the challenge for the Board and the Committee will be to make decisions which consider Parliament-wide costs, rather than those of only a single directorate or a single House. Nothing will be gained if one organization reduces its costs, while the other increases it costs by a similar or a greater amount.

Considering Parliament-wide costs will require serious attention to the incentives given managers. The objective should be to recognize and reward managers who consider Parliament-wide costs and benefits.

The activities of the Senior Management Working Group should be reported to both Houses. We believe that a useful means to ensure that joint possibilities are systematically considered, on an ongoing basis, would be to have the House and Senate each table a periodic joint report on the activities of the Senior Management Working Group. Such a report would help give parliamentarians, many of whom have an interest in joint services, assurance that joint possibilities are being systematically considered. The Working Group might report initially to the Board and Committee which might add relevant commentary or decisions. The report should identify:

  • areas where joint possibilities have been considered;
  • the conclusions of these studies, and the resulting decisions taken by the Board and Committee; and
  • areas that the Working Group plans to consider in the future.

8. Existing Joint Arrangements: Some Examples

Main Messages

  • Existing joint arrangements reflect a variety of organizational and costing arrangements.
  • They include commendable instances of staff initiative to improve service, and/or to provide services more economically or efficiently.
  • Most are House of Commons services provided to the Senate and the Library of Parliament. The most satisfactory are those with an unquestionably high level and quality of service, and relatively low consumption of resources.
  • Some of the services were supplied on a cost recovery basis; some were "free", and, for some, costs were shared on some other basis. From a Parliament-wide perspective, it is not necessary to expend time and effort to devise cost recovery arrangements unless their use is likely to reduce the overall cost to the taxpayer.

We observed several existing joint arrangements between the House, Senate and Library of Parliament.

The services are:

Human Resource Management Activities -

  • Language Testing
  • Language Training
  • Health Services
  • OASIS - Installation of a Video and EDP Network
  • Document Distribution

Examples of Closer Linkages

The services examined are examples of co-operation, communication, and co-ordination. They reflect a desire on the part of staff to manage with due regard for Parliament-wide needs and costs and illustrate the importance of values and attitudes for achieving organizational improvement.

These services vary in scope and complexity. They illustrate four models for services supplied by one organization to another:

  • partial cost recovery;
  • "free" services;
  • agreements for each to provide different components of the service; and
  • services provided to all parliamentarians by one organization, with input from the others on level and quality of service.

For each of these models, the key level of service consideration is that access must be equitable.

These are not the only possible models. Arrangements will vary according to several factors:

  • needs of those receiving the service;
  • supplier capacity (can they do it for all of Parliament?);
  • supplier incentives (is it a clear senior management priority? Will cost recovery from other users provide funds for the unit to do more?); and
  • the ease with which reciprocal arrangements can be made.
  • Language Testing - a cost sharing model. Memoranda of agreement between the House of Commons and the Senate and between the House and the Library of Parliament specify services, levels of service, and cost recovery principles, whereby the House provides second language evaluation services to all of Parliament Hill.
The service deals with all requests for language testing on a "first come, first served" basis, with priority given to tests for job competitions, regardless of whether the individual is from the Senate, Library of Parliament or House of Commons.

One consequence of the arrangement is a common policy. The Senate and Library of Parliament have formally agreed to use House of Commons second language testing and evaluation policies.

The Library of Parliament and Senate staff with whom we spoke are satisfied with the language testing arrangement with the House of Commons. One reason is that although the agreement specifies 17 days, turnaround is 6-7 days on average. From the House of Commons' perspective, cost recovery has meant that it has been able to meet the additional demand, without adding additional staff, and still recover half of its total salary costs.

  • The distribution of documents is a good example of a successful "free" service. For many decades a joint distribution office has received, distributed and stored official parliamentary papers, departmental reports and other government documents for the House of Commons and the Senate.
During the course of this study, we asked several parliamentarians to assess the services they receive. When asked about the distribution of documents, all expressed satisfaction.

Why does this service work well? The answer appears to be related to four factors:

  • the arrangement between the Houses is longstanding and informal;
  • the quality of service and level of satisfaction with the service is high, and hence there is no pressure to change the arrangement;
  • although the service is under the control and is funded by just one House, it is not conspicuously identified as a House of Commons service; and
  • the resources consumed are not a significant proportion of the House budget.
  • Language Training - another example of a "free" service. Senators and their spouses are formally entitled to use the House of Commons language training service. Employees from the Library of Parliament or the Senate do not have a formal entitlement but, in practice, have access to the service.
To date there has been no charge for this service, and no negative impact on the level of service offered to the House of Commons. This is because the number of Senate and Library employees using the service is low. If they should increase, then the House of Commons might consider asking the Senate and Library of Parliament to share a pro-rated share of instructor salaries.

The present situation is that the Senate and Library of Parliament save language training costs without a significant additional cost to the House of Commons.

  • Health Services is a third model - the House provides staff and budget, and the Senate provides some of the space. The House of Commons Health Services provides health services through four health units staffed by nurses.
The House of Commons position descriptions for the Manager, Occupational Health Services and for the Occupational Health Counsellor state that each is accountable for planning, organizing and directing an occupational health service designed to promote and maintain the health and safety of the employees from all three of the organizations on Parliament Hill.

There are no charges, at this time, for the service to either the Senate or Library of Parliament. The Senate provides the space for the nurses in the Centre Block.

  • Installation of OASIS (Office Automation Services and Information System) - a House initiative, reflects a Parliament-wide approach by the House of Commons. The House of Commons, the Senate, and the Library of Parliament share a broadband cable based communications network (OASIS) linking virtually every House, Senate and Library office in a nine building complex on and near the Hill. The system was developed and installed 10 years ago by the House of Commons, on its own initiative to provide a wide range of video programming together with the capability of transmitting computer data.
The needs of the Senate and the Library of Parliament were not paramount in the design of OASIS. Although they had no formal role in the planning, they were given an opportunity to use the completed network. Given the House of Commons' lead role, and ownership of the network, this lack of consultation may have been justified to get the project implemented.

No official memorandum of understanding or service level agreement is in effect. OASIS is essentially a common facility; its information carrying capacity is available to each of the occupants of Parliament Hill. Now that it is a Parliament-wide service, the House of Commons should take the needs of all users into account. The Senate and Library of Parliament needs have not always been taken into account when considering changes, or establishing levels of service.

Some channels are used only by one entity. The Senate and Library of Parliament have their own dedicated channels for data processing. Consequently, the House of Commons, Senate and the Library of Parliament each have separate E-Mail systems which do not easily interconnect.

Each House provides its own software support and training. The House of Commons maintains the network facilities and provides hotline support for all network problems.

Until recently, all costs for OASIS were borne by the House of Commons. The House is now submitting invoices to the Senate and the Library for actual labour and parts costs incurred specifically on their behalf or for costs which can be directly traceable such as E-mail. New outlets were charged at an average of $220 each in 1991.

Recommendations: If the House of Commons continues its cost recovery policy, we recommend that cost recovery for OASIS apply only to the discretionary requests of the Senate and the Library of Parliament. Maintenance of OASIS should remain the responsibility of the House of Commons.

The House should establish a consultative mechanism involving all the entities on the Hill to co-ordinate standards and to aid planning of future informatics initiatives. One way to do this would be to regularly put important informatics initiatives on the agenda of the joint Senior Management Working Group.

Services provided by one parliamentary institution to another do not necessarily require cost recovery to be successful. As we indicated in the previous chapter, the key principle with respect to costs is that the overall economy and efficiency of running Parliament should be greater. It is not worthwhile to expend time, money, and effort in devising cost recovery arrangements unless their use is likely to reduce the overall cost to the taxpayer.

In sum, these examples show that the House and Senate already have introduced, sometimes with great success, administrative services to both Houses which are more cost effective than the two Chambers could deliver separately.

9. What Now? What Later?

  • In this report we have concentrated on changes which should be made in the short term. Implementation of the recommendations in this report will, inevitably, also produce long-term savings and improvements. With respect to an improved security environment, the benefits are incalculable. The additional costs of the Senior Management Working Group, the Joint Security Committee and the Parliament Buildings Council will be small, much less than the value of the additional dollar savings, improved security, and avoidance of the costs of long-term deferred maintenance which they will aim to achieve.
  • Avoiding radical changes which do not have clear benefits is appropriate. While there are arguments to be made for an amalgamated parliamentary service, additional efficiencies and savings alone would not justify administrative amalgamation especially in the absence of an expected increase in effectiveness.
  • We wish to reiterate, that these recommendations are not intended to supplant the recommendations we have made in our 1991 audits. Many of these recommendations have already been acted upon. We hope that those which recommended fuller reporting on parliamentarians' expenses will also be implemented. If the recommendations on disclosure and fuller reporting are not acted upon before the next election, we urge that they be given a high priority in the next Parliament.
  • The security issue, especially, will require constant attention. In undertaking the follow-up on security which we recommend be done in three to five years from now, it will be necessary to ensure that parliamentarians are consulted about the appropriate balance between public access to Parliament and an appropriate level of security. While those responsible for security may prefer the highest possible level of security to minimize security risks, parliamentarians may wish to limit increases in the level of security in order to foster public access.
  • In sum, the savings derived from more co-operation are worth pursuing. The House of Commons and Senate should seek more co-operative and efficient administrative relations. Parliamentarians, parliamentary managers, and the thousands of employees on Parliament Hill all have a role to play, if the challenge is to be met. These are issues of leadership and values.

Appendix A

Security Effectiveness Comparison between a Joint Building Force and Separate House and Senate Security Forces


This Appendix describes key differences in security effectiveness between a joint force responsible for building security, and separate House and Senate security services.

Key Considerations

1. Would a joint force create greater pressure for harmonized security measures and operating procedures? We reviewed security arrangements in other legislatures during our House and Senate audits. We found that one of the often cited advantages of an integrated security service is the pressure it creates to harmonize security measures and operating procedures.

It is important, however, to look at this in context. First, with a joint force, the two Houses would maintain their right to establish the appropriate trade-offs between public access and security. So, with a joint force, the two would have to agree on the level of security to be provided, and on specific measures to be adopted. For example, both would have to agree on major changes to existing measures (such as screening of visitors, alarm systems, enhanced courier, freight and mail scanning).

With either option, a key requirement is a joint security committee of senior officials. Part of the mandate of such a committee would be to work toward harmonization of security measures, and to approve (or refer to the Board or Committee of Internal Economy) any changes to existing security measures. Such a body is probably the single most important means to achieve harmonization, and is equally achievable, and critical, under either option.

A joint force has the added advantage of making it less practical to operate with different security measures on either side. For example, there would be added pressure to have the same practices for admitting visitors on both sides, simply because it would be logistically complicated to train security staff in two different sets of procedures.

While this is a notable advantage, it does not provide any guarantees of harmonized procedures. One must recognize that parliamentarians may not consider such logistical complexities major.

It is also important to recognize that, since the time of our audit, the Senate and House have harmonized a number of their respective security measures. For example, mail screening procedures are identical (indeed, they are screened in the same facility). The Senate has established a scanning procedure for courier packages, which operates much the same as the House scanning procedure. The Senate has introduced a pass system to control access by visitors and contractors, which is similar to the one used by the House.

The other advantage of a joint force is that there would be little risk of confusion as to who would respond, and how, at the jurisdictional boundaries in the buildings the House and Senate share. But, this risk can also be minimized with two separate forces, by developing compatible operating procedures, and testing these in training exercises.

Conclusion: There is a greater likelihood of having harmonized security measures and operating procedures through a joint force. This could also be achieved by separate forces.

2. Would joint security staff gain more experience working together in routine situations? As we observe in Chapter 5, international comparisons suggest that staff respond better in emergency situations when they have worked together in routine day-to-day situations.

As we noted in our audits, this is a key deficiency of the present arrangements, where staff of the Senate and House rarely work together.

However, we concluded that a joint force would only marginally increase the degree to which security staff gain experience working in routine situations with all other security staff in the buildings. A joint force, like the two existing forces, would be wholly organized on a platoon basis. Members of a platoon work closely with each other, but rarely with other platoons (at present, platoons rotate through different assignments together, and train together. They work during different shifts than other platoons, or work in different buildings).

Critical to both options is the development of joint training programs and an extensive series of training exercises that involve different platoons working together. This will ensure that staff gain experience in working with individuals other than those they work with in day-to-day situations, and under the demands of an emergency situation. Such a series of exercises are both critical, and equally achievable, under either option.

Beyond this, a joint force offers two less significant advantages. First, over a number of years of redeployment of staff between platoons, an individual would gain experience in day-to-day situations with most other security staff. A joint force could more easily encourage this by transferring individuals between platoons more frequently. Separate forces could (and should) establish a staff exchange program, but the amount of staff movement would be much less than transfers within a single force. Second, members of a joint force would no doubt feel a greater affinity to other members of the same force, than to members of a separate force.

Conclusion: A joint force offers some advantages, but the key requirement - training exercises with other security staff - can be achieved as easily between separate forces.

3. Would a joint force ensure staff of equal experience and competence? Two separate forces bring the risk that the staff of one may be less well trained, less experienced, or less competent. Because security is no better than the weakest "link in the chain", this affects the security of both sides.

However, two separate forces can achieve the same result by adopting the same hiring standards, and training regime. Again, a joint security committee is a key element in deciding on and applying common standards.

A joint force has the added advantage of being able to allocate duties among staff of different experience levels according to the level of threat. This flexibility is not available to two separate forces (except to a minimal extent through secondment).

Conclusion: A joint force provides more flexibility to deploy existing staff, but the key element is common hiring and training standards, which two separate forces can achieve.

4. A joint force would mean that external agencies deal with one, not two, entities - is this a significant advantage? External agencies, principally the City of Ottawa Fire Department and the RCMP, would have the advantage with a joint force, of dealing only with one group rather than two. However, much of this benefit can be achieved by co-ordination between the two.

In fact, the existing fire warden operation is largely integrated. After their area has been evacuated, House and Senate wardens go to the same location to report to Fire Department officials that the evacuation is complete.

Developing similar operating procedures would be similar to having the RCMP deal with only one building force. With a joint force, in an emergency, there would still be need to consult House and Senate officials or, at a minimum, keep each side informed of developments.

Conclusion: A joint force provides little additional benefit beyond that achievable by working together.

5. A joint force would have more operational staff available - is this a significant advantage? By combining the approximately 80 person-years of the Senate force, with the approximately 250 person-years of the House force, a combined force would have more officers available to deal with an emergency situation.

However, as we argue in Chapter 5, the capability of a joint force to deal with a serious security emergency is limited. None of the Senate staff is armed, and only a few House staff have arms. External police are required to deal with those threats.

Where a combined force would be better able to handle emergencies is in dealing with disturbances by large groups, either in the galleries or elsewhere in the buildings. Here, large numbers of security officers are key to diffusing the situation quickly. The same response capability could be achieved by separate House and Senate forces developing a mutual agreement to pool available personnel. This same type of arrangement already exists between the RCMP and Ottawa Police for security on the Parliament Hill grounds (RCMP jurisdiction) and surrounding area (Ottawa Police jurisdiction).

Conclusion: A joint force provides greater flexibility to deploy staff in an emergency, but much the same benefit can be achieved by mutual agreement to assist the other.

6. Do separate House and Senate forces create a greater risk of lack of co-ordination in an emergency? In an emergency, a single joint force has the advantage that staff operate under the same set of procedures, using the same radio frequencies, and in contact with the same operations centre.

However, almost all the same advantages could potentially be achieved by separate House and Senate forces:

  • the two could work together to develop the same set of operating procedures;
  • radios of the two forces are compatible. A common third channel can be allocated for emergency situations; and
  • a collocated operations centre (with Senate and House operations in the same room or adjacent rooms, in constant contact) can accomplish almost all the advantages of a single operations centre serving a joint force.
Conclusion: A joint force would likely make it simpler to achieve this co-ordination. Separate forces can achieve, albeit with greater difficulty, essentially the same co-ordination benefits of a single force.

7. Would the effectiveness of a joint force be less susceptible to the personal relations between key House and Senate officials? Co-ordination and co-operation between two separate security services depends upon good relations between individuals at all levels. Both sides have to demonstrate the willingness to co-operate.

A joint service would not be immune to the state of relations between the two sides. This would be mainly at the senior level, in particular among members of the joint security board, and at the political level. The day-to-day security operation would not be affected to the same degree.

Conclusion: A joint force has an advantage over co-ordination between separate services, in that it is less dependent on goodwill and personal relations between the two Houses.


Almost all of the advantages of a joint force, in terms of security effectiveness, can potentially be achieved by co-ordination and co-operation between two separate forces. However, in most cases, achieving these benefits by co-ordination and co-operation is more challenging, and more susceptible to changes in key individuals. Whether they can be achieved, and sustained, can only be assessed after a reasonable period of time.