Portfolio organizations: Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates—November 16, 2020

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Canada Post: Renewal


On August 21, 2020, Canada Post reported a $378 million loss before tax for its second quarter. On July 30, 2020, Canada Post announced a new acting chair of the Board of Directors.

Suggested response

If pressed on governance:

If pressed on the acting chair:


Canada Post recorded a loss before tax of $378 million in the second quarter of 2020. This increased loss was largely due to the impact COVID-19 had on revenue and costs and the added costs stemming from the new collective agreements with the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW).

As the country responded to COVID-19, Canadians turned to Canada Post to provide an essential service. With people at home and businesses closed, the corporation saw a dramatic shift in what it was asked to deliver. Online shopping drove unprecedented growth in parcels volume and revenue, but because Canadians and businesses mailed and advertised less, the transaction mail and direct marketing volume and revenue decline exceeded the growth in parcels. The estimated total revenue shortfall due to COVID-19 was $46 million while increased costs related to COVID-19 were an estimated $118 million. The total negative financial impact due to COVID-19 was an estimated $164 million.

The arbitrator’s ruling on June 11, 2020 concluded a comprehensive process that followed weeks of rotating strikes in late 2018. The new collective agreements, one for urban employees and another for rural and suburban mail carriers (RSMCs), added net costs of $114 million in the second quarter. Most of this was related to expanded eligibility for post-employment healthcare benefits for RSMCs.

The segment recorded a loss before tax of $444 million on revenue of $3.3 billion for the first 2 quarters of 2020. That compares to a loss before tax of $27 million, also on revenue of $3.3 billion, for the first 2 quarters of 2019. Although COVID-19 and the new collective agreements with CUPW contributed to the loss, the Canada Post segment would have still incurred a loss without these factors.

Suromitra Sanatani: Acting chair of the Board of Directors

A seasoned corporate director, Suromitra is a board member of Travel Alberta and a member of the Royal Bank Global Asset Management Independent Review Committee. Previously, she served on various boards, including Edmonton International Airport, Victoria International Airport, Social Sciences Humanities Research Council of Canada, Canadian Blood Services, and as chair of the Royal British Columbia (BC) Museum.

Suromitra began her career in litigation before transitioning from the practice of law to senior corporate positions in the non-profit, public and private sectors. In her role as BC and Yukon Vice President of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Suromitra represented the interests of small- and medium-sized businesses.

Later, as Vice President, Corporate and Government Relations at Partnerships BC, she played a pivotal role in establishing this Crown Corporation, which specializes in public-private partnerships. Her subsequent consulting practice included leading First Nations consultations across British Columbia, and providing strategic advice to senior executives in the financial, utilities and transportation sectors.

Suromitra is fluent in English, French and German and has a conversational ability in Bengali. She has a bachelor of laws from the University of Ottawa and a bachelor of arts (French literature) from the University of Victoria.

Canada Post: Health and safety


Canada Post continues to provide a vital service to Canadians under difficult circumstances, with employees continuing to operate in the field delivering parcels. Canada Post continues to do everything possible to continue its service while keeping the health and safety of its staff as its number one priority.

Suggested response

If pressed on health and safety:

If pressed on volume and delays:

If pressed on peak season health and safety measures:


On March 19, 2020, Canada Post released a letter stating its number one priority is the health and safety of its employees. They encouraged employees who can work from home to do so. However, the majority of its employees are in the field delivering packages.

Canada Post has eliminated the need for customers to sign for parcels at the door to minimize personal contact. It has also suspended normal delivery guarantees for its parcel services as delivering safely without overburdening its employees requires more time.

Canada Post has been experiencing “Christmas level” volumes during this pandemic. Canada Post has introduced several measures to encourage physical distancing and limit contact during the COVID-19 pandemic, including a “Knock, drop and go” approach for parcel delivery. This change eliminates the need for signatures at the door, speeds up delivery and has greatly reduced the number of parcels sent to post offices for pickup. Items that require signatures due to proof of age will be required to be picked up at the retail counter in a more controlled environment, where physical distancing can be accommodated.

Additional safety measures

On October 9, 2020, Canada Post communicated additional safety measures to all employees:

All employees across Canada are now required to conduct a self-assessment each day before reporting to work, based on a COVID-19 self-assessment tool from the Public Health Agency of Canada.

These measures are in addition to the existing requirements to wear face coverings in enclosed public spaces, as well as for 2-person lifts, during driver training, on elevators, etc. These measures also do not replace the requirement to maintain 2 metres of physical distancing, which remains the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Rehabilitation of the National Capital Commission assets including 24 Sussex, Harrington Lake, and Stornoway


The Official Residences of Canada: Asset Portfolio Condition Report, identified a requirement for a one-time injection of $83 million over 10 years to address the deferred maintenance deficit for all 6 official residences and ensure that the official residences meet universal accessibility and sustainability requirements.


The numbers in the asset condition report represent recommended and projected investments based on 2017 asset values, not actual expenditures/commitments/planned spending by the National Capital Commission (NCC). The NCC is working to have this report refreshed to reflect 2020 values.

Suggested response

If pressed on Harrington Lake rehabilitation costs:

If pressed on the NCC’s Asset Portfolio Condition Report:


Official residences of Canada Asset Portfolio Condition Report

In 2017, the NCC commissioned in-depth building condition reports for the largest and most complex buildings in the official residences portfolio. These reports found that 58% of the assets in the official residences portfolio were considered to be in ‘poor’ to ‘critical’ condition, including half of the main official residences (24 Sussex and Harrington Lake main cottage are in critical condition while the farm is in poor condition). The complete report, Official Residences of Canada: Asset Portfolio Condition Report, was endorsed by the NCC Board of Directors in April 2018 and publicly released in October 2018.

The report reflects an in-depth analysis of the official residences asset portfolio and highlights the shortfall in funding required to restore and maintain these heritage buildings.

24 Sussex

On October 16, 2018, the NCC released the Official Residences of Canada: Asset Portfolio Condition Report, which found that 24 Sussex Drive was in “critical” condition. The report identified a requirement for a one-time injection of $83 million over 10 years to address the deferred maintenance deficit for all 6 official residences, and a further $24.6 million annually for ongoing maintenance, repairs and renovations. The implementation of this 10-year recapitalization plan would also need to consider the investment required to ensure that the official residences meet universal accessibility and sustainability requirements, as well as escalation.

Over the last decade, the NCC has completed significant work at 24 Sussex including the rehabilitation of chimneys and fireplaces, fire compartmentalization, stabilization of the escarpment at the back and west sides of the property and the removal of hazardous materials, including asbestos, from the main building. However, it has not been able to proceed with the extensive rehabilitation of the residence and has been limited to completing work on the repairs relating to health and safety that were urgently required.

As 24 Sussex Drive has not seen significant investment in over 60 years, the additional work required would include the rehabilitation of the building envelope, mechanical and electrical systems, all buildings on the site would require extensive recapitalization and NCC would need prolonged access to the residence. The NCC is working with its federal partners to develop a plan for the future of 24 Sussex Drive and is ensuring that issues related to security, functionality, environmental sustainability, universal accessibility, design excellence and heritage preservation are taken into consideration in our preparations.

As part of its duties as steward of the official residences, the NCC is renewing various studies, including functional program options for the building, site surveys of the grounds, the main building and the 4 ancillary buildings, asbestos testing and other life cycle evaluations.

Harrington Lake

While the main cottage at Harrington Lake is 95 years old, most of the buildings were built between 1850 and 1925. Harrington Lake, the official country residence of the Prime Minister, is used for both official and private functions, with buildings that can accommodate official business as well as state visits. The Harrington Lake property was deemed to be in critical condition in the NCC’s 2018 Official Residences of Canada: Asset Portfolio Condition Report (see pages 38 to 43). In October 2018, the NCC began the rehabilitation of this property.

On September 24, 2020, it was alleged that through the tabled response to OPQ Q-443, parliament had been provided with figures that were inaccurate, based on information released through an associated Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP) (number 2020-00025) with regard to construction and renovations at the Prime Minister’s country residence and surrounding property at Harrington Lake.


OPQ Q-443 and the associated ATIP 2020-00025 address substantially different questions—one about the $8.6 millions estimated for the renovation and construction costs for almost 5 years of work; the other about the actual total expenses incurred by the NCC over the first four and a half months of 2020, which was misinterpreted by the Canadian Taxpayer’s Federation to total more than $10 million worth in expenses at Harrington Lake.

On May 25, 2020, the following 3 projects, with a total estimated cost of $8.6 million, were detailed in response to OPQ-443:

In responding to the point of order raised on September 24, 2020, the NCC prepared documentation showing the corporation’s actual expenditures on these 3 projects, for fiscal years 2016 to 2017 to 2019 to 2020, as well as the forecast amounts for 2020 to 2021 (these amounts exclude salaries). 

Table 1: Harrington Lake projects
Rehabilitation project Total of actual costs (2016 to 2017 to 2019 to 2020) 2020 to 2021 forecast Total cost forecast
Cottage main buildingtable 1 note 1 $1,400,217 $4,717,783 $6,118,000
Farmhouse building $2,111,165 $388,835 $2,500,000
Lower guest cottage $23,681 $0 $23,681
Grand total $3,535,063 $5,106,618 $8,641,681

Table 1 Notes

Table 1 Note 1

This project is net of recoveries (funding from partners)

Return to table 1 note 1 referrer

The NCC spent a total of $3.535 million on these projects between fiscal years 2016 to 2017 and 2019 to 2020, with projected costs of $5.107 million in 2020 to 2021, for a total estimated amount of $8.642 million in expenditures for these 3 projects. The expenses incurred by the NCC fall within the estimate provided in Q-443.


Originally built in 1913 to 1914, Stornoway holds a “recognized” heritage designation. The main residence functions primarily as a private residence for the leader of the opposition and their family. It also hosts occasional official events. It is not open to the public. The property comprises 0.42 hectares of grounds, a main residence, and a garage.

Since 1988, development plans, supported by asset condition reports for both the building and grounds, have been completed and several upgrades have been made. There are a number of building systems that need to be replaced or upgraded (for example plumbing, heating and cooling equipment), the presence of asbestos complicates any interior work, and aspects of the residence need to be renovated to permit universal accessibility. Overall, Stornoway was determined to be in good condition in the NCC’s 2018 Official Residences of Canada: Asset Portfolio Condition Report (see pages 44 to 49).

Transition periods between residents provide the NCC with an opportunity to complete required life-cycle work and maintenance that is unrelated to the previous or incoming resident. As such, the NCC is using the current transition period at Stornoway to complete required life-cycle maintenance and repairs, including work in the kitchen (new dishwasher, countertop and backsplash, replacing end-of-life wood flooring with ceramic), the basement (insulation, heating pipe repairs), bathrooms (plumbing repairs, replace exhaust fans), general décor (refresh paint and upholstery, replace mattresses), and some exterior repairs (repairs to rot in veranda and main entrance wood trim, gutter repairs, replace garage roof).

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