Real property activities: Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates—March 24, 2021

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Federal building management during COVID-19


A large proportion of the public service has transitioned to working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Government offices remain open to ensure the delivery of essential government functions and many clients’ preparations for eventual return to the workplace are underway, guided by regional public health agencies. However, with Canada in the second wave of the COVID-19 virus, there may be a heightened concern about how confirmed cases are being managed and communicated to Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) building occupants.

With the ongoing telework provisions across the federal public service, PSPC’s usage of interior lighting and energy consumption has been called into question by the media.


Questions on employees returning to the workplace should be responded to by the President of the Treasury Board, as the employer.

Suggested response

If pressed on confirmed cases in PSPC buildings:

If pressed on notifying employees of confirmed cases of COVID-19:

If pressed on energy usage in buildings with reduced occupancies:

If pressed on the use of the $500 furniture reimbursement for office chairs at home for teleworking federal employees:


Cleaning costs

Base building cleaning costs have remained relatively stable throughout the pandemic, seeing an increase of about 9%, despite augmented cleaning protocols. However, as the gradual return to the workplace progresses, base building cleaning costs are expected to rise. While there are different factors to take into consideration, it is estimated that an increase in cleaning costs will be realized when occupancy levels reach approximately 30% of total occupancy. We continue to engage service providers and landlords on these costs for planning purposes.

Utility costs

While reduced occupancies may suggest lower utility costs, the reality is that utility costs have remained stable when compared to pre-pandemic values. This is attributed to numerous variables including:

Next steps

The department continues its engagement with central agencies, clients and bargaining agents to collaborate on guidance. PSPC will also continue to advance procedures to ensure healthy and productive work environments for the easing of restrictions and planning a safe return to the workplace as guidance evolves.

PSPC will continue to reinforce reporting protocols for suspected and confirmed cases of COVID-19 cases with service providers and clients to ensure a consistent national approach and understanding.

PSPC will continue to track building readiness measures nationwide and take advantage of opportunities to demonstrate building readiness protocols for instilling greater confidence and reducing uncertainties within our client community.

In addition, as part of the Minister’s supplementary mandate letter, she has been asked to, in consultation with public sector unions, work with the president of the Treasury Board and the minister of Digital Government to explore enhanced flexibility in working arrangements for federal public servants.

PSPC will continue to reinforce guidelines for non-essential lighting internally and with real property service providers.

$500 furniture reimbursement

The process to equip employees was launched early summer and by late fall, according to the departmental system of records, the department has spent $1.082K on office equipment.

PSPC expects that employees will continue to leverage flexible work arrangements post-COVID-19 and will therefore make ongoing use of this equipment. As such, PSPC continues to review and adapt its internal procedures to ensure our processes promote the sound stewardship in the management of equipment purchased with public funds. These processes follow the established procedures in accordance with the Treasury Board Secretariat Policy on the Management of Materiel, for the tracking, retention, maintenance and recovery or divestitures of equipment and it is also in line with the most recent guidance received from the Office of the Chief Human Resources Officer and the Office of the Comptroller General.

Real Property Services efforts in support of vulnerable populations affected by the COVID-19 pandemic


People experiencing homelessness or part of a vulnerable population have an increased risk of contracting and transmitting COVID-19 due to overcrowded living conditions, inability to self-isolate, the lack of access to facilities to practice good hygiene and a higher incidence of transience.

Role of Public Services and Procurement Canada

Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC) is supporting the needs of vulnerable populations by leveraging its real property expertise and holdings to ensure access to facilities and accommodation for a range of eventualities. In April 2020, PSPC and Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) created the Interdepartmental Committee on Lodging for Vulnerable Populations to implement a whole-of-government approach with the involvement of representatives from 14 departments.


PSPC is not funded to provide lodging for vulnerable populations; therefore, our support involves sharing of expertise, working with interjurisdictional partners and national associations, coordination with funding departments, including Treasury Board (TB) for real property exemptions, and providing ongoing support as urgencies arise to navigate the appropriate lodging and specialized services support channels.

As border restrictions change throughout the pandemic, PSPC is supporting Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) to secure hotel facilities across Canada. PSPC also provides advice and best practices to Health Canada, ESDC, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), the Privy Council Office (PCO), and our interjurisdictional partners related to housing needs for temporary foreign workers or non-symptomatic isolation sites to ensure that the responses build on lessons learned throughout the pandemic and barriers within the industry.

Current status

PSPC has received 10 formal requests and at least 10 informal requests through a newly developed intake process to triage lodging requests and determine which federal partners are best positioned to support the community needs through space, funding and best practices support. PSPC addressed several of the lodging requests while remaining requests have been managed by ESDC through community support programs or the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) rapid-housing initiative.

PSPC currently has leases in Yellowknife and Montréal in place until March 2021 at nominal value. The City of Montréal has a lease in place to use the former YMCA facility located in the Guy-Favreau Complex, the non-profit organization Bon Courage has a lease for the former National Film Board of Canada building in Montréal and the Northwest Territories Housing Corporation is using the Aspen Apartment complex located in Yellowknife (a 36-unit building). PSPC has also received pre-approvals to lease a vacant Crown-owned site in Yellowknife, if needed, as a warming shelter.


PSPC is not funded to provide lodging at the community level; therefore, role clarity, triage and coordination of requests is critical and ongoing to ensure expectation management and to avoid duplication of response efforts.

Next steps

PSPC will continue to support ad hoc and formal requests throughout the second wave and the vaccination period to help respond to evolving situations and emergencies. Ways to extend TB authorities for existing leases are being sought to extend them beyond the vaccination period and required decommissioning phase.

Rent relief measures for commercial tenants in the Public Services and Procurement Canada portfolio


Public Services Procurement Canada (PSPC) has put in place measures to alleviate financial pressure on its commercial tenants during a period of low-building occupancy brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Suggested response


Given the health and safety measures put in place to contain COVID-19, buildings under PSPC’s management are largely empty. As a result, commercial tenants may have experienced reductions in their business volumes.

In line with guidance from the Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) on rent relief to external tenants, PSPC took steps to allow tenants to defer their rent payments for a 6-month period effective April 1, 2020. This applied to businesses whose income had been affected by the COVID-19 containment measures. To date, rent deferrals were sought by 162 tenants (64% of tenants) for a total of $4.8 million for the 6-month period.

In addition, 106 tenants (58% of potentially eligible tenants) benefited from the CECRA 75% rent reduction for a total of $1.8 million. The CECRA program terminated on September 30, 2020.

On October 9, 2020, the government announced the new Canada-Revenue-Agency-administered CERS Program, which replaces the CECRA Program and will provide simple and easy-to-access rent and mortgage support until June 2021 (as reconfirmed by the Prime Minister on March 3, 2021) for qualifying organizations affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The rent subsidy will be provided directly to affected tenants while providing support to property owners.

The new rent subsidy will support businesses, charities and non-profit organizations that have suffered a revenue drop by subsidizing a percentage of their expenses, on a sliding scale, up to a maximum of 65% of eligible expenses and top-up of up to 25% for organizations temporarily shut down by a mandatory public health order issued by a qualifying public health authority, in addition to the 65% subsidy.

In addition to leveraging the CECRA and CERS programs, PSPC will also be amending lease agreements on a temporary basis, as appropriate, to ensure that future rents reflect the economic realities of its tenants.

Lease amendments contemplated include calculating rent as a percentage of tenants’ gross revenues (such as, rent becomes relative to their ability to generate revenues and their ability to pay) and mutual termination without penalty to relieve tenants of any future financial obligations should they believe their business model is no longer sustainable.

Specific to Tunney’s Daycare:

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