Opening statement: Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs—February 27, 2020

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Good morning/afternoon, Madam Chair,

I would like to acknowledge our presence on the traditional territory of the Algonquin peoples.

Let me begin by thanking you and the other members for giving me the opportunity to come to speak with you today.

Thank you for inviting me to discuss the Long-Term Vision and Plan for Canada’s Parliamentary Precinct, in my role as Minister of Public Services and Procurement.

Joining me today are:

Successful implementation of a complex plan

Madam Chair, the buildings and grounds on and near Parliament Hill are symbols of our democracy and part of our history.

We need to ensure that they meet the needs of a 21st century Parliament. At the same time, these buildings should reflect the values of Canadians, and be places where all Canadians are welcome.

That’s why our focus is not only on functionality, restoration and preservation, but also on making these spaces more accessible, sustainable and secure. You will hear me speak about these values today.

As you well know, our work in the precinct extends beyond the Hill, and includes revitalizing the city block facing parliament.

Specifically, the buildings between the streets of Metcalfe and O’Connor, and Wellington and Sparks—also known as Block 2.

Last week, officials from my department told you about the work we’ve completed so far in these areas and our plans going forward.

To date, the department has delivered 24 key projects in the precinct—on time and on budget.

Our biggest milestone was the historic transition of parliament from the Centre Block to the newly restored West Block and the Senate of Canada Building.

But there are also other milestones, such as:

As my officials mentioned last week, this milestone was the culmination of well over a decade of work—restoring and modernizing facilities in the precinct to now undertake our most significant project: the rehabilitation of Centre Block.

All Canadians can take pride in the fact that our achievements thus far are earning acclaim and recognition around the world.

It is worth noting that Canada’s work to restore and modernize the Parliamentary Precinct has received over 57 awards in the areas of architectural excellence, sustainability and heritage conservation.

This work is complex—balancing restoration with modernization. As my officials outlined last week, that complexity will only increase now that we are turning our attention to Centre Block—the largest project of its kind ever undertaken in Canada.

Madam Chair, I know you and this committee have had the pleasure of touring the exterior and interior of Centre Block, to see first-hand the important work being done.

I have had the pleasure of doing the same—in one of my first activities as minister—and I think we can all agree that the magnitude of the place and the work ahead of us is extraordinary, to say the least.

Governance and decision points

Beyond the difference in scope and scale, Centre Block has another major difference when compared with projects to date.

With Centre Block, we are now shifting from projects serving a single partner—the House of Commons or the Senate, for example—to those serving multiple partners.

Instead of meeting our needs as Members of Parliament, Centre Block must work in a way that meets the needs of all Parliamentarians, as well as those who support us; namely, the Library of Parliament and the Parliamentary Protective Service.

Several key decisions are required in the weeks ahead, including some that have the potential to impact the way parliament has traditionally operated.

The particular challenge is this: governance and decision-making within the Long-Term Vision and Plan is unique, complex, and very important to the success of this plan. But, with 2 Chambers, and 2 branches of government, decisions affecting the home of our democracy cannot be made unilaterally.

My responsibility as minister, with the support of my department, is the day-to-day operations of the buildings, and the planning and delivery of major restoration and modernization projects, as well as managing the associated budgets and seeking approval from Cabinet and the Treasury Board.

As the clients in this relationship, each Chamber is responsible for the identification of long-term goals, objectives and outcomes. They are also responsible for ensuring and coordinating engagement with their respective arm of parliament, as well as securing the endorsement of parliamentarians. The Parliamentary Administration, for both House and Senate, is the lead for engagement with parliamentarians.

PSPC is responsible for delivering the built environment that meets the needs of both chambers, as defined by their respective administrations in consultation with parliamentarians.

Integrated, stable decision making is critical to ensuring the success of projects that will shape our country’s most important national symbol for more than 100 years.

The reality is that a number of key decisions will need to be made in order for current and future projects to progress. Many of these decisions, particularly around Centre Block, are arguably more important than ever.

Now is the time to take collective ownership and explore new avenues for collaborative and effective decision making.

As you know, my department has developed options for consideration by parliamentarians to support key decision points related to the Centre Block.

Last week, officials from my department and the House administration, accompanied by partners from the Library of Parliament, all working closely together over many months, outlined those decision points.

They are asking us to consider what we as parliamentarians require of a rehabilitated Centre Block.

These are critical decision points that must be addressed before we can move forward—before our officials can finalize the design, costing and timelines of the project.

For example, decisions are needed on whether to increase the size of the Chamber to accommodate growth in numbers of members of Parliament (MPs) over time, or to modernize the Chamber within its existing footprint which would require adjustments to the way the Chamber functions.

We need to make decisions regarding the core functions of the Visitor Welcome Centre. This facility plays a number of roles, but most critically, it provides the connection that transforms the Parliamentary Triad—West, Centre, and East Blocks—from 3 buildings into 1 seamlessly linked complex.

We need clarity on the needs of the House and Senate for the Block 2 redevelopment. And we need decisions on parliamentary participation in the jury for the international design competition. This project will reshape the city block directly across from the Peace Tower, blending heritage and function for the future, and further advance the creation of our parliamentary campus.


Madam Chair, in the short time I have been minister, it has become clear to me that the dedicated employees of Public Services and Procurement Canada take great pride in their work.

From work of this committee in the last session of parliament, to prescient work by Parliaments dating back nearly half a century, calling for the creation of a Visitor Welcome Centre and securing the blocks opposite Parliament Hill for future requirements—both of which will now be realized.

I am proud of the role that my department plays in the Long-Term Vision and Plan for the precinct—and I am grateful for the talented public servants, architects, engineers, project managers, and construction workers who are seeing it through. As well as the parliamentary administrations who are working with the very same degree of professionalism, commitment and expertise.

I am most heartened by how very well all of our teams are coming together on this massive, collaborative undertaking.

I can tell you that they are all ready to move forward on the next phase of our plan.

We are at a critical juncture in our plan, and it is important that we get this right. Our challenge now is how we best come together, as one parliament, to make sound, enduring decisions.

I hope that this committee will work with my officials on the decision making process—by exploring ways to fill gaps in the current governance structure and resolve the outstanding items that we have raised, so that we can continue our success. And I welcome your views, ideas and any discussion on all of these matters.

After all, the work we are doing today will serve Canadians for generations to come.

I look forward to working with you and with the rest of our fellow parliamentarians to revitalise the heart of our democracy—by making these historic buildings more functional in a modern world, greener, and accessible to all Canadians.

Thank you.

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