Madam Chair, Mr. Chair, and members of the joint committee, good afternoon. Thank you very much for your invitation to appear before the committee today. I've been looking forward to meeting with you and providing you with an overview of the library's activities in the service of Parliament and parliamentarians. I'd also like to take the opportunity to validate the library's plans for the future and to discuss some of our current priority issues with you.
From my perspective, your insights are essential to help the library move forward in meeting the needs of Parliament effectively. In essence, I see an important role for the joint committee as a management board that provides advice and support in the development and implementation of the library's agenda to serve Parliament and parliamentarians now and more effectively in the future.
It is important to remember throughout any discussion of the Library's work that its mission is to create, manage and deliver authoritative, reliable and relevant information and knowledge for Parliament. Obviously, things do not stand still. The Library continues to evolve and adapt to change in order to remain Parliament's preferred and trusted source of accurate, non-partisan and independent information.
Some of this change is reflected in the way we have added services and organized ourselves. The traditional library functions—collecting, cataloguing, conserving—have been supplemented by research services and public programs—both of which have taken us far beyond our origins. Today, more than ever, the Library is a knowledge institution with a renewed vision of service for a 21st-century Parliament.
When we started down this path of institutional renewal two years ago, it was clear that turning everything upside down would be counterproductive. At the same time, the library had to look at how it could increase the value of its products and services and better support parliamentarians in their roles as legislators and representatives holding the executive to account.
There was and is a clear need to respond to our clients who have been asking for more analysis, synthesis, and interpretation from authoritative and reliable sources. In recent years there has also been a proliferation of organizations seeking to offer services similar to those the library already provides. And technology has been evolving--technology that needs to be captured and adapted to serve parliamentarians. Finally there was a need to build up the library's neglected administrative infrastructure in order to meet the highest standards of public sector governance.
Strengthened financial administration, human resources, information technology management, and planning were and are necessary to build the foundations for better service to clients. As I put it to library staff, in any house renovation you have to make sure that the plumbing, heating, and wiring are renewed before you start plastering and painting. So I started out with a focus on building up the library's leadership capacity, filling its critical policy gaps, rebooting its IT functions, and raising its transparency and accountability standards.
Two years later, we have a corporate services branch that can support Library managers as they develop and deliver services to parliamentarians. We have a clean, independent audit of our finances. We are implementing an integrated planning and reporting cycle and are establishing policies in important areas, such as employment equity and diversity, travel and hospitality. For the first time, we have a corporate human resources strategy to ensure this knowledge organization continues to develop its intellectual capital and attract the best and brightest minds available in the service of Parliament. We also now have an information technology strategy that will help us keep pace with developments in the digital world, and continue to offer products and services to our clients in the right format and at the right time.
Beyond all this internal rebuilding and restructuring, of course, are the strategic objectives we've set out to guide the library's development of 21st century services for a 21st century Parliament.
Last May I formalized and consolidated a road map for renewing our services, after consulting with staff and bringing in experts to examine specific areas. Its focus is on developing our capacity to create and to manage knowledge and to more systematically and strategically assess and meet our clients' needs.
I am proud of the unique services and programs we currently make available. I have brought copies of the latest edition of RapidGuide, our guide to library services. It's hot off the press. It will be in the binders you'll be receiving. You're the first parliamentarians to get it.
Most of you, of course, are already familiar with our research services and the committed analysts who serve committees of both houses. Many of you will also be aware of our on-demand services: personalized alerts that deliver the news, daily reports and studies on hot topics, seminars and training, and a range of publications and classroom resources for you to use in your constituencies.
As for the public outreach side, you've all seen, and hopefully met, the bright young people who guide visitors around the Parliament buildings. Perhaps you have talked with the teachers and have come to the dinner we have each year for the teachers who attend our Teachers Institute on Canadian Parliamentary Democracy.
Today l'm also very pleased to introduce you to InfoSeries, a new library publication. You'll be receiving this in the binders you'll be getting.
Launched this week, this pilot on Afghanistan is a set of fourteen papers, written by various subject matter experts from within our research branch, that provide background and analysis on Afghan issues, Canada's involvement in the country, and the broader international context. This initiative embodies one of the library's important strategic objectives--to develop a proactive research capacity and to provide parliamentarians with the knowledge and information they need to deal with emergent issues on the parliamentary agenda.
To the same end, we are also looking at ways to leverage partnerships with top academics and leading policy thinkers so that parliamentarians will have ready access to the best network of Canadian and international resources available.
We know that legislative libraries everywhere are struggling to innovate and improve services to parliamentary clients, so we're working hard to develop networks with our colleagues from around the world. This summer, from August 6 to 8, I will be hosting a conference called “Legislative Libraries: Partners in Democracy”. Parliamentary librarians from over 30 countries and parliamentary clients will be brought together to examine issues of mutual concern. As members of the joint committee, you will be invited to participate in several key sessions. I hope you'll be able to join us.
In addition, I am collaborating with the U.K.'s House of Commons library and several other partners on a project we are calling “Parliament 2020”. It seeks to answer the questions of how do you see the parliament of the future working, and how will information and communication technologies support this?
As we build the Library's knowledge management capacity and develop new services for parliamentarians, I see a very important role for this committee. As our window on Parliament, you are uniquely positioned to help us determine what you and your colleagues need most, now and for the future. We are committed to consulting clients as we develop our products and services. We will be looking for your input, and I invite you to become involved.
Increasingly, the library is reviewing its traditional role as a collector and custodian of documentation in the context of the digital universe. There are many questions here that need to be addressed, and some of them fall within your mandate as legislators.
For example, how can parliamentarians be assured of access to the information they need to do their jobs when copyright legislation is being reviewed or amended? Again, this is a place where the joint committee can and I believe should play a role. In too many instances, Parliament has acted without considering the consequences to itself.
And now I'd like to talk briefly about the library's highest-profile challenge and the newest service to Parliament: putting in place the parliamentary budget officer or PBO function.
I began working on this when the government's intention to move forward became clear. Again, I was guided by the fact that Parliament requires focused assistance in research and analysis, and since the library already performs many of the duties related to economic analysis, increasing the critical mass and integrating the PBO into the library was the easiest and most efficient way to provide better service to Parliament.
Above all, our efforts have been guided by the legislation and our mandate to establish an office that is independent and non-partisan and that will provide services to both Houses and all parties. Locating the officer within the Library of Parliament means that parliamentarians can rest assured that he or she will function as their servant, operating within the library's mandated approach and professional ethos in its service to Parliament.
While some of the functions associated with the officer will enhance the library's ability to do what it already does, there is an important new element, one that provides Parliament with a new dimension and value added in exercising fully its role in oversight of the government's fiscal plan. As you know, this means explaining the assumptions underlying that plan and assisting parliamentarians in asking relevant questions relating to the executive's economic and fiscal forecasts.
When I appeared before the House of Commons finance committee two weeks ago, some members expressed their concern that we did not foresee the PBO producing an alternative fiscal forecast. What we are suggesting is that the PBO should add value to the forecast presented by the executive by explaining to parliamentarians what underlying factors affect possible alternative assumptions for economic outcomes and consequently for different fiscal outcomes.
Obviously there are many things still to be worked out in terms of how the PBO will function. Many of these necessarily will have to wait until the officer is in place.
I believe that you, as the oversight committee for the library—essentially its management board—can play an important role in making the PBO an effective instrument for Parliament to use in holding the executive to account. Do you want the PBO to be one competing voice amongst many that produce fiscal forecasts, or do you want it to take on the unique job of assisting you to exercise your challenge, oversight, and scrutiny functions, which Parliament itself possesses?
For example, the work of the PBO, like the activities of the rest of the Library, is driven by demand. If the future demand outstrips the ability of the PBO and Library to provide appropriate services, I foresee a need, through this committee, to engage Parliament either to secure additional resources or to establish guidelines that would help set priorities for the PBO's activities.
Parenthetically, I should mention that the demand-driven requirements of the PBO are not separate from the library's own activities to update and establish overall level of service guidelines to assist the whole organization in serving parliamentarians in committees. I believe these guidelines would benefit from your input and could well be brought to you for discussion before they are implemented.
According to the legislation, the selection of the PBO is a decision of the government. As soon as the officer is appointed, I think it would be appropriate for the candidate to meet with you first.
I joined the library over 20 years ago because I believed in its unique mission. I'm proud that the library is on track with its leadership team, its business approach, and most importantly its attitude. Supported by this committee, I think we can seize an important opportunity to ensure that the library continues to serve Parliament and parliamentarians effectively well into the 21st century. Cooperation, partnership, and excellence are the hallmarks that will characterize our ultimate success.
I cannot end my remarks without paying tribute to my colleagues and staff. Everyone, starting with senators and members of the House of Commons, talks positively about the people who work at the Library.
It is a privilege for me to spend my days working with such dedicated professional and non-partisan people who are really smart. They sure keep me on my toes.
I'd like to introduce the members of the executive team who have put so much of themselves into making the library one of the best of its kind in the world.
First of all, there is Lynn Brodie, who is the director of the information and document resource service. She also looks after accommodations and is the library's representative on “Planning for the Hill”, the long-term vision and plan for the Hill.
Dianne Brydon is the director of parliamentary public programs. Dianne is also doing a lot of work associated with an evaluation of our publications program and putting in place appropriate client relations. Her title really doesn't reflect exactly the full range of her duties, and I think I'm going to have to change it to make an honest woman of her.
Jacques Sabourin is the acting director general of the parliamentary information research service. Jacques has come out of retirement twice to assist me in my work, and I'm very pleased to be able to rely on such experience across the whole Hill.
Sue Stimpson is the director general of corporate services. Sue is one of my new recruits who has come to the library after a career in both the Department of Finance and then the Transportation Agency of Canada.
And finally, there is Allan Darling, who's the senior special advisor for the parliamentary budget officer. Again, I've enticed Allan back into the workforce. He was a deputy secretary to cabinet and deputy secretary of Treasury Board and most recently a consultant to the World Bank. He came to the library to help me think through and put in place an appropriate structure for the parliamentary budget officer.
Lastly, the staff have a briefing book that will help you delve a little deeper into questions and issues that are of particular interest to you. That should be distributed now.
And finally, thank you again for your invitation to appear today.