Managing your Constituency Office

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Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) are provided with an annual budget to cover the costs associated with operating and staffing constituency offices. This section contains information on how to set up, staff and manage a constituency office. Please note that the existing policy concerning constituency office funding is under review as part of an ongoing process to enhance and strengthen Assembly financial procedures.

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For more information related to constituency office operations, contact Financial Services at 250-387-0762.

Outside Structure



Office Furniture, Equipment and Supplies

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START-UP FUNDING

After a general election or by-election, start-up funding is provided to cover costs associated with setting up a constituency office: $2,000 for a new Member; $1,000 for a returning Member. This start-up funding will be deposited into the constituency office account for items not included in the standard inventory of office furniture and equipment. It is intended to cover the cost of office supplies, and small items such as lamps and garbage cans, art work, and plants. Constituency offices are responsible for retaining the supporting documentation for all purchases made with start-up funding.

ONE-TIME FUNDING

The Legislative Assembly provides one-time funding for Members to purchase and maintain furnishings and equipment for constituency offices. The total price cap for the above furnishings is $4,000 per uninterrupted term(s) of office. The standard inventory consists of the following:

Desks Office chairs Display/brochure rack
Bookcase Shredder Legal size filing cabinets
Visitor chairs Boardroom table

Members may purchase either new or used furniture. Financial Services will reimburse the constituency office or, if Members prefer, the signed invoice can be sent directly to Financial Services for payment. Members that require furniture other than what is listed (i.e. window coverings) are to contact Financial Services prior to purchasing the item(s). In the event there is a requirement to replace furniture, a business case is to be submitted to Financial Services and a determination will be made regarding repair or replacement.

The Legislative Assembly will provide one multi-function printer unit per constituency. Maintenance agreements will be provided and payment will be centrally billed to the Assembly. Service for these machines and requests for supplies should be directed to the Copy Centre at 250-356-0905. Any additional supplies or services not provided by the Legislative Assembly can be ordered and paid for with the constituency office allowance. Such items would include colour scanners or printers and various specialty print jobs such as certificates or specialty paper products.

The Legislative Assembly only supports the equipment and computers it supplies. Any costs, including repairs and toner supplies, associated with additional equipment is at the expense of the constituency office.

Members may use the constituency office allowance to purchase additional furniture items not covered by the one-time furniture fund. Items may include side tables, lamps, kitchen supplies or a television and will be included as inventory items.




Constituency Office Allowance

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OVERVIEW

The constituency office allowance is paid monthly to MLAs in order to run the day-to-day operations of their respective constituency offices, to an annual maximum of $119,000.

The allowance is available effective the date of the election and is paid into the constituency office account each month for that month, after the final pay run for the month is complete. The start-up forms provided by Financial Services must be completed, signed by the Member and submitted to Financial Services before payments can commence, or revisions can be made to previous instructions. Please note that this is the only allowance payable beyond the actual term of an MLA, to permit Members to provide proper notice to their staff and landlords should they resign mid-term or not be re-elected.

To receive the allowance, an MLA is required to open a constituency office account in the name of the riding at a local financial institution. Two signatures are required on all cheques drawn on that account, one of which may be the MLA. Usually the constituency assistant or a volunteer accountant is made responsible for the financial duties such as paying and maintaining the accounts.

The annual constituency office allowance covers all staff and operating expenses and Members must budget accordingly for such items as staff vacation pay, staff severance payments, relief staff salaries, or any cancellation penalties associated with a lease. There are no additional funds available for these types of financial obligations.

Members may also use the constituency office allowance for communications with constituents whether in the form of a newsletter, household flyer, and print, online, radio, or televison advertisements. The content of these advertisements and messages is restricted to outlining constituency office activities, and the role played by the Member in the legislative process. Members may not print or mail, at the expense of the Legislative Assembly, any material seeking financial support or containing any identification or information of a partisan, political nature.

Adequate financial ledgers, records, and files must be maintained, and copies of invoices and similar documents retained in the constituency office, as office records and payments may be reviewed by internal or external auditors. These financial records should be held for at least seven years.

ELIGIBLE EXPENSES

Part of the constituency office allowance covers all day-to-day expenses for office operations. Financial Services will deduct constituency office salary and benefit costs, paid through the Legislative Assembly payroll system, from the total allowance and the residual will be deposited in the constituency office account. The following is a list of typical eligible and ineligible expenses:

Eligible Expenses Examples
Business equipment not provided by the Legislative Assembly Cameras, mobile phones for staff, or window coverings
Additional stationery supplies (if annual allotment is exceeded)  
Other office supplies necessary for the set-up and running of a business office Pens/pencils, calendars, note pads, staplers
Annual service contracts not provided by the Legislative Assembly Water delivery, or security installation and monitoring
Fees for other contracted services Writers, or office maintenance workers
Postage, couriers  
Utilities not covered under the lease agreement Hydro
Annual membership dues in non-political, non-religious associations  
Expenses for staff to attend in-constituency meetings or functions on behalf of an MLA Mileage, business lunches, accommodation, event fees
Fees for Members to attend non-partisan events in their capacity as MLAs Non-partisan events within a reasonable vicinity of the constituency
Constituency assistant travel costs exceeding the MLA allotment of 12 accompanying person trips per year Accommodation, travel, per diems for travel within the province not assigned as an accompanying-person trip
Communications expenses Newspaper ads, MLA reports, householders, signage, web page design, or inserts in special event programs
Protocol items Gift items supplied by Queen's Printer, Parliamentary Gift Shop, pins, and flags
Other miscellaneous expenses Supplies such as utensils, coffee maker, hand towels
Ineligible Expenses Examples
Politically partisan advertising or mailings Advertising using party colours, logos or party names
Salary or payments of any kind to a member of the MLA's family  
Items/cash donated for third-party fundraising Donation or purchase of items at silent auctions
Any costs related to partisan, political activities of the MLA, the party's constituency association or the provincial political party Fund-raisers or any kind of event related to raising donations or awareness of a political party
Items of a personal nature, and payments towards personal capital assets Clothing, acquiring equity in real estate, leasing or purchasing a motor vehicle
Buying alcoholic beverages  

 

It is important to note that the above table does not include all scenarios. Please consult Financial Services for clarification or advice on what constitutes an eligible expense, as constituency office expenses may be reviewed by internal or external auditors.




Constituency Office Leases

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To assist Members with lease negotiations, the Legislative Assembly has arranged to provide the services of a Leasing Consultant. Leasing information is available in the package describing the services offered to all MLAs immediately following the election, and in the narrated PowerPoint presentation (Windows Media Audio/Video File, viewable in Windows operating systems) provided by Shared Services.

Members are encouraged to work with the Leasing Consultant to identify and obtain space for their constituency offices. At minimum, it is required that all MLAs have lease agreements reviewed by the Leasing Consultant before finalizing their constituency office lease. This requirement applies to both new leases and lease renewals. Rents should be based on fair market value for their riding. Constituency office space should be wheelchair accessible and provide adequate security for staff (preferably with a front and rear exit and a security gate or alarm). Please note that the lease agreement is between the Member (not the Legislative Assembly) and the landlord, and the Legislative Assembly is not liable for any penalties or fees associated with a Member's lease.

Leases must contain some form of a “termination clause” in the event the Member ceases to hold office. The following is a sample of an appropriate “termination clause”:

“At the option of the Tenant and upon thirty (30) days written notice to the Landlord, the Tenant or personal representative may terminate this Lease upon death, total disability, resignation, the loss of a Members' seat in a provincial general election or by-election, or otherwise.”

Once reviewed by the Leasing Consultant and Financial Services, leases for Members’ constituency offices should be submitted to Financial Services for direct payment to the respective landlords. The documents should clearly state the following:

  • Amount of rent to be paid
  • Term of the lease – to not exceed the term of the current Parliament
  • Name and current mailing address of the landlord or payee
  • A termination clause, as noted above
  • Signatures of the landlord or associate and the MLA

All lease payments will be processed around the 15th of each month for the following month. Payment can be either by cheque or direct deposit.

The full lease costs, including normal occupancy expenses such as heat, light, apportioned amount of property taxes, common area expenses, parking, etc., will be paid provided these are stated in the lease. Please note that the Legislative Assembly does not pay for security deposits and does not make advance rent payments (post-dated cheques) to the landlord/payee.

LEASE RENEWALS AND AMENDMENTS

Once reviewed by the Leasing Consultant, Members are required to forward a signed copy of their renewed or amended lease to Financial Services. Any rent adjustments will be made on the next available rent payment unless otherwise noted.

TENANT IMPROVEMENTS

Tenant improvements are covered if they are specified in the lease agreement. In some cases, this may mean that the lease will need to be re-negotiated, or an addendum provided. Any material changes will require authorization from Financial Services prior to any work being done. In some cases, a business case may be required and authorization obtained from the Speaker. The Legislative Assembly does not provide advance payments to the landlord or contractors, and repairs and/or improvements are to be amortized over the remaining term of the lease.

SECONDARY OFFICES

Members representing very large or diverse constituencies may be required to open a secondary office. Members do not receive any additional funding to support a second office and all furniture and equipment must be acquired within the existing allowance. In the event a second office is needed, Members should follow the same process as for the primary constituency office to secure a lease. Financial Services will pay the lease and any normal occupancy expenses stated in the lease agreement. Phones and Internet access will be provided.

As an alternative to opening a second office, a common practice has been for a Member to book a boardroom or conference area as required. Payment options can be either on a monthly schedule with a signed agreement or by invoice. Members can contact Financial Services for more details.

SHARING OF CONSTITUENCY OFFICE SPACE

Constituency office accommodation may be shared with a federal Member of Parliament or an elected municipal representative. Members may also share a constituency office with another MLA. A formal agreement should be made and signed by all parties. Members wanting to opt into an agreement of this kind should contact Financial Services regarding the options for cost recovery.

MOVING

Members required to move their constituency offices due to electoral boundary changes will have all associated moving costs covered by the Legislative Assembly. Members can contact Financial Services to assist with coordinating the move of phones, computers, and multi-function printer units. All other furniture and equipment can be dealt with at the local level.

Members wanting to voluntarily move their office for any other reason will have the cost of the phones, Internet, and multi-function printer units covered by the Legislative Assembly. Any other related costs are the responsibility of the constituency office. It is important that Members make certain they are not violating their existing lease conditions prior to committing to a move. The Legislative Assembly is not liable for any penalties or fees associated with a Member’s lease.

CONSTITUENCY OFFICE INSURANCE

The Legislative Assembly provides blanket insurance coverage through the General Liability Policy for each constituency office. This policy consists of coverage for “all risks” (fire/smoke, water damage, theft, vandalism) of $50,000 office contents; $25,000 valuable papers and records; $5,000,000 commercial liability (personal injuries sustained by persons visiting a constituency office); and $100,000 tenants’ legal liability. All offices will be provided with a copy of their policy certificate each year. The General Liability policy has an endorsement that includes the landlord as an additional insured party, and a separate certificate can be provided to the landlord, if required. The full policy details will be retained in Financial Services.

The insurance coverage also covers liability for public forums or events. An insurance “rider” certificate can be provided to the event organizer by contacting Financial Services and providing the date, address and third party name, as well as a general description of the event.

The constituency office is responsible for the first $250 of the deductible for any insurance claims. The balance of the deductible (maximum $750) will be paid by Financial Services. Financial Services should be contacted prior to contacting the insurance company for claims resulting in damages of $1,000 or less. These claims will be handled internally. All material claims are to be handled through the insurance company. The contact information is located on each insurance certificate. Offices with claims involving replacement or repair of computer equipment can notify the IT Help Desk at 250-356-1655 so that system support can be provided.

The insurance coverage does not cover the loss or repair of personal equipment or furniture belonging to either a Member or an employee. In the event of loss or damage to personal belongings, claims are to be made against the Member or employee’s home insurance policy.




Constituency Office Staffing

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EMPLOYMENT CONTRACT

Staffing a constituency office is solely the responsibility of each MLA. In order to limit the legal liability of Members and the Legislative Assembly, it is highly recommended that Members formalize terms and conditions of employment within an employment contract. A sample employment contract is available from Payroll Services.

SALARY PAID REGULAR CONSTITUENCY ASSISTANTS FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Each MLA determines the salary and other terms and conditions of employment for locally hired staff, unless they fall under a collective agreement. Staff cannot be a close relative of the Member.

Some caucuses may wish to establish “group conditions” for constituency office staff. Any individual or group conditions established cannot be binding on either the Legislative Assembly or the government.

Staff salaries are paid through the Legislative Assembly’s payroll system. New staff will be required to complete the necessary employment forms. This service is provided strictly as a convenience to Members, and should not be interpreted as meaning the individuals are employees of the Legislative Assembly or the government.

The salary and benefits for regular full-time and part-time constituency assistants are deducted from the Member’s constituency office allowance. The total costs are deducted at source, and the combined amount cannot exceed the monthly allowance established for each MLA.

Q   What is meant by “group conditions”?
A   Group conditions can be a union contract or an employment contract developed by the caucus, and they are applicable to all constituency assistants (CAs) within the party. For example, group conditions could identify a salary schedule or vacation entitlement that applies to all staff.
Q   Who is the employer?
A   The employer is the MLA, who must register with WorkSafe BC.
Q   What forms are required for a new hire?
A   New employees will be required to complete a TD1 tax form, direct deposit form, and the Constituency Office Allowance form to be forwarded to Payroll Services, along with a copy of their employment contract and a copy of their SIN (social insurance number) card. Note, the copy of the SIN will be destroyed after verification that the name used matches the name on the SIN card. Employees opting for the benefit package will be provided with additional forms.
Q   What is meant by “salary paid”?
A   The constituency assistant is set up on a regular pay schedule and paid a set amount every pay period. Any changes to the amount paid would require notification to Payroll Services. An example would be extra hours worked in addition to the normal work schedule for a particular period.
Q   What does “deduction at source” mean?
A   The total of all salary and benefit costs are deducted from the constituency allowance prior to the residual payment being released to the office.
Q   What happens if the salary costs exceed the allowance in a given month, and how does that happen?
A   Normally, if the amount is not significant, an adjustment will be made to the allowance in the following month. If it is a large amount, Financial Services will contact the constituency office and request a cheque to cover the shortfall. Salary costs could exceed the allowance in a given month if there is a requirement to pay out additional pay such as overtime, or a salary increase might result in retroactive pay being recovered.
Q   Is the office allowed to hire extra staff if they have a surplus in their account to cover the additional salary costs over the allotted monthly allowance?
A   This can only be a temporary arrangement. It is not uncommon to hire staff to replace a regular employee on a paid leave, or during a transition period where a person remains on payroll to train a new staff member. In both cases, it is acceptable practice to have the salary costs exceed the allowance.

HOURLY PAID CONSTITUENCY ASSISTANTS

Some offices may require the use of temporary staff to assist during peak times. Employees hired on a temporary or “as and when required” basis are normally paid an hourly rate plus vacation pay, and in some circumstances can receive a health and welfare allowance in lieu of benefits.

Members are required to provide a letter of employment outlining the details of employment that include start date, hourly wage, vacation entitlement and the health-and welfare allowance, if applicable, and the termination date, if available. New employees will be required to complete a TD1 tax form and direct deposit form. It is further recommended that Members formalize this relationship by way of an employment contract.

Bi-weekly time sheets will be required for the hourly paid assistant. Time sheets are to be submitted to Payroll Services on a timely basis in order to be processed in the next available pay run.

There is no requirement for Members to provide additional benefits to temporary employees. Benefits are only available to regular full- and part-time employees. The health and welfare allowance is only mandatory if outlined in a union or employment contract. There is a minimum of 35 hours bi-weekly in order to qualify for benefits.

BENEFIT PLANS FOR CONSTITUENCY ASSISTANTS

A letter of agreement has been signed by the BC Public Service Agency and the Legislative Assembly on behalf of the constituency assistants to enable them to participate in the Public Service Agency benefit plans. Any statutory or internal benefit plan and program changes approved for excluded employees in the public service will automatically apply to constituency assistants. Should questions arise, constituency assistants will abide by the policies, definitions and interpretations set by the BC Public Service Agency. Full details of the plan benefits can be obtained here.

Constituency assistants who are entitled to participate in the benefit plans are to complete the required forms and submit them to Payroll Services. The amount of the benefit chargeback plus actual costs for Medical Services Plan will be deducted from the constituency office allowance. The chargeback rate is fixed and is calculated on the gross salaries of the employees participating in the plans. The current rate for benefits is 6.0% of the gross salaries plus MSP costs.

BENEFIT PLANS
Medical Services Plan (MSP)
  • Coverage provides basic medical services. Insures medically required services provided by physicians and supplementary health care practitioners, laboratory services and diagnostic procedures.
  • MSP is a monthly taxable benefit; effective January 1, 2016, the monthly rates are $75.00 for one person, $136.00 for a family of two, and $150.00 for a family of three or more.
  • Effective date: First of the month following the date of hire.
Extended Health and Dental Plans (EH&D)
  • The extended health and dental plan provides coverage designed to partially reimburse for services not covered by the provincial MSP or Pharmacare, such as prescription drugs, paramedical services (e.g. physiotherapist), dental services, and vision care. The plan carrier is Great-West Life Assurance Company.
  • Effective date: First of the month following the date of hire, unless otherwise stipulated by a collective agreement.
Group Life Insurance Plan
  • Coverage provides a benefit of 3 times the annual base salary rounded up to the next $1,000 for employees under age 65.The minimum coverage under the plan is $80,000.
  • Group Life Insurance is a taxable benefit. The current taxable benefits $14.40 per month plus an additional cost of $0.18 per $1,000 over the maximum employer coverage (effective January 1, 2016).
  • Effective date: No waiting period for coverage
Optional Spouse and Dependent Group Life
  • Coverage provides life insurance in the event of the death of a spouse or dependent payable to the employee under the age of 65. The amount of coverage is $10,000 for the spouse and $5,000 for each eligible child.
  • Optional spouse and dependent coverage is an added cost of $2.15 per month.
  • Effective date: First of the month following the date of hire, unless otherwise stipulated by a collective agreement.
Group Aviation Insurance Plan
  • Provides a death or dismemberment insurance for travel by commercial air on employer business, including limited group travel to and from the airport. The coverage varies according to salary level and is paid in addition to the group life insurance, at no additional cost.
Short Term Illness and Injury Plan (STIIP)
  • Coverage provides for continuation of salary as per the STIIP stages up to a maximum of 75% pay. A maximum of $2,000 per month is paid by centralized Legislative funding after 30 calendar days of illness, at no additional cost to the Constituency Office. If the employee’s 75% pay is greater than $2,000 per month the Member has the option to approve the additional coverage (up to the max of 75% of pay) out of the Constituency Office funding. STIIP will continue for a maximum of 6 months, pending LTD.
  • Employees will be required to provide medical documentation to substantiate their claim as part of the pre-LTD process.
Long Term Disability Plan (LTD)
  • Coverage provides for income continuation in the event of total disability due to illness or injury. Coverage under the plan is provided to eligible regular employees who are regularly scheduled to work a minimum of 50% of full-time, at no additional cost.
  • Benefits are payable to eligible employees who have completed an initial 6 months of active employment. Benefits under this plan are equal to 68.3% of the first $2,500 of monthly earnings, plus 50% of earnings over $2,500 for constituency assistants. The plan is limited to the earlier of two years coverage or until the next general election.
  • The insurance carrier for the LTD plan is Great-West Life Assurance Company.
  • Effective date: Six-month waiting period for eligible employees.
Employee Assistance Program
  • The program provides confidential assessment, counselling and referral services for employees and family members with on-the-job or family concerns, or issues affecting job performance, at no additional cost.
Pension Plan
  • The pension benefit is available to all regular full-time and part-time (minimum 0.5 FTE) constituency assistants. The employee contribution rate is currently 7.93% of a constituency assistant’s gross pay below the Year's Maximum Pensionable Earnings (YMPE) and 9.43% of a constituency assistants's gross pay above the YMPE. Each eligible employee will be required to complete an application or a waiver form. Once an application is accepted, contributions continue for the duration of employment. If an employee signs a waiver, they can opt into the plan at a future date but will not be eligible to buy back any previous service. Contributions to the plan are portable to any of the partnership plans within the public service. Full details of the pension plan can be obtained online at www.pensionsbc.ca in the section for public service employees.
Canada Savings Plan
  • Employees are eligible to sign up for the Canada Savings Plan during the annual campaign. Instructions on how to sign up will be sent to all employees, normally at the end of September.

LEAVE ENTITLEMENTS

Records of staff leave are to be maintained in each constituency office. All sick leave records must also be forwarded to Payroll Services as there may be an impact on the employee’s pay. Members should ensure that the vacation entitlement for staff is indicated on the employment contract. A record should be kept for each employee accruing vacation time, overtime as banked time and records of sick time which will be required in the event an employee has qualified for long-term disability. Proper records will reduce the potential for dispute.

Members will be required, upon termination of an employee, to provide Payroll Services with written notice of vacation time or overtime owing. Any vacation or lump sum payments will be recovered from the constituency office allowance.

It is up to the Member to ensure that vacation time is taken when possible. All unused vacation time becomes a legal responsibility to the constituency office. This means there needs to be sufficient funds to pay out the liability when it comes due. It is at the discretion of the Member to determine if unused vacation time can be carried over into another year. Alternatively, unused vacation can be paid out on an employee’s anniversary date, calendar year-end, by request, or on termination of employment.

SALARY CHANGES

Members are required to provide Payroll Services with written notice of any salary changes. This includes all incremental increases as outlined in an employment contract or collective agreement. Notice can be in the form of a written memo, or completed Constituency Assistant (CA) change form, stating the effective date of change and the new salary amount, or by completing the office expense form. All retroactive pay will be recovered from the constituency office allowance, and will be paid from the date of change until the date the change is implemented.

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION

All Members must register, in accordance with the Workers’ Compensation Act, as employers with WorkSafe BC. Members can either request an application form from Payroll Services or can register online at www.worksafebc.com. If any office fails to register, they may be subject to a fine or penalty imposed by WorkSafe BC.

WorkSafe BC will make an assessment for the required premium based on the annual salaries paid. Assessments are sent to the constituency office once a year. It is the responsibility of each constituency office to calculate the premium owed, based on the salaries paid in the previous year and the current assessment rate provided. Since an elected official is not considered an employee, a Member’s salary is not included in the assessment. The amount of the premium is paid from the constituency office account.

TERMINATION AND LAYOFF NOTICES

Members will be required to send written notice, in a timely manner, to Payroll Services of any employee termination or lay off. It is important to note that late notice could result in an overpayment to an employee. The notice should include the date of the employee’s last day of work, the date of the last day of pay if not the same, any monies owing other than regular pay, if applicable, and the reason for termination.

Payroll Services will process the final pay, the termination notice for BC Pension Corporation, and the record of employment for the employee. Employees should be reminded to keep their mailing address current with Payroll Services to receive tax documents, such as T4s.

Members are obligated to provide compensation on termination or layoff of a constituency assistant as provided by the BC Employment Standards Act. The Employment Standards Act only applies if a collective agreement does not. Questions about staff termination and layoff procedures should be directed to Payroll Services.

CONTRACTING

In some situations MLAs will be required to contract a person or company to perform a specific job. It is important that MLAs follow the guidelines of a contract and not confuse this work with employment. Members should refer to the Canada Revenue Agency website at www.cra-arc.gc.ca for full details on determining the relationship. Please note that a Member may be subject to fines and penalties by the Canada Revenue Agency if it determines that an employee/employer relationship exists and the appropriate taxes were not remitted.

The following questions can be used as a quick reference to identify an employer/employee relationship or a contractor/self-employed worker:

Employer/Employee Relationship Contractor or Self-employed Worker

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, an employer/employee relationship exists and the employee should be paid through the payroll system with proper deductions taken at source:

  • Does the payer determine what jobs the worker will do?
  • Does the payer provide space, use of equipment, and/or office supplies to the worker?
  • Does the payer control the method and amount of pay?
  • Is the overall work environment between the payer and the worker one of subordination?

The following questions are a quick reference to identify a contractor or self-employed worker. Contract work is an eligible constituency expense and can be paid directly from the constituency office allowance:

  • Is the work independent and within a defined framework?
  • Can the worker work for someone else at the same time?
  • Can the worker accept or refuse work from the payer?
  • Is the worker responsible for his or her workspace, equipment, and supplies?




Signage

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Constituency offices are designed to encourage communication between the Member and all constituents, and therefore the office must be operated on a strictly non-partisan basis and cannot be used to engage in or host partisan, political activities. In keeping with this guideline and in order to provide constituents with a non-partisan venue, the exterior signage located at any constituency office should not:

  • display the name or logo of a political party; and/or
  • contain statements of a partisan political nature; and/or,
  • use political party colours in any recognizable partisan form.

The exterior sign should contain the name of the MLA as the primary focus. The style, form, and size of the sign are left to the discretion of the individual Member, subject to restrictions placed upon the Member by the management of the property.




Computers and Internet Access

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The Legislative Assembly provides computers and applicable software for Members and constituency office staff. The Information Technology Branch provides support for this equipment through the IT Help Desk at 250-356-1655.

Constituency offices must contact the IT Help Desk if computers require servicing or if they require additional programs or equipment to be installed. If it is necessary to have a technician on site to perform any maintenance or repair, this will be arranged by the IT Help Desk.

The IT Help Desk is staffed during the following hours:

House not in Session:

  • Monday to Friday: 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., on site support
  • Monday to Friday: 5:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m., off site support
  • Saturday, Sunday and Public Holidays: 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., off site support

House in Session:

  • Monday to Friday: 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., on site support
  • Monday to Friday: 5:00 p.m. until two hours after the House adjourns or 9:00 p.m., whichever is later, off site support
  • Saturday, Sunday and Public Holidays: 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., off site support

The Legislative Assembly will provide high-speed Internet access to each constituency office. A Telecommunications Administrator from IT will arrange for an account to be opened with the local service provider and the billing will be forwarded directly to Financial Services.

The Information Technology Branch will provide a multi-function printer unit (including email, fax, photocopier, printer, and scanning services) to new Members.




Telecommunications

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TELEPHONE EQUIPMENT

The Legislative Assembly will provide each main constituency office with the following:

  • Three Centrex voice lines.
  • For offices requiring a fax line, a fax number will be allocated to the office. Faxing is now computerized in conjunction with the multifunction printer supplied to the office.
  • Three multi-line phone sets with features such as call display, call pick-up, message waiting, speaker phone, and headset compatibility. A full list of options will be provided at the time of installation.
  • One voice mail box per voice line (three in total).
  • Long distance calling within BC for all lines.
  • One toll-free number for all constituency offices outside the Victoria and Vancouver areas. This applies to all offices that require constituents to call long distance.

Phone and Internet access will be provided to secondary constituency offices as required. All equipment ordering and billing for the constituency office phones will be handled centrally through the Telecommunications Administrator, Information Technology branch at 250-952-0663. Any additional equipment not supplied by the Legislative Assembly may be purchased using constituency funds. This includes items like headsets or devices for the hearing impaired.

MOBILE DEVICES AND ACCESSORIES

The Legislative Assembly will provide each Member with a smartphone and an optional iPad and any included accessories. The following guidelines will apply to the use of these devices:

  • Members should contact the Telecommunications Administrator to request a mobile phone. Phone numbers provided will have the area code applicable to the riding area (i.e. 604, 250, 778 or 236). Members who have already purchased a device may submit a copy of the contract to Financial Services for reimbursement or, for convenience, have the contract transferred to the corporate account.
  • A corporate billing account will be set up with Telus, Rogers or Bell for monthly billings. These accounts are only available to Members for the device supplied by the Legislative Assembly.
  • The corporate account will be reviewed monthly. Members will be contacted individually if there appears to be unusual or irregular activity on an individual account.

Members not on the corporate account can pay their bill, note any personal charges, sign as approved and submit for reimbursement or payment.

New Members

A mobile phone will be provided to each new Member. Four options are available to choose from; devices will be supplied based on the most economical plan available at the time of acquisition. Members will have the option to upgrade a device with any additional cost to be charged to the constituency office allowance or having the data plan for an existing device transferred to the corporate account. Members should contact the Legislative Assembly Telecommunications Administrator at 250-952-0663 to determine their needs.

Upgrades

Upgrades for a new device will be provided to each returning Member at the expiration of any current contracts. Members requesting an upgrade sooner can contact the Telecommunications Administrator to determine availability. Additional costs will be charged against the constituency office allowance.

Lost/Stolen Devices

The constituency office allowance will be charged for any costs associated with the replacement of a lost or stolen phone.

Broken Devices

If a device is beyond repair it will be replaced with the comparable device provided to Members. Any costs to upgrade a device will be charged to the constituency office allowance.

Data Plans

Billing for data plans will be set up on the Legislative Assembly corporate account for Telus, Rogers, or Bell. The Telecommunications Administrator will be responsible for setting these up to ensure the best rate and plan available. If an MLA does not want to be included on the corporate billing, they can be reimbursed by submitting a copy of their cell phone bill to Financial Services.

Accessories

Members will be provided with the A/C charger and reimbursed for the following accessories (if required):

  • D/C charger (car)
  • Extra battery
  • Carrying case
  • One Bluetooth hands-free device (maximum of $150 plus taxes, once per Parliament)

Any additional items are the responsibility of the MLA.


Travelling/Roaming with Mobile Devices:

Members or staff travelling with their mobile devices should be aware that using these devices outside of Canada for voice calls and/or data (emails, text messages, and Internet) use can incur considerable charges. The Legislative Assembly will only reimburse for usage that was for Legislative Assembly-related business. Any other charges will be the responsibility of the user.

In advance of out-of-province or international travel, it is recommended that Members contact the Legislative Assembly Telecommunications Administrator to inquire about any discount packages available for voice and/or data while travelling abroad.

CONSTITUENCY ASSISTANTS

Members who may wish to provide staff with a telecommunications device must use constituency office funds. The Legislative Assembly does not provide constituency office staff with mobile phones and/or other communications devices. Constituency offices can take advantage of the government rates by contacting the Telecommunications Administrator to assist with the purchase. It is also important to remember that to avoid penalties or additional fees, contracts should not exceed the four-year term of office.




MLA and Constituency Office Computer Hardware and Mobile Phone Options

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COMPUTERS

Members will be supplied their choice of one notebook or tablet, as well as an iPad, should they wish to have one. Each Member is also allocated two computers for use by constituency assistants, and will have the choice of which desktop or notebook computers they would like to obtain. Constituency assistants selecting a notebook computer will also be supplied with an external monitor, keyboard and mouse.

All computers are supplied with Windows 10, Microsoft Office 2016 Professional (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Publisher, Access and Lync), Microsoft Outlook, Adobe Reader, and Abode Photoshop Elements.

Details on the models of notebooks and tablets that Members may choose from will be made available on this website in conjunction with Members’ orientation information.

MOBILE PHONES

New Members may choose one smartphone from four provided options, which will be made available on this website in conjunction with Members’ orientation information.

The default carrier used by the Legislative Assembly is Telus, but Members may select Rogers or Bell as their carrier if they are aware that Telus does not provide adequate coverage in their riding.




Constituency Office Security

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Members are responsible for ensuring that constituency office work environments meet safety and security requirements and protect constituency office staff, office assets and information, and the public in general.

To assist Members and constituency office staff, the following reference guides on constituency office security information and specifications are available on the Legislative Assembly’s internal intranet website. Please note that access to the Legislative Assembly network is required to view these guides.

  • Guide to Constituency Office Security (PDF)
    Outlines general constituency office security responsibilities, including guidelines on how to select a secure location, office layout, office equipment and supplies, paper disposal, security checklists, and how to deal with crisis situations.
  • Guide to Constituency Office - Specifications (Video) (PDF)
    Outlines the requirements for constituency office video system installations, including contractor qualifications, cameras, digital video recording systems and other requirements, documentation, and training.

Specific questions and requests for assistance with respect to constituency office security issues should be directed to the office of the Sergeant-at-Arms at 250-387-5516, or the Deputy Sergeant-at-Arms at 250-387-1622.




Asset Inventory and Disposal

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All assets purchased entirely or partly with public funds for constituency office use are the property of the Legislative Assembly. Each constituency office will be required to complete an inventory list of all assets purchased, submit a copy to Financial Services within three months of setting up the constituency office, and retain the original in the constituency office.

Departing Members are responsible for disposing of all items on their inventory lists (i.e. distribute to the incoming Member, private sale, auction). A disposal form detailing assets disposed of, including items donated, and the amounts received, is to be forwarded to Financial Services and the proceeds should be deposited into the constituency office bank account. Depreciation should be taken into account when estimating the current value of assets. Departing Members are encouraged, where reasonable, to make all assets available to the incoming Member.

Members, their families or staff cannot purchase constituency office assets. The only exception to this provision, as noted above, is the option for Members to purchase existing computer equipment at the time of its scheduled replacement.




Records Management

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During a four-year term of elected office, each Member collects numerous documents, including financial records, constituency case files, and documents related to their legislative duties.

Different types of files or records have different retention schedules, for example:

  • Constituency financial records have a 7-year retention requirement and must be provided to Financial Services at the end of a Parliament or upon closing of a constituency office.
  • Inactive constituency records, such as case files, have a recommended 5-year retention period starting on the date that the file becomes closed or inactive.

Please ensure that constituency office financial records are well documented and that all payments are supported by receipts. Financial records include: a full print out of the general ledger from the date the constituency office opened until it was closed; all bank statements; cancelled cheques; bank reconciliations; supplier invoices; expense claim forms for in-constituency travel; and contracts and agreements.

The Legislative Assembly will assist Members in determining the retention requirements for their various files. The Legislative Assembly contact person for financial records management is Hilary Woodward, Executive Financial Officer (hilary.woodward@leg.bc.ca).

The Legislative Assembly offers all Members free storage for their personal, political or constituency records for a period of up to 5 years after the date of their departure from the Legislative Assembly.

Any records provided to the Legislative Assembly will be held in secure storage by the Legislative Library and are not part of the public document collection, except where access agreements are concluded between the Member and the Library. The contact person for non-financial records management is Peter Gourlay, Director, Legislative Library (peter.gourlay@leg.bc.ca).

Contact Information

Executive Financial Officer
Hilary Woodward
(250) 356-6590

Director, Legislative Library
Peter Gourlay
(250) 356-6508



Data Management and Equipment Disposal

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The Information Technology (IT) Branch supports Members and their staff with constituency office data management and the disposal of computer hardware and hard drives following a hardware failure.

DATA BACKUP AND RESTORATION

The IT Branch uses a combination of daily, weekly and monthly data backups to ensure that lost data can be restored, if required. Daily and weekly backups allow the restoration of a file from any day in the previous 10 weeks. Monthly backup files are kept for 13 months and then they are deleted.

For the period beyond the 10 weeks covered by the daily and weekly backups, files can only be recovered if they existed when the monthly backup was run on the first weekend following the end of the month. The IT Branch is unable to recover any file deleted more than 13 months ago, although Members or their staff may be able to recover such files if they remain in an accessible email or network drive.

HARDWARE FAILURE

Members and their staff should contact the IT Branch for support regarding hardware issues in a constituency office. The IT Branch will then have a regional contractor, Tecnet, go to the site and determine the problem. If the problem involves the failure of the notebook or PC hard drive, the IT Branch ships a replacement computer to the constituency office, and has the office send the problem computer to the IT Branch by courier. On receipt of the problem computer, the IT Branch will remove the hard drive, insert a new hard drive, re-image the computer and return it. The serial number of the old hard drive is recorded, and the old hard drive is then sent to the Office of the Sergeant-at-Arms for appropriate disposal in a secure manner.



Public Disclosure

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Quarterly information on Members’ constituency expenses is disclosed publicly on the Legislative Assembly website, in the section dealing with Members' remuneration and expenses. This disclosure fulfils a commitment made by the Legislative Assembly Management Committee (LAMC) in 2013.

Last Updated: March 14, 2017