The Parliamentary Budget Officer (PBO) published a report on the cost-savings and greenhouse gas emissions reduction from the implementation of a hybrid Parliament system as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Among its key findings, the report found that limited in-person attendance and virtual participation resulted in an annual net saving of $6,181,000 for both houses of Parliament, in great part due to avoided flight costs of keeping parliamentarians in their communities. Despite important set-up costs, these were recouped by savings in only 2.8 months.
“Opponents of virtual and hybrid Parliament systems have been vocal about costs associated with setup and operation of such a model, but this report puts the debate to rest,” said Independent Senator Rosa Galvez (Québec – Bedford). “The House of Commons and Senate have ushered in a new way of pursuing their democratic duties which gives it more flexibility and opportunity. This allows parliamentarians to keep a firm foot on the ground in their ridings and remain closer to their communities without getting lost in the Ottawa bubble.”
This is the first time the PBO has assessed the Parliament’s climate footprint. This initial analysis found the avoided travels to and from Ottawa would approximate annual reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of 2,972 tonnes of CO2 equivalent, savings equivalent to removing 1.5 cars per parliamentarian from circulation each year.
The report offers conservative figures that do not include the use of charter flights by parliamentarians and concepts such as stratosphere GHG emissions of flights which would effectively double GHG emissions.
Senator Galvez requested the report in order to investigate claims by those opposed to moving parliaments online to keep democracy functional during the pandemic and maintain public health partly on the basis of alleged costs increases.
The PBO report confirms that a hybrid Parliament system is less expensive, more efficient and climate-friendly. Although not covered by the report, fully virtual sittings would save even more costs and GHG emissions. The initial technological investment has been incurred and Parliament would make good use of its spending by adapting to the reality of the 21st century.
To read the full PBO report, click here