Public Service Modernization Act

An Act to modernize employment and labour relations in the public service and to amend the Financial Administration Act and the Canadian Centre for Management Development Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts

This bill was last introduced in the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in November 2003.

Sponsor

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Patent Act
Royal Assent

November 7th, 2003 / 1:15 p.m.
See context

The Speaker

I have the honour to inform the House that when the House went up to the Senate chamber, Her Excellency the Governor General was pleased to give, in Her Majesty's name, the royal assent to the following bills:

Bill C-45, an act to amend the Criminal Code (criminal liability of organizations)--Chapter No. 21.

Bill C-25, an act to modernize employment and labour relations in the public service and to amend the Financial Administration Act and the Canadian Centre for Management Development Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts--Chapter 22.

Bill C-6, an act to establish the Canadian Centre for the Independent Resolution of First Nations Specific Claims to provide for the filing, negotiation and resolution of specific claims and to make related amendments to other acts--Chapter 23.

Bill C-459, an act to establish Holocaust Memorial Day--Chapter 24.

Bill C-55, an act for granting to Her Majesty certain sums of money for the public service of Canada for the financial year ending March 31, 2004--Chapter 25.

Bill C-37, an act to amend the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts--Chapter 26.

Bill C-50, an act to amend the statute law in respect of benefits for veterans and the children of deceased veterans--Chapter 27.

Bill C-48, an act to amend the Income Tax Act (natural resources)--Chapter 28

Bill S-21, an act to amalgamate the Canadian Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors and The Canadian Association of Financial Planners under the name The Financial Advisors Association of Canada.

First Nations Fiscal and Statistical Management Act
Adjournment Proceedings

November 6th, 2003 / 6:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Tony Tirabassi Niagara Centre, ON

Madam Speaker, I can tell that the member is quite passionate about this and would really like a specific answer.

The question of harassment in the workplace is complex and has many dynamics. Treasury Board has been finding ways how to best manage this problem. Many of the large departments have already introduced values and ethics programs, and others are in the process of doing so.

I wish to inform the member that the Public Service Modernization Act, Bill C-25, which was passed in the Senate on Tuesday requires that informal conflict resolution systems be established and applied in each department.

I would hope that she is in agreement that this is a positive development that will lead to a common goal that we all share, which is a harassment free workplace.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

November 6th, 2003 / 11:30 a.m.
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Bloc

Richard Marceau Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to speak today on Bill C-20, now at report stage.

Last week, the House unanimously adopted a motion that made quite clear how distasteful we all find those who exploit or hurt the most precious members of our society, our children. They are also the most vulnerable members of our society. Our children need all the protection society can provide. If society cannot protect those we hold most dear, it has failed to do its most fundamental duty.

Members are sometimes taken by surprise. Sometimes that is good; other times it is not. This week, I was extremely surprised to receive an e-mail message from Mr. Sharpe himself. I think that the parliamentary secretary also got one. For this pornographer—because that is what he is—to write to the members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights as a legislative analyst and legal commentator of our work is very perplexing, to say the least.

From the outset, the Bloc Quebecois has been trying to protect our children from individuals like Mr. Sharpe. We are trying to ensure that our children cannot be hurt or exploited by perverts with rather warped notions about human relationships.

During committee meetings, there were numerous debates, including one on the defence of serving the public good. Initially, the defence of serving the public good was not defined or set out in Bill C-20 and so was quite broad. One after the other, numerous witnesses and experts appeared before the committee to tell members that the concept of public good had to be defined. In committee, the Bloc Quebecois moved an amendment in this regard, which served as the inspiration for the final definition found in Bill C-20. As a result, this bill was improved in committee.

One of the Bloc Quebecois' amendments concerns minimum sentences, and I wish the government had been open to this. The public feels—and I understand this—that sentences for sexual predators and child pornographers are not tough enough.

It was in response to this concern that we proposed an amendment prescribing a minimum sentence. For example, for a maximum sentence of ten years, I proposed a minimum sentence of one year. It is a rather short sentence, but it is enough to send an important message to the effect that the elected members of this House and the general public want to ensure that the sentences imposed upon these perverse and twisted individuals are harsh enough.

I was hoping that the government would seize this opportunity to have a debate of a much more general nature on minimum sentences.

I had the support of both Alliance members and Progressive Conservative Party members, as well as some government members. Unfortunately, I did not have time to convince a sufficient number of them.

I think that it is our duty as members of Parliament, elected by the people, to address this serious issue and to decide collectively to send a clear message to the judiciary. This message would say, “We, parliamentarians, believe that, because our children are so precious, so vulnerable and so dear to us, those who commit these types of offences cannot get away without a mandatory jail term”.

All this to say that the Bloc Quebecois is against the amendment brought forward by the New Democratic Party. I am still not clear what its purpose was. The Bloc Quebecois is asking members of this House to oppose this amendment. It is also asking them to support Bill C-25. We will come back to that at the third reading stage.

We are also asking the House to explore the possibility of imposing minimum sentences. This would ensure that those who prey on our children get the clear message that harsh punishment awaits those who commit these repugnant acts.

National Defence Act
Routine Proceedings

November 5th, 2003 / 3:25 p.m.
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Markham
Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to section 96 of the Statutes of Canada, 1998, chapter 35, I have the pleasure to table, in both official languages, the first independent review by the Right Hon. Antonio Lamer, PC, CC, CD, of the provisions and operation of Bill C-25, an act to amend the National Defence Act, and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

I also have the honour to table, in both official languages, a second document on the comments by the Minister of National Defence with respect to the first independent review of Bill C-25, an act to amend the National Defence Act, and to make consequential amendments to other acts.

Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
Government Orders

October 21st, 2003 / 1:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Madam Speaker, I often meet with Canadian and Quebec women's groups. I heard a comment this week and I would like to hear what the member for Lotbinière—L'Érable thinks about it.

First, people told me that if the House adjourns because of an election and if we in fact move up the implementation of the new electoral map, that will mean that what they have said to their members before the election will get lost. To them, this means that it will take almost a year before they can get an answer or a solution to their problems.

Somebody else asked me: “What do we do about Bill C-22 to amend the Divorce Act? What do we do about Bill C-25 on labour relations in the public service? What do we do about victims of harassment? What do we do about same sex marriage? What will happen with all these bills that people are waiting for? What will happen with poverty and social housing?”

That is what the women's groups were asking and it is also what I am asking my colleague.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

October 3rd, 2003 / 12:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I move that the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates, presented on Friday, June 13, 2003, be concurred in.

I understand that I have 20 minutes with a 10 minute question and comment period. I would like to advise the Chair that I will be splitting my time with the member for Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot.

The fourth report of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates was presented and tabled in the House on June 13, 2003. I would remind all hon. members that this report is the one page report in which the committee reported that it had lost confidence in the Privacy Commissioner.

I would like to read relevant extracts from the report, which states:

Officials of the offices of both the Privacy Commissioner and the Information Commissioner, having acknowledged that they were testifying under oath and had a duty to speak the truth, have given the Committee information during a series of in camera hearings that has compelled Members to conclude, unanimously, that the Privacy Commissioner has deliberately misled the Committee on several recent occasions.

The report continues:

Committee Members believe the Commissioner has misled the Committee with respect to: (a) the circumstances under which the Office provided a copy of a letter from which one of the original paragraphs had been deleted; (b) a set of expense reports whose incompleteness was not acknowledged in the cover letter; (c) travel expense forms on which there had been an attempt to conceal, by the application of white-out material, certain information; and (d) the reasons for his failure to appear in person at a hearing on the Commission's main estimates. When these concerns were brought to the attention of the Commissioner or Office officials, some additional documents were provided but the Commissioner has continued to mislead the Committee with respect to these matters in subsequent letters and testimony before the Committee.

The report concludes:

Absolute honesty, in reporting to Parliament and its committees, is a central requirement for all officers of Parliament. Unconditional confidence in that honesty, on the part of parliamentarians, is essential if Parliament is to support its officers in their important duties.

Having deliberated upon the findings set out above, Members of the Committee are in unanimous agreement that they have lost confidence in the Commissioner. We are no longer able to believe that information provided by the Privacy Commissioner about his activities can be assumed to be accurate and complete.

Furthermore, evidence provided to the Committee raises concerns about financial practices in the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, and the Committee has requested by letter that the Auditor General conduct a comprehensive audit of financial practices at the Commission.

First of all, I would like to acknowledge the significant contribution of the member for Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot. I want his constituents to know that he is an excellent member of Parliament who has earned a lot of respect in this place for the work he did to assist the committee to identify in the first instance some of the threads of evidence that led to this report. He is singularly responsible, and his constituents should know that he has been of enormous assistance to Parliament in addressing this most serious matter.

The Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates is a new committee. We have a number of responsibilities. One of them was to review Bill C-25, a very important bill on the renewal of the public service.

The committee reviewed this very extensive, comprehensive bill, Bill C-25, which came forward after two years of consultation in the preparation of the bill on behalf of the President of the Treasury Board and her department, on behalf of the Public Service Commission, and on behalf of all the representative groups. In the committee's review of the bill, one aspect of that bill and the discussion was the aspect of whistle-blowers. Whistle-blowing is a label given to a person who brings out information when they believe or allege that there is some wrongdoing, which may in fact come back on them in a punitive way, whether it be fear of reprisals, et cetera.

This is a very serious question and I want to assure the House that the President of the Treasury Board, in consultation with the committee and the other stakeholders in this matter, all of us, are working very diligently. In fact, the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates now has struck a subcommittee to examine this more carefully to determine what steps might be appropriate to ensure over the long term that our very honourable and capable public service will have the protections it needs, not unreasonable protections but general protections, so that there are no frivolous allegations, but so that should there come to our attention even the slightest allegation of an impropriety or a violation of the Financial Administration Act or other aspects, they will have a venue to be able to bring that to the attention of those who are in a position to properly investigate and to address it as appropriate.

This was the environment in which our committee was first engaged: this aspect of the need for whistle-blower protection. As a consequence, the rest of our responsibilities involved the review of the estimates of a number of departments to look into the financial activities.

The member for Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Aldershot has been a champion for transparency and accountability, for access to information provisions, for protection of privacy, for the protection of the privileges of Parliament, but not unduly, and has championed that if we set standards, we should set standards by our own performance. He is working very diligently to show that parliamentarians are on side. It is extremely important and it is because of his contribution.

I will not be going into the details of how this has all unfolded, but in my brief time I did want to make the point very simply. I want Canadians to know this. Notwithstanding that a particular office, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner, with approximately 100 employees, of which it has been identified that there are some people who have committed acts in violation of policies, procedures and maybe even criminal law, I want Canadians to know that this should not be taken as a broad brush indictment of the employees of the privacy commission, of the access to information commissioner's office, or of any other public service group or department.

Our work addressed solely the matters that came to our attention with regard to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. We did not conclude or have any evidence or any indication that the problems we identified in this one office were endemic outside that office. I want to assure Canadians that our public servants continue to be held in high esteem by parliamentarians for their work and the support they give to the processes of making good laws, of making sure that there is compliance with all the rules, the policies and procedures, and the laws of Canada. We had that evidence and the committee is very supportive of our very capable public service.

There is one key area I wanted to mention but that I do not have time to go into, so let me try to wrap up. We will, over the coming weeks and months, be addressing some of the points that came out, not only from the committee's fifth report wherein the details of what we found are laid out and available on the parliamentary website, but also from the Auditor General's report on the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. There will be subsequent investigations ongoing, some even referred to the RCMP and to the tax authorities.

This will be with us for some time, but I want everyone to know that from what I can see in this place, parliamentarians are 100% in agreement, not only that each and every one of these matters has to be addressed and disposed of in the specific cases, but that we are committed as a Parliament to ensure that the tools and the changes are made to ensure that this never ever happens again.

Public Service
Oral Question Period

September 16th, 2003 / 2:30 p.m.
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Canadian Alliance

Paul Forseth New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, I had to convince the minister to even get a passing reference to whistleblower protection in Bill C-25. The former finance minister who was responsible for creating the red book in 1993 promised it back then. For 10 years he had the money, he had the cabinet influence and yet all we have today is a memo.

When honest public servants try to report wrongdoing and political interference, will they be left unprotected?

Public Service
Statements By Members

June 13th, 2003 / 11:10 a.m.
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Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, between 1998 and 2002, the Liberal government spent $40 million on the Employment Equity Positive Measures Program. According to the report, which is posted on the web site of the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat, this program has contributed to building a modern public service. However, none of the recommendations in this report are found in Bill C-25.

Each year, Status of Women Canada spends $11 million on a gender-based analysis. However, some parts of Bill C-25 completely disregard employment equity measures.

Nor is the government introducing legislation to ensure the well-being of its employees. Some 21% of federal public servants claim to be victims of harassment. However, Bill C-25 makes no mention of concrete measures to counter harassment when, clearly, the Canadian government, as an employer, has the obligation to ensure the psychological well-being of its employees.

The Bloc Quebecois reprehends this government, which continues investing heavily in beautiful reports, without applying them or acting as an employer responsible for its workforce.

Public Service Modernization Act
Government Orders

June 3rd, 2003 / 3:35 p.m.
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The Speaker

The House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the previous question at the third reading stage of Bill C-25.

Pension Act
Government Orders

June 3rd, 2003 / 1:20 p.m.
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NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, it is my privilege, on behalf of the New Democratic Party, to throw our support behind this beneficial change. We believe members of the RCMP play a significant role in contributing to Canadian society. This pension issue could be classified by some as housekeeping or just some type of modern modification, but in reality it is about building confidence and showing that we can do some small things that go a long way.

Members of the RCMP are very important to my constituency. They are the instant recognition for what a Canadian is and Canadian symbolism, showing confidence not only in a government but also demonstrating the pride that we have out there in a very overt way. A good place to look at that is in Windsor where we have so many different cultures and groups of new people coming to get their citizenship. One of the things that we always have is a member from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police at the ceremony. The constable is usually someone that is very personable and very involved with the actual ceremony itself, making a point to sign any autograph, to shake hands, to be part of photos and to say a few words of comfort as well as a congratulatory message. That is important because it exudes confidence in a nation and a confidence that we have which needs to be backed up. This pension addition is a minor modification, in a sense, but at the same time shows that we need to be doing the right things for them.

There are so many other different issues that we think about when we think about members of the RCMP. It is not just the colours of their uniform and the very overt way that we see their presence, whether it be on a horse or in a parade and those types of things, it is the work they do out in the field on a day to day basis. Once again, improving their actual conditions and their confidence in the government will only help that.

In our community and others, they represent the first line of defence in many ways for what is happening at our borders, the people who are needed to respond to more international matters. In our city, where we have a municipal force and a provincial force as well, the Mounties have a different stature than those organizations because they represent the nation. When we have issues they are certainly there providing another level of confidence that sits well with our other supports, be it those other organizations I mentioned, or our firefighters and other first responders that are so important.

Sometimes we take these things for granted because we have these traditions and we know we can always rely on them. Sometimes we forget to do the regular things that are necessary to ensure their long term viability. That is what the bill would do. It would ensure another piece of a larger puzzle and we will have it to pass on.

That is one of the reasons that we support this change. It is something that, once again, is going to show that there is a longstanding commitment behind the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. More important, the Mounties will improve their ability to feel confident in the work setting.

We have been debating most of the morning and over the last few days the working conditions of public servants. We know from the union's response that there are some concerns about Bill C-25 and their working conditions that are going to be enacted and the difficulty that they are going to face. That is the exact opposite from what this is, and that is unfortunate.

We have two situations here. In Bill C-25 we have some regressive actions that are being taken against those workers and the conditions in which they are going to have to live, but what we have here is something which will be of benefit to the RCMP. We think the way to go is to improve the morale of Canadians who are employed through government tax dollars.

In the last 10 years, far too many times there have been cases where those people have tended to be attacked by different individuals and organizations, and that is not right.

There certainly is an opportunity here to do more of what this recommendation says and with the changes that will happen. I hope the government learns something from this and applies it to Bill C-25. I hope it learns that it can do some of these things that sometimes are described as housekeeping but that actually do improve morale, that do improve the quality of service and that give security for those men and women who are serving this country, and their families, who also have to pay some price for being sometimes on the front line of public services. This is overdue for the RCMP and something that we in the New Democratic Party support.

Public Service Modernization Act
Government Orders

June 3rd, 2003 / 12:50 p.m.
See context

NDP

Wendy Lill Dartmouth, NS

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-25. We in the House know how important this legislation is. There are some 170,000 civil servants in the country and I am told that if the RCMP, the armed forces and several others are added to that figure, the number gets up to almost half a million workers. This is an important piece of legislation that involves 16 bargaining units. We have a lot of work to do on this front to make sure we have a healthy and vibrant public service.

The role of the civil service has been the subject of no fewer than 37 indepth studies in the last 40 years. It is something that we certainly are trying to get right, but I am not sure how successful we have been.

I have received many letters, as have my colleagues, from people in the public service who have described the contents of Bill C-25 as a slap in the face. I would like to deal with some of the specific problems they have talked about, but first I would like to give a bit of a context for the bill.

We have to keep in mind that the 1990s was a terrible decade for our public service employees. There were seven or eight years of wage freezes with zero per cent increases. There was total devastation with the program review, where one-third of the civil servants were laid off. Many workers were demoralized by job cutbacks. Even though the civil service was reduced by one-third, the amount of work did not change. Employees were struggling with giving service to the public with fewer resources and fewer people to do the job. MPs know that this is the case because we see and hear from our constituents constantly about voicemail and never hearing a human being's voice at the other end of a government phone line because there have been so many cutbacks.

The ultimate insult was when the former president of the Treasury Board took the entire $30 billion surplus out of the employees' pension plan without even considering the fact that a surplus in a pension plan is the property of the employees. A pension plan should be viewed as wages being held in trust until such time as they are needed. When the pension plan went into surplus, the entire surplus of $30 billion was taken out of the employees' pension plan.

The government views surpluses very differently than the New Democratic Party does. In our time here we have certainly seen the massive EI surplus which has grown and grown over the last decade. That money also has not gone toward the purposes for which it was intended. It has gone into general revenues. At the same time a number of unemployed Canadians find that they are unable to collect EI because of the tightening of eligibility rules. The last I heard, only 40% of unemployed Canadians were able to receive EI.

A couple of years ago, the CLC estimated the amount of revenues taken out of Canadian cities because of cuts to EI. At that time the hit for my own community of Dartmouth was estimated to be $20 million. There would be $20 million less per year to be spent in our economy, to be used to support families, to provide a level of security at one of the most difficult junctures in people's lives, that is, when they are faced with unemployment.

The EI surplus also has disappeared. That money has been thrown into general revenues and is not being utilized for the purposes for which it was intended.

As I have said, during the process called program review in which the former finance minister got rid of the deficit, one-third of our civil servants were laid off. In my community of Dartmouth, there are thousands of families in which one or both spouses work for the federal public service. There are offices for DND, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Parks Canada, HRDC, the Department of Citizenship and Immigration, Heritage Canada, Environment Canada, Canada Post, ACOA, which is the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, and the Department of Veterans Affairs, just to name a few.

We have the regional headquarters for the National Film Board. Until the deep cuts in the 1990s, it was a very important production centre for Atlantic filmmakers and a training ground for young, talented creators getting their start in film. Like dozens of other important government agencies, the Film Board saw devastating cuts in the 1990s. Many people were forced to take a package a number of years before they wanted to leave, stopping them in mid-career when they were just reaching their potential in their field. It is a tragedy how much collective wisdom and knowledge has been lost because of the government's shortsighted program review which saw thousands and thousands of dedicated and caring public servants go out the door.

Now there is Bill C-25, another bill to modernize the public service. The question is how successful is this effort? It falls short in many very important areas and I would like to mention some of them.

Bill C-25 waters down the merit principle by allowing only one person with the essential qualifications of a position to be considered for the job and removing relative merit from the public service employment act. This means that a manager could easily appoint one of his or her favourites to a position.

Bill C-25 also limits the grounds for complaints in a staffing process to abuse of authority and language of choice. Whether or not candidates were tested in their language of choice will be easy to prove, but abuse of authority is almost impossible to prove. This means that very few individuals will be able to successfully challenge any staffing decision that is made.

Bill C-25 also broadens the definition of essential services and gives the employer the exclusive right to determine the level and frequency of services during a strike. This means that the right of strike will be severely curtailed, if not removed completely.

Bill C-25 as it presently stands also gives the employer control of the designations process in a way that makes it difficult, if not impossible, to know which employees are designated and which are not. This means that there will be more problems on the picket line, not fewer.

Bill C-25 also calls for a striking worker who, perhaps unknowingly, prevents a designated worker from entering the workplace to be convicted of a summary offence. This means that the government does not trust its own workers to act responsibly.

Another area that is of very great concern to the New Democrats is that Bill C-25 continues to exclude fundamental workplace issues, such as staffing and classification from collective bargaining. This means that the government has no real interest in working more collectively with unions.

We have heard from some of our Bloc colleagues and also from members of the NDP who have worked hard in committee to try to get some of these important issues addressed. We see again and again a government which we do not believe recognizes the important contributions that the public service makes. Canada's public servants dedicate so much of their lives and talents to make this country work. They make our trains run on time and deliver our mail. Our military, coast guard, immigration and postal services are the meaning of this country and public servants work together to provide those services. The government is not giving the public service the due that is required.

The NDP and the Public Service Alliance of Canada have raised issues in committee, such as the merit principle, grievance procedures, the definition of essential services, strike breaking procedures, staffing and classification for collective bargaining. It is clear that until these issues are dealt with satisfactorily, we will not be able to support Bill C-25 as it currently is drafted.

Public Service Modernization Act
Government Orders

June 3rd, 2003 / 12:45 p.m.
See context

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Madam Speaker, thank you for giving me the opportunity to ask a question of the member from the Bloc who I know has been very active on this case file. The Bloc has put over 120 amendments because Bill C-25 is so deficient with a number of different working relationship issues that it will make the services more difficult for people being employed by the federal government.

This should be an opportunity to create a bill that will improve morale and increase the efficiency of the workers. The problems, as outlined by the member, will lead to more difficult times I believe.

There are a couple of things the government could have done to fix things. One was the amendment by the member from the New Democratic Party, the member for Winnipeg Centre, on whistleblowing. We believe is a very important issue. We have seen the scandals that have plagued the government for the last few years, the waste and other different problems. The government is spending a tonne of money on the RCMP right now to investigate these matters, which costs the taxpayers.

We were hoping to get some type of amendment to the bill to provide for whistleblowing. I will quickly read the three major parts to it. The Auditor General would be involved when a wrongful act or omission is:

(a) an offence against an Act of Parliament or legislature of a province or any instrument issued under the authority of any such Act;

(b) likely to cause a significant waste of public money;

(c) likely to endanger the public health or safety of the environment...

It goes on further to explain how whistleblowers would be protected so they would be assured that they would not lose their jobs, or would not be intimidated, or would not lose promotion, all those different things. It would save hopefully a lot of the problems which we have had in the past.

I know the hon. member has a number of different amendments from his party that were put forth, many of them that could actually have made this a good piece of legislation. It has not happened.

This is an amendment we had, and I would like to hear his remarks about it.

Public Service Modernization Act
Government Orders

June 3rd, 2003 / 12:25 p.m.
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Bloc

Claude Bachand Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to debate Bill C-25. As a matter of fact, I must say that last week I was afraid that it might come before the House, as I had promised my labour friends that I would speak to it.

In a previous life, before I entered politics, I was a union representative in my work place. I started out rather timidly. My workplace was not very big. There were around 200 workers. During the summer, there were a lot of students too.

Why did I get involved with the labour movement? I will tell you a little bit about my personal history by way of explanation. I found there were a lot of injustices in my workplace. I say injustice because I believed the employer was abusing certain people. I called it “employer tyranny”. I could see also that some people were treated differently than others and I thought it essential that there be something to counterbalance the employer tyranny, management and personnel management.

It happened very simply around a table. People told me, “Claude, we would like you to become president of the union”. I agreed. As a result, I was involved with labour unions for 20 years not only in my workplace but also at the local and regional levels, where I assumed certain responsibilities. This is why today I am able to talk about this type of bill.

Today, we believe we should vote against Bill C-25 because of the way it was put to the House of Commons and dealt with in committee.

As a matter of fact, this is not the first time such a thing has happened in a committee. When the opposition suggests valid amendments, often the government majority will just turn them all down. This morning, I even heard some of my colleagues suggest some changes to the bill, and they were told on procedural grounds that it was too late to put them forward. However, while it might have been too late to do so, we put forward amendments in committee and they were flatly rejected.

I have been here for almost ten years now and I have found that the Liberal government is not a government for workers, and this is not the first time that I have said this. It is against workers and I have several examples to illustrate this.

In our first term, Parliament was reconvened to pass special legislation to force rail workers back to work. Supposedly, we were given all kinds of time to speak our minds on the subject. We said, “Madam Speaker, we are moving too fast, the government wants to pass special legislation too quickly and we have not given the union and management enough time to work out their issues”. The result was that people had to go back to work under the yoke of special legislation.

The same thing happened to Vancouver dock workers, where all kinds of national reasons were invoked, and where the government said, “The west coast is being paralyzed, we must force employees back to work”. Once again, the parties were not given time, or enough time, to try to resolve the dispute themselves.

The same is true when it comes to federal trusteeship. There is another example, from my riding, in fact. Workers, or rather former workers, at Singer—since they are before the courts right now—were demanding money from the government, which was supposed to act as a trustee and protect their pension fund. The federal government allowed the company to dip into its surplus. The result is that today, these people, whose average age is 85, under this system of trusteeship, find themselves making $10, $15 or $20 a month. It makes no sense.

Instead of telling the company to dip into its surplus, to stop making contributions, the government missed the opportunity to ensure that the surplus could be used to help Singer employees, which would have made their retirement much rosier than it is presently.

And then, to our amazement, after we asked a dozen questions, we understood why the government had refused to return the money to the Singer employees. It wanted to get its hands on the surplus in the federal government employees' fund. Around four or five years ago, the government said, “We think this surplus is ours”, and it grabbed it.

To me, all this means that, when it comes to workers, the only thing that the government is interested in is collecting taxes. It is not interested in providing benefits to these workers through special or effective measures. We have evidence once again with the antiscab legislation. We want something equivalent to what the Quebec government has, that is the banning of scabs, and the government refuses and even argues that unions agree with it that the legislative framework must remain unchanged. This is yet more blatant evidence that the government does not care about workers.

So what is happening today with Bill C-25? The government now argues that the act is 35 years old. The government says that this act must be changed. Now, we find ourselves with a bill that has the same regressive view toward workers. This is why the Bloc Quebecois is opposed to it. For numerous reasons, this bill does not contain the elements required to maintain a good work environment.

In labour relations, there are some very important themes we should always keep in mind. They are also the themes in fashion in labour relations today. One is the issue of corporate culture. Here we see the state as employer, with thousands of workers at its disposal, and the employer's response to problems of corporate culture is to create a bill. Another issue was the way the bill was introduced. There has been very little consultation with the unions. That is completely congruent with the position and tactics the federal government has been employing for many years in its relations with the federal public service unions.

I do not think a bill can make corrections to a corporate culture. A corporate culture is imposed from the top down, starting with the Department of Labour or the Treasury Board. It is then reflected in the delegation of powers to local administrators.

Unfortunately, what we have seen for 35 years, and what is still true today, is that there is no respect for the workers. I know something about that. In my riding there is a military base and an agricultural research station; their employees are all federal public servants. The attitudes in these workplaces are very difficult to live with.

As a former union officer, I have a great deal of trouble accepting that in this corporate culture it is the local administrators who impose their views on the workers. They care nothing for any grievance procedure. They will always object to any and all employee demands. Because of this, grievances often have to go all the way to the top level—and that often is quite costly—instead of the employer investing in employee recognition.

One of the reasons given by the President of Treasury Board during her introduction of this bill was that there were recruitment problems in the federal public service. It is not surprising that there are problems. It will take more than a bill to correct a regressive attitude toward workers. There must be a change in corporate culture and this is not necessarily achieved with a little legislation.

The government must recognize and respect its federal public service. It must prove this on a daily basis and with a legislative framework that should be much more open. This means that, when changes to a workplace need to be made, the union must be consulted. The union must be respected. After all, it, and not the employer, represents the workers. The employer likely represents Treasury Board or any other department with federal employees. So, the union must be recognized, and it is the means through which employees should have more say. It is not about handing down measures, imposing them and saying, “Now, we have legislation. This is what is in the act and you are going to implement it”.

With regard to consultations and the unions, at a senior level, they failed, there were practically no consultations. And today, the unions must appeal to members of Parliament. Each of us has, in turn, received phone calls asking us to try to block Bill C-25.

They realized that the attempts to improve the bill in committee, through amendments, failed almost entirely; perhaps one or two amendments were agreed to. So, the business culture cannot be changed by a bill.

As for the bargaining process, let us consider what has happened since the federal public service and the government started bargaining. In the past ten years, I have taken part in at least two bargaining sessions with the federal public service. What happens? The government, which is the employer, is also the legislator. It continues to maintain draconian positions when it comes to the unions. It is impossible to bargain logically. Either the government drags out the bargaining process or else it starts, after some time, to threaten its employees with special legislation.

We know what special legislation means. It means astronomical fines for individuals, the union and union leaders. No one is exempt from this. It is simple, either the government drags its feet at the table or it takes a completely draconian and closed approach to the union. Then we get closer and closer to a black hole, that is special legislation. I gave a few examples earlier of the rail workers strike and the strike at the Port of Vancouver. This does not include all the so-called projects set up by the government for the workers or the non-responses it gives to the workers. I also talked about that earlier.

As for the grievance process, let us not be under any illusions. I think that in matters of arbitration the government will not budge. The only recourse employees have is to file a grievance. I know this from experience. There are hardly any discussions between the union and the employer. The latter is not interested in negotiating anything to do with accommodation on the work site. It says, “I am the local administrator”. I went through the whole bill and took note of the powers that are given to local administrations. It is unbelievable to see how the employer has complete control of the workplace.

The employer might say to the employee, “If you are not happy, file a grievance. I know it will take years before it is settled. If we lose, we will appeal. We will take it further”. The employee waits for years for justice. Often, employees give up because they see they are at a dead end.

As far as essential services are concerned, this is another example I have seen in this bill. The employer is the one that determines essential services. That is just great for a union. I have already seen employers in my province announce, “In our workplace, 100% of services are essential services. Staff has been cut to a minimum and we cannot afford to have a single person absent”.

Now imagine what will happen in federal government workplaces if the word comes down from local administrators that 100% of services are essential services. What means will be left to employees who want to object and force progress at the bargaining table? None whatsoever. All of them are expected to report to work the next day, because 100% of services have been designated essential.

So, in this bill the employer has total control over training, learning, and retraining. He can decide which employees in which units—ones of which he is particularly fond—are to be freed up from work and paid to take training. To the less favoured, he announces, “You keep working. There is no training for you. We are the ones to decide who gets training and retraining”.

This again makes no sense whatsoever. The employer also has the upper hand as far as bonuses and rewards are concerned. In other words, he can authorize lump sum payments or take a certain number of favoured employees out to a restaurant. There will be a great deal of arbitrary judgments involved. All this is what I have fought against in the past, and here it is again in this bill. It is arbitrary and employer-biased, from A to Z .

The same goes for disciplinary measures and sanctions. It is the employer who will decide, on his terms, what sanctions and disciplinary measures to apply. I have seen plenty of these also, of all kinds.

I have a lot of people come to my office and say, “I am sick and tired. My employer is constantly on my back even though I am not any worse than the rest of them in such and such unit on the military base or at Agriculture Canada or the research centre. I have been disciplined for a certain behaviour and colleagues with the same behaviour have not”.

Again, this is an example of the employer's arbitrariness. Employers will be able to determine what the needs of the public service are. They may make mistakes. Again, there is no mention of negotiating that with the union. Is anybody in a better position than front line workers to say, “This is what we believe we need in the near future. We are at work everyday in the field and we can see how things are evolving. We can see that service is diminishing. We can see that the demand for service is going up, and this is what we suggest”. But this is not how it will happen. The needs of the federal public service will be determined by the employer, who will decide, “In this area, there will be cuts. In that area, there will be increases”. The employer will proceed without necessarily having the support of the union and without necessarily consulting the union.

It would have been proper to recognize the unions by saying that there should be an agreement or negotiations between the two parties before any cut or increase in service went ahead. As I said before, is anybody in a better position than workers to assess that? They are the ones who are doing the work day in and day out.

As for the power to determine job qualifications, I have also seen that abused. I have seen job ads that practically say, “We are looking for a 25-year-old woman”. It was fair as long as it did not state that the qualifications also included blond hair and blue eyes.

A good number of people are automatically disqualified. So, employers can determine the job qualifications, and in doing so they can also choose the person they want for the job. If this is not the employer being arbitrary, then I do not know what it is.

There is also the whole issue of merit. Who is going to assess merit? The bill refers to essential qualifications. The employer is the one who determines them, and then the employer will say that a person cannot be hired because he or she does not merit the position. Obviously, we will be told that if employees are not happy, all they have to do is file a grievance. However, given what I explained earlier regarding the grievance process, the employee will suffer the injustice for years before an arbitrator rules that he or she is right or wrong. I am citing these examples to demonstrate that all of the powers are in the hands of the employer.

As for psychological harassment, there is an employee from the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency who lives in my riding and works in Lacolle. He has seen me regularly because he has been subject to psychological harassment for years because of his political convictions. This person had to put up with systematic abuse from his employer as well as other workers who had the same political beliefs as his employer, and treated him terribly. This person could complain to his immediate supervisor at the regional level until he was blue in the face, nothing changed.

I would have liked to talk about whistleblowers and provisions to protect those who witness abuse in government. Unfortunately, this bill does not contain any such provisions, and the amendments to include them were all rejected.

The same applies to official languages. Contrary to the Act to promote physical activity and sport, there are no provisions on official languages in this bill.

Lastly, we moved almost 120 amendments to try to improve this bill. The Liberals rejected them all.

To close, for all the above reasons, the Bloc Quebecois does not support Bill C-25, and we will vote against it.

Public Service Modernization Act
Government Orders

June 3rd, 2003 / 11:40 a.m.
See context

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my privilege to speak to Bill C-25, but we see that the government is not interested in the deliberations at this time, so I move:

That this House do now adjourn.

Public Service Modernization Act
Government Orders

June 3rd, 2003 / 11:35 a.m.
See context

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Terrebonne--Blainville for raising that aspect of Bill C-25 in terms of the impact on our public service and what makes our public service a great public service. The member has often raised in this place issues on behalf of the interests of women, particularly with regard to abuse and harassment, and in this regard harassment in the workplace.

I do not think there is any disagreement in any quarter of the House that harassment of employees, regardless of gender quite frankly, is unacceptable. However the member will also know that we cannot legislate behaviour.

The member's final comments indicated that the responsible approach is education, because people do not know. It is not just those who would perpetrate harassment who have not been sensitized to the fact that their actions are harassing in nature, but also those who are harassed may not recognize or understand what they can do or how it should be done.

I will accept the member's representations with regard to the number of cases that may not have been resolved quickly. I agree with her that to go to court takes far too long to resolve those kinds of issues. We should also be aware that two years ago in the last collective agreement with PSAC, $7 million was allocated for a joint training program for employees and for so-called management on this very subject.

It raises the question as to whether it is the Government of Canada that should take these steps or the Public Service Commission and the employee representation that should raise those issues more forcefully, or continue to raise them more forcefully, so that programs, as necessary, will be implemented to mitigate and attempt to eliminate harassment in the workplace.