Bill C-25 (Historical)
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.
Lucienne Robillard Liberal
This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.
Public Service Modernization Act
June 3rd, 2003 / 12:50 p.m.
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
June 3rd, 2003 / 12:45 p.m.
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
June 3rd, 2003 / 12:25 p.m.
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
June 3rd, 2003 / 11:40 a.m.
Public Service Modernization Act
June 3rd, 2003 / 11:35 a.m.
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.
Public Service Modernization Act
June 3rd, 2003 / 11:10 a.m.
Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC
Mr. Speaker, this is truly an extraordinary opportunity for me to express my view this morning on Bill C-25. It is a bill that interests me tremendously, especially because its purpose is to change the culture in the public service.
Treasury Board wants to use this bill to deal with the constant reduction of the work force in the public service and the growing competition from the private sector.
With this bill, the government believes it could overcome problems relating to representation, the aging staff and professional skills.
Finally, the purpose of this bill is to improve the public's perception of the public service. There seems to be little interest in having a career in the public service because of its bad reputation. This results in poor recruitment. The goal of this bill is to change the approach with regard to the public's view of the public service.
It is also a substantial bill. We would have preferred to debate it in parts since it deals with human beings, the men and women in this work force that we are to manage, or the government is to manage.
It includes amendments, among other things, to the Financial Administration Act. This bill will also improve accountability through the tabling of reports. The President of the Treasury Board is required to prepare reports on the administration of the legislation in terms of human resources management, a report on the obligations that stem from the Employment Equity Act, and a report on the Treasury Board's powers under the Public Service Employment Act.
I felt the need to list these points simply to establish the purpose of this bill. We are disappointed because we know these objectives will not be met. This legislation is meant to make working in the public service an attractive prospect. Again, we doubt very much that these objectives will be met.
I will discuss two points, the amendments made to the Public Service Employment Act, and the fact that it is incumbent on the government as a responsible employer to ensure a healthy work environment where its employees are treated with dignity and respect.
My attention was immediately drawn to one particular provision, that is paragraph 30(2)( b ) of the Public Service Employment Act, which reads as follows:
—the Commission is satisfied that the person to be appointed meets the essential qualifications for the work to be performed, as established by the deputy head, including official language proficiency.
The Bloc Quebecois proposed an amendment to change this paragraph by deleting the word essential. We believe that the candidate should meet all the qualifications. Limiting the requirement to essential qualifications creates ambiguity regarding the proficiency level required. In other words, essential could be construed to mean minimal proficiency, and not maximum proficiency.
We fear that the deputy head or any senior official could make patronage appointments either by setting requirements that only one person can meet or by selecting among the candidates one who meets the essential qualifications without necessarily being the best candidate.
I would like to draw attention to a program concerning employment equity in the public service. In 1998, the government set up a temporary, four-year program which ended last year: the Employment Equity Positive Measures Program. This program provided the tools to support the aggressive application of employment equity principles in the workplace, thereby enhancing the representation of the four designated groups, that is, women, aboriginals, persons with disabilities and visible minorities.
This program also provided additional resources, services and funding to help departments and agencies turn their good intentions into lasting results.
The program costs were $10 million annually, which means that over four years, they totalled $40 million. This was to help the public service modernize, among other things. Imagine. Through this program, the Public Service Commission's centre for excellence was established and supported. Also, an electronic tool was developed in connection with employment equity positive practices.
When we talk about the public service and modernization, this is a first step. The bill before us does not include any of the outcomes of the Employment Equity Positive Measures Program, which cost $40 million.
This program included four components, three of which were managed and delivered by the Public Service Commission on behalf of the Treasury Board Secretariat. One was the Employment Equity Partnership Fund, the purposes of which were first to build the capacity for employment equity, second to promote a workplace which is supportive, and third to improve representativeness of the workforce and of course to improve retraining.
How is it that, after a program that cost $40 million and delivered a series of suggestions and proposals from public servants, none of this is to be found in the bill before us?
This bill does not guarantee that all the work that has been done through the Employment Equity Positive Measures Program to improve the representativeness and the distribution of designated groups will go on, since the word essential in clause 30(2)( b ) will create confusion.
We spent $40 million to try to include people, train them, give them a position in the public service, but with the addition of this tiny word, essential, to the statement of qualifications, these people will not be able to benefit from employment equity. From now on, it will be a matter of choice, and officials will decide which qualifications are essential.
The basic requirements and the best skills will not necessarily be a factor. How sure can we be that we will protect these four designated groups under the Employment Equity Act? One has to wonder.
Before moving on to the other component, I would just like to point out to our colleague from Mississauga East, who has just spoken, that the Public Service Alliance sent us a little document on the eve of International Women's Day: an advertisement from the Monday, February 17 issue of Hill Times . It contains a demonstration to the effect that not everything to do with employment equity is necessarily respected—at any rate, not the wishes of Treasury Board as far as employment equity is concerned.
They told us that their union represents approximately 1,600 workers at the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, the majority of whom are women. In that department, they calculated the numbers of women and men, and realized that at the ministerial level there were five men and one woman, in addition to one secretary. There were three parliamentary secretaries, two men and one woman. In the minister's office there were four men and no women. As for assistant deputy ministers, there were six men and two women. This is all very revealing. In Bill C-25, the Public Service Modernization Act, perhaps the four designated groups ought to have been taken into account.
Now, I have a question, which I might have liked to ask the minister. When she drafted this bill, did she take into consideration the gender analysis. According to Status of Women Canada, this year $11 million were made available to the departments to do a gender analysis, in order to know how to draft legislation to reflect what is due to men and to women.
I wonder: with $40 million here and $11 million there, it seems there is money available. Yet there is no money to invest in our work force. Our colleague from Mississauga East has just said that public servants should be considered part of the solution. Indeed, they must be considered people, human beings entitled to a healthy environment.
I will continue with the second part of my speech, which deals with harassment. The Bloc Quebecois is very concerned about the concept of harassment that may exist in the workplace; indeed, psychological harassment should have been included in the provisions relating to this phenomenon.
With regard to this type of harassment in the public service, the latest numbers tell us that more than 21% of Canadian public servants are affected by harassment. Formal written complaints have been made. How many people in the federal public service do not dare to say a word because they are confronted with this famous oath of allegiance, the oath of confidentiality on what is happening within departments? This is a two edged sword. This famous oath of allegiance says that nothing that happens in the workplace must get beyond the workplace. A a result, people keep their mouths shut, say noything and go on being harassed.
I will get back later to the definition of psychological harassment. This type of harassment must be known and acknowledged by public service managers. The Bloc Quebecois had proposed amendments that would have made the implementation of the policy mandatory for each of the departments.
So I will give you a short definition of psychological harassment. It may happen through words, actions and behaviours that tend to put employees down, to belittle them by treating them as subordinates, to prevent them from getting ahead.
This form of violence shows up as workplace harassment, the abuse of power and the abuse of authority.
A little study was done. There is, of course a policy to deal with psychological harassment on the job, or harassment in the workplace. This policy originates with Treasury Board; it was introduced in 1994 and modernized in 2001. We might expect that, if there is a policy issued by the Treasury Board Secretariat, it would be applied everywhere, in all departments. Unfortunately, it was found that of 83 departments, only 7 truly applied the Treasury Board policy. The 76 others have their own policies, and it is not clear to what extent they apply any policy.
Each of these departments has different methods. Sometimes, the policy is applied or action is taken when there is a formal complaint; in other departments, when there are oral complaints, they are dealt with. But that is the extent of it.
I would simply like to remind the House that in terms of harassment, if the process does not work at the departmental level, the person being harassed cannot charge the harasser. Those who are harassed become isolated, fall silent, fall ill, and that costs Treasury Board money.
Many of these policies are incomplete. They do not specify the timeframe within which managers must resolve a case of harassment. Several cases were brought to our attention and, in each instance, managers did not act diligently. Quite often, managers are unaware of this policy.
Also, many harassment complaints have yet to be resolved. Some fall under directive 255, from 1994, and others come under the new policy that came into force on June 1, 2001. If these complaints remain unresolved, it is because many managers and public servants have little or no interest in respecting other people or their rights.
Some 40% of departments adopted in full the policy as of June 2001. When I say 40% adopted it, they did so in writing, but only seven departments apply it. This is significant. It means that there are public servants—over 30%, according to our figures—who are being harassed and do not report it. It could be vertical harassment, meaning by their bosses, or it could be horizontal, meaning by co-workers. Unfortunately, the new bill makes no mention of this.
In closing, I want to say that it is surprising that Bill C-25, which seeks among other things a change in culture and the improvement of labour-management relations, does not ensure a more effective application of the policy on the prevention and resolution of harassment in the workplace.
If the minister truly wants to change the culture of the public service, if she wants to make it an attractive place to work, she must ensure, among other things, the continuity of the employment equity positive measures program, which cost $40 million. She should ensure, as a responsible employer, that all employees have access to a workplace that is not only free of harassment, but that recognizes the existence of harassment and that implements measures and ethical practices to protect workers, like any other responsible employer.
Public Service Modernization Act
June 3rd, 2003 / 10:40 a.m.
Mac Harb Ottawa Centre, ON
Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to speak to Bill C-25, the public service modernization act.
Before I start I want to congratulate the minister, the minister's staff and all those who have participated in the development of the legislation. I also want to thank every public servant who works for the Government of Canada. I am sure members will agree with me that this country is well-served by the fine, high quality public servants who keep the government functioning and who provide quality service to Canadians.
The government has put tremendous effort into bringing about an act to, as one might say, put the house in order. Some of the key objectives of the bill are to ensure a transparent hiring process in the public service, to look at the issue of merit in the public service, to improve employee-employer relations, to deal with issues affecting the services that we provide Canadians and many other issues that will render the public service even more efficient in the way it conducts its business.
However, like every legislation that comes before the House, it goes to committee and consultation. As well, witnesses appear before committees with ideas and suggestions.
I must admit, Mr. Speaker, I am standing before you today a bit late with what I have to put before the House basically because the information came to my attention at a very late hour. It was after the House dealt with the report stage of Bill C-25, as well as after the committee had the chance to deal with the bill.
I had a meeting last week with a representative of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, Mr. Edward Cashman, who is the regional executive vice-president for the national capital region who was elected to this position. I want to congratulate him on his election and that of his colleagues who came with him to make a presentation concerning Bill C-25.
This was the first interaction I had with the representatives of the union on these issues. As far as I was concerned, there was widespread support for the bill. In essence, I concluded that because my office had not received any kind of a communication to the contrary. We did not receive the amount of calls we normally would have received on legislation that comes before the House.
Nonetheless, that is not to say that the concerns raised by Mr. Cashman, on behalf of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, are not important concerns for which the House needs to take note.
I have promised Mr. Cashman two things. The first was that I would put on the record some of the concerns that his group outlined and brought to my attention, and that I would speak with the minister and her office with regard to the points that the union reps raised.
The points that were raised were in three categories. One of the issues the union people raised dealt with merit. They were concerned that the changes to merit could create a situation where there could be abuse by managers when it came to staffing.
The second point raised by the union rep concerned essential services and the issue of voting. On the issue of essential services, they wanted to know what would constitute an essential service employee.
The union also had a concern on the notion of voting. If there is a strike vote, the union is mandated to notify all those who are in the work unit. Members of the union told me that this might be somewhat problematic in that in some cases when a strike vote is called they may or may not be able to communicate with every person who works in the unit simply because some of them may not be members of the union. As a result of that, they may have difficulties dealing with this issue.
I have raised all three points with the minister and she has assured me that, first, she is willing to meet with the union rep at the earliest possible opportunity; and second, she is eager to ensure that once the bill goes through the House and the policy is introduced to do the implementation, the employee reps will be included in the consultation process that will be taking place and that in fact their views will be heard. The minister is willing to address some of the points and hopefully she will provide answers that will meet the interests of the public servants, both in terms of employees as well as employers.
On the notion of merit, I have been told that the merit laws, by virtue of this legislation, have been made stronger than they were before.The clause that has been included in the legislation would not only ensure that employees meet the minimum and basic requirements, but that the employer looks for additional qualifications the potential employee may have, such as language skills, level of education and other talents that might be of use in the public service. It not only talks about the minimum requirements, which would bring it into harmony with what existed before, but it goes beyond that.
In other words, I wanted the employee to score a certain percentage, but also I wanted it to go beyond that. If they have the qualifications and could score even more that would be an asset and that would be taken into consideration. This was the explanation the minister provided to me. It is a positive thing to consider and to look at in a positive fashion.
However, in addition to that, I have been informed that in the event the agent of the employee, which is the union, has a concern about a specific item it would still have the ability to appeal it or question it. In this particular case I think it is a positive thing. It would give the employee rep the opportunity to question in the event something like that takes place.
The second concern raised by Mr. Cashman deals with the potential for abuse by an employer. Provisions in the act make it difficult for an employer to do that. In essence it strengthens the merit clause and makes it literally impossible for an employer to abuse its position. Should that take place, then the employee representative as well as the employee would have provisions under Bill C-25 to appeal and go to the next step.
I would like to raise the points of union representatives specifically and put them on the record for the interest of the House. While I know we are in third reading and there is no provision to introduce any type of amendment at this stage, I want to put them on the record because I promised Mr. Cashman I would do so.
In the section that deals with prohibitions and enforcement, division 14, the union asked for the following:
That Bill C-25 in Clause 2 be amended by deleting lines 11 to 17 on page 84.
That Bill C-25 in Clause 2 be amended by deleting line 20 on page 84 and replacing it with: “189(1) or section 195 is guilty of an”.
That Bill C-25 in Clause 2 be amended by deleting line 28 to 29 on page 84 and replacing them with: “contravenes section”.
That Bill C-25 in Clause 2 be amended by deleting lines 7 to 11 on page 85.
Then we move on to the merit clause. In essence the union would liked to have sees the following:
That Bill C-25 in Clause 12 be amended by deleting line 15 on page 126 and replacing it with: “person to be appointed meets the”.
That Bill C-25 in Clause 12 be amended by deleting lines 19 to 29 on page 126.
That Bill C-25 in Clause 12 be amended by deleting line 6 on page 127 and replacing it with: “graph 30(2)(a)”.
That Bill C-25 in Clause 12 be amended by replacing lines 36 and 37 on page 128 and replacing them with: “paragraph 30(2)(a)”.
That Bill C-25 in Clause 12 be amended by replacing lines 40 and 41 on page 128 with: “-cations referred to in paragraph 30(2)(a), other than language”.
That Bill C-25 in Clause 12 be amended by deleting lines 7 to 16 on page 129.
That Bill C-25 in Clause 12 be amended by deleting lines 34 to 40 on page 129.
All these amendments would have been in order if they had been made at the committee level. If in the event a member of Parliament was unable to introduce them under special circumstances, Mr. Speaker, you could have made a ruling whereby the amendments could have been introduced in the House during report stage.
Unfortunately that was not the case. The amendments did not come in at a time where it could have been possible to introduce them, either at committee or at report stage. Therefore, for the interest of the House, I have tabled them here. There may have been other amendments that did not come to my attention, and I would suggest that as the bill sees its way through the House on the way to the Senate, that the union representative will have an opportunity at that time to go to the Senate and make those suggestions there.
However I would like to stress the importance of the union working with members of Parliament on both sides of the House, like it happened in this case. Unfortunately, it arrived at the last minute.
I hope in the future the relations between both the employee representatives and the employers will move to the next step, and that is a positive cooperation, a dialogue, a cohesive interaction whereby the minister will be informed at an early stage when legislation is about to come before the House and where a discussion will take place in an atmosphere of willingness to move things forward in the best interests of both the union and the government.
I remember the Prime Minister once stating that the government looked at its public servants as being a part of the solution, not part of the problem. That is really what has defined the government, what has defined the actions of this minister and what has defined the actions of all members on this side of the House. We look at the public service employees as being a part of the solution. They are a part of the team that makes the country so great, one of the greatest countries in the world.
Having said all that, it is my hope that this legislation will go through the House and that at the earliest possible opportunity the union representatives will take the minister on her offer, which she made to me yesterday, to meet with them. The minister is willing to talk specifically with regard to the concerns that have been brought to my attention and that I have brought to the attention of the minister on their behalf. Specifically, they deal with some of the details and clarifications that are required in my view to bring about a positive conclusion to this legislation.
This is long overdue. We know the Auditor General raised a number of concerns dealing with the public service act and some of the provisions within that act. I am happy to see this coming before Parliament at a very opportune time, not only to deal with the concerns raised by the Auditor General in her latest report but to address some of the issues which need to be addressed as well.
I thank the House for giving me the opportunity to speak on this very important issue. I thank both the government as well as the union for giving me the opportunity to speak today.
Public Service Modernization Act
June 2nd, 2003 / 6:30 p.m.
The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)
The hon. member for Gander--Grand Falls will have eight minutes remaining when the debate resumes on Bill C-25.
A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.
Public Service Modernization Act
June 2nd, 2003 / 6:10 p.m.
Rex Barnes Gander—Grand Falls, NL
Mr. Speaker, it is very interesting some days to come into the House, to sit and listen to some of the debate and to see from where people are coming.
The public service sector really does not care if they swear allegiance to the Queen, themselves, their mothers or their fathers. What they care about is ensuring that government leaves it up to the people to be hired in the proper form, in the proper manner and that friends, neighbours and political interference is gone so the public service can do the job they are required to do, and that is to serve the people of this country and make it is easier for them to get the job done. For one reason or another, we forget about that and we worry about to whom we will swear allegiance.
As parliamentarians we swear to the Queen because that is our job and we do it. The public service should swear to the people for whom they will do the work, and that is the taxpayers. Who cares if they swear an allegiance to other people.
I was not going to say that but I thought it was interesting to hear the debate.
By the government's own admission, over the past few decades the public service has remained structurally and functionally a top-down organization. It is somewhat stiff in its functioning, a lumbering giant that actually requires a department to go through a maze of several months of paperwork and meetings to hire an ordinary person.
If we were to get rid of the red tape, if we were to make it easier to get people into vacant jobs, we would not hear the outcry from the general public. People say that they cannot get any answers, or they cannot get a job done or there are delays. Every time there is a delay in the public service of getting an answer or getting the job done, it costs business people and ordinary citizens money.
Bill C-25 would provide for more flexibility in staffing and in managing people. Managers with certain limits would have more power over hiring and who they hire, just like in the real world. Applicants who felt they had been short-changed in the staff process would be given access to redress at a public service staffing tribunal.
The key should be that employers get the best qualified people to do the job, regardless of where they come from geographically. The key is we must get people in the public service who can do the job. If we limit it to certain areas and friends or friends of friends, it normally does not work. Any businessman or businesswoman will tell us that hiring friends or friends of friends normally does not work. If we had hired people because of their qualifications, we would not have had half the problems we now have.
The bill also stresses the need for a cooperative approach to labour management relations. The intent is to make employees part and parcel of the process of running the workplace. Nobody really knows how to do the job like those who do it every day. If the intent of the bill follows through, we should have a happier federal workplace.
When employees are happy campers, they do better jobs. If they come to work every day and are under pressure, they will not perform to full expectations, and the only people who lose are the employers. If staff members and employees are involved in decision making, we will have a happier staff.
The bill provides for an overhaul and consolidation of the staff training and development process of the federal public service.
Many of the changes are long overdue with regard to improvements to the nation's public service. If carried out properly, they could lead to a much happier, less strike prone and more productive public service.
I can just reflect back to the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Right now we have two airport strikes on the go. If these airports had employees under the federal government's control, I would suggest there may not be strikes today. We got rid of some of our public servants because we got rid of our airports. If the airports had come under the umbrella of the federal government employees, I firmly believe there could have been an easier settlement, and we would not have the travelling public held at ransom because of these strikes.
If we are going to allow individuals and special interest groups to take over our airports then we should make sure we keep our employee base intact so they can provide the services the general public requires rather than contracting the services out to a new group. That could result in one strike after another and it could last a long period of time. It would be like what we are seeing in Newfoundland and Labrador right now. I am glad to hear that things may be working out but it has taken a long time.
Many public servants are about to retire. We have been told that 7,000 new people are needed every year just to keep pace with retirements. The hiring process can lumber on for months and we often see the best and brightest applicants being scooped up by the private sector. As I stated earlier, we must make the hiring process easier and get rid of the red tape so we do not lose some of our brightest to the private sector. People have a great future with the federal and provincial governments. We have to make it easier on the federal scene to make sure that application access and individual rights are easily looked at so the best possible person is hired regardless of geographics.
It is also important that managers have a greater say in the hiring process, after all, the people being hired are people they will have to work with every day. One of the things I would add to that is the importance of their justifying why they hired a person so that the fear and threat that they will hire a friend will be eliminated. Hiring has to be done on qualifications. If it is done on qualifications, then I firmly believe production in the workplace will be greater.
This extra power on the part of managers has been met with a strong grievance procedure. Managers must be required to account for their hiring decisions. Hiring people because of political pressure is forbidden. Hiring friends who do not meet the basic qualifications is not allowed. This is where we get ourselves in trouble. This is where we do not get the best bang for our buck. This is where we run into major problems later on down the road when we find out that the best qualified person was not the one hired or the person hired was not qualified in the first place.
The hon. member for Cumberland--Colchester has done a tremendous job asking questions and bringing up many concerns regarding the federal public service, the job situation and the hiring practices. Every time he raises the issue it seems like some people take it as a joke. It is a very serious thing when a line is drawn in the geographics of Canada where people can only apply for jobs in certain areas. As far as I am concerned this is discriminatory. This is Canada, and it should not be like that. If someone lives in Nova Scotia, it is discrimination if they cannot apply for a job in Quebec, Alberta, Newfoundland or the reverse. As long as someone fulfills the maximum qualifications for a job they should be the person with the utmost opportunity to get the job. If people are hired with minimum qualifications, they are getting in through the back door. If we are looking for a high standard we should stay with a high standard so people who are the most qualified will be hired.
I am sure the minister is aware that people in Atlantic Canada are faced with federal job advertisements that require applicants to be from certain geographical areas. In Newfoundland and Labrador, for example, a job opening in St. John's might be restricted to applicants from the Avalon Peninsula. People living in Gander or Labrador City could not apply. Many jobs in central Canada are only offered to applicants within restrictive geographical areas.
Shortly after being elected I had a phone call from a lady friend who said that she had applied for a job within the federal government but that she was outside the geographical area. She could not understand that and I told her that I could not understand it either. I thought that when someone lived in Canada they could apply anywhere in Canada if a job came up with the federal government. If they are the most qualified person then they should get the job. However it did not happen. Like everything else, we learn by some of these hidden rules.
In the January 30, 2001 Speech from the Throne, the government committed to needed reforms in the Public Service of Canada to attract and develop the talent needed to serve Canadians into the 21st century. It is now 2003, two years after that statement was made in the throne speech. What happened to the commitment over the last two years? Why, all of a sudden, is it being done now? It should have been done by now. A lot of opportunities have been missed for our young people. We have missed an opportunity to have great service, an even better service for Canada. I do not know what happened, but unfortunately the commitment to modernize the public service took a holiday as did the commitment to end child poverty.
In February the President of the Treasury Board said that the bill ensures the capacity of the public service to provide the best service to Canadians today and into the future. This is where the government has it wrong again. Bills do not ensure top quality service; people do; hard workers do; people who are proud to serve their country in any capacity.
Bills tabled in Parliament with the accompanying fanfare do not ensure anything. It is the people we hire who do. It all goes back to the employees. It all goes back to whom we hire and how they fit into the system. The only way they can fit into the system is if we hire the people who are qualified for the job.
Canadians will get top-notch service from the public service once the government does the same. Treating Canadians with respect and truly serving them begins with the government, not with a bill. Once the government gets its act in place, the public service will follow suit.
There are a lot of public servants in the federal government who provide an amazing service way beyond the call of duty, but the problem on a lot of occasions is the bureaucracy. When I speak to people all across the country, they tell me the only problem they have is trying to get the bureaucrats to understand the way things should be done. Employees do the work in a certain way because they have been instructed that is the way it is done.
As I said a few minutes ago, if we are to do the job right for the federal public servants, we have to make sure that we hire the right people. If we are serious about modernizing the act, let us modernize it for the future. We should get rid of all the red tape. We should open it up to all of Canada. We should forget to whom people will swear allegiance.
We should be making sure that confidentiality is important. We should make sure that people's business is not known out in the street. It is also important that if public servants find out about problems in the government, they have the right to tell politicians, so that we can make it a better place for everyone. If there are things going on that should not be going on, it adds stress to the federal government's purse.
It also adds stress for MPs because we get calls on certain things and we know there are problems, but we cannot fix them because people are afraid to come forward. When people are afraid to come forward, it is total craziness in the workplace and people get stressed out. Then people go on sick leave. They are not content because they sometimes know there are things going on that should not be going on.
Time is short and there is a lot that could be said, but I just wanted to stress some things I have observed while listening to the debate.
Public Service Modernization Act
June 2nd, 2003 / 5:50 p.m.
Julian Reed Halton, ON
Mr. Speaker, I rise today as a proud member of the Parliament of Canada, a constitutional monarchy, with the Queen of Canada as the head of state. Today is the 50th anniversary of the coronation of our Queen.
It gave me no pleasure to vote against Bill C-25 last week, the proposed public service modernization act. I did so for one reason only and it was because the oath of allegiance to our monarch has been removed. I find the continuing erosion of our constitutional monarchy, the finest form of governance on the face of the earth, completely unacceptable.
I would like to remind the President of the Treasury Board that the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration has declared that the proposed oath of citizenship in Bill C-18 will retain a pledge of allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen. In fact, it would read:
From this day forward, I pledge my loyalty and allegiance to Canada and Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada. I promise to respect our country’s rights and freedoms, to uphold our democratic values, to faithfully observe our laws and fulfil my duties and obligations as a Canadian citizen.
I am in no way opposed to the idea of reforming the public service. I am opposed to the chipping away at the basis of our institutional framework. It is a slippery slope and I fear that, after one little chip here and one little chip there, in 20 or 50 years the bedrock of the Canadian system will be gone and we will pretend not to know how it happened.
The constitutional monarchy is part of our Constitution, history and heritage. I remind all members that the head of state of Canada is the Queen of Canada. When public servants swear their oath to the Queen, our head of state, they are swearing it to Canada. The oath does not involve the Queen in her personal capacity but rather as the symbol of our country, our Constitution and our traditions. Some might argue that the monarchy is no longer relevant, but I fail to see how it could not be relevant. As members of Parliament, we take the oath, which reads:
I [full name of member] do swear, That I will be faithful and bear true Allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
Without taking the oath, we cannot even take our place in the House.
Public servants hold positions of public trust. By taking an oath, they are pledging to conduct themselves in the best interests of the country. It reminds the person taking the oath of the serious obligations and responsibilities that he or she is assuming. Not for a minute am I suggesting that Canada has some kind of backward colonial mentality. I would argue that the oath of allegiance to Her Majesty serves a useful function in three ways.
First, it reaffirms to the public servant that responsibility and accountability are vertical concepts. The authority of a public servant derives from the Queen. There is a vertical chain of command that must be respected in the form of advice that makes its way up through the ranks to Her Majesty or representative, and in the form of orders and instructions that must be executed that make their way down through the ranks. Public servants are ultimately accountable to the Crown, not just the public, the minister or their manager.
Second, the oath of office is an important initiation ceremony. Just as we ask new citizens to take the oath, we ask those who wish to join our legal and administrative institutions to make a personal commitment by taking the oath. Third, by removing the oath of allegiance the basic framework of our system of government is undermined. Only last year the Department of Canadian Heritage, through the golden jubilee celebrations, played a terrific role in filling the gaps in our knowledge and appreciation of our distinct constitutional heritage.
Allow me to remind the House what the Minister of Canadian Heritage said when she launched the federal golden jubilee initiatives. She said:
Fifty years after her accession to the throne, Elizabeth II remains a symbol of continuity, stability and tradition in a world that is under a barrage of constant change. Canadians of my generation have known only a single sovereign, faithful and loyal to our people.
The Queen and the heritage she gives to us is not just a part of our past but part of our common future. As a mature country, we do not need to break our ties with the past. The oath of allegiance fulfills an important function. We should take this opportunity to send this back to the committee so it can be reconsidered for the sake of consistency with the member's oath and with other government bills, like Bill C-18, which expressly mentions Her Majesty in the oath. It is unfortunate that that will not happen now.
The Ottawa Citizen is against dropping the oath of allegiance. An editorial on February 17 stated:
The monarchy is symbolic of the continuity of Canada's constitutional government, and the Queen is our head of state. It's not too much to ask that those who choose to serve the public be reminded of that by having to swear allegiance to Her Majesty.
Let me remind my Alliance colleagues across the floor what the member for St. Albert said:
At the same time, if our public servants are not required to swear to the head of state that they would execute their office to the best of their ability, then what are we as a country?
I would also like to remind the members of the fourth party in the House what their leader, who was then the member for Calgary Centre, wrote to a concerned Canadian, “I can assure you that I and the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada remain firm in our support of the Canadian constitutional structure and our support for the monarchy. The Queen, and indeed the entire monarchy, represent an important foundation of Canadian tradition and heritage, and have contributed to our country's formation and development in countless ways”.
I expect then that they would be concerned with the dropping of the oath of allegiance from Bill C-25 and would support returning it to committee for further consideration.
In these politically fractious times it is important that our civil service remain beyond the fray, always providing Parliament with the non-partisan professionalism that is renown around the world. As my friend from the NDP, the member for Winnipeg--Transcona, said:
[The Queen] symbolizes for many the merits of a constitutional monarchy in which the head of state...is separate and apart from the ongoing political struggles of the day.
It is a significant reminder to us in the House that politicians will come and go, but Parliament and the public service will remain. Swearing the oath of allegiance is an important reminder to our civil service. It is a symbol of the requirement for serving to the utmost of their abilities in the best interests of Canada.
There is talk about adopting principles to provide a framework for the public service. There were amendments to make the values upon which human resource management is based more explicit. Amendments to commit to transparency, linguistic duality, and the strengthening of the merit principle are all good things, but in modernizing the public service let us not throw away things that actually work, like the oath to our head of state.
As the public service moves from a rules based system to a value based system, it is important to have an organizational culture that articulates and lives the principles that are the basis of its everyday work. At the same time, the oath is an important symbol of initiation into that culture, and a personal and moral obligation to work to the best of one's ability.
The House does not have the opportunity to act and take responsibility for the legislation proposed by the government because of the motion now on the floor by the member for Ottawa—Vanier.
I thank God there is the other place where amendments may be made in sober second thought and I pray that never again will we find our constitutional monarchy diminished or otherwise altered without full national debate. Let this mischief be now ended.