House of Commons Hansard #109 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was public.

Topics

Public Service Modernization Act
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Drummond, QC

It is APEX.

He is trying to distract us with a letter that he thought he alone received. I think that all the committee members got a copy. It is not new to anyone. He told us that, yes, there are perhaps some deficiencies in the bill, that most public servants will be very happy to live with this bill, which will likely be passed.

At this stage, the government side will vote in favour of the bill. Once again, the thoughts of workers and their quality of life are being ignored. This government will once again demonstrate its power over the taxpayer and its own employees. It is telling them, “You can be abused, you can be harassed and things are great as they are”.

Public Service Modernization Act
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Lanctôt Châteauguay, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask a supplementary question of my colleague from Drummond.

When she was examining the issue, how could she have thought that these public servants were interested in being part of a public service where employers will make the decisions, and not the Public Service Commission, as was done before?

The Commission still has this power, but it can now delegate the staffing, the recruiting function. It may tell its managers, its deputy ministers: “You choose someone”. Imagine that, Mr. Speaker. The manager may simply look at the essential qualifications to choose the best candidate. I would like to hear my colleague from Drummond on this.

Public Service Modernization Act
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1 p.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I did earlier, I would like to quote the union's vice-president in response to my colleague's question. She says:

It is leeway that would ultimately allow the employer to choose whomever he wants for position x. This would open the door to abuse and bureaucratic patronage.

The same note was sounded by the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, whose President appeared before the committee to express his reservations and request amendments to the bill. According to Steve Hindle, Bill C-25 is not only a ominous threat to the merit principle as it affects hiring, but the changes proposed by the minister would have the effect of placing the employees on permanent probation.

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Government Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to speak to Bill C-25.

A few days ago representatives of the Yukon Branch of the Public Service Alliance of Canada came to visit me. I would like to use my time today to put on the record some of the reservations brought forward by them.

Before I start though, I just want to emphasize a point I made earlier in this debate. I am very supportive of the President of the Treasury Board's effort to try to improve the representative now of the public service, especially employment in Ottawa, so that it is available to and filled by people from across this nation, therefore representative of the people from all distant sides of the nation. The public service will make decisions and implementations that would be sensitive to the various regions of the country.

I want to just go on the record with the eight concerns the local branch of PSAC.

The first item is removal the relative merit, replacing it with allowing the hiring of only people with essential qualifications. For a government that prides itself in bureaucracy based on merit, the union is concerned that this will reduce the ability to select the most meritorious person on a list. This could lead to more favouritism, although there could be abuse already in the present system that might exacerbate the situation, and could have the same effect on government downsizing as people leave the government.

The second point is a strike vote would be valid for only two months. I think this is a particular northern concern. First, two months may not allow time for the alternative dispute mechanisms to solve the problem. Of course I think we would all like it solved in a way other than a strike. However in the north, especially in the high Arctic and in Old Crow, it takes a longer time to get mail and communications through, and two months may not be enough time. A longer period would be more helpful.

The third point is the employer would have the exclusive right to determine the level and frequency of service during a strike.

The fourth concern is the union feels the proposed legislation would give the employer control over the designation process, making it more difficult for people on the picket line to be aware of who is designated. Now someone can be convicted of a summary offence by unknowingly preventing a designated worker from entering the premises. This could lead to an inadvertent conviction.

The fifth point relates to the fact that any employee can question a vote based on an irregularity. However an irregularity is not defined in the act. Therefore the union feels this could lead to abuse.

The sixth point is a new point and that is the fiscal position of the government needs to be taken into consideration during the negotiations. The union feels it is not obvious why this needs to be included in legislation.

The seventh point concerns a reintroduction of controls over the involvement of federal servants in elections. This would limit the involvement of federal civil servants in the political process. The union is worried that this clause, along with others, would have a spinoff effect on our local public service union in the Yukon government, which often mirrors federal legislation.

At one time there were extensive controls on involvement of federal public servants and this was struck down in the Supreme Court in the case of Barnhart et al, I believe, as unconstitutional. The union is concerned that by putting this back in, it could lead to another challenge, another loss and excessive taxpayer money spent on the case.

The union felt that some of these eight points and other points in its detailed submissions did not evolve from the Fryer and Quail studies on reforms.

I reviewed the legislation myself again and the detailed submission it made, sometime after midnight last night. There were two points it did not discuss with me which I would like to bring up at this time.

One is it said that it was in favour of legislation that was more mirrored on the Canada Labour Code specifically, and that this was quite different. The other point was related to the fact that essential workers could have to report to duty in off-hours or work overtime during a strike. What if a person is a single parent? What about people who might be caregivers and have other responsibilities?

I would like to thank the House for allowing me to put these concerns on the record.

I have subsequently had discussions with those involved in working intensively on this new act because I wanted to get replies to these concerns. I said that I really needed results on these concerns. I would like to provide feedback and more details on these 11 issues which I brought up.

First, the major one I think for a lot of people is the relative merit issue. I am told that merit was not defined in the old act so one of the new improvements in the proposed new act is it is now defined. I think everyone agrees, the unions and everyone else involved, that there have to be improvements to the act. What those are is what is under debate. In the old system there were a number of people stuck in appeals. As someone said a few minutes ago, there will be a large changeover in the public service soon and the act has to be efficient.

In some cases I have been told there is even more protection in the proposed new act for employees who think someone may not be the most meritorious, or should not get the job, or who has been abused. First, a new tribunal will deal with situations like that. This has never been in place before. Employees will have access to this. If they think they were not properly treated, they can appeal to the tribunal for abuse of authority, which includes two areas, bad faith or personal favouritism. This would help eliminate the concern of favouritism or nepotism, which I mentioned earlier. They also can appeal on skewing of qualifications or bureaucratic patronage. This would also apply to layoff discrimination. Therefore, in some ways, there are more protections against abuse of the system which were not there before. This new system will be there for some people who might be concerned about that abuse.

This is also new. The public service can audit the setting of qualifications. In either the old or the new system the setting of qualifications could be a back door to achieving abuse. Now the public service commission has the ability to audit those to remove that level of abuse. The public service commission also has broader authorities of inquiries.

There is a new informal mechanism to find out exactly why an employee may not have been hired before he or she would go into the formal steps, and the employer must provide that. This makes things faster and less bureaucratic.

The second item is the two month limit on the strike vote. I am not satisfied that this could not have been changed. I would have been happier to have had the time period extended. Once again, it is regionally sensitive in the north. We could use more time. I would have liked to have that changed. I understand that provision is in the Canada Labour Code. The union brief which I read mentioned that it was in favour of legislation more like the Canada Labour Code. I am assuming that if it is in the Canada Labour Code and it is working well, that is the argument why is not being extended. However personally I would like it extended if possible for the north.

The third item is the employer's exclusive right to determine the level and frequency of service. There are some new provisions in this part of the bill that are beneficial for unions. They can start conciliation while the labour board settles disputes about what essential services are. That could not happen before, and it will speed up the process.

There is also a potential advantage to unions in this clause with regard to the setting of levels of service. This also could not be done before. The employer could reduce the level of essential services and therefore allow more employees to partake in the strike. I have been told that under the present system even if 1% of individuals are considered essential, then those individuals would be excluded from striking. This new system might change that and once again free up more employees to take part in the strike.

The fourth item is related to employer control over the designation process which makes it more difficult for people on the picket line to be aware of who has been designated essential.

There are certain things both in the old act and the new act that are still negotiated such as what are essential services, how many and which positions. These still go through the same process as before. The fear was there would be challenges such as someone being stopped on the picket line who had been defined as an essential service employee.

I have been told by the people who worked on the bill that there are a lot of safeguards against that. It happens very seldom, if ever. Because of the safeguards, an individual would need leave from the labour relations board to lodge such a complaint. The complaint would obviously have to be reasonable or that neutral board would not allow the charge to proceed. The prosecutor would have to be convinced. One person I talked to said that this type of charge proceeded successfully once and it led to a $1 fine. It is virtually never used and certainly not abused because of the safeguards in place.

The fifth point is anyone can abuse the system by challenging a vote because of an irregularity and thus causing an investigation into a vote. Irregularity is not defined in the new act. This challenge could only be made within 10 days. It could be dismissed summarily by the labour relations board. If the charge is considered trivial or unwarranted and does not make any sense, it can be dismissed. Even if it is warranted, it could be dismissed if it did not make a difference. If the vote had gone ahead, the claim could be dismissed if the problem did not affect the vote.

The sixth point is a suggestion that the fiscal position of the government must be taken into consideration. Is that not obvious? Would that not obviously be included in negotiations? The point made to me was that it obviously had not been taken into consideration all the time in the past. In the 1990s an 18% increase was given. This works both ways however. It could be a definite advantage to employees and unions in that if the government is in a good fiscal position, it would be hard to argue against increases in wages and benefits that are due. This apparently was one of the suggestions that came from the Fryer report.

The seventh point has to do with controls on federal public servants being involved in the electoral process and the fact that they were limited before they were challenged. By putting that back in, it will lead to a challenge. However it is not the identical situation. What has been put in is actually related to the outcome and recommendations from a 1991 court case by Osborne, I believe, which, although it did not allow the blanket elimination of federal civil servants, it had control over it. However, because the system at the time had blanket provisions, that was not allowed. They think that under certain circumstances federal civil servants should be limited. Their point was that people with different jobs and different responsibilities could not be treated all the same in this situation.

Some people have different responsibilities, different profiles and there is a different public perception of the work they do. Of course no one wants partisan influence in the public service, so different situations have different ramifications.

The new proposals would allow people to be involved in the federal election process, unless it impairs or it is perceived to impair one's ability to fulfil one's duties impartially. That requires a review of the nature of the activity one wishes to participate in, the nature of the duties people have and the level and visibility of the position. As everyone is aware, conflict of interest is both a real and a perceived conflict of interest.

The last point I discussed with the union had to do with the fact that management would now automatically be excluded in this proposal. Previously they were automatically in the union unless the labour board exempted them. In the new and old act, executives were always excluded. In the new act the employer still has the burden to approve that non-obvious managers should be excluded. The employees only have to have the burden for the obvious ones, such as EXs, personnel staff and collective bargaining staff who are normally excluded. If employees want one of those not to be excluded, they would have to make that case.

In extension to the points that related to where all these changes came from and were discussed, although they were not all from the Fryer and Quail reports, there were, as I think earlier speakers mentioned, extensive discussions and development of this with various public service unions and others. The differences in relation to the Canada Labour Code relate to essential services and public services as opposed to what would be expected in private business or commercial services by Canadians.

Finally, in relation to the point about forcing someone with other responsibilities, such as a single parent or a caregiver of an elderly or infirm person, to go to work in their off hours, this would only apply to people on call out or standby in their regular positions. It would not apply to people who had accepted jobs on the grounds that they would never be called out and now all of a sudden are being forced to. It would only apply to those people where this was part of the position that they were involved in.

I was happy to receive all those points. I will be bringing them forward to the union. I will be watching to make sure the negative outcomes that some people feel might evolve do not evolve from these mechanisms and that we take what action needs to occur if they do.

Public Service Modernization Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, one of the disappointing aspects of the bill is that whistleblowing has not been identified in it. This would have given workers the confidence they needed to bring forth situations in a way that would ensure their protection in the workforce and move forward on many of the sensitive issues that often complicate an area and a person's career.

A quick example that we have had in Ontario, for instance, is MFP, where a number of municipal employees have had to come forward to resolve a very complicated financing arrangement that has led to literally hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money being put at risk.

Could the hon. member comment on that aspect of it? Does he believe the bill would be better with a whistleblowing component added to it? Would that be an important issue for public servants to make sure they could bring forth injustices happening at their workplaces and be protected from any repercussions from management or other people?

Public Service Modernization Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, the member raises a very important point. It was not a point I discussed with our unions but I do think it is an important point.

Unfortunately, I was not privy to most of the debate on this or the debate in committee but I certainly would have no problem if that important aspect were discussed further to see what could be achieved.

Public Service Modernization Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Robert Lanctôt Châteauguay, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the member for Yukon a question. His government wanted to improve the staffing process because there was a problem with it. They were supposed to bring in some improvements. However, we have gone from a very complicated recruitment and staffing process to what appears at least to be a very partisan one.

The commission will be able to delegate its powers to managers, according to whom the bill will speed up the process by allowing them to select a single candidate, using lower criteria, instead of hiring the best candidate possible.

As a member of the government, how can you say that the public service will not become a very partisan environment? I ask the question because I would like to know why, besides giving managers these extreme powers, the bill limits the recourses. Managers will enjoy new powers and those who want to appeal their decisions will only have two recourses available, nothing else. First, the candidate will be entitled to an interview in the language of his or her choice. Just between you and me, that leaves the candidate with only one recourse. Every time a candidate will ask for an interview in French or in English, it will be granted. So, there will only be one major recourse left.

There is only one other option left. Let us talk about abuses of authority. You know as well as I do that abuse of authority is one of the toughest things to prove in court, whether it is before an administrative tribunal or a court of law. Imagine an employee having to ask his or her colleague to testify and also to demonstrate what has gone wrong.

What is worse, as I said at the beginning of my speech, is that they have the option of selecting a single candidate. How will applicants from within or outside the public service be able to contest and prove abuse of power in hiring or recruiting when only one candidate is selected? How are members of this House, or people they know or people from their riding supposed to participate in this process or obtain a promotion, if they are already public servants, when they are not even part of the hiring or recruitment process?

Managers have made their choice, and that is why they lowered the criteria. They are no longer obligated to look for the best candidate. All they have to do is ensure that the candidate has the minimum required skills. Then they can determine whether the candidate gets the job. Between you and me, they have the power to select a single candidate.

Now they are saying, “We, as senior officials of the public service, will act in good faith. We do not want to be partisan”. For 10 or 20 years people have been saying that the public service climate is increasingly partisan and, when reports are tabled in the House, that a new culture needs to be created in the public service. That is most definitely what you are in the process of doing.

This government is in the process of doing the opposite of what it says. The public service should not be partisan, but everything is being done to make it even more partisan, and public servants or employees can no longer do anything about it.

What does the member think of his government? If I still have time, I have another question.

Public Service Modernization Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, the member has outlined in greater detail the concern I outlined in my first point. I have the same concern but not as much for partisan politics. I have not heard that complaint but maybe he has. When there is favouritism or nepotism the system may be open for abuse.

I will explain again the reasons that I think there is actually more protection now from that occurring under the new system. However, because this is one of the major points in the act, it has to be watched very closely to see if this is a better system.

The one thing I did not address was the point he made about there being more hiring by managers instead of the Public Service Commission and whether that is bad and could lead to more abuse. I believe that may have come from a problem in the public service. If we tell people they can have some staff but that someone else will hire them, how do we know the person will fit in with our needs? If we tell someone running an electrician's shop or a plumber's shop that some greater body, which is distanced from the employer, will hire their employees, does that lead to an effective working relationship and getting the right person to work in the situation?

I do not have a problem with employment choices being moved from some central agency to the department and the employer involved, but we must make sure it is protected from the abuse in any location by putting in the type of protection I mentioned.

Before I get into those protections, we need to give some recognition to public service employees and managers, for whom I have a great deal of respect. They are great servants of this nation. However the fact is they want the best person for the job. When we pick people with the essential qualifications it will be the other determinants that make them the best employees for the job. In all cases, unless there is a bad manager, the best people will be chosen because everyone wants the best people to work for them. They all want to get their jobs done better and they want to do a better job for Canadians.

A new point that was put forward to solve the problem of the potential for abuse was the tribunal, which I am hopeful will have the respect of both sides. A person who thinks they were better qualified or should have been hired would be able to challenge the process under the charges of abuse of authority, bad faith, personal favouritism, skewing of qualifications or bureaucratic patronage. The new public service may audit the set of qualifications. I would be happy to hear what other safeguards the member would like that could be put in to help prevent any abuse.

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1:30 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak this afternoon on Bill C-25. I will reread its title, if I may. It is 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, a very substantial bill of 282 pages, the short title of which is the Public Service Modernization Act.

I am all the more pleased to speak because, as the member for Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, I am the Bloc Quebecois member whose riding is closest to the National Capital Region. The borders of my riding are contiguous to the edge of the NCR's territory,so a number of people from the riding work or have worked for the federal government or are still under contract to it. In fact, in recent years, the federal government has developed a new employment strategy that makes greater use of contract workers. These people also lived through the problems that occurred in the early 1990s.

You will understand that the public service was looking forward to this bill. In fact, in the early 1990s, there were some major cuts to the federal public service, to such an extent that a special committee had to be struck in the Outaouais region to look at how the economy of this region and a portion of Basses-Laurentides could cope with the major job losses of the time.

A committee was struck and a report—the Beaudry report—was produced. The chair of the committee that produced it, Marcel Beaudry, is now better known as the Chairperson of the NCC. It is obvious that not everyone was a loser as a result of the discussions and debates of the early 1990s. At least one person got a job out of it and is now the Chairperson of the National Capital Commission.

What did the Beaudry report ask for? Naturally, it recommended that the number of public servants in the Outaouais region be stabilized because the drain had to be stopped, but it also said that a way be found to facilitate economic diversification in the Outaouais and part of the Lower Laurentians. That is how the first economic diversification society was created, established and developed. The Society for the Economic Diversification of the Outaouais was the forerunner of all economic diversification societies created afterwards in Quebec, and adopted by the Quebec government.

That is the reality. At the beginning of the 1990s, the federal government caused a serious crisis with the drastic cut in the number of jobs. The federal government took part in the creation of the Beaudry committee. Then, naturally, there was the Beaudry report. Afterwards, Mr. Beaudry became the Chairperson of the National Capital Commission. Of course, the goal was to diversify the economy, but it was twofold; new niches were to be found in order to reduce dependency on the federal public service, and also to ensure the stability of the public service. One of the tasks was to review all the laws in order to guarantee job protection. That was the goal.

However, those drastic cuts occurred in the early 1990s. We are in 2003 and it is only now, 10 years later, that this massive 282-page bill, the Public Service Modernization Act, is being introduced to amend four important acts. I can understand the public servants. I had to work with them and the union stewards at the beginning of the 1990s, when we tried to prevent the drastic, massive and sometimes brutal cuts of the federal government.

I understand the unions who want to fight today so that, once the bill is passed, they never have relive past experiences. I have some reservations. However, I do want to congratulate my colleague, the member for Châteauguay, who worked hard and moved 120 amendments, in cooperation with the central labour bodies.

Basically, for everyone but the Liberals, the role of committee members is to strive for an agreement. In this case, we are talking about legislation to modernize the public service. We would have hoped for an agreement that is acceptable to and accepted by both the employer and the employees.

Today, we have a bizarre situation where there is a bill before the House which, with the exception of APEX, the association representing the managers to whom this bill is giving more powers, all the unions oppose.

Ten years ago, the Outaouais and certainly the Ottawa area, and eastern Ontario, experienced a major crisis because of drastic cuts. One of the recommendations at the time was to amend the legislation to protect employees. Parliament came up with Bill C-25, which has been denounced by every labour union except the one representing managers, the bosses, those who, with this bill, will be able to make personal choices and, of course, make their own policy, which is often the Liberal Party's policy.

I am saying this very candidly. I am not in the same league as my hon. colleague from Châteauguay who sits on the committee, where he reviewed each and every clause of the bill. He considered the bill clause by clause, naturally, and proposed amendments where amendments were considered necessary and desirable by the employees, the public servants, and their union representatives as well as the Bloc Quebecois.

I will not dissect this bill clause by clause, nor will I indicate which clause I am quoting. In response to the remarks made in this House by members of the ruling Liberal Party, however, I will simply read the bill's summary. In theory, it should contain the substance, the very essence of the bill. Let me read the summary found at the very beginning of the bill:

Part 1 enacts the Public Service Labour Relations Act to provide for a labour relations regime in the public service which is based on greater cooperation and consultation between the employer and bargaining agents, notably by requiring labour-management consultation committees—

When we read this bill, this summary, this description of part 1, we are entitled to think that all the employees should agree. That is what the purpose of the act should be. Yet, the labour unions have denounced part 1, among other things.

In the summary, we are told that we should establish, and I quote:

—a labour relations regime in the public service which is based on greater cooperation and consultation—

All the labour associations, except for APEX, are against this bill. What a good start that is. What a way to start a summary, to start a discussion on this bill in the House.

Right off the bat, in Part I, there is a big difference; employers and employees do not agree. However, Part I says that there should be a regime “based on greater cooperation and consultation”. Maybe we should continue this cooperation and consultation. Because, at this very moment, the employees and union representatives are not satisfied with the bill now before us.

The summary goes on to say:

Part 2 amends the Financial Administration Act to put direct responsibility for certain aspects of human resources management in the hands of deputy heads, subject to policies and directives of the Treasury Board.

Having read Part 2 of the summary, I can understand why senior managers and public servants are satisfied. They have just been told in no uncertain terms:

Part 2 amends the Financial Administration Act to put direct responsibility for certain aspects of human resources management in the hands of deputy heads.

Of course, they would have more power in terms of human resources, more latitude for political patronage. That is what my colleague from Châteauguay explained earlier. But the employees, and hopefully the employers as well, wanted something totally different. But no, we come up with legislation that gives more powers and responsibilities to deputy heads for human resources management.

Later, I will explain to you what those increased powers are, in terms of the merit principle and the use of the word “essential” to rig the criteria so that they get the person they want for the job.

So, they are being given more latitude. Obviously, some powers are being taken away from employees to appeal decisions made by administrators. That is the purpose.

That is what was described earlier. That is what was happening in the early 1990s when the public service was downsized. There were a lot of discussions because there was patronage. Ten years later, everyone is expecting a bill that will eliminate patronage. But no, quite the opposite, the summary of the bill, on page 1, describes it quite plainly:

Part 2 amends the Financial Administration Act to put direct responsibility for certain aspects of human resources management in the hands of deputy heads, subject to policies and directives—

It even specifies that:

New deputy head responsibilities include determining learning and developmental requirements, providing awards and setting standards of discipline.

Unbelievable. In the summary, it says that:

New deputy head responsibilities include determining learning and developmental requirements—

They will decide for themselves how staff will be trained.

—providing awards and setting standards of discipline

I can see why employees and union representatives are confronting APEX, the Association of Professional Executives of the Public Service of Canada. They want to prevent everything they feared could happen, and which will happen if this bill goes through. The government is in the process of creating a network of public administrators who will have direct control over employees under their jurisdiction. That is the antithesis of what the public service and the employees wanted.

Obviously, there are very important reasons why the Bloc Quebecois is against this bill, and my colleague, the member for Châteauguay, explained them. I would like to read the position because it is clear, “The Bloc Quebecois is opposed to this bill, since no amendments were put forward, especially with respect to protecting public servants who expose dubious, immoral or fraudulent practices or policies, but also with regard to the active promotion of linguistic duality. No significant amendments were made with regard to the contentious notion of merit”.

Let me explain. First, on the matter of dubious, immoral or fraudulent policies, we need to keep in mind that the sponsorships scandal, the inevitable result of Liberal party management, gave rise to some very important recommendations, one of which was to allow public employees to blow the whistle.

Of course the acts mentioned in Bill C-25 were not modernized, for instance, the Public Service Labour Relations Act, the Public Service Employment Act , the Financial Administration Act, and the Canadian Center for Management Development Act. We would have expected that under the bill those who lend a helping hand, namely those who are willing to report any unethical, questionable or fraudulent situation would have been afforded some protection with regard to the information given so that they would not suffer the consequences.

Believe it or not, in spite of the amendments moved by my colleague, Liberal members refused to include in the bill protection for those who might give information or report their colleagues' questionable, unethical and fraudulent practices. This of course is how the Liberals speak from both sides of their mouth. They are very proud of their whistle blower program. But when employees ask that whistle blowers be protected, the only bill introduced in the House in this respect does not do it.

We are talking about modernizing the public service. We have been waiting 10 years for this bill, since drastic cuts have affected the public service mainly in the Outaouais area and in eastern Ontario. Every current and future public servant had been waiting for this act to be significantly modernized.

We tried to clarify the bill so that employees would feel comfortable reporting questionable, fraudulent and unethical practices or policies on the part of the government—any government of course since the Liberals will not be in power for ever—but the government refused the amendments proposed by my colleague with the support of union representatives. This is one of the reasons why the Bloc Quebecois will vote against the bill.

The second main reason concerns of course the active promotion of linguistic duality. In this respect, I must again remind the House that the Official Languages Commissioner, Dr. Dyane Adam, made very important recommendations asking that the bill make direct reference to the Official Languages Act with regard to anything that has to do with official languages. That was the objective.

All the more so since part 1 provides for ways, namely with reference to official languages, for staffing, qualifications, and so on. We can also read the following in the summary:

Part 4 amends the Canadian Centre for Management Development Act, which becomes the Canada School of Public Service Act. The School becomes responsible for learning and development activities for employees in the public service.

As you can see, a way to train staff is being devised. We want to ensure, with the official languages commissioner, Dr. Dyane Adam, among others, that the Official Languages Act is enforced.

Believe it or not, despite repeated calls and amendments moved by my colleague, Liberal members refused to approve what the Commissioner of Official Languages was asking for and what amendments were requested with regard to official languages. I think this is dreadful, because being the Bloc Quebecois member whose riding is closest to the National Capital Region, I have the good fortune to be told what is going on in the public service. A taxpayer told me that he had been invited to participate in a training session with everyone in his unit. It was very important training that was supposed to be given during the weekend. A place, which I will not name, had been booked. It was very important training, especially as it was supposed to be given in both official languages. Believe it or not, when the staff arrived, the training documents they received were in English only. Despite the concern expressed by the taxpayer, he was simply told that there had not been enough time to translate the documents and that explanations would be translated simultaneously. That is how things were done. This is what we have to deal with.

I am quite happy that this bill announces the Canada School of Public Service. However, I am less happy that this school will not have to fully comply with the Official Languages Act, as my colleague, the member for Châteauguay, wanted to ensure by making specific reference to the act. That is what we have to deal with.

The Liberals always manage to talk out of both sides of their mouth. They support linguistic duality and official languages, but when it comes time to put it in writing in a bill, and make reference to the Official Languages Act, to require that it be complied with, the Liberals vote against it. They vote against amendments and say, as they have in many other committees, that “the Official Languages Act is part of all legislation. It must be complied with”.

Why is the government not referring to this, particularly when it talks about the Canada School of Public Service, which should provide documentation in both languages to all public servants in bilingual positions? It must never be forgotten that, in Quebec, more than 50% of positions offered in the federal public service are bilingual. This is the reality while in British Columbia hardly 10% of positions offered must be bilingual. This is what the French minority in Quebec has to go through. When it wants to become part of the public service and have some opportunities, it must be bilingual, because more than 50% of positions offered in the federal public service in Quebec—I am not speaking about those offered elsewhere, but those offered in Quebec—must be bilingual. So, unilingual francophones are once again under attack by the federal government.

In the House, we tried to have the Official Languages Act applied in this bill, on the recommendation of the commissioner of official languages. My colleague from Châteauguay did not propose amendments just for the sake of it. He asked questions to the commissioner of official languages, Dr. Adam, as a witness, who proposed some changes, who proposed that amendments be added. All these amendments, all these changes, all these proposals were rejected by the Liberal members.

I will conclude by telling you about the last finding, the last major point to which the Bloc Quebecois is opposed, that is the contentious concept of merit. A whole part of this bill would allow senior officials to staff positions on the basis of merit. My colleague from Châteauguay had the chance to explain to you what the relevant clauses might mean. I will read the section of the Public Service Employment Act—

Public Service Modernization Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member, but his time is up. The hon. member for New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby.

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Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Paul Forseth New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, at this late hour the Bloc members are certainly talking negatively about the bill and some of its aspects. However, I would ask the member to comment on three specific areas where the committee worked cooperatively to improve it: first, the merit principle; second, the area of whistleblower legislation and recognizing the concept in law; and third, the issue of political rights, the constitutional right of a public employee to be involved in elections.

I would like the hon. member to comment on that. The clause by clause study in committee is not always negative. We do not always get what we want, but in those three areas the committee was constructive.

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1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will just read the comments of the Public Service Alliance of Canada in its submission on this bill. It said:

The preamble states that Canada will continue to benefit from a public service where appointments to positions are based on merit, that the principle of merit will be independently safeguarded, and those exercising staffing authority will be accountable to the Public Service Commission, an independent tribunal and Parliament.

That is what the alliance wished and said in its submission.

Here is what the alliance had to say:

Part 3 of Bill C-25, in its current form, represents a wholesale retreat from a public service defined by the appointment of the best-qualified individuals. Bill C-25 delivers on its promise of increased flexibility for management, but contains very little protection for employees or the principle of merit.

This was the Public Service Alliance of Canada condemning the fact that the principle of merit was a matter of choice for officials and protected the employees less and less.

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1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to congratulate the member for Châteauguay for the work that he did in committee on this bill. It was important for us to have his input on a broad range of issues which helped to improve the bill.

My question for the member has to do with the whole question of merit. One of the provisions in the bill is that, notwithstanding any other qualifications, people who are on leave of absence or who have been laid off would be given preference over other parties. In other words, it is almost an override.

Would the member agree that there are circumstances in which employees who had been laid off or who were on leave for some particular reason would have an opportunity to be considered for those positions even though they may not be the best available person?

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1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are talking about the issue of merit. At the outset, my hon. colleague recognized the merit of my colleague from Châteauguay, who attended the committee hearings and expressed his views. He even said he was proud of his involvement in this issue.

The only problem I have is that my colleague brought forward more than 120 amendments and, despite all his hard work, which was well received by the Liberal members, only one of his amendments was adopted. That is what we have to deal with. True, the points raised by my hon. colleague for Châteauguay were relevant. They were based on the negative comments made by public servants on Bill C-25, which, as stated in the summary, was supposed to be—

based on greater cooperation and consultation—

That is not what happened. My colleague opposite asked me a question about merit with regard to some types of employees, and I have the good fortune of sitting close to the venerable member for Châteauguay. He whispered to me that he had put forward some amendments that would have dealt with what the Liberal member is asking for, but his proposals were rejected by the Liberal members of the committee.

Youth Science Foundation
Statements By Members

June 2nd, 2003 / 1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Hillsborough, PE

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to extend congratulations to Catherine Colodey of Bannockburn Road and Jackie Sharkey of Kingston, Prince Edward Island. Catherine and Jackie are both seniors at Bluefield High School and recently participated in the annual Canada-wide Science Fair, an exhibition and competition that occurs annually in a selected city during the month of May each year. This year's fair was held in Calgary from May 10 to May 18.

The Youth Science Foundation is the parent body for this event and oversees the establishment of regional and local fairs across Canada, where the best projects are selected to compete at the national level.

This year, Catherine and Jackie's project took home the gold medal for their project on whether the location of bovine hair whorls had any bearing on temperament. In addition to their medals, Catherine and Jackie each received $1,500 in cash as well as scholarships to the University of Western Ontario and the University of Saskatchewan. They also received two special awards: the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Award and the Statistical Society of Canada Award.

On behalf of everyone in the House, I would like to congratulate both Catherine and Jackie on their outstanding achievements and wish them all the best in the future.