House of Commons Hansard #15 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was parks.

Topics

Ukraine Elections
Routine Proceedings

5:40 p.m.

Some hon. members?

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-8, an act to amend the Financial Administration Act, the Canada School of Public Service Act and the Official Languages Act, be now read the second time and referred to a committee.

Financial Administration Act
Government Orders

5:40 p.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, the purpose of the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada is to ensure that the modernization of human resources management throughout the public service is carried out; human resources management needs to be rejuvenated, reinforced and modernized. Those are the functions of this agency and they are welcome when we look at the public service in today's world.

The agency has many areas of responsibility. Hon. members will allow me, as the Bloc Québécois critic for the status of women, to talk about employment equity, which is one of the agency's areas of responsibility, and respect for diversity. Employment equity for women and the disabled is a difficult concept to institute in the workplace. We want to do the right thing, but in working on employment equity for women and the disabled we run headlong into prejudice and a host of problems. What can I say about respecting diversity for Canadians of all origins? This remains truly difficult.

The agency also has to promote a workplace that allows for a balance between work and personal life. These are very interesting concepts in this bill. They are increasingly important concepts, because research shows that working conditions and quality of life are much more important than salaries for many workers. Quality of life is essential. This agency will have to work hard in this area.

Harassment at the workplace should never exist. When it does exist, it should be denounced and stopped. We know we have legislation and protection, but often silence prevails because the victim finds it very difficult to criticize a superior.

In this sense, we can why, in 1998, the International Labour Office included Canada among the countries that have the most serious problems of violence in the workplace, particularly as regards assault, harassment and sexual harassment. The rate of psychological torment and physical assault against women in the workplace is 19% higher here than in the United States. In an egalitarian and humanist society like ours, these numbers are scary. Moreover, we know that, according to a survey conducted in December 2002 and involving 95,000 public servants, one in five is a victim of harassment. So, we are talking here about a serious study on a very real issue.

Will the minister be able to assure us that the human resources management agency will create the objective conditions necessary to put a stop to all forms of harassment? I am talking about objective conditions, because, as we know, there is an act dealing with harassment. However, will we be able to ensure that a person who is being harassed can report his or her supervisor in the without fear of being fired. Can we believe that such despicable practices will end?

There is another aspect of this bill that is of particular interest to me, namely bilingualism. We know that Canada is making great efforts to ensure bilingualism in the public service. However, in her March 29, 2004 report, Dyane Adam, the Commissioner of Official Languages, made some essential recommendations. She told us that it is necessary for the agency to follow up rigorously on all managers. Indeed, it is nice to talk about bilingualism, but it is necessary to follow up on all senior managers rigorously, and this includes all those who will have to ensure that all their public servants provide services in both official languages.

Ms. Adam also told us that the School of Public Service will offer mandatory training courses, starting in autumn 2004, for senior managers and supervisors to make them aware of the impact the unequal status of the two official languages has in work environments and enable them to put in place the measures necessary to attain a work environment that respects employees' linguistic rights.

Without these measures, it will become difficult to have real bilingualism, and all the efforts that have already been made by Canada to ensure bilingualism in its public service will be in vain.

Ms. Adam also told us that the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada should make available, as soon as possible, second-language training courses, focused on reading and oral comprehension skills, to promote receptive bilingualism for unilingual employees.

These are only a few of Ms. Adam's recommendations.

However, I wonder if the minister will require that people who are really bilingual be appointed to bilingual positions. We should no longer see what we unfortunately see often—people filling bilingual positions without being really bilingual. These people are certainly not able to fully understand that bilingualism in the workplace is necessary.

Financial Administration Act
Government Orders

5:50 p.m.

Sudbury
Ontario

Liberal

Diane Marleau Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, I want to take a moment to correct something that was said in the House by a Bloc Québécois member.

I was accused of never attending meetings of the Standing Committee on Official Languages. It is true. I have never attended these meetings, because I have never been a member of that committee. So, the comment is true, but since it was not my duty to attend these meetings, I did not.

Financial Administration Act
Government Orders

5:50 p.m.

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I am sure the parliamentary secretary knows that all members can attend committee meetings.

However, first I want to say that we all have in our offices a copy of the Précis of Procedure , which explains what a point of order is.

Financial Administration Act
Government Orders

5:50 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

I do not think this is a point of order. The hon. parliamentary secretary has time available during questions and comments, and she was about to put a question to the hon. member for Trois-Rivières.

The parliamentary secretary.

Financial Administration Act
Government Orders

5:50 p.m.

Liberal

Diane Marleau Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, here is my question.

The hon. member talked about sexual harassment and all other forms of harassment, and how hard it is to prevent. I know we have laws against that and Quebec has some of its own.

Does she think that, because legislation outlawing harassment is passed, it means will not occur anymore? I can tell you, even with the best legislation, this remains problematic.

Financial Administration Act
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

Bloc

Paule Brunelle Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is obvious. I agree with the hon. member that passing legislation does not eliminate problems overnight.

Nonetheless, it is for the agency to introduce working conditions that make it possible to complain, and to speak without fear to one's supervisor to report harassment problems.

That was my central point. Will we have working conditions in which an employee can complain without fear of losing his or her job?

Financial Administration Act
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, having been a member of the government operations and estimates committee since its inception, the issues related to the public service are extremely important to me. I am quite encouraged, and I think Canadians should be very encouraged, by the commentary of all hon. members who have participated in the debate on Bill C-8.

As the members know, it is a technical bill to enact a decision of order in council. However, when I listen to the debate, I hear concerns about harassment, whistleblowing and employer and labour relations. The public service should be encouraged to know that parliamentarians have taken this matter seriously and will work to the best of their ability to address some of those issues.

First, since we are talking about a particular bill, maybe we should say something about it just to reaffirm. We tend to invoke the relevance issue from time to time. The Chair's decision to allow members a little latitude to talk about the importance of the public service is very important.

The bill aims to confirm, by legislative means, the order in council which established the functions of the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency and placed it within the Treasury Board's portfolio. It also maintains the status quo and does not modify either the functions, or the attributions or powers that were formally given to the agency by orders in council which had already been put in place.

The main benefits of the bill include: (a) clarification of the role of the agency within the system, including unions, and in particular the relations with the Treasury Board's portfolio, as well as with the Treasury Board which is the employer; (b) it better integrates the activities relating to human resources management within the Treasury Board portfolio; and (c) it provides for greater visibility for the agency, both within and outside the public service, facilitating implementation of its policies, programs and services.

Essentially, the bill proposes to add the position of president of the agency to the Financial Administration Act in the same way the Secretary of the Treasury Board and the Comptroller General of Canada are already identified in that act.

It also specifies the nature and powers and functions that may be delegated by the Treasury Board to the president of the agency in the same manner as stipulated in the act for the Secretary of the Treasury Board and the Comptroller General of Canada.

Finally, it stipulates that the President of the Treasury Board is responsible for the coordination of the activities of the Treasury Board Secretariat, the agency and the Comptroller General of Canada.

A number of members have commented so far today that this is basically a technical bill that enacts some of the provisions related to an order in council appointment. However, as I said in my preamble, members have wanted to talk about the public service generally and about some of the concerns.

We talked in questions and comments about the whistleblower legislation, which is now before committee. We have had the minister before us already on this matter to provide some background. However, the important thing for members to know is that the bill has been sent to the committee after first reading. It is a very significant move that it goes after first reading. Once a bill receives second reading, the approval in principle is in place and one cannot start to change the fundamentals of the bill after second reading. The committee has the unique opportunity in regard to the legislation on whistleblowing, Bill C-11, or any other legislation that goes before any other standing committee after first reading, to really get down to the fundamentals.

I think members are familiar with the hon. members who are on this committee, and it is an excellent committee. The committee has expressed its views already in its conversations with the President of the Treasury Board. There is an appetite to look at this much more carefully than we might have otherwise done after second reading. However, the members, the public and the civil service should be assured of this. The important thing for the committee is to hear the witnesses from all the stakeholders.

I had the opportunity to fly home last week with someone who had been a whistleblower, Ms. Gualtieri. She wanted to talk about it. I am sure it will be coming before committee again as a specific example. There are many other aspects to this, the structure, et cetera. It is going to be difficult.

The committee is going to have one problem and that is the current structure of the bill. With all of the provisions that it sets up in terms of addressing matters under the whistleblower legislation, it pervades the entire bill. To change it, and this is the caution, it is going to be virtually an enormous rewrite of the bill. We have to be prepared for that.

I do not think committees have had much success in rewriting bills because there are so many tangents and tentacles that go through them. In fact what has happened historically is that when committees do not like a bill and do not believe they have the ability or the resources to do the rewrite, the bill is simply defeated at committee and the committee sends the bill back to the House, saying that the committee is rejecting it.

That is also a possibility. I do not think it is my preferred route though. I think the committee has the opportunity to do it.

I also wanted to comment very briefly on Bill C-25, the Public Service Modernization Act which came before the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates. The current President of the Treasury Board was the chair of the committee at that time. It was a tremendously complicated bill and had two bills embedded in it, as I said earlier in questions and comments.

The bill was the result of literally years of consultations, expert opinions from right across the country and consultations with all of the stakeholders. It was the best effort. One of the most important things that I found out from the witnesses and from the committee process was that the experts had basically said that the culture within the civil service was such that we could not move fully with the restructuring and modernization of the public service in one step, in one bill.

It was decided that we could only take it so far. The reason was the culture within our civil service. There is a culture of some cynicism. Sometimes things happen. There is experience. There was some cautious optimism that the changes, as we fully implemented the changes that were contemplated under Bill C-25, would improve the environment in which the public service must operate.

This means we are going to go through another wave of renewal and modernization of the public service, once it is determined that we have brought it forward as far as we can under the provisions of Bill C-25. That is very important for members to understand.

Members may be interested to know that the government operations and estimates committee has a significant opportunity in its mandate to go where it feels it should go to deal with these things. From what I have detected so far, the committee members are very interested in pursuing certain aspects more rigorously.

I think there is going to be some special work done within the committee. I hope that once we get through the important process of the estimates and dealing with the whistleblower legislation that we will then formulate our agenda to continue this important work and to have some important input into the renewal process of the public service.

For the benefit of the public service representatives who are watching, the problem we had with Bill C-25 with regard to the whole modernization process was there was some concern that the consultation was not full consultation. We have to make absolutely sure that whenever there are changes being proposed and legislation being formulated that the stakeholders whom it will affect are fully consulted. That is an absolute necessity.

On top of that, the timeline within which we had to deal with that bill was very tight. Many of the witnesses, including PSAC which represents the employees, came forward with a myriad of suggestions and recommendations on how to amend Bill C-25, but it happened to be the day before we were going to clause by clause study on a bill that was the size of a telephone book.

It is extremely difficult for changes to be made to legislation at committee when substantive changes are not brought to the committee's attention until the day before clause by clause study is going to be done. Members need the opportunity to educate themselves about the nature of the changes and how they would impact things. They need to be able to do a little research.

I would simply send the message out to the stakeholders, whoever they may be, that real changes to legislation can be made at committee provided that committee members are apprised of the changes and sought to champion some of those changes themselves. Witnesses should not wait until they are before the committee to inform the committee that they have some concerns. That is a very important part of the legislative process.

Let me conclude by talking about culture. The stopper in terms of Bill C-25 going the full range of change that was necessary to do a proper segregation between management and representation of the employees was that, in the view of the experts, the culture of the public service was such that it could not take all that change. I am not sure whether or not that was the right decision. We can only speculate what it would be like.

In my experience the people I have had an opportunity to meet and work with at committee, people from PSAC and from the Public Service Commission and from other unions, have been very helpful and very sincere. They feel very welcome when they appear before our committee. All of those stakeholders with regard to the public service should know they have a place to go to in terms of expressing their views, and that is the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates.

That is reflective of the decision that we made to expand the mandate of the Public Service Commission not only to submit an annual report, but to report to Parliament and appear before the committee as often as it thought necessary. That was an extremely important change that we made. I understand it will be effective in December 2005, which is a while off but that is how long it will take before these changes can be made.

There may be some cultural problems within the public service, perceived or otherwise. There are also some cultural problems within the legislators. I want to assure our excellent public servants that the parliamentarians on the front lines who are able to deal with these matters are very open and sensitive to the concerns raised by them to date. I suspect they will be sensitive to other concerns as we move forward in the future.

Financial Administration Act
Government Orders

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

Marc Godbout Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak in support of Bill C-8 concerning the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada.

The government's ability to meet the expectations of Canadians depends first and foremost on the quality, commitment and integrity of its public service. I am proud to be part of a government that is taking such a leadership role in this regard.

This is also our opportunity not only to recognize the great dedication of our public servants, but to show that every effort shall be put in place to provide them with the tools they need to maintain the highest levels of service they have accustomed us to expect.

We need employees who are guided and supported effectively and in accordance with the highest ethical standards in a workplace that is empowering, healthy and respectful of employees' language rights. In other words, we need an outstanding public service workforce and workplace guided and supported by effective and responsible human resources management.

That is why the government created the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada as part of its December 2003 reorganization.

The agency will make it possible to give the attention, direction and support needed to promote and maintain throughout the public service human resources management that is exemplary and leadership that is constantly renewed and constantly more effective and results oriented. In short, it will make it possible to put in place the conditions that public servants need to provide Canadians with efficient quality services while promoting the highest standards of integrity, transparency and accountability.

The agency was created through orders in council, transferring functions from the Treasury Board of Canada and the Public Service Commission.

The purpose of this bill is simply to confirm the existence of the agency in a legislative document, but it will also contribute to the agency's success by implicitly reinforcing the leadership it needs to carry out its mandate.

For example, among the functions already transferred, the agency will supervise the implementation of the Public Service Modernization Act which received royal assent in November 2003. It will also implement integrated planning, oversight and human resources accountability systems throughout the public service.

It will promote the training of highly competent executives who will be guided by the highest ethics and accountability standards and who will also be assessed against these standards. It will also continue to bring in targeted improvements in the area of employment equity and to promote linguistic duality while implementing better oversight and accountability systems that will make the results more accessible and more transparent for Canadians.

Thus, although the bill simply enshrines the agency's function in legislation and proposes relatively modest additions to the Financial Administration Act, these amendments constitute a key step for public service administration. With this bill the agency will have a legislative basis that clearly sets out its role and relationship within the portfolio of the Treasury Board and with the Treasury Board in its role as employer.

The bill will permit the clarification of the perceived role of the agency within the system, including unions and in particular, the clarification of its relationship within the portfolio of the Treasury Board and with the Treasury Board in its role as employer. It will allow for better integration of activities relating to human resources management within the Treasury Board portfolio. It will give greater visibility for the agency, both within and outside the public service, facilitating implementation of its policies, programs and services.

This is a turning point in the history of the public service of Canada. For the first time ever, a separate agency will be responsible for human resources management in the federal public service.

The government has committed to a different approach and the establishment of the agency is a reflection of this commitment. This clearly tells managers, public servants and union representatives that the proper administration of human resources is a priority for the Government of Canada and a recognition of their important contribution to our country.

The House resumed from October 21 consideration of the motion.

Business of supply
Government Orders

October 26th, 2004 / 6:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Marcel Proulx)

It being 6.15 p.m., pursuant to order made Thursday, October 21, 2004, the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion by the hon. member for Carleton—Mississippi Mills concerning supply. Call in the members.

(The House divided on the motion, which was negatived on the following division:)

Business of supply
Government Orders

6:45 p.m.

The Speaker

I declare the motion lost.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

Business of supply
Adjournment Proceedings

6:50 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, recently I had an opportunity in question period to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health whether the government would reaffirm its intent that human cloning in all forms and all techniques would continue to be banned, notwithstanding the passage of Bill C-6 in the last Parliament.

Question period does not give a member much time to elaborate on the reason for the question, so I thought I would like to come tonight and outline a couple of my concerns.

First, during consideration of the bill at committee, Dr. Dianne Irving submitted substantive documentation and gave a critique of the bill, including four examples of human cloning, which, according to her, were not covered by the definition included in the bill. Her recommendation was that the definition be updated. I believe one of the examples was called mitochondrion transfer.

Dr. Irving, who is an American citizen, was invited to the committee to deal with the matter on the day before U.S. Thanksgiving. However she could not make it and therefore she was never heard. It gets even worse. When the Senate committee was dealing the bill after it had passed third reading here in the House, it was recommended that it hear Dr. Irving because the issue was so important. However, the Senate did not call her as a witness because, from what I have been told, it could not find her.

This raises some concerns. About a year and a half ago there was a resolution I believe by Chile before the United Nations for a comprehensive ban on human cloning. Canada was not a signatory to that resolution but was a signatory to a resolution put forward by, I believe, France, Germany and the U.K. Canada was a co-sponsor of a resolution for a partial ban that would permit therapeutic cloning or somatic cell nuclear transfer.

The problem here is that it appears that Canada had one position in the United Nations and yet another position in Parliament. It raises some questions and concerns.

The somatic cell nuclear transfer or, as it is also called, therapeutic cloning has been the subject matter of debate in the U.S. presidential election as well. This is a process whereby a woman's egg is taken, enucleated, or the DNA is taken out, someone else's DNA is put in and we can harvest stem cells. If that egg were left in a nurturing environment it would become a born human being just like any other fertilized embryo.

I raise this question with the parliamentary secretary because I am seriously concerned that there is a threat to the position taken by Parliament that human cloning be banned in all forms and by all techniques.

Business of supply
Adjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.

West Nova
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Robert Thibault Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, first I would like to congratulate the member for Mississauga South for his interest and his expertise in this area.

I thank the member for keeping us aware of all sorts of facets and points of interest related to this question.

Canada believes that the health, safety and ethical concerns inherent in human cloning require a strong response from governments at the domestic level, as well as from the international community as a whole.

The Government of Canada has been unwavering in its opposition to all forms of human cloning. Our position is clearly reflected in the Assisted Human Reproduction Act which was passed by Parliament in March of last year. All forms of human cloning, for whatever purpose and using whatever techniques, are banned in Canada. This has been the Government of Canada's position since the very beginning of the legislative process with regard to assisted human reproduction.

The draft legislation proposed in 2001, which the then minister of health tabled with the Standing Committee on Health for study and recommendation, contained a proposed prohibition for all forms of human cloning.

The prohibition in Canadian legislation has been constructed to prohibit cloning by whatever technique. If the end result of any technique is a human clone, it is prohibited. This has the effect of prohibiting not only current techniques, such as somatic cell nuclear transfer, but it will also prohibit any future techniques that may be developed.

The legislation has also been carefully constructed to recognize the fact that in the scientific process of cloning, it is possible that a cloned embryo may not be 100% genetically identical to another organism, given that it is possible for slight modifications to occur in the cloning process.

The legislation does not permit a loophole by relying on the idea of “identical” in identifying a human clone. In fact, during report stage in the House of Commons, the member for Mississauga South proposed an amendment, which was passed, that further clarified the intent of the cloning prohibition.

In his question, the member for Mississauga South raised the discussions at the United Nations. The Government of Canada has been actively engaged in and supportive of efforts at the United Nations to develop an international convention addressing human cloning.

Addressing this issue internationally in a responsible fashion requires that we carefully examine the proposals before the United Nations. We must ask not only about their policy direction, but whether they can be implemented and effectively enforced, both here in Canada and internationally.

All positions taken by Canada respecting human cloning, domestically and internationally, are guided by the Assisted Human Reproduction Act. We believe that it is worthwhile to continue the work among member states to identify a proposal that would have the greatest possible global effect.

Canada hopes that discussions can continue with the objective that a maximum number of other countries can achieve consensus on an approach for future work.