House of Commons Hansard #116 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was haitian.

Topics

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Modernization Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Siobhan Coady St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am sure my colleague is very learned in this particular area.

I think he has raised a few points that should be brought up at committee. I very strongly support Bill C-43 going to committee for these types of issues to be reviewed.

As I said, the bill gives the commissioner new powers, helps to establish a board for compensation purposes, establishes the RCMP consultation committee to address workplace issues, and makes the Public Service Labour Relations Board and the external body resolve some of the personnel issues.

Does that go far enough? Are there other issues that need to be addressed? That is why I want to send this to committee to talk about what needs to be done in this act.

From my own personal perspective, I think it is about choice, as I have said at the very beginning. It is for the RCMP officers to make that choice about association and how they go about associating. That is why I am strongly supporting sending this to committee.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Modernization Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, we have some concerns about this bill as well, and I am sure that we will have ample time to deal with them at committee.

One, the bill dictates that only a bargaining agent that primarily represents workers in the field of policing would be eligible to be certified as the recognized union for RCMP officers. In effect, this is a restriction on the right of the workers to pick whomever they want as their bargaining agent. I would ask the member for her comments on that particular issue.

Second, the bill puts some limits on topics that might be negotiated at the bargaining table, including some substantial components of a contract such as pensions. I would ask the member to comment on whether or not there should be restrictions on what can be negotiated, such as pensions.

Third, there is a provision that gives the Treasury Board the power over the civilian members of the RCMP. They would be put under a separate framework, which violates the rights of those workers to make a free choice. It is all about free choice. We are not concerned about what the choice is, we just want them to have the choice. We want free choice for the civilian members as to how this sees the light of day.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Modernization Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Siobhan Coady St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am hearing that, again, Bill C-43 is not a small piece of legislation. It contains 116 pages of various and sundry significant changes to the structure and operation of the RCMP. That is why I think it needs that in-depth study at the committee stage. The committee can get into some of the issues that my hon. colleague is raising, bring forward witnesses and give them the opportunity to express their concerns or suggest changes that may be required in this bill.

This bill deserves the review and recommendation of going to committee so that it can have the fullness of discussion and debate.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Modernization Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, as members know, the RCMP have a tremendous record over the decades of service to Canada, but there have been a couple of unfortunate incidents recently, such as the terrible tragedy of Mr. Silverfox in my riding.

I wonder how the member thinks the provisions of this bill would affect those situations. Does she think they might have prevented them or that they would make the situations less likely in the future?

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Modernization Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Siobhan Coady St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague raises a very important point. The RCMP has had some challenges over the last number of years. In fact, even in my province, this past weekend, we had an issue of a person who escaped from surveillance. It is unfortunate that these things do occur.

I think that my hon. colleague raises a very important question about the future and the roles and responsibilities of the commissioner, the powers that would rest with the commissioner, some of the training issues and some of the freedom of association issues. I think that is the kind of in-depth analysis that needs to be done at committee stage, where we really get into some of these things.

I do not know whether or not this bill would solve all the ills of the RCMP. I sincerely doubt it. However, I think it is a step in the right direction for us being able to address some of those concerns and bring them forward when we are looking at the powers and the responsibilities of the commissioner.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Modernization Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I am pleased to be speaking about Bill C-43, An Act to enact the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Labour Relations Modernization Act and to amend the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

I would like to begin by saying that the Bloc Québécois supports this bill. The Bloc will be pleased to discuss and debate this bill in committee with its usual thoroughness.

The Bloc believes that unionization of Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers would lead to more harmonious and fairer labour relations. In addition, it is useful to remember that the Conservatives introduced this bill following an Ontario Provincial Court decision, which was appealed by the government three times.

In April 2009, Justice Ian MacDonnell of the Ontario Superior Court extended the right to unionize to the 22,000 officers in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The judge ruled that the federal law governing the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, which prohibits unionization, is unconstitutional. However, police cannot strike because the Canadian Police Association gave up that right.

This decision put an end to a century-old tradition of RCMP management believing that unionization would hurt the officers' morale. This is not the first time that RCMP officers have requested the right to unionize. In 1999, the Supreme Court of Canada threw out the case of Gaétan Delisle, a former officer who invoked the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to allow RCMP members to unionize.

This bill introduces human resources management processes for grievance procedures, disciplinary measures and the review of conditions of employment. It also gives the commissioner authorities similar to those given to deputy heads in the federal public service as well as the heads of large police services to support the effective management of the RCMP workforce.

According to the new labour relations regime, RCMP members will be able to choose to work in a non-unionized environment, enabled through joint consultation, or to work in a unionized environment, represented by a certified bargaining agent. As is the case with most police forces in Canada, RCMP members would not be able to withdraw their services.

In either a unionized or a non-unionized environment, the new labour relations regime for the RCMP would include the following features.

The proposed legislation gives the commissioner human resource management authorities similar to those of deputy heads in the federal public service—as I said earlier—and to those of heads of large police services in Canada. This includes the authority to appoint, promote, discipline, demote or terminate the employment of all members, including commissioned officers.

The President of the Treasury Board will establish a total compensation advisory committee to provide him with recommendations on overall compensation, that is, pay and benefits, for RCMP members who are not represented by a certified bargaining agent.

If members choose not to be represented by a bargaining agent, the total compensation advisory committee's recommendations would apply to all RCMP members.

If members choose to be represented by a bargaining agent, the committee's recommendations would only apply to officers, that is, inspectors and ranks above, executives and other non-represented or excluded employees of the RCMP.

The committee would be comprised of up to five impartial and external members who, together, would have an appropriate mix of knowledge of policing operations and of compensation issues and principles.

The total compensation advisory committee shares many similarities with the advisory committee on senior level retention and compensation, which provides, among other things, independent advice and recommendations to the President of the Treasury Board on compensation and overall human resources management matters for executives, deputy ministers, chief executive officers of crown corporations and other Governor in Council appointees.

The proposed legislation requires, among other things, that a consultation committee be established to address workplace issues. This could include the co-development of workplace improvements; that is to say, members could also participate in identifying and collaboratively resolving workplace issues and challenges. Through a series of local, divisional, regional and national consultative committees and working groups, members would be given the opportunity to bring their views and concerns directly to managers, either individually or as a group.

The bill maintains the current informal conflict management system and integrates it into all labour relations processes. This system will continue to offer options to resolve conflicts above and beyond the formal grievance process, such as mediation through a third party. The use of these options would be voluntary, confidential and impartial.

The proposed legislation provides the commissioner with the authority to implement a restructured discipline system. Consistent with discipline systems found throughout other Canadian police services and the broader public service, the new system would ensure that the RCMP is able to address and resolve conduct issues transparently, consistently and promptly. It would give RCMP members the right to refer certain decisions or actions of management to an impartial, external decision-making body, the Public Service Labour Relations Board.

The proposed legislation would include a more timely and effective grievance process. This new process would give members the right to refer certain decisions to an impartial, external, decision-making body, the Public Service Labour Relations Board.

What role does the Public Service Relations Board play in the public service? The legislation proposes that the board act as an independent, external third party to make final and binding decisions relating to discipline issues and some grievances of RCMP members. Members would not be able to refer grievances to the board on issues such as assignment of duties, law enforcement techniques or uniform standards.

To fulfill its role, the Public Service Labour Relations Board will take into account the unique role of the RCMP as a police organization, protecting Canadians and national safety. It will have to ensure it has to the capacity to perform its new powers and functions, including the ability to assign adjudicators who have knowledge of policing and police organizations as required.

The bill is a step in the right direction but the Bloc Québécois has some concerns. There are some issues that could be debated in committee if the bill is passed here in the House. One of our concerns is the definition of “employee” found in clause 2(1). This definition is much too strict. In our opinion, there is no reason to exclude employees who are hired outside Canada, part-time employees, casual employees and students.

These people carry out the same duties as their unionized co-workers but are denied the right of association. Members will recall that the Public Service Alliance of Canada is currently before the courts in order to have the rights of these types of employees recognized under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

It is also worth mentioning that the so-called confidential positions are not defined clearly enough. According to clause 31 and following, people who are in confidential positions are those who have been deemed to be so by the employer. It is then up to the union to prove otherwise. This vague or extremely flexible definition could easily lead to cases of abuse that would ultimately be harmful to labour relations.

The bill refers specifically to a certification process. When an application for certification is filed, the board must ensure that a majority of employees in the bargaining unit wish the applicant employee organization to represent them as their bargaining agent. This is a fairly unusual situation and, in our opinion, it places a very heavy burden on the shoulders of the employee organization.

Subsection 29(2) of the Canada Labour Code sets out a mechanism similar to that provided for under section 28 of the Quebec Labour Code. This mechanism involves a representation vote when the board is satisfied that the union has obtained the support of 35% or more of the employees.

In our view, this is a much more realistic approach to truly determining what the employees want. It allows for a vote, when everyone has their say.

Upon reading the bill and the rulings that led to it, we have to wonder what opportunity members of the RCMP will have to join an existing union. The unclear provision, in our opinion, is clause 56 of the bill. We wonder whether its purpose is to ensure that the employee organization actively defends its members or whether it is to limit the organization's role to defending police officers only.

Clause 56 states that:

The Board must revoke the certification of an employee organization as the bargaining agent for the bargaining unit if the Board, on application by the employer or any employee, determines that the organization no longer has as its primary mandate the representation of police officers.

In our opinion, the first solution should be adopted. With the exception of three Canadian provinces, all the other jurisdictions allow their police officers to be part of diversified employee organizations.

As I was saying at the beginning of my speech, this is a step in the right direction. The Bloc Québécois notes, however, that everything in this bill is geared to limiting the number of individuals who can join the ranks of an employee organization. Whether it be by excluding employees whose jobs are not very secure, or by designating confidential positions, there seems to be a real desire to give a limited number of people the right to organize.

What is more, having a certification process that is different from what is done under the Canada Labour Code and in other provinces shows the government's desire to make the certification process difficult.

The confusion around a number of definitions and clauses in the bill also reflects the government's attitude. We sincerely believe that with some amendments, Bill C-43 would benefit RCMP employees. In committee, we will be able to question witnesses and move and debate amendments.

Needless to say, I do not believe the government was too happy about introducing this bill. I do not get the feeling the Conservatives like unions much. I think they moved second reading of this bill quite reluctantly. In their plan to help the auto sector, the Conservatives wanted to include a condition that would have imposed a salary reduction, in spite of the collective agreements in effect.

I have another example to back up what I am saying. In the 2009 budget, the Conservatives included an amendment to the collective agreement for public service employees that unilaterally imposed new salary conditions on some public servants. This provision is found in part 10 of Bill C-10. They also voted against Bill C-395 introduced by the Bloc Québécois, which would exclude the period of a labour dispute from the employment insurance qualifying period. This bill is designed to fill a gap that, in theory, could be used by an employer to pressure a union.

Lastly, the Conservatives have always been opposed to anti-scab legislation, which once again puts workers at a disadvantage compared to employers.

This bill should be debated in committee so that we can improve it and propose amendments to give police officers and RCMP personnel the opportunity to unionize and defend their rights fairly, rigorously and effectively.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Modernization Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague on her excellent speech that clearly explains the Bloc Québécois's position on unionization, especially for this group of people who work for the government and enforce the law across the land.

The issue of unionizing members of the RCMP comes up often. The last time it came up, it was studied by the Standing Committee on Public Accounts. We were told of a problematic and distressing situation for many members of the RCMP. Senior officials had been involved in an embezzlement scheme. Several years ago, they had taken money out of an insurance plan and put it into a retirement plan, or vice versa. The Standing Committee on Public Accounts made a number of comments and recommendations on the matter. According to one of the recommendations, unionizing RCMP members would diminish the risk of such situations happening again and would correct them before they ever happened.

I would like to hear what my colleague has to say about this situation in particular.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Modernization Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. He is our critic on the Standing Committee on International Trade and he always has very pertinent questions. He diligently represents his voters.

In response to his question, I would say that the point here is that they are being forced to introduce the bill. The government was forced, in a way, to introduce this bill. It is not pleased about it and has its doubts. We know that the Conservatives are no friend of the unions and do everything possible to limit their ability to intervene. Therefore, the bill before us, with over one hundred clauses, must be analyzed and debated with fairness and rigour to provide RCMP officers with appropriate and effective working conditions and representation.

Compassionate Volunteerism
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, Waterloo region, including Kitchener Centre, was built on a merger of the ideal of hard work with the ideal of compassionate co-operation.

Our Governor General, who spent many years in our community, referred to this as a “barn-raising” mentality.

Our heritage also includes an ability to see past appearances and accents, to treat every person as valuable. These ideals have made Kitchener-Waterloo the economic engine of Canada. People are asking, “What is in the water in Waterloo region?”

Let us celebrate the Kitchener ideals of hard work, compassionate co-operation and respect for every person.

I want to pay special tribute to Connie Dietrich, a constituent who recently lost her life. Connie lived out these ideals with conviction, dedicating 15 years of her life to volunteering in palliative care.

I am very proud to be the member of Parliament for the great community of Kitchener.

Community Volunteerism
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to pay tribute to an outstanding constituent in my riding of York West.

Paul Nguyen is a proud Vietnamese Canadian, living in the Jane-Finch area, who has dedicated his life to ending discrimination in at-risk and marginalized communities. As a volunteer, Paul has helped to give residents a strong voice and to combat negative stereotypes.

Recently Paul was awarded the Ontario Medal for Good Citizenship from the Lieutenant Governor. This adds to an already impressive list of awards, which includes the 2010 Paul Yuzyk Award for Multiculturalism from Citizenship and Immigration Canada, the 2010 Canadian Ethnic Media Association award of excellence in ethnic Internet journalism, and the 2009 William P. Hubbard Award for Race Relations from the City of Toronto.

Paul Nguyen is someone who has made a life of giving back to his community and to our community. I would like to send a special note of personal thanks for all he has done and all he continues to do.

Postal Services to Deployed Troops
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Claude Bachand Saint-Jean, QC

Mr. Speaker, for the fifth consecutive year, Canada Post is offering free delivery of letters and parcels to troops deployed in war zones overseas.

Until January 7, 2011, Canada Post's 6,600 post offices will offer free parcel service for family and friends of Canadian Forces members currently in Afghanistan and other overseas theatres of operations.

It is particularly hard to be separated from loved ones during the holiday season, which is filled with festivities and visits with family and friends. This is why receiving mail can be comforting.

My Bloc Québécois colleagues and I would like to salute the efforts and especially the courage of our men and women in the service. May the new year bring them peace and serenity.

Public Security Personnel
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, at this time, prior to the Christmas season, I would like to stand in this House and give special tribute to all those veterans and their families, to all those RCMP members, to those emergency responders, those firefighters, those paramedics, and to all our military men and women serving overseas, to wish them and their families a very merry Christmas and very happy new year.

These are the people who allow all Canadians to have a good night's sleep.

I would also remind all my hon. colleagues in the House of Commons to make sure that when they are in the malls or in the stores or on the street corners, in big towns and small communities, from coast to coast to coast, they put a little bit of change in the Salvation Army kettles, because this is the one organization that does not ask questions; it just looks to the humanity of the season.

If we all give generously this year, then maybe everyone in Canada will have a very warm and generous Christmas. God bless.

Centre Dufferin District High School War Memorial
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

David Tilson Dufferin—Caledon, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to recognize four exceptional students: Alissa Droog, Alexandra Berry, Sarah Callaghan, Corah Lynn Hodgson, and their dedicated teacher, Mr. Neil Orford.

On November 10, after two years of tremendous effort, their vision to honour former students of Centre Dufferin District High School who served or are serving in Canada's armed forces was finally realized.

The new granite war memorial, which now hangs in the front entrance of the school, will forever commemorate the sacrifices made for democracy and freedom by our country's finest.

Through their own initiative and under the guidance of their teacher, these four students raised over $6,000 from the community to make the memorial a reality.

On behalf of the residents of Dufferin—Caledon, and most especially the veterans of the Shelburne Royal Canadian Legion, I sincerely commend these four outstanding students and their enthusiastic teacher for giving our community a special and enduring tribute to veterans, active service personnel and Dufferin military history.

Terence Bay Lighthouse
Statements By Members

December 13th, 2010 / 2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, the Terence Bay Lighthouse Society has been recognized for its community spirit and dedication to preserving local heritage. The Terence Bay Lighthouse, built in 1903, is an important landmark.

Unfortunately, maintaining this iconic historic structure is not a priority for the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans. Battered by the sea and rain and neglected by the Conservatives, the lighthouse was in a dismal state. It was left to members of the society to repair this landmark when the Conservative government abandoned it.

I hope this will be an example to the minister that maintaining our lighthouses is a priority for the people.

Charitable Giving
Statements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Braid Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, during the holiday season, Canadians share in the spirit of peace and goodwill, but some in our society suffer hardship and isolation and are unable to enjoy what many of us take for granted. At this time of year, charitable organizations are called upon even more as they work to fill the needs in our communities.

Statistics Canada has recently reported that charitable donations have declined in Canada, likely due to the pressures of the global recession. My private member's motion, Motion No. 559, seeks ways to encourage increased charitable giving and to consider new ways to give, such as through donations of private company shares and real estate.

I urge members of the House to support my motion and I ask all Canadians to remember to share generously with those less fortunate in our communities.