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

Serious Time for the Most Serious Crime Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

It would appear that the two designated whips are unable to come to an agreement, but are in agreement with the argument made by the hon. member for Yukon that when there is a disagreement, the votes shall take place on the later date proposed. As such, the recorded divisions stand deferred until the end of government business tomorrow.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Modernization Act
Government Orders

December 13th, 2010 / 12:50 p.m.

Okanagan—Coquihalla
B.C.

Conservative

Stockwell Day President of the Treasury Board and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway

moved that 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, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address the bill before us today. As background, I think I join all members of Parliament in saying how much we appreciate the men and women of the RCMP who have for generations, and continue to, served Canadians from coast to coast. They have done that with professionalism, with courage, with commitment and with dedication. From the most remote areas of our country to highly urbanized settings, the RCMP has been there for us and continues to be. Citizens recognize and appreciate that from coast to coast.

I especially learned more about the RCMP and its workings in a previous portfolio, public safety. During that time, my appreciation for the RCMP and the work which it did only grew. In fact, I had a great opportunity to see how the RCMP was recognized, not just nationally but internationally, as a policing force and as a police organization that had demonstrated time and time again that it had the professionalism, the dedication and the commitment to do the job that Canadians had come to know and respect and to appreciate.

No organization is beyond having an inward look. No organization performs perfectly 100% all the time. That is certainly true of this chamber in which we now stand and even of the occasional political party. It has been known that 100% perfection is not always achieved.

It was an honour for me, as one of a number of highlights with the RCMP and my involvement with it, to preside over the first ever appointment of a female commissioner of the RCMP, particularly in a difficult time. She did an admiral job and had the resounding support of members throughout the organization. I was also able to preside over the appointment of the first ever non-RCMP officer to the appointment of commissioner. Therefore, the RCMP has shown that it is, in many ways, a modern organization facing the challenges of international crime, national crime, modernization on a technological basis and in virtually every other level.

A year ago, April 6, a court ruling in the Ontario Superior Court looked at the labour management regime of the RCMP. Presently the labour management regime has a staff relations representative program, one that was contested in court in terms of its constitutionality as recently as 1999. In fact, the constitutionality of the labour relations setup in the RCMP withstood that constitutional challenge.

The RCMP, as we would all know here, is the only police force in Canada that is not unionized. It was more or less on that basis that a challenge was taken to the Ontario court, which came to a conclusion that it was not constitutional for RCMP members to be represented in this present manner because it had not yet fully allowed them the choice of having a collective bargaining process that would be recognized as a union-based process. Therefore, the court said that the present regime was not constitutional.

Now people may debate that back and forth. Even within this chamber there may be different views on that, but that was the ruling of the court. The court wisely put an 18 month stay on its decision because it said that if we declared April 6, 2009 to be the day that the present staff relations representative program was null and void, there would be the possibility for a high degree of chaos within the organization.

Individual groups could spring up all around the country. We could even have the possibility of an organization represented by a number of unions or a number of different organizations. Therefore, the Ontario court said that it would stay this for 18 months, until something was in place that would meet the demand of the court.

The government appealed that, for a number of reasons. One of the main reasons was there was another case at the Supreme Court of Canada, the Fraser case. The outcome would have some direct bearing on this one. Therefore, the Government of Canada appealed the Ontario ruling and asked for that to be taken into consideration.

The courts ruled favourably on the federal government's appeal on that. The present situation is this will be addressed 30 days after the result of the ruling on the Fraser case by the Supreme Court of Canada. We will have to wait to see when that happens. We do not have a date for that as it is at the pleasure of the Supreme Court.

However, there has to be an immediate vehicle in place, should the rulings go in such a way that the Ontario ruling is upheld and the present labour relations regime is upheld as being unconstitutional, to allow RCMP members to decide what type of labour management regime will work best for them.

I want to make it clear. The modernization act before us is not an act which would force or require unionization of the RCMP. It is an act that would meet the demand of the court and say that certain provisions would have to be followed, certain constitutional guarantees of representation by members would be put in place, but it would leave that choice to RCMP members. That is the nub of the issue.

The act looks at modernizing a number of other areas also. The entire grievance and disciplinary process in the RCMP needs to be addressed. Right now, the way it is set up, members do not have available to them certain elements of appeal within a grievance process that other members of similar organizations have. This would put in place in the Public Service Labour Relations Board certain abilities for the board to appoint adjudicators. It would allow for disputes or grievances to be addressed early on where members could be face to face with others in the grievance process to look at a possible early resolution of a grievance matter.

Right now, members who face a disciplinary process may have to wait months, in fact, even longer than that, sometimes years, before the resolution of a particular grievance. That is not a fair process to have members going through, having a decision or a cloud hanging over not just their head but possibly their careers for an interminable amount of time. This would speed that process up and would allow for some early intervention and possible early resolution.

There are a number of grievance and disciplinary-related areas in the particular modernization that would to assist the public and assist RCMP members.

Also some changes would be foreseen on the part of the commissioner, whomever the commissioner of the day might be. Presently deputy heads of organizations within government have available to them the levers and the mechanisms to take disciplinary action and also to allow for rewards. That is fairly limited in the present legal situation related to the commissioner. Therefore, there would be some provisions that would allow the commissioner to act with the responsibility that would be commensurate with that position.

The staff relations representatives, certainly the ones I have known and have worked with previously as minister, and I am sure members in the House work with on a local basis, have served with sincerity and with commitment, always looking to the best interest of their members.

This particular legislation is not a reflection on the way they have performed the tasks which the members have asked them to perform. As I said earlier, it is a reflection on the court ruling which is demanding a change. The decision will ultimately rest in the hands of the members themselves, and that is the way it should be.

Adjustments will be made to the past process of pay and having a pay council making recommendations. There will be an external advisory capacity. A number of areas will be directly affected, which are in place, should members here agree. I believe there is some support for having this legislation in place pending a final ruling so that whatever happens the members of the RCMP, the men and women who have committed their lives to keeping us safe, to serving us as admirably as they do, will have the assurance that a mechanism will be in place that will not leave their concerns unattended whichever way the final ruling in court goes.

That is what we have before us today. I would invite careful analysis of this particular modernization act. I hope that we will find support for it. This is being done in a non-partisan way because the interests and the safety and security of our communities, our families, our businesses are paramount at this point in time. I believe members on all sides will see it this way and that is what I anticipate as the bill moves forward.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Modernization Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the overview of this important legislation. I am sure the minister is aware that some civilian members of the RCMP have concerns about this particular piece of legislation. They have some unique issues and concerns and special needs which they think need to be addressed. They are concerned that this bill would not do that and would lump them in with the officers.

I am wondering if my hon. colleague would address those concerns, please.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Modernization Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Conservative

Stockwell Day Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, my hon. friend recognizes what some Canadians may not and that is the public's perception of an RCMP detachment. People who work there are uniformed members of the RCMP. Also, throughout the force there are what we call civilian members who are not members of the RCMP. For example, there are people who work in laboratories, people who do administrative work, and people who do the dispatching. In any variety of these job classifications individuals may find themselves as public servants or civilian members.

They are being consulted. We want input from them. We do not see a change at this point. This legislation would not affect people within the public sector union who are working with and for the RCMP right now. We want to hear from those individuals who are regarded as civilian members to hear how they would be affected. I have talked with uniformed members of the RCMP and civilian members. There is a variety of views on different issues.

I can assure my colleague opposite that we want to know their views and we want to make sure they are represented.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Modernization Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to follow up on the previous member's question, because I too have received representations on the issue of civilian members.

Constituent Deneene Curry is one such member. In her email to me she said that civilian members are considered subject matter experts in their fields. They are individuals with specialized training, skill sets that are unique to the RCMP and its environment. She also said that civilian members are required to work various hours during the day, often on short notice, to meet investigational demands or court deadlines. They may be transferred or dispatched in the event of an emergency, disaster, special events such as the Olympics and the G8, or to fill shortages in resources. She is very concerned about what is going to happen to them under this new regime.

I am wondering why the government has not been able to clarify some of that in advance of where we are right now with this bill.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Modernization Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Stockwell Day Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, as I indicated, the purpose of this modernization is to reflect a court ruling, at this point the Ontario Superior Court. The Supreme Court will have something to say on this in the ancillary case, the Fraser case, but it is to do with the labour management regime and the process by which members are represented.

That is why the primary focus of this is to have in place the legislation that would make sure that representation for members continues, depending on how this ruling goes. That is why civilian members who in many cases do have very specific training and expertise, which my colleague mentioned, are called on in ways in which perhaps somebody under a public sector union may not be called upon. We want to make sure that they also will have full representation and consultation.

We see this clearly as a collaborative process. It is not meant in any way, shape or form to exclude or limit anybody's ability right now to have their concerns known. In fact, I would say for the member opposite, it can be stated that what we are putting in place actually will improve their situation, because the types of members he is referring to fall under certain grievance and disciplinary procedures which have been seen as somewhat limiting for an employee. This would give them a little more comfort and breadth in terms of having grievances addressed.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Modernization Act
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1:05 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I also would like to ask my hon. colleague to discuss the changes that are being considered for the commissioner himself.

In his opening remarks, he talked about more powers being given to the commissioner. Could he elaborate on what powers those might be and why he feels these are necessary at this time?

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Modernization Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Stockwell Day Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, right now in the public service, deputy ministers have certain levels of legislative ability to deal with situations either on the side of grievances or disciplinary issues, and with that increased capability comes increased responsibility.

The commissioner himself does not have some of that leeway. We believe that the commissioner should be fully responsible, just as a deputy minister has responsibility, although it is not a direct 100% comparison, over employees, the implementation of the various policies that affect employees, and how to move expeditiously if some of those processes are not being followed. There is a limitation right now. Just as employees themselves and RCMP members in disciplinary and grievance processes need a little more leeway and need to be able to access more broadly the types of assistance that somebody under a grievance process would have, there has to be a balanced right and responsibility at the level of commissioner. Those are laid out in the bill itself.

These are seen as natural, evolutionary steps in the modernization of a labour management regime. It moves the commissioner into the position of having an equality of capability that would be found at similar levels in other large organizations throughout the public service.

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1:05 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I recognize that a court decision is what is prompting the action here, but the fact of the matter is that whenever government introduces any type of legislation, there is normally a period of consultation. One would think that the civilian members would have been consulted rather than leaving them out and their becoming alarmed at the government making initiatives without checking with them.

Mr. Deneene Curry and other people I think would have appreciated some sort of statement from the government as to what would happen with them. How many civilian members are we dealing with throughout the entire RCMP procedures? Were they consulted in any way, shape or form at that stage?

I recognize that when we get the bill to committee, there will be opportunities for people such as Ms. Curry to make presentations to the committee, but I would like to know what sort of consultations, if any, were done prior to this date.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Modernization Act
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1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Stockwell Day Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, the numbers change from month to month but we could use a rough number of about 24,000 people who would be called RCMP members, depending on the fluctuation in hiring that takes place. For instance, over the last almost three years we have put in place the funding to hire 1,500 more RCMP officers all across the country. Whenever that happens there are a certain number of civilian members that have to back up those particular jobs. Overall there are about 24,000 and somewhere between 3,000 and 4,000 would be classified as civilian members.

When a court rules, there is no consultation per se and the court makes a ruling. All parties affected look at it. The principal focus of the ruling is to have a provision in place pending our appeal. If the ruling stands, there would be no effective representation or a staked out framework for representation for any members, be they uniform members or civilian members. That is the principal focus.

As a member of Parliament, I have certainly met with civilian members and have heard some of their concerns. I am sure other MPs have done that also. We want to make sure this is in place and that members, as my friend has mentioned, should go through their own associations to get in their views. This is generally seen as very favourable to all members in terms of protecting them and giving them a greater say in their own affairs.

This is not seen in any way to be limiting any of their freedoms, rights or responsibilities. Certainly at the committee stage we would welcome hearing from members of Parliament who may have heard from some civilian members who may think that is not the case. I would be interested in hearing that. We would want to address it.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Modernization Act
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1:10 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-43, Royal Canadian Mounted Police Modernization Act.

At the end of the day, Bill C-43 is all about choice. This legislation, if enacted, would give the RCMP's membership the choice of whether or not they want to unionize and be represented by a bargaining agent.

In my opinion, the membership of the RCMP deserves the choice to make an informed decision as to whether or not a union is the best way in which to represent their views and negotiate on their behalf.

At present, the RCMP is the only police force in Canada not represented by an association. Looking at other police associations across Canada, we can see that they have worked quite well and have given police officers a strong voice, whether it has been fighting for improved working conditions or the gun registry, for example.

One thing that is important to keep in mind is that this legislation would not allow the RCMP the ability to strike. Just as it would with other police associations and emergency service personnel, a strike would greatly risk the safety and security of Canadians. A union or an association would exist to bargain on members' needs and members' behalf and represent their views to management.

Whether or not the RCMP should form an association is a longstanding issue, and there are arguments on both sides. Organizations such as the Mounted Police Association of Ontario and the British Columbia Mounted Police Professional Association have been vocal supporters of unionization.

They took this matter to court, and on April 6 of last year an Ontario Superior Court judge ruled that section 96 of the RCMP regulations breached the freedom of association guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The conclusion was that Canada's 20,000 RCMP officers have the right to decide whether they should or should not unionize. That is a choice I believe they deserve to make and are best suited to make.

Now on the other side of that argument, there are some valid issues being raised. There are some individuals within the civilian membership of the RCMP who have expressed concerns. They worry that a future union could lump them in with the officers and that their unique issues and needs may not be appropriately represented.

That is a valid concern and something we should explore in greater detail at the committee stage by having witnesses from all sides come forward to explain their views.

I have before me a letter that was written by the staff relations representative, Steve Raine, chair of the SRR national staffing committee, who raised a number of concerns. Under the category of employee review, which is currently being undertaken by senior management, he indicates in this letter that there has been this type of review in 1995, 1998, 2001, 2004, as well as 2007, and they are under the understanding that it is again being reviewed.

The civilian members feel that not only is it a waste of taxpayer dollars because, of course, it has been reviewed so many times but also the reclassification that could occur as a result would have a serious impact on the operational efficiency of the RCMP and could jeopardize public safety.

They raise this issue of the category of employee review because they also feel it is causing great unease with the regular members at a time when Bill C-43 is also potentially going to dramatically change the entire system of staff representation.

The regular members do not want to be treated like every other police force in the country. The civilian members do not want to be viewed as simply public servants. The letter says, “The RCMP is unique and it is our membership—regular and civilian—that makes it so”.

There are concerns being raised by the civilian membership, and I think they have to be taken into consideration when we look at this bill.

Bill C-43 is about more than just giving the RCMP the choice to form an association. It contains a number of other significant changes to Canada's national police force.

It would give the commissioner of the RCMP new powers to appoint, promote, discipline, demote or terminate the employment of members, including commissioned officers. These are authorities similar to those of deputy heads of the federal public service and those of heads of other large police services.

I asked my hon. colleague who presented this bill for his response to giving the commissioner additional powers and he gave his viewpoint on this. There has been concern expressed because of some of the changes that have occurred under the commissioner in the last number of years, and a thorough review of those powers needs to be conducted because we do not want to do something in haste that would cause more concern and more grievance within the RCMP.

The commissioner would also be granted the authority to implement a structured discipline system that would attempt to bring more transparency, consistency and efficiency when dealing with conduct resolution. These changes would be consistent with the discipline systems found throughout other Canadian police services and the rest of the public service.

It is something that needs to be thoroughly investigated at committee stage. We have heard some of the concerns through media reports, including concerns from a whistleblower, on some of these changes to the RCMP and things that have occurred over the last number of years. These powers need to be thoroughly reviewed.

The bill would also establish a total compensation advisory committee, which would provide recommendations to the Treasury Board president on overall compensation of RCMP members not represented by a bargaining agent. A consultation committee would be created to address workplace issues. Members would be given the opportunity to bring their views and concerns directly to managers either individually or as a group. This could include discussing potential workplace improvements or identifying areas of concern. It is just one more way in which communication within the RCMP could be improved.

A public service relations board would be created to act as an independent, external third party, which would make final and binding decisions relating to discipline and grievance issues of the RCMP members. Some issues would not be referable. These would be grievances related to the assignment of duties, law enforcement techniques or uniform standards. Such a board would have to take into account the unique role the RCMP plays as Canada's national police organization protecting Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

Bill C-43 is not a small piece of legislation. It is 116 pages filled with clauses that could make significant changes to the structure and operation of the RCMP. Therefore, we must ensure an in-depth study at committee stage to allow witnesses the opportunity to voice their support, concerns and general opinions. For instance, the new powers that would be granted to the commissioner, as I indicated earlier, must be studied further to ensure transparency and accountability.

I look forward to hearing further debate on this bill from all of my colleagues and from witnesses at committee stage. The men and women of the RCMP deserve to decide for themselves whether they feel adequately represented or whether an association would better their working conditions.

As I said earlier, some of the background on the development of Bill C-43 deserves mention. 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, was introduced in the House of Commons by the hon. President of the Treasury Board in June of this year.

Bill C-43 is a direct response to an April 2009 decision, over a year later, by the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, which found that section 96 of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Regulations breached the freedom of association accorded to RCMP members under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a very important clause.

The decision concluded that under the charter, Canada's 20,000 RCMP officers are entitled to decide whether they wish to bargain with the force's management through a union of their choice or remain under the existing arrangement, which is ultimately under management's control.

As part of the decision, the court struck down section 96, but gave the federal government 18 months to provide a new statutory framework for collective bargaining. This period was to have ended in October 2010, but at the last minute after three previously unsuccessful attempts by the government to obtain a stay of the court ruling, the Ontario Court of Appeal granted a stay lasting up to 30 days after the release of the related Supreme Court of Canada decision involving the rights of farmers to organize. The Supreme Court decision is expected some time this fall or in the spring of 2011.

As I said earlier, Bill C-43, if implemented, would give RCMP members the choice of whether they want to continue to work in a non-unionized environment or pursue the unionized option where they would be represented by a certified bargaining agent. It would also give the RCMP commissioner new powers to appoint, promote, discipline, demote or terminate the employment of all members including commissioned officers, quite significant powers.

It would also establish, as I said earlier, the total compensation advisory committee to provide recommendations to the President of the Treasury Board on the overall compensation, pay and benefits, of the RCMP members who are not represented by a certified bargaining agent. Under a unionized scenario this would include RCMP officers, for example inspectors or the ranks above, executives or other non-represented or excluded employees of the RCMP.

It would also establish a consultation committee to address workplace issues. Through a series of local, divisional, regional and national consultative committees and/or 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, if implemented, would also maintain the existing formal conflict management system whereby options would continue to be offered 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. It would also provide the commissioner with the authority to implement a structured discipline system, which would seek to resolve conduct issues transparently, consistently and promptly.

RCMP members would have the right to refer certain decisions or actions of management to the Public Service Labour Relations Board, an impartial, external decision-making body. As I said, it is a very complex and lengthy bill. It would also establish a Public Service Relations Board as an independent external third party to make final and binding decisions relating to discipline issues and some grievances of the RCMP members.

As I stated earlier, there have been concerns. There has been some stakeholder reaction. For example, the right of the RCMP members to unionize is a longstanding issue and various informal RCMP labour associations such as the Mounted Police Association of Ontario and the British Columbia Mounted Police Professional Association, which were the ones who brought the issue to the courts to begin with, have been particularly vocal on granting RCMP members the right to associate. As part of the temporary court-ordered stay, these groups have also been given access to the RCMP's email system as well as its intranet and intranet bulletin boards to post information about the benefits of unionization.

There have been many pieces of correspondence that have been sent out by these associations to ensure that members of the RCMP have been apprised of their rights. In fact in a member communication, they talk about the historic reason why they have been forbidden to do this and that they really do feel that collective bargaining is essential for members of the RCMP. They talk about collective bargaining simply referring to work-related negotiations between an employer and group of employees that has members of the association permitted to negotiate on their behalf.

They talk about some of the successes that these associations have been able to achieve. For example, police associations in Canada succeeded in improving the lives of their members, as they say in their correspondence, and they talk about the elimination of voluntary overtime. In negotiations, for example, in mid-2000, the Toronto Police Association fought to retain an existing minimum staffing requirement of two officers per patrol car. They talk about the Police Association of Nova Scotia, which recently defended its members against a pension deficiency. They talk about the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary from my own riding introducing the public awareness campaign that resulted in an increase in the force's budget, which resulted in the hiring of more officers and improvements in training.

They list these types of achievements of the bond of association, and say that if the RCMP felt so inclined they feel that these associations would be able to bring forward positive changes on their behalf.

They have been bringing forward this issue, speaking not only very strongly in the court-related process but also to members of Parliament on these very serious issues that they feel need to be addressed.

Again, I bring the House back to the staff relations representatives who have an alternate view. They feel that we should rethink this whole move toward an association by the RCMP or at least give them the opportunity to voice their concerns on these matters and give them the opportunity to say why they should not be included in this group or association, why they are concerned about some of the issues around the category of employee review.

In conclusion, I would like to say that I think the bill provides a new labour relations regime for the RCMP, that it should go to committee for further review and further analysis, that we need a fulsome discussion about this issue, bringing forward some of the internal concerns of the RCMP, some of the staff relations concerns, and as well giving the RCMP members and officers themselves an opportunity to come forward with why they feel it may be to their benefit or not to their benefit to come forward in this manner.

I think we also need a full discussion on some of the review panels and the tribunals that are going to be created under this act. I think as well that we have to consider the powers of the commissioner and whether or not they are at the right level of powers, the right actions at this particular time, and how we can move forward to ensure that the RCMP, that most respected institution, is given even a greater opportunity.

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1:30 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I followed this issue for many years. In the province of Quebec the RCMP members of Quebec, the gendarmes, have asked for unionization or an association of some kind for many years.

It is unfortunate that RCMP officers and their group have to go to court in order to facilitate even the discussion of whether or not RCMP members should have the right to join an association or to unionize.

That was problem number one, as to why these fine men and women had to go to court to get what so many other police officers in the country have as their granted right, the right to, if they wish, form an association to collectively bargain for future pay and benefits and for packages for their members and their families.

The other point is the last thing I personally would like to see is the current Commissioner of the RCMP getting any more powers than he already has. As we know, this was a Conservative who was appointed to the RCMP. He never once served a day as an RCMP member. I think that was a tragedy. The Commissioner of the RCMP should be an RCMP member.

When we look at the fact that they were denied VIP services and they were denied many other aspects that veterans get, for example, I think it is sad when a commissioner does not stand up for the men and women in his service.

I would like the hon. member from Newfoundland to comment on the fact that it should be a commissioner from--

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1:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Order. The hon. member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl.

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1:30 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I think my hon. colleague hit a couple of the key points.

As I said at the beginning of my speech, this is about choice. At least this bill does address the fact that the RCMP has a choice as to whether or not they want to form an association. The RCMP had to go through the court process, associations had to bring forward these issues and I believe the Toronto police had to bring forward these issues to the courts. It is unfortunate that particular point was delayed. It is about choice. Every other police department across the country has that association and has that choice.

The second point the member raises, one that I have raised as well, is on the power of the commissioner and granting the commissioner these additional and pretty wide-ranging powers. If we look to some of the concerns that have been expressed, that my hon. colleague has expressed, I think these are the types of issues that need to be fully vetted at committee.

The third point, and I am sure if he had more time he would have raised it, is on the issue of some of the non-commissioned officers in the RCMP who are concerned about whether or not they are in the right place at the right time on this bill. There are civilians within the RCMP who are concerned about this bill and I think we have to hear from them as well.

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1:30 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was in the labour movement for 28 years and so my bias is very evident.

I am pleased to hear that the Liberal Party agrees with the RCMP officers' right to form a union. I would ask if it supports the right of the RCMP officers to choose the union of their choice.

As well, we have heard a lot about collective bargaining and the representation factor. In the RCMP it is well known that there has been a fair amount of intimidation of late, or at least it was reported as such. Does the member agree that RCMP officers should have the right to have a union representative available to attend all meetings with management?