Remote Sensing Space Systems Act

An Act governing the operation of remote sensing space systems

This bill was last introduced in the 38th Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in November 2005.

Sponsor

Pierre Pettigrew  Liberal

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment regulates remote sensing space systems to ensure that their operation is neither injurious to national security, to the defence of Canada, to the safety of Canadian Forces or to Canada’s conduct of international relations nor inconsistent with Canada’s international obligations.

In order to accomplish this, the enactment establishes a licensing regime for remote sensing space systems and provides for restrictions on the distribution of data gathered by means of them. In addition, the enactment gives special powers to the Government of Canada concerning priority access to remote sensing services and the interruption of such services.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2004 / 1:45 p.m.
See context

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Madam Speaker, I will try not to be too distracted by the howls of protest and the gush of assurances that this has absolutely nothing to do with missile defence. It was pretty predictable that we would hear that from the member. In fact, I feel a bit unnerved by this kind of “thou dost protest too much”.

Forgive us if we are not fully assured by those words. In our view, there is not enough in the legislation itself that makes that absolutely clear. We are going to be looking at it very closely from that point of view. The Liberal record of broken promises is so long that if we typed out those promises and held them end to end, the tickertape of unkept promises would probably be enough to stretch all the way from here right up to where RADARSAT-1 is now orbiting overhead, so pardon us for not being completely reassured.

I want to specifically speak to the vagueness of the language in Bill C-25 in its current form. Under the application section of Bill C-25, the bill gives the minister permission to “modify” application of the act, that is, to exempt individuals and organizations from any provision of the act if:

(a) the exemption is neither injurious to national security, to the defence of Canada, to the safety of Canadian Forces or to Canada’s conduct of international relations nor inconsistent with Canada’s international obligations--

The parliamentary secretary has been absolutely verbose in saying that this has nothing to do with missile defence, nor would it ever. However, in the act it says that the minister has permission to modify application of the act if he deems it. What if the Minister of National Defence deems it, in Canada's interests, necessary to sign on to ballistic missile defence and then we find that this act can be modified accordingly?

We have as well a provision for another thing the minister has permission to modify. It is that adequate provision will be made for the protection of the environment, public health, and the safety of persons and property. In other words, the minister has the ability to modify the act to deal with those issues, but where is the definition that would give assurances as to how that is defined? How do we define whether those provisions are adequate? Are there clear regulations that can actually measure what that means? Do our international obligations under Kyoto apply to the provisions in Bill C-25? They are supposed to protect our environment, but could be changed arbitrarily if the minister deems this to be in our interests, and so on.

The parliamentary secretary will know that, in developing RADARSAT-2, the Canadian Space Agency contributed almost $100,000 toward the $150,000 CSA contract awarded to Lockheed Martin Canada for the development of applications in preparation for RADARSAT-2, specifically the earth observation satellite.

He will know that it is Lockheed Martin Canada which will in fact evaluate the capabilities technology for target detection and recognition surveillance. I do not have to tell the minister that Lockheed Martin is very closely associated with the U.S. defence sector and has had huge contracts with the sector.

If the minister decides to modify the provisions of the act, why would he not understand that there would be concerns, with Lockheed Martin so totally and so closely tied to the U.S. defence industry, about the possibility we would end up becoming a handmaiden to U.S. defence policy?

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2004 / 1:30 p.m.
See context

Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca B.C.

Liberal

Keith Martin LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak on Bill C-25.

However, before I begin my remarks, I simply have to address some of the completely fallacious, false and untrue comments made by the NDP member. She is completely wrong to suggest even for a moment to the Canadian public that Bill C-25 has anything to do with ballistic missile defence, the weaponization of space or star wars. Those are three completely distinct issues and completely distinct situations. For her information, and she should know this, BMD is not star wars. BMD is not the weaponization of space. This bill has nothing whatsoever to do with either of those things.

I also have a question to ask the member. We have threats in this world and the milk of human kindness does not flow through the veins of some people. The people we are talking about are individuals who have the capability of launching ballistic missiles in this world. We wish it were not so, but that is the case, as my colleague, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, has mentioned. We have a responsibility and a duty above all others to engage in the protection of the Canadian people. That is a responsibility we will not shirk.

On this particular bill it is a pleasure for me to speak on behalf of the Minister of National Defence in regard to enacting this legislation that refers to remote sensing space systems in Canada. I am sure that my hon. colleagues would agree that we have been very successful in taking advantage of opportunities presented by space technologies. From Canadarm's role in the construction of the international space station to our astronauts' participation in several space shuttle missions, Canada is widely recognized as a leader in this area.

An important part of our space activities, of course, has been observing the earth using remote sensing satellites, like RADARSAT-1, which we have operated for nearly a decade, and RADARSAT-2, which will be operational in late 2005 or 2006.

Satellite images serve Canada in many ways. For example, this is an invaluable tool for emergency preparedness and disaster response. These satellites are used to facilitate the safe navigation of our coastal waters by ensuring that we have an accurate measurement of sea ice and the tracking of icebergs.

The Department of National Defence and our Canadian Forces use this satellite imagery to protect our sovereignty and our security day in and day out.

These satellites will undoubtedly play an increasingly important role in understanding what is happening to our remote and coastal regions and consequently will be an active participant in securing our security and sovereignty.

For example, DND and the armed forces are, in cooperation with other government departments, currently engaged in an initiative called Polar Epsilon. Under this initiative, Canada's RADARSAT-2 satellite and other sensors will provide all-weather day and night surveillance of Canada's Arctic and ocean approaches.

The emphasis will be on generating information in remote areas where we really do not have any other capability of watching these areas. Increasingly, satellites are a critical part of our defence capabilities, and because effective surveillance of our territories and its approaches are of vital importance, it is important that we pass this bill forthwith. I am certain the defence planners are looking at the essential capabilities, particularly when it comes to our ongoing defence review, which should be coming in front of the committee in short order. Of course, with opportunity comes responsibility. The same capabilities that are becoming so useful to so many could also threaten our own security and defence interests.

If I may, I would also like to take a few moments to speak of the importance of this bill to the ability of our Canadian Forces to respond in a factual and effective fashion to our security needs.

The bill provides a means for our government to help ensure that those who might harm our interests cannot use images taken from our own satellites against us. I would remind my hon. colleagues that it is possible today for anyone with a credit card and Internet access to buy satellite images of striking clarity. I do not think I need to elaborate on what could happen if our adversaries got hold of critical information, particularly as it relates to our defence operations.

This is why the Government of Canada, following the example of our most trusted allies, took on the responsibility of issuing licences for exporting remote sensing satellites and regulating the distribution of satellite images.

Of course, the government has no intention of interfering in the enforcement of these responsibilities, nor is it seeking to limit commercial gains from satellites.

A number of government departments and agencies have worked diligently to respect the rights of Canadians and to strike a balance between Canada's defence, security and foreign policy interests and the maintenance of an important sector of Canada's industries. Let me give an example of how this would work in real terms.

The Department of National Defence would support the Minister of Foreign Affairs in licensing remote sensing satellites by providing advice on the potential impact of the satellite images on our security. DND would also provide threat assessments as the Minister of Foreign Affairs reviews agreements between the operators of remote sensing satellites and those who operate receiving stations on the ground or who want to sell images they produce.

Last, should it become clear that images from our satellites pose a threat to Canada, the Canadian Forces or our allies, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the national defence department could temporarily prevent a satellite from taking pictures of a specific area at a particular resolution. This is called shutter control and it can be invoked, but only under specific conditions to prevent the disclosure of information that could harm our interests or those of our allies.

I would stress that it is only the Minister of National Defence and the Minister of Foreign Affairs who can actually invoke this clause. I would also point out that the United States has this very same clause in its legislation and has never used it.

A second objective of our bill is to help ensure that the government has access to satellite imagery in emergency situations. In such cases, the legislation would give government requests for satellite images priority over other requests. The Canadian Forces, for example, might need a quick assessment and view, and they would get this information.

It is clear that the bill will help the government protect Canada's most fundamental interests, including sovereignty and security. It is clear that the government has done its homework in ensuring that the bill is a balanced one.

I will end by reminding my colleagues that Canada is far from alone in working to ensure that satellites are not used for the wrong purposes. Our friends in the United States have had similar legislation in place for over a decade. In 2000 Canada and the U.S. agreed that both countries would establish controls on remote sensing satellites, facilitating cooperation in Canada's RADARSAT-2 program. Several other countries are coming to similar conclusions about the unfettered distribution of satellite imagery.

I hope that this bill receives quick passage in the House and Parliament. To those who believe for a moment that this bill has anything to do with ballistic missile defence or with the so-called star wars program or the weaponization of space, it has nothing to do with either of those situations. I would emphasize for clarity that ballistic missile defence, the so-called star wars and the weaponization of space are entirely different situations.

The government has made it very clear that Canada is firmly against the weaponization of space. It is something that the Prime Minister, the Minister of National Defence and the Minister of Foreign Affairs have made abundantly clear time and time again. I want to assure the members of the public who are watching that this is a position we will not stray from.

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2004 / 1 p.m.
See context

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Madam Speaker, I am pleased this afternoon to have an opportunity to participate in the second reading of Bill C-25, an act governing the operation of remote sensing space systems. The short title, which also seems like a mouthful, is the remote sensing space systems act.

Although there may be some different perspectives in different corners of the House on exactly what we are dealing with here and what the potential is for good or for the opposite of good, there probably is agreement among all members that it is truly astounding, and it probably makes sense to acknowledge this, that we have such legislation to deal with such a matter.

I am not the only one in the House who can say this but I am old enough to realize that if someone had tried to talk about this, even in my university days, I would not have known what on earth they were talking about. In fact, the very existence of the kinds of satellites that are now hurtling around in the atmosphere would just simply not have been understood or even imagined. There is something a bit daunting and a bit sobering about the responsibility that falls to 308 members of Parliament to now get their heads around legislation to regulate remote sensing space systems. I want to read directly from the summary of the bill. It states:

--to ensure that their operation is neither injurious to national security, to the defence of Canada, to the safety of Canadian Forces or to Canada’s conduct of international relations nor inconsistent with Canada’s international obligations.

We are grappling with a very sobering responsibility.

I want to say at the outset that it would be the intention of my colleagues, the New Democratic Party caucus, to vote for the bill to go to committee. However it is equally our intention to comb through every single dotted i and crossed t of the bill and utilize the best expertise available, the broadest input possible from Canadians, to ensure we fully understand in precisely what way the bill can and will be used to serve those, on the surface of it, very laudable aims and objectives.

One of the reasons I think every member of the House needs to take this responsibility seriously is that we have seen over the last couple of years, in the name of “security”, truly terrifying things to which the government's legislation has now committed us and in which we are embroiled, to our national shame, and to the detriment of what anybody could remotely think of security in the real sense of the word.

I do not actually know who said this but I think it expresses very strongly the apprehensions, concerns and fears that a great many Canadians have, with good reason these days, to remind ourselves that a nation that seeks security through abandoning human rights is bound to end up achieving neither.

What we have watched happen over the last several years in the name of security clearly turned a deaf ear to the prophetic warning of Barbara Lee, the Afro-American congresswoman. In the aftermath of 9/11, when the American president divided the world into us and them and said, “You are either with Osama bin Laden or you are with George Bush”, as if there were no other choices to be made, the world instantly became a less safe place and highly polarized. The advice of Barbara Lee was that in our attempt to defeat terrorism we should not become the evil we deplore. This advice needs to be taken seriously by each and every one of us every single day and every waking moment.

Having said that, being an optimist and always taking my responsibility seriously, we have to ensure the legislation is a positive instrument of public policy and not something draconian or even unintentionally something vulnerable to exploitation, abuse, distortion and so on. I think an important starting point is to understand absolutely, not only the legitimacy of the legislation but why we need such legislation. Sometimes we stand in our place and say that we feel that even the purpose of the legislation that is being pursued is not a legitimate one and we would not vote for it to even go to second reading.

Legislation is a source of pride and we should remind ourselves that Canada is a world leader in remote sensing satellite technology. We do not introduce legislation for the sole and express purpose of ensuring that Canada remains a world leader, but that it can be an important byproduct and in turn can spell future opportunities and challenges for Canada as a whole, for Canadian scientists to contribute toward peaceful and positive purposes for which this technology is earmarked or directed.

However let us also be mindful that there is the potential for such legislation, primarily because of its vagueness, to go off the rails. Many Canadians, and I would include New Democrat members of Parliament among those Canadians, are deeply worried over the potential for this legislation becoming the cloak or the cover for something very different from its intended purposes.

I say that not meaning to accuse any individual member of Parliament of having such intent because he or she votes for the legislation. We will vote for the legislation to go to committee but, because of what can happen in the carrying out of the government's agenda on a parallel track, we could find that the advancing of the missile defence agenda creeps in and overtakes the intended purpose of the legislation that is now before us.

Let me go back to the face value of what this act is about. It would establish a licensing regime for remote sensing space systems and provide for restrictions of the distribution of data gathered by means of them. I want to add my voice to the concerns we have heard about the privacy of Canadians and the potential use of their data. The bill states that there will be appropriate restrictions and I think we need to hear more about that.

I listened to the parliamentary secretary's response to a question that we raised concerning the application of the Privacy Act, but I am still worried. I hope he will take the opportunity to elaborate further on that . It sounds as if we may have some real homework to do in terms of plugging some serious holes to ensure this proposed act will not lead to the invasion of privacy without proper protections.

I believe I understood the parliamentary secretary to say, and I will happily withdraw my words if I have misunderstood him, or the sense of the response was, that yes we are sensitive to privacy concerns, but that we had to remember that this was now a privatized operation, that it was in the commercial domain and that there was only so much we could do about it.

The first obvious response to that is that if the privacy concerns of Canadians cannot be absolutely assured and protected, then what in the name of heavens would we be doing agreeing to a commercialized privately operated operation for RADARSAT without that being an absolute condition. Perhaps the parliamentary secretary could provide some further assurance on that issue.

The summary of the bill goes on to state:

--the enactment gives special powers to the Government of Canada concerning priority access to remote sensing services and the interruption of such services.

The devil can be in the details.

Whether or not the kinds of powers that the bill assigns to government and the responsibilities of government in handling RADARSAT-2 are what they need to be will provide the answer as to whether it can be assured that there are protections that the legislation will in fact be used for its intended purpose. We do not want it to be exploited and to find that this is actually dragging us through a back door into a possible future participation in ballistic missile defence.

Canadians in greater and greater numbers are making it clear they want absolutely nothing to do with participation in Bush's missile defence initiative. It is becoming more clear that Canadians are saying no to Canadian participation in missile defence, but are saying yes to our federal government and Parliament providing leadership. Canadians want us to persuade Bush to say no to the militarization of space, the weaponization of space that is inherently built in to the missile defence trajectory that the U.S. government is now launched on.

For anyone who doubts that, the biggest mouthpieces for the Bush administration's policy are the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute. Those organizations have been on the front lines, in much the same way that the Fraser Institute and the C.D. Howe Institute have deliberately driven the evolution of the reform-alliance, and now no longer progressive conservative party. The Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute have had a major influence over foreign policy choices in general and the military agenda in particular of the Bush administration. They have been trumpeting missile defence.

Yesterday a spokesperson for the Heritage Foundation appeared before the foreign affairs committee. His testimony will be in the committee Hansard and it is important that people familiarize themselves with it. He said that from the perspective of the Heritage Foundation the issue of weaponization of space and the concerns about the possible militarization of space are ill-founded because, according to him, both are already true. We already have the militarization of space. As we speak, the weaponization of space is beginning to happen. It is not some distant concern.

The previous Liberal cabinet minister who was defeated, David Pratt, used to say, “I do not know why the NDP, why progressives in this country, why people who feel we should be investing in peace and not escalation of war, keep raising militarization of space as if it is a real concern”. For one thing, $200 billion has already been spent in missile defence evolution. Every year we can look at the U.S. budgets and we can see the allocation of resources, $10 billion this year alone, to further develop the weaponization of space.

David Pratt would say that nothing is going to happen on that front until at least the year 2010. What kind of timeline is that? What kind of vision is that? What kind of horizon of planning for the future protection of the human race is that?

I do not want to go too far afield in this but we need to face reality. The government either does not know where it is going on this matter, in which case it is high time it did, or it knows exactly where it wants to go on this and it is walking a tightrope that has a lot more to do with its own immediate electoral fortunes than it has to do with the kind of broad concern about what kind of leadership Canada is going to provide to the world to make sure we do not get on course to the weaponization of space.

Witness after witness appeared before the foreign affairs committee. It is hoped that there are Liberal members of Parliament who read the committee Hansard because hardly any of them are ever there to hear what is being said in regard to these matters. I find that deeply disturbing because I know there are a lot of Liberals who are very concerned at any possibility that they would be attached to a government that would plunge us into Bush's missile defence. However, there does not seem to be much of a presence in terms of expressing concern or of eliciting information and so on.

I want to say one other thing before I deal with a few of the specific concerns about the bill. Those who think it is paranoid to be concerned that this legislation might morph into something that was never intended should think about the anti-terrorism measures that were brought in with Bill C-36. They should think about, in the name of security, the kind of security certificates that are being issued today that absolutely trash human rights, trample civil rights, suspend the rule of law, suspend assumption of innocence, suspend any meaningful legal process. People's lives are being destroyed and are being held in abeyance but they face no charges and have no way to get out of that legal nightmare. Let us be careful that we do not pass legislation that gives powers that we cannot actually deal with in the regulations.

Coming back to the issue of ownership and use, let us be clear that this commercially owned satellite, RADARSAT-2, is billed by its manufacturer, MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates, as incorporating state of the art technology featuring the most advanced commercially available radar imagery in the world. I think that is true. We need to applaud that.

We need to be sure that that incredible capability is used for constructive, peaceful purposes. This means we need to take up the challenge to become world leaders even more so in verification matters as they relate to the development of weapons and armaments. Let us make sure that we do not redirect that kind of technology into areas that go against Canadian values and against the promises given.

Let us also be clear that Canadian taxpayers have funded approximately 75% of the development of this satellite. This is another reason that we have to have a major say around the assurances about how it is used and that the regulatory mechanism for doing it has to be used stringently.

It is important to note that RADARSAT International has sold imagery from RADARSAT-1 to the U.S. military in the past. Some of this information may have been used by the United States in its war in Iraq, a war in which Canada did not want to participate and a war in which we have no assurance we were not in fact complicit by having sold information to the U.S. military that aided and abetted the war in Iraq.

We need ironclad assurances about any possible future use of this legislation. It is very worrisome that the government saw the obvious link that one can make to the use of RADARSAT-2 as part of the U.S. ballistic missile defence system. The very first words out of departmental officials were to assure us that there is no connection between RADARSAT-2 and missile defence.

We need to make sure that those are not just empty assurances. We need to make sure that the provisions in the regulations and the actual content of the legislation is such that there is an ironclad guarantee that that is not what ends up happening to be the real use, if not even at this point the intended use, of RADARSAT-2 in the legislation that is now before us.

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActGovernment Orders

December 7th, 2004 / 11:55 a.m.
See context

Eglinton—Lawrence Ontario

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberalfor the Minister of Foreign Affairs

moved that Bill C-25, an act governing the operation of remote sensing space systems, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

December 2nd, 2004 / 3:05 p.m.
See context

Hamilton East—Stoney Creek Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, we will continue this afternoon with the opposition motion.

Tomorrow we will commence with the third reading debate of Bill C-5, the learning bonds legislation. When that is completed, we will return to the second reading debate of Bill C-22, the social development bill. We will then return to the second reading debate of Bill C-9, the Quebec development bill; followed by second reading of Bill C-25, respecting RADARSAT; reference to committee before second reading of Bill C-27, the food inspection bill; and second reading of Bill C-26, the border services bill.

On Monday and Tuesday we will start with report stage and third reading of Bill C-14, the Tlicho bill, before going back to unfinished business.

Pursuant to Standing Order 53(1) a take note debate on credit cards will take place on Tuesday evening, December 7.

The business on Wednesday will be second reading of a bill to be introduced tomorrow respecting parliamentary compensation.

Next Thursday shall be an allotted day.

Finally, the government made a commitment to Canadians to treat compensation of parliamentarians separately and apart from that of judges. It is quite logical to take that step in an independent bill that deals only with the compensation of parliamentarians and to deal with the question of judges in a subsequent bill.

The hon. member seems to suggest that parliamentarians and judges should be treated exactly the same. We think that Canadians recognize that their respective duties, tenure and roles are quite different and that in fact they should be dealt with differently and separately. That is why we will be introducing the bill on MP compensation and dealing with it next week.

Remote Sensing Space Systems ActRoutine Proceedings

November 23rd, 2004 / 10:05 a.m.
See context

Eglinton—Lawrence Ontario

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberalfor the Minister of Foreign Affairs

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-25, an act governing the operation of remote sensing space systems.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Financial Administration ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2004 / 5:55 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal 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 ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2004 / 5:20 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member covered a fair bit of ground but not very much on Bill C-8. I want to make some comments about Bill C-25, the modernization of the public service.

Having been a member of the government operations and estimates committee since it was created some two and a half years ago and having served as its chair and currently as its vice-chair, I can say that the process we have been going through, starting with Bill C-25, has been a very complicated one because it has been 20 years since the public service renewal process was looked at.

The experts who have looked at this and the studies that were done over a two year period prior to the creation of the legislation, brought forward a bill that was not even the full strategy for the renewal of the public service. It went as far as the experts felt we could go in one swoop. Bill C-25 included within it two embedded bills. It was so complicated that very few people had the patience to go through the enormous binder of legislation.

The member seemed to indicate that the PSAC had made a number of recommendations that were rejected. The fact is that the PSAC recommendations were not rejected. They were not presented to the committee until the day that it was going through clause by clause. It was never proposed by any member of the committee to amend the legislation. Therefore the committee did not reject PSAC's proposals. I think I was the only member who actually proposed some changes, some having to do with civil servants seeking public office, some having to do with oaths of office and other matters like that.

I would simply say that this is a technical bill that would give effect to an order in council decision that has been made. There is no new money and no changes in responsibilities but it starts to clarify the position with regard to who is management and who is representing the employees. The problem is that the Public Service Commission still has two hats. It still is an employer and it still has representation in employee responsibilities, and that will not be resolved until we go through the next wave of public service renewal, which may be some five years down the road.

I raise for the member's comment and consideration that our job is not over. This is a work in progress. It has taken us a number of years already to bring us this far and there are many areas to go. Whistleblowing is another bill but it certainly is part of it in terms of addressing the culture issues that I raised earlier with another member. I am pretty sure the committee will address the concerns after we hear the witnesses.

However the government operations and estimates committee already received the bill in the last Parliament, had full witnesses and was prepared to deal with the bill then. Unfortunately, the House rose for the election and now we are dealing with it again.

However I want to assure the member that there is an appetite within the committee, not only to properly address the issues related to the whistleblowing issue, but to continue to work and to invest in improving management-labour relations as well as to boast about the excellent public service that Canada does have.

Financial Administration ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2004 / 5:05 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the electors of Burnaby—New Westminster for their support on June 28. I would also like to underline the good work of organizations in my riding, such as the Hyack Festival, the New Westminster and District Labour Council and the New Westminster Chamber of Commerce.

I welcome the opportunity to present my views and those of my New Democratic Party colleagues on Bill C-8, an act to amend the Financial Administration Act, the Canada School of Public Service Act and the Official Languages Act. I would like to provide some background on the bill.

In November 2003 the Public Service Modernization Act, Bill C-25, received royal assent. The main intent of the legislation was to modernize the human resources management in the public service by adding the concept of merit, implementing a more flexible staffing system, incorporating learning activities, and this may seem hard to believe given the current state of affairs, improving labour management relations. The NDP supported Bill C-25 in principle but in the end voted against it.

Overwhelmingly, workers in the trade union movement, including the Public Service Alliance of Canada, strongly opposed many aspects of Bill C-25. The government refused to take into consideration their concerns and defeated at committee stage a number of progressive amendments. These amendments mainly dealt with the security of workers.

In came the new Liberal regime and on December 12, 2003, the Liberal government established by decree, or order in council, the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada as well as its functions. The agency was placed within the Treasury Board portfolio.

Government contended that the agency was the next logical step for implementing the Public Service Modernization Act, but since the agency was created by order in council, government had to follow up with Bill C-8, which was tabled this month, to confirm by legislative means the decree of the Prime Minister. This is therefore a technical or mechanical bill, as some would call it, which does not modify the functions or the powers given to the agency but which clarifies the role of the agency in the system.

The government maintains that Bill C-8 will allow for better integration of activities relating to the management of human resources within the sphere of operation of the Treasury Board. The government also maintains that this bill will ensure greater visibility of the agency inside and outside public services.

The bill adds the position of president of the agency but says nothing about the terms and remuneration of the president. I hope we can clarify this with officials at the committee stage.

More important, Bill C-8 confirms a potential significant delegation of powers to the president of the agency. The Treasury Board is relegated to the role of coordinator of the activities of the Treasury Board Secretariat, the president of the agency and of the new office of the comptroller of Canada. This office was reinstated after being canned by the Mulroney Conservatives in the early 1990s.

Given the track record of the Treasury Board on human resources issues, this may be a good idea after all. Maybe labour-management relations would finally improve, but it is fair to say it would be difficult for them to be worse. Bill C-8 keeps the door open to Treasury Board involvement. This makes me wonder about the capacity of the Treasury Board to effectively follow up and coordinate what it is supposed to coordinate. Perhaps some in the government think it would be a good thing to combine a junior partner and a senior partner to effectively deal with human resources issues.

Perhaps as part of the study of the bill in committee we should file access to information requests, targeting existing surveys and reports on job satisfaction at the Treasury Board. That information, I believe, would prove to be very interesting.

The president of the agency is provided with lots of powers over human resources management and human resources issues, in fact, as many as the President of the Treasury Board wishes to transfer, including employment equity issues, ethics, and powers conferred under the Public Service Employment Act.

Given all that, would it not then be appropriate that government consult with Parliament before appointing the president of the agency? Why then not make the president of the agency an officer of Parliament? After all, this is supposed to be an independent agency. I would like to see an amendment to that effect in proposed subsection 3.1.

Once again, this is a technical bill. We are trying very sincerely to find valid reasons to support it.

However we must be absolutely certain, first, that the government is not building up unnecessary expenses. The underlying philosophy of Bill C-8, in its potential implicit and explicit costs, must be assessed or reassessed and scrutinized at committee stage.

We must be sure that this will not entail wasteful spending by the government.

Was there any prior consultation on this agency? None that I know of at least. There is no substantial background documentation. One must wonder whether we are making things up on the go.

Is it improvising first and trying to justify the decision afterward?

The onus is on the government to make and prove its case. How can we respect the credibility of the Liberal government on those issues when we all know its dismal record in human resources management. Certainly with the public sector strikes this fall, the fact that many of the contracts were delayed and negotiations left public sector workers without contracts up to a year and a half, the fact of a fall in real wages of public sector workers who have lost about 10% of their real wages over the past 10 years, and the fact that table 2, the one salary survey that was done, showed a wage gap of 20% between public sector workers employed by the Government of Canada and those in the other public and private sectors. All of those facts indicate that there is a serious issue around human resources management and the lack of respect with which the government treats public sector workers.

I have many other questions about Bill C-8. I would like to find out what it will really mean for us and better understand its consequences for the public service.

Is the government attempting to clean up the mess created by the multiple scandals and abuses of the political purse? Is the agency just a smokescreen or an effective tool for management, or maybe, as I mentioned, it is just an improvisation?

First, an agency was announced last December. Then the government created the evidence for its need. Why would the civil service be better off with this scheme? We need evidence. How will the agency affect other departments? We need evidence. How would this agency ensure a better service from and a better treatment of civil servants. We also need evidence.

As an hon. member already mentioned, the Treasury Board website provides an elaborate plan of action for this agency. On paper it looks fantastic. However, the real challenge will be to demonstrate that these changes will translate into positive and tangible results with respect to the way the government does business. That has not yet happened. It will take years after Bill C-8 is adopted to find out whether the outcome is good for the people of Canada.

We must think of the challenge in trying to hold the government accountable to all of this. Again, there is no guarantee that this will work. The government has shown that it has difficulty in many respects controlling its own departments. How can it control the proliferation of agencies and related outcomes? The more separate places that exist, the less transparency we will have and the more difficult it may become to have effective control.

We are concerned about the proliferation of agencies. The Auditor General herself has commented on the lack of control and on the lack of accountability mechanisms. From Genome Canada, $375 million were poured in for just a few dozen genomic research positions, to the Canada Foundation for Innovation and many others. These agencies are not under the same scrutiny. There is always the same pattern, a small overworked staff relying on outsiders, and none of that is subject to Treasury Board accountability and regulation.

We know the Treasury Board regulations themselves are in serious need of overhaul given the scandals during the election campaign, for example, the expenses for staff at Citizenship and Immigration who were put up in hotels here in Ottawa according to Treasury Board guidelines. It was a cost to taxpayers of more than $30,000.

I am not saying that these agencies do not do good work. I am sure that many competent and dynamic Canadian men and women work hard in them. Still, there is taxpayers' money involved, and these agencies do not really have the means for supervision and monitoring.

There is much talk about the all wonderful program activity architecture, or PAA, to regulate accountability and record it. The PAA went ahead with virtually no documentation, no policy backgrounder and no consultation, again making things up on the go. I would not be the least surprised that not all government departments and agencies have officially submitted their PAA with the signature of the relevant minister.

I have another major concern. How will all of this affect the venerable Public Service Commission? We heard, during the introduction of Bill C-8, the President of the Treasury Board state that the Public Service Commission of Canada was moving away from a managerial role to an auditing role.

Effectively, through Bill C-11, the whistleblowing legislation that is currently before committee, the Treasury Board is giving the public commission a new mandate which is to deal with wrongdoing and whistleblowing in the public service.

The government decided not to create an independent body when in the case of whistleblowing there is indeed a compelling case in favour of creating an independent body to oversee the application of this important legislation. Responding to more calls for an independent whistleblowing agency, the Treasury Board president stated at committee that we should be working to modernize existing rules and procedures rather than add a new body to the public service. That begs the following question: Why is the government then creating a human resources agency when it clearly did not provide the rock solid evidence that was needed? Why is the government refusing to create an independent oversight agency for whistleblowing when there is compelling and overwhelming evidence in favour of such an agency?

I have more. During its presentation to the committee on Bill C-11, the Treasury Board admitted that by giving the mandate to deal with whistleblowing to the Public Service Commission, Bill C-11 would create a conflict of interest situation since the Public Service Commission, a body that holds executive powers over the public service, such as hiring staff, would also have to answer complaints of wrongdoings.

Does this confirm that the government is bent on stripping the Public Service Commission from its hiring powers? We already know that the HR agency proposed by Bill C-8 could be the recipient of many of those powers. Is the President of the Treasury Board paving the way for legitimizing the new HR agency that Bill C-8 would entrench into legislation?

It is strange that, while this government has so far been opposed to the creation of an independent agency to monitor whistleblowing, the same government has not succeeded in demonstrating that the agency created by Bill C-8 is necessary.

Canadians know full well that only an independent agency, operating outside the government, can effectively guarantee that public servants who blow the whistle on wrongdoings will truly be protected.

The government has said no. But this is simply a question of common sense. Unless, of course, someone is trying to protect the minister from the employees and not the other way around.

In fact, there could be an even better solution for whistleblowing supervision. Why not give such a mandate to the Auditor General? It would be a natural extension of the mandate of the Auditor General, not the job of the Public Service Commission or a human resources commission. This would mean that we may not even need to spend money on another independent agency since independence is the middle name for the Auditor General's office. It would be a win-win for our rights as Canadian citizens and a win-win for civil servants and taxpayers.

The non-partisan, venerable and effective Public Service Commission is losing influence due to the proliferation of agencies. Why are we tampering and improvising from one patchwork to the next and weakening government institutions?

We owe it to the taxpayers, the civil servants and the citizens of Canada to question the rationale for the creation of the human resources agency and to ask for evidence that its creation will actually address problems and not create them, and relate all arguments to the basic question: Why another agency if the government has difficulty controlling existing agencies and departments?

The case for the human resources agency proposed by the Prime Minister in December 2003, and which Bill C-8 seeks to legitimize, has yet to be made. I am looking forward to having all of these questions answered at committee.

Financial Administration ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2004 / 4:40 p.m.
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Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-8, whose purpose is to make legislative corrections to ensure the implementation of the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency, which was created last December, if I am not mistaken. The main objective of Bill C-8 is to reconcile three acts, namely the Financial Administration Act, the School of Public Service Act and the Official Languages Act.

At the start, I will say that even though the Bloc Québécois is not entirely satisfied with certain aspects of Bill C-8, we will support the principle of it. I think that it is important to say this right from the beginning for those who are watching us, especially Treasury Board officials who must ask themselves the question. Now they know. They will be able to continue with their tasks or perform others.

That being said, the specifics that we would like to see in Bill C-8 will focus on what I will say now. For example, we read on page 3 of Bill C-8:

(b) section 6 is amended by adding the following after subsection (4):

(4.1) The Treasury Board may, subject to any terms and conditions that it considers appropriate, delegate to the President of the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada

(a) any of the powers or functions in relation to human resources management, official languages--

You will see that, for us, in this bill, everything that has do to with official languages deserves to be specified.

This deals with the Financial Administration Act. Concerning the Official Languages Act, it says:

  1. Section 47 of the Official Languages Act is replaced by the following:

  2. The President of the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada shall provide the Commissioner with any audit reports that are prepared pursuant to paragraph 46(2)(d).

Consequently, under clause 47, the president of the agency is replacing the president of Treasury Board, who, until now, was the one who had to report annually.

Before I go any further, I need to explain a bit about the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada. and how it will ensure modernization of everything the President of the Treasury Board has said, as well as application of the Official Languages Act.

It would be pretentious to claim to have been searching the Internet, but my assistant has done so to get some information on the agency referred to in this bill. I will read a few excerpts about the agency from Part II. I will comment on them as I go along. You will see that, even in a minority government, they do not suffer from humility. No humility for the Liberals.

The first raison d'être of the agency is set out in a nice little box as follows:

Our raison d'être is to modernize, and to foster continuing excellence in people management and leadership across the public service.

No problem with that, but the problem arises with the second quote.

Thus, the Agency will serve Canadians by striving for--

Hon. members have probably heard the expression “the bestest in the world ” in connection with our public service. In fact everything done in Canada is so described. We do nothing by halves. So, I have added a few words but the quote is officially:

--a workforce and a workplace second to none.

As you can see, there is no humility in this document, nor in this government. They will learn, slowly but surely, in the transition from majority to minority position, from a grand total of x members to x minus all the defeated candidates.

What we want is an efficient and effective public service, and one that is above all respected. I think that those working in our public service deserve better. I was joking about the public service being the bestest in the world, but the public servants in our respective ridings would never write like that. They have far too much respect for their work, and so do I.

I think that this is from the Treasury Board website, not the bill, but certain aspects might be corrected.

Later in the Treasury Board document we read:

Our strategic outcome is a modern, professional public service dedicated to the public interest and supporting ministers in democratic governance, representative of the Canadian public and serving Canadians with excellence in the official language of their choice, with employees effectively and ethically led in a high quality work environment respectful of their linguistic rights.

I will return to the official languages. With respect to ethics, some names have been overlooked, such as Guité and Tremblay, those who were implicated in the sponsorship scandal. Still that is what the Treasury Board Web site says about this agency.

Later on, in Part III, entitled Planning Overview, we read this:

While TBS continues to focus on compensation, labour relations, and pensions and benefits, the PSC focuses on staffing and the Canada School of Public Service (CSPS) focuses on learning and training services. As a result, the Agency works very closely with each of these partners—

Therefore they set up groups to implement the necessary action. The Treasury Board Secretariat was the agency that was supposed to ensure that everything was going well. This is now delegated to the agency. That is another thing that makes complicating accountability and responsibility in this government possible, but not for the first time. I am sure there was no malicious intent and that the president of Treasury Board at the time was not trying to dilute information by creating the agency. And the same is true of the foundations.

Later, on page 15 of the document, under the heading, “Achieve and preserve official language commitments...”

Following the restructuring of the Government on December 12, 2003, the Agency is responsible for directing and coordinating the official languages policies and programs for the 196 institutions subject to the Official Languages Act.

As a result, through its Official Languages Branch, the Agency will continue to oversee—

I will come back to that later. If the agency oversees the same way the Treasury Board Secretariat did, it will not continue to oversee very well.

—and foster the establishment of an environment that effectively supports each institution in the integration of official languages into the workplace—

This is how it should be in this country. It is important to point out that this is not a speech written by the Bloc Québécois. I am quoting from the Treasury Board Secretariat, under the heading “Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada”. A little further, under the heading “A Representative and Accessible Public Service” the document says:

Progress towards employment equity and a more bilingual public service must continue in order for the government to meet its commitments to deliver effective quality services to Canadians and to develop a workplace respectful of diversity and linguistic duality.

The last two quotes are real gems. They should be included in the annals of the House. Indeed, we read the following on official languages:

On both fronts, considerable progress has been reported over the years. Achievements remain fragile or stagnant, however, and further improvements have to be made.

According to the Treasury Board Secretariat, “considerable progress has been reported”. The last quote is found under the heading “Key Priorities and Results for Canadians” and reads as follows:

The Agency will continue to strive for targeted improvements in employment equity—

This is also true for official languages.

What worries the Bloc Québécois and what worries me personally is when we read that the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada will continue to apply and take pride in the good results and progress achieved in official languages. At the same time, I made four complaints to the Treasury Board Secretariat and all four were deemed in order. These four complaints, which I submitted a year ago, are basically saying that the Treasury Board Secretariat is not complying with the Official Languages Act.

The complaints also say that the Treasury Board Secretariat is not accountable for or serious about its responsibility regarding the enforcement of the Official Languages Act in the various departments. The Treasury Board Secretariat is ignoring a number of regulations it put in place itself. Moreover, the Treasury Board Secretariat—the parliamentary secretary is listening and will certainly support what I am saying, otherwise she would contradict me during the period for questions and comments—has not delivered the accountability required under the Official Languages Act.

In one of the complaints I made, it was said, and I quote:

Regarding exclusion approval orders, if positions in the public service are designated bilingual, such positions or the person in those positions may be excluded from any language requirement, under certain exclusions or certain exclusion characteristics, including continuous service.

In the federal jargon, what is meant by exclusion as the result of a person being in continuous service? It is an order stating that anyone who, before April 6, 1966, had accumulated at least ten years of continuous service and who, since then, has been in continuous service, is excluded from language requirements. To meet such a requirement, and this is still in force, the person must have had 48 years of service in the public service as of April 2004. I bet you cannot find more than two or three of those, Mr. Speaker—and I am certain you are not one of them.

However, the Public Service Commission was monitoring the Official Languages Act provisions and the Treasury Board Secretariat was monitoring compliance with the Official Languages Act. The language rights of francophone communities have been ignored. I am not talking about the number of incomplete files, 2,521 in all—which is not much. According to the Treasury Board annual report, 2,521 persons hold a designated bilingual position in the public service. However we do not know if they comply with their hiring criteria, because their files are incomplete. Groupaction probably took care of their files. That is why they are incomplete.

Following that, I filed another complaint, which said that the Treasury Board is not properly carrying out its responsibilities as far as its supervisory obligations are concerned and which was also deemed in order.

Filling bilingual positions is quite another matter. I used to be our official languages critic, something I found both interesting and important. Therefore, I can tell the House that, since French-speaking Canadians account for close to 25% of the population, about 25% of the jobs are designated bilingual. I think that is quite normal. To fill a bilingual position—quite obviously—one needs to be bilingual. So far, so good.

Did you know, for instance, that over 60% of all jobs designated bilingual in the armed forces are held by unilingual people? That complaint was also deemed in order. I am not talking about 2% or 3%, but rather 60% of jobs designated bilingual being held by unilingual people. Throughout the public service, around 16% of jobs designated bilingual are held by unilingual people. I will not tell you what language they speak, I am going to let you guess.

I used to like to ask the previous President of the Treasury Board the following question, and I might put the same question to the current President of the Treasury Board: how many lawyers in the justice department are not really lawyers? How many income tax experts at the finance department are not really tax experts? None.

So why is it that unilingual people are hired to fill jobs designated bilingual as long as they undertake to taking language courses at some point in the future. That is still going on. Does the parliamentary secretary agree with me?

Why not hire social workers to fill lawyers' jobs suggesting they take the appropriate courses to become a lawyer at some point in the future? Why not hire mechanics to fill tax experts' jobs suggesting they take the appropriate courses at some point in the future? Positions are designated as such because they are important.

Why is what is important for a tax expert or a lawyer is not important for a francophone? I would really like someone to answer that some day.

Had the President of the Treasury Board given the agency, through Bill C-8, constraining powers, a real role in terms of accountability, perhaps the Official Languages Act could have started to be respected and enforced, after 35 years. But no, as I indicated earlier, quoting from the Internet site of the Treasury Board Secretariat, they will continue to be content with whatever progress is made.

Sixty per cent of designated bilingual positions in the Canadian Forces are held by unilingual individuals. Sixteen per cent of designated bilingual positions in the public service are held by unilingual individuals. Yet, the boasting is continuing. In making changes to legislation, attention ought to be paid to this sort of thing.

More specifically, in Bill C-8, special attention could have been paid to respecting the Official Languages Act. But no, instead the name of the President of the Treasury Board is replaced with that of the president of the agency, which will continue as before without changing a thing. They are even proud of doing nothing; they are proud when they receive complaints.

The complaints I have filed were not about not having been served in the language of my choice somewhere in Saskatoon. The complaints were against the Treasury Board Secretariat as a whole. I had complaints against DND as a whole. It is not about the priest from Bagotville, in the Lac-Saint-Jean region, who could not work in Moose Jaw, if I am not mistaken, because he was not allowed to speak French on a base that was supposed to be bilingual.

My complaints do not concern a single individual contravening the act in one place. They concern an entire government ignoring the Official Languages Act. At the same time, the Conservatives are telling us that the OLA is too constraining for unilingual individuals. That is the position of the Conservatives.

I cannot wait for the day when more francophones will fill designated bilingual positions in a department. Just try to find a unilingual English position filled by a francophone and you will see that he will have to change jobs quite rapidly. This is not the situation today.

The government will make the legislative reconciliation that must be made to Bill C-8, so this will apply, since it was created in 2000. Perhaps there are other improvements that could be made.

Before concluding, I would be remiss if I did not pay tribute to my colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville. I could have talked more about this, but, in this bill, we must refer specifically to everything that has to do with whistleblower legislation, with Bill C-25 concerning the modernization of the public service, which I did not do.

So, as I said, all this will enable my colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville to be heard on Bill C-451, which she introduced during previous Parliament and which deals with harassment in the workplace. I talked at length about official languages, but I can also talk about this. Harassment in the workplace affects one public servant out of five, according to a 2002 survey of 95,000 public servants.

This is why my colleague from Terrebonne—Blainville introduced a bill to protect victims of psychological and other types of harassment. First, the text defines psychological harassment and abuse of power and then it requires the federal public administration to provide public servants with a harassment-free workplace.

I believe that, if the government protects public servants from psychological harassment, if it allows public servants, through Bill C-11, to disclose wrongdoings in their department and their workplace, and if, on occasion, it complied with the Official Languages Act, Bill C-8 would modernize the public service and the government machinery in a positive way.

Financial Administration ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2004 / 4:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I suppose relevance is something we could invoke every now and then since we are talking about whistleblowing under Bill C-8. With regard to Bill C-8, the member has already stated that the bill is to basically enact an order in council decision and it likely will receive the support of the House.

The member is a retired civil servant. I thought I would ask him about an issue or a matter that came up when we did Bill C-25, the modernization of the public service. It was with regard to the culture of the civil service, that there was a bias or a cynicism about change and whether or not the change was going to be accepted and acted upon.

The reaction from the witnesses seemed to sustain the fact, or at least the allegation, that the culture of cynicism was still in the public service, one reason being that the Public Service Modernization Act was the first piece of legislation in some 20 years. Would the member care to comment briefly on the culture within the Canadian civil service?

Financial Administration ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2004 / 4:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Reg Alcock Liberal Winnipeg South, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member's question goes to the heart of a number of issues with which we have been struggling for some time. He is absolutely right. I think it is fairly evident that some of the processes that we use to manage in government, not just in human resources but in a variety of areas, become somewhat time worn and in need of modernization.

I keep talking about this as the modernization of public management. It represents trends that are going on around the world. We have seen over the years that some of the ways in which we try to solve problems in public management have fallen out of step with the realities of trying to make decisions. Some of our checks and balances in the systems that we have traditionally used to provide checks and balances have become so onerous that they defeat the purpose for which they were first put in place.

A lot of the discussion that has gone on has been how, in a very large organization such as the Government of Canada, do we create a regime that gives us the oversight capacity that we want but allows us to function in a way that really is in real time.

I will give one very real example. This bill is an outcropping of an earlier suite of legislation, which was Bill C-25 three years ago. The bill concerned the modernization of government. One of the examples was when we wanted to recruit the best and the brightest. We went out into the community and told young Canadians that there were careers for them in the public service. However, once we identified someone, we found that it was taking six months before we could offer the person a job. That is unrealistic in today's world. The kids are scooped up immediately. The government was falling behind in its capacity to recruit.

When we look at some of the things, it is just too easy in a place that is built on the kind of conflict that exists here to ignore the needs of people. It is always easy to cut internally and make the public service bear the burden for some of our problems. Many of us recognized that what we needed was an organization that focused on quality in the public service, the development of our human resource because it is so vitally important to the quality of the work that gets done, and that we should de-chain that a bit from the oversight.

The Public Service Commission came into existence, I believe, in 1917 or 1918, to provide protection against political interference and nepotism in hiring. Its central role was to act as a check and balance to unmanaged political activity.

That is an important role and it is a role that needs to be fulfilled. We have made some changes in the Public Service Commission to strengthen it in that role. However, at the same time we need someone who is paying a lot of attention to a labour force that is big, where people are moving from department to department. The reason the agency came into being was to give you a guarantee, Mr. Speaker, that these things would be managed in a responsible and as positive and proactive a way as possible.

I would invite the member, if he wishes, to meet with me at any time on this. I love talking about it.

Financial Administration ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2004 / 3:55 p.m.
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Winnipeg South Manitoba

Liberal

Reg Alcock LiberalPresident of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board

moved 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 read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand before the House today to move second reading of the bill aimed at giving legislative confirmation to the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada which was created by orders in council as a result of the government reorganization of December 12.

As hon. members know, on December 12, 2003, the Prime Minister made some significant changes to the government structure and organization. The reorganization was intended primarily to advance the priorities of Canadians by improving services and their delivery, but also by making sure that the government has the tools it needs to restore the confidence of Canadians in their public service to sound fiscal management, more rigorous allocation of resources and, above all, implementation of the highest standards of ethics, openness, transparency, accountability and reporting to Parliament.

Such goals cannot be achieved without a modern, professional and responsible public service that is dedicated to the public interest, that is representative of the Canadian public and that serves Canadians with excellence in the official language of their choice.

To achieve these goals, we also need employees who are guided and supported effectively, and in accordance with the highest ethical standards in an effective workplace that is empowering, healthy and respectful of employees' language rights.

In other words, we need an outstanding workforce and a workplace guided and supported by effective and responsible human resource management throughout the public service, the kind of management that reflects best practices in this field.

That is why the government created the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada as part of its reorganization of December 12, 2003.

Created by orders in council, beginning with the transfer of certain functions of the Treasury Board Secretariat and the Public Service Commission, the agency has taken up the functions it needs to modernize and foster ongoing excellence in human resources management and leadership throughout the public service.

For example, with functions that have been transferred to it, the agency will oversee the effective implementation of the Public Service Modernization Act, which received royal assent in November 2003.

It will also work to set up integrated systems for human resources planning, oversight and accountability purposes across the public service.

It will encourage the training of highly skilled leaders who are guided by the highest accountability and ethical standards, and who are evaluated against those standards.

Last, it will continue to make targeted improvements in the area of employment equity and to promote linguistic duality, while putting in place better monitoring and reporting systems that will make results more accessible and transparent for Canadians.

The agency will thus 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 consistently 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.

This is a turning point in the history of the administration of the public service which, for the first time, has a separate agency responsible for human resources management.

The work performed in the public service is of great value to the government and to Canadians. A highly effective public service contributes to the social, economic and cultural well-being of Canadians, as well as to their health and security. It also constitutes a competitive advantage in the global economy. Such a public service is made of men and women who devote their lives to serving the public interest and the Canadian public, and who promote fairness, justice, health and democratic vitality.

The best way to recognize their contribution, which will require increased effort in order to achieve excellence, is to give this new agency a legislative base. That is why I am presenting this bill today. Its purpose is simply to confirm the agency's existence through legislation.

Let us be clear on one thing. The bill does not in any way change the powers or functions already conferred on the agency by orders in council. The bill only enshrines in legislation what already exists in fact.

Essentially the bill does the following: first, it adds 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 the act.

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

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

Although they are relatively modest additions to the Financial Administration Act, these amendments constitute a key step for public service administration. With this bill, the agency would benefit from having a legislative basis that sets out more clearly and visibly, both inside and outside the public service, its role and relationships within the portfolio of the Treasury Board and with the Treasury Board in its role as employer.

As a result of the addition of the office of the president of the agency through the Financial Administration Act, the bill would require two correlative amendments: an amendment to the Canada School of the Public Service Act to appoint the president of the agency as an ex-officio member of the school's board of governors, replacing the president of the Public Service Commission; and an amendment to the Official Languages Act to stipulate that it is the president of the agency, rather than the Treasury Board Secretary, who will provide the Commissioner of Official Languages with any audit reports that are prepared under the responsibility of the Treasury Board.

I want to stress the fact that, in addition to demonstrating the importance the government places on human resources management, the bill would also permit: first, the clarification of the perceived role of the agency within the system, including unions, and in particular of its relationships within the portfolio of the Treasury Board and with the Treasury Board in its role as employer; second, the better integration of activities relating to human resources management within the Treasury Board portfolio; and third, a greater visibility for the agency, both within and outside the public service, facilitating implementation of its policies, programs and services.

I would like to remind the House that the bill concerns the government's most precious resource, its employees, people who are in the service of Canadians.

I would remind members that as we advance into the 21st century, setting up a true human resources management agency for the federal public service, which is also the biggest employer in Canada, sends an unequivocal signal to all managers, public servants and union reps that sound human resources management is a priority for the Government of Canada.

Mr. Speaker, you will recall as a member of the this chamber the debate that took place on the original Bill C-25, the Public Service Modernization Act. The member to my left was heavily involved in the discussions.

We examined what we believe is a fundamental change in how we organize ourselves around the services we provide to our employees. I have said many times that all organizations lose when they do not pay attention to the people who work for them, that sound human resources management is not simply a matter of checks and balances over hiring, as was the foundation of the original Public Service Commission, but in the modern era it is bringing the tools of sound resources planning, helping people with their own career planning and helping to meet their education needs.

We talk a lot in the House about the need for continuous improvement and life long learning. In government we need a focus for those services, an organization that spends its time working with our employees, with government, agencies and departments to determine their needs and constantly thinking down the road as to how we can become better at what we do as we serve Canadians.

In doing that, we are always caught in this chamber with dual roles, of promoting good quality services to Canadians and also providing a level of oversight that guarantees to the people of Canada that resources are being dealt with properly, that we are paying close attention to the public purse, and that we are managing as efficiently and effectively as we can.

This is a discussion that came up on Bill C-11, an evolution in the role of the Public Service Commission. As we are discussing the legislation that puts in place and empowers the situation to deal with whistleblowing, we have talked a lot of how the role of the Public Service Commission, which traditionally has been the employing authority for government, is evolving and how it relates to other activities in government. This is another piece of that structure.

I believe that after 32 years of working within the existing structure, the government spent some two years studying, speaking to experts from all across the country, looking closely at how it managed its human resources, and then it made a decision that it would separate the functions and create an agency whose focus it was to spend its time working with our employees to ensure that they got the very best that they needed to do their job, the very best training, the very best services, and the very best support.

I think the public servants who are running the agency at this point and who have begun to give life to this vision have done an extraordinary job in a very short period of time at pulling together the resources they need to implement this vision. They believe it will take another year or two before things are up and running fully in the way that is envisioned. And that was contemplated in the act. Then we will come back to the House and ask the House if there is a provision there to review these decisions at the end of that period.

However what is fundamentally important about this is that it is a long overdue change. We spend too much time examining the problems, and rightly so. We need to look at the things that create problems. We need to look at the areas where there is always a need for improvement. We spend too little time celebrating the fact that there are 450,000 Canadians who do very good work on behalf of the citizens of this country and they deserve our support, encouragement and assistance every day.

Public Servants Disclosure Protection ActGovernment Orders

October 14th, 2004 / 1 p.m.
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Conservative

Joe Preston Conservative Elgin—Middlesex—London, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today for the first time in the House to speak to Bill C-11. First, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the great people of Elgin—Middlesex—London for electing me to the House. I will endeavour to provide the service that I know they deserve.

Let me now speak to the bill at hand. Bill C-11 is called whistleblower legislation. In an ideal world, we would not need protection for our workers because the workplace would be free of wrongdoing. Sadly, this is not the case today. With workplace wrongdoing, a more and more common occurrence, we must have in place a solid plan to ensure that workers who come forward to report wrongdoing are protected.

I will speak to the reprisal piece. We can reasonably expect that men and women of goodwill and conscience will take effort to stop wrongdoing as they see it happen, but only as long as the workplace climate is such that the person attempting to stop the wrongdoing is not endangering his or her employment comfort either now or in the future. It is not easy to report wrongdoing. Recent background shows examples of public servants, like Mr. Cutler, being subjected to a reign of terror.

The Liberal government came to power in 1993 promising whistleblower legislation. It then ignored that promise. Since 1999, many attempts have been made to correct that.

Confronted with the sponsorship scandal, the government introduced Bill C-25 in March. Bill C-25 was widely criticized as an ineffective legislation that would actually discourage whistleblowing. Bill C-25 is the basis for this legislation. Let us see what is in Bill C-11.

In reality, this bill contains all the same problems as the last version. Bill C-11 was to be a major revision of Bill C-25, which was universally panned in the last Parliament.

Public servants will not be encouraged to disclose wrongdoing to the president of the Public Service Commission as they see that position as part of senior management. This bill does not allow the person receiving disclosures to report directly to Parliament. The president of the Public Service Commission would report to a minister, who would then table the report within 15 days. This process creates the same kind of interference that has apparently taken place in the past.

This bill also allows cabinet to add any agency or crown corporation or department to a list that is excluded from this act. This allows government to exclude public servants from protection of retribution when they disclose wrongdoing.

Like Bill C-25, Bill C-11 sets no punishment for those who make reprisals against whistleblowers. Also as with Bill C-25, in Bill C-11 only those who make disclosures through the prescribed channels and whose disclosures meet specific criteria are protected. This sounds like controlling disclosures, not facilitating them.

In conclusion, I could support an act that creates a truly independent body to receive and investigate disclosures made by the public servants. This is an act that falls short and it must be fixed.

Public Servants Disclosure Protection ActGovernment Orders

October 14th, 2004 / 12:45 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to speak to Bill C-11, the first bill to which I have spoken in the House. I would like to take the opportunity to thank my constituents from Burnaby and New Westminster for having elected me to this august body on June 28, 2004.

I would like to take the opportunity to stress, as my colleague from Winnipeg Centre has, the importance of the legislation for good governance. This is legislation that has been repeatedly promised by successive Liberal governments, first in the red book of 1993, which, as we know, promised the protection of civil servants as a result of the scandals that plagued the Mulroney government.

It was again promised with Bill C-25, which was introduced in the spring of 2002, 11 years later, which was in fact a bill that, to quote my colleague from Winnipeg Centre who has done a tremendous amount of work on this issue, was more aimed at protecting ministers from whistleblowers than whistleblowers from ministers. One can understand the rationale, given that the current scandals that affect the Liberal government are handsomely competing with those of the Conservative government that preceded it.

Bill C-25 had major flaws. All critics agreed that it failed miserably in creating a sense of security to whistleblowers. It failed to cover political staff, the RCMP and national security bureaucrats. It discouraged civil servants from coming out to expose corruption. In fact, when the bill was reintroduced in 2004, some of my colleagues from the 37th Parliament received anonymous calls from public servants who wanted to come out with more information on corruption but who were discouraged by the bill.

Bill C-25 died a good death on the order paper with the 2004 federal election and, of course, whistleblowing legislation was promised again in the Liberal platform. Now we have another reincarnation with Bill C-11.

This new version is indeed improved but I have concerns. There are structural deficiencies which would prevent the desired effect of such a bill, which is to clean up the corruption in government while protecting civil servants. As long as civil servants believe that their organizational culture does not protect them from reprisals or may in fact support reprisal, they will be deterred from coming forward to report misconduct.

I do believe, along with my colleague from Winnipeg Centre, that major work needs to be done at committee stage. I compliment the government for referring this bill immediately to committee without having it go through second reading. That would have made major changes impossible since those changes would have gone against the principle of the bill.

The two most important concerns are the following: Bill C-11 replaces the toothless commissioner in Bill C-25 with a complex reporting mechanism involving the Public Service Commission of Canada and a whole array of codes of conduct which, as we now know, are last in, first out, in the case of conflict and deterrence.

The President of the Treasury Board said that the Public Service Commission of Canada was moving away from a managerial role to an auditor role. Why would the Public Service Commission want to get involved in auditing, in issuing subpoenas or setting deadlines for CEOs to respond to recommendations?

As we know, the Public Service Commission has other fish to fry.

When it comes to government and good governance, auditing means the Auditor General. We have seen the good work of this body in which we have full confidence. We absolutely need an independent review mechanism. The Auditor General or another independent officer of Parliament, call it the public sector integrity commissioner or whatever, would be able to do the job and do it efficiently and, most important, report to Parliament.

Bill C-11 has a broader range of coverage and includes employees of crown corporations and the executive, with the exception of CSIS, the uniform members of the RCMP and Canadian Forces. Again, I believe that unless there is an independent review outside the sphere of government, the legislation will not produce the intended effect. We must separate the oversight of the government of the day from the public service.

We need an independent commissioner. The government seems to be in a hurry to set up agencies that can be used as an extension of its policies and where it can hide money for programs beyond the scrutiny of the Auditor General. It is out of the question to give powers to an independent commissioner who would be nothing more than an officer of the House.

Again, why not use the Auditor General? Why not have someone reporting directly to Parliament?

In committee, we need to consider other issues that have something to do with the old saying “The devil is in the details”. Some of these issues have already been raised by the hon. member for Repentigny and my hon. colleague from Winnipeg Centre.

Let me mention, for instance, the threat of harsh disciplinary action against public servants making unfounded allegations.

In that case, whistleblowers should file a complaint with other bodies, such as the Industrial Relations Board, which could take up to 18 months. The reverse onus is on the victims to prove their innocence, and that is not real protection against undue risk.

What would the legislation do to protect the rights of those who have already paid the price of the government's inertia? My thoughts are with those three doctors who were fired for denouncing the health hazard of the use of BGH, bovine growth hormone. They should have been nominated for the Order of Canada. I am speaking of Shiv Chopra, Margaret Haydon and Gérard Lambert. We must look at introducing some retroactivity to protect those individuals.

In conclusion I would like to read an excerpt from an article that was written in the Ottawa Citizen about the victims of our lack of legislation. It reads:

Despite the absence of legislation, employees of conscience have spoken out. At Health Canada, Dr. Michele Brill-Edwards sounded the alarm about the arbitrary drug approval process, including a rush to market of inadequately tested products. Likewise, Health Canada veterinarians Shiv Chopra, Margaret Haydon and Gerard Lambert spoke out and testified at Senate hearings about the risks associated with bovine growth hormone.

Diplomat Brian McAdam and, subsequently, veteran RCMP officer Robert Read revealed corruption in Canada's consulate-general in Hong Kong and risks to our national security through fraudulent visa schemes and penetration of our immigration computer system by organized crime. And Col. Michel Drapeau denounced corruption among senior military brass and was an outspoken critic during the arbitrarily truncated Somalia inquiry.

As one of the most profiled whistleblowers in Canada, Dr. Nancy Olivieri sparked an international debate on the erosion of the sacred principle of university independence from corporate influence. Threatened when she sought to disclose adverse drug trial results to her entrusted patients, she remains, 10 years later, embroiled in costly and draining litigation.

All were fired except McAdam, whose destroyed health forced retirement, and Brill-Edwards, who conscientiously resigned. For Brill-Edwards, employment came at the price of a weekly train commute from Ottawa to Toronto.

These victims of the absence of legislation underscore the importance of the legislation. We have fought hard to bring the legislation forward. We will be fighting equally hard in committee and in Parliament to make the legislation better so that it truly protects whistleblowers in Canada.