An Act to amend the Financial Administration Act, the Canada School of Public Service Act and the Official Languages Act

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

Sponsor

Reg Alcock  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 amends the Financial Administration Act to establish the office of the President of the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada and to provide that the President of the Treasury Board is responsible for the coordination of the activities of the Secretary of the Treasury Board, the President of the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada and the Comptroller General of Canada.

This enactment also amends the Canada School of Public Service Act and the Official Languages Act to refer to the President of the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada.

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.

Bank ActGovernment Orders

October 6th, 2005 / 12:05 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Michael John Savage Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to Bill C-57 which introduces a new governance framework for the financial services sector. Other colleagues have spoken quite eloquently about how important this bill is to bring governance standards for the financial institutions up to date. This proposed legislation would give financial institutions and their stakeholders the governance tools that they need to allow them to continue to play a key and leading role in Canada's economy. It addresses concerns that many Canadians have about corporate governance.

The financial services sector not only plays a vital role in the economy but also in the financial lives of Canadians, whether it is banking, insurance, financing, investing or financial planning. Every day across the country consumers, businesses and governments depend on the products and services provided by financial institutions. Community groups, arts and culture groups, amateur sports groups across the country also depend on these institutions. We need look no further than the CIBC run for the cure this past weekend to see how important our financial institutions are. In my own province of Nova Scotia we are proud to be the home of Scotiabank which is a leader in corporate responsibility.

I would like to focus my remarks today on the federal legislation and the initiatives the government has introduced that are designed to make the financial services sector more competitive and to enhance consumer protection. The process of implementing the new policy framework began in 1996 with the establishment of the MacKay task force on the future of the Canadian financial services sector. In September 1998 the task force presented the government with its report which was then reviewed by two parliamentary committees.

The committees in turn conducted extensive public consultations and presented the government with their recommendations. This consultation process eventually led to Bill C-8, which in 2001 introduced legislation to reform the policy framework for Canada's financial services sector. That contained a number of measures that focused on four main areas, one of which was to empower and to protect consumers.

Perhaps the most important initiative for consumers that sprung from this legislation was the establishment of the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada in 2001. This agency was established to consolidate and strengthen oversight of consumer protection measures in the federally regulated financial sector as well as to educate consumers. While some consumer protection activities existed before that, they were dispersed among a large number of federal entities making the complaint process more arduous and less responsive to the needs of Canadians. The FCAC consolidated those services.

Hon. members may also be aware of the ombudsman for banking services and investments, OBSI, which was established in 2002. The OBSI is an independent organization that investigates consumer complaints against financial service providers including banks and other deposit taking organizations, investment dealers, mutual fund dealers, and mutual fund companies. It provides prompt and impartial resolution of complaints that customers have been unable to resolve satisfactorily with their own financial services provider. For the first time in Canada customers of banking and investment services now access comprehensive and effective complaint resolution through a single ombudsman.

The OBSI is independent of the financial services industry. To ensure its independence, the ombudsman reports to a board of directors of which a majority of the directors are independent of the financial services industry. The bottom line is that consumers have benefited from the changes in the financial services sector. With new competitors in the marketplace, increased competition among existing institutions and more innovative products and services, consumers now have more choices in deciding who fulfills their financial needs.

Small and medium sized businesses too in some cases have benefited from increased choice among financial service providers. To ensure that there is better information on the financing needs of small and medium sized enterprises and the availability of financing to meet those needs, the government undertook a comprehensive program.

That program was to assist in the development of effective public policy; to promote greater awareness among small businesses of the sources and types of financing available; and to foster a more complete understanding among financing providers of the financing needs of small and medium sized businesses.

I would not suggest that I am entirely delighted with the way that all financial service institutions have responded. I think, particularly in regions of Canada like Atlantic Canada, that we could do a lot better in terms of decision making as well as presence in those regions, but we have come a long way in a lot of areas.

Although the government has introduced consumer safeguards, we have also been mindful not to place too high a regulatory burden on financial institutions. The government is equally committed to providing a policy environment that is fair and balanced.

It is important to mention that the framework for the Canadian financial services sector enacted by the government is not a static process. Rather, it is dynamic, reacting quickly in this world with the rapid pace of globalization and technological innovation that has become a daily reality for businesses in Canada.

Indeed, the policy framework for the financial services sector should be dynamic, flexible and fair. The framework provides that flexibility in three ways. It maintains, first, the long standing practice of ensuring regular updating of the regulatory framework by including an automatic five year review in the legislation, one being scheduled in 2006. This is a practice that sets Canada apart from virtually every other country in the world.

Second, as has been frequently done in the past, the government is prepared to revisit this legislation prior to the five year review if it proves necessary in order to ensure that the framework keeps pace with the rapidly changing marketplace. Finally, the legislation allows for matters of implementation to be dealt with through regulation.

What we have is a balanced framework, a regulatory approach that is well thought out and efficient, with important consumer protection measures. Both aspects are conducive to the growth and success of Canada's financial institution.

One would ask, how does Bill C-57 fit into the big picture? I believe that government policies will continue to evolve over time, so that we can keep pace with the new economy, new innovations and new technology. Bill C-57 is part of that evolution.

The proposals contained in the bill will update and modernize the framework for the financial services sector. It has broad support among stakeholder groups in the country and I believe among Canadians. I urge and expect all members will support Bill C-57.

Bank ActGovernment Orders

October 6th, 2005 / 11:35 a.m.
See context

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, I am glad to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-57 at second reading. It is very importance legislation.

Some would think, based on the low key nature of this debate, that this is a rather mundane, routine kind of legislation, that it is housekeeping to simply bring things into line. The NDP views the bill as far more significant than simply a matter of housekeeping and tidying up on the part of the government, and I want to point out some concerns right at the outset.

I begin by referencing those Liberals who this morning had the audacity to stand up and suggest that this was a good example of Liberal efficiency, that the legislation was about making our programs and our institutions more efficient and in line with modern day standards.

Let us look at the history. We are talking about a government that in the year 2005 has brought in legislation to bring in line legislation that was passed in the House in 2001. The last time I checked four years have gone by. Four years is a heck of a long time for the government to move on efficiency. I guess one could say, by the very nature of what we are dealing with, the government belies the very definition of efficiency. Only Liberals could say that waiting four years to bring something into line with a 2001 bill is efficient.

My goodness, this goes to the nub of the issue we face on so many fronts when we deal with finance. We have a government that dithers. We have a finance minister who cannot make up his mind about bank mergers. I also want to reference the speech by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness who focused so much of his remarks on bank mergers, suggesting that this was a matter that would be advanced if the banks supported the idea of mergers and wanted it to come forward.

The parliamentary secretary is being a little disingenuous. We know the banks have been demanding that the government bring forward merger legislation for years. We have a finance minister who promised it would be on the table this summer and this fall. Now we understand that the finance minister got cold feet because he was not sure the had the support of everyone in the House for bank mergers. He dared to suggest that he had to pull it back because of political game in this area and that it had become a political issue.

The government of the day sets the agenda. The government of the day determines what needs to be acted on. The government of the day is supposed to deal with the public interest. Surely, if the finance minister thought it was important, he would have brought it forward.

However, we recognize the fact that the Minister of Finance was cautious in his approach and needed some more support and backing. Therefore, we presented a very reasonable proposal to the Minister of Finance. We suggested to him that there would be support perhaps for the idea of bank mergers if the government would finally deal with a long list of outstanding issues that were of concern to Canadians and consumers in all our communities.

We pointed out to the Minister of Finance that he was not in a very strong position to move on bank mergers if he had not dealt with banks that shut down branches without any regard for the communities they were abandoning. The parliamentary secretary who just spoke tried to suggest that in small towns banks no longer do that, that they do not close branches and leave a community high and dry.

Perhaps that is true in small towns, but it is certainly not true for communities within large cities. It is certainly not true for inner city neighbourhoods. It is certainly not true for older north end communities. It is certainly not true for Winnipeg North, where the banks shut down every branch in the entire north end of Winnipeg without regard for citizens to be served or for the needs of people to have access to financial institutions.

We suggest to the Minister of Finance that if he wants to move on bank mergers and wants us to even look at the idea, then perhaps he should deal with that very issue. Perhaps he should have some teeth in legislation that prevents banks from unilaterally shutting down branches and abandoning entire communities. Perhaps he should deal with the credit card interest rates that banks set. Perhaps he should deal with the huge rise in numbers of payday lenders without regard for regulation. Perhaps he should deal with a form of reinvestment in our communities, which is present in the United States, and ensure that banks that benefit from communities and that reap their profits from loyal customers over the years put something back into those communities before they up and leave and abandon entire neighbourhoods.

We gave the minister all kinds of ideas and help to bring forward this issue. I want the record to show that it is absolutely irresponsible on the part of the Minister of Finance to suggest that he could not go forward because of political games that were played by members in the opposition.

On the part of the New Democratic Party, we are not playing political games. We are trying to do what is in the best interest of Canadians. We are trying to ensure there is some measure of accountability, efficiency and transparency in the area of financial institutions. That gets us right to the heart of the bill.

The bill attempts to modernize the corporate governance framework for Canada's federally regulated institutions. That is clearly an issue of great importance in this day and age of corruption and scandals in the corporate sector. We would expect the legislation to help us deal with accountability and transparency in all federally regulated institutions.

As I already said, we had a lot of chances to deal with this before, and finally we see something happening. I wish it had not taken so long. We have to see Bill C-57 as a process that has been underway in the country for a long time, certainly in a formal way since 1994. It is one that has seen other phases and has taken other legislative forms. Bill S-19, Bill S-11 and Bill C-8 are all legislative examples that leap to mind. Let us not forget the MacKay task force and the several parliamentary committees that have studied this issue over the years.

There is another aspect to this whole debate. It is the need for reform that comes not just from corporations or the financial sector as a whole, but one that is part of an ongoing broadly based shareholder and consumer movement, a movement that is trying desperately to establish greater public access to the instruments that control our economy and the impact on our livelihoods and finances in major ways.

That is part of the debate we have to address today. At least members of the New Democratic Party have been diligent about raising such issues in the past. I want to refer members to the January 2004 announcement of my party for a pocketbook protector, which outlines a comprehensive set of proposals to protect Canadian consumers including, may I emphasize, the establishment of citizen utility boards to give stakeholders an organized voice and some real clout and increased openness in Canadian financial and other corporations that would be modelled on the American experience with the Sarbanes Oxley act and other measures.

I mentioned that we gave the minister all kinds of suggestions around the whole bank merger issue for bringing more accountability to our banking sector. This summer I responded to the Minister of Finance's letter on his demand that the NDP and other opposition parties come clean with their position on bank mergers. I said to him that legislators and consumers currently lacked basic information to determine whether banks acted in the public benefit in accordance with their public charters. There is a huge potential for improving transparency in banking without compromising legitimate privacy concerns or good business practices. Legislative changes are clearly needed to enable the public to track bank activity in our communities

I want to mention another indirect initiative from the NDP. That is the Canadian Democracy and Corporate Accountability Commission, chaired by the member for Ottawa Centre. This commission examined ways to increase corporate responsibility. The member for Ottawa Centre attempted to raise many important issues and to lead efforts to reform Parliament to better embody our democratic impulses. However, those political reforms would be incomplete if our financial institutions and their decisions remained isolated from the vast number of Canadians that they serve.

What took the government so long? Why does it go in starts and fits? Why does it get something going and then pull back? In the case of banker mergers, why has it dithered about its response? On the question of income trusts, why does the government suddenly decide to study the issue and the next minute decide to crack down on the expansion of any income trusts, knowing full well the millions of dollars that are lost to our public coffers because of corporations taking advantage of this loophole?

Finally we have a chance for action, and that is what we are about to do.

There are some positives in the bill and some negatives. There are measures in it that would improve financial sector governance, and I do not want to dispute that. It recognizes changes in our communications technology and reflects those changes by accommodating electronic communications.

Bill C-57 would relax the overly restrictive limitations on shareholder communications. For example, it would allow shareholder communications without necessarily triggering proxy rules. The bill also would harmonize the legislation covering the various types of financial institutions. It introduces some long overdue measures to upgrade governance of the crucial financial institutions regulated under the direct authority of the federal government closer to a standard appropriate for the 21st century.

In particular, I want to emphasize a change that has been long overdue and one that all of us have fought for in this place. That is the alignment of the Cooperative Credit Associations Act and the Bank Act. This is very important because it will provide cooperatively structured companies with equal treatment on their share requirements as that afforded other more traditionally structured groups. This previously has been denied to them on account of the outdated limitations imposed by current legislation. Cooperatively structured corporations should be encouraged in Canada, not penalized. The measure in the bill at least puts them on an equal footing in one important area.

I will now get on to some of the negatives in Bill C-57.

I want to emphasize the fact that this legislation ignores the Broadbent commission. It has failed to incorporate modern, progressive, corporate-social responsibility initiatives recommended by the Canadian Democracy and Corporate Accountability Commission, also known as the Bennett-Broadbent commission of 2002.

Despite assurances at the time of the passage of Bill S-11 that the government would as a matter of course incorporate the positive suggestions of the commission into its corporate reform vision, the thrust of the commission's work and its specific recommendations remain largely ignored in Bill C-57.

That independently funded commission was composed of five members, three from the business community, one from organized labour and one with a political background, that being the member for Ottawa Centre.

Between February and September of 2001 the commission travelled across Canada. It held public hearings, meetings and received briefs and presentations from a wide cross-section of Canadians interested in corporate governance issues. It further conducted a public poll on the issues and concluded its activities with a report in 2002 containing 24 recommendations.

Regrettably, the work of the commission was superseded back in 2002 with the government's Bill S-11. We tried at that time to get the whole process to address the commission's findings but unfortunately were not able to do so.

Among the recommendations contained in the Broadbent commission's final report, entitled “The New Balance Sheet: Corporate Profits and Responsibility in the 21st Century”, was this recommendation:

Companies should have governance structures facilitating the development of a corporate culture supportive of corporate social responsibility. In particular, a committee of the board of directors should be assigned responsibility for corporate social responsibility matters. A senior executive should be appointed corporate social-responsibility ombudsperson and have direct access to the chair of that committee.

Many other recommendations put forward by the commission are important and have not yet been accommodated in this legislation.

I want to mention another very important issue and that has to do with a watchdog agency, because I think that perhaps the key element in any progress in realigning stakeholder authority and increasing accountability lies in the development of an independent watchdog capacity. This element has been missing in the governance of federal financial institutions generally and it is still not there. This has left stakeholder voices without a vehicle of expression when concerns about corporate behaviour arise.

Provision for the formal recognition and integration of independent watchdog groups must be incorporated, in our view, as an essential part of any corporate governance landscape. The NDP, together with many consumer advocates, has proposed an effective, inexpensive way of starting and maintaining such groups. This involves utilizing the already existing corporate communications network, mail-outs or other communications to shareholders, policyholders, et cetera, and using that network to disseminate information about forming a consumer watchdog group, along with contact numbers for those who wish to follow up.

This type of communications tool should become, in our view, a regular element of corporate mailings at specified intervals. The distribution of notices of annual meetings or annual reports is commonly suggested as a very minimum.

Having a consumers' agency with responsibilities to others besides stakeholders may be appropriate for other purposes, but it is not an adequate response to the need for an independent and exclusively consumer-oriented mechanism.

There has been a lot of support for such an oversight group. It has been endorsed by 31 citizen groups, including 18 national organizations, but it is not limited to citizens' groups alone. It has also received support from the House of Commons and Senate finance committees. Also, it was supported by the 1998 MacKay task force on the future of the Canadian financial services sector.

There has been a heck of a lot of discussion on this issue over the years and a lot of support from all sectors. The question is, how can we make it a reality? We have an opportunity in this bill to do just that. We have an opportunity to modernize the fiduciary framework for financial institutions.

There has been a battle raging for some time now over the parameters of legitimate director activity. In Bill C-57 it is apparent that those favouring a narrow, conservative and, some would say, dated interpretation must be questioned. To turn a profit for shareholders irrespective of the consequences is an approach better suited to the 19th century than the 21st century.

I could go on with many other recommendations, but let me conclude by saying that this bill is long overdue. There are some major parts to it that are important. We particularly value the acknowledgement of the cooperative sector and we want to see this bill approved with that component in it, but we would also like to see some changes. We will be working very hard in committee to address the outstanding issues and to ensure that consumers have access to financial institutions on a basis of accountability, efficiency and transparency.

Civil Marriage ActRoyal Assent

April 21st, 2005 / 4:15 p.m.
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The Deputy Speaker

I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received as follows:

Rideau Hall

Ottawa

April 21, 2005

Mr. Speaker:

I have the honour to inform you that the Honourable Marie Deschamps, Puisne Judge of the Supreme Court of Canada, in her capacity as Deputy of the Governor General, signified royal assent by written declaration to the bills listed in the Schedule to this letter on the 21st day of April, 2005 at 3:33 p.m.

Yours sincerely,

Curtis Barlow

Deputy Secretary

Policy, Program and Protocol

The schedule indicates that royal assent was given to Bill C-8, an act to amend the Financial Administration Act, the Canada School of Public Service Act and the Official Languages Act--Chapter No.15; and Bill C-30, an act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act and the Salaries Act and to make consequential amendments to other acts--Chapter No.16.

Financial Administration ActGovernment Orders

February 25th, 2005 / 12:40 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am somewhat stymied by this third reading of Bill C-8.

During the debates held in the House at second reading, we discussed Bill C-8 extensively. At the time, we raised a number of questions that have yet to be answered by the government, but that are very valid questions regarding the purpose of this legislation and the objectives of the government. Since the bill is now at third reading, we can assume that, indeed, these considerations and questions have been left unanswered.

Bill C-8 illustrates once again the scenario that we had with other bills proposed in this House. Indeed, with Bill C-31 and Bill C-32, we saw that the government had implemented administrative changes without consulting those who are most affected by these changes, and without putting in place a plan to develop those administrative changes.

As regards Bill C-31 and Bill C-32, since there were no plan or justification with respect to these changes, the House rejected these motions. In the case of Bill C-8, even though we said at second reading that we had some concerns and fundamental questions regarding this legislation, we still reviewed, in the hope, of course, that these questions would be answered, and that some objectives as well as a plan would be defined.

Unfortunately, as I said, our questions were not answered. I should point out that this is an issue of particular interest to the NDP. Indeed, we have always believed it is important that the government maintain good relations with public servants. Unfortunately, over the past several years, we have seen that those who spend their lives in the service of their country, Canada, to ensure that we have an effective public service and to maintain and even increase services provided to the public, we have seen that all these public servants who do so much to support programs, services and Canadians, were not consulted when the government decided to make the latest changes. Here, one week. There, the next.

We saw this recently during the surprise announcement of the single window for government services. So documents and information were leaked. We learned a few days ago that the government was planning to make some major changes, once again without consulting the public and the workers, the people devoting their lives to maintain and increase services for Canadians. There are no consultations. An announcement is made. We know that major changes are coming, once again, in the form of a single window, in the absence of planning and the implementation of all administrative procedures.

Unfortunately, I suspect that, once again, the Liberal government is deciding to make all kinds of promises of job offers here and there, without any plan to ensure the provision of services throughout the country. British Columbia, where I come from, is under-represented in the public service.

It is extremely important to people in British Columbia to be able to say that access to the public service corresponds to our demographic weight in Canada.

However, putting something like that in place requires a plan. There really have to be consultations with Canadians and public servants so we can a plan in place that will work. We know that this government has a tendency to make plans similar to those of the official opposition—sketched on table napkins—plans strung together with bailing wire that are not properly or sufficiently thought out, and ultimately, we end up with something that does not work.

We saw this with the Kyoto protocol; the government had in fact promised to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It was supposed to reduce them by 20% by 2010. It is now 2005 and in actual fact greenhouse gases have gone up, not down, by 20%.

We have also seen other plans, including an anti-poverty plan. The NDP member for Ottawa Centre introduced a motion in the House in 1989. With the agreement of all members of this House, we adopted a plan whereby child poverty would be reduced by the year 2000 with a view to its total elimination.

Now here we are in 2005, and, tragically, there has been an increase in the number of children living in poverty in this country. They now number over one million. Among aboriginal children, 40% are poor or living in poor families, and liable to end up homeless. We know that 30% of families with disabled children are in the same situation.

This 12 year Liberal idea of a plan has once again resulted in failure. There has been a failure as far as the environment is concerned. A failure as far as housing for the homeless is concerned. The surprise announcement of a few days ago leaves us once again with a plan that has been cobbled together without consultation, without any clear objectives. This one will have a considerable effect on the Canadian public service, and that is most regrettable.

Now, if we look at Bill C-8, we see once again that it dates back to a year ago, after the decisions had been reached, without any connection between the two or any consideration of the impacts.

It must be pointed out that the hon. member for Ottawa Centre works tirelessly both in this House and outside to protect the public service and to ensure that its members are taken into consideration when the government plans to do something. I would like to congratulate him on the work he does. He is a new member like myself, but one with a long history in this place. He is new only in that his riding, Ottawa Centre, is a new one for him, but he is already hard at work, not only representing that riding, but also defending the interests of those who make such a great contribution to the running of our Canadian governmental services and the federal government's outreach in this country. The member for Ottawa Centre is making a remarkable contribution.

Let me point out the problem. We have Bill C-8. We have had questions raised in the House. Those questions have stayed there without a definitive response from the government. We know that morale is very low in the public service. We know of the surprise plan that was thrown out there, a one stop shop thrown out on the backs of the public servants who have contributed so much to this country.

Again we see a government proceeding without a plan, going from photo op to photo op, without considering the implications of each decision that is made. We saw with Bill C-31 and Bill C-32 how little forethought had actually been given to these decisions that the government was throwing forth to the House. At second reading we asked those questions and did not get the answers we wanted to hear.

We see very clearly that there has not been a consultation process with the people who are most concerned about this: the public sector workers who have contributed so much and yet receive so little consideration from the government. Last summer, after a real decrease in public sector wages of 10% and a salary gap in many sectors of 20%, as we saw with table 2, we saw the government, rather than engaging in meaningful negotiations, basically push through a settlement that of course public sector workers had to ratify after that.

What we see is a lack of respect for the public service. We do not see a change in attitude toward public sector workers. We do not see a change in responsibility. We do not see this government working with public sector workers and trying to engage in meaningful consultation, not relying on the strength of public sector workers who contribute in every community of this country, small or large, giving their hearts and souls, giving their efforts and their labour to make sure that we have the best possible services at all levels.

The responsibility for any concerns people have about public service and the state of public service in this country remains with the government, this government that does not consult, that refuses to recognize public sector workers as the assets they are for our country, that shows the same lack of respect for public sector workers we have seen it show to students with this recent budget. Students are not taken into consideration, nor are farmers. We see the same lack of consideration for people with disabilities and for poor Canadians. As well, in my area of greater Vancouver we have seen a threefold increase in the number of homeless. This is due to a lack of a housing strategy or policy.

We have seen, as I mentioned, an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. We have seen an increase in smog and toxic pollutants across this country, yet we saw the government last week actually vote against the NDP motion that would have set mandatory emission standards in this country and thus actually address the issue of increasing smog and pollution and the deaths caused by that.

We saw the Liberal government and the Conservative Party voting against that simple measure. Now we see the Liberal government and the Conservative Party voting for a budget that does not address housing and homelessness issues. It does not address the issues around the poor.

It does not address the crisis that we are facing in post-secondary education. As my colleague, the hon. member for Halifax, has said so often and so effectively, we need to address the crisis in post-secondary education. There is nothing in the budget for students.

There is also nothing in the budget for people with disabilities, even though we know that four million Canadians live in the poorest conditions and with perhaps the lowest quality of life of all Canadians.

There is nothing in the budget to address aboriginal issues.

There is nothing in this budget that addresses those important issues, except the lack of respect for Canadians generally. The Liberal government and the Conservative Party in opposition are still going to support this budget, so who does get the respect if public sector workers do not get it, if students do not get it, if seniors do not get it with that tiny buck a day increase?

We know who gets the respect. It is the big corporations, with a $4.6 billion tax break. It is the wealthiest of Canadians, who actually see the cap on RRSP contributions lifted for those who earn more than $100,000 a year. They get respect. It is wealthy people, big corporations and the banks. We heard them lobbying to have the foreign content limit, that cap of 30%, lifted. That lobbying paid off for them.

Banks, big corporations and the wealthy are the ones that get respect from this government, not public servants. That is why I again raise concerns about Bill C-8 and the fact that the government is not showing proper respect for public sector workers. The government has shown this pattern consistently over the months that I have been in Parliament and certainly in the years before I came to Parliament. We have seen a consistent pattern of a lack of respect and a lack of consultation.

I appreciate the opportunity to speak on the bill. The concerns remain.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

February 24th, 2005 / 3 p.m.
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Hamilton East—Stoney Creek Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, today we will continue with the budget debate. Tomorrow we will return to the third reading debate of Bill C-33. If this is completed, we will then turn to third reading of Bill C-8, which is the public service bill; the report stages and third readings of Bill C-3, the Coast Guard bill; and Bill S-17 respecting tax treaties.

Next week is a constituency week. On March 7, 8 and 9 we will continue the budget debate, and Thursday, March 10 shall be an allotted day.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

February 17th, 2005 / 3:05 p.m.
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Hamilton East—Stoney Creek Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I want to say that once again you have provided an outstanding judgment.

This afternoon we will continue with the NDP opposition motion.

Tomorrow we will begin with the motion standing in my name with regard to the Standing Orders. We will then proceed to report stage and third reading of Bill C-39, respecting the health accord. When this is complete, we will return to Bill C-38, which is the civil marriage bill. This will also be the business on Monday.

Tuesday will be an allotted day.

On Wednesday we will consider report stage and third reading of Bill C-33, the financial legislation; Bill C-8, the public service bill; Bill C-3, respecting the Coast Guard; and Bill S-17, respecting tax conventions.

At 4 p.m. on Wednesday the Minister of Finance will make his budget presentation. We shall take up the debate on the budget on Thursday.

As well, with respect to the hon. member's question, I would say to the hon. member that in the fullness of time we would have the Judges Act in the House. I will take every opportunity to ensure that House leaders are fully informed of when that legislation is to come to the House.

Financial Administration ActGovernment Orders

February 14th, 2005 / 6:10 p.m.
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Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-8. I am a little disappointed by the lack of response from the hon. member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke. Bill C-8 affects mainly two aspects, one of which is very important and that is official languages. My colleague from Sudbury emphasized this very well. I think she would agree it is sad to see that the Conservative Party critic has no idea how the Official Languages Act will apply or influence the new tenor or philosophy in the federal public service.

I gave them a chance to say a few words about it. During the election campaign there was some bad press, but sometimes people are quoted out of context. We thought we would give our opponents a chance and allow them to say a few words about this. We will have to wait for the next time to get an explanation on their party's position on this.

This is the second time I am speaking to Bill C-8. As I was saying, I listened closely to the speech by my colleague from Sudbury, who summarized this bill very well. I will mostly repeat what she said. However, I will try to make concrete arguments on certain aspects of the changes made by this bill.

One of the main objectives of Bill C-8 is to amend the Financial Administration Act to establish the office of the President of the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada. That is clause 1. This bill only makes official what has already been done. Indeed, on December 12, 2003, Michelle Chartrand was appointed by order in Council, order PC-2003-21-13, President of the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada.

The president of the agency has the powers of a deputy head of a department and is appointed by cabinet and can be removed at any time. This is not so for the Commissioner of Official Languages or the Auditor General, which is not a problem, I simply want to clarify that there is a difference in terms of their status and independence from the House.

The powers of the president are assigned to him or her by the Treasury Board, not by Parliament. Clause 1(2) provides that the President of the Treasury Board is responsible for the coordination of the activities of the Secretary of the Treasury Board, the President of the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada and the Comptroller General of Canada. As I recall—correct me if I am wrong—this provision was amended in committee to add that he or she is responsible for the coordination but must also be accountable. I thought that was what I heard the hon. member for Sudbury say.

Why should the president be accountable? Hon. members know that the wording is important when amending bills or drafting legislation. Allow me to say a few words about the ambiguous nature of the word “coordination”. Clause 1(2) provides that the President of the Treasury Board is responsible for the coordination.

I was official languages critic for a few years and I have learned that, in theory, the Minister of Canadian Heritage is responsible for the coordination of the Official Languages Act. In practice however, the minister with the least responsibility in connection with the Official Languages Act is the Minister of Canadian Heritage.

If the Minister of Canadian Heritage is the minister responsible under section 42 of the Official Languages Act, this should also be the minister responsible—I realize I am not speaking directly to Bill C-8, but I just want to make a quick point about the word “coordination”—for implementing the official languages action plan. But this responsibility was assigned to a different person at the time, namely the current Minister of the Environment.

The Official Languages Act provides that the Minister of Justice is responsible for part of the act, that the Minister of Canadian Heritage is responsible for the coordination, that the Prime Minister shall appoint a minister responsible for the act, that the President of the Treasury Board—as the agency's secretary—is responsible for the act as it relates to the public service, with the result that the individual responsibilities have been diluted to the point that no one is responsible for anything anymore.

When they appear before the committee and are asked why they have failed with regard to some aspect of the legislation, there is full latitude—since there are 22 individuals responsible, so none—for them to say that it is not them and that someone else is responsible.

That is why the Bloc Québécois amended one little word that may seem completely inconsequential. However, given our experience with the Official Languages Act, this little word is extremely important. In fact, this amendment means that the President of the Treasury Board is no longer the only one responsible for coordination of this legislation, but accountable for it too. Consequently, if there is a problem, he cannot say that it was the fault of the commissioner, the president of the agency, his brother-in-law or anyone else; he is the one who is ultimately responsible.

We know too that ministers appeared before the committee—Gagliano, to name just one—and they told us that ministers are not responsible for their department. In this case, the minister responsible is the President of the Treasury Board. This is the first question I asked him when he appeared before the committee, “Are you responsible for your department? If you are not responsible for your department, there is no point in our asking you questions, since you are not responsible for anything”. To my great surprise, he said that he was responsible for his department. If he is responsible for his department, he is therefore accountable for the actions taken during his mandate. That is why the Bloc Québécois sought this amendment—and we are happy that it passed—to subclause 1(2), which provides that the President of the Treasury Board is responsible and accountable for the coordination of activities.

Further on in the bill, they are amending—as I have said, and will keep on saying—the Canada School of Public Service Act, section 2, and the Official Languages Act, section 3, to ensure that the president of the agency is an ex officio member of the school. The second point is an interesting one, The supposed purpose is to ensure that it is the president of the agency, rather than the president of the Treasury Board, who will provide the Commissioner of Official Languages with any reports concerning the monitoring and auditing of observation by the federal institutions of the principles, instructions and regulations originating by either himself or the governor in council concerning official languages.

The purpose of all that verbiage is to say that the head of the agency will be the one to provide the COL with these files.

I have another problem here. When the president of the agency receives these reports and passes them on to the COL, there should be both responsibility and accountability in place. This is not the case. The person who receives them and passes them on is not assigned any responsibility.

I filed a complaint nearly a year ago to the COL about the Treasury Board. My complaint was that the Treasury Board policies and action plans state in black and white that it will not comply with the Official Languages Act. It is not set out in so many words that: “We are going to go against the Official Languages Act”, but it is there in connection with the position designated bilingual. For instance, it indicates that 60% of army positions designated bilingual are staffed with unilingual anglophones, and that in a specific sector, 22% of positions designated bilingual are staffed with unilingual anglophones. Finally, Treasury Board writes that it has an action plan whereby, in the next two, three or four years, they will bring those figures down by 2%, 3% or 4%. It we look at this carefully, what that comes down to is stating “We hereby inform you that we will continue to break the law for the next three, four or five years.”

I thus filed a complaint with the Commissioner of Official Languages and that complaint was deemed to be in order and is currently being investigated. Accordingly, when people say that the president of the agency will receive the annual reports relating to the implementation of the Official Languages Act and will be in charge of follow-up, I have a little problem. Indeed, what was done before was not proper. We are renewing what was done before. It will not be proper.

I seem to recall, Mr. Speaker, that you too used to sit on the Standing Committee on Official Languages. You must have heard this part of my pet question, which goes like this, “Why is a unilingual person hired to fill a bilingual position, if the hiring criterion is being bilingual?”

I often asked the question of all the ministers who appeared, namely how many lawyers in the Department of Justice are not lawyers, but carpenters, who managed to get hired on a promise that they would eventually become lawyers. My impression is there are none. How many people who formerly worked at Jean Coutu's have been hired in the Department of Finance as accountants on the promise that eventually, since they know how to operate cash registers, they will become accountants? I think that the hiring criterion to be a lawyer in the public service is to be a lawyer. Similarly, the hiring criterion to be an accountant in the public service is to be an accountant. Why is that the hiring criterion to be bilingual in the public service would not be to be bilingual?

In this respect, I would be willing to accept—it is called non-imperative staffing—that we extend this criterion to the public service as a whole, if we want to apply it this way. In other words, if criteria do not matter, let us hire truck drivers—for whom I have a lot of respect—as management executives or accountants at the Treasury Board, on the promise that they will one day become accountants.

You know that, with exception clauses, some people are being hired in designated bilingual positions, on the promise that they will become bilingual one day. Afterwards, they go through their career as unilingual employees in the designated bilingual position. Then, when they retire, other people make sure that their farewell party is in one language, because they would not understand if it was in another one.

Bill C-8, in transferring the current powers of the President of the Treasury Board to the president of the agency, does not solve this problem, which I think is very serious. I heard Conservative members say there was somewhat of a void. However, this is a problem that we would like to see corrected in a speedy and concrete fashion with the new agency. However, we do not have much hope.

The bill also has a number of transitional provisions, consequential amendments and coordinating amendments to tie Bill C-8 with the coming into force of certain sections of the Public Service Modernization Act, that is Bill C-25.

So, we must make the connection between Bill C-25 and Bill C-8, which I will do briefly. Indeed, I spent too much time on official languages, but it is a subject dear to my heart. Since the essence of the work of the Human Resources Management Agency and of its president is to implement the provisions of the Public Service Modernization Act, it is important to remind the House about the main comments of the Bloc Québécois on this bill.

In the 2001 Speech from the Throne, the government said that it was undertaking:

—the reforms needed for the Public Service of Canada to continue evolving and adapting. These reforms will ensure that the Public Service is innovative, dynamic and reflective of the diversity of the country-able to attract and develop the talent needed to serve Canadians in the 21st century.

Bill C-25 contained four significant measures to reform the public service: it amended the Public Service Staff Relations Act; it repealed the Public Service Employment Act; it amended the Financial Administration Act to transfer certain powers with respect to human resources management to the Treasury Board; and it amended the Canadian Centre for Management Development Act to pave the way for its merger with Training and Development Canada, and the eventual birth of the new Canada School of Public Service.

In fact Bill C-25 significantly changes the legislative and institutional framework for the management of human resources in the public service. The role of the Treasury Board increases considerably with the consolidation of employer responsibilities. The Public Service Commission will refocus its activities on the protection of the merit principle and political neutrality in staffing.

This is an important principle. I have sat on committees with certain Liberals. One of the positions taken by the Bloc Québécois is that returning officers in each riding should be appointed based on their ability, merit and skills, rather than being appointed by the Prime Minister.

The Liberals are opposed. I keep telling them that I am sure that some Liberals will continue to be appointed as returning officers because there have to be a few competent ones in the bunch. They need not worry. I am not suggesting they will be the majority, but there could be five or six appointed in the 308 ridings. They need not worry. People can still be appointed on the basis of their qualifications.

Bill C-25 also dealt with the protection of whistleblowers. It has since been amended and has now become Bill C-11. It is under consideration at the Standing Committee on Governmental Operations and Estimates. It is designed to allow the disclosure of wrongdoing. The Bloc Québécois has two main reservations with respect to Bill C-11. First, there should be an independent officer of the House—like the Auditor General or the Commissioner of Official Languages—whom the employees throughout the public service could trust and whom they could tell about wrongdoing taking place in their departments or workplaces.

We have seen how difficult working for his department became for Mr. Cutler after he brought the whole sponsorship scandal to light. I am not referring to the minister, because I am not allowed to refer to Minister Cotler by name. I have to refer to his riding. I was talking about Mr. Cutler, the government employee.

Mr. Cutler had problems in his department when he disclosed what happened in the sponsorship program. We want to make sure public servants can divulge such information not to their supervisor, but to an independent officer of the House and that the public servant is protected from retaliation. All of this is laid out in Bill C-25.

Let me come back to Bill C-8. I do not know if I was sufficiently clear, but the Bloc Québécois supports Bill C-8, despite our many reservations. We have reservations about certain aspects of the bill, especially when it comes to the Official Languages Act. We support Bill C-8 because its purpose is to refocus some existing legislation and correct some legislative and administrative measures.

We are in favour of this bill because, despite several omissions, it will ensure better cohesion for human resources management within the federal public service. The Bloc Québécois accepts the principle of the bill since it is the first step to improving the coordination activities involved in human resources management in the Canadian public service. However, we will continue to expose the omissions that we feel are far too important.

While we reaffirm our confidence in and our admiration for the federal public service and while we say that it needs Bill C-11 to allow public servants to disclose possible acts of wrongdoing, we would not want to go as far as the President of the Treasury Board, who said on his website that, being the President of the Treasury Board of the very best country in the world, he wanted to have the best public service in the world. I have not checked today, but last October, when I made my first speech, this is what appeared on the President of the Treasury Board's website.

Again, I have a lot of respect for public servants. We must have an exemplary public service, that is respected and that respects itself. I hope that Bill C-8 will give these people better working conditions and that other laws will also allow them to tell us about serious wrongdoing. I know that we are dealing with a huge machine and a huge public service. Unfortunately, as we say “man will do what man will”. There will unfortunately always be wrongdoing. However, serious wrongdoing, such as we have seen lately, must be disclosed promptly to prevent serious situations like that to undermine public confidence in the politicians and the public servants.

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

Financial Administration ActGovernment Orders

February 14th, 2005 / 6:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for describing where my riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke lies. It is right across the river. Pontiac county is right across and both communities get along very well. Any language barriers are overcome because of the goodwill of people to understand one another.

My hon. colleague should also be concerned about the people in that riding who will be impacted by the modernization program once it is implemented by this enabling legislation, Bill C-8.

It is when people do not have access to job opportunities that are available in other parts of the country that they become discontent and begin looking for various solutions to achieve a better life for themselves. It is through affording genuine and meaningful employment to people across the country that we attempt to have unity in Canada.

Financial Administration ActGovernment Orders

February 14th, 2005 / 6:05 p.m.
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Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her excellent answer. The only problem is she did not answer the right question. I will repeat my question: What does she think about the Official Languages Act and Bill C-8? I did not talk about the firearms registry or the sponsorship scandal, but about the implementation of the Official Languages Act under Bill C-8.

Financial Administration ActGovernment Orders

February 14th, 2005 / 6:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, my main concern with Bill C-8 is how it is being purported to be just a minor housekeeping bill. However, with the recent revelation last Friday, it appears to be enabling legislation to allow the government's new internal management modernization program to go forth. On that basis I give my concerns to Parliament.

As outlined by the plan, this would have an impact on 32,000 full time equivalent jobs, which could be 64,000 part time workers. In all, as the program is implemented, 13,000 people will lose their jobs. That is a lot of jobs.

Having seen how the government has put forth proposals in the past, like the gun registry which was supposed to cost $2 million and is now approaching $2 billion, I am very concerned that we will not see these so-called harvested savings outlined by the program which Bill C-8 would enable.

Financial Administration ActGovernment Orders

February 14th, 2005 / 6 p.m.
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Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the eloquent speech of the hon. member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke and of the hon. member of Sudbury before her. She talked about the part of Bill C-8 dealing with the amendments to the Official Languages Act.

Does the hon. member for Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke consider adequate the amendments in Bill C-8 on the Official Languages Act, the transfer of responsibilities from the President of the Treasury Board to the president of the agency, and this horizontal transfer, which does not include greater responsibilities?

Since her party has a special sensitivity as concerns the implementation of the Official Languages Act in the public service, I would like to know what she thinks.

Financial Administration ActGovernment Orders

February 14th, 2005 / 5:45 p.m.
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Conservative

Cheryl Gallant Conservative Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise to speak to Bill C-8, an act to amend the Financial Administration Act, the Canada School of Public Service Act and the Official Languages Act. I participate in this debate to express the concerns that have been brought to my attention regarding this piece of legislation.

I come to this debate with a clear conscience knowing that I voted against Bill C-25, the Public Service Modernization Act. I had a number of concerns regarding that legislation and it would appear that my concerns were well-founded. This piece of legislation, Bill C-8, as has been acknowledged by the governments members, is a continuation of Bill C-25, which is another public service reorganization.

I am proud to confirm my record of supporting the men and women who are members of the Public Service of Canada. When civilian jobs were threatened on Canada's military bases, I joined the picket line to protest a visit by the Prime Minister to my riding of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke. That was when he was spending all his time trying to depose Jean Chrétien and not attending Treasury Board meetings.

The Prime Minister was not doing the job of finance minister by his own admission while on the witness stand at the Gomery commission. Canadians will never know, if the Prime Minister had attended some of those Treasury Board meetings he allegedly missed, whether some of the 100 million ad scam dollars would not have gone missing. That protest was our successful campaign to stop the supply chain proposal at the Department of National Defence. Bill C-8 sounds like the supply chain proposal all over again, except this time, rather than just pushing it on to the Department of National Defence, this is the supply chain for the entire public service.

The experience of Canadians, whenever the federal government seeks to reorganize, has been higher user fees, fewer public servants leading to longer wait times for basic services, more regulations, reduced accountability, and a reduction of service and higher cost, ultimately leading to higher taxes.

In centralizing personnel functions, will this allow for greater accountability of public servants or will this allow another sponsorship scandal to occur with no chance of anyone getting caught taking taxpayers' dollars? Is Bill C-8, and Bill C-25 before it, a case of closing the barn door after the horses have already been let out?

Canadians monitoring the Gomery inquiry into government corruption have been shocked while listening to the testimony of former elected Liberals, like the public works minister. He claimed the fraud and corruption schemes described as money laundering as being the fault of public servants.

Today's editorial page of the Ottawa Citizen sees this bureaucratic reorganization as nothing more than shuffling the deck chairs on the SS Liberal , or does it mean the Titanic , as a way to buy votes rather than improve administration of the Government of Canada? This is what the Ottawa Citizen says about the government procurement:

What about government procurement? There used to be two separate departments--Public Works, and Supply and Services. Jean Chrétien combined them into Public Works and Government Services in 1993 and eventually put Alfonso Gagliano in charge. Just ask the Gomery Inquiry how well that worked.

Canadians must ask, will Bill C-8 make it harder or easier for another sponsorship scandal, the worst scandal involving financial mismanagement in this country and perpetrated against the people of Canada?

Canadian confidence in how this country is run is further diminished when Canadians are told by the Prime Minister that once funds are allocated to a program, there is no accountability on how the money is spent and whether or not the program objectives are being met. Where is the justice in a Prime Minister who feels it is more important for the taxpayer to buy golf balls with his name on them to give away to his golf buddies or a minister of public works, who has a box of expensive pocket watches beside his desk to hand out to his political contributors, when there are children in this country who are going to bed hungry at night? There are a million Canadians who do not have a family doctor.

We fight separatism with good government, not monogrammed golf balls and Canadian lapel pins made in China. Where is the justice in that sort of activity?

It was evident from the arrogant testimony of the former Prime Minister that in his mind, his mistake was not in setting up a program that resulted in the defrauding of tens of millions of dollars from taxpayers, but the very way he presented himself to the corruption inquiry made it clear that he and those who supported his way of thinking felt that their mistake was in getting caught. An independent public service makes it far more difficult to perpetrate the type of corruption and mismanagement that Canadians are listening to, which took place at the senior levels of the government.

If Canadians are looking for a single reason to be skeptical when the government talks about costs, programs and how costs are managed, they should look no further than the horrendous example of the bloated out of control Liberal gun registry to understand why a majority of Canadians do not trust the government when it comes to accountability and how it manages programs that involve taxpayers' dollars.

When Bill C-68, the gun registry, was introduced, the Liberal Party assured Canadians that the program would operate at a net cost of $2 million. Where is it today? As of March 31, the hated gun registry will have cost the taxpayers of Canada $1 billion.

One billion dollars would have funded a lot of day care spaces. One billion dollars would have saved a lot of lives with the purchase of needed medical equipment like MRIs. One billion dollars could have been used toward the purchase of strategic lift for our armed forces, so they could deliver humanitarian aid on a timely basis. That first billion dollars is only the direct costs.

Even the CBC, which has supported that program in its newscasts, estimates that another billion dollars has been wasted on the indirect costs of the gun registry. Some $2 billion for a program that was promised by the government to cost $2 million. These are the indisputable facts.

The sad part of this miserable episode is to hear government ministers continue to defend this terrible waste of money. It is with this record in mind that I look at what Bill C-8 really means. This legislation is part of an internal services modernization program that will encompass the whole Government of Canada. The idea of a common infrastructure and service delivery review is now being driven by 9/11.

The federal government found that with so many departments using different platforms, there is a basic inability of the various departments to communicate with one another. With about 800 interfaces to other systems and more than 100 data centres, this means that Big Brother effectively does not know what is going on within its own organization.

Centralizing the functions of government, including the personnel function in this legislation, is meant to increase control. There is no evidence that efficiency will increase as well. The planned layoffs of government employees that will follow this legislation are necessary in order to sell this plan to some elements of the government party.

Bill C-8, along with the previous bill, Bill C-25, is part of a seven year plan to radically change how information technology is handled. That in and of itself is not a negative goal, but will it improve services to taxpayers? Past experience says no.

There is a plan in this internal services overhaul to create an information technology shared service organization as a special operating agency within Public Works. I would remind the minister that Canadians still do not have answers regarding the $161 million that went missing from the Department of National Defence as a consequence of its information technology reorganization changes and the lack of financial controls and proper accountability of how taxpayer dollars were spent.

When the Prime Minister tells Canadians he does not care how dollars are spent, which is what he told the Gomery inquiry, he is sending a clear signal that nobody should care, including the individuals who administer these programs.

I recognize the element of Bill C-8 that restores the comptrollership function that was cut back so extensively by the former finance minister, now Prime Minister, that led to the missing millions from DND and ad scam, but is reinstituting the comptroller enough?

The status quo projection for the next seven years is that the program areas themselves will spend an additional $9 billion performing similar related functions. Program managers and employees will spend approximately $17 billion on administrative matters. The likely spending by identifiable corporate function organizations in the areas of human resources, financial, materiel and information technology services is in the order of $40 billion. That is a lot of money.

What will it cost to implement this internal services modernization program? We can look for an expenditure in the upcoming budget of $2 billion for the corporate administration of this project over its seven year projected life, with a further $1.5 billion over five years to purchase the information technology to go with the program.

What is the human cost of this plan? Bill C-8 is all about human resource management so why does the government feel it needs legislation to supercede orders in council, which is the preferred way of sneaking change to avoid democratic oversight?

When this program was originally presented it was done so on the premise that “harvested savings” would pay for the reorganization. Now it has been determined that the so-called savings do not appear before year four of the seven year plan. The need for new money has resulted in Bill C-8. If the government is going to save $1 billion in annual operating costs, the money has to come from somewhere and once the master plan is announced the last thing the government wants is public scrutiny.

The projected impact of this plan, measured in full time equivalents, is 32,000 people. That means 32,000 positions in the public service will be directly affected by this program. The number of employees expected to lose their jobs is 13,000. Let me repeat that the federal government expects that 13,000 employees will lose their jobs implementing this program.

Moving public servants into the shared service organization that is envisioned by this plan will allow for processing functions to leave Ottawa, which is the carrot to get scared cabinet ministers from vulnerable ridings to sign on to this program.

What this has traditionally meant is pork-barrelling into the areas of the country the government is afraid of losing, as The Ottawa Citizen so aptly pointed out today. The concern is not the lost jobs in Ottawa, and I hope Mayor Chiarelli is listening. It is moving the remaining jobs to ridings outside of Ottawa.

The tactics of this new program have been laid out: get control quickly and centralize that control. Constituents of my riding of Renfrew--Nipissing--Pembroke are already suffering from the effects of the government's reorganization plan.

The federal government has identified the recently reconfigured Human Resources and Skills Development Canada, HRSDC, as a department with a pressing need to transform service areas within that department. HRSDC clients are the latest victims in this current experiment in government reorganization.

What this has meant for unemployed insurance claimants, seasonal workers applying for benefits in my riding, is that a 28 day waiting period for benefits has become, in some instances, a two and a half month wait. That kind of delay is clearly unacceptable.

The federal government knows that come late fall seasonal workers will be coming forward with their unemployment insurance forms. This is not new. This is the reality of certain kinds of employment in Canada.

What is new is when my constituency office is told by HRSDC that somehow it was taken unaware of the fact that for certain types of employment those workers are laid off during the winter and, surprise, surprise, will be applying for unemployment insurance benefits to tide them over to the next season. Two and a half months is a long time to go without any money in a household when one has bills to pay and children to feed.

It is bad enough that the government is running a $46 billion surplus in the employment fund, a fund for which workers pay in the form of a payroll tax. The economy pays for the payroll tax with fewer jobs since dollars that could have been used to create employment are paid out, in a payroll tax, in a fund that has a $46 billion surplus. However the government is trying to make it as difficult as possible for workers to draw from a fund that they pay directly into to protect against times of unemployment. To qualify and to then be told that one has to wait 6, 8, 10 or even 12 weeks for benefits is a symptom of everything that is wrong with the government.

This is the latest bureaucratic reorganization. It is recognized as having the potential to make a few individuals and their companies very wealthy. The number of vendors who will be able to provide services to the Government of Canada will be rationalized, in the words of the federal government. In the process of cutting suppliers, the opportunities will be presented to the favoured few, and that is a lobbyist's dream.

Any human resource reforms must have the support of the people they affect if they have any chance to succeed. What the public servants of Canada do not want is another top down plan imposed upon them without their consultation. Before any of these plans are implemented, I encourage the government to talk to and engage the people they affect before the plans are implemented.

As it has been noted elsewhere, 40 years of restructuring have never produced the results that are promised every time a bill like Bill C-8 is written. If the federal government were seriously committed to managing government more proficiently, it would start with ministerial accountability and it would start at the top with the Prime Minister.

Financial Administration ActGovernment Orders

February 14th, 2005 / 5:35 p.m.
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Sudbury Ontario

Liberal

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

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to begin the debate at third reading of Bill C-8, a bill aimed at giving legislative confirmation to the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada which was created by order in council as a result of the government reorganization of December 12, 2003.

As reported to the House, Bill C-8 was reviewed by the government operations and estimates committee on February 1. All clauses of the bill were approved unanimously, including one amendment made by the Bloc Québécois to subsection 4.2 of the Financial Administration Act in order to stipulate that the President of the Treasury Board is not only responsible but also accountable for the coordination of the activities of the secretary of the Treasury Board, the president of the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada, and the comptroller general of Canada.

While this precision makes more explicit in Bill C-8 what is in fact already part of the normal responsibilities of any minister of the crown, we accept this amendment. This is just consistent with the government's goal to foster an effective, clear and transparent accountability regime across the public service at all levels. This being said, let me take this opportunity to remind hon. members of the origin, the purpose and the benefits of Bill C-8.

First, as mentioned in the introduction, it dates back to over a year ago to the government reorganization which took place in December 2003. One of the goals of the changes made in December 2003 was to restore the confidence of Canadians in their public service. How? Through resource reallocation from low to high priorities, through strengthened financial management controls and leadership capacity, and through the implementation of the highest standards of ethics, accountability, transparency, and openness.

To this end, significant changes were made to how the administration of the federal public service was structured and organized. As part of this reorganization, the Treasury Board Secretariat was streamlined to better focus on comptrollership and financial management while the Public Service Human Resources Management Agency of Canada was established by orders in council to modernize and foster excellence in human resources management and leadership across the public service.

In this context the purpose of Bill C-8 is simply to confirm by legislative means the orders in council that established the agency and placed it within the Treasury Board's portfolio. It does not change powers or functions already conferred on the agency. It merely enshrines in legislation what exists in fact.

Essentially Bill C-8 does four things. First, it adds the position of president of the agency to the Financial Administration Act, just as the secretary of the Treasury Board and the comptroller general of Canada are already identified in the act.

Second, it specifies the nature of the powers and functions that may be delegated by the Treasury Board to the president of the agency in the same manner as set out in the Financial Administration Act for the secretary of the Treasury Board and the comptroller general.

Third, it stipulates that the President of the Treasury Board is responsible and accountable for the coordination of the activities of the secretary of the Treasury Board Secretariat, the comptroller general and the president of the agency.

Since the position of the president of the agency is included in the Financial Administration Act, this bill requires amendments to two other acts.

First, it requires an amendment to the Canada School of 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.

It also requires 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.

That was the “what” of Bill C-8. Let me now finish by outlining the “why”.

First, a legislative basis will provide greater visibility, legitimacy and stability to the agency that only a legal framework can offer.

This will facilitate implementation of its policies, programs and services.It will help the agency provide the leadership that is needed to modernize human resources management and leadership throughout the public service.

Second, a legislative basis will clarify the role of the agency within the system, including with unions. In particular, it will clarify its relationships within the Treasury Board portfolio, as well as with the Treasury Board in its role as employer.

Third, a legislative basis will support better integration of activities relating to human resources management within the Treasury Board portfolio.

Finally, and perhaps most significantly, it signals the government’s recognition that its most precious resource is its employees, the people who are in the service of Canadians. It shows the commitment and determination of the government to develop and sustain excellence in modern and exemplary management of its human resources.

The federal public service is Canada's largest employer. Setting up a true human resources management agency for the federal public service sends a strong signal to all managers, public servants and union representatives that sound human resources management is a priority for the Government of Canada.

Business of the HouseOral Question Period

February 10th, 2005 / 3 p.m.
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Hamilton East—Stoney Creek Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, today and tomorrow we will continue third reading of Bill C-29, the Patent Act. This will be followed by second reading of Bill C-31 and Bill C-32, respecting international trade and foreign affairs.

We will then proceed to second reading of Bill C-28, which amends the Food and Drugs Act; report stage of Bill C-8, the public service bill; report stage of Bill C-3, the Coast Guard bill; and report stage of Bill S-17, respecting tax treaties.

On Monday we will begin with report stage and third reading of Bill C-24, the equalization bill. If this is completed, we will then return to the previous list where we left off.

Tuesday and Thursday of next week shall be allotted days.

Next Wednesday we will commence second reading of Bill C-38, the civil marriage bill.

With respect to the question on the Judges Act, that will be forthcoming in due course.

Committees of the HouseRoutine Proceedings

February 3rd, 2005 / 10 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Leon Benoit Conservative Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates.

The committee has studied Bill C-8, an act to amend the Financial Administration Act, the Canada School of Public Service Act and the Official Languages Act, and has agreed to report it with amendment.