Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I'm sure you're all aware of the fact that we're going through a very difficult time. Only this weekend we appointed an acting president, who is present today. I hope you'll take the opportunity to meet with him during the break: Mr. Gary Corbett.
Mr. Chairman, honourable members and ladies and gentlemen, I would first like to introduce to you those appearing on behalf of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada. I am Geoffrey Grenville-Wood, the general counsel for the institute. With me here at the table is Isabelle Roy, legal counsel. Present in the audience is Gary Corbett, interim president of PIPSC.
We are grateful to the committee for offering us the opportunity to present to you our views on the legislation before you, Bill C-10, which is the budget implementation legislation. We are most concerned with parts 10 and 11, the Expenditure Restraint Act and the Public Sector Equitable Compensation Act respectively.
The Professional Institute of the Public Service represents 55,000 professionals across Canada's public sector, the vast majority of whom work in the federal public service. Institute members work in the federal government's departments, agencies, crown corporations, museums, archives, laboratories, research institutes, and field research stations. We represent, among others, the scientists who work for the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, the veterinarians who work for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, the auditors of Canada Revenue Agency, information technology experts in that agency as well, health professionals working for Health Canada, and many other specialists and professionals who, on a daily basis, work to protect and advance the health, safety, and well-being of Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
Our members are directly affected and indeed singled out by Bill C-10, in particular by parts 10 and 11.
We are of the view that the two proposed acts constitute an unwarranted and unnecessary attack on the charter rights of unions representing federal public service employees. Our brief, which has been distributed to all honourable members, presents our analysis and criticisms of the legislation, but let me be clear and unequivocal: these two pieces of proposed legislation represent an unconstitutional interference with the rights of our members and of female public service employees.
The brief sets out in greater detail our reasons for taking this view; however, it is appropriate for honourable members, in our submission, to think about how Parliament can knowingly pass unconstitutional legislation. As our colleague Mr. Gordon said, this proposed legislation will lead to litigation. There is absolutely no doubt about it, and it is going to be long and protracted and difficult litigation. If Parliament is going to pass this bill, it should do so knowing that.
With respect to the proposed Expenditure Restraint Act, let me first state that I'm sure you already know that the process of collective bargaining is now protected by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This fact was affirmed by the Supreme Court of Canada in the B.C. Health Services case. Part 10 of Bill C-10 represents an attack on the process of lawful collective bargaining. It will not withstand scrutiny under the charter. In our respectful view, the courts will likely conclude that the proposed legislation ought to be struck down as being an unacceptable interference in the process of collective bargaining.
The Professional Institute urges the committee to carefully reconsider this proposed legislation in light of the constitutional principles laid down by the Supreme Court of Canada, as recently upheld by other courts, including the Court of Appeal for Ontario.
In the light of the constitutional protection for collective bargaining, the charter places limitations on Parliament's power to enact legislation that interferes with collective bargaining. Legislation that has the effect of substantially interfering with the process of collective bargaining is unconstitutional.
In its decision regarding the B. C. health case, the Supreme Court stated the following:
[...] the state must not substantially interfere with the ability of a union to exert meaningful influence over working conditions through a process of collective bargaining conducted in accordance with the duty to bargain in good faith. Thus the employees' right to collective bargaining imposes corresponding duties on the employer. It requires both employer and employees to meet and to bargain in good faith, in the pursuit of a common goal of peaceful and productive accommodation.
There are ample grounds for concluding that this legislation constitutes substantial interference with collective bargaining. I commend you to read our brief, because my time is short here today, and I won't go into that in greater detail.
In other words, and to cut to the bottom line, so to speak, permitting bargaining to continue on non-monetary issues, as this bill proposes, does not give the government a free pass to restrict all collective bargaining on all pay-related issues.
Let me also make it clear to the committee that the International Labour Organization also indicates that such legislation would be inappropriate.
I would like to turn now to part 11, the Equitable Compensation Act. The equity legislation is designed to assist women. When that legislation discriminates against the portion of the group it was designed to help, women working in the federal public service, than that legislation violates the equality guarantee in section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The preamble to this bill affirms that women should receive equal pay for work of equal value. In our respectful submission, this is a hollow and cynical promise, for the provisions of the bill are designed to ensure that there is no workable or practical means of attaining this objective.