House of Commons Hansard #125 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was rcmp.


PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.


Jesse Flis Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36 I too have the honour of presenting a petition on behalf of Canadians who respect the sanctity of human life. The petitioners request that Parliament ensure that the present provisions of the Criminal Code of Canada prohibiting assisted suicide be enforced vigorously and, that Parliament make no change in the law which would sanction or allow the aiding or abetting of suicide or active or passive euthanasia. I add my support to these petitions.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.


John Williams Reform St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36 I am honoured to present a petition on behalf of 48 Albertans, many of whom are my constituents. These petitioners request that Parliament act immediately to

extend protection to the unborn child by amending the Criminal Code to extend the same protection enjoyed by born human beings to unborn human beings.

Not only am I pleased to present this petition but to endorse it as well.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

November 17th, 1994 / 10:20 a.m.

Kingston and the Islands Ontario


Peter Milliken LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I propose that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

The Speaker

Shall all questions stand?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:20 a.m.

Some hon. members


Public Service Staff Relations ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Saint-Léonard Québec


Alfonso Gagliano Liberalfor the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Solicitor General of Canada

moved that Bill C-58, an act to to amend the Public Service Staff Relations Act and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act, be read the second time and referred to committee.

Mr. Speaker, on March 10, 1994 the Federal Court of Appeal decided on its judgment on the Queen v. Yvon R.H. Gingras that RCMP members were entitled to the bilingual bonus now paid to eligible federal public servants.

The court ruled in this case that the bilingual bonus had to be paid because the RCMP was listed as one of the agencies for which Treasury Board is the employer under part 1 of schedule 1 of the Public Service Staff Relations Act.

According to the ruling RCMP members, both uniformed and civilian, are part of the public service. This government is taking appropriate steps to respect the court decision and to live up to its obligation to pay the bonus to current and former members of the RCMP who are entitled to it.

Strictly speaking, the court's decision dealt only with the bilingual bonuses issue. It therefore did not address issues of labour relations or issues of health and safety. In this sense, the legislation confirms that the existing arrangements should continue.

I would like to stress the fact that within the RCMP, in accordance with the divisional work relations system in place, management meets with representatives who are elected by the members. I can assure you that the RCMP occupational safety and health measures are totally in line with the requirements of the Canada Labour Code.

The bill we are bringing in today will clarify the status of the RCMP by amending several provisions of the Public Service Staff Relations Act and of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act.

The proposed amendments do not change the status of the RCMP. They only confirm the status it had before the Federal Court ruling.

As such, the amendments merely remedy ambiguities in the legislation not intended by Parliament. I ask the support of this House for this bill.

Public Service Staff Relations ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.


Val Meredith Reform Surrey—White Rock—South Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, upon first glance Bill C-58 appears to be a rather innocuous bill. It is only two pages long with four amendments. It seems to be just a housecleaning measure.

The changes in this bill put into statute what has been in practice for years. Police officers within the RCMP have never viewed themselves as members of the public service within the meaning of the Public Service Staff Relations Act. They have a separate superannuation plan. They have a separate means of employee representation. They have a different body to review grievances and they have always considered themselves to be outside the regular public service.

Now we have a bill before us that puts this into statute. It is no big deal. It is really just confirming what is already a reality in one sense perhaps. However, one must look at what prompted the introduction of this bill.

It is not stated anywhere in the bill but acknowledged by the speaker before me, the hon. secretary of state. The motivation of this bill is a Federal Court appeal decision from March 10, 1994. In rendering its decision in Gingras v. the Queen in the right of Canada, the court concluded that the RCMP was included in the definition of the Public Service Staff Relations Act.

As such, it was required to pay the bilingual bonus that has been paid to the public service for years but had not been paid within the RCMP. Not only did the RCMP suddenly find itself having to pay the bilingual bonus, it was also required to pay a significant accumulation of bilingual back pay. This amount will run into millions of dollars.

Last year the RCMP spent $5.1 million on official languages, not including these retroactive bilingual bonus commitments.

Under the Gingras decision, the force will be required to pay all members who occupy positions that were designated as bilingual. In recent years the RCMP has not designated specific positions as being bilingual. Instead it has utilized the unit bilingual complement system.

Ironically, in its main estimates this year the RCMP stated that it was reinstating the bilingual position designation system in all bilingual divisions. These bilingual divisions include headquarters as well as A division, which is the national capital region, C division which is Quebec, J division in New Brunswick and O division in Ontario.

The force stated that it was required to reinstate the bilingual position designation to meet its obligations under the Official Languages Act, particularly as it relates to supervisory positions. The force does not mention how many of its positions are designated as bilingual but if it were to be 10 per cent of the non-civilian positions this would result in an additional expenditure of $1.3 million. If 25 per cent of the positions were to be designated as bilingual that would mean another $3.2 million.

Faced with this unexpected expenditure, the RCMP and government are looking for a way to get out of these payments. They had to look no further than the Gingras decision to find a way to get out of these payments.

It turned out that Mr. Gingras was a member of the RCMP security service in 1984. When that organization became the Canadian Security Intelligence Service he was transferred to CSIS. When it was created, CSIS was designated a separate employer. This means that CSIS employees do not have the Treasury Board as their employer and that the bilingualism bonus plan does not automatically apply to them. On August 7, 1984 Mr. Gingras' counsel asked the director of CSIS, Ted Finn, to recognize that Mr. Gingras was entitled to the bilingual bonus.

In a response dated March 5, 1985 Mr. Finn replied that he had decided to provide the bilingual bonus to employees in the administrative support category only and excluded the professional level position, including the one occupied by Mr. Gingras.

Mr. Finn justified his position by stating that Mr. Gingras did not qualify for the bilingual bonus in his previous position in the RCMP and he would not change that now that he was in CSIS.

In the Federal Court of Appeal ruling the justices found that the RCMP should have been paying the bonus all along. The court ruled that RCMP members were indeed public servants and that the RCMP was represented by the Treasury Board and thus the force was compelled to pay the bilingual bonus.

The RCMP was required to pay Mr. Gingras the bilingual bonus from November 28, 1980 when he first raised the issue until he transferred to CSIS on July 16, 1984. CSIS was required to pay Mr. Gingras the bilingual bonus from July 16, 1984 until March 5, 1985. Why March 5, 1985? Because that is the date that the director of CSIS decided that the bilingual bonus plan would only apply to CSIS employees in the administrative support category.

The court ruled that as a separate employer CSIS had the legal right not to pay the bilingual bonus. Once the director decreed that the service would not pay it to professional categories they legally could avoid paying it.

The court ruled that there were two required elements to avoid paying the bonus. First, the government agency must be a separate employer. Second, the agency must decide not to pay the bonus. Thus CSIS qualified on both points not to pay the bonus but the RCMP did not. Yet the RCMP decided that it would not pay the bonus.

Back in 1977 then Commissioner Bob Simmonds decreed that the bonus did not apply to the RCMP. While this comment was subsequently deemed to be an error in law, his reasoning for not seeking authority to pay the bonus was sound.

Commissioner Simmonds decided that the RCMP should not pay the bilingualism bonus on two grounds. First, other police forces in Canada did not pay bilingualism bonuses even in bilingual cities or provinces, and since the RCMP determined its benefit package in relation to the police universe it was not prepared to be the only police force to pay such bonuses.

Second, the commissioner went on to state that the payment of such a bonus would become a divisive element as it would create situations in which members of equal rank and responsibility working side by side could receive differing remuneration because one or several of them had either the good fortune to grow up in a milieu favourable to learning a second official language or have the equally good fortune to learn it at public expense.

This was sound logic in 1977 and it is still sound logic today. Why should the RCMP spend taxpayers' money to train some of its members in Canada's other official language and then turn around and financially reward them for having a second language? Then again, why should any government department spend taxpayers' money to train some of its employees in Canada's other official language and then reward them with $800 a year bonus?

The RCMP main estimates show that there are other rewards for being bilingual. As I mentioned earlier the RCMP stated that it is reinstating the bilingual position designation in all bilingual regions in order to meet its obligations under the Official Languages Act, particularly as it relates to supervisory positions. Since bilingualism is a required element to obtain a promotion to a supervisory position in a bilingual region then maybe that is sufficient reward for bilingualism.

Whatever the reason, the RCMP and the government have decided that they should not be paying the bilingualism bonus plan to its police officers. That is why today we are debating Bill C-58. The bill will give the RCMP the second requirement to avoid paying the bonus. By removing the RCMP from the Public Service Staff Relations Act the force will therefore be a separate employer. All it will have to do is have Commissioner Murray announce that it will not be paying the bonus and it will be legally exempt from doing so.

Well, almost. The force has decided not to remove its civilian employees from the Public Service Staff Relations Act. For whatever reason, the RCMP has decided that civilian employees, appointed or employed in accordance with section 10 of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act, will still be covered by the PSSRA. There may be other reasons for treating them separately from the police officers within the RCMP, but it is clear the force will have to continue paying the bilingual bonus to these employees.

Current management seems to have forgotten the words of former Commissioner Simmonds who stated that payment of such a bonus would have a divisive effect on employees. Some may argue that the bonus is justified for civilian members because they are generally lower paid support staff. In the RCMP the 1,919 civilian employees of the force had an average salary of $46,178 per year. While Commissioner Simmonds' comment may have been made in reference to police officers within the force, the same divisive effect could occur among civilian employees.

Why should a civilian employee of the RCMP in a position that is designated as bilingual receive $800 more than an employee who is doing exactly the same job in a position that is not designated as bilingual? Why should we limit this to just bilingualism in the RCMP?

Consider the following comment: "This year approximately $50 million was once again spent without any assurance that the payment of such a sum was necessary to ensure Canadians of the availability of quality service in the official language of their choice. Given the present economic circumstances we are more than ever convinced that the bilingualism bonus should be eliminated gradually by negotiating with the parties concerned. In the interests of public finances as much as that of the official languages program, it is high time for the government to take the problem in hand".

If those words sound familiar, they are. They were spoken by the Commissioner of Official Languages in March of this year when he presented his annual report for 1993. While I take some exception with the commissioner's comments about eliminating the plan gradually, I fully agree with his recommendation that the government should turn its attention to this problem without delay.

The government should not have to resort to such sleight of hand legislation as Bill C-58. The RCMP should not be paying out millions of dollars in bilingual bonuses to regular members and special constables. Nor should the RCMP be paying the bilingual bonus to its civilian employees. Nor should any government department, agency or crown corporation be paying any of its employees the bonus. The government must come to terms with reality. That bonus must be dropped. When even the Commissioner of Official Languages is calling for its elimination it is time to drop the payments.

Bill C-58 seems like an innocuous bill. I am sure it was intended to be. The government certainly does not want to be seen as attacking any portion of the official languages program, but it intends to use the bill to circumvent it.

The time has come for the government to be straight with the Canadian public. It is time to scrap the entire bilingual bonus plan. We will support the bill because it takes a step toward eliminating the bonus, even if it has to take ten steps sideways to take one step forward.

Public Service Staff Relations ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.


François Langlois Bloc Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, speaking on behalf of the Official Opposition, I wish to express my objections to Bill C-58 at the second reading stage. We are not alone, since the Canadian Police Association, including associations of RCMP officers, did so yesterday. I would like to quote from the minutes of a meeting held at their headquarters here in Ottawa on November 14 and 15, on the subject of Bill C-58.

André Girard submitted copies of Bill C-58 introduced for first reading on November 4 and scheduled for second reading on November 17, 1994. If the bill is passed it will give separate employer status to the RCMP commissioner and leave the members vulnerable on all issues of pay and benefits.

It was decided to treat Bill C-58 as CPA priority and direct Scott Newark to take all necessary action to make sure the bill was sent to a parliamentary committee, vigorously debated and defeated.

It was moved by André Nadon, seconded by Jim Davidson:

That the RCMP C and O Division Members' Associations have full support of the Canadian Police Association and that the CPA take all necessary steps to fight Bill C-58 on their behalf.

It was carried unanimously.

Mr. Speaker, our objections to Bill C-58 are two-fold. First, this ostensibly routine legislation is, in fact, aimed at invalidating the effect of the judgment handed down by the Federal Court Appeal Division in the Gingras case on March 19, 1994. I intend to focus particularly on this aspect.

Second, Bill C-58 constitutes an additional obstacle to union membership for members of the RCMP, as well as interference by the legislative with the judiciary, since a case is still pending before the Quebec Court of Appeal. I am referring to Delisle vs the Deputy Solicitor General of Canada and the Solicitor General of Canada, file 500-09-001747-898 of the Montreal appeal district.

I will now discuss my first point. Two of my colleagues in the Official Opposition rose in the House to address this particular matter. The first time was on March 11, 1994, when the hon. member for Laval-Centre, in a question directed to the Solicitor General, asked as follows:

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Solicitor General. Yesterday, the Federal Court of Appeal ordered the federal government to pay bilingualism bonuses of $800 a year to qualified officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. It is estimated that the government now owes up to $4,000 to more than 3,000 officers, as well as to retired officers of the RCMP. Does the Solicitor General intend to abide by the unanimous decision of the Federal Court of Appeal and pay the bilingualism bonus to qualified officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police?

And the Solicitor General's reply:

Mr. Speaker, that decision raises some very complex issues. It is presently under review, and I will have more information about that in the near future.

The "near future" came two months later. On May 10, the hon. member for Richelieu rose in the House to make a statement under Standing Order 31. He said as follows, and I quote:

Mr. Speaker, the Bloc Quebecois applauds the government's decision to finally comply with the Federal Court of Appeal judgment and pay a bilingualism bonus to RCMP members who occupy bilingual positions.

This puts an end to a lengthy dispute between RCMP members and their employer who, must it be reminded, had decided not to provide this bonus, supposedly "to preserve cohesion within the forces".

If it is serious about bilingualism, the government must continue to pay bilingual bonuses inasmuch as it provides true incentive and compensation for the added complexity of bilingual positions.

Considering there is much room for improvement in the federal Public Service, particularly with regard to the use of French, the government must make sure this bonus is awarded for language skills of the highest level to provide services of the highest quality.

That was the end of the statement under Standing Order 31 made by the hon. member for Richelieu.

The government did not appeal the decision of the Appeal Division of the Federal Court. The case did not go to the Supreme Court, although in March, the minister maintained that some very important principles were at stake. We now know why. The minister had decided to take a difficult approach. Instead of asking the Supreme Court for a definitive opinion on the legal aspects of this case, the government decided to legislate, and that legislation is Bill C-58 before the House today. The government decided to go after its own justice, not by appealing to the Supreme Court, but instead by presenting to the House a bill which, to all intents and purposes, is aimed at rendering null and void the court's decision in the Gingras case.

Indeed, Bill C-58 seeks to overturn the decision handed down by the Appeal Division of the Federal Court, on May 10, 1994, in the Gingras case, which concerned the more or less 17,500 members of the RCMP. It should be pointed out that there are three distinct categories of employees working for the RCMP. The numbers I have were updated November 15, 1994, the day before yesterday.

Regular members and special RCMP constables number 15,551, whereas 1,983 civilians and 3,440 civil servants work for the RCMP.

The 15,500 regular members are, in fact, police officers. They are not unionized. The 2,000 civilians are support staff working in laboratories, as technicians or specialists; an unspecified number of them belong to the administrative support category. They are not unionized either.

The 3,500 civil servants are either administrative or support staff such as clerks, secretaries, stenographers, guards, caretakers and the like. They are all hired by the Public Service Commission or transferred from other departments. They belong to unions such as the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

As I mentioned earlier, Bill C-58 seeks to overturn the Federal Court of Appeal's decision. In the Gingras case, the court came to the conclusion that members of the RCMP belong to the Public Service and, as such, must abide by the rules set by the Treasury Board and that they are entitled to the $800-a-year bilingual bonus.

In May 1994, the government announced that it did not intend to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of Canada and that it was going to pay the bilingual bonus to RCMP members, including retroactive payments for some of the years it had illegally denied RCMP members this bonus. All in all, retroactive payments could amount to $30 million.

It seems that the Gingras decision disturbs the RCMP top brass because it means that, in certain cases, other Treasury Board regulations may apply to the RCMP and its police officers. Such regulations deal in particular with employment equity, the enforcement of the Official Languages Act, and working conditions. The right to unionize is being debated as part of the Delisle case, which I will deal with later.

Schedule I of the Public Service Staff Relations Act contains a list of departments and other agencies having the Treasury Board as employer, that is to say that are part of the Public Service, and a list of agencies which are separate employers. The RCMP is listed in Part I of Schedule I, and that makes it a part of the Public Service.

Bill C-58 would remove the RCMP from the Public Service, and therefore the Treasury Board would cease to be its employer. Consequently, the RCMP would be subject to legislation applicable to public servants only if it were specifically referred to in such legislation. Treasury Board policies would no longer apply to the RCMP, except if the RCMP itself decided to follow them, but that would be on a strictly voluntary basis.

Since December 1992, the Financial Administration Act has been the legal basis of the Employment Equity Program set up by Treasury Board in the mid 80s. All departments and agencies having the Treasury Board as their employer are subject to the Employment Equity Act because they are part of the Public Service.

Until recently, because the Commissioner had so decided, the RCMP was not subject to Treasury Board policies despite the fact that the force is listed in Part I, Schedule I of the Public Service Staff Relations Act. However, we should stress that the RCMP differs in some ways from the rest of the Public Service, and that has allowed the commissioner to pretend that the policy on bilingual bonuses did not apply to the RCMP.

The decision of the Appeal Division of the Federal Court, made March 10, 1994, in the Gingras case, puts an end to such pretence. From now on, said the tree presiding judges unanimously, the RCMP is part of the Public Service. Therefore, since March 1994, the RCMP has had to apply all Treasury Board policies to its 17,500 employees. Bill C-58 puts an end to that. We must note that civilian employees of the RCMP, numbering approximately 3,440, were always fully subject to Treasury Board policies on employment equity and bilingualism because they were recruited by the Public Service Commission.

The RCMP submits an annual report to the Treasury Board and is included in the Treasury Board's equity statistics. However, the RCMP decided a long time ago to implement the federal policy on employment equity for its 17,500 employees, which include 15,500 peace officers and 2,000 civilians. Instead of submitting an annual report to the Treasury Board and being subject to its rules, the RCMP decided to create its own system of co-operation with the Canadian Human Rights Commission, to which it submits an annual report.

However you look at it, the system is an ad hoc one and, in principle, inefficient. By in effect reversing the March 1994 decision, the government is seeking to exempt the RCMP from the Treasury Board's authority regarding labour relations and conditions of employment. Although the RCMP implements certain policies on a voluntary basis, its goodwill is questionable, given that, for 19 years, it denied its members the bilingual bonus, thereby saving approximately $50 million, or $2.8 million annually.

If one of the purposes of Bill C-58 is to stop the payment of bilingual bonuses to members of the RCMP, we can conclude that the government is adopting the Reform position. Do the Liberals intend to eliminate the bilingual bonus throughout the public service? If the government announces that it intends to pay the bonus to members occupying bilingual positions or if the RCMP commissioner decides to continue the bonus voluntarily, we can still say that the bill undermines the bilingual bonus policy, because the commissioner can terminate the bonus at any time.

It seems that the Official Languages Act applies differently to the RCMP: service in both languages, equitable hiring, language of administration, language of instruction at the Regina school and other similar provisions.

The member for Nanaimo-Cowichan believes that the Federal Court's decision in the Gingras case means that military personnel would also be entitled to the bilingual bonus. Unfortunately, under the act, military personnel are not considered part of the public service.

The Public Service Staff Relations Act specifically excludes members of the RCMP. They cannot, therefore, apply for certification to the Public Service Staff Relations Board, although the Delisle case I mentioned earlier may change this. While Her Majesty in Right of Canada, represented by the Treasury Board, is ultimately their employer, members of the RCMP are excluded from the definition of "employee" for the purposes of the Public Service Staff Relations Act.

At any rate, since RCMP members are presently part of the public service, this means that the RCMP remains subject to Treasury Board policies and standards. Only organizations with separate employer status are not subject to TB policies. Separate employers are paid a lump-sum each year, but are not required to comply with general policies regarding official languages or employment equity for example. Bill C-58 excludes the RCMP from the application of TB policies.

The Financial Administration Act under which the Treasury Board was established sets several standards regarding the public service and government finance administration, except as specifically provided in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act and any other act that applies to the RCMP, such as the Official Languages Act.

Bill C-58 provides for Treasury Board policies to no longer apply to members of the RCMP. Paragraph 7(1)( e ) of the Financial Administration Act states clearly that the Treasury

Board may act on matters relating to, and I quote: "personnel management in the public service of Canada, including the determination of the terms and conditions of employment".

Bill C-58 would add to the RCMP Act a provision by which paragraph 7(1)( e ) would not apply to the RCMP. Therefore, terms and conditions of employment would be determined by the commissioner of the RCMP and the RCMP Act. This act does provide that staff may appeal to the RCMP external review committee.

Without Bill C-58, the RCMP would presumably have had to gradually comply with Treasury Board occupational standards. I do not have the full list of TB standards and cannot compare them to those in effect within the RCMP under the RCMP Act, but I note that the Treasury Board has powers in the following areas: first, administration of the Employment Equity Act; second, administration of the Official Languages Act; third, financial management; fourth, annual expenditure plans; and fifth, personnel management and determination of terms and conditions of employment.

As far as personnel management is concerned, it is interesting to note that, under Section 11(2) of the Financial Administration Act, the Public Service Commission is partly responsible for personnel management in other departments. In the case of RCMP members, however, it is the Treasury Board which plays this role.

I note that the RCMP Act and some other acts make an exception for the RCMP given the nature of its work. Therefore, at this time, RCMP members' terms and conditions of employment are not identical to those of other public service employees. Among other things, RCMP members are excluded from the definition of "public servant" in the Public Service Staff Relations Act and cannot form a union.

So we can ask ourselves why the government is not proposing at the same time to grant civilian employees of the RCMP-about 2,000 office and support workers-the same rights and privileges as their 3,400 colleagues who are already part of the public service. After all, neither group is composed of law enforcement officers.

There is also an RCMP External Review Committee, whose mandate is "to provide an independent review of grievances, formal discipline, and discharge and demotion appeals filed by members of the RCMP". But, as the external committee points out in its annual reports, no document clearly spells out its jurisdiction. A member of the RCMP can ask the RCMP Commissioner to review a demotion or discharge. The Commissioner then asks the external committee to review the decision before settling the matter himself. The Commissioner is not required to follow the recommendations of the external committee.

The external committee also notes in its annual report that the decisions of the RCMP arbitration committee cannot be appealed to the external committee. Again, everything rests on the good will of the RCMP Commissioner, who ultimately becomes both a judge and a party in the disputes that may arise within the RCMP. How can we leave the terms and conditions of employment up to the good will of the RCMP Commissioner?

The external committee also stresses in its annual report that the grievance procedure is even more complex. In some cases, the Commissioner himself determines what kind of grievances can be submitted to the external committee.

Let us now talk about the RCMP as a separate or almost separate employer. The Treasury Board is the employer of the Public Service and all public servants, according to the list in Part I of Schedule I to the Public Service Staff Relations Act. The RCMP is now listed in Part I of Schedule I and Bill C-58 would replace the expression "RCMP" in this list with "civilian employees appointed or employed in accordance with section 10 of the RCMP Act", who number 2,000. It would exclude the peace officers in the RCMP, who number 15,500. This same law presents a second list, in Part II of Schedule I, of sectors of the federal public service that are distinct employers.

Note that the expression "federal government employees" takes in all government employees, including those who work for Crown corporations and the military. In all, there are 550,000. The Public Service does not count employees of Crown corporations, the military and personnel of separate employers, who number about 235,000 in all.

In particular, the separate employers in Part II of Schedule I include the Communications Security Establishment, CSE, and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, CSIS.

Bill C-58 does not add the RCMP to the list in Part II of Schedule I, neither does it add the 15,500 members of the RCMP who are peace officers to this list. Therefore, the 15,500 members of the RCMP who are peace officers will have the same status as members of the Canadian Forces; that is, they do not even appear in Part II of the schedule.

In fact, only the personnel not paid with public funds, namely the employees of bars, restaurants and other service establishments on military bases, are listed there. However, the Commissioner of the RCMP would have the status of a separate employer. I think that not putting the 15,500 members of the RCMP who are peace officers in Part II of Schedule I would give

the commissioner even more absolute control over his staff. Why? For what purpose? That is the hidden agenda in this bill.

I now come to my second point, very briefly, because to a large extent it is now before the courts. Bill C-58 further infringes on the unionization of members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and is unacceptable interference of the legislative authority in judicial matters, since a case on this issue is pending before the Quebec Court of Appeal. It is the case which I mentioned at the beginning of my speech, Delisle v . the Deputy Attorney General of Canada and the Solicitor General of Canada, which is to be heard by the Montreal District Court of Appeal in the coming months.

In this legal proceeding, the plaintiff, Gaétan Delisle, a member of the RCMP and member of the Quebec provincial association of the RCMP, is asking the courts of this country to declare unconstitutional all the provisions which prevent the Canadian Labour Board from issuing a certificate of accreditation for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and especially for its employees who are peace officers.

The officers who are the plaintiffs in these proceedings are basing their argument on section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms which provides for freedom of association. These plaintiffs argue that the freedom of association gives them the collective bargaining right, hence the right to unionize. This is an issue the Court of Appeal will have to settle, and I do not think that we, as legislators, should hinder the Court of Appeal and influence any interpretation it might give.

The plaintiffs before the Quebec Court of Appeal, the police officers of the Quebec section of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, also refer to the equality rights enshrined in section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Why is it that in every Canadian jurisdiction, and especially in provincial jurisdictions, police officers can join a union, but that the federal legislation prevents members and police officers of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police from unionizing? Can we talk about inequality pursuant to section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms? This is another issue upon which the Quebec Court of Appeal will have to decide.

Would it not be wiser to postpone this bill for six months or even longer until the court rules on the rights of the police officers and other bargainable employees of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, should they be successful with their court challenge?

For all these reasons, we will vote against Bill C-58 at the second reading stage.

Public Service Staff Relations ActGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.


Bob Ringma Reform Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, we are addressing Bill C-58, a bill to amend the Public Service Staff Relations Act and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act. At first blush it appears to be just an innocuous housekeeping bill. However, this morning it became evident that the purpose of the bill is solely to avoid paying bilingual bonuses to the RCMP which resulted from the Federal Court of Appeal ruling in the Gingras case.

At the time of the court decision the government said it had no choice but to pay the bilingual bonus. Not only is this untrue as it could have appealed to the Supreme Court but it is also misleading to Canadians as the government has now brought in this legislation as an attempt to quietly circumvent the court system.

I give the bill the label of good news, bad news. It is good news in what it will do with regard to bilingual bonuses. It is bad news in the manner in which it is being brought into being and things that have been quietly put aside in the past.

The Liberals were aware of the potential problems this case could create back in 1990. The Commissioner of Official Languages in the 1990 annual report wrote: "The distribution of this bonus was also brought into question in 1990 when the Federal Court ruled that an RCMP officer was as much entitled to it as a public servant. If the appeal court decision does not reverse this judgment we may see other federal employees in the armed forces or in some crown corporations claiming the bilingual bonus, all the more reason to reform this rickety structure, especially in a period of budget cuts".

The Liberals were also well aware of the reasons for the judgment in that 1990 Federal Court ruling. At that time the court stated: "The exclusion of the staff of these two agencies which are covered by the Public Service Staff Relations Act constituted illegal discrimination under the rules of administrative law". That is the court talking. The Liberals knew this. They were sitting in this House, but they waited more than a year after coming to power a year ago to act on this problem.

In April of this year in this House I asked the Prime Minister to heed the strong recommendation of the Commissioner of Official Languages and eliminate the bilingual bonus. At that time the Prime Minister stated: "I do not think the commissioner has made a strong recommendation". That is what he said, there is no strong recommendation, therefore we do not have to do anything about it.

Before I quote the present Commissioner of Official Languages from his last report I would like to quote previous commissioners on this very issue.

In 1983 the commissioner at that time stated: "Six years and let us say almost a quarter of a billion dollars into the game, any question of the real contribution that the bilingualism bonus might be making to federal language programs has pretty much

been lost from view". There is now nothing to prevent the cost climbing to $50 million or more except that a short, sharp government decision to stop this nonsense now before it does any more harm". How prescient the commissioner was in 1983 saying that because that is precisely the cost, $50 million a year, of bilingual bonuses today other than those of the RCMP.

To go on with comments of other official language commissioners, in 1986 the commissioner wrote: "There was at one point in 1985 a hint that Treasury Board was looking for ways to curtail whatever part of bonus spending might frankly be considered superfluous such as payments to middle and upper managers whose bilingualism is adequately compensated in other ways. It may be that the board is still looking and we encourage it to do so".

Let us move on to 1987 when the commissioner's report contained the following statement, and the Liberals sitting in this House were privy to all of this: "The bilingualism bonus as an instrument to encourage more active work related bilingualism among public servants is not well attuned to present needs. It falls like heaven's rain indiscriminately on the just and unjust alike which is not how bonus incentives are supposed to work".

Similarly at the risk of being boring in 1988 the commissioner stated: "Since the bonus no longer has the incentive effect that justified its creation, we can only repeat our recommendation that Treasury Board review the value of the bilingualism bonus".

That brings us to 1989 when the commissioner wrote: "The awarding of a bilingualism bonus may originally have been a positive measure but over time it has proven to be more of an obstacle to a fair linguistic designation of positions and a source of inequities within the public service".

I have already stated the concerns of the commissioner in his 1990 report so we will fast forward to 1991. That year the commissioner applauded the updating of the bilingualism bonus confirmation process but added: "This updating clearly cannot be called a reform of the bonus system, a system whose disappearance we, like many others, continue to hope for. This bonus which originated in 1966 as a 7 per cent supplement to the salary paid to secretaries truly has nine lives".

The commissioner's 1992 report states: "We are far from sure that this bonus paid to 59,900 public servants constitutes a necessary encouragement to the effective use of both languages. We can only reiterate the recommendation we have made so often that the bilingualism bonus be gradually eliminated".

Finally, everyone will be pleased to know the commissioner's comment from last year: "Unfortunately, with regard to the issue of the bilingualism bonus, it is obvious that the commissioner's repeated recommendations still have not been followed. This year approximately $50 million was once again spent without any assurance that the payment of such a sum was necessary to ensure Canadians of the availability of quality service in the official language of their choice. Given the present economic circumstances, we are more than ever convinced that the bilingualism bonus should be eliminated in the interest of the public finances as well as that of the official languages program. It is high time for the government to take this problem in hand".

That is the recommendation of the commissioner that the Prime Minister said was not a strong recommendation. I do not know how much stronger he could make it based on years of precedent recommendations by other language commissioners.

It is interesting that while publicly the Prime Minister has shrugged off these recommendations, his government today quietly tries to slip through this innocuous legislation which will at least partially achieve what so many commissioners have strongly advocated for more than 10 years.

Let us have a quick look at what the rationale was regarding this bonus within the RCMP in years gone by. Back in 1977 R. H. Simmonds who was the Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police gave as his rationale for not paying the bilingual bonus that members of the police universe who are compared to the RCMP in the amount of pay and benefits received do not receive the bonus and the equations between these groups should remain the same as much as possible.

The Commissioner of the RCMP also said in that year: "The payment of a bonus was seen as a divisive element in a cohesive organization as situations would be created whereby members of equal rank and responsibility working side by side could receive differing remuneration because of different advantages toward learning a second language, perhaps even at public expense".

This was the evidence, part of it, that has been picked up on by various language commissioners over the years.

From my own experience in the Canadian forces I am well aware that members who are bilingual, and this applies to the RCMP as well, already have an enhanced opportunity of promotion with the accompanying increases in remuneration. The bilingual bonus therefore is in effect an additional payment. I might add as well that most members are bilingual because of language training at public expense.

So I ask, in view of all of this background, in view of the evidence presented, why is the government not proudly proclaiming its attempt to cut wasteful spending? Could it be that it is afraid of publicly slaying the sacred cow, which is official languages, no matter how small a knife the government wields?

I congratulate the government on its attempt to right a wrong, but I condemn the government for wrapping this initiative in a cloak of secrecy. Why not tell people the truth? The Federal Court of Appeal ruling in the Gingras case means taxpayers will have to shell out roughly $30 million in retroactive bilingual bonus payments.

The government should say: "We do not agree with this decision. Therefore we are enacting this legislation to prevent further annual payments of nearly $3 million." This is the truth of the legislation and the people of Canada deserve nothing less than the truth, especially from a government that claims honesty and integrity as its guiding principles.

Public Service Staff Relations ActGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.


Bernard St-Laurent Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-58 aims at reversing the decision of the Federal Court of Appeal in the Gingras case, on March 10, 1994. As you may remember, the Court of Appeal then concluded that members of the RCMP, most of whom are of course police officers, are part of the public service and must adhere to Treasury Board rules, and that these members are also entitled to the bilingualism bonus of $800 per year. This is a brief summary of the decision.

In May of 1994, the government announced that it had no intention of appealing the decision and that it would pay the bonus to RCMP members, including for part of the years during which the government had illegally refused to grant such bonus. In all, retroactive payments should amount to $30 million.

The decision of the Federal Court of Appeal seems to bother RCMP authorities since, according to some, it means that the RCMP and its police officers will be subjected to the other Treasury Board rules. These rules deal, among other things, with employment equity, the implementation of the Official Languages Act and the rules governing working conditions, with the exception however of the right to set up a union. This is a very important aspect which must not be overlooked.

Before going any further, we have to look at the issue from a temporal perspective, but also in the context of that specific group.

What is the RCMP? We must first make an important distinction between three different groups of employees within that organization. In total, there are 15,500 police officers in the RCMP; there are also 1,983 civilian members, as well as 3,440 public service employees. Again, 15,551 regular members are in fact police officers and are not unionized. The 2,000 civilian members, or 1,983 to be precise, are in support positions and include laboratory and general technicians, experts in various fields, aircraft pilots, as well as an indeterminate number of employees from the administrative support category. Those people are not unionized either.

The some 3,500 public service employees hold administrative and support jobs and include clerks, secretaries, stenographers, nurses, janitors, etc. These employees were all recruited by the Public Service Commission or transferred from other departments. They belong to unions such as the Public Service Alliance of Canada.

What is troublesome with Bill C-58 is that it is an underhanded way of doing what is prohibited by the law. As can be seen in Bill C-58, what bothers the authorities is that for many years some RCMP members have been trying to unionize. Three times already, their attempts have failed. In 1994, unionization should no longer be considered a barbaric action that needs to be countered. For a group, it is the freedom to express its will to protect itself against its employer.

So, the purpose of Bill C-58 is to reverse the Gingras case of March 10, 1994. Bill C-58 would exclude RCMP members from the Public Service, taking away their capacity to unionize, but would give them the bilingualism bonus. Such an opportunity to depict the bilingualism bonus as a favour will certainly not be missed when, in reality, it was originally established to promote bilingualism within the Public Service of Canada.

Now, let us set aside the union aspect for a moment-I will come back to it later-to focus on the bilingualism bonus. I just want to make a few comments to show the unwillingness of the administration to acknowledge some data concerning the RCMP and the bilingualism bonus.

The bilingualism bonus program for public servants who meet the standards of proficiency for bilingual positions was established on November 15, 1976. Its purpose is to promote bilingualism within the Public Service, working as an incentive for civil servants to become bilingual. In 1993-94, the government will again have spent approximately $30 million in bilingualism bonuses, which represents $800 a year for each beneficiary.

As I was saying earlier, in its March 10 ruling on the Gingras case, the Federal Court of Appeal has declared that members of the RCMP are entitled to the bilingualism bonus. However, as far as the government or, should I say, RCMP administrators are concerned, two problems persist. Firstly, the government is repudiating the ruling handed down by the court by refusing to make retroactive payments as far back as the court ordered. Secondly, we have now learned that payment of the bonus has since been granted.

RCMP senior management has reduced by half the number of employees entitled to the bonus. According to the president of the RCMP Employees' Association, this drastic change in the application of the Official Languages Act is based on the fact that the great majority of RCMP members entitled to the bilingualism bonus are francophones. What a coincidence, Mr. Speaker! The President of the Treasury Board must make a commitment, as he is being asked to do by RCMP members, to intervene as soon as possible in order to redress this flagrant injustice. That is what we hear.

Today, this bonus is considered a source of inequity within the public service rather than a real compensation for the added difficulties related to working in both languages. The same amount is paid to every employee, whatever the level of competence, the salary or the frequency of use of the second language. The bonus is granted to public servants, but not to government employees.

According to the Commissioner of Official Languages, it is far from certain that this bonus is an incentive to effectively use both languages whenever it is required by law. If the government really believes in the importance of bilingualism in federal institutions, the bilingualism bonus can be considered a major asset when it provides an incentive for public servants to learn a second language and use it effectively.

The Bloc Quebecois does not, however, agree with those who argue that the cost of bilingualism is too high. We must see things in perspective. As long as the federal government maintains its official bilingualism policy, which is entirely reasonable, it will have to allocate the requisite funding. I suggest that when the annual report of the Commissioner of Official Languages is tabled, the debate should not be about costs but should focus on the government's failure to act in this area and on the long way it still has to go before the federal public service is truly able to offer quality services in both official languages. That was in connection with the bilingualism bonus.

I will now consider the aspect of union membership, to which I referred earlier. I said that Bill C-58 was an attempt to isolate members of the RCMP by targeting the organization's regular members, in other words, the police. The bill creates two groups but only one group will belong to the RCMP, and I am referring to the police officers. In other words, civilian employees and other technicians will no longer be members of the RCMP. Bill C-58 no longer wants to include public servants, the so-called civilians. The people of the RCMP are being isolated.

The question people are asking and I am asking is this: Why are they trying to isolate police officers in the RCMP? There are several theories, of course, and I will tell you mine.

The Quebec government recently set up a rather interesting program in its public service, aimed at encouraging input from public servants who want to discuss, as a matter of economic and social concern, anything that might look like terrible waste and abuse of public funds, in a straightforward attempt to reduce operating costs without, of course, affecting the quality of service to the public. Today, for instance, it would be the quality of service provided by members of the RCMP to Canadian taxpayers.

Clearly, Bill C-58 will prevent these people from making an honest attempt to show up any abuse that might occur within their organization. Bill C-58 confirms that it will turn these people into robots at the beck and call of a small group of individuals who are only intent on controlling situations and thus keeping a certain power over events and the people who are supposed to manufacture those events.

For instance, suppose an RCMP officer were to notice that equipment, to give a simple example, was being used wrongfully by his superiors for their own use. Can anyone in this House imagine just for a second this officer going to his superiors and telling them: "You are misusing public funds, and you are doing so for your personnal benefit"? Not on your life. Even if the alleged incident is illegal or close to breaking the law, he cannot do it because he has no protection. These people are muzzled.

Trade unionism is not a weapon, it is a working tool in a democratic social system, which gives more power to those who use it, no matter where, even in those areas where it is the most difficult to unionize workers, as is the case at the Ogilvie flour mill, in Montreal. Even though the workers there belong to a union, they are now faced with the lack of anti-scab legislation in the Labour Code of Canada. Therefore, they are very close to being under some kind of a dictatorial regime since they have to sit idle while scabs come in to take their place. Negotiations then become meaningless. This creates a dangerous social climate.

Last spring, we had the very same situation, for three months at Q.N.S. & L. in Sept-Îles, in my riding of Manicouagan. Scabs were allowed inside to take the jobs of workers who, in all good faith, wanted to negotiate with their employer. Once again, there was provocation. There is nothing illegal in being unionized, it is perfectly legal.

The Sûreté du Québec is unionized. Its members belong to a group that is there to protect them. The Communauté urbaine de Montréal, otherwise known as the CUM, is made up of police officers. They are not animals or equipment, they are individuals, human beings. They are entitled to some security in their life. The same goes for the Communauté urbaine de Québec. But the RCMP said no.

The rumour has it that the employees tried to unionize on three occasions, but each time, their attempts were unsuccessful. Such tactics, you can imagine, go against the Charter of Rights. But these hypocritical tactics are concealed so well in Bill C-58 that it is impossible to make an official complaint under the Charter of Rights, arguing that the Liberal government does not want RCMP employees to form a union or is trying to prevent them from doing so.

This prompts me to make a connection with the situation of CSIS, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. I think that there is a strategy, that Bill C-58 is an element of a very simple strategy.

First, you prevent the members of the RCMP from unionizing. On three separate occasions already, attempts to do so failed, but pressure to unionize most have been growing and getting quite strong recently, last spring. This gave fuel to the case, the Gingras case, which was brought before the Federal Court of Appeal on March 10.

This case castigates the Liberal government, so it reacted by introducing Bill C-58. Here is the line of thought: because this is a small separate group within forces responsible for national security, unable to unionize and therefore unable to make itself heard and to protect its members against abuse of power on the part of management, before this Parliament is over, a bill will probably be tabled before us to renew the RCMP, perhaps even under a new name! Why not? This group will need a special budget and, as it turns out, no one will be allowed to know what exactly this money is used for. This is where I see a similarity with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

Let us take a brief look back at the Canadian Security Intelligence Service,so as to clearly put the problem facing us in its proper context. In 1946, given the increased workload of the RCMP resulting from this added jurisdiction, the staff assigned to this particular function was made into a separate group for the first time. In 1956, the Special "I" Branch became a directorate within the RCMP. I am going quickly. In 1969, the royal commission of inquiry on security recommended creating a civilian security agency. From 1971 to 1974, especially but not exclusively in Quebec, the security service mounted a series of operations, many of which were apparently illegal, to neutralize radical groups, who happen to be separatists, once again.

On March 27, 1975, the federal Cabinet developed a directive for the security service's activities. This directive remained secret until 1978. In 1976, Corporal Samson, who was tried for an incident unrelated to this affair, revealed his participation in Operation Bricole in 1972, which involved breaking and entering and stealing files, as we recall.

Various events occurred over the years, but let us go to November 29, when the members of the Security Intelligence Review Committee were appointed; the chairman was a former Conservative Cabinet minister. In February 1985, CSIS's operating budget was $115 million. This was less than the $200 million it is today, and neither Canadian taxpayers, nor the House of Commons, are allowed to review it. Something is wrong! It is a terrible outfit which not even the House of Commons is able to control any more.

So, to sum up, one, we want to talk about unionization, to move the process along. We intend to talk about unionizing members of the RCMP because the people in that force can find out about the abuses going on in various branches.

Second, they table a bill aimed at isolating the only people with access to compromising documents. Third, I am convinced that, before the end of this parliamentary session, they will pass a bill putting the RCMP in the same class as CSIS, that is, with millions of dollars to spend but without ordinary taxpayers being allowed to look into how this money is spent.

In conclusion,it is my firm belief that it is high time that Quebec achieve sovereignty. Bill C-58 will not make Quebecers change their minds and convince them that it might be beneficial to keep federalism in good shape.

In fact, we do not have to worry about federalism or trying to destroy it. Federalism is destroying itself through bills like C-58.

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11:45 a.m.

Lethbridge Alberta


Ray Speaker ReformLethbridge

Mr. Speaker, members recognize that this bill is very straightforward and very important. Not only does it deal with a circumstance that was created by a court decision, it deals with a matter that could be very costly to the government and to Canadians. On that basis the matter is very timely.

I find two issues of interest in this legislative change. First is the matter of the bilingual bonuses which are the base purpose of the bill. Second is the autonomy of the RCMP. That both these purposes can be achieved is to be commended.

I would like to give some background which I believe we all recognize is important to our discussion. Certainly the purpose of the bill should be discussed. As I understand it, the bill removes RCMP officers from the definition of employee and in so doing it removes them from the public service as defined under the Public Service Staff Relations Act.

How will they be governed? They will now be governed under the RCMP act. That is where the item of autonomy is discussed. It all seems very simple at first glance.

However when the background of the bill is examined some significant consequences are shown. First, let us talk about the matter of bilingualism. RCMP officers would be able to opt out of bilingualism. Reform Party policy states very clearly that it supports the removal of bilingual bonuses to civil servants as a federal cost reduction measure. We support individual bilingualism but oppose institutional bilingualism as dictated by the Official Languages Act. We feel the bill is in line with that policy.

Why do we believe there are reasons for the RCMP to be able to opt out of bilingual bonuses? First, we can talk about the very basic matter of fiscal constraints. We all recognize that the decision of March 10, 1994 with regard to Gingras v. The Queen in right of Canada that bonuses that were not paid in the past can now be collected by the RCMP. It will cost millions and millions of dollars. The question is whether a person should legitimately have it or not. I say he or she should not.

It was the policy of government under the Public Service Staff Relations Act that was wrong in the first place. We should be able to stick to that very basic principle which we hear often, that of equal pay for equal work. Not only should that happen in the public service but it should happen in the private sector. It is very important, as I examine this matter.

I refer to a comment by R. H. Simmonds who was the commissioner of the RCMP in 1977. He was at that time putting together a rationale for not paying the bilingual bonus. He came to the conclusion that the payment of the bonus was seen as a divisive element in a cohesive organization, as situations would be created whereby members of equal rank and responsibility, working side by side, could receive differing remunerations because of different advantages toward learning a second language, perhaps even at public expense. That was a major concern and on that basis there was a resistance to paying the bilingual bonus.

That principle is very important to the RCMP, which as an organization and as individuals, whether male or female, must be very objective and fair in how the law is applied in a variety of situations. In no way can there be discrimination that is based on either linguistic, racial, religious or any other characteristic of the RCMP officer when the law is applied.

In certain circumstances there may be a need for a limited number of bilingual positions. We need bilingual members of the force. Those people already receive certain rewards. However, it should not be the reward of a special pay bonus. They receive a reward because they can take advantage of certain promotions within the public service. They can receive assignments which require special skills in providing service to the public in law enforcement.

When looking at this matter of an extra bonus because one has special skills in a language, I can think of a variety of analogies which are appropriate. For example, if a person comes to the RCMP with a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science degree, should a clause in the bill say that person should receive an extra bonus to perform a duty? Should they receive a bonus? I do not think so.

I look at another analogy of Elizabeth Manley, for example, a professional figure skater, who if she became an RCMP officer would bring that special skill, a very special skill that we in Canada certainly admire and respect. Should there be an extra bonus because this person is physically fit, able to do the job and may be a little bit more nimble in applying the law in a variety of circumstances? I do not think so.

The Globe and Mail this morning made a statement with regard to the abilities of males versus females. It stated that studies show that females have better verbal skills to bring to the job market. Does that mean we should pay an extra bonus? Should we really do that or not? Do those skills assist the person to get a job or to compete in the marketplace? Yes, I think it does. Does it mean that females should get paid more than males under those circumstances? I do not think so.

We have to look at the responsibilities of that job. We hire based on qualifications to meet the requirements of the job. We maintain the basic principle that there is equal pay for equal work in whatever job confronts the individual whether male or female. That is the only logical way we can look at a circumstance such as this.

The second consequence of the bill is the matter of more autonomy for the RCMP. It takes members of the RCMP and places them under the RCMP act. That is the way it should be. They should have more autonomy and more control with regard to their members and employment. As Reform policy we state very clearly in our manual that the Reform Party supports the traditional role of the RCMP as a police force, representative of and responsive to the population it serves in Canada's regions. It means it has to have its own autonomy and its own ability to apply the law equally to all citizens in the country, without some RCMP officers having special pay with regard to applying those services whatever they may be.

I believe that bringing the other members of the RCMP under the RCMP act will make it possible for them to be more responsible to the public rather than being responsible to the broad federal bureaucracy under the Public Service Staff Relations Act. It is important that this law enforcement organization maintain its independence.

I conclude my remarks by saying it is good that the RCMP have the opportunity to opt out of the bilingual bonus program. I certainly would urge them to do so when we finalize this

legislation. Second, greater autonomy for that organization is good and it is most important.

If I had to say anything negative with regard to the government's bill and its presentation here, I would say that it has not gone quite far enough. If we examine the bill we will see that something is missing. The civilian personnel working for the RCMP, as I understand it, can still claim the bilingual bonus. The bilingual bonus should be eliminated across the board and we should deal with the whole public service in the same way. We should have a complete change rather than this somewhat piecemeal change, even though it is good as presented.

The government is playing a bit of catch-up. I know some of these policies and legislative changes are brought in by governments under different circumstances. We have to recognize that circumstances have changed, not only fiscally but in the attitudes of Canadians. They are saying: "We are all Canadians no matter where we live. We should have equal opportunity, not only in the job place but equal opportunity in terms of cultural and other social aspirations".

This law as it was put in place some time ago created inequality not equality. I believe it is good that we are trying to tackle that problem.

I certainly support my colleague from Nanaimo-Cowichan who said we should tackle this problem in a very comprehensive way. As Reformers we are certainly united on that front.

We support this bill. We feel it is a small step in the right direction. We certainly urge the government to continue this pursuit and make sure that equality is brought to the public service.

Public Service Staff Relations ActGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.


René Laurin Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, the minister introduced Bill C-58 this morning by telling us that, for all intents and purposes, these were mere technical provisions, that they were of little consequence, and that they only aimed at bringing back the status quo which prevailed before the Gingras decision. As everyone now knows, the Court of Appeal ruled that some RCMP employees were part of the public service and not excluded from it.

We wonder if this issue is so simple. Indeed, if it is so ordinary, why is the government acting in this fashion?

It does not seem to be a matter of avoiding additional costs, since the court decision has already been implemented and the bilingualism bonus paid to those RCMP members who are entitled to it. Consequently, it does not look as though this bill will help the government make significant savings in the immediate future.

We wonder why the government wants to act so quickly in this particular case, considering that it still has not done anything in other cases involving a lot more money, such as the now famous Gulf Oil case. In 1974, the government legislated to allow certain tax deductions for oil companies, thereby reducing their tax burden.

Oil companies took advantage of those provisions to the point that after a while the government must have concluded that some were going too far. However, the government merely watched: It did not take any action. Yet, there is a lot of money involved. Since 1974, these companies have avoided-and I am not saying they acted illegally, because the law entitles them to do so-the payment of $1.2 billion in taxes. In fact, every day the government loses $260,000 because of those tax provisions. In this case, however, 20 years later, the government has still not seen fit to change the law, even if it seems to do the exact opposite of what the government intended to achieve, which was to allow companies to increase their research and development activities in the natural resources area.

There are billions of dollars at stake. For 20 years now, we have been studying the legislation and wondering if we should act now, or wait a little longer to see if the law has any impact on other companies. If a bill had been passed right away and if we had said after a few years: "Since the law does not seem to say what we meant to say, we will correct it and change it right now", we would have saved billions of tax dollars.

So, here we are 20 years later and nothing has been done yet. However, the government is in a hurry to pass Bill C-58. The ruling of the Court of Appeal only dates back to March 1994, but already the members of the RCMP who were hopeful to see their situation be legitimized realize that the government had decided to act right away and to say: "Since the court's ruling is at variance with our intent, we will act now and pass an act to clarify the situation and make the act say what we want it to say, which is to stipulate that employees of the RCMP are not part of the public service".

There are some 15,500 regular members and special constables, and, as was said earlier, 2,000 civilian employees in the RCMP. There are also about 3,400 civil servants, currently the only ones who have the right to join a union. Of course, this bill in itself represents a step in the right direction, since it allows civilian employees of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to unionize, which they could not do before.

So, we should commend this part of the bill, thanks to which 2,000 and more employees will be able to exercise their democratic rights.

That is a nice gesture on the part of the government, but it does not go far enough, since it still deprives the vast majority of RCMP employees, and I am referring to regular members and special constables, of the right to enjoy the same privilege, which is the right to organize, to form a union, a right that has been recognized by all other groups in society, all other occupa-

tions and professions, and even by other police forces across Canada. Other police forces have this basic, democratic right which respects the right of individuals to organize freely and to be able to negotiate the terms and conditions of their employment. In Bill C-58, RCMP officers are denied that right.

Why should these people not enjoy the same advantages as their colleagues in the provincial police forces or the rest of society? What is the government's real agenda? Does the government expect to control this police force more readily by removing it from the supervision of Treasury Board, thus turning it into an agency that is not an agency defined by law as another activity sector, that is not covered by a specific department and, in fact, seems to come under the sole supervision of the commissioner, who has a lot of power. Bill C-58 more or less confirms, although it does not say so explicitly, that the big boss, the big decision-maker, is the Commissioner of the RCMP. Occasionally, he gets some help from an outside committee, but mostly he accepts the committee's recommendations to protect his image, while he ultimately has the right to reject those recommendations.

What we want is transparency in the way the government is run, which should include the way police forces are run as well. To exclude them from the public service boils down to treating them like members of the military, who for security reasons, are excluded from this kind of control and have their own justice system and their own courts. However, we do not think it is appropriate to run a police force along those lines.

Would the government want to exempt these 15,000 RCMP members from the policy on bilingualism in the future? We wonder. We can feel that government has the support of another opposition party in this matter. That party has been very clear: the government's approach is not the proper one in this case. Bilingualism should mean two languages in Quebec and only one language in the rest of Canada. That is bilingualism according to the Reform Party. Is the government prepared to adopt that Reform Party policy on bilingualism for Canada? Does the government intend to cut the bonus for RCMP members? We wonder.

What are the intentions of the government in terms of employment equity? Since the courts have ruled that, by virtue of the present legislation, the RCMP should come under the jurisdiction of the Treasury Board, why would the government not accept that RCMP members be treated according to the same standards as those applied to all other civil servants, that is the standards laid down by the Treasury Board?

Why not take this opportunity to give RCMP members the same privileges as those granted all other employees of the public service?

The Public Service Commission is responsible for personnel management in several other departments. As part of the monitoring process, it must make sure that everybody abides by standards and regulations. In the case of the RCMP, the Treasury Board, not the Public Service Commission, had that responsibility. The Treasury Board authorities would ensure a better control of the RCMP.

But Bill C-58 would take that responsibility away from the Treasury Board. Is this another way for the RCMP to avoid having its activities scrutinized by a public body whose role is to ensure transparency and answer taxpayers' questions? What is so secret that Treasury Board should not have authority over the RCMP?

Is there a hidden agenda? Is the government planning again to have the RCMP carry out duties in a covert way, protecting it from inquisitive taxpayers wanting to know why the RCMP is behaving this way or that? Does the government have ulterior motives?

It is hard to say, but it seems rather strange for the government to take advantage of an Appeal Court decision not only to give back to the RCMP Commissioner the same powers he had before, but also, in reality, to reinforce the authority he has now since, to all intents and purposes, he does not seem to be accountable to anybody in particular in the government.

We cannot condone this policy because this bill lacks transparency and does not go far enough. Why is it that something good for 5,000 RCMP employees should not be good also for the remaining 15,000? As the saying goes, what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

Why would what is supposed to be good for support and administrative staff and all other RCMP employees not be good for special constables and regular members of the RCMP? Why should they not benefit from it also?

We will vote against this bill at second reading, and we hope that the government will do an about-turn and abide by its civil service renewal policy, which was supposed to give more decision-making powers to lower levels of government, and not to exclude certain agencies from the decision-making process.

If this is the kind of civil service renewal the government had in mind, we misunderstood its intentions and we must denounce them here and now. Letting authority move from top to bottom, means allowing the decisions to be taken as close as possible to the place where the problems occur.

This is not what the government is doing with Bill C-58. What the government is doing is exclude the RCMP from the jurisdiction of Treasury Board. By making the RCMP come under a single person it enables it to act on the sly, without any openness and in a way unacceptable to taxpayers.

Once again, we think that the government should backtrack and respect the spirit of the program of public service renewal, the so-called Public Service 2000, that it does not seem to hold in high regard and has not really considered up to now. We have a feeling that it has been relegated to the highest shelf and that the government is in no hurry to follow-up on its electoral promises in this regard.

Mr. Speaker, thank you for your attention. I am ready to answer questions if there are any.

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12:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Questions or comments. Normally, I would give the floor to a member from another party, but since no member for another party wishes to speak, I recognize the hon. member for Berthier-Montcalm.

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12:15 p.m.


Michel Bellehumeur Bloc Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I wish to congratulate my Bloc colleague from the riding of Joliette because I think he grasped the full significance of this bill. Since he is the critic on public service renewal, there should be at least one person in this House who defends the public servants working for the system. RCMP members are directly affected by what is done or not done in this House.

I must tell you at the outset that although we seem to defend the RCMP, we, in the Bloc Quebecois, would have good reasons not to oppose a bill which paints the RCMP into a corner and puts them in a separate class. You have certainly heard members of this House talk about incidents involving the RCMP back in the 1970s. As you know, sovereignists and independentists are not great friends of the system, of the RCMP, but I think that as the Official Opposition we must denounce such bills. This is what I am doing today by denouncing Bill C-58.

Our first reaction after looking at a bill like this is to see it as a harmless piece of legislation. There are not many sections. It does not seem very consequential at the jurisdictional level. Nevertheless, I think we should ask ourselves why Bill C-58, now, in November, singles out RCMP members by putting them in a separate class. Because C-58 does put RCMP members in a separate class.

Looking at the bill, we realize that it touches on staff relations and wonder why the Federal Court of Appeal made a certain ruling under the law as it stood when the court addressed the issue. It handed down a very fair, very well-researched ruling, so that the Liberal federal government-I will come back to this a little later-does not want to appeal it.

Why C-58? As my colleague said earlier, I think that the Gingras case spurred the Liberal government into introducing legislation in this area. For the benefit of those who are not familiar with the Gingras case, a brief review of this case may be useful, for the sake of understanding the general dynamics of Bill C-58.

You all know that the federal government instituted a bilingualism bonus plan in the seventies, on the 15 of November to be exact. Yesterday was the anniversary, not only of the first term of office of the Parti Quebecois, but also of the creation of the bilingual bonus. This plan was for employees hired by Treasury Board, that is to say the government of Canada, who held a bilingual position, a position recognized as such, which required the use of both official languages. The bonus was $800 a year.

The purpose of this bonus, and I do not wish to discuss the purpose of the bonus again, was to promote bilingualism. It was designed as an incentive for public servants to learn the other official language to serve the people of Canada, and the people of Quebec in particular.

Well, Mr. Gingras had been a member of the RCMP since 1962. In fact, he worked for the RCMP until 1984. But between 1976, when the bilingualism bonus plan was put in place, and 1984, when Mr. Gingras retired from the RCMP, despite the fact his position was designated as bilingual, he never received the $800 bilingual bonus, while all other public service employees working on the Hill or elsewhere did.

Naturally, pursuant to the RCMP regulations, Mr. Gingras asked his superiors to look into the matter and, unsatisfied with their decision, brought the whole matter before the Federal Court. The case even went to the Federal Court of Appeal, which ruled very clearly on March 10, 1994 that Mr. Gingras and all members of the RCMP were entitled to this bonus.

Although I do not want to read much of the ruling of the Federal Court of Appeal, we see that the reason for this ruling is that all members of the RCMP are public servants who must comply with the rules adopted by Treasury Board and are entitled to the bilingual bonus if they occupy a position recognized as bilingual and requiring bilingualism.

Given such a ruling, we must conclude that Bill C-58 seeks to overturn the Federal Court of Appeal's decision-it is as simple as that.

I come back to the question I raised at the beginning. Is this a harmless bill? I think not. I think that it is a dangerous, sneaky bill for a society that claims to recognize the rights of equality and association. I repeat those two terms.

Why did I say that it is a sneaky bill? Because after this ruling was rendered in March 1994, the government, through its minister, said that it was reviewing the matter to see whether it could appeal. It wanted to analyze the consequences of this judgement. However, in May 1994, the government announced

that it did not intend to appeal the Supreme Court's decision and therefore it would pay the bonus to members of the RCMP, including the bonuses for part of the years when the government illegally refused to pay the members of the RCMP.

It is true that the Liberal government did not appeal this decision. However, what the government does not do openly by appealing this ruling to the Supreme Court of Canada, it does indirectly to arrive more or less at the same result. By asking the House to pass Bill C-58, the government is using a sneaky approach. It led us to believe that it was going to live with the ruling of the Federal Court of Appeal, but then it turned around and drafted Bill C-58, which is now before us.

This is sneaky because even those directly concerned by this legislation, namely RCMP members, did not know about it until the Official Opposition approached them to find out what they thought of Bill C-58. These people were not even aware of that legislation. You cannot help but wonder about the internal consultation process. This is why I find it sneaky. This is not a bill about which all concerned were clearly informed. It was drafted, and the government is now trying to have the House pass it rather quickly. I doubt many Liberal members will discuss it. The government is trying to proceed quickly. Yet, this legislation will have very significant consequences.

I also think this is a dangerous bill for a society which claims to be respectful of union membership and equality rights.

By introducing a bill which has the effect of overruling a Federal Court of Appeal decision, the government does not necessarily solve an issue related to bilingualism: It is trying to do a lot more than that. And this is what can be very dangerous for RCMP members. Let us not forget that the ruling of the Federal Court of Appeal has an impact on many other very important issues. For example, the court was unanimous in saying that RCMP members are Treasury Board employees and must be considered as such. Consequently, it court ruled that the RCMP and its peace officers should be subjected to all other Treasury Board rules. These rules govern such things as employment equity, enforcement of the Official Languages Act and the rules concerning labour conditions, with of course one exception relating to the right to unionize.

Once the Federal Court of Appeal made its ruling, we heard that the mandarins at the RCMP were concerned about the legal implications of this ruling. Which brings me to another question: Who is affected by this ruling? Why does it bother people so much, why does it bother the mandarins of the RCMP who seem to call all the shots within their agency?

According to inquiries made yesterday, the Gingras case affects some 17,500 members of the RCMP. Of these 17,500 members, about 15,500 are regular members and special constables and about 2,000 are civilian employees. These were the people working for the RCMP who were affected by the Gingras ruling. To these figures you can add about 3,500 employees of the public service, who are not however affected by Bill C-58 or the Gingras case, because they are already considered to be public servants.

We are forced to realize that an injustice was done and we have to understand the rationale behind the ruling of the Federal Court of Appeal, because we had a situation where people working at the same place, for the same employer, were subject to different labour conditions, where the rules were not the same for everyone, and that did not make sense. This is why the ruling of the Federal Court of Appeal set things straight. However, unhappy with this decision, the government now introduces Bill C-58 which negates the ruling of the Federal Court.

As I said earlier, and as my colleagues already said, the first objective of Bill C-58 is to exclude RCMP employees from the Public Service, employees who, at the present time, come under the control of Treasury Board like the rest of the Public Service. If this bill passes under its present form, the RCMP will be covered by legislation governing public service only if it is specifically mentioned in such legislation.

The basic rule under the bill is that Treasury Board policies no longer apply. They applied ever since the court decision. Under Bill C-58 these policies will no longer apply, unless RCMP management decides they do. Therefore, we give mandarins, who worried about the consequences of the Federal Court of Appeal decision, the option to follow or not the rules set out by Treasury Board.

I am no longer as naive as I was on election day, and I know full well that they are not ever going to accept those rules since they were the ones who pushed for Bill C-58. So, even from that point of view this is a sneaky piece of legislation.

If I were a member of the RCMP, I would be furious. I do not know what they are going to do, but if I were in their place I would try to make it known that I am unhappy. I am going to give you some examples. In the area of employment equity: In December 1992, the Financial Administration Act gave the Public Service Employment Equity Program, launched by Treasury Board in the mid-1980s, its real legal basis.

All departments and agencies, including Treasury Board and the employer, that is the public service, are subject to the Employment Equity Act, because they are part of the public service. Until quite recently, the RCMP commissioner had decided that the RCMP was not subject to Treasury Board

policies, although the RCMP is listed in Part I of Schedule I of the Public Service Staff Relations Act.

It should, however, be mentioned that the RCMP's status is not quite the same as the rest of the public service, which allowed the commissioner to claim that the bilingual bonus policy did not apply. The Federal Court of Appeal decision did not back him up. In the Gingras decision handed down on March 10, 1994, the court ruled unanimously that the RCMP would in future be considered part of the public service. Since then, the RCMP has been obliged to apply Treasury Board policies to all 17,500 of its members affected by the decision.

Bill C-58 is an attempt to put an end to this process of equity. After all, the approximately 3,500 RCMP employees in the third category I referred to earlier were recruited by the Public Service Commission and have therefore always been fully subject to the Treasury Board policies on equity and bilingualism.

As you can see, Mr. Speaker, under Bill C-58, members of the RCMP who are police officers or special constables are being treated as a separate class within the RCMP itself. They are being put in a class quite distinct from secretaries, clerks, caretakers and so on.

And it is the same with the official languages policy. The decision to implement this policy in the RCMP as an organization will rest with the big boss himself, the RCMP commissioner. It is extremely dangerous to leave this power in the hands of one person alone.

As for the labour relations and unionization aspects, I think that my hon. colleague from Joliette has covered them well. Since I am rising immediately after him, there is no need for me to argue the unionization issue all over again, except to say that Bill C-58 confirms in no uncertain terms that RCMP employees who may, at one time or another, have contemplated forming a brotherhood or a union can forget it for good.

If there was room for interpretation before, it is all very clear now. As you probably know, Mr. Speaker, applications were made by RCMP employees wishing to unionize. Actually, some are still pending, but Bill C-58 clearly puts an end to any attempt to unionize. Bill C-58, if passed, will make it impossible.

To sum up, seeing that I have one minute or so remaining, the most dangerous thing about Bill C-58 is the tendency to put almost everything in the hands of the commissioner of the RCMP. Mr. Speaker, I think that you for one would understand the situation, because you are sensitive to these issues. If we look at what is happening with the Communications Security Establishment and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, which are truly considered as separate employers by the government in Ottawa, the same thing will happen, indirectly, to the RCMP people, but that is not spelled out clearly, as it was in the other two cases.

Indirectly, the commissioner of the RCMP will have the final say on certain aspects of the application of RCMP regulations. That is what is extremely dangerous in a country that claims to be democratic and open to the right to organize, to official languages and so on.

This is a bill that centralizes many jurisdictions under a single person, and that is very harmful. You will understand that, for all the aforementioned reasons, like all my colleagues from the Bloc Quebecois, I will vote against Bill C-58.

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12:35 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?

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12:35 p.m.

Some hon. members


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12:35 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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Some hon. members


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12:35 p.m.

Some hon. members


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12:35 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those in favour will please say yea.

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12:35 p.m.

Some hon. members


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12:35 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.

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Some hon. members


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The Deputy Speaker

In my opinion, the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

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12:35 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung: