Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak on the amendments of the Reform Party and the Bloc Quebecois grouped for debate, all the more so because this bill is very important to me.
Why do I consider it important? Because it is the perfect expression of the total lack of openness that has characterized this government ever since it came into office.
What do we find in this part? To start with, I would like to tell you that I am pleasantly surprised by the position taken by the Reform Party regarding this part of Bill C-17 because, since the beginning of the debate and even the study in subcommittee-the one which considered all the provisions of Bill C-17-the Reform Party has not demonstrated much interest in what the government has been doing to its employees. The Reform Party did not say a word on the fundamental right to open collective bargaining, a thing that the Bloc Quebecois has defended from the start.
As I said, we are pleasantly surprised because, by introducing these amendments to delete all the clauses dealing with the wage freeze in the federal public service, the Reform Party shows it is now more kindly disposed towards fundamental rights like collective bargaining. Consequently, based on the reasoning and the actions of the Reform Party this morning, we can assume that it is also more kindly disposed towards collective bargaining itself and towards workers rights, and that it would be willing to come back to the former system whereby the government and its employees would talk constructively and come to some synergic agreement on working conditions.
This means they agree with the new models introduced just about everywhere around the world which call for co-operation between public service employees and the government with a view to finding constructive solutions to controlling public finance problems and to recording yearly deficits smaller than those recorded year after year by the Canadian government.
I am surprised by this. With our motion, which would require the government to come back to the House on the expiration of the compensation provisions in the legislation to debate either an extension or changes to the provisions, we were simply trying to be realistic. We did not want to introduce one or more motions calling for the elimination of all of these provisions since the government, given its majority position, would surely vote against any such motion.
Indeed, while the Reform Party's motion goes further than our deep-seated convictions, our motion is more realistic because it calls for a democratic debate upon the expiration of the provisions in Bill C-17 respecting public service compensation. We are also asking for transparency, something which this government has not demonstrated since the start of this debate.
I will give you one example of the lack of transparency and the attitude of this government which is quickly trying to put one over on us with this omnibus bill before the House this morning. As you know, the sub-committee which considered Bill C-17 was initially supposed to hold two and a half days of public hearings. Some of the provisions in this bill, particularly those pertaining to unemployment insurance which will be debated during the course of the day, are fundamental. The government was trying to stage a reverse kind of filibuster.
The government was attempting to impose some fundamental provisions within the context of an omnibus bill, and had it not been for the actions of the Bloc Quebecois members of this sub-committee, we would not have had two weeks of public hearings during which testimony was heard from at least one hundred individuals.
Transparency will not stifle this government. A similar thing occurred with the Pearson airport bill. Here again, the government tried to hastily pass some fundamental measures, without resolving in any way whatsoever the problem with lobbyists in Canada.
That is what the Bloc Quebecois motion is about. When wage agreements between the federal government and its employees expire, let a transparent public debate be held, let the government account for the decisions that will have to be made and let the whole world see that while this government may be new, it is totally out of date with regard to the relationship it wants to establish between its employees and their managers.
That is not how things are done now. Imposing is no longer an option; and whether we agree with the idea of a wage freeze or not has nothing to do with the matter. But imposing a wage plan upon public servants in a dictatorial fashion will have disastrous effects.
First, it will demotivate workers. Second, it is gagging union representatives. You know that these people have things to say, and a job to do, as they have demonstrated in the past.
I was pleasantly surprised in early February, before the government even tabled its budget, to see public service unions volunteer to make sacrifices that often went far beyond a simple wage freeze like the one now imposed upon them. They came up with positive ways of reducing the annual deficit, increasing efficiency in the federal administration and achieving that wonderful meeting of the minds which we see in many regions in the world yet is totally non-existent here because this government is out of touch and out of date.
It prefers to avoid confrontation, like the Prime Minister is doing with the Constitution issue, rather than face the real issues, rather than make real decisions in consultation and, I might say, in a spirit of brotherly love.
That is what the motion put forward by the Bloc Quebecois is about. We want to force a public debate not only on public servants' wages but on wage costs as a whole, the efficiency of the government machine and even suggestions made by the unions.
So, with our motion, the House would debate the issue anew upon the expiration of the wage provisions in the budget and, as I mentioned before, if we had not been so concerned about being realistic and had not considered the fact that this government shamelessly takes advantage of its majority to always have its way, we would have introduced, probably with respect to the Bill C-17 clause on public service compensation, motions similar to those of the Reform Party.
But, because we want to be realistic, we know very well that such motions would probably be defeated by government members. Therefore, we have proposed a very realistic motion, which is likely to be approved by the Liberal members, if they are really concerned about transparency and democracy.
By voting against our motion, they will confirm that the government has something to conceal, that it lacks the political will, that it has no vision, and that it could not care less about civil servants, about the state of our public finances, and even about the improvements that we could all make to the government system which is cumbersome, outdated, and rigid, just like the members of this government.