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House of Commons Hansard #208 of the 35th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was grandparents.

Topics

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Kingston and the Islands Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, Question No. 176 will be answered today and I would ask that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Question No. 176-

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

May 31st, 1995 / 3:25 p.m.

Reform

Stephen Harper Reform Calgary West, AB

With regard to the multiple cheques issued by the government to individuals within a short period of time, for example OAS, CPP, civil and military service pensions, ( a ) what consideration has been given to combining all of the cheques sent in a month to an individual into a single payment, ( b ) how much does it cost to issue and mail each individual cheque and ( c ) has the possibility of issuing a single cheque to married couples been considered?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Cape Breton—East Richmond Nova Scotia

Liberal

David Dingwall LiberalMinister of Public Works and Government Services and Minister for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency

Public Works and Government Services Canada is continuously looking at ways of improving service delivery and reducing the costs of cheque production and distribution, from the consolidation of cheque processing sites from 11 to 4, which will save $4.8 million annually after implementation, to increased use of direct deposit.

Public Works and Government Services Canada, PWGSC, issues payments on behalf of other program departments in the amounts and according to the schedules determined by those departments. Program departments determine individual entitlement to benefits in accordance with the policy and legislation governing specific programs. This process precludes PWGSC from adding up the benefits under various programs and issuing a single payment to an individual.

Should the department decide to consolidate various benefits paid monthly into a single payment, individual program departments would require legislative and policy changes for their specific programs. Major changes would also be required to the computer systems of program departments and PWGSC.

Public Works and Government Services Canada issues approximately 193 million payments annually. Approximately 34 per cent are currently delivered electronically in the form of direct deposit.

The average cost to issue a cheque, including production costs, banking fees and postage, is approximately one dollar. With the use of direct deposit significant savings are realized through reduced postage and banking fees as well as reduced cheque production costs. Direct deposit costs the government only one cent in banking fees compared with 10 cents for each paper transaction.

As another important step to streamline operations and reduce costs, the Minister of Public Works and Government Services recently announced that direct deposit will become the government's standard method of payment. This expansion of the use of direct deposit is expected to save the government $18 million to $20 million annually by 1998-1999.

Program departments accord benefits in accordance with their legislation. In cases where individuals are entitled to payments based on individual characteristics separate payments must be issued as there is no authority to treat a married couple as a single beneficiary.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Motions For PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Kingston and the Islands Ontario

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all notices of motions for the production of papers be allowed to stand.

Motions For PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is it agreed?

Motions For PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Access Today, 1995Routine Proceedings

3:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Colleagues, I am very pleased to lay upon the table a document entitled, "Access Today, 1995", a review of the initiatives taken by the House of Commons to serve Canadians with disabilities.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-76, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on February 27, 1995, as reported (with amendments) from the committee.

Budget Implementation Act, 1995Government Orders

3:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The form of the ruling on the report stage of Bill C-76 will depart from the manner normally used in the House. Following consultations with representatives of the House leaders' offices, it has been decided that whenever the nature of the ruling is complex we will use a more simplified form to explain to the House how report stage amendments will be grouped and how the voting will proceed. We are doing this for the sole purpose of demystifying, hopefully, the process.

I propose to deliver in the House a short form of the ruling, giving only the groupings of amendments for debate. Of course, the entire ruling, including the voting patterns, is available to you at the table. The Chair will inform the House of the patterns for each group at the time those motions are to be voted on.

There are 78 motions in amendment standing in the Notice Paper for the report stage of Bill C-76, an act to implement certain provisions of the 1995 budget.

Motions Nos. 13, 15 and 16 have been withdrawn.

Group No. 1 is Motions Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Group No. 2 is Motions Nos. 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 17, 18, 19, and 74.

Group No. 3 is Motions Nos. 20, 21, 22, 75, 76, 77 and 78. Group No. 4 is Motions Nos. 23 to 45. Group No. 5 is Motions Nos. 46 to 63. Group No. 6 is Motions Nos. 64 to 67.

Group No. 7 is Motions Nos. 68 to 73.

I would now propose Motions Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4 to members of the House.

Budget Implementation Act, 1995Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Lethbridge Alberta

Reform

Ray Speaker ReformLethbridge

moved:

Motion No. 1

That Bill C-76, in Clause 3, be amended: a) by replacing line 10, on page 3, with the following: of the program,''; and: (</em> b <em>) by replacing line 17, on page 3, with the following:able job offer, and (iii) shall in no circumstances make a payment to a suplus employee who has not performed any work.''

Budget Implementation Act, 1995Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Victoria B.C.

Liberal

David Anderson Liberalfor the Minister of Finance and Minister responsible for the Federal Office of Regional Development-Quebec)

moved:

Motion No. 2

That Bill C-76, in Clause 7, be amended in the French version, by replacing lines 8 and 9, on page 7, with the following:

«ou à toute personne appartenant à l'administration publicque fédérale.»

Budget Implementation Act, 1995Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Lethbridge Alberta

Reform

Ray Speaker ReformLethbridge

moved:

Motion No. 3

That Bill C-76, in Clause 8, be amended by replacing lines 26 and 27, on page 7, with the following:

"the employee, under a closed competition exclusively open to employees declared surplus within the meaning of the Workforce Adjustment Directive under the Public Sector Compensation Act, to another".

Motion No. 4

That Bill C-76, in Clause 8, be amended by adding after line 37, on page 7, the following:

"(6) Under no circumstance shall the Commission appoint a participant in a program designated by the Treasury Board as an employment equity program to a position that could be occupied by a surplus employee within the meaning of the Work Force Adjustment Directive under the Public Sector Compensation Act."

Budget Implementation Act, 1995Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I would like to point out to the House that on page XVIII of today's Notice Paper, Motion No. 4 in English should be read as standing in the name of Mr. Speaker (Lethbridge) and amending clause 8.

Budget Implementation Act, 1995Government Orders

3:30 p.m.

Lethbridge Alberta

Reform

Ray Speaker ReformLethbridge

Mr. Speaker, I thank you very much for the opportunity to discuss Bill C-76 and the amendments thereto.

I want to make general comments then some specific comments with regard to the amendments.

With regard to the amendments before us that deal with public service measures, we generally support the government's decision to suspend the workforce adjustment directive and eliminate some 45,000 positions in the public service. However, we feel there are some concerns and because of that we have moved Motions 1, 3 and 4.

With regard to our first motion, on clause 3, we are concerned that some employees will be declared surplus and be paid for a period of six months without doing any work. Officials have confirmed to us that this would be possible with the way the bill is written at the present time.

With regard to clause 8, we have concerns that the legislation gives the Public Service Commission too much flexibility in appointing surplus workers to jobs in other departments. We would prefer that the appointments be subject to the competitive process in order to prevent any type of favouritism, cronyism, or unfair competition. We think the commission should be given the power to hold a closed competition confined to surplus employees only.

With regard to clause 8, we are concerned the employment equity programs will be used to further the goals of employment equity during this period of downsizing. As I recall, earlier in this session the minister responsible for the public service mentioned that this would be one of the criteria taken into consideration. We feel that this could happen as a result of people being appointed without competition to jobs that would otherwise be occupied by surplus workers.

Those are the motions that will be looked at with regard to that. My colleague, the critic who is responsible for that in terms of the public service, will be making further comments on those amendments to the House.

I think we have to understand the broader picture and the reason for Bill C-76. Bill C-76 has as its purpose to deal with the fiscal circumstances of Canada. It is to deal with the deficit in some way.

We have to recognize that we have a very serious circumstance. We have said this many times in this House. My hon. colleague from Vancouver points out to me often that every day we have a deficit of some $100 million between the revenue that is available for us to take our responsibilities as a federal government and the expenditures that take place on a daily basis. That is $100 million a day in terms of a deficit. If we put that over a one-year period we have the accumulated deficit of this country, as projected in the current budget for 1995-96, of some $32.7 billion.

If we look at what has happened with regard to the public debt charges during that period of time from 1994-95 to the budget of 1995-96, our debt charges in this country have increased from some $42 billion to $50 billion. They have increased for two very basic reasons. First, the deficit is not being dealt with by this government. It continues to add on to the accumulated debt of the country of some $550 billion today. This is heading toward a major sum. From the government's own figures, it points out that the net public debt by the end of 1995-96 will be some $578 billion and by 1996-97 it is projected to be over $600 billion.

Because of that increased accumulated debt, the interest costs to the Government of Canada continue to increase. This has a major effect on the budget of Canada and the revenue available to administer and take care of the responsibilities that have been delegated to the federal government in this country.

That is certainly one of the factors, the fact that the deficit continues to add to the accumulated debt and that larger accumulated debt creates a larger base on which the interest costs are enormous.

The second factor, which is very obvious to all of us, is the increased interest costs that have occurred during the past year. For example, in the United States the Federal Reserve Bank has increased the interest rates over the last year seven times, and every time the interest rates have increased in the United States it has had a direct effect on the interest rates here in Canada. Over the year, we have had an increase of 3 per cent in interest rates, which has again affected the amount of interest we pay as a government annually.

It is seriously affecting the programs that are to be delivered by the federal government. I have already mentioned that for 1994-95 the cost of our debt charges from the cost of interest was in the $42 billion range. Now in 1995-96 it is projected to be $50 billion. We have had an additional $8 billion of interest costs because of that 3 per cent interest rate increase and also the larger base of debt in this country.

What has that done? It means that in order to try to deal with the deficit we must in some way eliminate expenditures of some $8 billion just to cancel that out. Well, that is not that easy to do. The government has come up with certain measures. For example, it has increased tax revenue by $1.5 billion to $2 billion. Well, that is only 25 per cent of the increased interest costs. Where does the other $6 billion come from?

The government has attempted through other means to secure that expenditure reduction and at the same time in its budget is attempting to reduce the cost of program spending from $118 billion down to $114 billion, a reduction of $4 billion.

If we could have maintained at least the base from which interest is calculated, if we could have stopped the accumulation of debt by eliminating the deficit, we would have had more money to reduce the expenditures of government. There would have been more confidence in the Canadian economy and the interest rates would have been lower because we were balancing the budget or we had a plan to balance the budget.

Missing from the budget is the fact that the Liberal government has not put in place a plan to reduce the deficit from the projected deficit in 1996-97 of $24.3 billion down to zero. It is afraid to take the next step and say to Canadians we are going to take the deficit to zero by this plan. The government is afraid to stick its neck out and make that commitment to Canadians. That is costing us billions of dollars in higher interest rates.

If we had at least held our interest costs in 1995-96 at $42 billion, where they were in 1994-95, rather than the increase of $8 billion I have talked about, we would not have had to reduce our expenditures by $4 billion. We would have had an extra $4 billion to work with. That is what the government should have been looking at.

We can go through all these amendments and all the items we are going to deal with in Bill C-76, but we must get back to the basic problem we are facing. That is, the Government of Canada has not declared to the people that it will balance the budget during the term of this Parliament. It has not clearly said that, and it is incumbent upon them to do so.

Moody's and the Dominion Bond Rating Service have told the Government of Canada clearly: "In order for us to give you a better credit rating, which reflects on interest rates, you must commit to a plan".

As we go through these amendments we must keep in mind the very first item on the agenda, which is dealing with the deficit and stopping the growth of debt, which is destroying the country.

Budget Implementation Act, 1995Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

Winnipeg North Centre Manitoba

Liberal

David Walker LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I would like to deal with each of these four amendments in turn, because they hit on some of the essentials of what we are trying to do as a government to deal with the public service.

I extend my thanks to the critics from the official opposition and from the third party for their work in the finance committee under the chairmanship of the member for Willowdale. I thought it was an outstanding collegial example of how to deal with a very difficult and major piece of legislation. I describe the treatment of witnesses as exemplary by all members of Parliament.

With regard to the first motion, I would like to clarify what the intent of the legislation is. The surplus period is a notice period that the employee's job will end in six months. By definition the surplus employee will have a job for six months. I do not want the amendment to leave the impression that there is a system set

up where people will be sitting around for six months. It has always been the practice of departments to plan their surplus declarations in this manner.

There are some exceptions to this rule which should be clarified. I can give an example of a military base closing prior to the six month period. We consider it costly for the government to transfer surplus employees to find jobs which may only last a month or two. It is more practical to leave them where they are until the six months have run out. In that case the legislation will have to build in these rare exceptions.

Motion No. 2 is a technical change dealing with the wording the drafters have which now has to be changed.

The motion reads as follows: "That Bill C-76, in Clause 7, be amended in the French version, by replacing lines 8 and 9, on page 7, with the following: «ou à toute personne appartenant à l'administration publique fédérale»."

The third motion by the member for Lethbridge deals with clause 8. It appears the purpose of the amendment is to ensure competent employees are retained through the exercise of priority for surplus employees. Surplus employees are generally highly competent and their employment is in jeopardy for reasons beyond their control. The priority accorded to them ensures these competent people are retained in the public service and that the investment made in their training and development is not lost. A surplus person must be determined qualified in order to be appointed. It is not necessary to hold competitions to ensure competent employees are retained.

Section 10 of the Public Service Employment Act which establishes that employments are to be based on merit does not require that these appointments be made by competition.

The purpose of clause 8 is to make it possible for deputy heads to place their own surplus employees before having to consider priorities from other departments. The intent is to allow departmental restructuring and downsizing in a humane and efficient way.

The delays involved in holding competitions lead to a longer period of uncertainty which is destructive to morale. Further, there are significantly greater costs involved in running competitions rather than considering people on a non-competitive basis.

While competitive processes may be seen as being fairer and more transparent there are a number of reasons why other considerations may be overriding in certain situations. For some surplus employees there is a very limited period during which they can be considered for the positions. If a competition had to be run, especially national in scope, this period could be exhaustive while the longer processes that would have been involved in that competition have gone through.

The amendment is also not consistent with the other provisions for priority entitlements in the act which provide for appointments without competition in priority situations.

As drafted, the amendment creates internal inconsistencies within the clause that would require redrafting. In particular, the need to hold a competition is in conflict with the discretion given to the public service commission to formulate an opinion as to whether an employee is qualified.

The fourth motion presented by the member for Lethbridge is also an amendment to clause 8. The effect of this amendment is to remove the commission's current discretion under paragraph 35(2)(d) of the Public Service Employment Act to exclude appointments made under employment equity programs from the operation of the various sections of the act which give priority entitlement.

Parliament chose two years ago through the Public Service Reform Act to give the commission the discretion it now enjoys. It also is currently considering amendments to the Employment Equity Act which would give employment equity programs more rather than less precedence in the public service. It is the government's place to decide what emphasis it wishes to put on these areas.

Although the commission has chosen not to exclude these programs from consideration of priorities, this does not mean there would not be times when this would not be the right thing to do. The amendment would prevent the commission from exercising this discretion in future where it considers it necessary to achieve employment equity objectives.

In reality the effect of this amendment is to defeat the effort made by the government for disadvantaged groups. This would be a setback in that it would allow surplus priorities to be placed ahead of disadvantaged group members. I know that would not be the objective of this member who has had a long public career and has been involved with disadvantaged groups in his home province before coming to the federal scene.

It is still the objective of the government to have the public service reflect the demographic configuration of our society. This motion would stall the effort we have all been making.

Budget Implementation Act, 1995Government Orders

3:50 p.m.

Bloc

René Laurin Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, a number of things have already been said about the amendments to Bill C-76. However, much remains to be said, and we fully intend to do so in the days to come. I would now like to comment on the motions being presented by our Reform Party colleagues.

The first motion says that a surplus employee who has not performed any work should not receive any money. I am afraid that if this amendment is passed, employees who lose their jobs would no longer be eligible for severance pay. That would be unfortunate, since severance pay is not intended as a gift to the employee who loses his job. It is meant to compensate him for the fact that he is penalized by the loss of his job. Severance pay is also a reminder to the employer that there is a price to pay for getting rid of a certain number of employees.

It would be too easy for the employer to say: I am going to cut my staff and get rid of 25, 50, 100 or 200 employees, depending on the size of the company. It would be too easy to be able to do this with impunity, without having to compensate people who, after all, are human and, in most cases, have dedicated a good part of their lives to their employer.

Severance pay must be included, and under no condition should we pass amendments that would allow the employer to dispense with severance pay.

Motion No. 2 says that the text is to be amended by replacing it with «à l'administration publique fédérale». The wording of the bill is as follows: "Any person authorized pursuant to subsections (1) or (2) to exercise and perform any of the powers and functions of the governor in council or the Treasury Board may, subject to and in accordance with the authorization, authorize any other person. . . who is part of the Public Service of Canada-"

There are certain distinctions in the public service, and I am afraid that other agencies that are part of the public service might be excluded if this kind of amendment is passed, because one is not necessarily under the jurisdiction of the public service when one is part of the public service. The government still has certain obligations to those employees.

As for Motion No. 3, there would seem to be a better case for this amendment because it would oblige the government, when it wants to replace a surplus employee, to offer the position "under a closed competition exclusively open to employees declared surplus within the meaning of the Workforce Adjustment Directive under the Public Sector Compensation Act, to another".

Still referring to clause 8 of the bill, according to its present wording, the Commission could, before the layoff becomes effective and if it is of the opinion that it is in the best interests of the Public Service to do so, appoint the employee, without competition and in priority over all other persons, to another position under the jurisdiction of the deputy head for which, in the opinion of the Commission, the employee is qualified.

We believe that this particular wording gives the Commission too much discretionary power and that the Commission should be more strictly regulated.

I think that the purpose of Motion No. 3 tabled by the hon. member from the Reform Party is to require the commission, whenever such a situation arises, to replace the employee by way of a closed competition, not by a competition that would bring another person into the system so that the number of employees would rise again. No.

I think that the amendment is justified because it is aimed at restricting the competition to public service employees declared surplus. Instead of leaving these people without protection, in case other jobs are ever created, this amendment gives them a kind of recall priority. It would allow those already declared surplus to be called back to work-after a competition, of course-because the goal is to put people in positions for which they are qualified. We think that a closed competition would be more equitable to surplus employees and give much less discretionary power to the commission.

Motion No. 4, which is also part of the first group, would prevent the commission from appointing a person already participating in a program designated by the Treasury Board as an employment equity program. In other words, the commission would be prohibited from appointing a participant in an employment equity program to a position that could be occupied by a surplus employee within the meaning of the work force adjustment directive.

I think that we would be replacing one form of discrimination by another, for example, in favour of employees who are already protected as members of what we call visible minorities. It has been agreed that visible minorities would be those minorities currently recognized, that is to say persons with a disabilities, aboriginal people, people of a different ethnic background or non-white in colour, in a word those visible minorities the legislation was intended to protect. But with an amendment such as this one, we would be giving even more prominence to these minorities by saying in essence: "You guys will get to take the place of employees who have been declared surplus." It is bad enough for employees to be declared surplus and lose their jobs, without making matters worse by discriminating against them, in favour of a visible minority group that is already afforded a certain degree of protection. Women are also considered a visible minority under certain agreements.

When employment equity and fairness to all is the goal, it is not by penalizing one group of employees that the goal will be achieved. That has just not happened. An employer who wants to achieve employment equity in his business does not start laying people off, only to replace them with a larger number of people from a group described as a visible minority. What he does is take advantage of jobs opening up to make adjustments, to restore balance within the organization and attain some stability, a certain degree of equity between various groups, gender equity, wage equity, racial equity and equity between people with disabilities and those who do not have disabilities. That is how an employer can manage to meet modern standards, decent standards of employment equity.

He does not tell an employee already penalized by a layoff: "What a shame. We have an opening, but instead of rehiring you, we will give the preference to an employee who already enjoys some degree of protection as a member of a visible minority".

All employees should be on an equal footing. I think that there should be no exceptions when the time comes to recall employees who may have lost their jobs prematurely.

I do not know how much time I have remaining. Do I have time for a few more comments? I gather that your silence means that I do, Mr. Speaker.

Based on the foregoing, the Bloc Quebecois cannot support Motions Nos. 1, 2 and 4. On the other hand, Motion No. 3 appears to be much more reasonable, seeking a form of equity at work that is in line with our standards of sound human resources management. We will therefore support Motion No. 3.

I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for having given me your undivided attention. For the time being, those are the comments I had on this bill.

Budget Implementation Act, 1995Government Orders

4 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am sure that you will be listening just as religiously to my arguments as I talk about Bill C-76, the Budget Implementation Act.

It is a little unfortunate that at this late date we are discussing the implementation of February's budget some months later. It seems that as time passes and we get away from the budget process the government is hoping people will forget about some of the fiscal crises the country will still have to go through because of some decisions taken and some decisions not taken in last February's budget.

It is interesting how we get taken up with other issues in Parliament when this overriding fiscal issue will drive the agenda in the months and years to come whether or not we like it. It is good to get to the fiscal issues.

I would like to speak specifically to the first group of amendments to Bill C-76. I am most interested in Motions Nos. 1, 3 and 4 within the group. I remind all members that the first 10 clauses of Bill C-76 contain changes to the way we address the public service and changes to the workforce adjustment directive brought in by the government in the February budget.

These changes mark a breach of a very clear and explicit promise by the Liberal government upon implementation of the budget. On July 22, 1994 the President of the Treasury Board wrote to the public service union. I think members opposite will be very interested in what he said. I quote from the letter to the public service union:

This government has stated in the past, and remains committed to the principle, that the employment protection provisions in the workforce adjustment directive will only be changed through negotiations.

We all know what happened in the February budget. Like so many other Liberal promises, the promise to negotiate changes to the workforce adjustment directive went by the wayside. The government is now legislating change and the promise made by the President of the Treasury Board on July 22 is no longer being upheld.

We in this party have always said we felt the workforce adjustment directive would have to be changed. We said that consistently. We said there would be some layoffs in the public service. We said that consistently. We did not change the story after the election. We kept the same story with the same truth from start to finish. It is unfortunate that the double tongued Liberals have decided to change the directive after they promised not to do so.

They should never have promised it in the first place. If they knew they would not keep it, that they would not be able to do it and that they would legislate it, they should have been honest enough to say that up front. At least the Reform Party has been consistent in its belief of what would have to happen to the workforce adjustment directive. I remind the public service unions and members opposite that the government has backed out on another promise.

Another firm promise was made by the President of the Treasury Board in the House with respect to Motion No. 1. He promised that no public servant would be paid if he or she was not doing work. The promise was made in response to reports that this was happening in the public service. We tried to find out more particulars, but it seems there are no reporting requirements from departments to the Public Service Commission on how many people are being paid to stay at home or paid not to work under the workforce adjustment directive. Unfortunately we cannot get exact numbers, but we extracted a promise from

the President of the Treasury Board that no one would be paid if he or she were not working.

However, from the briefing departmental officials gave us on the bill, we learned that there may in fact be a six-month period when a public servant's position might be declared surplus. Then the public servant would be paid for six months without having a job to do.

The first amendment simply calls on the government to fulfil the promise it made in the House which basically said that if a person is not working he or she will not be paid. That is something Canadians want and expect. Even public servants recognize that obviously they cannot be paid if there is no work to do.

The second motion I would like to speak to amends clause 8. It would give power to the Public Service Commission to appoint employees without competition. The last part of clause 8 reads as follows:

-the Commission may, before the lay off becomes effective and if it is of the opinion that it is in the best interests of the Public Service to do so, appoint the employee, without competition and in priority to all other persons, to another position under the jurisdiction of the deputy head for which, in the opinion of the Commission, the employee is qualified.

We have some real problems with the power that provision would give to the government. It flies in the face of the whole idea of competition and merit in the public sector. Western democracies have always depended on a series of checks and balances. This is born out of a basic mistrust of government, an attitude that says: "We might think you are nice right now, but we do not know what you will do later on if there are not checks and balances in place, so we need to put those checks in there while things are still smooth". One of the reasons we have opposition parties in the House of Commons is to provide checks and balances.

Checks and balances are vital to the health of the country. When we see that an opposition party, for example in some third world country, is being mistreated by the government, we see that democracy and the country in general are in trouble.

There are checks and balances in the system in Canada. One check against nepotism, bribery and other forms of corruption in government is the competitive process developed in Canada for public service jobs. This means that people get jobs through merit, not because they are someone's friend or they contributed to someone's campaign or happen to know someone in an inner sanctum somewhere. The process is open. It is fair. It means that we get the best person for the job. That is what competitions do. The selection process within the federal government is quite fair for the most part. That is why I felt such a concern when I read clause 8 of Bill C-76.

I realize we are in a period of flux in Canada following the Budget Implementation Act. Departments are downsizing and things are a bit chaotic. During this time of downsizing and readjustment within the priorities of the departments, controls and vigilance on the merit principle are perhaps not as strong as usual. The clause as it stands now would empower the Public Service Commission at this chaotic and stormy time to:

-appoint the employee, without competition-to another position under the jurisdiction of the deputy head for which, in the opinion of the Commission, the employee is qualified.

This is a dangerous trend to get away from the merit principle. Reformers believe that a system of checks and balances is the only way to ensure that corruption is weeded out of the system and that the competitive process is the check on errors in hiring in the public service. It is missing because of this clause.

All sorts of irrelevant qualifications could be used here from good friends of decision makers to relatives, to political friends and so on, if it is just in the opinion of the deputy head that a person should be appointed. We think that is wrong. The way the clause reads now, a manager could use it to settle a score with someone. He or she could use the clause as a tool to get back at someone who has not been co-operative in the downsizing. At any rate people can be appointed without consideration of merit by using the clause.

We agree with the idea that the commission should be able to appoint surplus employees to different departments because during this time the government needs the flexibility to preserve the best of our human resources. However to do it outside the competitive process is a big mistake.

Our amendment would ensure that the Public Service Commission still has the power to appoint employees, but it would require that a competition be held among surplus employees for the jobs across the public service. This would ensure that the merit principle is preserved and would be fair therefore to surplus employees. Even government members would be able to support the amendment.

I have another motion I would like to talk to. Perhaps in the next round of motions I will speak to a very important motion about how employment equity is affected by the bill.

Budget Implementation Act, 1995Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?

Budget Implementation Act, 1995Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Budget Implementation Act, 1995Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Motions Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4 will be voted on separately. The question is on Motion No. 1. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Budget Implementation Act, 1995Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Budget Implementation Act, 1995Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Budget Implementation Act, 1995Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.