Mr. Speaker, thank you for allowing me to continue my presentation on Bill C-30 concerning members of the RCMP.
I would like to make two comments before resuming my speech. I was stunned by the unfounded accusations made by a Reform member against my colleague from Charlesbourg. I think that, with such accusations, the Reform Party will never have a single member elected in Quebec.
My second comment is this: I would like to draw members' attention to the presence in our gallery of a distinguished citizen from my riding of Bourassa, Victorin Bellemare, who is very involved in the social, community and political life of Montreal North. He is accompanied by his family.
As I said, the Federal Court of Appeal ruled in the Gingras case that RCMP members were also members of the Canadian public service and, as such, had rights like the right to organize, to form a union and to negotiate collective agreements.
They do not claim they have the right to strike, as these police officers provide essential services. If the employer and the employees' union cannot agree on working conditions, the police officers would rather resort to arbitration than go on strike.
But they still have legitimate rights. They have rights in terms of occupational health and safety and, like all other public service employees, they sometimes fall victim to work accidents or occupational diseases. Stress, for example, is a very prevalent problem among police officers, who must sometimes work in difficult and dangerous conditions. They should at least enjoy the full protection of all occupational health and safety laws.
I think that, instead of depriving employees like those of the RCMP of their vested rights, the government should set an example for the provinces in the area of labour relations.
It is a disgrace, for instance, that the federal minimum wage is lower that the provincial rates. It is unacceptable that the federal occupational safety and health legislation is not on a par with provincial legislation like Quebec's. Government should be an example to the private sector, and this is certainly not the case at present. Instead, the government is attacking vested rights of workers, in this particular case the rights of RCMP workers.
Take this other important right: the right to precautionary cessation of work for pregnant workers. This is not a right that federal public service employees enjoy, while it is already provided for in Quebec's legislation respecting occupational health and safety. A pregnant employee who works in conditions hazardous to herself or to her unborn child should be either reassigned or allowed to go on leave for the remainder of her pregnancy.
So far, the federal government has refused to bring down anti-strikebreaking legislation. Quebec and British Columbia both have such legislation. Ontario's legislation was just repealed, but the fact remains that this kind of legislation improves labour relations and helps create a social climate conducive to economic development.
I find that democracy has progressed in our society, but not in the workplace, in businesses and in corporations, where labour relations in certain areas are still dictated in an authoritarian way, as in the case of the RCMP. The commissioner of the RCMP has unlimited rights, while the members of this police force have very limited rights.
This government has not done very much to improve the working conditions and life of workers in Canada and in Quebec. On the contrary, when faced with a legitimate strike of rail workers, it thought it wise to bring in back-to-work legislation in this sector, instead of allowing collective bargaining to operate.
The Liberals' labour relations record is very poor. They have demonstrated a favourable bias for big business, but have not shown much concern for the average worker. Instead of helping workers, there are ministers, including the Minister of Human Resources Development, who attack the Canadian Labour Congress and who have made disparaging remarks about its president, Robert White, as well as myself, but for different reasons.
This government claims to occupy the centre, but we can see that it is moving with ever increasing speed to the right, the former Liberal or neo-Conservative right, and that it has done nothing for the working class as a whole, for the workers of Canada and of Quebec.
Last Saturday, a women's march ended its journey here in Ottawa. These women had very legitimate concerns. For example, they were calling for a job creation program designed specifically for women. They were also calling for increases in the minimum wage, day care funding, and grants for women's shelters. All the government comes up with is "niet", there is no money. That is
really a shame because I think the patience of Canadians and Quebecers is running out.
What will it take for the government to act? Does it want a revolt? Does it want people to come and demonstrate daily in order to be granted their legitimate rights, rights which are recognized in other democracies, particularly in Europe? Here, they are destroying the social safety net, eliminating social programs. Where is Canadian society headed with this Liberal government?
My time is nearly up and I will conclude by saying that I am very vigorously opposed to Bill C-30.
Colleagues, I am asking to resume debate. I just want to make sure we understand clearly that we are on report stage of Bill C-30.