Mr. Speaker, I would like to address my remarks, in a fairly brief fashion, to some of the issues before the House today with respect to the motions that have been put forward by the member for Bellechasse concerning Bill C-30, an act to amend the Public Services Staff Relations Act and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act.
With respect to the motions proposed to amend Bill C-30, they seek to do so by deleting three clauses. Each of Bill C-30's four clauses are intended to achieve a specific but interdependent legislative purpose. For that reason none of the individual clauses can be read in isolation from and without reference to the others.
Similarly, changes in one clause are impossible to make without serious consequences for the rest of the bill. The impact of any one of the hon. member's motions if carried would be more legal confusion or uncertainty caused by the conflicting references or gaps in the Public Service Staff Relations Act, the RCMP Act or the Financial Administration Act.
For example, clause 1 cannot be deleted as proposed by the hon. member's first motion. Doing so would leave conflicting references to the RCMP in the Public Service Staff Relations Act. Similarly, doing away with clause 2 of Bill C-30, which is the proposal put forward by the hon. member's second motion, would leave conflicting references to the RCMP under part I of schedule I of the same act.
Conversely, by deleting the third clause of Bill C-30 as proposed by the hon. member's third motion, there would be no reference to the PSSR Act or to the RCMP. If carried, this motion would leave the legal status of all RCMP employees open to question and without legislative basis under federal statute. I am certain the hon. member would not wish to create this type of uncertainty.
The House has examined the first three motions put forward by the hon. member for Bellechasse. I believe the government has clearly shown why these motions are simply not acceptable.
In all legislation brought forward by the government, it is brought forward after due consideration of how modifications to the legislation are consistent internally within the act for which they are presented and also consistent with provisions in other statutes put forward by the government. On a number of occasions, when amendments are brought forward and with respect to all hon. members who bring forward very discrete and distinct amendments to statutes brought forward by the government, often the interrelationship of how these proposed amendments would affect the total bill or how they would interact with provisions in other pieces of government legislation are overlooked. That is the case in respect of the motions which have been brought forward.
A number of issues have been raised by hon. members in discussing this bill. First, the implication was made that somehow this piece of legislation interferes with collective bargaining. That is simply not the case. I will quote from a speech by the hon. solicitor general where he outlines exactly the relationship between the changes that are being proposed in this bill which are merely technical in nature and which merely seek to clarify ambiguities created by a tribunal or court decision in relation to collective bargaining.
Another issue I would like to comment on concerns collective bargaining. It has been suggested that Bill C-58 was drafted to prevent unionization within the force. However RCMP members have never had the legal authority to enter into collective bargaining and Bill C-58 does not change that. Collective bargaining is a completely separate issue from Bill C-58 and would have to be dealt with by the government and Parliament as a separate legislative matter.
I have been advised that collective bargaining is not a natural or inherent right but a right granted by Parliament only. Collective bargaining rights have never been extended to the RCMP members under either the Canada Labour Code, the Public Service Staff Relations Act or the RCMP Act. The Federal Court of Appeals decision in the Gingras case has done nothing to alter this fact.
I would like to observe in passing that the only issue dealt with by the court in the Gingras case was whether RCMP members were entitled to be paid the bilingualism bonus. The plaintiff raised no other issue and the court's ruling did not go beyond it.
I want to indicate that where qualified, individuals in the RCMP within positions that are designated bilingual are and always will be allowed to avail themselves of this bonus as long as the bonus exists.
Since May 1974, the RCMP has had its own system for addressing labour-management issues and which since 1989 has been provided for in regulations made pursuant to the RCMP Act. This is the RCMP division staff relations representative program, the DSRRs for short.
The program is an internal staff relations program intended to provide a communications network whereby members at all levels can voice their views and concerns through elected member representatives. The members of each division across the country elect at least one full time representative and two part time representatives. For example, "E" Division in British Columbia has six full time representatives and 31 part time representatives, all elected by the members of the division. These divisional representatives have direct access to all levels of management including the commissioner and the solicitor general.
The DSRRs also serve on 11 national committees that deal with issues such as pay, travel and relocation, and health and safety to name but a few. Consultation between management and these committees is ongoing. In addition, conferences involving the commissioner, deputy commissioners, all commanding officers and the DSRRs are held twice a year with the DSRRs setting the agenda.
There is also the RCMP external review committee which provides neutral third party review of certain types of grievances, formal disciplinary and discharge and demotion appeals referred to it from the RCMP.
Furthermore, Bill C-58 does not create a separate employer status for the RCMP. This requires separate and specific legislation. However a consultative process is currently under way in the force involving the DSRRs, which is examining the advisability of moving toward such status.
I should also confirm that Bill C-58 gives no additional power or authority to the commissioner. The bill simply confirms the status quo regarding the force that existed before the Gingras decision.
Again and to conclude, the purpose of Bill C-58 is to remove ambiguities raised by the Gingras decision and to confirm that the primary legislative authority governing the operation and management of the RCMP is the RCMP Act.
As I have indicated, the changes that are being brought forward by the government are merely technical in nature. They serve to remove any ambiguity created by the court decision as to how the management of the RCMP resolves that in favour of the status quo. As has been indicated, these are only technical changes. There have not been major changes or anything that would in any manner change substantively the governance of the RCMP.
With the greatest of respect to those who have put forward different points of view and to those who have put forward the points of view that there have been major changes, I wish to inform the hon. members I am certain it is simply a matter of error on their part. Major changes have not been made. To assure this House, if major changes were ever to be undertaken, it would be a significantly larger process than has been dealt with in this case where merely technical changes are required.