Mr. Speaker, what a pleasure to speak to you again aboutthis new group of motions.
I do not know if the government is finally going to agree with the official opposition that the situation we are in is of great concern, as the member for Kamouraska-Rivière du Loup said. We cannot behave as if the charter of rights did not exist. What is the use of having a government constantly reminding us about principles? How often have ministers risen in the House, the Prime Minister first and foremost?
How can we forget the Prime Minister's cries straight from the heart, sincere cries no doubt, telling us that we live in the greatest country on earth, a country based on freedom and democracy?
How, then, can this be compatible with the bill before us today and the way the government is going to treat these workers, these honest citizens, who have a particular mission to carry out in our society as police officers and rehabilitation workers, and who have to face situations that are sometimes critical or extremely thorny?
The truth is, and we must repeat it for the benefit of our listeners who have just tuned in, that in spite of decisions rendered by various courts of law and supreme courts, this heartless, stubborn government that is not listening, this doomsday government, which is coming to the end of the session and is akin to a government at the end of its mandate, is ignoring the most basic principles of demacracy.
Let me review the facts. If the government implements this measure, 16,000 persons will be denied a very fundamental right, one which is the basis of democracy, that is the right to participate in the definition of their own working conditions. It is also the right to be judged, in the event of a dispute, a conflict or unfair practices, by a third party who is neither judge nor party, as is the case for all public servants.
Why such an obstinate attitude? What is going on in the heads of the government members? What can the leaders of this government be thinking of to violate a moratorium whereby we were to examine the Canada Labour Code in September, just a few weeks from now, in accordance with the Sims report. You will recall that the former labour minister, who is now Minister of Canadian Heritage, had created a task force presided by Mr. Sims, a specialist in labour relations in western Canada, who, with the help of an industrial relations specialist, Mr. Blouin from Université Laval, and other members, decided to make some very specific recommendations to the government suggesting that the Canada Labour Code be updated, since no thorough review of that code had been done since 1972.
We had agreed that a parliamentary committee would hear witnesses who would speak about the review, the modernisation of the Canada Labour Code, and tell us how to proceed to update the first part pertaining to unfair labour practices, the second part on the OHSC or more precisely occupational safety, and the third part listing the minimum standards that are so important for all workers across the country who do not have a collective agreement.
We could have, in a very democratic and enlightened way, benefited from the debate the Minister of Labour, and member for Saint-Léonard, was hoping for. Instead, we are now in a very upsetting situation. You know that as the official opposition, we have a basic mandate to carry out. We must work to improve the government, to make it more and more efficient, to bring about a more enlightened government when dealing with the issues it brings up.
I do not need to tell you that with the government we have at the present time it is a full time job and, to be frank, we do not see the light at the end of the tunnel. There is no predictable way out for us in a foreseeable future. We do not see any way to improve this government, to improve its practices.
How can you expect any form of co-operation in this House, a co-operation which goes through you, Mr. Speaker, when the government remains as stubborn as it has been. Those who are watching us today, those who would like to understand what is going on in the Parliament of Canada, how are they going to react when they learn that there has been a decision, the Gingras decision, which said that the RCMP, the 16,000 employees-in fact 18,000-are part of the public service? But you know that the government is so-I do not know if you are going to let me say that-astute, although it is not what it really is, you know very well that it is not the word astute that I should be using, but devious,
even dishonest; the government is so crafty that it is creating two categories of workers within the RCMP.
It allows 2,000 civilian employees to have access to collective bargaining. But it tells the 16,000 others that they do not. This is the extremely harmful, perfidious, age old theory of dividing to conquer.
Let us recall what is happening and watch as government members blush. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour, who is with us today, will listen to what I am saying, because if this man has some conscience, if there is moral fibre in the government members, they must know they are going against decisions that were made by the courts.
The decision was clear and simple. How can government members support a bill that goes against the courts? That is what we are talking about today. We say, and we will repeat it again and again, and we will try, as opposition members, until we get a very concrete result, to have RCMP members obtain the fundamental right, the right that is enshrined at the very core of our freedoms of functioning, of our democratic freedoms here in Canada and in Quebec, the right to freely negotiate their working conditions.
Mr. Speaker, have you ever thought-I am sure you did, because I know you have an alert mind-about the number of hours we spend in the workplace? Sometimes, it seems quite unbelievable, but I must say it is because we spend many hours in the workplace. It is because we are far from having reached the leisure society the generation of the member for Rosemont had promised us that we must have interesting working conditions in a work environment, so that things go smoothly, so that workers are motivated. That certainly means something in a work environment, in a public body such as the RCMP.
Motivation is not without significance. We are convinced that motivation requires the right to negotiate freely, with full knowledge of the facts, as well as the right to be represented by a bargaining agent to determine working conditions.
We would have understood to a certain extent if a government member had risen to tell the opposition: "Yes, but you know that, for those who have a mission as specific as that of RCMP members, the right to strike must be examined very closely". But this is not the issue. RCMP members, or the 16,000 workers concerned, are so reasonable-and they even have their own draft bill-that they are saying to the government and to the official opposition: "We do not want the right to strike as our last resort. We want what several municipalities have implemented".
Members will recall that several police forces have exercised the right to bargain freely, and today we, as parliamentarians, are being asked to do something so reasonable that we cannot understand the government's refusal to see the facts. They are asking not only for the right to bargain freely, but also for binding arbitration. The word "binding" does have a legal meaning. It means that the parties are bound and must agree to allow a mediator to make a decision. This is the real issue.
We are not very proud of what is happening. We are witnessing the actions of a very petty government. And that is an understatement. These people have chosen to turn a deaf ear and they are about to shamelessly betray a principle which is central to the very functioning of our society. Canadians will not forget and their verdict will be pitiless because they will mobilize. We will help them. They will come to Parliament Hill. They will appear before parliamentary committees.
You know-and I will conclude because my time is running out-that the best way to oppose an idea in democracy is to propose a better one, but not to come to us with a skimpy piece of legislation that has only four clauses. This measure is so skimpy it is laughable. I do hope that the government will have second thoughts about it.