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House of Commons Hansard #64 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was police.

Topics

Public Service Staff Relations ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Bloc

François Langlois Bloc Bellechasse, QC

moved:

Motion No. 4

That Bill C-30 be amended by deleting Clause 4.

Public Service Staff Relations ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Reform

Art Hanger Reform Calgary Northeast, AB

moved:

Motion No. 5

That Bill C-30, in Clause 4, be amended by replacing line 4, on page 2, with the following:

"47.6(1) For greater certainty, with the exception of Part II, the Canada".

Public Service Staff Relations ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Bloc

François Langlois Bloc Bellechasse, QC

Mr. Speaker, in his speech on the first group of motions, the parliamentary secretary said that they were only minor changes on which the opposition needs not ask so many questions.

We always thought the opposite, and the government's approach had been to say that they were in fact only technical changes. The bill was referred to the committee on government operations when it should at least have been sent to the justice committee or the human resources development committee, considering the radical and major changes it brings to the overall working conditions of RCMP officers and to their relations with their superiors.

This not an innocuous bill. We were told that it deals only with the payment of the bilingualism bonus to RCMP officers, but then one has to see on what legal grounds the decision was based. That is one of the biggest flaws in the reasoning of the parliamentary secretary.

A few moments ago I said that the Gingras decision was a trial decision of the Federal Court, but, in fact, it was an appeal decision of that court. The Appeal Division of the Federal Court ordered the payment of the bilingualism bonus to RCMP officers only because it could rely on a legal analysis saying that those officers have the same status as public servants. But if the officers are part of the public service, that means that they are covered by all applicable rules that stem from Treasury Board decisions and legislation applicable to the public service, including the bilingualism bonus policy.

The Appeal Division of the Federal Court did not decide on its own that they were entitled to the bonus, it had to make a legal analysis of the situation. So, the whole question should not be downplayed.

In clause 4, and this is quite revealing, there is a derogation or interpretive clause that has a clearly retroactive effect. The clause reads as follows:

(1) For greater certainty, the Canada Labour Code does not apply to members, and members are not part of the Public Service within the meaning of the Public Service Staff Relations Act , nor part of the public service within the meaning of section 11 of the Financial Administration Act .

The purpose of Bill C-30 is quite obvious. If the government wished to keep this position, all it had to do was go before the Supreme Court and plead its case. In this country, we do not legislate retroactively except in very rare cases and for good reason. It is a way of legislating, referred to as nunc pro tunc in latin, by which the government is trying to ensure retroactively that if the officers were to go back to court and if Bill C-30 perchance were passed, they would be told that the law has been changed and that their rights can no longer be recognized.

Canadian courts do not need clause 4 in Bill C-30. It is up to them to determine what the state of the law is pursuant to the general provisions applying to every citizen. One clause, clause 4, is written only for RCMP officers. This clause does not apply to everybody. It applies only to one class of citizens. The government takes their measurements, the size of their coat, pants, shoes, and hat if they need one, and says that these people, RCMP officers, are not covered by the Canada Labour Code.

As my colleague for Kamouraska-Rivière-du-Loup mentioned a few moments ago, as did my colleague for Mercier, labour relations are a serious problem in the RCMP. There is an unhealthy climate, and a constitutional state such as ours cannot tolerate that labour relations be subject to the pleasure by the prince, in this case the commissioner of the RCMP, who dictates working conditions and refuses to share his supervisory powers with the country's regulatory agencies. We believe there should be a system, which could be unique to the RCMP, that would give members of this force the right to free collective bargaining.

Such free collective bargaining does not exist. Of course, there are divisional representatives who do their best but, as I was saying in my remarks on the first group of motions, the climate is such that the basic trust that should normally exist between management and employees is just not there. There will be a need for an outside agency to come it and help settle the disputes and legitimate grievances that may arise.

The myth that the RCMP exists outside our society must be destroyed. RCMP members are first-class citizens who have the right, like everybody else, to have their grievances heard by courts that are not prejudiced against them. When you look at the existing

grievance adjudication process, the adjudicators can only make recommendations. They cannot make binding decisions.

I mentioned earlier the case of Staff Sergeant Gaétan Delisle, mayor of Saint-Blaise, who was reprimanded and who basically received a notice of discharge because he was a candidate in an election. That shows how serious the problem is. No other police force in Canada could have done this. Members of the RCMP are no different from members of the Sûreté du Québec, members of the OPP and members of most municipal police forces. Their right to free collective bargaining must be recognized.

The Gingras decision does not say explicitly that members of the RCMP can be unionized under Part I of the Canada Labour Code, but it opens the door. So let us allow the legal debate to take its course. Given that RCMP officers are considered members of the public service, does Part I of the Canada Labour Code apply to them? If so, they can be unionized under the Code. If, after this is done, it becomes apparent that it is not the appropriate regime for their collective bargaining framework, there will still be time to legislate a different framework, which could resemble what has been done in the case of the Sûreté du Québec.

The vast majority of RCMP officers are not claiming the right to strike. We could therefore consider a binding arbitration, or final offer, mechanism, as was often mentioned. In this sense, I support the motion to delete clause 4. The motion presented by my colleague, the hon. member for Calgary Northeast, is nonetheless a lesser evil, in the sense that if we had to include the right of police officers to unionize by leaving clause 47.6 in Bill C-30, the recognition that Part II of the Canada Labour Code, as it relates to health and safety at work, applies, would at least be a consolation prize.

I am therefore in favour of the motion by my colleague, the member for Calgary Northeast, but only for these reasons. I believe that the deletion of clause 47.6 basically resolves the entire issue and that the right to collective bargaining under the Canada Labour Code is the same everywhere in Canada.

Public Service Staff Relations ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Reform

Art Hanger Reform Calgary Northeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, in reference to the motions in group 2, in order for Reform Party members to support Bill C-30 fully, we seek a substantive amendment which would ensure continued statutory protection of RCMP officers under the Canada Labour Code. I do not believe the motion by the member for Bellechasse really satisfies our concern.

Motion No. 4 which states that Bill C-30 be amended by deleting clause 4, cannot be support by members of the Reform Party.

Motion No. 5 asks that Bill C-30 be amended by adding directly following "for greater certainty", the words "with the exception of part II", which refers to the Canada Labour Code. Bill C-30 was originally introduced as a housekeeping bill, but it became evident that the effect of this legislation could have serious implications on the rights of RCMP members.

Some concern exists that Bill C-30 in its present form would completely eliminate the application of the labour code to RCMP members. At present the RCMP has the protection of part II of the code concerning health and safety. There is no valid reason to justify the exclusion of the RCMP from the health and safety regulations listed in part II of the Canada Labour Code.

This amendment, if adopted, would maintain the health and safety protection of the Canada Labour Code for RCMP personnel. It would still exempt the RCMP from the Canada Labour Code overall, with the exception of part II, and it deals strictly with health and safety. Those are my comments in reference to Motion No. 5.

Public Service Staff Relations ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I believe it is very important to speak on this group of motions because the bill before us was introduced following a court ruling called the Gingras ruling, which has completely changed labour relations for employees of the RCMP.

The government showed very little planning in its response. The bill it introduced sets a very paternalistic framework for the RCMP officers. I believe this legislation is the best proof of it. If this bill is passed in its present form, the officers of the RCMP will find themselves excluded form the protection of the Canada Labour Code in the areas of occupational health and safety. This is astonishing proof of improvisation on the part of the government.

We all know very well that occupational health and safety is a very important issue in the work of police officers. They undergo considerable stress that can have serious physical and psychological effects. Police officers often have to go through stressful situations and have to deal with difficult human cases. This group of our society shows a very high suicide rate, family problems and all kinds of situations due to difficult working conditions.

Because this government is excluding them from the protection of the clauses on occupational health and safety in the Canada Labour Code, the RCMP officers will be somewhat powerless in terms of their rights to occupational health and safety. Yet, this group of workers is more exposed than others to work accidents and we are not talking here about small accidents but situations which can be very difficult, complex and have very serious human impacts.

We should not be holding this debate again today and this is why we believe the House should support this motion because we have

stressed the fact in the previous groups of motions-and I believe we proved our point-that this government is improvising and that this bill will give the Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police powers which really are greater than those an employer should have, in a police force.

This motion is an example of the exclusion of RCMP officers from a significant area of particular concern to them, perhaps more than other categories of personnel, because of the impact of work-related accidents and health problems that may be experienced, due to the nature of their work.

Another example concerning police officers. They may develop back trouble, for example, because of ergonomic problems, and these are not recovered from quickly. Sometimes we have a bit of a tendency to scoff at such things, but for the person in that situation it is no joke. Police officers, particularly those in patrol cars, have about the same situation as people who drive for a living. The long hours they spend in a car requires ergonomic studies, processes to ensure that recurring problems are eradicated, for instance all the back problems these people are liable to develop. It would be important to ensure that, should they be dissatisfied with how things are being managed by the RCMP, they would have access to the appeal process and to adequate protection.

There are other safety elements. Police officers carry fire arms, and often have to deal with criminals and with illicit substances. There are many aspects of their work that involve safety, and it seems to me to be inappropriate that their labour relations regime can be modified with a bill containing only four clauses.

It has been decided that, in future, they would no longer be protected by the rules that apply to the public service as a whole. There has been a decision by a judge that they are to be considered members of the public service, but this decision has been modified considerably because the government does not accept it, and is taking advantage of the opportunity to deprive officers of proper protection. What should have been proposed is a model reflecting the needs of these peace officers. But, no. The decision was made to simply include them in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act, without any sort of protection.

It is a bit like taking people back to the beginning of the 20th century and forcing them to start a whole series of fights for working conditions all over again. Both employees and employers can be the losers in such fights. If occupational health and safety were not regulated for the public sector across Canada, we would find ourselves in legal proceedings.

Peace officers will perhaps be obliged to follow the traditional legal route, which takes a lot of time and creates a lot more frustration but produces essentially the same results in the end. Why would the government not listen to these proposals?

If the government does not want the framework governing the working conditions of the RCMP to be well thought out, it should at least give RCMP officers appropriate protection in matters of occupational health and safety to permit them to do their work in acceptable conditions and to give them recourse when difficult situations arise.

An officer of the RCMP in Quebec is involved primarily in the fight against drugs or similar matters. Elsewhere in Canada, officers also do patrol work. From personal experience, I know that the people in this area need special support to remain in good physical condition and to meet the demands of their work. In many instances, before there were relevant regulations, difficult situations arose.

People had to take legal proceedings, which they sometimes won and sometimes lost. It is not just in the interest of the officers concerned to have this problem properly resolved, it is in the employer's interest too.

These amendments relating to occupational health and safety, in a way, send the government a message that it did its job in a makeshift manner, that it should have provided a labour relations framework which would have allowed negotiation of acceptable work conditions. However, this is not the position the government opted for. Today, we are faced with this situation.

I would not be surprised if, one or two years from now, this framework needed to be changed, if a new proposal was introduced in the House to give back to the RCMP employees an acceptable labour framework. Occupational health and safety is an area where paternalism can be particularly pernicous.

In the field of occupational health and safety, there is a basic principle according to which the best way to address a health and safety problem is to eliminate it at the source. Very often, employers tend to seek solutions for the problem once it already exists. The best example is noise. The first thing that was done was to force the workers to wear ear plugs in order to reduce the decibel level. In the medium term, having a broader vision, it was realized that what needed to be addressed was the source of the noise.

In the absence of a proper framework to address this kind of problem, the employer is often going to close his eyes to cases reported reported to him, and the peace officer concerned will not have the appropriate means of redress. Then, we will be faced with more and more regular referrals to health professionals, more and more regular use of existing legal processes, because when the labour framework does not provide employees with the proper means of redress, they tend to seek justice through other avenues.

As an employer, the government would be better off if it took the time to change the bill we have before us, to flesh it out so as to ensure that employees can be satisfied with their work conditions, feel more secure and do their jobs properly. The framework for negotiations will allow employees to change regularly their working conditions without necessarily having the Sword of Damoclès over their heads in the person of the commissioner, who could say: "With the authority given me, I can take action if you make too many demands".

I hope the House, or in fact the Liberals, will accept to act on these amendments concerning occupational health and safety in order to give RCMP officers adequate working conditions and also to avoid numerous legal proceedings for employers, which would create significant costs and spoil the job atmosphere for police officers. If this were the case, it is mostly the client, the citizen that pays the price of such internal conflicts and, therefore, the government would not be carrying out its mandate to serve the population adequately.

Public Service Staff Relations ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Bloc Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

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.

Public Service Staff Relations ActGovernment Orders

1:30 p.m.

Bloc

Antoine Dubé Bloc Lévis, QC

Mr. Speaker, once again the hon. member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve pointed out something important, because this really something lean and mean. This is a small bill. I am repeating myself, but this has to be repeated because it cannot be shown on television. It is incredible: the first page has three clauses and the second, only one, which is the most important. The rest is made of blank pages. This government talks about saving everywhere, but the saving was not well-founded in this case. I am in favour of saving in Parliament, but such a glaring saving of ideas is too much. We were not asking for that much saving when dealing with an extremely important subject.

What does clause 4 say, since it is the most important one? It says: "For greater certainty, the Canada Labour Code does not apply to members, and members are not part of the Public Service within the meaning of the Public Service Staff Relations Act, nor part of the public service within the meaning of section 11 of the Financial Administration Act." This means that the 16,000 people working for the RCMP are not covered by the Canada Labour Code.

To replace that, the government brings forward this small, lean and mean bill comprised of four clauses. The hon. member for Calgary Northeast is right about the great probability that the government will get this small bill passed. There is a major omission: occupational health and safety. This is important for everybody, including the members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. As it is, there is no indication that these people will be protected in the future since it is made very clear that they are not covered by the Canada Labour Code. They are governed by what? This legislation only. Sometimes, people in Quebec say that

collective agreements are too long, but this is not a collective agreement, it is a piece of legislation that is extraordinarily simple.

Any schoolchild in third grade who knows how to read can understand that. I am not an expert or a lawyer, but I can realize the bill says people in the RCMP are excluded. It does not say, though, what they will get to compensate. We are confronted with a legislative vacuum-maybe not a legal vacuum, because there are other statutes-but there is room for interpretation.

A more serious problem is the enormous power being given to the commissioner over his 16,000 employees. This will be almost unprecedented in Canada. He will have this power not only over trivial matters, but over very important ones too, as important as the RCMP investigation on the conduct of the former Prime Minister of Canada. That is quite something. This fact is recognized, but at the same time, Bill C-30 would set the operational context.

I do not know what judges or commissioners will be able to do when arbitration time comes, but the power of the RCMP commissioner is enormous. That is why I tend to agree with the hon. member for Hochelaga-Maisonneuve when he says that after less than three years in its first mandate, this government is already spent and bankrupt.

Since the beginning of June, Liberal members are silent. If it were not for the official opposition members, I think it would be rather boring, because very few Liberals, who are the ones introducing the bills, present arguments in favour of their bills. What are we to understand? Are they so eager to go on vacation that they simply want to close this place down? Is that it? Then, listeners could well wonder what members are paid for. They may not be overpaid, but they are paid to represent their constituents in the House of Commons. What do they do? They introduce bills, say a few words and then leave.

Opposition members move motions and amendments, as we have just seen, but not one Liberal member rises to speak. Where are they? Are they out playing golf? Have they gone fishing? Where are they? We have been here since this morning and, of course, we cannot speak about the members who are absent, but the least we can say is that they are not exactly present. However, the few members who are here could at least take the floor! They keep silent. These last few months, they have honoured a code of silence. This Bill C-30 could be known at the code of silence legislation, because it is so thin. The Liberal members have stopped speaking in the House of Commons.

What is going on? I think we have here a rather serious political problem. A number of hon. members have expressed their opposition to the bill allowing Newfoundland to change its education system and the Prime Minister said that there would be a free vote. Thank God for the hon. members of the opposition. I wonder if the bill would have passed without their support.

I do not want to be impertinent, but I have noticed a connection between the series of bills recently before the House and the behaviour of the Liberal members, which have more than one person worried. I find it strange that the media have not picked up on this. Also, they do not seem to be in a hurry at the end of this session, because they are waiting for a specific bill to come back from the other place. In the meantime, they are just marking time, killing time, and not introducing any legislation. But when they introduce bills, they should argue! This is incredible!

I call upon the members across the way. They still have time, in the next two hours, to participate in the debate on this bill so that we can do our work as parliamentarians, that is, the government presents a bill, explains its advantages, and the opposition reacts, criticises and shows the bad sides of that bill.

After that, people can make their own minds. They can also change their minds and propose amendments, but now the situation is inanimate, senseless, nothing is happening. There is no debate because the only team willing to play is that of the opposition, because it takes its work seriously.

We are asking ourselves some very serious questions about the content of the bill. The first three clauses are normal and prompt no comment. The fourth one denies a number of rights which are not replaced by others and are not specified. Where will this lead? I fear an incredible backslide, the emergence of a system where one person has immense power.

There are problems within the RCMP, as shown by the incident at the Prime Minister's house and the inquiry into the case involving a former Prime Minister. I would never dare criticize members of the RCMP because I think they lack supervision and, at the same time, managers, heads of departments and commissioners have too much power.

Given that context, these people act as people will. They go every which way as we say. I ask those Liberal members who have something good to say about this bill to rise and present their arguments so that the Canadian public and the 16,000 members of the RCMP, those guardians of the law and order in our country, will accept it.

I ask them to take advantage of this forum, the Parliament which costs us something everyday and every hour. They should respect Parliament and put forward their positive arguments in support of this bill. I cannot see a single one, but I am very willing to listen.

Public Service Staff Relations ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Ghislain Lebel Bloc Chambly, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my admirable colleague for his speech. I would like to ask him-

Public Service Staff Relations ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

There are no questions or comments.

Public Service Staff Relations ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Ghislain Lebel Bloc Chambly, QC

Very well. I was going to ask him a question, but I think I can still do so in my speech. I am certain you will agree with me, Mr. Speaker, as usual.

How are RCMP officers going to react to the fact that they cannot hope to enter into collective bargaining, or have a safety code, in short to do what all other workers are allowed to do today, namely, get together and have their voices heard.

I am afraid that this bill will deprive RCMP officers of any hope to find a balance between their status and the status of all other Canadian workers, who have the right to join forces, and sometimes are compelled to by the social context. From now on, RCMP officers-that is the police officers of the RCMP-will not be allowed to engage in collective bargaining, or to form unions or brotherhoods. All these things that give hope to other workers are henceforth taken away from them.

What is their attitude going to be with regards to their work? What is going to motivate them to proudly discharge their duties if, year after year, their pay scale is going to lag behind those of other police forces, construction workers or workers in any other fields?

Are RCMP officers going to find themselves in the same situation as some members of the armed forces? According to a news item the minister of defence is careful not to comment, military personnel from Quebec who had been transferred to Vancouver had to go to the British Columbia welfare office to cover the shortfall between their military pay and what they need to live on in Vancouver.

I know you agree with me, Mr. Speaker, as always. Except that, do we wish the same thing for RCMP officers? Is this yet another roundabout means, a trick this government has found to make provincial governments pay for a part of its police officers' salary? There is some machiavellism in that. I refuse to recognize there is some good faith in a bill containing four clauses. In fact, it contains only one, because the first three say this is a piece of legislation, which we all figured out here, but there is one that is fundamental, and it is clause 4. It takes away all rights from our police officers' elite.

I think the government is also relying greatly on the fact that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police has been in existence since 1873, I believe, and the member for Bellechasse, who is knowledgeable, may correct me if I am wrong. It has been turned into a religion in some families. First of all they want a priest in the family, then a RCMP officer. And the government has used that ever since. It used the fact it was a vocation for many who joined the RCMP to underpay them, to impose working conditions that would not have been acceptable anywhere else, but it did so in the case of the RCMP because it was a religion.

Religion means privation, of course. Privation means unfulfilled needs, needs that are not compensated for. It can end up being dangerous. There have been unfortunate occurrences like the recent one involving a career officer in the RCMP who turned his service weapon against himself because he was suspected of some wrongdoing, maybe rightly so, I do not know, because I have not investigated the matter. He was allegedly involved in something improper, according to the media-which I do not always trust-and he killed himself. If this man had been adequately paid, if his dignity had been recognized in his work and duties, if he had had the same opportunities as his fellow officers, if he had been able to afford going to the restaurant once in a while, with his wife and kids, maybe he would not have committed suicide. But these people are asked to behave as if their occupation was a vocation, like priesthood. "You are paid less". And, in polite terms, they are told: "Shut up. Do not demand anything".

Things have to get really awful before an RCMP officer complains about anything. I can see that when I sit on the scrutiny of regulations committee. Retired RCMP officers have been cheated for 15 years in the calculation of their pension benefits. But during that whole period, not a single one of them has launched proceedings to argue for his rights before the trial and appeal divisions of the Federal Court of Canada. An RCMP guy never demands anything. Does a priest ask God anything for himself? Never. It is just the same with the RCMP.

Had this problem happened in the public service, it would have been quickly brought before the Supreme Court of Canada, and justice would have been done, but the RCMP is like a religion or like priesthood. You never ask for anything, and if you do, you do so humbly and never demand anything. If your request is not granted, well-

I have seen a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police sell his house at something like $15,000 below market value for fear of making a profit he could be criticized for by his superiors. This is as true as the fact that you are in your seat, Mr. Speaker. I know that you are listening, as always, and I thank you for that.

I would imagine that, coming from so far away, the hon. member for Bourassa has known a police force or two. He must have encountered police officers who not as patient and amicable as our RCMP officers. He has seen it all, the whole range of police forces. He can tell you himself-I am not putting words in his mouth-that we are well served by the RCMP. We have come to rely on the members of the RCMP, who have become, at least in our minds,

some kind of missionaries. They are paid less than they should be for the work they do. There are members of police forces much less important and definitely not as endearing as the RCMP who are paid better. Personally, I suspect that we pay more for RCMP horses than RCMP officers. This flies in the face of reason. Of course, they do have very fine horses.

All this to say that we must do our police officers justice and throwing bludgeon legislation like this at them is certainly not the way to go about it. How nice: Tourists come here to see the changing of the guard, with the big fur hats and all. It looks good, but the fact is that the person under the hat is not paid or underpaid. This person is not entitled to the same pay as anyone else. I do not know many people who would agree to stand there under a hot sun with a fur hat.

I would therefore ask the sponsors of this bill to reconsider and try to understand where others are coming from, to understand the tragedy for these people of having no bilingual bonus and no collective bargaining. In fact, all they are allowed to do is to ride their horses and shut up. This is really not the sort of life one would expect.

Public Service Staff Relations ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Rocheleau Bloc Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to make a few comments on the issue of staff relations between RCMP officers and their employer, the government, from a perspective which concerns me somewhat, namely staff relations and public offices which RCMP members can hope to hold.

I am referring, as you know, to the case of the RCMP officer who got involved in a municipal election and was sharply reprimanded by his superiors. Such is the current staff relations policy within the RCMP regarding this issue. Incidentally, such an attitude also prevailed elsewhere, including in the Quebec public service, of which I am a former member. Until 1976-77, any public servant who got elected in Quebec had to resign from his or her position in the public service.

This, of course, was a serious injustice to public servants, who not only had to make the major decision of whether or not to run for office, but to accept the fact that they would have to resign if they did get elected. I am among those who fought at the time to ensure that the employer, that is the Government of Quebec, treated its employees more decently and more fairly and in a less arbitrary and demanding way.

The act as it stood in 1975, 1976 and 1977-which had been as all acts enacted by men and women-was amended by the Parti Quebecois government and nowadays the Quebec public servants who have the honour of being elected in their ridings to the National Assembly of Quebec do not have to resign, since they are entitled to a leave of absence without pay for the whole time they sit as an MNA and when they leave politics they have the choice, depending on the length of their terms, of simply going back to their jobs in the Quebec public service.

That gives you an idea of how far we are from implementing that type of solution with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Government of Canada and their employees. I met the officer who ran in some municipal election and who brought down his employer's wrath upon himself. That man was badly hurt; he was a victim, I think, of a major injustice, of some kind of abuse of authority, of the latitude given to his employer, because there is no rational or justifiable reason for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to be so hard on its employees, to be so demanding.

The right thing would be for these people, as for all other workers, to be able to get a leave of absence without pay and to go back to their jobs after their terms, if it is possible, and I am talking here about members of Parliament. We could even stipulate that Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers cannot be elected to the House of Commons, because they would then be part of one of the entities acting as their employer, since the Government of Canada is the employer of the RCMP. But to go so far as to prevent an RCMP officer from running as mayor or town councillor is, I think, an abuse of authority worthy of condemnation.

It seems that with this bill now before us, the government is maintaining that policy which restrains rights. It is a question of fundamental human rights to recognizethat somwone is entitled to be chosen by his community to represent it. We cannot, for purely-not to say meanly-administrative resaons, deprive someone of a right as fundamental as the right to run in an election.

I am pleased to have the opportunity today to share my personal experience with you. Legislation in Quebec in this regard has changed significantly. If one was a public servant in Quebec, one had to resign after having been elected as a member of the national assembly. This law was passed by men and women.

Today, because the government listened to peoples' demands and representations, the law was changed so that now a leave without pay is granted. Why do we not do the same thing with RCMP officers, maybe with the required differences and subtleties?

Public Service Staff Relations ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Osvaldo Nunez Bloc Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-30 concerning the members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police should be rejected. The decision made on March 10, 1994, by the Federal Court-Appeals Division in the Gingras case was very clear. RCMP officers are members of the federal public service and as such they have the same rights as the other public servants.

They have the right to unionize and to bargain collectively with their employer. These principles are recognized in all democratic countries: The right to unionize and the right to bargain. These principles should also apply to the members of the RCMP. The

International Labour Organization was very clear on this: Those principles apply to all wage earners.

I would like to come back to what my colleague from Chambly said earlier when he commended the RCMP. I agree with him that the RCMP is fulfilling a necessary, an essential function and that it is a democratic and very professional police force. I am satisfied when an RCMP officer is fighting against drug trafficking, for example.

RCMP officers should have the same rights as the other public servants, the other wage earners, that is, for example, all rights in terms of occupational safety and health. A colleague mentioned that they are sometimes exposed to the same dangers-

Public Service Staff Relations ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

My colleague, it being almost 2 p.m., you will still have the floor and you will be able to continue after Oral Question Period. We will now proceed to Statements by Members.

Alzheimer's DiseaseStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Mac Harb Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, Alzheimer's disease affects more than a quarter of a million Canadians. The cost of the disease is over $4 billion per year.

I recently had the opportunity to meet with the Alzheimer Society of Ottawa-Carleton. It believes it is vital to protect and strengthen the principles of the Canada Health Act to ensure that an effective system exists to meet the needs of Canadians.

Alzheimer organizations across Canada have identified three specific priorities: to reform Canadian tax laws to provide financial relief for Alzheimer family care givers; to recognize Alzheimer's disease as a priority of the national health research development program; to expand federal program grants that benefit people affected by Alzheimer's disease.

Alzheimer groups continue to work hard to address the needs of Canadians who must live with this disease. I congratulate these dedicated individuals and organization on a job well done.

Farm Credit CorporationStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Reform

Lee Morrison Reform Swift Current—Maple Creek—Assiniboia, SK

Mr. Speaker, more than a month ago I drew the attention of the minister of agriculture to a restrictive trade practice by the Farm Credit Corporation. He has not yet responded.

Farm Credit makes feed loans to cattle producers. However, it appears that these are all channelled through Heartland Livestock Services, which then handles all the sales. This puts private auction markets at a severe disadvantage since they are, in effect, forced to compete against federal government money.

Independent dealers have been cautioned that the FCC has first call on sale proceeds from any cattle that they receive bearing a Heartland brand. Thus, besides being subject to unfair competition, the independents must also act as Heartland's collection agency if a producer attempts to default.

Independent dealers' tax dollars are being used to favour a huge competitor. When will the minister get off his duff and investigate this complaint?

New Democratic PartyStatements By Members

2 p.m.

NDP

John Solomon NDP Regina—Lumsden, SK

Mr. Speaker, the love affair between the media, the Liberals and big business continues. What Canadians want and need is not getting reported fairly by the media or acted on by the Liberals. Canadians need jobs, fair taxes and sensible social programs. The only party in Canada that fights for what Canadians need is the NDP.

Fortunately, ordinary Canadians are ignoring the big business message of the media and the Liberals, and even though the Liberals deny New Democrats full access to Parliament, more and more Canadians are listening to our message.

How do we know this? In Saskatchewan the NDP government was re-elected. In Manitoba the NDP leads the polls. In the recent Halifax byelection the NDP got 65 per cent of the vote. In B.C. the NDP government was re-elected. Last night in the Hamilton byelection the NDP finished a strong second with 26 per cent of the vote.

While the media prop up the Liberals who betray Canadians, more and more Canadians are ignoring both and voting for the party that is on their side, the NDP.

Economic DevelopmentStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Maurice Godin Bloc Châteauguay, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to inform this House that an international event took place in the riding of Châteauguay at the end of May. The Société de développement économique de Roussillon organized the first ever international matchmaking session.

People from fifteen countries took part in this event, their objective being to develop and strengthen contacts with businesses

from other countries. They came from the United States, Mexico, Europe, Asia and several Canadian provinces.

I want to congratulate SODER, its industrial commissioner and all the volunteers who contributed to making this event, the first of its kind in Quebec, a success. I salute this outstanding initiative which shows the strength of a Quebec that is open to the world, capable of forming partnerships, particularly with the rest of Canada, and ready to take its place within the international community.

Fish StocksStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Liberal Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, the government should vigorously pursue efforts to enshrine in international law Brian Tobin's efforts to save marine fish stocks.

Rising world demand, indiscriminate industrialized fishing and environmental changes have stressed global fish stocks to a critical level. This is not a problem that can be solved by any one nation working alone. International action, leading to truly global fish stocks legislation, is necessary.

While putting our own house in order, the Ministers of Fisheries and Oceans, Foreign Affairs and the Environment should continue to push vigorously for international laws to protect straddling fish stocks and highly migratory fish. Protection of particular stocks is a good first step toward global fish stocks management.

MulticulturalismStatements By Members

June 18th, 1996 / 2 p.m.

Liberal

Susan Whelan Liberal Essex—Windsor, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Multicultural Council of Windsor and Essex County has just completed its annual Carousel of Nations, celebrating the ethnic and cultural diversity of Canada, this year with the theme of "Art: A World without Boundaries". Every year for two weekends in June this celebration attracts thousands of Canadian and American visitors to the area and provides entertainment, food, a touch of history and the cultural diversity of the various ethnic backgrounds that make up our country.

This weekend, however, was very special. On Saturday, June 15 a new village was inaugurated. With the help of many friends, neighbours and esteemed colleagues, the Canadian Unity Village was opened. This village brought together the special qualities that were demonstrated during the Montreal rally in October. Canada's largest national flag, which highlighted the October rally, was donated to the village by the Windsor Jaycees and provincial flags lent by my colleagues were mounted to give a panorama of our beautiful country.

The Canadian Unity Village was a tremendous success and the celebrations at all the Carousel villages were wonderfully prepared and visited by thousands of tourists in an atmosphere of friendship and communication.

It is events like these that encourage mutual understanding and co-operation, and show why Canada is ranked number one-

MulticulturalismStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Egmont.

Doug MacleanStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Joe McGuire Liberal Egmont, PE

Mr. Speaker, the Stanley Cup playoffs are over and the coach of the Florida Panthers has returned to Prince Edward Island for the summer.

Doug MacLean, a native of Summerside, has accomplished what no Islander before him and indeed what very few Canadians have accomplished. He coached his team for the NHL finals.

The odds of making an NHL team as a player are very high. The odds of coaching an NHL team and having that team go to the Stanley Cup finals are infinitely higher, but Doug has done it in his first year as head coach of the Florida Panthers. Last Friday, there was outpouring of warmth and pride in Doug's accomplishments from the people of Summerside and P.E.I. in general.

As much as anyone can be, Doug MacLean is a self-made man. His determination and personality have made him the best coach in the NHL. All Islanders have their fingers crossed as we await the announcement of the coach of the year in the NHL.

I urge the House to share in my congratulations to Doug MacLean, his immediate family and parents for a job well done.

Tribute To Gilles BeaumierStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard Deshaies Bloc Abitibi, QC

Mr. Speaker, last November, Gilles Beaumier, a letter carrier in Amos, in my riding of Abitibi, was crossing the bridge over the Harricana River when he saw a young woman in the water. Risking his life, Mr. Beaumier did not hesitate to jump into the freezing waters to help this woman whose life was saved thanks to his quick reaction.

I want to salute Mr. Beaumier and to congratulate him, on behalf of all my colleagues in this House, for the bravery and great compassion he has shown. For all his fellow citizens, his action is a mark of exceptional courage.

In recognition of this courageous act, Mr. Beaumier's employer, the Canada Post Corporation, gave him the Golden Postmark Award in the outstanding achievement category.

This official reward is well deserved. We express our admiration and extend our warmest congratulations to Mr. Beaumier.

Parks CanadaStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Reform

Cliff Breitkreuz Reform Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, in April, Parks Canada hiked the price to hike in Jasper and tourists are not taking it lying down. The increased fee structure is not only confusing, it is in complete disarray.

These ridiculous rates are totally outrageous and Parks Canada is dreaming if it actually believes a head tax will balance the books. It is a sad day when the Liberals try to save their economic skins by soaking Canadian families.

Our national parks should be an affordable destination. Families are being discouraged from enjoying the beauty and splendour of our national parks. And thanks to the Liberals, business in Jasper has suffered. Some hotels have seen business decrease up to 25 per cent because people are driving on through to skirt the tax.

When will the Liberals realize that taxes, taxes, taxes kill jobs, jobs, jobs?

First Ministers' ConferenceStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Liberal Ottawa West, ON

Mr. Speaker, today the Prime Minister gave a speech at a joint meeting of the Ottawa-Carleton Economic Development Corporation and of the Regroupement des gens d'affaires. He spoke about the tasks awaiting the first ministers at their meeting later this week.

This meeting will continue the process of the last two and a half years of governments working together for the good of the nation, following the successful examples of the infrastructure program, Team Canada trade missions and progress on removing internal trade barriers. This first ministers' meeting will be a further step in restoring a healthy economy and together doing all we can to ensure Canadians have jobs and opportunity.

The ministers will work on removing irritating conflicts between federal and provincial roles. They will work to develop a national plan to eliminate child poverty.

This is not the magic wand and pouf of the Reform Party that would dissolve the nation into provinces-

Hamilton EastStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Bernard Patry Liberal Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, the people of the federal riding of Hamilton East have re-elected their Liberal MP for a fourth time, with a very respectable majority.

Our colleague, who will be back with us soon, decided to put her seat on the line after the opposition parties claimed that our government had failed to deliver on its promise to abolish the GST.

Sheila Copps was brave enough to leave the decision in the hands of the voting public. On the strength of yesterday's results, the verdict is clear.

The people in the riding of Hamilton East are in agreement with our government's policies, and particularly our decision to harmonize provincial sales taxes with the GST.

We are confident that Sheila Copps will continue to do everything necessary to represent fully the constituents of Hamilton East, who have again demonstrated their confidence in her.