House of Commons Hansard #60 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was employees.


Act to Amend the Criminal Code (Cruelty to Animals and Firearms) and Firearms ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell Ontario


Don Boudria LiberalMinister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, an agreement could not be reached under the provisions of Standing Orders 78(1) or 78(2) with respect to the stage of consideration of Senate amendments of Bill C-10, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (cruelty to animals and firearms) and the Firearms Act.

Under the provisions of Standing Order 78(3), I give notice that a minister of the crown will propose at the next sitting a motion to allot a specific number of days or hours for the consideration and disposal of proceedings at the said stage.

Public Service Modernization ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie Québec


Lucienne Robillard LiberalPresident of the Treasury Board

moved that Bill C-25, An Act to modernize employment and labour relations in the public service and to amend the Financial Administration Act and the Canadian Centre for Management Development Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in the House to move second reading of the Public Service Modernization Act, a bill that puts the focus on our most important resource in government, our employees, who are there to serve Canadians.

It is a bill that sends a strong message to managers, public servants and union representatives that the good management of our human resources must be our first priority.

I have always believed that people are central to any organization, and in a service driven organization like the public service it is even more true. Our ability to continue to meet the needs of Canadians depends on the quality of our people and on how well we lead them and manage them.

Two years ago, the government made a clear commitment in the Speech from the Throne to introduce long-awaited legislative reforms to the human resource management system of the public service, to ensure that it can attract the diverse talent it needs to respond to the challenges of the 21st century.

The government made this commitment because it recognizes that the Public Service of Canada is an important national institution that has served Canadians well for generations and must continue to do so. A professional, impartial and talented public service, in fulfilling its mission, contributes to the high quality of life we all enjoy.

Today governments, the private and voluntary sectors are facing a rapidly evolving operating environment. The pace of change seems to be accelerating, driven by technological advances and globalization.

Day to day work is becoming more and more knowledge-intensive, demanding new skill sets and forcing the need for an adaptable labour force. Demographic shifts are also creating an aging workforce and greater pressure for an inter-generational transfer of knowledge and expertise.

Governments face additional challenges. Public expectations of government are growing as citizens rightfully demand better service and greater involvement in decision making. Competition for talent with other employers is going to intensify in an increasingly tight labour market. Large numbers of federal public servants are expected to retire over the next decade and will need to be replaced. The public service of Canada needs to adapt to the shifting circumstances of the new century. It must ensure that it has the right workforce to successfully deliver its mission of serving Canadians.

To have an exemplary workforce, we must provide an exemplary workplace. For the public service, an exemplary workplace is a place that embraces diversity, where employees are proud to belong and where they can work in the official language of their choice and receive fair compensation. It is a supportive, professional environment that values competence and results, where decision making is delegated down to the level that makes the most sense, and where people are encouraged to be innovative and to use their judgment but are also held accountable for their actions. It is a place that promotes learning and professional development for all employees.

Of course such a workplace must also be a place of harmonious labour relations, with a real spirit of co-operation between the employer and union representatives, working together in a context where the public interest remains paramount.

These principles of an exemplary workplace are the principles upon which the Public Service Modernization Act was based. In fact, these principles are clearly set out in the two preambles contained in the bill. The values outlined in the preambles are the foundation upon which our human resource management system would be set.

As you know, the government has been working for some time now to improve the way it manages its people. Over the last few years, it has taken steps to combat harassment, strengthen diversity in the workplace, support employees with disabilities, and encourage learning.

Recently, we have renewed our commitment to official languages and have implemented a policy on internal disclosure for employees who wish to come forward with information about internal wrongdoing. We will soon be going forward with a new code of values and ethics for the public service.

Our legislative framework is the bedrock upon which all these and other human resources practices and policies are built. The public service modernization act proposes the fundamental changes we need. It represents a balanced approach to achieving many important objectives of human resources modernization and to creating an exemplary workplace.

The proposed bill will eliminate unnecessary red tape in staffing. It will lay the foundation for more constructive and harmonious labour relations. It will clarify the responsibility and strengthen the accountability of the key players in the human resources management system, the Public Service Commission, deputy heads and the Treasury Board, and it will provide greater support for employees in the area of learning so that they can pursue their professional development and continuously meet the needs of the public service.

Today we take a great step forward with the first major legislative reform of human resources management in over 35 years. I would like to speak for a moment about each of these three key aspects of the bill.

Let me begin with staffing. Competence and non-partisanship should be fundamental values of any professional public service. It is true today for our public service and it will continue to be so. Let me be very clear: the proposed bill will in no way deviate from these values. In fact, it will reinforce them.

The current staffing system was designed with the merit principle as the cornerstone of public service hiring. However, in trying to achieve the ultimate objective of protecting the merit principle, our current system sets prescriptive and time consuming mechanisms for determining the best qualified candidate for a given position.

In 2000, the Auditor General reported that, on average, it takes 119 days to complete an internal appointment. In trying to guarantee excellence we have in fact hindered our ability to hire and retain the best and the brightest.

The Public Service Modernization Act would return the merit concept to its original intent of ensuring that competence is the basis for appointments, by requiring that an individual meet the qualifications for the work. Merit could also include the consideration of operational requirements, and the needs of the organization and the public service as determined by the deputy head and the employer. The bill in no way sacrifices the merit principle; but it does change our approach to it.

As a public institution, the public service is not, and cannot be managed in the same way as a business. It is, and must be subject to greater scrutiny in its hiring and management practices.

The Public Service Modernization Act would provide for more effective accountability. It would better align the roles and responsibilities of those who manage people in the government. It would clarify their roles and responsibilities.

This bill would maintain the Public Service Commission as an independent agency, accountable to Parliament, responsible for protecting the merit principle and ensuring that competence and non-partisanship are at the core of our staffing system.

Through the realignment of policy and training responsibilities, the commission would become more tightly focused on its mandate of ensuring merit and its responsibility to monitor, investigate and audit staffing activities.

The legislation would establish a new, independent public service staffing tribunal that would conduct third-party reviews of internal appointment complaints, assisting in protecting the integrity of the staffing system against abuse of authority.

The bill would also strengthen and clarify the role of the Treasury Board as the employer, granting it authority to set qualification standards and certain other human resources policies and regulations. It would also be responsible for determining the current and future needs of the public service.

The public service modernization act envisages increased delegation to deputy heads, balanced with stronger accountability. Deputy heads would determine the qualifications required for the work to be performed, along with the operational requirements and the needs of their organizations, as these are integrally linked to their management responsibilities. In addition to their delegated authorities, deputy heads would have direct authority to determine the learning and development needs of their employees, provide awards and set standards of discipline based on policies and guidelines by the Treasury Board.

These proposed changes to the staffing system would uphold the principles in the preamble and would support our vision of an exemplary workplace.

It is not just our staffing system that needs to be reformed. We must also modernize our approach to working with the bargaining agents that represent our employees. The federal public service is largely unionized and will stay that way. This is not a reality that we must accept; it is a reality that we should embrace. The more than 17 bargaining agents that represent 85% of our employees have ultimately the same objective as we do, to make positive change in the workplace. It is time that the unions are considered as partners in our quest to create an exemplary work environment, not as obstacles.

Inspired by the Fryer committee, the bill before us, through a new and renamed Public Service Labour Relations Act, would introduce important changes to the current labour relations framework.

To improve dialogue and consultation, the government would require each deputy head to establish a joint labour-management consultation committee as a forum to discuss workplace issues.

The employer or deputy heads could also enter into co-development arrangements with bargaining agents that allow for joint discussion and problem solving and mutually agreed solutions without hindering the responsibility of management to make decisions.

The new legislation would recognize the National Joint Council as a potential forum for multilateral consultation and co-development. The NJC is an example of success where union and employer representatives work together in partnership.

The proposed bill would foster opportunities for informality and efficiency in the collective bargaining process. The bill would expand the role of the public service labour relations board, currently known as the Public Service Staff Relations Board. It would provide the chair with the flexibility to work informally with parties to mediate and help them reach agreements sooner. It would provide for more informed negotiations by providing compensation research and analysis services to the employer and the bargaining agents.

As in current practice, bargaining agents would continue to choose between arbitration or conciliation to resolve collective bargaining impasses. However, new ad hoc public interest commissions would replace the existing conciliation boards and would consider the public interest when helping to resolve disputes. Appointed from a list of mutually agreed upon individuals, they would have the flexibility to mediate. Public reporting by these new commissions, coupled with their status and credibility, will help move the parties toward resolution and avoid strikes.

In case of a labour dispute and should public service employees exercise their right to strike, Canadians want to be reassured that they can rely on the government for the programs and services they need.

The proposed bill would ensure that all essential services would be provided during a strike. The government would have the right to establish the level of essential services that are needed to ensure public safety or security.

However, consistent with the new approach of partnership, the government and the bargaining agents together would determine the number of positions needed to provide these services.

The bill would modernize the management of conflicts in the workplace. It would require departments and agencies to offer informal conflict management services to all employees. This is an important addition to the formal processes that are now in place and would help resolve conflicts early, before they turn into formal disputes.

These proposals to the labour relations regime will require effort and attitude change on the part of managers and union representatives alike. Everyone must do their part.

However, given that both parties have the common objective of creating a healthy and productive work environment, it would only be in the interest of public service employees and ultimately the Canadian public to see these changes through.

Another key aspect of a modern workplace is training and development.

Clearly, one of our first priorities in implementing these reforms to the human resource management system would be to train our employees on how to function in this new environment. Linking people, their knowledge, and know-how to the mission of the public service must be a fundamental component of modernization and a critical element to the long term success of fostering in the public service an exemplary workplace.

The most efficient policies and systems in the world would come to naught unless managers and staff are trained in their usage. Our current approach to learning is fragmented and uncoordinated.

Bill C-25 proposes the creation of the Canada school of public service which would combine the Canadian Centre for Management Development and Training and Development Canada. The mandate of the new school would be to offer corporate, and other learning and development activities to all public service employees and managers across the country.

This integration of our learning services is key to better deliver training and development activities and to ensure that our public workforce has the capacity and knowledge to be able to adapt to change.

Ultimately, the government's capacity to deliver results for Canadians will depend significantly on its ability to promote a culture of continuous learning that will make the public service an organization that embraces innovation, tolerates responsible risk-taking and that continuously strives to improve in the way it delivers its mission.

Fundamental reform of this magnitude takes time and it cannot happen overnight. The public service must not only endeavour to implement change, but to do it right.

That is why we are looking at a multi-year timeframe to implement these changes—so we can review our progress, see what is working and what is not and adjust accordingly. As we move forward with implementing our reforms, we must be transparent and accountable for the results.

An essential element of effective accountability and transparency is clear and concise reporting. The hon. members of this House want timely, comprehensive information on how the public service is being managed. They need to know what has been achieved, whether the means used were appropriate, and what has been learned.

Under the bill, the President of the Treasury Board would report to Parliament annually on the implementation of the human resources management provisions of the act. This would be in addition to the current requirements to report on employment equity and official languages issues.

In addition, the Public Service Commission would continue to report to Parliament on its activities; the Public Service Labour Relations Board on labour relations issues; and the Public Service Staffing Tribunal on internal staffing complaints under its jurisdiction.

Through this comprehensive reporting, parliamentarians and government would be assured that the changes being implemented are well managed and that our human resources system is continuously being updated to reflect the times. We cannot wait another 35 years to review the system. That is why the bill proposes a review in seven years of our staffing and labour relations regimes.

Members of the House debate issues of great importance to Canadians: issues like health care, the environment, the economy and Canada's role in international affairs. All Canadians depend on us to ensure that government can continue to deliver on these priorities. It is then important to recognize that the public service underpins all that we do in government. People in the public service deliver the services to citizens across Canada and abroad.

Bringing about meaningful change in the public service will take the goodwill of executives, employees and union leaders. But firstly, it will need the support of parliamentarians.

I was quite encouraged to hear the statements by my hon. colleagues from the four opposition parties upon my tabling this bill. There was clear indication of the will to work in a non-partisan and, dare I say, non-confrontational and collaborative fashion to see these changes through so that the public service of Canada can continue to be among the best in the world.

The support of all members for the bill is critical. It would send a clear signal that the House is committed to good government and that serving Canadians with excellence is the main purpose of the public service and parliamentarians alike.

Public Service Modernization ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Paul Forseth Canadian Alliance New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, on February 6, 2003, the President of the Treasury Board of Canada and member for Westmount—Ville-Marie introduced in Parliament legislation claiming that it would modernize human resources management in the federal public service.

Bill C-25 brings with it a fair amount of Liberal boasting when the minister says the bill is the first wide-ranging legislation reform of human resources management in over 35 years. She says the current system is cumbersome and outdated. I have to ask, who has been minding the store for over nine years? We know that union and management do not get along. However, legislation alone will not save the government in labour relations.

The federal government gets the union behaviour it deserves or, more specifically, the Liberals have historically set the tone as the employer that has created its own unreasonable response from the union side. With this bill, the minister now finally admits that a more collaborative, consultative approach is needed. She is right, but the government has only arrived here in this last year. How fairly did it negotiate when it took over $30 billion out of the workers' pension plan. That whole story sounded more like basic theft rather than negotiations. Employees remember bitterly.

My point is that all the joint councils in the world will not solve the human problem. Consultative and collaborative mechanisms can be created everywhere, but until there is a government that has an inherent philosophy that values employees and over time earns their respect by being always fair and honest with its workers, it will not realize its stated hopes for a balanced approach for human resources modernization.

Before me I see a bill of technicalities. Where is the commitment by the government to a set of values it would impose on itself first while, through this bill, it is prescribing values for others? Through this legislation it is prescribing values for the public service. I am sorry, we are now going to call it public administration. Where, at the same time in this so-called new era, is the government boldly describing self-imposed standards through which it could actually earn respect and create a culture of cooperation with workers?

The Liberals should apologize to Canadians and come clean with workers about broken promises. A new culture and climate must come from government first. It is my assertion that more can be accomplished in 10 minutes when everyone has learned through experience to trust each other and that they can all pull together than what could be accomplished in 10 years of bureaucracy making and rules manoeuvring.

I am talking about leadership. Leadership for a country so that we have some idea where we are going and we have a set of ideals of circumspection for political conduct as we journey on that national road to the future as a society. Wise and inspirational leadership is the only way in the long term for the grand hopes for a new collaborative management-labour culture.

One cannot legislate or coerce employees away from their sense of historical justice. The government cannot legislate away the memories and the deep sense of grievance. It has to earn it year in and year out.

That being said, I agree that the public service needs to have a renewed legal framework for its staffing and management practices to allow it to operate more effectively and to better meet the needs of Canadians. However, right off the top we are now going to call it public administration rather than public service. It sounds like an imperious government that claims to know best for everyone, that it will render what it knows as good for us all and administer instead of striving to serve need, serve the taxpayer in whose name we have government departments who serve the public interest, and serve to be accountable. Will citizens now be mere supplicants who will be administered?

The bill would provide for a new Public Service Employment Act, a new Public Service Labour Relations Act and would amend the Canadian Centre for Management Development Act and the human resources provisions of the Financial Administration Act.

The minister claims it is a balanced approach. However, it could be seen that under the guise of flexibility, while the employer makes room to adjust, it may also make room to manipulate and run rough over the plight of workers who would then increasingly turn to their union for a confrontational response.

The last situation we want to create is where the most prominent document on a worker's desk is a union contract. It can happen when a power shift occurs and new flexible authority is not implemented wisely. The government as a manager has started in a deep hole and if it ever hopes to get to higher ground, the powers that come through increased flexibility would have to be used carefully to obtain objective outcomes in a manner that makes sense to all those involved.

I hope that through better leadership from government, the increased flexibility in staffing and management of people will have safeguards to sustain a merit based, non-partisan public service. The minister sees the need for more constructive and cooperative labour-management relations to support a healthy, productive workplace. Does the government have any clue as to how to operationalize it?

Certainly, a greater commitment of resources to appropriate kinds of training is a start, especially skills in human relations and business, understanding organizational behaviour, industrial psychology, the science of decision-making, team building and people management. They all need to become part of the regular culture.

Wherever there is a supervisory role, even at lower levels, the incumbent must be given the people management training and be required to meet standards for supervising people. More coherent skill building can help employees pursue professional development to help meet the corporate needs of the public service. Clarified roles and strengthening accountability for institutions and individuals responsible for managing the public service should be an ongoing environment of review. Leaders cannot manage what they do not measure and assess.

A transparent culture of evaluation for both outcome and means must become the natural way of being rather than just an emergency reaction to the Auditor General or creating another crisis management project. There is a sound role for a vibrant, independent public service commission. Instead of trying to go around it, when it does not appear responsive enough, a better approach would be to fix it. Let us give the public service real resources to do its job and make it produce timely results, then receive the true potentials that such an independent role can deliver. Let us fix it instead of diluting and bypassing it.

This bill does appear to sufficiently maintain the role of the Public Service Commission as an independent appointment agency, accountable to Parliament for protecting merit, but the meaning of merit is watered down from striving for the best person who is most qualified to any from a group who may meet minimum requirements.

The minister claims the new approach to merit would improve a manager's ability to appoint people more quickly, when and where they are needed, while providing safeguards against abuse. My warning is that if the new direction is not done wisely, the broad system malaise that has been talked about so widely by the professional observers of the public service would only deepen and there would be no renewal of the public service culture. Nevertheless, I remain hopeful for the new independent public service staffing tribunal that would review internal staffing complaints and protect employees against abuse of authority.

My message to the minister is to give the tribunal a lot of capacity up front, as it is likely to be swamped in the beginning until things settle down. The start-up window for credibility would be very short and there would be little room for mistakes on this one. Let us make it comprehensive and capable. Let us resource it fully and ensure that it works for the benefit of everyone across the country.

The minister, through the bill, also realizes the need to assist the oversight role of Parliament. The statute outlines the requirement for the Treasury Board to report annually on human resource management issues. If this were to become one more feel good document that is so typical from the government, then the whole exercise would be lost. I would prefer an element of outside government assessment and certification as part of this reporting exercise, including computer access to the raw data. If the government wants to become transparent, here is its real chance.

The minister hopes the bill, to which we refer as the PSMA, would set the stage for a more constructive dialogue between managers and bargaining agents representing more than 85% of the public service workforce. They hope to improve collective bargaining through enhanced mediation and provide for more flexible methods to resolve conflict. This is very nice, but they certainly do not need to wait for a new act to behave more wisely, for it was always within the grasp of government to behave.

The government will try to fix things with new public interest commissions which will replace existing conciliation boards, supposedly to help parties resolve disputes and recommend settlements in consideration of the public interest. However, the government gets the union behaviour it deserves based upon years of previous conduct. While management must have both the legal power and the skill to manage, we have not yet seen an attitude from the Liberal political masters that any of the system tinkering in this bill would make much difference.

The government would also create a new Canada school of public service by amalgamating Training and Development Canada and the Canadian Centre for Management Development to provide coordinated and innovative learning for employees and managers.

I have optimism for this new arrangement. The government says that it has a strategy to equip the public service to adapt with excellence to the changing needs of Canadians. It makes a lofty claim when it says that through training it is committed to fair and respectful employment practices and effective workplace dialogue.

The government claims that the PSMA is a balanced legislative package resulting from research and consultation conducted by the task force on modernizing human resource management in the public service. We will be hearing from members of the task force at the committee stage process whether enough of their recommendations are in the bill.

Concerning the changes to the Public Service Labour Relations Act, it is to improve the labour-management relationship in the public service while maintaining the existing basic labour relations framework with a view to contributing to a healthy and more productive public service workplace. I note a change in the name of the act, which employs labour relations instead of staff relations to modernize the vocabulary.

A new preamble in the bill tries to underscore the value of co-operative labour relations within a context where the public interest remains paramount. The government says that it is committed to a fair, credible and efficient resolution of matters arising in respect of the terms and conditions of employment. I hope it can lead by example. Certainly the disrespect it has shown Parliament in the past does not help its credibility when dealing with the workers who administer the people's business across the country. It seems some cabinet ministers and even backbench Liberal MPs think that the public service works for the Liberal Party.

Let us be mindful that the bill before us today must be viable, regardless of which political party forms the government in the years to come. What we are doing today should represent more leadership through partnership rather than control through rules.

The bill would affirm in law both the employers right to manage, to determine its own organizations, the assignment of duties and classification of positions, as well as some employee freedoms related to union activity. I hope the government will have the common sense to negotiate with the unions a more reasonable, practical amount of union activity that will be permitted on employer time and on employer premises.

There also would be a new public service labour relations board. The board's mandate would be broadened to provide adjudication, mediation and compensation research and analysis services. It is hoped that the individuals who are appointed to the board will be of the highest calibre the country can produce and who can inspire confidence from all sides, for their role is so important. The board would also continue to provide facilities and administrative support to the national joint council, which is recognized in the bill.

In respect of compensation analysis and consequent bargaining, it should be clarified that in general, public sector compensation levels should be referenced to and follow the benchmarks of the private sector and not lead them.

Two tier bargaining would allow for service wide bargaining to set the broad parameters for terms and conditions of employment in a bargaining unit, while permitting precise details to be negotiated in departments if the employer, the bargaining agent and the deputy head jointly agree. It is designed to result in terms and conditions more appropriately tailored to the needs of the job. The concept of a single master agreement, completed or complemented by sectoral agreements, is very well established across Canada.

Conciliation boards and conciliation commissioners would be replaced by public interest commissions. Public interest commissions would be non-permanent bodies consisting of one of three persons appointed by the minister responsible to assist the parties to resolve their dispute and make recommendations for settlement. The chairperson of the PSLRB would be able to recommend the appointment of a public interest commission, either at the request of the parties or on his or her own initiative. I would hope that if we ever get to that poor situation that one of these needs to be appointed, it would not be used for the government to negotiate through the media.

The right to strike would not be acquired until 30 days after an essential service agreement had been concluded. No essential service employee would be allowed to participate in a strike and it would be prohibited for any person to impede or prevent employees who provide essential services from entering or leaving their place of work.

Concerning strike votes, the bill would require bargaining agents to hold secret ballot strike votes in order to declare a strike. I think that is very wise.

The bill also would ensure that all bargaining unit employees have the right to vote and to be given a reasonable access to the vote. Strike votes would have to be held within 60 days preceding any strike. A majority of those voting would have to be in favour in order for a strike to be declared.

Concerning the informal conflict management system, each deputy head in the core public administration would be required, in consultation with bargaining agents representing employees in the department or organization, to establish an informal conflict management system and inform the employees in the department or organization of its availability.

Concerning amendments to the Financial Administration Act, the delegation of authority and responsibility to deputy heads, considerable sweeping power is given for their human resource requirements and their allocations. With deputy heads receiving such tremendous authority, it is hoped that ministers will keep them accountable. May we never see another HRDC scandal.

Concerning the Public Service Employment Act, the government claims to modernize staffing in the public service, clarify roles and responsibilities and give new meaning to merit, create new arrangements for staffing recourse and establish a regime for political activities of public service employees.

The preamble to the bill has some nice sounding commitments of appreciation for the public service, which later may be undermined in its implementation. It talks about the importance of a modern, flexible staffing regime based on merit without political interference. It mentions excellence, integrity and reflecting national diversity, whose members are drawn from across the country.

That very ideal is too frequently undermined by the geographic prohibitions against all Canadians having equal opportunity to apply for a competition. Such practice by the government hurts national unity and is a stain on our international reputation as a free and democratic society. I call on the minister to immediately prohibit any such discrimination in hiring, for the free goods, capital and labour is fundamental to a market economy and a functioning democracy.

Responsibilities would be clarified among the Public Service Commission, Treasury Board, the employer, deputy heads and the new public service staffing tribunal. The PSST, as we would call it, would adjudicate complaints against internal appointments and establish regulations regarding complaint procedures. As I have mentioned, it is a very important entity.

We now come to the principle of merit that should apply throughout the public service at all levels. Initial appointments by the Public Service Commission would continue to be based on merit, free from political interference it is said, but with an approach to try and streamline the lengthy staffing process.

The following new definition is likely to be fought over and has already generated some national controversy in the media. An appointment would be based on merit when the Public Service Commission determines that the person meets the essential qualifications for the work to be performed and has regard to any additional qualifications that would be an asset or has regard to the operational requirements or current and future needs of the organization that may be identified.

The new meaning of merit would reflect the new roles and responsibilities of the PSC, the employer and the deputy heads. The employer would determine the needs of the public service, such as skill shortages and incapacities. The deputy heads would determine particular needs within their organizations, such as shift work availability and essential qualifications, as well as complementary qualifications that would be an asset for the job but that are not essential. It would be expected that the PSC would conduct the assessments and make the selection.

My problem is that the new, watered down definition of merit gives no direction to select the best person for the job within a specific competition process. Since that basic goal would no longer be required, no justification or accountability would be required to defend perhaps a sloppy selection process or even insider advantage to a favoured person.

There is nothing that will bring the whole system down faster than the informal social network of news among employees when it becomes known that a significantly less able employee was selected for promotion under the new proposed system, where this so-called winner met the basic qualifications but was clearly not the best person within any given competition. I say to the minister that she will have a disaster on her hands if she fails to fix this most basic definition.

Merit means exactly that, the person with the most merit within any given competition must be hired. That was the definition of the courts.

The parallel is the letting of contracts, which should be a straightforward business activity, but over which the government stumbles time after time.

The issue of contracts for the federal government is fraught with trouble across the country. It is because the government always seems to want to fudge the rules and play favourites and has insufficient standards that cannot be avoided. It is still too easy under present contracting rules to reward its political friends. That is why sealed bidding processes were developed for contracting in the private sector.

The minister knows all the trouble, the unfairness and the manipulation that goes on with contracting and picking a winner in a competition. The same potential for human nature will apply with a watered down definition of merit in the public service.

It is possible to be efficient and effective and still be fair. Alternately, can it be a wise use of human resource potential to not select the best person in a competition rather than just any from a group of unknown alternative criteria?

Since merit would now be just kind of incidental, why would a competition for promotion even be held? That operational hope is not acceptable. We can be efficient and fix the bottle necks without watering down the principle of merit.

Let us go to clause 33 which permits a secret or unadvertised appointment process. That is also unacceptable. It is not too onerous to post a competition on a computer database that is searchable on the net. Timely advertising of vacancies and promotional opportunities is an inherent part of the proper working of the merit principle. They are tied together.

Clause 34 includes the discredited language where it states:

--the commission may determine an area of selection by establishing geographic, organizational or occupational criteria....

This present definition in law cannot stand as it is so fundamental to all of what it means to have an independent and professional public service. It goes to the heart of why we have a Public Service Commission and what it was created for in the first place. Geographic discrimination is intolerable, and the public expects no less.

No system of appointment or promotion competition is perfect. I am pleased to see recourse for an employee is spelled out in the bill for internal appointment processes. The bill would allow informal discussion to occur between hiring managers and candidates throughout a staffing process to address concerns and correct errors with a view to reducing the need for formal recourse. Where formal recourse is necessary there would be a new, independent tribunal, called the public service staffing tribunal, to replace the current PSC appeal boards.

Employees who are in a competition would be able to make a complaint to the PSST for adjudication based on some grounds. These grounds would include abuse of authority, such as personal favouritism, or denial of the right to be assessed in the official language of one's choice.

The PSST would be able to interpret and apply the Canadian Human Rights Act if a discrimination issue were to arise, and if appropriate, give monetary relief in accordance with the act for pain and suffering and/or special compensation where the behaviour was wilful or reckless.

The Canadian Human Rights Commission would have the right to be notified if issues of discrimination were raised before the PSST and would have standing to make submissions to the PSST. This is designed to promote better decision making by the tribunal in the area of discrimination and employment and to streamline recourse.

However the provisions of the bill would not prevent an employee from making a complaint to CHRC.

The most practical and important part is missing from the legislation. What I do not see is that the PSST should have the clear power to negate a selection and require the process to be done over again with the opportunity for additional applicants to join in. That is the most appropriate, effective, corrective measure to ensure managers are fair, or, if they do not behave, they would have to do the same process over again next time and select the best person. The timelines could be quite fast and need not be seen as a bottleneck. This issue is so basic that it must be fixed.

It seems most reasonable that employees of separate agencies would automatically be able to participate in selection processes open to employees in the core public administration. Agency positions likely were formerly within the public service in any event, such as the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency. Separate agencies would also be able to request that the PSC approve its staffing regime so that its employees could be deployed into the core public administration.

In the act the Public Service Commission would be required to consult with bargaining agents on key issues, principles governing layoffs, priorities for appointments, qualification standards, the definitions of promotion, probation deployment and appointment to level. Staffing would continue to be outside the scope of collective bargaining.

The PSC would have the authority to investigate whether an appointment was politically motivated or whether fraud occurred in an appointment process and could take corrective action, including revocation, if it was determined that an appointment was tainted by political influence or by fraud.

Now let us talk about term employees. They would be automatically converted to indeterminate, or what I would call permanent status, at the end of the cumulative period of appointment specified by the employer in circumstances determined by the employer. Currently I think that time is three years and it should be reduced to two years, calculated in actual hours of a normal working year.

The use of casual workers should be a concern to all of us. The allowable period of casual employment would be limited to a maximum of 90 days in any calendar year under the act. The government should review where it is using this practice with an effort to severely limit its use unless absolutely vital.

Citizens working in public service should not necessarily lose their political rights. On this matter, I do not think the government has the right balance in the legislation. The new act does try to establish a regime for political activities which balances the rights of employees to engage in the political process with the principle of political impartiality in the public service.

The scope of prohibited political activities is established in the act and through regulations of the governor in council are made on the recommendation of the Public Service Commission. In the case of deputy heads, at that high level the act would limit their political activities to just voting, which is appropriate. However, the requirement to obtain leave from the PSC to be a candidate in a federal, provincial or territorial election would be retained and a requirement would be added to obtain permission from the PSC to be a candidate in regional and municipal elections. The same regime would apply in relation to seeking to be nominated as a candidate. These are unreasonable restrictions.

There is also no definition in the bill that requesting leave should not be unreasonably withheld. A decision to grant or not to grant should also be appealable to somebody.

The real problem arises in the long process of seeking a nomination. In my personal example, I was a permanent provincial public employee. I was able to seek a federal nomination without my employer's knowledge or permission as my volunteer time, as long as it was legal, was none of the employer's business. I won my nomination but I had to wait about a year before the writ was dropped and the campaign started. No one, except federal government insiders, knew when the election campaign would start. I was able to invoke the section of the labour agreement that granted unpaid leave for up to five years when I requested it, without having to obtain the employer's consent. Related to my ability to perform my public service job, I was able to amicably invoke the start date of my unpaid leave. This was in 1993 and it looks like the federal government has still not caught up to enlightened British Columbia on that matter.

Work performance is the business of the employer. A conflict of interest concerning confidential government information is the business of the employer. However beyond that it is not the employer's business whether people are politically active, whether they belong to a party, if they do volunteer political work in their leisure time and if they obtain a nomination for an election for some unknown time in the future.

The government attitude, as reflected in the bill, is still in the dark ages concerning basic political rights and the encouragement of the brightest and best in the federal public service to come forward and appropriately become politically active. The sections as they are written are unrealistically paternalistic and controlling and are actually quite insulting. They would never withstand a charter argument if one was created.

Therefore I look forward to the minister assigning some resources to review this section of the bill as, on the face of it, it is far too restrictive and flies in the face of our democratic ideals in this country.

Public Service Modernization ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member will have approximately 10 minutes to conclude his remarks after question period. We will now proceed with members' statements.

Eco-Tech VillageStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Julian Reed Liberal Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise in the House today to inform my hon. colleagues about the Eco-Tech Village, in the great riding of Halton. It will be the first community in North America to combine two innovative models in design: the ecovillage and the televillage.

Incorporating ecological sustainability with energy conservation and a high tech smart wired community residents will enjoy the best of both worlds.

Nestled below the Niagara Escarpment, those new community will blend into its natural surroundings while maintaining its connection to the rest of the town.

Through Action Plan 2000 and the Green Municipal Fund, the Town of Milton has received $100,000 to see its study and design plan come to life. Congratulations to Milton for this innovative approach to municipal planning.

A Spouse's ValentineStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Werner Schmidt Canadian Alliance Kelowna, BC

Mr. Speaker, today is St. Valentine's Day and I wish to recognize the unsung heroes of Parliament, our spouse's and significant others.

They raise our families and represent us in our constituencies while we are away from home. They endure the long hours, the late nights, the last minute changes, the pressure of election campaigns and the stress of long distance relationships. They sacrifice their privacy and they brave the scrutiny of the public eye.

In times of uncertainty and difficulty, they are our voices of reason and our most trusted advisers. They share our greatest joys and our deepest sorrows and they do it all with strength and grace.

Today, I send a valentine to our spouses and significant others, for their selfless support of the work that we do in the House of Commons.

And to my sweetheart Teena, I give my love and deepest gratitude.

The EnvironmentStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Charles Caccia Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, the devastating oil spill off the coast of Spain which tarred about 180 beaches and killed thousands of birds and fish was caused by a single-hulled tanker.

To prevent future disasters, the 15 European nations have agreed to ban single-hulled oil tankers carrying heavy fuel, as of this month. They have also agreed to impose by 2010 a total ban on single-hulled vessels more than 15 years old.

In Canada single-hulled tankers will be gradually phased out by the year 2015. Considering Canada's long coastline, the significant social and economic dependence on the fishery and the importance of protecting the health and beauty of our coastal ecosystem, I urge the Minister of Transport to move forward the Canadian ban to 2010, as the European Union is doing, to prevent disasters like the Exxon Valdez and the Prestige .

IraqStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Karen Kraft Sloan Liberal York North, ON

Mr. Speaker, for the past number of months the American government has beat the drums of war louder and louder in the hope of drowning out the world's pleas for a rational peaceful solution to the situation in Iraq.

The war rhetoric is just that; rhetoric. Not even the lowest evidentiary standards have been met that would justify bombing Iraq and in so doing kill thousands of innocent people there. In fact, we demand more proof for a conviction of armed robbery than Mr. Powell gave the world last week in arguing for the invasion of a sovereign nation.

War is an admission that diplomatic means have failed. It is my fervent hope that we continue on the road of diplomacy.

National Flag DayStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Mac Harb Liberal Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, on February 15, 1965, the Canadian government adopted the Canadian flag, a respected symbol throughout the world that reflects our values of peace, respect, justice and tolerance.

I am therefore pleased to recognize the efforts of the Prime Minister of Canada and Mr. Jesse Flis, who represented Parkdale--High Park as a member of Parliament for many years, in making National Flag Day a reality for all Canadians in 1996.

Our flag is a symbol of the nation's unity and represents all Canadians regardless of race, language or belief. It is my hope that Canadians today will join together and celebrate our shared heritage and identity. Let us be proud of our flag and proud to be Canadians.

British ColumbiaStatements By Members

11 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Andy Burton Canadian Alliance Skeena, BC

Mr. Speaker, the economy of British Columbia is in dire straits. The softwood lumber dispute, downturn in mining, lack of progress in proceeding with offshore oil and gas development have all created unprecedented economic difficulties, especially in northwestern B.C. and my riding of Skeena.

In his upcoming budget, it is to be hoped that the finance minister sees fit to level the playing field tax wise. Equalizing the corporate income tax rate is necessary to encourage new investment in these vital industries.

Furthermore, it is incumbent upon the federal Liberal government to encourage its provincial counterpart to move on offshore oil and gas development. The B.C. equivalent of a Hibernia plus awaits direction from both senior governments.

The B.C. economy needs the jobs and revenues. Northern British Columbians require new employment opportunities. The resources are there. Government must cut red tape and taxes to create the opportunity for economic recovery in our resources sector.

World Peace MarchStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Yvan Loubier Bloc Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, tomorrow there will be a world peace march that may the largest demonstration in history.

All around the world, men and women will be calling on their political leaders to do everything possible to avoid a war. People will not allow the world to be swept up in the war-mongering that is fuelling the United States, before all other steps have been taken and all other alternatives have been exhausted.

Iraqi civilians, especially the women and children, have suffered enough at the expense of a tyrant at home and as a result of economic and political sanctions from abroad, without us adding the additional horror of a war.

The massive mobilization of millions of people marching tomorrow will send a message that the 21st century must not be a replay of the previous century with its two world wars, dozens of regional conflicts that cost millions of lives, and the ever-present threat of the Cold War.

The United Nations is the only venue where the Iraqi and North Korean situations ought to be settled. While there are undeniable threats, there is also hope for humanity, hope that we must never give up.

SuccessStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Sophia Leung Liberal Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, on February 8 I had the pleasure of attending the SUCCESS annual fundraising gala at Vancouver GM Place. This unique event, with over 12,000 attendees and representatives from all three levels of government including Lieutenant-Governor Iona Campagnolo, is truly a showcase gala in the community.

SUCCESS is a well established Chinese social service agency that served over 420,000 people in 2002. Under the leadership of Lawrence Woo, Michelle Kwok and Lilian To, the gala event raised over $500,000 to support many community programs like employment training, immigrant settlement services and senior and youth programs to just name a few.

I want to congratulate and to thank SUCCESS and its board of directors for their hard work and dedication to the community.

Valentines for VetsStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Bob Wood Liberal Nipissing, ON

Mr. Speaker, today is St. Valentine's Day and across this country more than 3,000 valentine greetings have been received by veterans in long term care facilities through the Valentines for Vets program.

Through this program for the past seven years, Veterans Affairs Canada has invited Canadians to create special valentines for our Canadian veterans. One veteran who received his valentine this year was quoted as saying:

It gave me a great feeling. They're strangers and Valentine's Day is about love but it's a great thing. It means these young people haven't forgotten me, forgotten what I did.

Another veteran indicated that he was thrilled because he had not receive a valentine since he was a child.

Sending valentine cards may seem like a small gesture but it is so meaningful for our veterans. Anyone who knows a veteran should take the time today to thank them for their service to our country. Let them know that they will be forever in our hearts, and they will love us for it.

ZimbabweStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Keith Martin Canadian Alliance Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, in Zimbabwe opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai is on trial in a kangaroo court for allegedly plotting to assassinate Robert Mugabe. This trial is an absolute farce. The testimony is based on a doctored tape made by Ari Ben-Menashe of Montreal, an individual wanted for fraud internationally.

The RCMP has investigated these allegations. The release of that investigation would exonerate this individual. If the release of the investigation does not take place, this individual will be executed by hanging in the very near future with widespread ramifications for the region.

The trial is a farce. Canada cannot sit idly by and let an innocent man die based on the testimony of a fraud artist. The government must ensure that the RCMP's findings are made public and submitted to the court in Harare.

The RCMP should also investigate Mr. Ben-Menashe, his associate Alexander Legault and their company Dickens and Madson for international fraud, trafficking of blood diamonds and other crimes.

AraratStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Sarkis Assadourian Liberal Brampton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, Ararat director Atom Egoyan's film that deals with the question of the recognition of the Armenian genocide and the effects of the continued denial on the ancestors of the victims of the first genocide of the 20th century has taken five of its nine Genie Award nominations, including best picture at the 23rd annual Genies last night.

Arsinee Khanjian was named best actress for her role in

Ararat. Ararat's other Genies were for best supporting actor, Elias Koteas; musical score, Mychael Danna; and costume design, Beth Pasternak.

The success of the film is a tribute to the talents of both Atom and Arsinee and reflects the overwhelming support Ararat has gained from fans of Canadian films around the world.

Last May from Cannes Atom Egoyan sent me a note saying, “You're my hero”. We can all say, “Atom, you're a Canadian hero now”.

I know my fellow members of Parliament join me in extending congratulations to the cast and crew of Ararat for a great Canadian success story.

Dennis McDermottStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Lorne Nystrom NDP Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honour the memory of Dennis McDermott, a fearless and articulate leader of the Canadian labour movement, who served as the Canadian director of the UAW, as president of the Canadian Labour Congress, and as Canada's ambassador to Ireland. He was a lifelong activist on human rights, and a member of the NDP and the CCF for over five decades.

Dennis played a key role in bringing about Ontario's first piece of human rights legislation in 1948. At the helm of Canada's UAW, he laid the foundation for one of the most successful trade unions in Canadian history, the CAW.

As president of the Canadian Labour Congress, he believed that trade unions should engage in the broader struggles from economic and social equality to peace and justice around the world.

May the road rise to meet you, Dennis, and may God hold you in the hollow of his hand.

Jean-Baptiste MeilleurStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, I note with great pleasure that Jean-Baptiste Meilleur has been designated a significant national historic figure.

Jean-Baptiste Meilleur, a doctor by profession and father of ten, was the first superintendent of public instruction in Lower Canada and is seen as the main founder of Quebec's public education system. He helped found the Collège de l'Assomption in 1833 and was a member of parliament for the riding of the same name from 1834 to1838.

As I have had the privilege of teaching at Jean-Baptiste Meilleur school in Repentigny and at the Collège de l'Assomption, it is with great pride that I make this announcement, an important one for our entire community.

It is said that the institutions Jean-Baptiste Meilleur established laid the foundations for the education system that has existed in Quebec for more than a century.

Alexandre CyrStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Claude Duplain Liberal Portneuf, QC

Mr. Speaker, tomorrow is National Flag of Canada Day. I wish to take this opportunity to remind the House of the extraordinary work the former member for Gaspé, Alexandre Cyr, did to have this day recognized.

On February 14, 1973, Mr. Cyr got a unanimous vote of the House on a special motion asking that the Canadian flag stand in a place of honour among parliamentarians. The next day, on the eighth anniversary of the Canadian flag, the Speaker granted the hon. member's request.

Mr. Cyr accomplished a great deal as a member of Parliament. In this place where parliamentarians gather to work on improving society, he has left an important legacy, namely a reminder that patriotism and civic spirit are essential to our work.

Transfer PaymentsStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Norman E. Doyle Progressive Conservative St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, according to Premier Grimes, Newfoundland and Labrador will receive only about $200 million of the $13.5 billion being transferred to the provinces over the next three years for health care. Because the transfers are shared on a per capita basis, our province always receives a relatively small amount. That problem is compounded by an aging and shrinking population spread over a huge piece of geography.

The Prime Minister has admitted that the per capita funding system does not provide adequate funding for Canada's three large but sparsely populated northern territories. Therefore, there should also be an equalization factor built into our share of federal health care transfers, a factor that takes into account the realities of our geography and demography. Otherwise a small province such as Newfoundland and Labrador will always be playing catchup to the rest of the nation.

Michaëlle JeanStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Liza Frulla Liberal Verdun—Saint-Henri—Saint-Paul—Pointe Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, February is Black History Month. It is a time for Canadians to become aware of an aspect of their history and familiar with some exemplary people.

In this respect, Michaëlle Jean, an award-winning reporter, host and energetic filmmaker, is a model for young women in the journalistic and cinematographic fields. She was the first Black woman to be appointed anchor at the Société Radio-Canada. Today, we can see her each week hosting The Passionate Eye , Rough Cuts and Grands reportages , among other things.

Ms. Jean joined Radio-Canada in 1988, serving as a reporter for Actuel , then the public affairs news show Montréal ce soir and Virages , and the national and international affairs program Le Point .

She has dealt with challenging themes and received many prizes for her efforts, including an Amnesty International Journalism Award in 1995 and a Galaxi Award for best information program host.

Michaëlle Jean is the kind of person who can truly inspire us as women.

Food Services IndustryStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Reynolds Canadian Alliance West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to praise Canada's largest employer. The food service industry employs more than one million Canadians. The people working in the industry range from teens to seniors, from full time career employees to students slaving away at school and at work getting ready to lead productive lives and productive and satisfying careers.

Those one million plus Canadians should know the Canadian Alliance is the only federal party on their side. They are being gouged by the Liberal government. Their association states clearly that they pay a disproportionate share of payroll taxes compared to high income earners and capital intensive industries.

The Canadian Alliance believes the employment insurance premiums are too high. The Conservatives raised them and the Liberals have squandered them since 1993 so there is no real unemployment insurance fund. It is gone, having been blown away by the high-spending Liberals.

Here is to the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association and the 1,020,700 people who are proud to work in it. Let us hope the finance minister finally listens to them and does something to help them in this great and wonderful industry in our country.

IraqOral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Canadian Alliance

Stephen Harper Canadian AllianceLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, last night in his speech in the United States, the Prime Minister was careful to endorse every single side of the international dispute over Iraq. This exercise in confusion rather than clarity was another step in our increasing slide to irrelevance on this issue.

Now that the Blix report has been delivered, can the government be clear, will it stand unequivocally with our allies, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and others, in stating that they have the right to act and that Saddam Hussein will be disarmed?

IraqOral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Ottawa South Ontario


John Manley LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, unlike the Leader of the Opposition, we prefer to know what the facts are before we state our position. We will look carefully at the Blix report. We expect that over the coming days the report delivered by Mr. Blix will be the subject of very careful consideration by nations around the world.

The Prime Minister made clear last evening Canada's position. We stand on that position.

IraqOral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Calgary Southwest Alberta

Canadian Alliance

Stephen Harper Canadian AllianceLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, for months the Prime Minister has been telling the House that the government would tell us where it stands when the Blix report was presented. Today is the day. The Prime Minister has heard the report.

I will ask this in as parliamentary a manner as I can. On this issue today, where is the Prime Minister?

IraqOral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Ottawa South Ontario


John Manley LiberalDeputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I have been told the Leader of the Opposition is a quick study, but not making his mind up while the report is still being delivered is an amazingly quick study. I think even he would concede that it would be worthwhile for us to carefully review the report that Mr. Blix and his committee is presently presenting in the Security Council of the United Nations before determining the position that the world community should take.