House of Commons Hansard #107 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was employees.


PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John M. Cummins Canadian Alliance Delta—South Richmond, BC

Mr. Speaker, the third petition I have relates to the matter of the Falun Gong group. It appeals to the Parliament of Canada to initiate a resolution to condemn China's persecution of Falun Gong at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.


Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36 I wish to present a petition calling on Parliament to focus its legislative support on adult stem cell research.

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.


Judy Wasylycia-Leis NDP Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition signed by constituents of Winnipeg North Centre and other residents of Winnipeg and Manitoba. These individuals are concerned about threats to international peace and security, particularly in light of developments in Iraq.

They call upon Canada and the government to ensure that the framework of international law is upheld. They call upon the government to refuse to participate in U.S. military led coalition forces outside the United Nations and they ask the government to use our unique relationship with the United States and our traditional role as a broker of peace to pursue non-aggression at times of threats to international security.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Halifax West Nova Scotia


Geoff Regan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Some hon. members


Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Halifax West Nova Scotia


Geoff Regan LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, would you be so kind as to call Notice of Motion for the Production of Papers No. P-26 in the name of the hon. member for Kootenay—Boundary—Okanagan.

Motion No. P-26

That an Order of the House do issue for copies of all documentation, including reports, minutes of meeting, notes, e-mails, advertising, memos and correspondence since January 2002 within the Department of Human Resources that relates to the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol that sets out the benefits, how the targets are to be reached and its cost to the department.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.


Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, Human Resources Development Canada's response to this motion is one of voluminous character and would have an inordinate cost and require a good deal of time to prepare and translate.

Mr. Speaker, I think you would therefore find agreement from the Minister of Labour to have this put over for debate.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe New Brunswick


Claudette Bradshaw LiberalMinister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, I ask that Motion No. 26 be transferred for debate.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

The Speaker

The motion is transferred for debate.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.


Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all other Notices of Motions for the Production of Papers be allowed to stand.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:30 p.m.

Some hon. members


Public Service Modernization ActGovernment Orders

May 28th, 2003 / 3:30 p.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 third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today to move third reading of the Public Service Modernization Act.

As I have maintained many times in this House, I believe that an impartial, professional public service is one of this country's greatest assets. The Public Service of Canada is an honourable institution that contributes significantly to the high quality of life that we share as Canadians.

As parliamentarians, we owe the men and women of the public service who work diligently across the country and around the world, day in and day out, our thanks and respect.This government is committed to supporting public servants and to ensuring that the public service can continue to pursue excellence and provide high quality service in an increasingly complex and fact paced world.

Bill C-25 is a key component of our efforts. The bill is a comprehensive and carefully measured package of proposals. It represents a balanced approach to setting the foundation that will allow the public service to change the way it does business. It proposes to streamline our often cumbersome staffing system, thereby improving our ability to attract and hire the people we need, when and where we need them.

It aims to build more constructive labour-management relations and create a more productive and supportive working environment through such devices as mandatory departmental labour-management consultation committees. It proposes to change the way that the public service approaches corporate learning and development to make us more competitive and to ensure that we can retain and attract employees more effectively.

I do not intend to go over the salient features of the bill in any great detail. I did that when I rose in the House during second reading. Instead, I would like to look at some of the amendments that were proposed by the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates.

The committee process provided an excellent opportunity to expand the debate and discussion on Bill C-25. I must applaud members of the committee from all parties for the comprehensive and thorough attention they gave the legislation.

I also would particularly like to thank my parliamentary secretary, the member for Niagara Centre, for his tireless enthusiasm and hard work throughout the legislative process. As we all know, committee work can often be long and tiring but it is an essential component of good law making. It is clear to me, having attended the committee as both a witness and a spectator, that its members approached the matter at hand with both vigour and a clear and unbiased desire to improve the bill for Canadians, and they succeeded.

Over the last three months the standing committee heard testimony from more than 20 organizations and individuals, including eminent academics, union representatives, the Clerk of the Privy Council and public servants. It systematically reviewed 175 proposed amendments, accepting 40. While the amendments do not change the key elements of the bill or what it intends to achieve, they nonetheless strengthened it in certain important areas. I welcome this chance to look at some of the revisions proposed.

The committee endorsed amendments to make more explicit the values upon which human resources management is based. The Public Service Employment Act section of Bill C-25 includes the preamble articulating the principles and values underlying staffing. It underscores the importance of a public service that strives for excellence, is representative of Canada's diversity and able to serve the public with integrity, and in their official language of choice.

The standing committee proposed that we expand the preamble to include an explicit commitment to transparency and a stronger reaffirmation of our commitment to the country's linguistic duality. This is far more than just rhetoric; it is a firm commitment to these guiding principles.

The members of the Standing Committee focussed much of their attention on creating a supportive working environment—notably one that is free from harassment and where public servants can feel safe to speak out against perceived wrongdoing.

Nobody disagrees that these are important issues. The only question is what approaches are the most effective to ensure that people truly are protected.

The government has favoured a policy approach instead of a legislative one. The former offers maximum flexibility and it can be implemented and amended more quickly than legislation.

That is why, in November 2001, the government instituted a policy on internal disclosure to support employees who raise issues of wrongdoing in the workplace and protect them from reprisal.

While we believe that having a policy is still the most appropriate approach, after hearing from witnesses, we accept the view that there should be some form of legislative basis to support our efforts to eliminate harassment and to protect employees who have disclosed wrongdoing.

Proposed amendments will help to achieve this by recognizing the importance of allowing the Treasury Board to have such policies in place. This sends a clear message to future governments that employees should always be protected.

Another amendment is designed to ensure that such issues will be discussed in the new consultation committees that deputy heads must establish to exchange information with bargaining agents and obtain views and advice on issues relating to the workplace.

A third area where amendments were proposed and endorsed by the committee relates to the political activities of public servants. The non-partisanship of the professional public service is one of its fundamental cornerstones. It is a critical component of good governance and it must be upheld. But in our efforts to do so, we cannot trample on an individual's right to freedom of expression. And we should not discourage people from seeking public office and serving their communities in an elected capacity.

The new act would establish a clear regime for political activities which balances the right of employees to engage in the political process with the principle of political impartiality in the public service. It would also update the current political activities regime to bring it in line with a previous Supreme Court ruling.

For example, Bill C-25 stipulates that the political activities of deputy heads will be limited to voting in elections and that they may not actively involve themselves with a candidate or a political party. Given their unique decision-making role and the importance of providing objective advice to minsters, I am sure the members of the House would agree that this is a prudent and appropriate measure.

A number of witnesses before the standing committee, including the Public Service Commission, thought that the bill as tabled merited adjustment to make the regime regarding employee political activities as flexible as possible.

As a result of a motion in committee by the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, there is a greater measure of flexibility with respect to whether an employee will be required to take leave when seeking to be a candidate or being a candidate in a federal, provincial or territorial election. There is new flexibility for the PSC to determine whether an employee would be granted permission to be, or seek to be, a candidate in an election.

I should also note that a separate amendment will strengthen the PSC's ability to investigate any allegation of wrongdoing in this area.

Those are just a few of the amendments that have emerged through the standing committee's thorough and thoughtful deliberations.

Before I close, I would like to mention one final aspect of the bill which has received considerable attention, the approach to merit.

Bill C-25 would strengthen the merit principle by requiring that all appointments to and within the public service be made on the basis of merit and by describing for the first time how merit is to be achieved. The new approach to merit will ensure that only competent individuals are staffed into jobs, while at the same time help to eliminate much of the unnecessary process which has made the system onerous and cumbersome.

After much consideration, we remain firm in our conviction that the changes proposed in the public service modernization act represent the most balanced and reasonable approach. Claims that we are watering down merit are clearly unfounded. While we are proposing greater flexibility in staffing, we are balancing them with strong safeguards to uphold the merit principle. We intend to focus the responsibilities of the Public Service Commission more squarely on safeguarding merit. At the same time, another proposed amendment will require that the commission consult, on request, with bargaining agents on policies regarding the manner of making and revoking appointments, as well as the principles regarding priorities for appointments and layoffs.

We also recognize that effective recourse is essential to maintaining the integrity of the staffing process. Bill C-25 would improve access to staffing recourse by creating a new independent public service staffing tribunal to hear complaints from employees who are dissatisfied with how they have been treated. One proposed amendment will clarify the grounds for complaints by stating that appointments made on the basis of personal favouritism constitute an abuse of authority.

Other proposed amendments have further strengthened the independence of the Public Service Commission and its audit's role. The member for Etobicoke North moved an amendment, for example, requiring that the appointment of the president of the Public Service Commission be approved by both Houses of Parliament. This will help sustain the independence of the office. Another amendment, proposed by the member for Châteauguay, would increase the scope of the Public Service Commission's audit function.

Together, these and other measures in the bill will ensure that merit remains the central principle guiding staffing.

I believe that these amendments will further strengthen this already solid piece of legislation. There was consensus among many of the witnesses who appeared before the standing committee that what is being proposed is long overdue.

We have a window of opportunity now—and we must take advantage of it. We are not just tinkering at the margins with this legislation. I believe that the Public Service Modernization Act will have a clear and enduring impact on one of Canada's most essential and respected organizations.

I would like to point out to members that this bill will be subject to automatic review in five years. This is a further reflection of the committee's view that five years was more appropriate than the seven years laid out in the original legislation.

The shorter time frame will give enough time for us to implement the legislation and take any appropriate measures. Throughout this period, we will report to Parliament on our progress.

The standing committee has deliberated long and hard and has offered wise counsel. Once again, I want to extend my thanks to them for their commitment to improving this important piece of legislation.

I firmly believe that with Bill C-25, we are clearly strengthening human resources management in the public service, which will lead to improved service to Canadians. I would like to invite all members of Parliament to support Bill C-25 at third reading.

Public Service Modernization ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

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

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to address third reading of 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. The act will be known as the public service modernization act, the PSMA. The bill is transitional in nature and will be phased in through levels of proclamation.

Part 1 enacts the public service labour relations act to provide for a labour relations regime in the public service which is based on greater cooperation and consultation between the employer and bargaining agents notably by requiring labour-management consultation committees enabling co-development, enhancing conciliation and providing for negotiated essential services agreements.

The new act eliminates certain managerial and confidential exclusions and brings unfair labour practices up to date. It provides for the establishment of conflict management capacity within the departments and more comprehensive grievance procedures. It also establishes the public service labour relations board whose mandate is to provide adjudication services, mediation services and compensation analysis and research services.

Part 2 amends the Financial Administration Act to put direct responsibility for certain aspects of human resources management into the hands of deputy heads, subject to policies and directives of the Treasury Board. New deputy head responsibilities include determining learning and development requirements, providing awards and setting standards of discipline.

Part 2 also amends the act to provide for annual reporting to Parliament by the President of the Treasury Board on the application of the human resources management provisions of the act.

Division 1 of part 3 enacts the new public service employment act to modernize staffing in the public service while retaining the core values of merit, excellence, non-partisanship and the ability to serve members of the public with integrity in the official language of need.

The act gives a new meaning to merit and creates new arrangements for staffing recourse, one of the features which is the public service staffing tribunal.

The Public Service Commission will continue to conduct investigations and audits on matters within its jurisdiction. The act establishes, in addition to the annual reporting by the Public Service Commission, a requirement for the President of the Treasury Board to report annually to Parliament on the Treasury Board's responsibilities under the act.

Division 2 of part 3 amends the existing Public Service Employment Act to permit certain elements of the new act to come into force sooner. The amendments establish new terms for the Public Service Commission to administer the existing act and to prepare the regulatory and policy framework for the new act. They also establish a new public service staffing tribunal to prepare for the coming into force of the new act and to establish a new regime governing the political activities of public servants in a manner that balances their right to engage in those activities while maintaining the principle of political impartiality in the public service.

Part 4 amends the Canadian Centre for Management Development Act which becomes the Canada school of public service act. The school becomes responsible for learning and development activities for employees in the public service.

When the bill was tabled in the House for second reading, the official opposition had concerns, especially in three areas. They were the new definition of merit, whistleblower protection for employees, and the constitutional rights of workers to be political partisans and remain public service employees.

The first concern that arose was around the new legal definition of merit. The regime seeks to remove the barnacles that have grown around the operational vehicle of staffing in the public service. The legislation attempts to wipe out the confusing court rulings of the merit principle which have built up over the years.

Time will only tell if the new definition will actually work as intended, but not every permutation can be anticipated. Therefore I am satisfied that the additional amendment that was agreed to from my initiative will protect the central idea from the worker's perspective.

Clause 14, line 42 at page 118 of the bill as originally printed was changed at the standing committee to read:

The Commission shall, on request or if it considers consultation necessary or desirable, consult with the employer or any employee organization certified as a bargaining agent under the Public Service Labour Relations Act with respect to policies respecting the manner of making and revoking appointments or with respect to the principles governing lay-offs or priorities for appointment.

This significant change puts the union smack in the middle of defending the merit principle as it may be applied in regulations and in the operational reality of staffing. The Public Service Commission will defend merit and will audit the bureaucracy for adherence. We now have two aspects, the legal definition and all the players who will make the abstract work in the real world.

The second concern of the Canadian Alliance was the growing controversy in Canada about protecting employees who should be reporting wrongdoing from inside the workplace. We have had a couple of private members' bills on that topic but they were deemed to be unworkable. The government had preferred an internal policy approach instead of a comprehensive system-wide bill.

However, the minister did respond to the growing community consensus that whistleblowing should be dealt with. Consequently, in November 2001 the internal disclosure policy was made operative. Now for the first time in law, the former internal policy memo on the topic has a basis in law.

The amendment which I brought forward, which was accepted by the government, commits the government to going down that ideological road of acknowledging the need for a policy and then protecting employees under the law with that policy. It is then evident from this change that the government accepts the legal principle that employees are to be encouraged to appropriately report wrongdoing in the workplace. This goes beyond reporting criminal wrongdoing, for all citizens no matter where they are, are duty bound to report to the authorities any criminal act that they observe.

However, there are many questionable things that may develop in the vast bureaucracy that need to be addressed and denounced. As managers and ministers cannot be all-knowing about every worker detail, there must be a culture of honesty and prudence that is backed up by law as a condition of employment that encourages employees to do the right thing when placed in ethical dilemmas.

There are amendments for legal recognition, but also in clause 2, line 23 on page 8, it should be noted that it is amended by adding:

--that affect those employees, which issues may include, among other things, (a) harassment in the workplace; and (b) the disclosure of information concerning wrongdoing in the public service and the protection from reprisal of employees who disclose such information.

This is in the functional area of the consultation committees of management and employees. This is followed by amendments to clause 8, on page 107, clause 8, which adds:

(h) establish policies or issue directives respecting the disclosure by persons employed in the public service of information concerning wrongdoing in the public service and the protection from reprisal of persons who disclose such information in accordance with those policies or directives;

(i) establish policies or issue directives respecting the prevention of harassment in the workplace and the resolution of disputes relating to such harassment.

The internal policy of the Treasury Board is now law. This takes the government down the road from which it cannot return and sends a clear message to future governments that loyal employees should always be protected and that the highest standards of conduct will be the norm throughout the public service.

These high standards will be a system-wide team effort and those who might be tempted to play offside will probably be reported on. Everyone has a stake in the issues of integrity and just doing the right thing.

The change allows for the operational flexibility and adjustment of the detailed regulations as new realities may occur, but the concept and culture now find their basis in legislation. My thanks to the progressive thinking of the minister for her effort to bring this subject into reality in the last year and her final step of agreeing to rooting it in the law. This is no small item for public workers in Canada.

The third area which came to prominence was the problem of the constitutional rights of workers to be political. Obvious conflicts of interest can arise when employees may wish to act in partisan ways while being employed in the public service which must remain non-partisan and be neutral to serve both the government of the day and the larger public interest. It must be remembered that public union employees do not work for their union or association but for the people of Canada and the national public interest.

The bill sought to respond to court rulings to describe the terms of how employees can become political, yet not violate conflicts with their own work. In the bill it is now clear that councillors on a municipal council can remain employed in the public service if all other issues of conflict are met. Employees may be a member of a political party, but they will of course keep their volunteer activities out of the workplace.

Employees may also seek to become candidates and will be able to take varied leaves without pay from their work in order to do partisan activities.

The sections as originally written in the bill were somewhat too restrained. Therefore, from my negotiations, there resulted in some agreement to loosen the regime under which a public employee could become a candidate. There are a variety of amendments in different parts of the bill but the effect is that the Public Service Commission has increased flexibility as the neutral arbiter of such matters to give varied short or long term leaves as needed so that an employee may seek a federal or provincial nomination for a riding and later take leave to actually fight the election.

I thank the minister for agreeing to these suggestions.

It remains that with reasonable limits for conflict, employees in the public service shall be able to be active members of political parties in their private lives and do that work in their communities. They may seek public office in accordance with a set of rules to not upset the overarching need to preserve the integrity and neutrality of the public service workplace. Time will tell if these new terms will work.

Like so much in the bill, the law cannot absolutely deal with every permutation that may arise. The commitment to formal and informal ongoing consultation that has been made by the government of the day will be the real maker of this legislation.

It has been widely observed that we need a culture change in the public service. The government is saying many good things based on the considerable advice and consultation that was made for the writing of this bill.

I accept the bill in principle as it seems to be the best we can get at this time. In view of the long consultation process and the need to have some legal concepts in operation soon, we need to move Bill C-25 forward.

I am pleased that the required statutory review of the bill will now be done in five years instead of seven, as originally planned. What may not work out operationally can be soon fixed by this guaranteed review.

The hope is that the bill will indeed modernize human resources management in the federal public service. It is the first wide-ranging legislative reform of human resources management in over 35 years. The time is now, as the public service needs 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.

I hope the PSMA will develop into a balanced legislative package that works positively, both for the national interest and for the working lives of the thousands who engage in public service. It is a significant revision of the rules of employment. It is the result of research and much Canada-wide consultation conducted by the task force on modernizing human resource management, and we thank them.

The individual members of the various bargaining units should carefully note where the Canadian Alliance is coming from concerning the public service.

The Canadian Alliance values a professional public service. We say that public employees have greatly contributed to the building of Canada and our nation will continue to benefit from public administration that is based on political non-partisanship and the merit principle where these values are respected and independently safeguarded.

We affirm the transparent accountability of service delivery and accountability to Parliament through ministerial responsibility.

We recognize the need for public administration that strives for excellence, that is reflective of Canada's diversity, which is able to serve with integrity and efficiency in the official language of need where numbers warrant.

We affirm the principle of an independent Public Service Commission with authority to make appointments to and within the public service, which in turn is accountable directly to Parliament.

We are committed to a public service that is characterized by fair employment practices, facilitative management-labour dialogue, personnel development and recourse systems structured to amicably resolve conflict.

Employee relations should operate under the principle that the protection of the public interest is paramount and that effective management labour relations is a cornerstone of sound human resource management.

We affirm that free collective bargaining is the preferred method to establish terms and conditions of employment.

Finally, the Canadian Alliance concern is that politicians should not play politics with the lives of public employees. On the other hand, employee groups should not play power politics with the national public interest. Therefore, no employee should have fear of a Canadian Alliance government, regardless of what our political opponents may try to claim.

What we are dealing with in this bill is more than just management and labour in the public sector. We are dealing with the viability of the nation state to serve its citizens with integrity, wise administration, and value for dollar. One quick look around the world and we can see the value of non-partisan public employees that can be trusted by the public in whose name they labour and who pay all the bills.

I close by saying that how Canadians care for and serve each other is a measure of who we are as a great nation.

Public Service Modernization ActGovernment Orders

4 p.m.


Robert Lanctôt Bloc Châteauguay, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak to Bill C-25 to modernize the public service.

However, as for the work done in committee, I am not so pleased to note that out of more than 120 amendments moved by the Bloc Quebecois, only one was adopted. Moreover, a dozen or so amendments moved by the NDP were all rejected. This gives a good indication of what is happening with the bill.

We are told that the committee has done its work and it is true; we spent several months on this legislation and we see the result. In terms of the amendments on anything that affects employees, officials, union organizations, or anything regarding bargaining agents, it is very clear what happened. All the amendments moved by the NDP and the Bloc Quebecois were rejected.

Bill C-25 would replace the current legislation, which dates back 35 years. That legislation became obsolete a very long time ago. This bill is the result of numerous reports and studies—more than thirty in total—on the need to renew how recruitment and staffing are handled in the public service. These reports and studies all found that there has to be a cultural shift in the public service.

The President of the Treasury Board introduced her bill in the House on February 6, 2003. The purposes of this bill are to add the concept of merit, implement a more flexible staffing system, improve labour-management relations, and incorporate learning and development activities for employees in the public service. This is not the case, far from it.

With this bill, the Treasury Board believes it will be able to handle the constant reduction in the work force and the increased competition in the labour market. Well, it will not be able to do so.

The government also intends to deal with the demographic problem in the public service. With this bill, it thinks it will be able to resolve the shortcomings relating to age and representativeness. Then there is the matter of the skills shortage. The government identifies this as being critical. It certainly is critical, but what Bill C-25 provides for is not the answer.

Finally, the intent of the bill could have been to really improve the public's perception of the public service. Because of its disrepute, few people are interested in a career in the public service, and there are recruitment shortages as a result. The cultural change will have to focus particularly on this last aspect. This is a pretty thick bill, one that is imposing and important, since it is designed to change not only technical aspects of the administration of the public service, but also the entire approach to it.

A structured and detailed approach should have been taken, if real changes were to be made, ones with real impact. The purpose of the analysis that follows is to consider all the pros and cons of each provision, in terms of its outcome.

As you might expect, Mr. Speaker, given my preamble, we are opposed to this bill because no significant changes were made, particularly with respect to the protection of public servants who report questionable, immoral or fraudulent practices or policies, but also with respect to actively promoting linguistic duality.

No changes were made regarding the contentious concept of merit. There are problems in the public service in Quebec as well; that is why, in January 2002, the Government of Quebec saw fit to create a position of secretary of state to public service renewal.

The Government of Quebec tackled the issue of managing the public service from various angles. In 1981, the Bisaillon commission completed its work and, in 1983, the government passed the Public Service Act (employee responsibility, services to the public and resource development). In 1993, the government passed an act respecting the accountability of deputy ministers and chief executive officers of public bodies.

In 1994, the Government of Quebec took steps to make managers more accountable, in order to emphasize the allocation of financial resources, ratify framework agreements with unions, and reduce central controls, in order to truly respond to the challenges being faced and to introduce a management model.

In 1997, working groups considered three themes. Their first task was to evaluate and design public policy. They were then to ensure that these policies were implemented and that the public service was recognized as an institution and resource necessary to the state.

In 1999, the minister of state for the administration of Quebec's public service and president of Quebec's treasury board tabled a statement of government management policies. Following this statement, there were internal and external consultations.

Finally, on May 25, 2000, the National Assembly of Quebec passed the Public Administration Act. The statement of government management policies focused on the reason the public service exists—to provide service to clients. The public has become the driving force behind Quebec's new legislation.

This is an example that could have and should have inspired the federal government as it prepared the bill before us.

This statement of principles has three main aspects. First, there is a reform of training. Secondly, there is evolution in performance contracts. Finally, there is the accountability of each work unit. The Quebec reform also emphasizes reporting.

The statement provides that results will be evaluated against strategic indicators related to the economic, social, cultural or environmental impact of programs.

The implementation of Quebec's policy is predicated on the involvement of many stakeholders. First , there are parliamentarians. They are responsible for democratic oversight, flexibility, the purpose and implementation of programs. The minister is also fully accountable for the department's orientation. It is the minister who signs the performance and accountability contracts.

This feature would have added a lot to Bill C-25. The concept of accountability is critical to the principle of transparency, which is what the federal government is most lacking.

The deputy head serves as an adviser to the minister and as director of the departmental administration. Heads of agencies retain responsibility for their agency. They also have the added role of participants in the portfolio. Finally public servants assume a program management role in order to provide services to the public in a non-partisan way.

Although the new concept of merit received a favourable reception from the deputy minister and the Public Service Commission, it met with marked rejection by employees' representatives, among them the Public Service Alliance and CSN.

The specific area of controversy is the essential qualification criterion in connection with the merit principle. Some have expressed doubts that the employer can find the best candidate for a position when the requirement is merely to possess the essential qualifications, not necessarily the best ones.

We therefore have concerns that the deputy head or any other public servant might make partisan appointments or appointments to suit his own purposes, either by imposing qualifications only one person possesses or by selecting from among the candidates someone with the essential qualifications who is not necessarily the best person for the job.

The fact that the requirement is limited to essential qualifications creates ambiguity as to the level required. In other words, the term essential might mean that a candidate is required to have minimal, not the best, qualifications.

Therefore, the word essential is causing some confusion, since it leads us to believe that these are basic conditions and not best qualifications.

Paragraph 30(2)( a ) of the Public Service Employment Act reads as follows:

(a) the Commission is satisfied that the person to be appointed meets the essential qualifications for the work to be performed, as established by the deputy head, including official language proficiency.

We had proposed amending paragraph 30(2)( a )by deleting the word essential. We believe that, as a result, the candidate will have to possess all the necessary qualifications. But, of course, our amendment was defeated in committee, as were all but one of our 120 amendments.

In this regard, the Public Service Alliance of Canada states in its brief, and I quote:

The preamble states that Canada will continue to benefit from a public service where appointments to positions are based on merit, the principle of merit will be independently safeguarded and those exercising staffing authority will be accountable to the Public Service Commission, an independent tribunal and Parliament.

Further on, the brief reads:

Part 3 of Bill C-25, in its current form, represents a wholesale retreat from a public service defined by the appointment of the best qualified individuals. Bill C-25 delivers on its promise of increased flexibility for management, but contains very little protection for employees or the principle of merit. And, we would argue, very little accountability.

So, this bill merely increases the powers of the employer, of managers and of deputy heads, but has ignored everything to do with employee organizations, bargaining agents and, of course, if they represent them, public servants.

The PSAC also believes that the new notion of merit may put a chill on union activism, since the increased staffing power in the hands of front-line managers could enable them to slow the advancement of certain employees who are active in the union or even during the hiring process, which is even worse. We could even add political activism to this list.

Subsection 30(4) also diminishes the notion of the best candidate, since the Commission can limit the number. This section of the Public Service Employment Act reads as follows:

The Commission is not required to consider more than one person in order for an appointment to be made on the basis of merit

They are trying to say that when there is only one candidate, there will be no partisan appointment. When merit simply means a concept of merit with essential criteria and not having the best criteria, imagine how partisan the public service will become. At least, that is the big risk of this new legislation.

It is clear that this could lead to an abuse of power resulting in too broad a discretionary power. The problem with this provision stems from the fact that the aggrieved employee would not be able to appeal the decision because he will not have applied for a specific position. How could he go before a tribunal, when he did not have the opportunity to apply during the hiring period because only one candidate was chosen? Who will the candidate be? It will probably be someone in the good books of the boss, the employer, in other words, the deputy minister or the deputy head.

Moreover, with these provisions, challenging a decision becomes immaterial because a single appointment is possible. Those who oppose the concept of merit thought a compromise was possible whereby all parties would promise to release the job criteria before posting the job offer.

That way, professional requirements could not be made up on the spot for a specific candidate who happens to be in the boss's good books. Of course, the Bloc Quebecois put forward several amendments to clear up the ambiguous concept of merit, as it will probably be highly contestable and contested. However, all such amendments were rejected in committee.

It should be noted that the Auditor General is worried about the lack of rigour of the government and its departments, especially when it comes to job classifications in the public service.

The Auditor General confirmed our position in her report that was released this week, in May 2003, when she explained, in chapter 5, and I quote:

5.3 In our December 2000 Report, Chapter 21, we recommended that the government develop a results-oriented recruitment strategy that would identify post-secondary recruitment targets to address workforce renewal challenges for the years ahead. In our 2002 follow-up work discussed here, we found that some departments and the government as a whole have made limited progress in human resources planning and in establishing recruitment targets. We found that some departments and the government as a whole have not analyzed their recruitment and renewal needs. Nor does the government have a complete picture of the educated and skilled people who are entering the public service through its various recruitment routes.

The Auditor General therefore recommends reviewing how recruitment is viewed in order to strike a balance between immediate needs and the long-term strategy.

We were also happy to see in the May 2003 report of the Auditor General that our concerns regarding classification were retained as a source of problems for the government.

Since the Treasury Board Secretariat was unable to establish a classification standard that would have provided for a fair salary structure, it decided to not apply the universal classification standard that had been planned since 1991.

The Auditor General explained:

6.2 Thus, in April 2001 the Secretariat decided not to implement the Standard government-wide. This planned universal approach has now been abandoned, despite a large investment of time and effort by tens of thousands of employees and an estimated investment of about $200 million in incremental costs between 1998 and 2001.

We are also opposed to Bill C-25 because it does not provide protections for whistleblowers.

Since the sponsorships fiasco or the scandal at HRDC, it has become essential to put in place mechanisms to protect public employees who denounce practices that are questionable and possibly fraudulent.

The Public Service Integrity Office was opened on April 2, 2002. Its mission is to assist employees experiencing problems with internal disclosures of wrongdoing within their own department or when departmental mechanisms have not appropriately addressed their concerns.

According to the main guidelines of the policy governing the Public Service Integrity Officer, disclosure is defined as information raised within the organization in good faith, based on reasonable belief, by one or more employees concerning a wrongdoing that someone has committed or intends to commit. Wrongdoing is defined as an act concerning a violation of any law or regulation, amisuse of public funds or assets, gross mismanagement, ora substantial and specific danger to the life, health and safety of Canadians or the environment. It can also be an omission.

Therefore, the responsibilities of the Public Service Integrity Officer are: to provide advice to employees who are considering making a disclosure; to review disclosures and requests for review; to establish if there are sufficient grounds for review; to ensure that procedures are in place to manage instances of wrongdoing that require immediate or urgent action; to investigate or review the results of investigations; to prepare reports and make recommendations on how to address the disclosure; in cases when the departmental responses are not adequate or timely, to report to the Clerk of the Privy Council; to ensure that the protection of the information is in accordance with the Privacy Act and the Access to Information Act; to protect from reprisal employees who disclose information concerning wrongdoing in good faith; to monitor the type and disposition of cases brought to his attention; and to prepare an annual report to the Privy Council.

As for reprisals, employees who claim they are victims of reprisals can make a complaint to the office of the integrity officer only if the original complaint was lodged with that office. Reprisals include administrative and disciplinary measures.

These disclosures should be made within the employee's own department or organization. On the other hand, there may be situations in which internal disclosure is difficult or impossible. In such cases, the employee may contact the officer directly.

There also may be situations in which the employee believes that his or her internal complaint has not been dealt with by the internal mechanisms available. In such a case, the employee may contact the Public Service Integrity Officer to establish appropriate disclosure mechanisms.

The disclosure policy provides that the entire procedure should be completed in less than six months. The procedure has six steps.

In the first step, the employee provides information relevant to the disclosure, including the name of the person or persons alleged to have committed or attempted to commit a wrongdoing. The employee should also specify the date and description of the wrongdoing and the nature of the wrongdoing. The employee providing information should identify himself or herself.

Step two is the screening and review of a disclosure. In order to determine the appropriateness of investigating the information received, the integrity officer will consult the employee making the disclosure. The officer may then determine whether the employee has tried to resolve the matter using the departmental mechanisms provided. He may also decide that the matter is trivial, frivolous or vexatious.

The officer may reject the disclosure if it is insufficient, imprecise or false. During this review, the officer may reject the disclosure if it was not made in good faith or on reasonable grounds. The officer may also decline to review a disclosure if it is determined that the matter could be dealt with more appropriately under another policy, such as harassment.

As for disclosure of criminal activity, this should be dealt with in accordance with the Policy on Losses of Money and Offences and Other Illegal Acts Against the Crown.

The integrity officer will inform the employee in writing, whether or not it will proceed, and also inform the deputy head of the department.

The third step is an attempt at resolution or identifying and taking appropriate action.

If the problem cannot be resolved, the officer may initiate an investigation, even after the preliminary review. This is the fourth step.

Then, The Public Service Integrity Officer will review the results of the investigation and prepare recommendations for the deputy head. The deputy head shall review the recommendations and make a decision.

The final stage consists of presenting a report to the Clerk of the Privy Council, when departmental responses are not adequate and timely.

Although the federal government has appointed an integrity officer to investigate irregular situations reported by public servants, the scope is not broad enough to adequately protect these employees against reprisals. That is why we proposed an amendment in this regard.

We had proposed amending the bill to require the implementation of a true statutory provision to protect whistleblowers in each government department and agency.

Our concern with regard to the current disclosure protection policy is that it has no force of law and can be amended without anyone being the wiser. The scope of this policy is too narrow to truly achieve the sought-after objectives of establishing an atmosphere of trust with regard to the deputy heads so that public servants would disclose fraud.

It is difficult to attain this objective since it is only a policy and not legislation. The Bloc Quebecois proposed a specific amendment that made protecting whistleblowers mandatory within the entire public service. Of course, our amendment was defeated in committee.

However, our amendment was based on the current policy, among other things, while using the Public Service Integrity Office to manage such reports. It also sought to make this office more independent and impartial, like that of the Auditor General.

Our amendment was as follows:

“Public service integrity officer” means someone appointed by the Governor in Council pursuant to section 242.2.

242.1(1) The employer sets out an internal disclosure policy for information on wrongful acts at the workplace stipulating that:

(a) employees may disclose, in good faith and on reasonable grounds, information on wrongful acts within their organization;

(b) disclosures must be handled appropriately and in a timely fashion;

(c) employees must be treated fairly and protected from any reprisals.

(2) Employees who have exhausted all forms of recourse provided for in the policy on disclosing information on wrongful acts committed by the employer mentioned in paragraph 242.1(1) may disclose information on wrongful acts to the public service integrity officer or, in exceptional circumstances where there is an immediate threat to life, health or public safety, to an outside source.

(3) The employer's policy mentioned in this section may be subject to co-development pursuant to section 11 of this legislation.

242.2(1) The public service integrity officer acts as an independent mediator for issues regarding the disclosure of wrongful acts and must report directly to Parliament. The Office of the Auditor General provides the facilities and administrative support to the public service integrity officer.

(2) The public service integrity officer sets out administrative procedures and policies to investigate allegations of wrongful acts and to protect from possible reprisal the employees who disclose in good faith information on wrongful acts in the workplace.

(3) The public service integrity officer chooses the corrective measures that he deems appropriate.

242.3 At all times, employees are protected from possible reprisal if they disclose or provide evidence in compliance with the employer's policy and the procedures applied by the public service integrity officer established pursuant to this section of the Act.

That was the amendment put forward for this legislation, not a policy.

Another aspect I strongly advocated in committee was limited recourse for public servants. Under the legislation, recourse is limited in that only abuse of power and language choice for interviews are covered.

Abuse of power is extremely difficult to prove and that is why we feel it is essential to broaden the scope of recourse that is available to public servants so that they may report any abuse or offence to administrative tribunals or the courts.

The Public Service Alliance voiced concerns about the limited number of grounds available to employees to bring their concerns to the expert tribunal. It wrote:

This not only unnecessarily limits review of the staffing process as a whole, but has the potential to severely limit the beneficial effects of the Tribunal’s authority over human rights issues. Given the total absence of detail as to how, and whether, classification standards and selection processes and tools will be consistent with human rights principles—the limited grounds of recourse are troubling indeed.

The Alliance went on to say:

Moreover, read together with the definition of merit in section 30, proving an abuse of authority will be virtually impossible. The right to complain rests on the ability of a complainant to show that he or she ought to have been appointed. Given that the Bill expressly provides that it is not inconsistent with merit to only consider one individual for appointment makes it difficult to conceive of how one might prove an abuse of authority such as personal favouritism.11 Moreover, the requirement that the individual prove that he or she ought to have been appointed, not that the process itself reflected an overall abuse of authority, is unnecessarily limiting and sets the standard of proof too high.


There is no right to file a complaint to the Tribunal in the case of external appointment processes. Given that the Government has removed the statutory preference for hiring from within the public service, the PSAC is concerned that a higher percentage of external appointment processes will be used and, accordingly, a higher number of staffing decisions will not be subject to recourse. The PSAC urges this Committee, therefore, to recommend that the Government return the statutory preference for hiring within the public service as set out in section 11 of the current Act.

We therefore moved an amendment that would increase the number of possibilities of recourse, but once again, of course, it was defeated in committee.

As with whistleblowers, the central government developed a policy to prevent harassment and, like the policy to protect whistleblowers, we moved amendments that would have required each department to apply the policy.

We asked that Bill C-25 be amended to reflect the changes already made to Quebec's legislation on labour standards. We wanted to deal specifically with the issue of psychological harassment, which affects more than 20% of Canada's public service.

We have to acknowledge that harassment has a significant impact on productivity. The results of the June 2001 policy clearly demonstrate that the policy needs to be applied more formally to be more effective.

In other words, this policy needed to be made more restrictive, it needed more teeth, because the federal policy has a number of shortcomings that needed to be fixed, and we had the opportunity to do so when we examined this bill.

We believe, for instance, that psychological harassment should have been included in these related provisions. This type of harassment must be understood and recognized by public service managers. Unfortunately, this type of harassment is not understood. Psychological harassment is insidious and devastating, because it is not done in an overt or obvious manner.

On May 21, 1999, the Government of Quebec's department of labour published a report on violence and psychological harassment in the workplace.

The definition in this document is drawn from a document written for client service officers in Quebec's department of employment and solidarity.

The definition is made up of four elements:

Any act of physical violence (assault or aggression) directed at an employee or an employee and his or her relatives resulting from his or her status as an employee of the department;

Any demonstration of verbal or written violence directed at an employee resulting from his or her status as an employee or directed at his or her relatives, whether threats, intimidation, defamatory libel, abusive or obscene comments, blackmail or any other form of harassment.

The third element is the following:

Any act of vandalism against the property of a member of the staff because of his or her status as an employee of the department or against departmental property, including the premises occupied by the department.

And the fourth element:

Any disruptive behaviour such as blocking the entrance or counter, shouting or swearing excessively, insulting or verbally abusing the staff or anyone present, and failing to heed a warning to stop.

This report contains a definition of psychological harassment, which says the following:

—through words, actions or behaviours that tend to devalue the workers, to reduce them to mere subordinates, and hinder their career advancement. Sometimes, this kind of violence takes the form of professional harassment, abuse of power and abuse of authority.

This must happen repeatedly and attack the employee's integrity or dignity.

In the same document, the CSN specifies that psychological harassment is insidious, subtle and invisible:

We talk about psychological violence when various means are used (words, actions, looks, posture, etc.) to hurt someone emotionally.

Certain American studies go even further, adding that harassment can take the form of deceptive actions or lies, control even outside the workplace, coercion, inequity, cruelty or indifference.

A 2002 poll by Statistics Canada showed that more than 20% of government employees experience harassment in their workplace. I should point out that, at Correctional Services Canada, 32% of employees report having been harassed. Imagine that. These are alarming statistics. We must act now, not wait for more studies that will show more of the same.

The poll also made reference to where this harassment was coming from. In the case of government employees, pressure came mainly from supervisors, 74% of the time, as compared to pressure from colleagues, 65 % of the time.

Some 78% of Correctional Services employees are harassed by their supervisors. It should be noted, too, that the percentage of these employees harassed by prisoners is high, 60% compared to 10% for public servants not employed by Correctional Services. Also, 13% of these workers are victims of physical violence, compared to 2% of public servants.

The Treasury Board's policy stipulates that it aims to prevent harassment by promoting increased awareness, early problem resolution and the use of mediation.

However, the next paragraph qualifies this objective by stating that dealing with harassment can be a complex matter, which is why it is important and essential to make related amendments to give it more force of law. Our amendments in this regard were defeated in committee.

Furthermore, the Official Languages Commissioner appeared before the committee to ask that specific reference to the Official Languages Act be added. The position of the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat is that this legislation automatically applies, by default, whether there is specific reference to it or not. The commissioner took the opposing position. She appeared before the committee to state this. That is why we presented amendments to the bill's preamble to this effect. Our amendments were defeated in committee.

As with the Physical Activity and Sport Act, we believe that explicit reference to the Official Languages Act must be made for it to have force of law. That is why we decided to present in committee the amendments proposed by the commissioner.

The purpose of commissioner's recommendations was essentially to incorporate the notion of linguistic duality for the purpose of public representativeness and making enforcement of the act mandatory, when it came to training or recourse before the courts.

The Chair is indicating that my time is up. I simply want to reiterate our main criticism. Obviously, there has been a total disregard, among other things, of our criticisms about the bill's lack of protection for whistleblowers, the notion of merit and the entire issue of protection from harassment and protection for official languages. Unfortunately, once again, all our 120 amendments, save one, were defeated.

Public Service Modernization ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

Order, please. It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 38 to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Surrey Central, Regulatory Reform; the hon. member for New Brunswick Southwest, Member for LaSalle—Émard; the hon. member for Burnaby—Douglas, Firefighters.

Colleagues the next speeches will be 20 minutes followed by a question or comment period of 10 minutes. If you split your time with one of your colleagues, please indicate it to the Chair; it would be most useful.

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4:40 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to say a few words on Bill C-25, the public service modernization act. I make these comments today on behalf of my colleague, the member for Kings—Hants, who is unable to be here today because of his commitment to Her Majesty's business in another area.

We are all aware that in Bill C-25 we have an overhaul of the way the federal public sector functions. I wish it were a more complete overhaul, but we do have an overhaul. By the government's own admission, over the past few decades the federal public service has remained structurally and functionally a top-down organization. It is somewhat stiff in its functioning, a lumbering giant that often requires a department to go through a maze of several months of paperwork and meetings simply to hire a file clerk.

I wish the minister had been a little more thorough in addressing some of the issues that really affect people in this country when it comes to hiring. We are often told by government, the federal government especially, that when we are unemployed in a certain part of the country we should simply move to another part of the country. It seems like a very simple process if a person happens to be living in central Ontario, or in central Canada period.

My colleague, the member for Cumberland—Colchester, has worked quite diligently in bringing some public attention to some of the problems people in this country have in being able to find work in other parts of the country. MPs realize, with people coming to them on a continuous basis looking for work, that people have a great deal of trouble accessing work in certain parts of the country. As I said a moment ago, the member for Cumberland—Colchester has worked quite hard in trying to bring public attention to some of the problems we have in that regard. For example, why is it that a person who lives in any part of this country cannot apply for a job that might be available in any other part of the country? This is why I am a little bit disappointed that the minister has not addressed this particular issue. It is a very important issue.

Today I was handed two or three different examples of what the member for Cumberland—Colchester has been talking about with respect to positions that become available in Ottawa.

For instance, I want to make members aware of a position for a paralegal in Ottawa. It is within the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. The salary is between $32,000 and $38,000 a year.

Who can apply for that position? The Public Service Commission says that people can apply who reside or work in eastern Ontario or western Quebec and who have a home or a business postal code beginning with K1 to K7, K8A to K8H, K0A to K0J and on and on it goes down through the postal codes. One would be tempted to say, and to say with some accuracy, that this is discrimination by postal code. Why is it that a person who lives in any part of the country, whether they happen to live on Vancouver Island or in Bonavista Bay, cannot apply for a position in the nation's capital? The way things stand now within the Public Service Commission one cannot apply.

That is not the only example I can give. It is a very serious issue. We feel and have always felt as part of our policy that all jobs in every part of Canada should be available to every single person in Canada.

Here I have one for an architect; it is not for a rocket scientist but an architect in Hull, Quebec. Who may apply for the job as an architect? Architects come from every part of the country. They are trained in every province in Canada, from Vancouver to Newfoundland, as I said, and who may apply for a job as an architect over in Hull, a job that pays between $44,000 and $54,000 a year? Again it is people who work in eastern Ontario or western Quebec. But if people happen to live in Saskatchewan, if they happen to live in British Columbia or if they happen to live in Newfoundland and are unemployed, they cannot apply for the job. That is not fair. That should not be happening in a democratic society like Canada. People should be able to apply for these jobs no matter what part of the country they happen to be living in. These are not jobs that the federal public service is finding difficult to fill.

For instance, I have one here for a secretary here in Ottawa. The salary is $32,000 to $35,000 a year. Again, who may apply? One can apply if one happens to be in eastern Ontario or western Quebec. Again, secretaries are available in every part of the country and come out of trade schools by the score in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Newfoundland, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, but they cannot apply for the job.

I have a funny one here for a real property officer trainee wanted in Halifax, Nova Scotia, to work within the Department of Public Works and Government Services. Who can apply for the job in Halifax, Nova Scotia? It is open to people in Kings--Hants, Colchester, Antigonish, Pictou and Lunenburg counties, one county in Prince Edward Island and all the island of Newfoundland. If one happens to live in western Ontario or Quebec, one cannot apply for that particular job in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Again it is not fair. It is not fair to the people of Ontario or the people of Quebec that they cannot apply for a job as a real property officer trainee in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

These are some of the real concerns. I have a whole stack of applications here for a project officer for Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, and for a Halifax maritime search and rescue support officer. People who are on the doorstep of these jobs cannot apply. There is one for a dental assistant in Greenwood, Nova Scotia, but people have to be from Halifax, Lunenburg or Queens in order to apply to be a dental assistant. People from Ontario or Quebec cannot apply. And on and on it goes.

We had an overhaul of the public service, but we did not have a complete overhaul of the public service. People are very upset about this particular issue. The minister who is responsible for this act, the minister from the Treasury Board, has not done the kind of job she should have on this. I am sure she has had a number of complaints from people all across the country who have concerns about this particular bill. I really do wish that when the minister stands to sum up debate on this issue she will address some of the very real practical problems people have.

There are many good points contained in this bill, but the minister had been made aware of this problem by the member for Cumberland--Colchester and her department was made aware of this particular problem by my own office and by numerous MPs in the opposition. She failed to do anything about it and I do not know if she intends to do anything about it. She is shaking her head that she is going to do something about it, but we see no evidence of it, not in the act so far, so I can only assume that the minister for the sake of convenience is saying that they are going to do something about it. But as usual, they say it here in the House of Commons and it never seems to get on to the Public Service Commission. The real practical application of doing something about it never really gets done.

However, not to be totally negative about this bill, there are some good points contained in the bill. It provides for more flexibility in staffing and managing people. Managers within certain levels will have more power over hiring and whom they hire, just like out in the real world. Applicants who feel they have been shortchanged in the staffing process will be given access to redress under the public service staffing tribunal.

The bill also stresses the need for a cooperative approach to labour-management relations. The intent is to make employees part and parcel of the process of running the workplace, and I believe that to be very good. Nobody knows how to do a job like the people who do it every day, and if the intent of the bill holds true we should in the long run probably have a much happier federal workplace.

The bill provides for the overhaul and consolidation of staff training and development processes of the federal public service. Also, it more clearly delineates the roles of key players in the human resource area: Treasury Board, the Public Service Commission, and the various deputy ministers and their various equivalents.

However, I have to say that the public service has not kept pace with the absolutely frantic pace of the private sector in the modern world. Many public servants are baby boomers who are about to retire. I am told we need about 7,000 new people every year just to keep pace. If we need 7,000 people every year, why is the Public Service Commission being so restrictive in the way it posts jobs in this country?

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4:50 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn Progressive Conservative St. John's West, NL

What does the Minister of Labour say?

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4:50 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

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

Yes, that is a good point. The Minister of Labour might want to make a few comments on this as well.

If we need 7,000 people a year just to keep pace with the number of people who are retiring, why are we so restrictive in the way we hire people? Why do we not throw it open? After all, we are a country, a democratic country. If people happen to live in Halifax or Newfoundland, why can they not apply for every single job that becomes available within the public service? It stands to reason that they should be able to do that.

We need 7,000 new people every year just to keep pace with retirement. A hiring process that lumbers on for months often sees the best people and the brightest job applicants scooped up by the private sector. When we add to this a looming shortage of skilled workers in all sectors as the baby boomers retire, the public service is going to be very hard-pressed to obtain good workers.

If there is a criticism of the government here, it is that it has taken this long to act on the reality of the looming skills shortage in all sectors of the economy. As for the act, it appears to be very thorough and very detailed. The devil, they say, is in the details. Lawyers and labour leaders have combed through the fine print. If there are major problems, other than the ones I have outlined, I am sure we will be hearing from the various stakeholders in the system. The public service unions have expressed concern and hopefully some of these concerns will be dealt with.

I think it is important that managers have a greater say in the hiring process. After all, the people being hired are people we have to work with every single day. As an employee and an employer, I have often seen the wisdom in having a harmonious productive workplace.

I recently read an article that referred to a study on the issue of who did the best hiring, the area manager or the technocrats from the human resources section. The study found that while both entities could assess applications on their level of technical competence, the manager did a much better job of picking an employee who also fit into the organization. Simply put, personality counts.

Most of the amendments that have been introduced make for greater clarity and do not detract from the overall thrust of the bill. However I am curious as to whether the government will support in the House an amendment passed in committee.

Clause 3(5), on page 158 of the original draft, indicates that:

A Commissioner holds office during good behaviour for a period of seven years, but may be removed by the Governor in Council on address of the Senate and House of Commons

In the amended draft, clause 3(5) now reads:

The President and other Commissioners shall be appointed by the Governor in Council. The appointment of the President shall be made by commission under the Great Seal, after approval by resolution of the Senate andHouse of Commons.

I assume that means that the appointment of the president of the Public Service Commission has to be ratified by Parliament. I consider that to be a positive development.

However, as I said, the bulk of the amendments are matters of wording and clarity and generally give some strength to the bill.

I do not know if we can vote on certain parts of the bill but we do support the thrust of the bill. I would like the minister to address some of the practical concerns that I told her about today, and hopefully she will.

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5 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's speech. I really liked the part about hiring people from across the country. If we want the public service to represent the nation, then, hopefully, a large part of it, which is in Ottawa, will be representative of people coming from across the country and they will have an opportunity to apply. I know that this, in its purest form, would be a very expensive procedure, and I commend the Public Service Commission for doing a trial on it. Hopefully it will work out something where the public service can be representative of the entire country.

I commend both the public service and the previous speaker for mentioning that. I do not know if he would like to comment further on how this could be accomplished realistically.

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5 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I am sure it would not take a great genius to figure out how this could be done. It is only a matter of actually directing the Public Service Commission to post these jobs and make them available in all parts of Canada.

As I said a few minutes ago, it gives greater mobility to people who find themselves unable to find employment in certain parts of the country because industries have closed down and they now have to move to other parts of the country.

If an individual who happens to live in Halifax or in Newfoundland is aware of the fact that he can apply for a job here in Ottawa, it is a lot easier for him to be mobile and to move to other parts of the country that have employment opportunities.

As I said a moment ago, it is a fairly simple matter for the Public Service Commission to address. It simply takes political will on the part of the government to do it and I think it can be done fairly easily. As one of my colleagues said a moment ago, it helps build all regions of the country and it makes jobs available to people in all parts of the country.

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5:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

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

Mr. Speaker, concerning the issue of national job postings, it is certainly very wise in theory. It is part of the federal-provincial effort to have a nation state of the free movement of goods, capital and labour within our country.

However there is a practical problem with regard to the specific advertisement that the member spoke about for the paralegal when 1,000 files arrive within seven days in an office. Historically there has been no physical capability for handling that.

In response to the member for Cumberland--Colchester and other members who have been worried about this issue, and certainly the members in our party have worried about this issue, the PSC wrote a report in November, which will come back this month or next month, on some pilot projects that it is running. We have to find a way to have wide open hiring and to give an opportunity to young people.

The other issue is, if we have national hiring for the capital region, what about regional restrictions for someone who may want to apply for a job in New Brunswick or Nova Scotia? Should a university graduate from UBC be able to go down there and knock somebody out? Therefore there may be some regional issues there.

What members need to do is talk to the Public Service Commission and find out what it is doing. How many members of Parliament have walked down the street and talked to officials at the Public Service Commission? I think I am the only member who has gone there in two years. Instead of continuing to talk in the clouds here about what is going on, members should talk to the officials at PSC, find out what they are doing, what the practical problems are and what they are actually doing to respond to that issue. In theory, they are on the right side but there are practical problems with delivering it.

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5:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, there may be practical problems in delivering it but that does not mean that it cannot be delivered.

The member for Cumberland--Colchester has, on a number of occasions, spoken to officials at the Public Service Commission on this particular issue. He has made some progress on it but not enough to say that the problem is solved.

Yes, we realize that not only the nation's capital would be affected with regard to job postings, but if people happen to live in Newfoundland or in Halifax it would throw those jobs open to them and to the rest of the country as well, and we would have a truly national job posting policy that everyone could take advantage of.

We are not advocating that people can only apply for jobs in the nation's capital and leave our neck of the woods alone. These are federal jobs that would be open to everyone in every part of the country.

I think living in this kind of country, one that is so huge and so geographically dispersed, there is no reason why people should not, in this day and age, have access to jobs in any part of the country.

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5:05 p.m.


Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, this question about the public service has come up often but, quite frankly, I do not think it is relevant to a direct part of the bill. However since we are talking about the public service, the member knows there was a report in November and he knows some of the details of the problems. I think it is unfortunate that he is using this as a politically opportunistic time to throw a dart and read out job descriptions, when in fact there has to be an understanding.

The Canadian public will certainly understand that it is extremely difficult when there is a job available to have it posted right across Canada and to potentially receive thousands of applications but not be able to physically process them in time to meet the requirements of the employer. It would actually require a computerized approach where applications would be coded and then quickly processed. This is a physical and practical problem. It is being worked on as a consequence of the work done by member for Cumberland—Colchester.

A better message to send to the Canadian public is that the intent to have national posting is certainly there and the Public Service Commission is certainly on side, but those kinds of things have to be done in a way which can be cost effective and equitable to all.

I think it is unfortunate to simply identify a problem without at least giving credit to the extensive amount of work that members in his own caucus and other parliamentarians have already done to resolve this matter.